Dare to Love(4)

By: Dixie Lynn Dwyer

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. That was so many years ago. It didn’t even seem real anymore. Those days, weeks, months of starving, of making ends barely met and then graduating from college.

Thank God she came to Chance. Thank God for Mrs. Peters. She had been tired of meeting the same types of men. Men that wanted sex and thought that just because they paid for a movie or a dinner date that she should put out. There weren’t any good men or even good people around where she lived. Well, except for Mrs. Peters, who lived in Chance. She had been a professor for years and then she stayed on in retirement and worked in the main office alongside the dean of school.

Mercedes smiled to herself. Mrs. Peters was the one that told her about the job opening in Chance with the sheriff’s department. When she’d arrived for the interview she was a nervous wreck. Max had been so intimidating. She knew he was a good man, an honest and caring man, but had a role to play and an appearance to keep up to enforce the law. She was thrilled that he and his brothers fell in love with her friend Alicia.

Mercedes smiled and continued around the store picking up the items on her list. She gathered her coupons and knew she would be right on target to her spending this week. But when she got to the floral section and saw the bright yellow bouquet of flowers and admired them, she felt that instant anxiety in her chest. They were quite beautiful. But not in her budget. She could afford to get them, now that she was working full time, but there was always that fear. That worry that if she was frivolous here and there, it could get out of control and she would be in debt again. She gulped down the lump of emotions. It made her belly ache.

She looked at the price and cringed. Not this week. She just didn’t spend foolishly and really, what would she do with them? She was hardly home enough to enjoy them. She walked away and headed toward the register. She talked to Lucy, one of the teenagers that worked there, and they chatted about her brother, Gardner, a deputy. They laughed, exchanged pleasantries, and Mercedes once again felt grateful for living in a place like Chance. It was safe, people were friendly and kind, and she felt at ease, not on guard like she did years ago.

As Mercedes walked out of the store with her bags in the cart and headed to her car, she heard her cell phone ring. Glancing at the caller ID she saw that it was Marlena.

“Hi, Marlena, how are you?”

“I’m doing well, what are you up to?”

“Just finished food shopping and heading home to put it away then get back to the station. What’s new?”

“You really do like to keep your time organized. I bet you had a lot of coupons. How much did you save today?”

“About twenty-five dollars. But it wasn’t a big food shopping.”

“That is great. You’ll have to teach me so that I can be a savvy, smart shopper.”

“With Danny, Jack, and Mike spoiling you the way they do, you don’t need to worry.”

“That they do. In fact, I’m calling you to see what you’re doing on Friday night? There’s a comedy show in Wager and I can get great tickets, close to the stage for the four of us to go. Are you interested?”

“Well how much are the tickets?”

“I think I’m getting them for free. I’ll know for sure by Wednesday.”

“Okay, count me in.”

“Wonderful. I’m going to call the others.”

Marlena hung up and Mercedes smiled. It would be fun to get together with just the ladies. It was getting kind of depressing being the only one of the four to not be in a relationship. Not that she wanted to be. She’d never had a boyfriend, never had sex, and didn’t know why she was opposed to it. Maybe because she was used to being alone and making her own decisions? Perhaps she felt that a man, or men, would control her or ultimately have control over her? Or it could be the simple fact that she lost her parents when she was eighteen and had always taken care of herself and counted on herself and no one else. To actually let down her guard, or open her heart to another human being so deeply, scared the living daylights out of her.

It was easier to not make a connection or bond. Then it wouldn’t hurt so badly when they disappointed her, or broke her heart, or left her.

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