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Chapter 4- Arden

Morning came fast, I was reluctant to get up but I know I couldn’t be late for work. Cassy and I were up most the night formulating a plan to help Arden and Charlie, and we decided to start with Arden since he still lives close by.

Rushing through my morning routine, I run downstairs to grab my bag, making sure my phone, keys and wallet are in my purse before heading to the door. “Wait! Don’t forget this!” Cassy comes running after me, with a pink envelope in her hands.

Raising an eyebrow at her, I pluck it from her hands, seeing Arden's full name spelled out on the front in pretty cursive writing. “What is this?” I question, shoving it carefully into my purse.

“The plan. I wrote a letter to Arden, making it seem like I left it for him before the incident. Hopefully when you give that to him he will understand and be able to move on.” She smiles, obviously proud of herself.

“So, what? I’m supposed to say ‘Hey, here’s a letter your dead ex-girlfriend gave me to give to you so she can move on.’ Cassy, when am I even supposed to give this to him?” Looking at her pointedly.

Rolling her eyes, Cassy crosses her arms. “No. He works at the car garage, go and say your car is making a noise. That gives you a chance to give him the letter! Easy-peasey.” I smile at her. It actually was a pretty good idea.

After agreeing, I rush out the door. I hope I can make it to work on time. Driving fiercely, I walk in the door with only 5 minutes to spare. Shirley was standing behind the counter making coffee. “Good morning, Mrs. Shirley.” I call out merrily.

Despite the fact that I am running on maybe 3 hours of sleep, I am in a pretty good mood. Shirley turns, giving me a soft smile as she says good morning. Going through the startup duties, I make sure all of it was done before the first customer walks through the door and the breakfast rush starts.

It was almost ten before it slows down enough for me to take a small bathroom break. Coming back, I start wiping down the counters and filling the ketchup bottles to be prepared for the lunch hours. Again, a throat clears in front of me.

Arden stood there, wearing form fitting jeans, work boots and a black t-shirt, showing off the tattoos running down his left arm. He looks absolutely delicious. Licking my lips, I try to clear my head of those thoughts. Putting on a kind smile, I spoke. “Good morning, Sir. Black coffee, no food- yeah?”

Already pouring his coffee in a to-go cup. His eyes drank me in, studying me with a curious glint. His mouth lifts up in one corner in a half smirk. “Correct.” He answers easily.

I sit the cup in front of him. Leaning on the counter, “Free of charge, Mr. black coffee. You enjoy your day.” He stands there for a moment, before he continues to pull out his wallet, laying down a twenty. Furrowing my eyebrows, I push it back to him.

He lets out a deep chuckle, before placing a hand over top mine that was pushing the money back to him. “Keep it, Miss Sunshine.” He states teasingly. Before grabbing his cup and heading out of the door. I was shocked for a couple of reasons.

One, he gave me a nickname. However silly, he gave me a nickname. Two, when his hand touched mine, there were definite tingles that shot up my arm. I wonder if he felt them too? And finally, he left another twenty-dollar bill to pay for his two-dollar coffee.

Shaking that little encounter off, I have to remember that he has been through some stuff. Stuff that I couldn’t get wrapped up in even more than I already am. I have my own problems and I was in no shape to start a relationship with someone who was still fighting their own demons.

Getting back to work, the day flew by pretty quickly. When it was quitting time, I knock on Dion’s office door that was alread open. Both him and Shirley were inside when I poked my head in. “Hey y’all, I’m heading out. Do either of you know of a good mechanic?” I query.

I want to be able to say someone pointed me in that direction instead of just showing up. Dion nods enthusiastically before telling me about the only shop in town, but mentioning it’s great service. Thanking him I left, praying this whole letter exchange was quick and simple.

My car was old and beat up, so I knew there was some things that needed worked on. One thing was for sure, I need new window wipers. The last time it rained I had to pull over until it stopped and I had to dry the windshield with a sweatshirt before I could continue driving. So, this can be a ‘kill two birds with one stone’ deal.

Shutting off my car, I walk into the garage. I was met with a lanky greasy man, who eyes me up and down making my skin crawl with disgust. “Hey pretty lady. What can I do you for?” He smells rancid. Trying not to portray how his scent was burning my nostrils, I step back slightly.

“Uh, hi. I was wondering if I could get new windshield wipers.” He eyes me again, licking his lips then smacking them together noisily. Before he could answer, Arden rounds the corner, his eyes immediately finding mine. I watch as he walks up to the counter where I was standing, waiting to see what I needed.

The grease ball guy smirks. “This fine dime needs some wipers. You gonna cover the front so I can help her?” He gives a wink in Arden's direction, as if I couldn’t see it. I wrinkle my nose in disgust, so uncomfortable with this dude.

Thankfully, Arden notices. Shrugging he replies simply, “I’ve got it.” Before rounding the counter, leading me away from him. Once we were far enough away, I release the breath that I didn’t know I was holding.

“Thank you. That guy is seriously creepy. No offense to your friend.” He chuckles before shaking his head. He was sifting through different wipers, when he glances back at me.

“He’s not my friend.” Well that is a relief. You are the company you keep, right? At least I think that’s how the saying goes. Shrugging mentally. I’ve noticed this guy doesn’t talk much. He sticks to short and simple, I wonder if that’s because of Cassy.

After I pay for my wipers he picked, we walk outside, and he set to work on changing my wipers. Seeing no time like the present, I kick around some dirt as I nonchalantly ask, “So hey, do you know an Arden West? I’m new in town, and the house I bought had this letter-” I pulled it out of my purse. Taking note of his stiff posture. “It’s addressed to him, so I figured I’d get it where it needs to go.”

He finishes with my wipers before turning to me slowly, reaching out, carefully pulling the letter out of my hands. I watch as he just looks at the envelope. I didn’t know what to expect but it surely wasn’t his hard glare, piercing through me the next moment.

He sharply spat out, “You should leave.” Before spinning on his heels and storming back into the garage. Was he telling me to leave the garage, leave the house, or leave the town?

I wasn’t sure. However, what I do know, was his tone and his harsh glare, hurt. I’m not positive why, but I blink away tears before hopping in my car, and driving away.

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