The grand Victorian sign stood like a monument worthy of a shot in the Herald. Naomi had devoted three weeks to painting it, striving to tap into every fiber of her creativity. This just had to be the perfect plan to catch Tyler Morgan‘s eye.
The huge sign boasted a park scene with a couple strolling in their 1920s Sunday best along a flower-lined path. She set the masterpiece in front of her cozy sewing and craft shop for the entire town to see, or at least the most important person. Maybe he'd need buttons replaced or pockets repaired today.
Just in case, Naomi wore the flowing multi-colored blouse she’d finished last night, earrings to match, and a smidgeon of blush on her cheeks.
She didn’t know Tyler much. Mostly only women frequented her shop, but occasionally men-–usually gray-haired widowers needing something mended-–gave the place a look. Tyler appeared thirty-ish and he had a nice smile.
On the sidewalk a few feet from the new sign, she displayed handcrafted yard ornaments, naturally a few with replicas of Minnesota loons. Another peek at the placing of each item and she went inside. A jittery sensation fluttered through her while she switched on lights and lit a few apple-scented candles in the shop.
The phone rang. Never answering on the first ring, which might suggest she wasn’t busy, she picked up on the second. “The Creative Cottage, Naomi speaking. How may I help you?”
“Hey,” Tess Branson said. “I’m thinking about stopping by later with a jacket in desperate need of zipper help, and hoping we'd do lunch.”
“Yes on the zipper, but only a maybe on lunch, just in case my dream comes true and I'm sharing a jumbo taco salad with that dark-eyed man who has yet to ask me to marry him.”
“Mr. Anniston?” Tess asked humorously.
“You're nasty. He’s ancient. I'd rather mend Herbert Helgerson's boxers. You wait. This is the best plan I’ve ever had. This is small-town Minnesota and that sign is big. People are going to want to investigate. Any excuse to talk to him works for me. It won’t be long and I’ll be camping in the wilderness, enjoying morning coffee in a canoe on a gleaming lake with my one and only.”
Tess laughed. “You have imagination, I’ll give you that.”
After the chat, Naomi shuffled through garments hanging from a rod, chose a suit coat with a ripped seam and started to work.
Within minutes she glanced at the door. No one. She grabbed a sweater, darned a hole, checked the door again and sighed. In hopes today would be the day, she scooted to the dressing room used for sizing up the alterations needed on prom dresses and wedding gowns. On the rod along the wall, heart-stopping bridal wear befitting Scarlett O’Hara, with layers of lace and hand-sewn pearls, waited for their brides. Naomi dreamed of someday adding hers to the mix.
She forced her eyes from the delicate gowns and looked in the mirror. “Someday.” After re-combing her short chestnut-colored hair, she smoothed cherry gloss over her lips slowly and seductively, and smiled at her reflection when wouldn’t she know it? The bell on the front door jingled.
Mrs. Helgerson waltzed in. “Your new sign is lovely, dear. You are so artsy. Anyway, I was wondering if you have Herbert's shirts ready?”
Naomi posed a smile. “I'll get to them next.”
Mrs. Helgerson frowned. “Perhaps I’ll stop back around three.”
On her way out, Mrs. Helgerson paused by a display of quilted handbags and denim purses, peered at the puppy portraits, then opened the door. Tyler was talking with someone from the new Napa Auto Parts building across the narrow street. Naomi wanted to holler, Leave the door open—but too late.
She hurried to the window. Tyler and the thick, dark-haired man wearing a Napa cap ambled toward her shop. How sophisticated Tyler appeared stepping onto the sidewalk, a pen in his shirt pocket and a fancy phone in hand. The two men studied the sign.
She should go out there, greet them. But what would she say?
Smoothing her hair with nervous fingers, she eased outside. The men marveled at the colorful sign until Napa man moved to the yard décor. Tyler checked his watch and peered down the street.
Say something to him, Naomi ordered herself, but no words came.
“How much is this one?” Napa man stooped to inspect an arrangement of short timbers roped together and adorned with a solar light, a painted plaque reading welcome, and strategically placed fishing tackle.
“Thirty dollars,” Naomi replied. Her gaze slipped to Tyler, his tanned arms, broad shoulders. “Which one do you like?”
The men exchanged grins. Mr. Napa said, “Tyler’s idea of the outdoors is an office chair by a computer in an air-conditioned porch. But this,” he added, reexamining the timber light, “would be perfect on my deck at the campground. These are inspiring.”
He stood and extended his arm. “Bill Peterson. Do you camp?” His warm green eyes fell on hers, holding steady, looking into her.
She glanced again at Tyler, who was typing into his Blackberry, which, now that she thought of it, he did quite often when dropping off his sewing. It had put the kibosh on many otherwise would-be and hoped for conversations, and now prompted only the word boring. How had she missed that?
She shook Bill’s hand and tingles shot through her. “Naomi Weston, and camping, yeah, every chance I get.” Heat rose to her face and toes simultaneously. Did she sound like she was hinting?
His smile landed right in her heart. “Ever camp at Peel’s Park?”
“No,” she replied, then quickly, daring herself, she added, “But I‘d like to.”
“I’m out there after work all this week,” Bill said, a smile like a holiday. “Maybe you could stop by, get a tour of the grounds, give me decorating pointers.”
Her heart raced and her knees weakend. “I can’t think of a better plan myself.” DSS
Deborah Schubbe, 55, of Wells, Minnesota, has written for Midwest Living, The Writer's Journal, and many other publications. She is a full time free lance writer and has won awards for her writing. She's also been a realtor and a craft shop owner. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog is at http://debioneille.blogspot.com/.
This story has it all: a lovely young girl, a couple of guys, and the promise of romance. Keep these stories coming by donating to Downstate Story.