J Whitworth Hazzard’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: Growing Up Fast
Here comes trouble.
Ruby watched the door of Piercy’s Bakery slowly close behind Matt Powers and sighed. Alice, at the far end of the counter, perked up immediately seeing her young farmhand on his daily run to town. The young woman quickly stowed her books away and hopped up beside her Aunt. Her smile, her excitement at seeing Matt was a little too obvious.
Ruby decided she’d have to talk to Alice about subtlety and the meaning of “demure”.
“Hey, Matt. The usual?” Ruby asked. She tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice, but it was difficult. She’d glared at him, chided him, and done everything she could think of to keep him from sniffing around her niece—short of telling him to stay away—and he kept showing up at the bakery like clockwork.
“No, Ma’am. I thought I’d bring my Momma some of that cinnamon bread y’all make. She’s not feeling too well,” Matt barely looked at Ruby. His eyes, and grin, were fixed on Alice.
“Oh,” Ruby said. “I’m sorry to hear that. She seemed fine at Church. Is she okay?”
“Her arthritis is acting up. Daddy’s got her out working with him, since he had to fire the Grainger boy.”
“Well, I don’t blame him. Not a lick of sense in that one,” Ruby slid apart the glass partition to get the loaf of cinnamon bread and Alice stepped up.
“Hi, Matt!” she held her hands behind her back, acting “professional” like her Aunt Ruby taught her.
“Howdy, Alice. What are you learning about today?” Matt asked. He peeked over the counter to see the books she was working on. A stack on middle grade readers were all within Alice’s reach.
“I’m learning all about the native americans and how they were forced out of their homes by invaders. Awful stuff. Would you like a snickerdoodle? I made them myself,” Alice said. She held out a slightly burnt cookie with a pair of tongs and Matt graciously accepted. Ruby forced back laughter when Matt nearly choked on the first mouthful.
“Dee… lish… usss.”
Alice hopped a little with excitement and beamed with pride. The recovering girl still had a hard time picking up on the signs of deception.
“You’re teaching her to bake?” Matt turned his faux-grin on Ruby. “First lesson?”
Ruby wrapped up Matt’s bread and put it by the register, “She works in a bakery. She’s got to learn sometime. Besides, the doctor said she needs to learn everything she can. There’s no way to know what’s going to spark her memory.”
Alice crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently. Ruby knew the girl didn’t like it when people talked about her like she wasn’t standing right there, but there was no avoiding it at times. Ruby kept most of the story private, but Matt knew enough from town gossip. He knew to take it slow, but he didn’t know that it took her three weeks to learn to eat and drink again after the accident. Another three months to walk. And another three months to talk. He may be cute and sweet, but he had no clue how far the girl had come. Or how much she’d changed.
“Alright,” Ruby said. “There’s no need to get snippy, sweetie. He just asked a simple question.”
Alice pouted and turned away, “It’s been a year. We can stop talking about it now. It’s embarrassing.”
“We sure can, sweetie. I’m sorry.” Ruby put her hand on her niece’s cheek and gave her a peck.
“Now… don’t you have some soybeans to plant? I know your Daddy isn’t paying you to flirt with Alice all day.” She looked right at Matt, who blushed and averted his eyes from Alice.
“But… I’m… Yes, Ma’am.” Matt stammered and headed for the door. He looked back at Alice as he left the small-town bakery and flashed a grin. “Bye, Alice.”
“Bye!” Alice smiled and waved at the handsome farmboy.
“Lord, help us, girl. That boy’s sweet on you.” Ruby said. “And he ain’t taking my hints.”
Ruby and Alice walked arm in arm through the downtown shops. The bakery was closed up for the day, along with every other shop except the corner bar on 2nd. The women chatted as they walked. Ruby tried to keep the subject away from boys—especially away from Matt. Ruby had a moment of panic when Alice stopped suddenly and turned silently away from her. The girl’s mouth dropped open slightly and she wouldn’t say a word.
“Are you okay? Alice,” Ruby asked, “What’s gotten into you?”
“These are the shoes!” Alice pointed at a pair of gorgeous red velvet heels through the window of the shoe store. “These are going to be perfect on my first date with Matt. They’re so pretty.”
“Date? What first date?” Ruby choked on the words. “Did that rascal talk to you when I wasn’t around? I’m going to…”
“No. He’s innocent. I’m going to ask him out tomorrow.” Alice stroked a finger against the glass, trying to touch the shoes.
Ruby’s jaw dropped. She couldn’t find the words. This wasn’t the same girl who used to run and hide when a boy so much as talked to her. All the barriers of self-doubt and low self-esteem that plagued her—courtesy of two worthless parents—had disappeared in a flash of light. All those traumatic childhood lessons burned away in a microsecond, a replaced by a fresh slate at the age of twenty-four. The new Alice was all confidence and joy. She had a fearlessness that scared Ruby.
“Stop worrying, Aunt Ruby. He’s a good man. And I know all about dating and sex. I’m not a virgin,” Alice stated plainly.
“Alice!” Ruby nearly dropped her purse in shock. “You didn’t… you haven’t… not while you’ve been living with me.”
“No. From before. I know my body.” Alice said. “I’m learning about everything else, it’s time to start learning about men.”
The girl turned and walked away from the window. She left her poor Aunt staring helplessly after her, the heels of her new red velvet heels clicking audibly on the hot Texas concrete.
“Jesus, help us.” Ruby whispered. The simple tennis shoes that Alice put on this morning when she left the house were gone. Somewhere in the universe a switch had been flipped, and the worn tennis shoes were in the store window, and the sexy “fuck-me” heels were strolling away on her innocent niece. “It happened again.”
What Alice wants, Alice gets.
Like what you just read? Have a question or concern? Leave a note for the author! We appreciate your feedback!
Trained in science and critical thinking, J. Whitworth spends his leisure time writing fiction that would make his former professors cringe. Dr. Hazzard’s PhD in molecular biophysics is used to figure out how to scientifically justify the existence of mythical creatures. Follow him at Twitter @Zombiemechanics Facebook Blog Zombie Mechanics