“Well, Charlie McClair, as I live and breathe!” Tony Anderson declared. “I was just thinking about you the other day!”
“Hey, Tony! Lord, no one has called me Charlie in a long time. How’s tricks?” Charlotte McClair said as she leaned on the counter of the sweet shop with a big smile, as she greeted her longtime friend. Tony had run this diner for as long as she could remember. No one knew for sure but everyone suspected that Tony was gay. He had never married or even dated any of the women in town, choosing to keep to himself yet he knew the dirt on everyone in town. If there was something you wanted to know about just about anyone in Montclair, you just had to ask Tony. He was a wealth of information on just about everything and everyone in town.
The “sweet shop” part of the drug store was really just more of a counter surrounded by stools and a row of booths that separated it from the drug store. Tony served sub-sandwiches, hotdogs, mini pizzas, pie, cake, coffee and soft drinks along with ice cream anyway you wanted it. It had always been the place to go after school and church for most of the kids in town. Charlie had worked in the drug store/sweet shop after school and on weekends during her high school years, much to her Grand mama’s disapproval. Tony’s brother, Peter ran the drug store. Their car had broken down in Montclair one winter and seeing that the town was in need of a drug store, they had just never left. They had bought a building that used to be a large old house and had converted it, using the lower floor as the drug store and they lived upstairs. They had worked hard to establish themselves in the small tight knit community.
Charlotte’s family had been the wealthiest family in the small town of Montclair, Texas, but Charlotte, or rather Charlie as she was known here, had never been one to flaunt it. To anyone that knew her, she was just like anyone else. She never put on airs or tried to act like she was better than anyone else just because her family had money. She had worked weekends and had summer jobs, just like most of the other kids her age. She had saved the money she had earned to buy her own car, the very car she had left town in just one short week after she had graduated high school. She had grown up in this diner as much as she had in the big house on the hill.
“When did you get back?” Tony asked as he sat the coffee pot back on its warming tray and passed her the cup he had just poured, looking her up and down. Gone was the cute, petite tom-boy in jeans and a tank top with the button down shirt tied at the waist and the beat up old sneakers. Before him stood a beautiful, well-dressed young woman in a fitted linen skirt, a silk blouse and heels. She still had long, chocolate brown hair but instead of it being pulled up in a ponytail and topped off with a battered old ball cap, it was now pulled back into a neat French twist on the back of her head and she had small pearl earrings in her pierced ears. “I can see why Charlie didn’t stick. You certainly don’t look like the little tom boy that left here 10 years ago. Sorry to hear about your grandmother. You don’t have any family left here, do you?” Charlotte’s parents had been killed in a car accident a couple of years after Charlotte left town along with Charlotte’s only sibling, Candace, whom everyone had always called Candy, for short. Charlotte’s grandmother, Lillian “Lilly” McClair, had indeed been her only surviving blood relative on her father’s side. The only people left at the old mansion now were the Whitfield’s, who may have been hired to work for the McClair family but they had been with the family for so many years, they were more like family than servants.
The last time Charlie had been back in Montclair it had been to bury her parents and her sister. Candy had been two and a half years younger than Charlie but Tony remembered that the two sisters were the exact opposite of each other. Charlie had been a tom boy. Candy was the girly girl. Charlie had always known that her sister was the preferred child, the apple of not only her parents but her grandmother’s eyes as well. Candy’s bedroom was pink and frilly and smelled of the latest perfumes to hit the counters of the mall where Candy was taken on a weekly basis for the clothes she claimed she “had to have”.
Charlie’s room was a sky blue and covered in sports posters and while it didn’t stink, at least not to her, it usually smelled of the leather soap and oil that Charlie used to keep her baseball mitt soft and supple.