“No! I will not fucking enlighten you!” I yelled at him. “Stop trying to be my friend. Stop asking questions and giving advice. Because you have no idea!” His eyes were wide. The place was silent. There should be some noise.

The others—Netty, Ethel—they were listening to me yell. How could they not? I was screaming. My heart was slamming against my chest. Emotions churning inside me. I yelled at him like he’d wronged me. When he had done nothing but try and be my friend. How was he to know how my life was a crockpot of shit.

I didn’t look at any of them although I felt their eyes on me.

“I’m sorry,” I said not just to Diesel but to Netty and my boss. I walked back to the door I had just walked through. It closed firmly behind me. My car was where I had left it last night. My keys in the purse on my arm. I reached inside and found them. I liked this job. I liked the people here. But I’d just yelled and cursed out Ethel’s nephew like the crazy person I was. I’d shown them my unstable character. The girl I had hidden so well for years. It was bound to happen. My snapping. Mentally combusting. Was this it? My turning point into looney land.

“Scarlet!” Ethel’s voice called out loudly. I didn’t want to look at her. Listen to her. But I owed her. She’d given me a job when I needed one. Trusted a girl with no references or former jobs. With a deep inhale, I tried to steady myself for whatever dressing down I was about to get. Then I turned to face her.

She was stalking out toward me. A serious expression on her face. It wasn’t exactly a scowl but it was determined. I didn’t want Ethel to hate me. She’d been nice to me. Kind. They all had. Little did they know I was a ticking time bomb.

“Where do you think you’re going? We’ve got the breakfast crowd gonna be here in a few minutes. God knows that boy can’t handle this alone.”

I had expected her to yell at me, scold me, tell me to take myself on out and not come back. Never had I even for a brief moment thought she’d come out here to tell me to get back inside. Had she not seen me acting like a lunatic?

“You don’t want me to leave?” I asked, making sure I understood her correctly. Maybe she wanted me to finish my shift, then get out.

“Because you yelled at the boy? I’m not sure why or what he said but sometimes a woman has a reason to yell at a man. It happens. We’re females. They can say stupid shit. Now, come on. Ain’t got much time.” She said waving her arm toward her and the diner.

I still had a job.

I would think about Bray later. Tonight. When I was alone.

I could yell and scream in my camper. But not here. And not at Diesel. He’d done nothing but be nosy. How was he to know my past?


BRENT STOOD THERE glaring at me like I’d lost my damn mind. It was possible I had. “You can’t fucking move! What about your job? What about . . .” he trailed off before reminding me I had to take medication to function normally. Or what everyone else considered normal. I was capable of taking my meds without Momma reminding me every day.

My bags were packed and in the truck. I just needed Brent to drive me to Joe Kirks so I could buy the red 1998 Chevy Pickup he had for sale in his front yard. I had enough in my savings to pay cash and I’d taken it out of the bank on my way back into town earlier. Joe agreed to sell it to me for three grand if I paid cash. He’d been asking four grand.

I didn’t need to defend my leaving to Brent. Getting back to Robertsdale before Scarlet got out of work was important. Leaving her today I hadn’t been sure what I was going to do. I just knew I needed some space to get angry at her stubbornness and then calm the hell down and figure shit out. All that had taken about thirty minutes and I’d been on the road headed North before I realized my decision had been made.

“Just drive me to Joe’s,” I replied. “I’m buying the Chevy and going south. I don’t need your advice, Brent.”

Brent tilted his head back to stare up at the barn rafters and sighed loudly. “This is a major fuck up,” he muttered.

There were a lot of things I could say. Cruel things. But I didn’t. Just because Brent had moved on to Sadie didn’t mean it was okay for me to tell him what he’d missed from Scarlet. He hadn’t known her at all. She was more his friend he kissed than anything.

The door swung open and sunlight filled the room briefly as Steel walked in carrying a tool box and scowling at us. His shirt was soaked with sweat and his hair was equally damp. The summer heat was already in full force.

“Glad you two fuckers can stand around in the cool ass barn while I work. Don’t let me stop you from your girlie chatter.” His sarcasm was evident.

“He’s moving! Buying a truck and fucking moving to be with Scarlet! Talk some sense into his stupid ass.” Brent was disgusted. It annoyed me. Had he really paid attention to Sadie? The girl was giggly and silly. No depth. I wanted to stuff a sock in her mouth to shut her up regularly.

Steel had paused for a moment and looked at me. “Hmmm,” he replied with only a tiny amount of interest on his face. “Good luck with that. Don’t reckon it’s my business what the hell you do. You might want to give Momma a heads up though.”

I’d already planned on telling Momma. I was going out to the garden to talk to her before I headed to get the truck. “I am. Would you give me a ride to Joe Kirk’s so I can buy that Chevy he’s got for sale out in his yard?” I asked Steel deciding I was done trying to talk to Brent.

Steel nodded slowly. “That’s a good truck. Old but a classic. 1998 Chevy’s were made well. Nice body style. Talk to Momma and I’ll meet you back here in ten minutes. Brent you help me get this new cover over the well lifted. I just got the rotten one off.” He didn’t wait for Brent to respond before he dropped the tool box on the shelf and walked out. “Hurry. I got more shit to do,” he said as he left.

Brent shot me one last glare. “When this all goes to shit, I will remind you that I told you so.”

“When you finally put a piece of fucking duct tape on Sadie’s mouth I’ll start considering your advice on women,” I shot back at him, then followed Steel out of the barn to find Momma.

“You’re a motherfucking asshole!” he called out behind me.

“Yeah,” I agreed with a lift of my hand but didn’t turn around to look at him. He knew Sadie talked for the sake of hearing her own voice. He just didn’t want to admit that shit.

I headed toward the row with cabbage and root vegetables. This time of year the carrots, turnips, and beetroot were ready to pull. As well as the cabbage and if we were lucky the broccoli. I could see her on her knees in the dirt with a carrot she was inspecting in her hand. I’d grown up in this garden. As kids we’d run out to the garden, pull one of the carrots, wash it under the faucet out by the barn, then ate it as a snack. It had been years since any of us had eaten a carrot right out of the garden as a snack. Now we were more likely to grab a beer that we kept stashed in the barn cooler.

Momma looked up at me as I got closer and she heard my footsteps along the path. Frowning she shaded her eyes from the sun and studied me closer. Then with a knowing sigh she took the carrot and put it in the bucket beside her. How she could read our thoughts that easily always made me nervous. I swear the woman was either given some kind of gift from heaven to raise us or she was into witchcraft.

Tags: Abbi Glines South of the Mason Dixon Romance
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