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The Shop on Main

By:Kay Correll

The Shop on Main



Kay Correll



CHAPTER ONE





Bella Amaud snatched her purse off the table littered with homework, breakfast dishes, and a stack of half-folded clothes. “Come on, boys. We’re going to be late. Get your backpacks and let’s go.” She swept up the dirty dishes and placed them into the sink. Tomorrow, she’d deal with them tomorrow. Right now she needed to get the boys to their father’s house, then she’d head on over to Becky Lee’s. She was going to be late. Again. “I mean it. We’re leaving.”

“I’m here.” Timmy came out of the bedroom he shared with his older brother, hopping on one foot while trying to put on his other shoe.

“Backpack?”

“Oh, yeah. I forgot.” Timmy hurried back into the bedroom, and came bursting back out with Jeremy trailing behind him.

At least they both had their backpacks.

“We’re always late.”

Jeremy announced it as if she wasn’t already aware of the fact. She’d like to blame the lateness on the boys—and they sure contributed to it—but she just hadn’t found the right dance of living alone with two boys, owning her own shop, and handling life. “Get your homework off the table and into the backpacks. Jeremy, don’t forget to finish up your homework at your dad’s tonight.”

“We should have gotten it done this afternoon. I needed your help, but you were busy with the store.”

“I’m sorry. I had to deal with unloading a shipment. But your dad can help you with it.”

“I wanted to play video games with Dad tonight. He got us two new games.”

Of course he did. She didn’t even have a video game system here at the apartment she shared with the boys.

“I’m going to see if he’ll let me play video games before I finish my homework.” Jeremy eyed her defiantly.

She wasn’t going to get into that now. She didn’t make the rules when the boys were at Rick’s, though he didn’t seem to have a problem with insisting on rules for the boys when they were with her.

A long sigh escaped in spite of her attempts to stifle it.

“We have to do homework before games,” Timmy piped up helpfully.

“Not at Dad’s house, stupid.” Jeremy shot his brother an annoyed look.

“Jeremy Hardy. No name calling.”

Jeremy let out his own long-suffering sigh. “Sorry.”

The boys picked up their backpacks and she took one quick glance around the room, making sure they had all they needed. They walked down the stairs from the apartment over her shop. It was a nice arrangement with their living quarters over the store. Even if the apartment was small, it worked for them. The price was right—included in the rent for the shop.

She pulled the door shut and let Timmy take the key and lock the door.

Rick lived just on the edge of town so there was only time for about one hundred squabbles between the boys before they arrived. She pulled up in front of the huge, old Victorian house. The yard was immaculately groomed. Timmy had already informed her that they were having real fried chicken tonight, as opposed to the kind she made, take-out from Best Friends Diner. TheNewMrsHardy came out to the porch and waved to the boys. Rick’s new wife. A great cook. Crafty. Seemed to really enjoy the boys. It could be worse. But she had to admit she was a bit jealous of the time Rick’s new wife spent with the boys. Bella hated the shuffling back and forth and the nights when it wasn’t her tucking the boys into bed.

The boys climbed out of the car and raced up to the front porch. “Bye, Mom.” Timmy tossed the words over his shoulder.

Rick came out of the house as the boys went in. Headed for her car. Great.

“You’re late.”

“Yep.”

“I’m supposed to have the boys at six o’clock.”

“Rick, you're always welcome to come pick the boys up at the apartment.”

“That’s way out of my way.”

Of course it was. It didn’t matter that driving the boys out here to Rick’s house was out of her way. She knew she should say she was sorry for being late. But she wasn’t. Rick could just get in his own darn car and come get them if her delivery service wasn’t good enough for him.

So she remained silent.

Rick stared at her a moment, shook his head, and turned to walk away.

She watched her ex cross the yard and go into the house. The house where the boys both had their own bedrooms, TVs, video games… and let’s not forget a swimming pool in the backyard. A familiar pang of… something… washed over her. It was not quite longing, not quite jealousy, just a wistfulness for a normal life where she didn’t have to scramble for every penny. She didn’t mind hard work. She was proud of all she’d accomplished in the last few years, but she wished she was able to provide more for her boys. Well, they didn’t need all the stuff and things that Rick showered on them, but it would be nice to have a bit of extra cash to spoil them just a bit.

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