IF YOU KNEW – Work in Progress

IF YOU KNEW – Work in Progress…Here’s some more

“Mind if I join you?”

Devonny looked up, up, up into Luke Bradshaw’s dark brown eyes before her glance darted around the crowded Shenandoah coffee shop. The extra chair at her tiny table was literally the only open seat. To tell him no, no matter how much she didn’t want to sit at the same table with him, would be beyond rude.

“Wow,” he said. “If you won’t let me sit with you could you at least tell me what I ever did to deserve that cold shoulder you always point in my direction?”

Nothing. Except interest me. Except be the best-looking, single, heterosexual guy in Red Bud, Iowa. Except run by my house almost every day with your shirt off so I can see what a great body you have and reinforce my belief that you’re a really great guy. Who do you think I’ve been fantasizing about for the past couple of months? Why do you think I walk past the football field on my way home? It’s not because I have to.

It’s so I can get a glimpse of you coaching those kids. Those kids who adore you, by the way.

Luke took a sip of coffee while he waited for her to answer his question. Which of course she wasn’t going to do. She could sit across from him for a few minutes. She could be polite. Pleasant, even. And when he asked her out, which she was about a hundred and ten percent sure he was going to do, she’d gently decline the invitation. Without an explanation of course. An explanation wasn’t required, thank God. A simple, “No thank you,” would suffice. And if he kept asking, she’d use that same reply. Even if she had to practice it in the mirror. Even if everything in her wished she could accept such an invitation.

“Of course. Please.” She gestured to the other chair and moved her stack of mail and other papers closer to her side of the table, relocating her own coffee.

Luke set his coffee and muffin down, angled his way into the chair and shrugged out of his jacket. “Never seen it so crowded in here,” he said.

“You come here often?” Devonny asked carefully. If he did, she’d have to find another place to spend part of her weekly Saturday morning sojourn to Shenandoah. It had become a ritual. Gathering her mail, her bank statements and laptop. Getting her coffee and reviewing the bank deposits online and checking them against the corresponding statements. Sometimes she balanced her bank account or organized and paid her bills. Other times she simply sat and sipped her coffee and gazed out the window. “If I’m in the area and I have time.” Luke bit into his muffin and studied her while he chewed. She sort of didn’t like the way he looked at her. Yet she sort of did. She pushed her glasses up her nose even though they hadn’t slipped. She took a nervous sip of her coffee. “How about you?” he asked.

“Occasionally,” Devonny hedged. He didn’t need to know her routine.

“Astigmatism?”

“Excuse me?”

“The glasses.” He gestured in her direction. “I see someone as pretty as you and I wonder why no contacts. But some people can’t wear contacts.”

“Oh, right.”

“That was a compliment, by the way,” Luke said before he took another bite of muffin.

“Inferring that I have astigmatism?”

He laughed. Choked. Coughed. Covered his mouth with his hand until he could swallow. Took a drink of coffee and swiped at his lips with a napkin before he grinned at her.

“The ‘someone as pretty as you’ part. But speaking of glasses, there’s definitely more to you than meets the eye.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Just a general impression.”

Luke’s eyes bored into her. She was afraid he could see all the way through her brain and know all the thoughts that were lurking there.  Which was the absolute last thing she needed. “You weren’t wearing glasses when we first met,” he said.

“I should get going.” Forget that she hadn’t finished checking her bank account or paid her bills. Her laptop was still in its case at her feet. She hadn’t even looked over the statements. Staying here with Luke sitting across from her was dangerous.

At the exact moment she scooted her chair back a few inches, another customer bumped into her table hard enough to tilt it sideways. Luke grabbed it before it turned over, but not before every piece of paper on it slid to the floor, followed by Devonny’s coffee. The lid popped off and the remaining coffee spilled in a slow creamy ridge across her mail.

She scrambled to pick them up. Luke was right there with extra napkins, blotting at the wet pages. He picked up the damp envelopes. Was it her imagination or did he take just a second to get a glimpse of the return address? Great.

All he’d have to do was Google “Chemistry Films” and if he was interested and diligent enough, he’d figure out what that more that didn’t meet the eye was.

Luke helped her dry everything off. It wasn’t so bad. She’d already drunk most of the coffee in the cup. Some of her papers and envelopes bore damp coffee stains, but they’d survived and she gathered them up as quickly as she could, shoving them back into a pocket of the laptop case, which had remained completely dry.

By mutual agreement, she and Luke walked outside together. She wasn’t going to give him a chance to converse further. There was no point. “Thanks,” she said, waving to him. “See you around.”

She knew he watched her as she made her way to her car.  She wasn’t dumb and he hadn’t disguised his interest in her from that first day she’d met him. He’d been biding his time, she supposed. Waiting for some encouragement from her. Which hadn’t come. That cold shoulder she’d aimed in his direction hadn’t been his imagination.

***

Luke watched Devonny drive away. He’d never met a woman so elusive.

He started toward his Jeep. There could be lots of reasons why she’d want to hide. He knew that better than most because he’d been hiding who he’d once been for years. If he didn’t, he probably wouldn’t have a job. No one wants a former junkie counseling their kids. Not in a public high school in the heart of the Midwest. Not in a private school, either. Maybe he could get a job in a juvenile detention center somewhere, but even that was iffy.

Luckily, he’d never been busted. He had no criminal record. The gaps in his college attendance had never been questioned. All that mattered to the county school board was that he had a degree and a teaching certificate. And that he was willing to take on the role of football coach as well for a few thousand extra dollars a year.

Devonny didn’t have the look of a former junkie, necessarily, if there even was such a look. But she was definitely hiding something about herself. But then, Luke thought philosophically, wasn’t everyone? He bet if he dissected the lives of every family in Red Bud some extremely unpleasant secrets would come oozing out. He had no desire to do that, of course. He wasn’t interested in the secrets of the families in Red Bud. He was interested in Devonny Campbell.

And she was doing everything in her power to convince him that she wasn’t interested in him. What, he wondered, would it take to change that?

 

 

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