People had begun to filter through the streets for the Labor Day celebration. From her food camper, Teeka watched a mother arguing with a boy about two and a half, who’d already spotted the cotton candy stand. She liked children, but sadly she didn’t think she’d ever have the patience to be a mother—or find a suitable husband.
“I want connen canny!” the toddler squalled.
“Honey, the stand isn’t open yet.” The mother saw Teeka and smiled. “I’m sorry. My son hasn’t had a nap today.”
“Sounds like Mommy needs a break.” Teeka reached for a tall plastic glass. “What’s your favorite color?”
The woman blinked. “Uh, red.”
“Want canny now!”
Quickly, Teeka crushed ice, added cherry syrup and cherries, some sugar, and then mixed it all together and poured it into the daiquiri cup. She poked a spoon down into the concoction. “Here you go.” She held the cup out through the order window. “One daiquiri for one harried mom. And non-alcoholic, so you can share it.”
Movement caught Teeka’s attention. A very nice-looking man of about thirty waited to place an order. He grinned at her, the action brightening his pale blue eyes.
Teeka nodded and smiled back.
“What do I owe you?” the mother asked. The little boy lunged in the direction of the other stand, jerking hard on his mother’s arm. She wrestled with her toddler and tried to open her purse.
“You don’t owe me a thing,” Teeka replied. “If I ever have any kids, maybe someone will do something nice for me when I’m ready to scream.”
The young mother stared at Teeka for a moment, and then her lower lip wobbled slightly. “Thank you.”
“Not a problem.” Teeka pointed toward the big oak growing in the center of the town. “That’s the best place to rest.”
The woman shrugged her purse strap over her shoulder, gripped the toddler by her other hand, and reached for the cold drink. Her gaze met Teeka’s. “I’m sure you’ll be a great mom. You have a lot of understanding and sympathy.”
A quiet communication passed between them. Teeka didn’t know what to say, but the woman turned and struggled with her son who kept screaming. “Honey, that nice lady gave us something better than candy.”
“Really?” he said.
“That was one of the nicest things I’ve seen anyone do,” the waiting man stated.
Teeka startled, and heat surged into her face. He was even better looking close up. “Uh, well,”—she swallowed hard—“I know how I’d feel if I was in her shoes. My older sister has four stair-step children, but Sis is total mother material.”
“I have three older brothers, who all have children.” He tugged his wallet out of his jeans pocket. “I’m the only one without any.”
“Single, huh?” Good grief. Teeka couldn’t believe she was so bold. “I’ve not met anyone yet who has made me even think of having any rugrats.” She turned away and flipped on a fan. What the heck was the matter with her? She never babbled like this, especially to a perfect stranger.
“Yeah, haven’t found the right woman yet.”
She faced him and placed her hands on her hips, hoping she looked nonchalant. “What can I get you?”
“The ladies down at the elephant ear stand love your non-alcoholic drinks.” He slid a slip of paper across the counter. “They wrote down what they want. I hope you have a box or a carrier.”
“Sure do. Give me about five minutes and you’ll be all set.”
He passed her a twenty. Teeka gave him his change and began preparing the drinks. So he wasn’t married, but did he have a girlfriend? It was Labor Day Weekend, so maybe she’d bump into the guy again.
Teeka grabbed a carrier and popped it open. “Okay, three banana, one pineapple, two raspberry, and a coconut drink.”
“Thank you.” He offered her another smile, and Teeka’s heart flip-flopped. What would it be like to have him take her in his arms and kiss her? “Maybe I’ll see you around.” He turned and was gone.
Teeka had forgotten to get his name. Disappointed, she watched him cross the street where he paused to talk to the old man at the arts-and-crafts stand. Darn! For that matter she’d forgotten to give him her name, too!
Groaning, she picked up a damp towel and wiped the water and syrup from the counter. “So much for being smooth. I can’t even remember my own name when a handsome guy talks to me.”
With a glum feeling in her heart, Teeka concentrated on business. When her partner, Judy, arrived to help her, Teeka breathed a sigh of relief. Business was good, but their two employees had called off, both professing to have the flu. As the day passed, the heat mounted, and Teeka scrambled to find another crate of cups as the line to their camper grew ever longer.
By eleven o’clock that night, exhaustion claimed Teeka. She handed over the last drink to a customer who straggled by. Once the lady left, Teeka closed the window.
“I’m done with clean-up,” Judy announced. “I’ll take the morning shift. You get some rest.”
“Thanks. I’m beat.” “I have more cups in my garage, so I’ll bring them with me tomorrow. Right now I’m going to go home and snuggle with my ol’ man before bed.”
Teeka laughed and waved to her partner as she stepped down out of the camper. She made sure everything was in its place then snatched up her purse, and descended the three fold-out steps to the pavement. Turning, Teeka shut the door and locked the trailer.
She stolled down the sidewalk where the cleaning crew had already started blowing and sweeping debris toward the trashcans. Despite the struggling economy, the town’s first Labor Day Festival was already an obvious success. Teeka smiled to herself as a pair of grandparents carried their sleeping grandchildren over their shoulders.
She paused, listening.
“Hello! Behind you.”
She slowly turned unsure who she’d encounter, but a big smile broke out on her face once she saw the handsome, blue-eyed man. “Hello back!”
He jogged up to her with three helium balloons tied to gold ribbons. “I didn’t have time to talk to you as long as I wanted to today,” he began, “and then I realized I’d forgotten to tell you my name.”
Teeka chuckled. “Don’t feel bad. So did I.”
He grinned down at her. He certainly was tall, and his broad shoulders and chest enticed her to step into his embrace.
“I’m Braden Holluster,” he said and held out his hand.
“Teeka Grayson.” She put her hand in his. A jolt of chemistry zinged up her arm.
He held out the balloons. "They’re not flowers, but they’ll do until I can visit a flower shop.”
Delighted, she accepted the balloons. “I think they’re beautiful.”
“Look,”—he fidgeted and jammed his hands into his pants pockets—“there’s an all-night pizza place a few blocks from here. Want to get a bite to eat?”
“I’d love to!”
“If you’re off early tomorrow night, I’ll take you to a proper restaurant.” Braden fell into step next to her.
“Who would’ve thought the ladies at the elephant ear stand would’ve hooked you up with a date.” Her laughter echoed up and down the street.
“Actually, they did.” He held his elbow out, and she slipped her hand through the crook. For the second time, a jolt of energy zipped up her arm. “The elderly lady who owns the stand took one look at you and knew we’d be a pair. I didn’t believe her, but when I saw you, I couldn’t do anything but stare. Thank God the woman was there with her toddler. It gave me time to gather my wits.”
Teeka looked up at him and met his eyes. Her heart performed a weird jitter, and her pulse jumped several gears. She saw the images of future children in Braden’s eyes. A thrill wound through Teeka and she let him slip his arm around her waist. Her pulse jumped. Maybe she’d found a little Labor Day magic.
Pausing, Braden looked down at her. “I’ve wanted to do this since I saw you today.”
With that, he drew her into his arms. Transfixed, she watched as he leaned down. She slipped her arms around his neck, her balloons escaping her grasp to take her dreams to the stars. As his lips claimed hers, Teeka knew she’d found her true love.
About the Author: Azura Ice writes several subgenres of romance, which includes, but is not limited to het, ménage, m/m and can be set in contemporary times or even in a far away world or another dimension. Azura’s muse leads her by the hand, and her fingers do the light-speed typing. http://ablueice.wordpress.com