This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!
Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
One month later…
The town looked different, Shelley thought as she turned off the backroad into Rattlesnake Falls. Creeping down the main street, she passed the gas station – which looked open this time – and the general store, several houses with children playing in the yards and finally pulled up in front of the tiny post office. Turning off the engine she sat back in her seat for a minute and took it all in.
So much had happened since she’d last sat in this very building, having dinner with Dillon’s mom and anticipating a fun week away in the wilderness. It felt like something that happened in another lifetime…and she guessed in many ways, that was true.
Grabbing her purse off the passenger seat of her new, packed-to-the-gills car, she got out and put her keys in her pocket, not bothering to lock the door. Ignoring the nerves dancing in her stomach, she pulled the post office door open and went inside, ringing the bell on the counter.
“I’ll be right there!” Diane Riley’s familiar voice made Shelley smile, and she was still smiling when the older woman came into view, leaning heavily on her walker.
The expression on Mrs. Riley’s face wasn’t so welcoming.
“Well, well,” she said, stopping before she reached the counter. “If it isn’t the woman who broke my son’s heart right after he lost his best friend. You should be ashamed to show your face around here, missy. You can just turn around and walk back out that door.”
Shelley’s smile faded. “I’m sorry Mrs. Riley. I didn’t mean to hurt your son, or anyone else for that matter. After everything that happened, I just needed some time to sort things out and get my head on straight.”
“And you couldn’t even pick up the phone to tell him that? Selfish girl. You’re not the only one who got hurt that week. But he tried to reach out to you. You couldn’t even give him the courtesy of a quick call. So why are you here then? What do you want? Trying to ease your conscience?”
Shelley sighed. Somehow she hadn’t thought it would be this hard, but in hindsight, she should have known. She did want to talk to Dillon, to try to explain why she’d needed so much space, but she felt like she should talk directly to him about that, not his mother.
“I actually need a post office box. I bought a house just outside of town, and the main post office web site says there’s no delivery out that way, but that there are plenty of boxes available here. I’d like to rent one, please.”
Dianne shook her head. “Nope. Nothing available, sorry. You’ll have to get one over at Meadowlark. It’s about an hour’s drive south, depending on how far out your new place is.” She looked at the clock. “Don’t think you’re gonna make it today – they close in twenty minutes.”
“So every single one of these boxes is rented.” Shelley looked pointedly at what must have been a hundred boxes lining the hall of the old lobby. “The web site says there are twenty available.”
Dianne shrugged. “Not for the likes of you. Now if you don’t mind, I’m closin’ up myself pretty soon, so you can see yourself out.”
Shelley nodded slowly. “Okay.” She pulled one of her new business cards out of her purse and slid it across the counter. “Here’s my new address, in case you or Dillon would like to stop by sometime. Obviously I didn’t handle things as well as I could have, but I can’t change that now. I am sorry for hurting both of you though, whether you believe it or not. I’d like to be friends someday, if that’s possible. If not, then cordial neighbors will have to do.”
Determined not to cry in front of Mrs. Riley, Shelley turned and quickly made her exit, managing to hold off the tears until she was seated in her car. Even then, she swiped angrily at her cheeks and pulled away from the building, knowing the propensity of small town people to snoop and gossip. It was time to check out her new home, and start getting settled in. Now that she was freelancing, time was money, and she needed a place to work.
And maybe someday she could convince Mrs. Riley to rent her a PO box. Baby steps.
Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 34 – the final chapter!
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