Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Fireworks - Part 3 - By Judi Phillips


Karrie pounded the steering wheel with the palm of her hand. "I must have left the door open. Just enough to leave the dome light on. This day just keeps getting better and better." 


Jack held out his key ring. "We can use my car if you don't mind driving."

"Is it stick? 'Cause I'm not that great using a clutch."

"Nope. It's automatic."

Karrie took a deep breath. Maybe she could salvage this disaster. "When I find that cat, I'll wring its neck."

Jack laughed. "That's drastic. Maybe ask around first for a missing cat."

Reluctantly, Karrie smiled. "What about your foot?"

"I'll be okay." He handed her his keys.

"How about I walk to your place, then drive by to pick you up?"

"Good idea. Save my bum ankle for the shopping ordeal."

"Seriously. It won't be that bad. Dash in for salmon. Pick up cream cheese. Then back home."

About ten minutes later, she drove into the parking lot of the closest supermarket in North Windham. "It's open. I was afraid they might close early."

"And miss all the last-minute emergency shoppers like us?"

"Yeah. What was I thinking?"

Inside, she walked directly to the dairy section, purposely slowing her steps so Jack could keep up. She picked up a packet of cream cheese, then headed for the fish department. Stopping in front of the frozen case, she looked, then looked again. "I don't believe it. There's no smoked salmon."

"Maybe it's somewhere else."

"Unh unh. This is where I always find it."

Jack flagged down a fish counter worker. "Any more smoked salmon?"

He shook his head. "We've had a real run on it today."

Karrie closed her eyes.

With one finger, Jack tilted her face up to look at him. His glance snared hers. She craved the touch of his lips on hers…not the right time, she thought, shaking her head and looking aside.

He cleared his throat and shrugged. "It'll be okay. We'll punt."

Her shoulders slumped and her voice wavered. "Yeah. We're definitely not scoring a touchdown today."

Jack slid an arm around her waist. "What about clam dip? You have the cream cheese. We could buy potato chips, plus taco chips and salsa. There's a great local one, Galaxie Salsa, made a couple of towns over, in Buxton."

When he lifted his arm, she grabbed his hand. "Lean on me. I'll be your crutch. I didn't think we'd take this long." She tried to believe it was all about helping him, but she really liked his arm around her. She'd been on an emotional roller coaster with her parents and Gram’s death all week and she needed help getting off the ride. 

He kept his arm on her shoulder while they finished shopping and checked out.

Exiting the store, Jack looked up. "Snow's really coming down."

"I hope they still have the fireworks."

"They will. I don't think even a Nor'easter would stop them."

Karrie smiled. "Well, maybe you're exaggerating, but I suspect nothing short of a powerful storm would interfere."

"Not that crew. Especially your Gram."

Karrie stopped so abruptly, Jack bumped into her. Tears filled her eyes.

"Hey, what's the problem? Did you forget something?"

"No. It's Gram. You probably didn't hear. Her funeral was a couple of days ago."

He tightened his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. "I'm so sorry. My parents didn't say anything. Typical. If it's not about them, it doesn't happen."

She couldn't think of anything to say. Maybe his family hadn't been as perfect as it looked from the outside.
With the windshield wipers keeping the falling snow at bay and the heater blasting, Karrie decided Jack's car was definitely cozy. Parker now known as Jack. She'd never realized nice could be so attractive. She'd always figured him for a straight edge guy, although not hard-core and all preachy like some. But he was really nice.

Back in high school, Karrie never acknowledged a favor or compliment. That would be dorky. She was too cool to say thank you. It was time to move on. She wasn't that girl any longer. "I'm really glad you came with me. Probably prevented a serious meltdown in the store."

"No problem. And you've definitely helped me, volunteering to be my personal crutch."

She was silent for a moment. "Gram is the only reason I came home. I haven't been back since graduating."
"That's why I haven't seen you."

"I'm surprised you noticed. We weren't exactly friends."

"True. Mother would have had a cow if she knew I spent time with you."

Karrie laughed. "I bet."

She slowed as they approached Running Brook Road. Turning, the car fishtailed. Struggling to control the spin, Karrie over-corrected and the car dove into the ditch. Hung up on the bank left by the snow plow, no amount of rocking would get them free.

She rested her forehead on the steering wheel. "This day totally stinks."