Amy tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, disturbing the mask’s string. She sighed and readjusted the floral cloth. Amy longed for the day when she wouldn’t have to bother with covering half her face like a biblical woman on her wedding day. On the bright side, she could eat all the garlic bread she wanted and return to work without worrying about her breath.
Thanks to her recent blog post—which went viral—about healing essential oils, people had come out of the woodwork to buy her handcrafted relaxation candles.
While most people shopped online, local Alabamians welcomed the chance to get out and explore. Customers young and old mingled around the small storefront—at a safe distance, of course.
Amy sold half a dozen candles to a husky man wearing camouflage coveralls and a ski mask. A young woman with tired eyes and a toddler asked about oils for better sleep, and another woman bought several bath bombs. She thanked the customers for their purchases, feeling silly smiling behind a cotton cloth.
Once the afternoon crowd died down, Amy turned away from the register to look for more wrapping paper and restock her shopping bags. Who knew candles would be such a hit in hard times?
Days like today made Amy extra grateful for her hometown. She’d worked hard to create a profitable business in such a rural community. Steady sales helped ease her conscience of regret for not taking a different path in life.
“Excuse me, ma’am?”
Amy stiffened, the papers in her hands weighing her down like blocks of concrete. That voice. She hadn’t heard it in years. Well, unless you consider her dreams, but she didn’t.
It took every bit of courage for Amy to turn around. A CrossFit competitor benching a dump truck would’ve had an easier time moving.
“Yes?” Amy’s breath grew heavy, a scent of spaghetti sauce with garlic cloves piercing her nostrils. She narrowed her eyes, focusing on the man’s striking eyes. Those tender brown eyes she’d stared into the night her heart broke into more pieces than a jigsaw puzzle.
One of the hard puzzles too, not an easy 25-piecer.
“Yes. I just moved back.”
Amy’s hands shook like a fish on a hook, making her drop all the wrapping papers. They fluttered across the counter and over the floor, causing a silent mess.
“I’m starting my own practice.”
“Oh, yeah. Family law, is it?” Amy fought back the temptation to roll her eyes. No doubt, Dan would sense the cynicism in her tone.
Law had taken him to Atlanta years ago, and he’d asked her to move with him, flashing a diamond under her nose. She’d wanted to make a life with him, but not in Atlanta.
So, knowing the ring—and the man—came with that condition, she’d reluctantly declined his proposal.
If her sarcasm put him off, it didn’t show. Not in his eyes, at least. He may have frowned, but who could know?
“I didn’t like Atlanta.” Dan rested his hands on the counter and leaned dangerously close to Amy. Like, unsocial distancing close.
“Huh. I thought it had all the best career opportunities.” This time, Amy didn’t even bother trying to hide her mockery.
“It did.” Dan sighed, his puppy dog eyes sinking into sadness. “But it didn’t have you.”
“So, you think you can move back and pick up where we left off, just like that?”
Dan shrugged, and leaned even closer.
Even in her cabin full of candles, Amy could smell his cologne. That woodsy scent had stayed on her couch cushion for months after he left. It finally faded, offering her the excuse she needed to stop sobbing into it during Hallmark movies.
“How do you know I’m not married?” She raised her eyebrows.
“I don’t see a ring.” Dan nodded toward her shaking hands.
She clasped them together.
He straightened and removed his mask. Amy wanted him closer, but her COVID-conscious reaction was to lean away. Despite her attempt to flee, Amy melted like hot wax when he smiled at her. She didn’t protest when he reached out and unlooped the mask from behind her ear, letting it fall to the papers on the counter.
“You’re too close and we’re not wearing—”
Dan’s mouth met hers. Kissing him made nothing else matter. Amy didn’t care if anyone saw them or threatened to call the candle police and shut down her shop. Her hands stopped shaking, and she used them to grab his shoulders. After his masculine scent had washed over her so strong that not even the cantaloupe candles could compete, Dan pulled back and beamed at her.
“So, is it safe to say ‘we’re in this together’?” Amy blushed. It looked like she just gained a quarantine companion.
Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, or on her website.