Early Access: The Taste Of A Smile Part 33 ‘Squirrel’ Excerpt

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Hello, hello,

How’s your week going? Can you believe it’s almost February?! Dang, that first month sure flew by.

Luckily, we still have one Excerpt Wednesday to go in January, and that’s….today! 😉

Enjoy the read!

💜 Sigrid

 

PS: I would love to send you a handwritten post card from my lovely city Ghent. That way, I get to share something tangible (real!) with you AND show you this wonderful place I call home. What do you think? Would you like some old school snailmail? I’ll try to pick a pretty stamp!

You can send me your address on this page.

 

Mary didn’t pay attention to any of the joggers passing by. She was walking home through Central Park. It was still light outside. Mary was too caught up in her thoughts to enjoy it.

It was unusual for Mary to go home this early, but Karen had offered to close the store today. “I’ll do it with Lex,” she had said. “We have to get used to doing this without you!”

It had hurt Mary to leave. She knew Karen was right, though. Her last day at the store was approaching fast. She didn’t know if she was ready to leave it behind. She would have to, she knew.

Mary had been preparing for her departure all day. She had started writing down everything she knew about running the store.

It would be a useful document for Lex to fall back on once she was on her own. Mary trusted Lex to run the store competently, but why not make it a bit easier for her?

Mary had also discovered that it gave her some comfort to write to Lex. She liked the idea of Lex reading her words one day. She liked telling Lex things.

The writing had helped her cope with the sadness that had kept her chest tight all day. Seeing Lex back at work had cheered up at first, but had soon turned out to be a poisonous gift.

Lex’s eyes had only met Mary’s once during the short, professional conversation that they had had in the café early in the morning. Karen had been there too.

Later, while working in her office, Mary had hoped Lex would stop by to talk. Even if it was just about the weather! But Lex hadn’t. It had driven Mary up the walls.

She hadn’t allowed herself to come up with an excuse to call Lex in. It wouldn’t have been fair. She had been the one to end things between them after all.

She couldn’t send mixed signals now. That would be cruel. But it was just so hard to let Lex go, especially when she was so close. It was torture and it made everything feel so messy.

On the one hand, she couldn’t wait to start her new job. It would be easier to put some distance between them. On the other hand, she didn’t want to leave the store, or Lex.

“Fuck,” Mary muttered to herself and kicked at a pebble that lay on the path. It flew through the air and only barely missed a jogger.

“Hey, you!” someone yelled behind her.

Mary heard footsteps coming her way fast and froze. Had she hit someone with the pebble? Her heart thundered in her ears as she slowly turned around to face whoever was yelling at her.

“Hey, you!” a woman repeated, breathing loudly.

Mary’s eyes flicked over the jogger’s body. The tips of her ears started tingling.

“Don’t you recognize me?” the woman laughed, coming to a halt and pulling off her hat.

Mary took in the dark hair, pulled back in a ponytail, and the beautiful, brown eyes. Her lips parted in shock. The universe had a wicked sense of humor now and then.

Mildred North pulled at her running tights. They snapped back into place around her firm thigh. “I guess this outfit doesn’t help! Last time you saw me, I was in a suit, I think?”

“Yes, after the rehearsal,” Mary squeaked back, “Miss North! Hi!”

Mildred shook her head. “Oh, no, no, no… I told you to call me Milly!”

“Right, I’m sorry!” Mary blabbered, wiping her hands on her dark jeans.

Milly laughed and tucked away her hat in a pocket of her running sweater. “Sorry I yelled ‘hey you!’, but I never got your name!”

Mary blinked. The birds in the trees suddenly started singing louder, or so it seemed. A squirrel sprinting by threw her a look that said, ‘That came back to bite you in the ass fast.’

“Mary,” she said loudly. “My name is Mary.”

“Okay, Mary!” Milly smiled. “Nice to see you again.”

Mary tugged at the ring in her ear. “Yeah, it is.”

She was surprised at how uneventful announcing her name had been. The sky didn’t come crashing down. Milly hadn’t cried out in anger or shock.

“Walk here often?” Milly asked.

“Yes,” Mary nodded, gesturing in the general direction of her house, “I like walking home.”

Milly cocked her head. “I come running here all the time. I’m surprised we didn’t run into each other before!”

Mary almost said, “Actually, we did,” but that would make things a bit awkward. There was no need to go into how seeing Milly run by had made her blush.

The strange thing was that bumping into Milly felt completely different this time. Mary was still shocked by how beautiful Milly looked. She just didn’t have that butterflies in her stomach feeling anymore.

“How’s Lex?” Milly asked, putting her hands in her sides.

“Ehm,” Mary hesitated, startled by Milly’s question. “She was, eh, sick?”

“Really?” Milly responded, frowning. “Hannah didn’t tell me!”

“Oh, it was just one day. She was back at work today,” Mary hurried to say.

“Ah, good. And how are you?” Milly replied, wiping her cheek on her shoulder. A strand of hair stuck to her damp skin. “I probably should have asked that first!”

Mary smiled. It took some effort, though. She was so tired of pretending to be okay. This was not the place, and definitely not the person, to pour her heart out, though.

Milly’s brow wrinkled. “I know it’s none of my business, but are you okay?” she asked, her voice soft.

Mary quickly averted her eyes. Milly’s face was so open and kind. She could feel words bubbling up in her chest, desperate to be spoken out loud.

“You look a bit lost,” Milly continued.

“Gosh,” Mary sighed. “I guess I am!” She rubbed her cheek.

“Wanna talk about it?” Milly asked, taking a step back to let another runner pass.

Mary also stepped to the side of the path while she was thinking. She desperately wanted to talk, but surely she couldn’t burden Milly with this. This was Mildred North. The Mildred North!

“I know how hard it is to date an Emsworth, you know,” Milly said casually.

 

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