Today’s prompt was setting, which is a detail I often struggle with. Wasn’t sure exactly what to do, but as I’m starting to brainstorm the next story in my Kurztown series, decided to go with something set there. Works even more since Patrick will be the main character in that one. *Warning for mentions of miscarriage and abuse.
Patrick stepped down off the sidewalk once the single car had passed him. Best place in town to cross the street, the single stoplight. He heard his name called to his right, and he lifted his hand before he even looked over, already knowing who it was. Peter Forell ran the hardware store, and Patrick had helped him purchase it nearly twenty years earlier. He’d also offered legal advice when he’d had unfounded discrimination charges filed on him. The only reason that man had been fired was because he’d stolen from the store. No other reason.
He walked past the bank, nodding at the couple standing out front. Mason and Lila were getting married in less than a month and expecting their first child. Well, not exactly first, he reminded himself. But, this would be the first to make it through the first trimester. He hoped they’d be able to hold this one. The whole town seemed to feel that hope.
As he headed father down the sidewalk, he wiped sweat from his forehead. Even though the temperature hadn’t started climbing yet for the day, the humidity was bearing down on him. A man headed toward him, a small husky puppy prancing ahead of him on a leash. “Morning, Doren,” he said as he approached, smiling at the man, who was smiling back despite his significant limp. The leg must be bothering him today more than usual. Doren had once been a force on the high school football field. Would have been one in college too, if a car accident hadn’t shattered his leg, leaving him unable to play. He was still able to work on cars, draw, and hold the woman he loved. “How’s Cassie?”
“Getting ready for classes to start,” the younger man said, still grinning. “Since she transferred to Edinboro, she’ll be able to commute on the days she has classes. And I know she’s looking forward to unveiling the new display at the historical society in a couple weeks.”
Patrick smiled at that. “Yes, she’s worked hard on that exhibit.” He’d had a hand in it as well, but mostly in getting her there to work on it. Maybe the best move he’d ever made, and not just for the town’s historical society. But, it had gotten these two together as well.
Maybe he should give up his law practice to become a matchmaker.
He nearly snorted at that thought. Why would anyone even come to him for advice, let alone to make them a match, when his own love life had been in the toilet since he’d graduated high school thirty years earlier. It was hard to keep much of anything secret in a town this size, but that was one thing he’d never heard them talking about much. They called him a widower, but they didn’t talk about his first failed marriage. Of course, no one here in town had known Rachel, his first wife, as he’d married and divorced while he was away for school, and only came home that one time. That had been hurt, then, that the woman he’d loved all through high school had married someone else. He might have cared for Lynette, his second wife, but he’d never loved her as much as Natalie. He didn’t love anyone as much as her. The town thought he was still tragically in love with his dead wife, that was why he was still alone.
No one seemed to know it was, had always been, Natalie he wanted. But, even five years after her husband had died, she didn’t see him. She only saw the man who had controlled, beat, and terrorized her. Caleb had never loved her, or the son they’d made. Patrick saw him now as he neared the law office. His junior partner, Brian was probably smarter than all of them. And tougher, too. he’d had to be to survive living in Caleb Sharrock’s house. He decided that had been his best move, even if seeing the boy who could have been his left a stabbing pain in his chest.
Then, he saw her crossing the street just yards away. She had her hair cut short these days, and the way it framed her face worked. Caleb had always made her keep it long. He figured that made it easier to grab and pull. Anger wound its way through him, even though he knew it was useless. The man was already dead, what good did hating him now do?
And she kept her eyes forward as she crossed the street. He wondered if she’d already seen him, and that was answered as soon as she made it to the other side, and she sent a furtive glance over her shoulder. As soon as she saw him, her head jerked forward again, and she hurried across the parking lot to the hardware store, where she worked now. He let out a sigh and walked the rest of the way to the office.
“You scare my mom,” Brian said as they headed inside together.
“I don’t mean to,” he said, his own voice rough. He’d wait the rest of his life for her, but some days it was hard.
“Some days everything scares her. But, you most of all, I think. Ashley used to scare me like that.”
Patrick couldn’t quite keep his lips from turning up into a smile. “Are you giving me advice, Brian? I may have made you junior partner, but I still have a hell lot more experience than you.”
Brian chuckled. “Yes, but I know my mom. And I know what it was like to live in his house. Fear helped us survive. She’s had trouble letting go of that.”
“And you’ve done remarkably well, Brian. Now, get to work.” And Patrick headed into his own office. Once his door was closed he sat at his desk running his thumb over his forehead. He wanted to help Natalie let go of that fear. Show her she didn’t need it anymore. He just needed to figure out the best way to do that.