Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

RETURN TO WALHALLA
Friday, November 30, 2018 by LAURA HODGES POOLE

PLEASE WELCOME

LAURA HODGES POOLE

TO FLASH FICTION FRIDAY

 

Return to Walhalla – Chapter One excerpt

Penny Ruskin pounded on the front door of the Oconee Citizens Bank in downtown Walhalla, South Carolina. She tugged at the doorknob one last time then cupped her hand on the window and peered through the glass. Darkness. She glanced at her watch. One-thirty. Where was everyone?

How could she liquidate Grandma’s accounts, if the bank wasn’t open? If she didn’t know any better, she’d think it was a conspiracy. No, it was just the way small towns—this town—worked. Besides, who would conspire to keep her here?

Absolutely no one.

Groaning, she turned and surveyed the neighboring businesses. People strolled in and out of the bakery down the street. She swung her glance the other direction to a ladies’ boutique where two older women chatted in front of its display window. All the businesses were open, so it couldn’t be a holiday. Could it? She caught a motion from across the street at Walhalla Feed-and-Seed. Why was that man waving at her?

After a moment, he strolled her way. Brogan boots, dusty Wrangler jeans, and, oh my—Her breath caught. Did the man double as an NFL linebacker on Sunday afternoons? His rippling biceps bulged through his T-shirt as he broke into a jog to avoid an oncoming car and safely crossed the street.

“Miss Betty takes a long lunch on Tuesday on account of her church ladies group meeting.” He removed his dusty work gloves and shoved them into his back pocket. “You’re gonna have to come back later.”

Penny cocked her head. She remembered Grandma mentioning the name,

but what was her connection to the bank? “Miss Betty?”

“Yeah, the bank manager. Her name is Betty Patterson, but everyone in Walhalla calls her Miss Betty. And since she takes a long lunch, everyone else gets an extra half-hour, as well.” A smirk on the linebacker’s face heightened laugh lines edging his sparkling coffee-colored eyes. Brown hair shagged around his ears and forehead, mussed from the work he’d probably been doing.

She sighed. “Great. When will she return?”

“She’s usually back by two o’clock. Anything I can do to help?”

Not unless you know how to close the accounts of a dead person.

Penny grimaced at her thought. “Unbelievable,” she muttered, as she twirled the diamond-and-gold bracelet on her wrist.

He leaned in. “Pardon?”

She slung the strap of her red leather handbag over her shoulder and crossed her arms. “Thanks, but I doubt it.”

His smile faded. “You’re welcome to wait.” He tilted his head toward a bench in front of the bank. “Or take a stroll. Beautiful day for it.”

 “Thank you. Please don’t let me interfere with…whatever you were doing.” She flung her hand toward the feed-and-seed.

“I’ve got customers, so guess I’ll get back at it.” He turned on his heel and hurried across the street.

She hadn’t meant to be rude, but her frustration with the small-town pace overrode her better senses. After all, who closed a bank so an employee could attend a ladies’ church group? She shook her head. She didn’t fit in here. Never had. Never would.

With thirty minutes to kill, Penny walked toward the town cemetery set amongst oak trees three blocks away. Maybe Grandma’s headstone had been delivered, and she could cross it off her list. She had a timetable clearly worked out. Put Grandma’s house up for sale, liquidate her estate, and go home to her job in the capital city of Columbia.

A cool spring breeze rippled across Penny’s skin and sent a shiver through her. She rubbed her arms. Stray white blooms from the Bradford Pear trees floated past, their fragrance tantalizing amidst the other springtime scents in the air. Yellow daffodils lined the sidewalk and dotted flowerbeds in yards along the way. The soft blue and white mountainous horizon belied a peace she didn’t possess.

This had been home once. Many of her high school classmates had wanted to hang out with the most popular cheerleader, but she could only count few as true friends. She'd walked past these same pear trees and daffodils when she'd lived here as a teen. Same flowers. Same streets. Same neon sign over the ice cream store with a faulty light winking at her as if it knew her secrets.

Well, she wasn't the same.

She’d wasted no time putting distance between the town and herself after graduation. This place held nothing but painful memories. One in particular.

Penny turned into the cemetery’s dirt road and trudged along to the mid-section and Ruskin family plot. Her parents’ graves had simple markers. She ran her fingertips across their etchings, the rough texture sending a shiver through her. Grandma’s prominent place beside Grandpa in the center was covered over in a fresh mound of dirt. No headstone. It had only been a week since she’d ordered it, but disappointment filled Penny anyway. Delays weren’t part of her plans. Time dragged at a snail’s pace in this town, and that got on her last nerve.

She knelt beside Grandma’s grave and lifted a handful of dirt, allowing it to sift between her fingers. Hot tears blurred her vision, and she blinked them away.

“Grandma, I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you needed me,” Penny whispered. “I can’t seem to get anything right.” A tear slid past the defenses of her lashes and ran down her cheek. She reached into her pocket for a tissue.

Grandma’s voice rang in her memory. Learn to love yourself, child. 

How could she do that when the biggest mistake of her life had been made here? And every time she returned to Walhalla, it was like driving a knife into her soul.

Yep. The sooner she got Grandma’s estate settled

and returned to Columbia, the better.

 

ABOUT LAURA HODGES POOLE

Laura Hodges Poole is a Christian writer with dozens of articles, devotions, and short stories to her credit. She is the author of five books and contributor to two others, all available on Amazon.  Laura is the 2016 ACWC Badge of Honor winner, a 2014 ACFW Genesis semi-finalist, and a 2012 RWA Emily finalist. Her credits include being a writing conference contest judge in 2017. As an editor and member of The Christian PEN, she enjoys mentoring and helping other writers polish their work. When she’s not writing, you might find her hiking, playing the piano, or being crafty. A mother of two, Laura lives in South Carolina with her husband and son.

Contact Laura:

Website: http://laurahodgespoole.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Laura_Poole

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/LauraHodgesPoole

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+LauraPoole#

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lhpoole/

Amazon link for purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Return-Walhalla-Laura-Hodges-Poole-ebook/dp/B078WZPMZX/

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