Judy Pearl turned towards her niece and with thinly veiled patience replied, “Hester, I gave you the option of heading home to pick up supplies while Mrs. Humphrey and I caught up. You turned it down. Now, If you don't mind, find something useful to do while we continue our conversation.” Showing Hester her back she continued, “It is highly impolite to not only eavesdrop on other people's conversations but to also interrupt uninvited.” Judy smiled to herself as she heard her niece sigh and storm off into the stock room.
Although while biologically Judy was Hester aunt, she was more than that. Hester's mother had died when the girl was a mere toddler and her father had run off long before then. Judy had stepped in. She had loved her sister dearly, even as she watched her make mistake after mistake with an unbroken chain of unsuitable men, and when Hester's father had left his 7 month pregnant girlfriend telling her that it was time for him to return to his heretofore unmentioned wife, Judy had taken her in. She had taken them both in and after her sister died, Judy raised Hester like she were her own child.
“That girl is getting wilder and wilder each day, Judy. You have to do something about it. I mean, just look at her.” Elizabeth Humphrey had no patience for teenagers, Judy doubted that she had ever been one herself, and constantly pointed out to Judy that Hester's “attitude” was getting progressively worse as time went on.
“Oh, lighten up, Liza, she's 18, what do you expect. Now, fill me in on the man who moved into the old Williams house. I thought for sure that place would be vacant for years.” The town of Stanton Falls was not a big one and the arrival of a newcomer was big news. Everyone, it seemed, was talking about it. Talking, but nothing else. How all the gossip spread around was a bit of a mystery since no one had yet to meet the new resident. Holly Janewood had sworn that Eric Bateman had heard that Bill Ruggle was on his front porch when “the suit” had arrived in town a little less than a week ago. That was about as much information as anyone had, and everyone knew that Bill was most likely drunk at the time of the sighting, so what he said had to be taken with a grain of salt. The new resident of Stanton Falls was a man and wore a suit. How the general population managed to talk about this shred of information for five days straight was what baffled Hester.
Liza Humphrey's scowl at the door through which Hester had disappeared quickly transformed back into a look of animated excitement. “Well, all we can say for sure is he is city folk. What else could he be, dressed like a banker like Bill said. He drives a big fancy SUV and doesn't seem particularly social. Eric said that he hasn't shown himself at the pub once since he came to town. I ask you, who comes to a new town and doesn't even try to get to know the people.” Judy did not reply. She was familiar with Liza's propensity for asking rhetorical questions. “Everyone eats at Eric's pub Sunday nights, but not Mr. Fancysuit. He's been locked up in the Williams' place for days and hasn't come out to say how-de-do even once.”
“Well, Liza, now be charitable, maybe he's been busy moving in and all. I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable excuse for his reticence.”
“Moving in? What can he be moving? I haven't seen a moving truck, have you? I may be old,” this was one of Liza's favorite interjections, one for which she did expect an emphatic denial, “but I'm not blind. No one has come in or out of that house since he arrived. I should know. I live across the street!”
Judy smiled at the older woman, “Liza, you'll never look a day over 50. But how do you know what he is up to? Maybe he had a lot of his belongings with him in that big car of his. Maybe he's been living off of tin can rations for a week. You may live across the street from him, but you're not there now, are you? Maybe when you came over here to chat with me, he snuck out the back, so as not to be seen, and is on his way to Eric's as we speak. Perhaps by tonight we'll have more information.”
“I may be old, Judy, but I'm not naive. I'll not be tricked into going to the pub in the middle of the day.” All the same, Liza looked over her shoulder towards the door.
“Of course you're not naïve, dear. I just meant that even in a town as small as this one it is still possible to have secrets, even from you.” Judy smiled as she watched Liza Humphrey grow visibly uncomfortable and restless. “You know, you'd have a great view of Main Street if you took a cup of coffee outside of The Hot Pot. You might even be able to tell if he comes into the hardware store. You know, a man just moving in is likely to make that his first stop.”
Gathering up her purse and hat Liza smiled at Judy, “Well, funny that you mention it, but I was just on my way there. You know I do always take some tea this time of day. No better place then The Hot Pot, not from here to Boston.”
“Well, enjoy your cup. Do let me know if you find out anything interesting,” Judy winked at Liza as the oder woman made her exit with a flourish of her hand and headed down the block to the coffee shop in the middle of town. “You can come out now, Hester, she's gone.”
The sullen teen emerged from the back room and walked up to her aunt at the shop's front counter. “I have no idea why you always send me back into the storeroom. You know I can't reach anything up on those higher shelves,” she said angrily swatting a stray piece of purple hair from her face. “And what the hell did that crack mean, 'Just look at her'? Yeah, take a good look, lady. I'm right here. Maybe you could take a look at yourself once and awhile. Seriously, who wears stupid hats like that anymore? Where are we? Victorian England?” Hester fumbled with a few of the display items on the counter in silence for a moment or two while Judy waited for the rest of the storm. “There is nothing wrong with my attitude. She's the one who needs an adjustment. I'm amazed her back isn't all out of alignment the way she walks around with her nose so high in the air. Perhaps she'd feel better if she had that building surgically removed from her ass.”
“You forgot to make fun of her age.”
“You know, you're right,” Hester smiled, “At what point do you think she'll actually become fossilized?” Judy giggled indulgently at her niece and pulled her in for a hug before reminding her of her manners.
“You do have to be charitable to Mrs. Humphrey. She has done so much to help me over the past few years and...”
“And she'll never let you forget it, that's what.”
“Hester, if it hadn't been for Mrs Humphrey I wouldn't have my shop. I'd also probably still have difficulty with the Williams girl. She is a nice, well meaning woman. So what if she's a little conservative and short tempered. She means well and that's what counts.”
“Yeah, well, she may be nice to you, but she looks at me like I'm a disgrace. I'm sorry if she didn't like my mother or whatever her problem is, but seriously? Get over it, you old bat.”
“Sweetie, it's not that she didn't like your mother. Mrs. Humphrey was like a second mother to both of us. She was just always disappointed in how your mother conducted her, shall we say romantic? affairs. The fact that she flaunted them certainly didn't help. This is a small town. People do talk.”
“Wow, ya think? You people have been talking about nothing but the new guy for days now. But let me ask you this. All this talking, has is brought you any more information? Do you know the slightest thing about him yet? It seem s to me that you'd all be better off if someone just got up the nerve to walk up to his door and welcome him to the neighborhood instead of all this supposition and intrigue.”
“You know, I'm glad you feel that way,” Judy smiled at Hester, a smile Hester recognized as victorious. “I left a letter for him on his front stoop this morning on my way to the shop and invited him to come by later today to meet some of the locals and get a 'Welcome to Town' package from Pearls of Wisdom. I had enough of all this speculation and gossip. The poor man won't stand a chance if he doesn't show himself soon.”
“You invited him here??? So what was that whole ruse about getting coffee and watching Main Street? Ooohhh, you SO dissed her!” Hester couldn't resist doing a little dance at the thought of Mrs Humphrey sitting at the cafe with her superior attitude while New Guy was here in the shop. “Oh yeah, oh yeah. There's a reason you're my favorite parent, and now I remember what it is.” Hester leaned over to straighten out her skirt and smirked to herself as she rearranged the counter top, gloating about getting one over on the old witch while Judy pretended to ignore her satisfaction.
“Well, there's no guarantee that he will show up,” she warned.
“Maybe not, but it's a hell of a lot more likely that he will now that he's been invited than before when he thought all of the people in this town were spineless snoops. Oh wait, they are!” Hester snickered to herself, enjoying what she construed to be a personal victory over Mrs. Elizabeth Humphrey, a woman who had shown nothing but disdain for her for as long as she could remember. She realized it was small victory. After all, she really didn't care if she met the New Guy first, but Mrs. Humphrey certainly did. She prided herself on being the town's source of all information. In reality, most of her information came from Eric the pub owner, after all, people frequently open up and say all sorts of things to bar tenders, but that was not a fact that she readily promoted. No, Liza Humphrey promoted herself as the all seeing all knowing town matron. Well, she'd get hers here and Aunt Judy was responsible.
What Hester could not understand was why Judy had invited New Guy to Pearls of Wisdom. The small shop had been in her family for ages, Judy's mother had been the town Midwife and Naturopath, long before that term was in common usage, and Judy had built her reputation on her herbal remedies.
Theme : Romantic Comedy, Kindness, Nature
Setting : the woods/ suburbs
A 30 year old man, 5ft 10' tall, with emerald green eyes and medium brown hair. He is extroverted and calm but can be loud and is scared of growing old. A bachelor.
An 18 years old girl/ lady, 5ft 2' tall, with hazel eyes and streaked hair. she is sensitive and calm but can be evil and is scared of needles. She is an artist.
The girl's Aunt who is an herbalist.
girl and the man has different views about life and nature
man likes girl, but girl is stubborn/ fearful
girl is very cynical about man coming from the city
I'm afraid I did not do her suggestions justice. I also, sadly, am submitting an incomplete work. Thanks to Jen for making this possible.