Hildie plopped her ample bottom down on the curb, yanked her jogging shoe off, and worked the sweat-soaked sock away from her heel. A blister had formed and broken, leaving a raw, bloody spot she didn’t want to touch. She shaded her eyes with one hand and peered at the mailboxes lining the street. I’m at least six blocks from home! Heat waves shimmered above the pavement. I can’t walk barefoot. My feet would fry.
A blue Escalade pulled up next to Hildie. Ed Bainbridge’s aristocratic face appeared as the tinted window receded into the door. He grinned, revealing teeth that looked too big and too white for his small mouth. “Need a ride?”
“Yes, I do, Ed. Thank you.” Hildie hauled herself up from the curb and winced as her bare foot touched the scalding pavement. She stuffed her sock into the sport shoe. “I should never have tried to walk so far in this heat.”
The white-haired man smiled. “I admire you for getting out at all. At our age it’s an accomplishment to leave the house.”
Ed was always so sweet! Guilt tugged at Hildie’s conscience. She hadn’t even taken a casserole over to him when his wife died. It wasn’t an oversight. It was simply that she’d vowed never to cook for another widower when Mark Tunbridge had returned her prettiest baking dish — via his new bride — a year after she’d dropped it off at his house. “Mark had so many of these casseroles in his freezer when we married!” the new Mrs. Tunbridge had said. “We’re still working our way through them.”
Hildie slid into the seat next to Ed. He adjusted the vents so that cool air blew across her overheated face and arms. “How are the grandkids?” he asked, returning his hands to the steering wheel.
Hildie laughed and told him about her grandson screaming, “Rock on!” while riding the rocking horse she’d bought for his third birthday. Ed countered with a story about his new granddaughter burping into the minister’s microphone during her christening ceremony. By the end of the short drive, they were both giggling.
When he braked to a stop in front of her garage, Ed put his hand on top of hers. “Say, we ought to get together sometime,” he said.
She stepped out of the car. “That would be fun.”
Her lips turned up in a rueful smile. So many widowers over the years had extended similar invitations as she handed them casseroles and pies! Hildie shook her head and sighed. Not one of those men had ever gone so far as to set a date and time to get together with her.
Maybe it’s my weight. Never a thin woman, Hildie had blossomed into what her doctor called obese after she became a widow. Her walking campaign was the latest in a series of unsuccessful attempts to get back into a size twelve.
Ed reversed down the long drive and waved as he pulled onto the street. Hildie raised her hand before unlocking her front door.
Once inside, Hildie chose a Band-Aid from the first aid kit in the master bath. After she had applied it to her stinging heel, she poured herself a tumbler of iced tea and sat down in front of the computer for an afternoon of genealogy research.
Before the familiar icons appeared on her screen, the phone rang. Irritated, Hildie pushed away from her kitchen desk and limped to the wall phone by the refrigerator. Darned telemarketers!
“Hello,” she said, in a voice she hoped would prepare the phone salesperson for a gruff refusal of whatever product he was pitching.
“Hildie?” No telemarketer had ever called her by her first name before.
She softened her tone a little. “Yes, this is Ms. Hildie Tuttle.”
“Ed Bainbridge here. I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time.”
She put even more sweetness into her voice. “Oh, no, Ed! I thought it might be a telemarketer. They’re about the only people who call me these days.”
“Well, I guess I am doing some telemarketing, in a way.” Ed cleared his throat a couple of times. “I wondered if you’d be interested in coming over for dinner tonight. Women have been showering me with food ever since Maybelle died. I’ve got a ton of casseroles in the freezer and I thought you might like to help me plow though them.”
Hildie’s heart beat faster than it had during her walk. “Why, I’d love to!”
“Fine, I’ll pick you up at eight. There’s one condition, though.”
Her face fell. “What’s that?”
“Do you think you could return Elsie Burfen’s baking dish to her? I’m embarrassed to give it back to her — it’s been almost a year since she brought me the casserole.”
Jan Melara graduated from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas with a degree in nursing. After twenty five years of working in health care, she has retired to an idyllic lake in South Carolina. Her work has been published in Dew on the Kudzu: A Southern Ezine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Battered Suitcase, 13th Moon, Demonic Tome, Monsters Next Door, Dark Tales, and Everyday Weirdness. Upcoming publications include short stories in two anthologies, Dreamspell Nightmares and Dreamspell Revenge, by publisher L&L Dreamspell and a short story in the Behind Closed Doors edition of Halfway Down the Stairs.