Levi stared out over the fields but he wasn’t taking it in. Instead his mind was clouded with thoughts – things he didn’t understand.
When a small hand rested on his shoulder, he jerked around and came face to face with Miss Stella who almost dropped the glass of juice she had in her hand, apparently for him.
“Woah!” she said, then laughed, possibly out of fright. “Why so deep in thought, mister?”
“Sorry, Miss Stella.” he said and took the glass gently and nodded his head as a thank you. “Just something bothering me.”
“Care to tell me about it?”
“It’s just, the other day I went in town with Kim...I mean Miss Sawyer... And I couldn’t help notice something funny.”
Miss Stella’s expression turned to worry.
“People were acting really strange. I was talking to an older woman who used to be a friend of my mother before Becky, you know...”
She nodded and I continued.
“When Kim walked out of the shop and up to us, the woman scowled at her and walked away without a word. And I couldn’t help notice the dirty looks people gave her in general.”
Levi frowned and shook his head.
“Why would they do that? Did something happen back then before she left for the city?”
Miss Stella opened her mouth to speak, closed it, then finally said,
“Kim was involved with something. But it doesn’t matter now.”
“Please Miss Stella,” he begged. “You got to tell me. I need to know what’s going on.”
She looked away.
“It’s about your sister.”
“I don’t understand,” Levi said. “What does Kim have to do with Becky?”
Miss Stella finally looked at him again.
“They were friends. Kim was friends with the other girls as well.”
“You don’t mean...”
“Listen first,” Miss Stella said and held a hand up to him to stop him.
“When the other girl were accused Kim was accused as well. But Kim was cleared in the end and had a strong alibi. But the town folks didn’t believe that and treated her unkindly from that day on.
She wiped her hands on her apron.
“It became so unbearable that she tried to commit suicide. The bullying was too much for her. That’s the reason she left.”
Her voice softer, she said,
“She didn’t feel welcome here.”
“But it wasn’t her fault,” Levi said.
“That’s not how people saw it. They made up their minds long ago that she was guilty.”
Levi still couldn’t wrap his head around it. And then a thought came to him.
“Does she know who I am?”
“No. She has no idea.”
He finally understood why she was so afraid of this town. Why she was so hurt and bruised and why she wanted to run away. And if she realized who he was she would run away again.
“I need to talk to her.”
“Levi, please!” Miss Stella begged. “Don’t be angry at her.”
“I’m not,” he said. “I need to get to her before she finds out who I am.”
“And what are you going to tell her?”
“That everything will be alright.”
She looked confused.
“I thought....I thought you’d be angry. That’s why I didn’t tell you.”
Levi shook his head.
“But...why aren’t you?”
Levi lifted his hat from his head and pulled a hand through his hair, then shrugged and looked up shyly.
“I guess I love her.”