Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: OPEN UP A CAN OF WORMS (08/22/19)
TITLE: Doughnuts and Gossip
By Betty Castleberry
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For the moment, I ignored him and ordered coffee and a doughnut. Like my hips needed a doughnut, but what the heck. It looked like it was going to be a challenging morning. Looking around, I could see I had a choice to make. I could sit at a table by myself in the almost empty shop, or I could approach him. He didn’t look like an ex-con, but then, what do they look like? Do they have facial tattoos? Man buns? Shaved heads? Antennae? Three eyes? He had none of these. He looked normal in his jeans and polo shirt. Studying the glasses sitting slightly askew on his nose, I made my decision, knowing what would happen.
I live in a small town prone to gossip, and I could hear the tongues wagging. She’s married. He’s been in jail. I wonder if her husband knows. She should know better. Sounds like a tryst to me.
Even though I was about to complicate my life, I smiled brightly and went over to his table. “Hi, Danny. Mind if I have a seat?”
“Hey, Melanie. Of course not.” He motioned to the chair opposite him.
I sat down and took a drink of my coffee. It was tongue-blistering hot, but I swallowed it anyway, hoping I wouldn’t receive second degree burns or something. Attempting to recover enough to speak, I said, “So, how have you been?”
He looked directly at me. “Do you mean how was prison?”
I could feel the color rising in my cheeks. That actually might have been what I meant, although I hadn’t even realized it until he said it.
“Oh,” I chuckled, “maybe, but I do want to know how you are.”
“Well, prison was prison. Iron bars, lousy food, but as you can see, I’m fine.” He pointed to his ankle. “No ball and chain. I’m on probation, but that’s not a problem. I learned my lesson. Now I just need a job.”
“I hope you find one soon.”
“Me too, but I do have a lead.” Wiping doughnut crumbs from his mouth, he said, “You’re as pretty as ever.”
The comment didn't make me uncomfortable because he used to say it occasionally when we went to church together. Unfortunately, he said it at the wrong moment.
Marilyn Brown walked in just in time to overhear it. There is nothing that happens in this town that she doesn’t know about. She glanced around until she fixed her gaze on us.
Her signature scent got to the table before she did. “Well, hello there, Melanie. It’s so nice to see you.”
I waggled my fingers at her. “Hi, Marilyn.”
Danny nodded toward her.
“Hello,” she said curtly.
Brushing a strand of silver hair off her cheek, she said, “I hope I’m not intruding. You two look so cozy.”
Before I could reply she asked, “Is your husband working?”
“Yes. He stays busy.”
“I see. So, he’s out of town?”
“Right again.” Wonderful. I might as well have rented a billboard. I could see it now. Local married woman cavorts in coffee shop with ex-con while husband is away making a living.
“I need to go, but it was nice to see you, Melanie. I hated to interrupt your little um, visit, but I wanted to say hi. You know, I’m supposed to be getting doughnuts for our breakfast. It’s just a little get together some of us neighbor gals do sometimes. You remember Carol and Leslie, don’t you?”
I did remember the “neighbor gals.” Privately, I referred to them as The Gossip Queens.
“Yes, tell them hello for me.”
Marilyn took one last look at Danny, then went to the counter to get her doughnuts. I watched as she turned to leave, pulling out her cell phone before she was out the door.
Danny looked at me questioningly.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I said. “Better yet I know what she’s thinking, but it doesn’t matter. You looked like you could use a friend, so I made a conscious choice to be one.”
“No thanks necessary. I think it’s what Jesus would’ve done.”
He smiled. “Another doughnut? It’s on me.”
Oh, why not. Then they can gossip about my weight gain.
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