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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tourist Attraction by Rekha Ambardar

“Club san on rye.” Valerie called out and slapped the order on the spindle near the kitchen, for the guy with the great smile, she added silently.

He sat at the counter sipping the coffee she’d set before him.

“None of your snowmobiling buddies with you today?” she asked casually.

He looked up, his gray eyes twinkling. “They’re making a side trip tonight. Me, I wanted a great meal and a quiet evening,” he said. “I’ve been in the snowmobile all day.”

“You’re not from the area, are you?” A bunch of them had walked in yesterday evening wearing snowsuits, carrying helmets tucked under the arm.

“No. We’re from Chicago, up here for a few days’ vacation,” he said. “By the way, I’m Steve Lemire.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Valerie, as you can see.” She pointed to her nametag. “First time up here?”

He nodded. “It’s a great place.” He looked around the restaurant. “Nice fireplace.”

Valerie flushed with pleasure. The fireplace had been her idea. She’d talked Dave, the owner of Country Kettle, into adding one.

“Glad you like it.”

When his order was ready, she brought it to him and then waited on the other customers. The rest of the evening had her hopping so she didn’t see Steve leave.

Valerie didn’t see him the next day either, or the day after. Nor did she see his snowmobiling buddies. They’d probably all found another restaurant, which was okay. Or they’d taken a trip to one of the many scenic trails in the area.

The restaurant was filling up, and it was just as well that Steve and his bunch hadn’t shown up or they’d have been short of tables, and that wouldn’t be good for business. Two days later, when Valerie and Melanie, another waitress, were wiping down the tables and counters, Steve came in.

“You’re still here?” Valerie asked, then realized it must have sounded rude.

He grinned. “For two more days,” he said. “I came to ask if you’d be interested in showing a hapless tourist around the Winter Carnival tomorrow.”

She shook her head. “I’m doing a double. One of the waitresses can’t make it tomorrow, and being Saturday, it’s going to be busy.” There was no denying the disappointment she felt.

“Too bad.” He seemed to share her disappointment, too.

Then she had an idea. “I’m off on Sunday. If you still want to go, I can come for an hour or so before I get to my chores at home.”

“An hour would be great. We’re leaving around noon,” he said. Since Valerie offered to pick him up he gave her the name and address of the place he stayed at.

Early Sunday morning they went to see the snow statues.

“Blast from the Past,’” Steve said, reading the big sign that displayed this year’s theme for the Carnival. “Historic events carved in snow – what a great idea.” He took pictures with his digital camera.

They walked around for a while and then stopped at a nearby coffee shop for doughnuts and hot chocolate.

They picked up their order and found a small table by the window. For a few minutes they watched people hurrying by bundled up in their warm jackets, scarves and hats.

“Quite the winter wonderland,” Steve said. “So different from the big city.”

“I suppose you miss the big city when you’re in a place like this,” Valerie said.

“Not really. This place has a charm all its own.” He took a sip of his hot chocolate.

“Are you all packed and ready to leave this afternoon?” she said, stirring her drink.

“Just about. We hitch our snowmobiles to our vehicles and then we’re off.”

“Don’t be a stranger to the area,” she said. “If you return here next year, stop by the Copper Kettle with your friends.”

“I’m going to do more than that, Valerie,” Steve said, wiping doughnut crumbs off his fingers with a napkin. “For a small town there’s so much going on here that I’d like to move my sporting goods business up here.”

“You would?” Valerie was stunned. And here she was interested in a guy who she thought she’d never see again. “That’s a big decision.”

He looked straight into her eyes. “Sure it is. But I’m also certain it’s the right thing.”

Valerie finished her chocolate. “Well, what are we waiting for? We have more statues to see before you leave.”

“You’re right,” Steve said. “And the sooner I leave town, the sooner I can get back.”

About the Author: Rekha Ambardar has published over eighty short stories, articles, and essays in print and electronic magazines, including The Writer’s Journal, ByLine, The Indian Express, Writing, Her mysteries have been published in Futures, Nefarious, The Gumshoe Review, Orchard Mystery Press, Shots in the Dark and other anthologies.

She is a regular contributor to The World and I Online, a subsidiary of The Washington Times, and has published articles on topics of current interest and concern.

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