Willow reflected on the past month one morning as she sat on the back deck watching the sun rise over the water. Each day had brought an increasing sense of peace as she allowed the serenity of her new home to fill her. She had enjoyed reading her Bible in the silence of each morning, and felt closer to the Lord than she ever had.
Her little home had become a source of joy to her, rearranging things inside to suit her needs and tastes, and walking the grounds outside drinking in the sunshine on days it allowed. Rain had filled many of the spring days so sunny ones were treasured. Willow was looking forward to planting gardens, both flowers and vegetables, and the time that it would give her outside.
However, she could feel a restlessness begin to fill her as well: a restlessness that she attributed to a lack of human interaction. She had yet to venture into town. Avery had been out once a week with groceries and any books or magazines she had requested. He rarely stayed longer than it took to drink a cup of coffee, but she enjoyed his visits and saw them as her touch with the outside world.
This morning an idea began to form in Willow’s mind, though. Although, she had been feeling too fatigued to make the walk into town (about a 3 hour trip one way), Avery had purchased a bicycle for her that would make the trip much faster and easier for her. It had been leaning up against one wall in the little shed and Willow decided that today would be the day she would make her first trip to town.
Once the decision had been made, she quickly grabbed a backpack, filling it with snacks and a bottle of water. Slipping her arms through the straps, she walked purposefully towards the shed and threw open the door. There stood the shiny, new bicycle and Willow smiled, turning her face up to the sun and its golden rays, before grabbing the handles and starting the walk down her dirt lane to the road.
The ride to town filled Willow with a sense of excitement as she travelled up and down low hills, often quite close to the ocean. She hugged the shoulder of the road as cars whizzed past her and took her time following along behind them. Women weeding garden beds and men cutting grass threw her a friendly wave as she followed the curves of the road, finally reaching the small town Avery had showed her on their midnight ride through that first night.
Willow stopped outside a grocery store and took a moment to get her bearings. Directly across from her stood an imposing building, probably a courthouse, or something like that, she surmised. There was no sign in front and Willow figured it wouldn’t matter since she didn’t plan on needing anything like that. Various storefronts dotted the street, a thrift store (might be good for when she needed new clothes), a “Dollar or More” bargain store, a small pharmacy with a clinic beside it, and a used bookstore. Books were Willow’s weakness. She knew at some point she’d be checking out that one, but perhaps not today.
Farther down the street Willow noticed a sign for a library. That was one place she knew she would definitely check out today. And between the library and the grocery (where she now stood) was a small green space. It was really too small to be called a park, although a sign near the street proclaimed it “Victoria Park”. A gazebo stood in the middle of it and a few benches were scattered around cement sidewalks. Tulips and cedar bushes filled in the spaces between the sidewalks and buildings, making it look an inviting spot to stop for a rest.
Willow decided to check out the small grocery store first. As she walked up and down aisles pushing a small cart she looked at the people around her. A mom with two little girls pushed a cart piled high with boxes of cookies, apples, and cereal. Willow smiled thinking, Breakfast of champions!
An older man walked slowly down the aisles, pausing to roll an apple around in his hands before putting it back, knocking on the watermelons before moving on, and then carefully selecting a few potatoes to place in his cart.
A woman in a business suit breezed quickly around the store, grabbing items quickly off of shelves. To Willow, there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what she picked, except to fill her cart.
Finally Willow finished circling the store and headed to the checkout. A young woman stood behind the conveyor belt, chatting cheerily with each person as they paid for their purchases. The cold shoulder, business suit lady gave, didn’t seem to faze her as she chatted on. The mom with three girls smiled tiredly and answered back with a few words before packing up her groceries and heading out the door. Willow was next and she smiled broadly back at the young woman.
The name tag attached to her store vest proclaimed her name to be Lola. The frizzy black hair framing her face made the name feel appropriate.
“Good morning!” she sang as she began ringing Willow’s purchases in.
“Good morning.” Willow replied back.
“Are you new around here? Didn’t hear of anyone new moving into Last Chance. A’ course the Peterson place been up for sale for a while but I hadn’t heard it sold.” Lola looked up and the innocence in her eyes caused Willow’s heart to stop pounding. She didn’t know who Willow was and wouldn’t unless Willow told her.
“I am new here but not in Last Chance. I live a ways from here. Just came to the closest place for a few things.”
“Most people head into the city so we’re real glad you decided to stop here. Hard to make a go of it when Walmart is just 30 minutes that’a’way.” Lola jerked a thumb behind her back and then got to bagging up Willow’s few items. Willow paid and picked up her bag.
“Thanks for stoppin’ in. Hope we see ya again.” Lola flashed Willow a bright smile and Willow smiled back before heading for the doors. She could be friendly. There was no problem with being friendly and it was okay because she lived too far away to become “friends” with anyone here. As long as no one knew her it would be all right. And she had no intention of coming in to town often enough for anyone to get to know her on a personal level.
Willow decided to stop at one of the benches in the park while she packed up her few items in her backpack. She took a swig of water and quickly ate a protein bar before slipping her arms back through the straps. Today was not the day for enjoying the area. Maybe another time she would enjoy the scenery more. Next stop: the library and then home.