But like every other day in the South, it was hot. It wasn’t the heat that was the killer, though. No, what was worse was the humidity. It was one of those days where the thick, stagnant air threatened to choke you. It pushed against your body, threatening to take every last drop of moisture you had in your skin and wring it out only to move on to someone new.
I was busy enough that I didn’t have much time to dwell on the fact that the weather was trying to kill me. And thankfully, all the scooping of shaved ice help keep my temperature down to a level I could tolerate.
As I worked, little tendrils of hair would slip from the twist and fall down, sticking to my neck and tickling my cheek. It became very annoying and finally, I just reached up and pulled the barrette out of my hair and laid it right beside the cash register.
When the last customer walked away, my cell phone chimed and I picked it up, glancing at the screen.
“Hey, Roxie, what’s up?”
“My car sucks!” she exclaimed.
I suppressed a grin. “I take it the AC is still broken?”
“It’s still at the shop. Apparently I need some new part. Don’t ask me what it is because my brain went buh-bye when they told me how much it cost.”
“Oh, crap. How much?”
“Four hundred dollars!”
I sucked in a breath. “Damn.”
“Yeah. I’m going to have to act like a ho at work tonight to pay for this.”
I winced. “I’m sorry.”
She let out a sigh. “It’s fine. My car has to stay there overnight. I guess the part will be here in the morning. I know you’re off tonight, but would you mind giving me a ride to work? I can get one of the other girls to drop me off on her way home.”
“Sure, I don’t have plans anyway.”
“Not going out with Cam?” she said, making kissing noises on her end of the line.
My phone beeped and I pulled it away, looking down at the screen. My mother was calling. “Cam has to work tonight,” I said into the phone, laughing.
“Well, maybe you should have a drink at the bar after you drop me off.”
“Maybe I will.”
“You two looked awful chummy this morning,” she said slyly. “I saw his car outside when I came home last night and he wasn’t on the couch.”
“He was in my room.”
Roxie made a squealing sound. “I need details.”
I laughed. “Later. I’m at work.”
“Fine. Later.” She sighed dramatically.
We said our good-byes and I hung up. A message came up on the screen that said, “New Voicemail.” A couple approached and I set the phone on the edge of the cart and opened the cooler, reaching and making two snow cones, one blue raspberry and one watermelon, then rang up their total on the register.
As they moved away, the boat that gave thrill rides tore through the water and made a sharp turn, splashing all the people in the boat who all yelled and screeched. I turned to watch their crazy antics as it spun in circles over the water.
I felt rather than saw some quick movement behind me and I turned swiftly just in time to see someone rush away from the cart.
My eyes immediately went to the register, but it was closed and didn’t seem harmed. All the flavorings were still there as well. I shrugged, thinking someone probably just saw someone they were meeting and ran to catch up.
Then I noticed.
My barrette was gone.
It had been lying right there beside the register. And now the space was empty.
“Hey!” I hollered, even though I was far too late. The person was already out of sight. I rushed around the side of the cart, thinking maybe they just knocked it onto the ground.
In my haste to look, my hip caught the corner of the cart and a sharp pain cut into my side. But I barely felt it because when I hit the cart, my cell phone slid down into the still open cooler.
“Crap!” I yelled, practically diving into the ice after my phone. The cooler was almost empty—as it was almost time for my lunch break and for me to refill the cart—so I had to reach way down to the bottom where my phone lay.
It landed in a pile of slush.
I spent so much time opening and closing it this morning and it was so hot that some of the ice started to melt and drip to the bottom.
I pulled it up, holding it out and watching the water literally drip from the bottom.
“I leave you alone for a few hours…” a voice drawled behind me. It startled me and I shrieked, dropping the phone—again—back into the ice.
“Seriously?” I sighed.
A tan muscled arm reached around me into the cooler and pulled out my phone. “You have a towel?”
I grabbed a white towel and handed it to Cam. “It’s ruined,” I announced.
“I’ll take it back to my place and put it in some rice.”
“I don’t think my phone would taste good in stir fry.”
“Ha,” he said, drying it off and taking out the battery. “The rice should draw out all the excess moisture.”
“Do you think it will work?” I worried. I really didn’t have it in the budget to buy a new phone.
“Maybe.” He shrugged. “How did it get in there anyway?”
That reminded me of my barrette. I went around the front of the cart and searched the ground and beneath it for my clip. It wasn’t there.
“Son of a…” I swore, letting my words trail away.
“Someone stole my hair clip.” I turned to face him. “They literally just ran off with it.”
He wrinkled his nose. “Why would they do that?”
“I have no idea,” I said wearily.
“Was it valuable?”
I shook my head. “It was made of sea glass. It wasn’t expensive, but it was my favorite.”
He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me into his side and kissed the top of my braid. “We’ll get you a new one.”
“What are you doing here?” I asked, pulling back.
“Taking you to lunch.”
“Somewhere with air-conditioning, please.”
“Johnny Rocket’s?” he suggested.
I nodded. “That’s perfect because it’s right beside the little office where I have to refill the cart.”
I packed up the cart and pushed it into the office while Cam held the door. Then I locked it up inside and we went to the little burger joint and grabbed a table in the blissful AC.
As soon as we had our food, Cam shoved about four fries in his mouth and said, “Go out on a date with me.”