It had been 6 months since I moved to Clintville with my brother and ex boyfriend. We were young and in love but things didn’t work out between us. Delicately stepping off the bus, I took a deep breath as I took in the sights and smells of the lively small town. The cool, October air soothed my lungs and gave me a sense of calm and serenity I haven’t experienced in quite some time. There was something endearing about Clintville. “I like it here,” I thought to myself. I figured I could finally start a new life and a family but I was now prepared to go it alone. No way was I going to let a failed relationship ruin my chances of leading a happy life.
The Pitt bull in my stomach growled to remind me that I hadn’t eaten since early this morning. My plan was to take a stroll through town until I came across a place that caught my attention. Walking down Main Street, I was greeted merrily by the locals.
“Good afternoon!” An older woman sweeping the entry of the Clintville pharmacy greeted me with a warm smile. I returned the salutations and continued onto the next block. There, I sidestepped a small child of maybe six whose attention was glued to his gameboy. I didn’t even know they still made those.
“Watch where you’re going Timothy! Apologize to the young lady, you almost ran her over!” Scorned the thoughtful mother.
“I’m sorry.” The kid apologized. So cute.
“It’s okay!” I assured, smiling at the two and continuing my journey. I trekked on for maybe two more blocks before I was stopped dead in my tracks. The newspaper headline jumped out at me and demanded my attention. I curiously approached the newsstand and grabbed a paper.
“Man Buried Alive in Ex Girlfriend’s Backyard.”
Devastating. It was inconceivable that such a heinous act of violence could happen in such a peaceful town. I returned the newspaper, thanked the merchant and carried on. If I continued reading that article it would ruin my mood; I didn’t need that negativity today.
“Grrrrrrrr.” My stomach aggressively reminded me once again. A block later and I stumbled upon a pizza parlor.
It didn’t take long to realize that Poe’s Pizza Palace was a staple restaurant within the Clintville community. Signs of autographed celebrity portraits decorated the cream painted walls. I was comforted by the passionate soul music playing from the speakers. There was so much culture there; it was disappointing that I’d been living in this town for months and never visited once.
“Hey, welcome to Poe’s. What can I get for you?” asked the handsome cashier.
“May I have two slices of pepperoni?” I ordered politely, stomach rumbling in agreement.
“Two slices of pepperoni coming right up.” He answered with a smile. “That’ll be $7. Want a drink?”
“No, thank you.” I handed him a 10. He handed me $3 in change and a medium cup anyway. “You’re not from here are you?” He inquired, almost rhetorically.
When I asked him if it was obvious he told me that it was. Clintville was a very small town. 750 residents and he knew every one of them. At least by face. And mine stood out.
“I would recognize eyes like those.” He stated. Complimented?
I blushed, swiftly spun around and proceeded to fill my cup with free grape soda. There was something subtly alluring about this guy. It mystified me. I was intrigued.
“Two pepperoni!” He notified me by the speaker. Unnecesarily. I blushed again.
“Really?” I asked jokingly. “You definitely could have just called me, I was only like 7 feet away.”
“Now how could I do that if I don’t even know your name?” he responded truthfully. Obviously. He made a good point.
“Tiffany.” I told him and grabbed the tray holding two very large slices of steaming pepperoni pizza.
He was an interesting guy to say the least. It was only a line or two of small talk but I could tell he was different. He was charming without really trying. Didn’t take himself too seriously, he knew how to have fun. Really easygoing. I suddenly didn’t want to dine inside of the restaurant anymore.
“I’m sorry. Could I actually have this to go?” I asked, hoping not to inconvenience him too much.
“Sure.” He grabbed a PPP logo’d carton and placed it on the counter next to the microphone used to notify customers that their orders were ready. I could tell he was put off by my sudden indecision but he was tactful enough not to say anything. Quite the gentleman.
“Thanks so much. I just remembered I have to meet a few friends soon.” I lied.
“It’s all good, don’t worry about it.” He routinely boxed my togo order in a manner so swiftly and effortlessly you could tell he’d had quite some time to practice. “My name’s Devin by the way.” He handed me the carton.
I responded with a pleasant “Nice to meet you Devin.” It was.
The heat of the pizza box in my left hand was offset by the cold drink in my right. As I turned to leave I realized that I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going to eat the food. Then Devin called out,
“Hey, Tiffany.” I turned around.
“Where’s your car?” He asked, peaking around me into the parking lot. Very observant.
“Oh I walked here, took the bus.” I answered.
“A good way to see the town I guess. Stop by sometime, I’d love to show you around.” He offered. It was a kind gesture. I didn’t feel like he was trying to come on to me at all. The innocence in his offering signaled that his intentions were pure.
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. Have a good day, Devin!”
I had to make an escape. This guy was bad news for me.