There was another knock. My front door had seen more action in one evening than it had in the last two months. I took another deep breath and opened it, half expecting to see Joe again. Instead, I saw the Pillsbury Doughboy, or as close to what I’d ever see in real life. He was missing the chef’s hat and the kerchief, but his face was a pasty white and chubby, with big wide eyes like the Doughboy. His button-down shirt barely contained his wide, round gut, and the buttons threatened to pop. I resisted the urge to poke his belly with my finger to hear him giggle.
“Rose?” he asked, his voice shaking from fear. At least I think it was fear, from the look of pure terror on his face.
Nope, no giggling.
“Steve?” I asked, but I already knew it was him from the tie he wore and the Walmart flowers he held in his hand. Either that or he was a really generous Jehovah’s Witness. “It’s very nice to meet you.” I said, trying to sound cheerful.
He stood in silence, staring at me with his big round eyes.
“Do you want to come in?” I raised my eyebrows in a happy, questioning look.
He remained rooted to the porch. It occurred to me perhaps Joe or Mildred had applied Super Glue on the wood slats.
“I’ll just grab my purse.” I said and he thrust the flowers toward me. “Oh, are those for me? Why, thank you!” I took the flowers, leaving the door open and Steve on the porch.
“Here!” I shoved the flowers at Violet in the kitchen. “Take care of these.”
Violet’s face lit up like a kid getting cotton candy at the carnival. “He brought you flowers?”
I glared at her.
“Who brought y’all flowers? The devil next door?”
“No, Miss Mildred.” Violet said, patting Mildred’s arm. “It’s Rose’s date.”
“Date?” Mildred crowed. “After she carried on with that Yankee?”
“Don’t worry, Miss Mildred. Steve’s a good boy, good Henryetta stock. He’s Stan Morris’ grandson.”
I already regretted agreeing to this date and I hadn’t even left yet. I grabbed my purse and headed out the front door before Mildred and Violet decided to start checking Steve’s teeth. He stood exactly where I left him, wearing the same terrified expression, except he leaned to the side. I worried he would fall over trying to see something in the living room.
“Looking for something?” I asked, glancing over my shoulder.
If possible, his eyes got even bigger as he violently shook his head.
I shut the door as I realized what he was looking for—evidence of Momma’s murder. We started walking across the porch to the steps and I caught the glance he shot my direction, a look of fear. He thinks I killed Momma. There was no way I could go out with him. What I couldn’t figure out is why he agreed to go out with me in the first place.
I stood next to the passenger door of Steve’s car. “Steve, I…” My words stopped on my tongue. Joe sat on his front porch, drinking a beer and watching my every move with a suspicious glint in his eye.
Steve waited for me to finish.
I smiled up at him with my sweetest smile, which I hoped would convince him I was incapable of murdering anyone, least of all my own Momma. “I just wanted to tell you how delighted I am that you’re takin’ me out to dinner.” I said loud enough for Joe to hear. To finish it off, I raised up on my toes and kissed Steve on his pasty cheek, surprised it didn’t taste like biscuit dough. I hoped Joe didn’t see Steve cringe at the contact.
I sat in the front seat, waiting for Steve to get in, smiling my fake happy smile. I was almost surprised to see him get in, half expecting him to run screaming down the street. I had to admit he had a nice car, one he probably didn’t want to leave behind with a murderer. If I could murder my own Momma, I bet he could only imagine what I would do to his poor Buick.
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