Celeb held the door, waiting for Sebrina to exit the 4-H building. He looked into the building one last time before he shut the door. He slid his hands in his pockets and strode to keep up with Sebrina.

“We did it.” He shot a smile in her direction. He took a step closer to her, dodging a street light pole.

“You did it, I just stood there, letting you make the final call on the bid.”

“Behind every man’s decision is a supportive woman.” Celeb jerked his head forward. Why did I say that? Celeb glanced at Sebrina. She looked at him and smiled. Good. He never got tired of her smile, even though she smiled a lot. She never did that in high school. Then again, he gave her every reason not to.

“What woman was behind all your other decision? You’ve made a lot of them.” Sebrina looked both ways before crossing the street to her SUV.

Celeb waited for a car to pass, then jogged to catch up with her. He wanted to walk her to her vehicle, taking advantage of every moment he had with her. “My mom,” Celeb said, once he caught up with Sebrina.

He liked that she wasn’t afraid to say what popped into her mind. Something else she hadn’t done in high school. He probably knocked her so far down, she didn’t dare stand up for herself. Except for the pranks she used to pull, but even then, she never said anything, she just showed it in her actions.

Sebrina nodded, a slight smile on her lips. She halted in front of her vehicle and turned to face him. “So, what now? We own the store, when do we open it back up?”

“Oh well, there’s some more paperwork that has to be done and then I guess we start inventory. We can order most of our merchandise from the same company Landon did, but there are some things I’d like to change.”

“Okay,” Sebrina nodded, “tell me what to do.”

Eventually she would have to learn how to take charge of her own business and not depend on someone telling her what to do. But he partnered with Sebrina, not April and Sebrina would need some training. But he would’ve chosen Sebrina over April any day.

“Well—”

“So, the best sister won, huh? Does that mean you’re the best now?” April stood in front of Sebrina, hands on her hips.

Where had April came from?

Sebrina stood up straight and uncrossed her arms. “Business is business.”

Celeb turned his head from sister to sister, watching something he hadn’t seen in a while: a sister rivalry.

“I wanted that feed store.” April leaned forward, as though her sister would hear her clearer.

“If I’m not mistaken the ten commandment tells us not to covet our neighbors house, and I think that would also apply to a feed store.” Sebrina tilted her head, her pride weighing it down.

Okay, hold on. “Wait,” Celeb stepped closer, waving his hands in the air, “the Bible also says not to think highly of yourself.” He paused to looked at Sebrina, then he continued. “I don’t think our knowledge of the Word is meant to throw around; telling people about their flaws.” Celeb looked at April.

After a few seconds, he continued. “And I think we should be happy for someone when they achieve a goal they worked hard to get.” Celeb turned his head to study the two sisters.

The girls nodded and lowered their heads, reminding him of two 2nd graders.

Her hands folded, April looked up at her sister and said, “I’m sorry.”

“Me too.” Sebrina lifted her head a few inches and smiled slightly.

Celeb nodded and slid his hands in his pocket. “Now, how about we look inside the building we just bought?” Celeb turned toward his vehicle.

“You didn’t look inside before you bought it?” April asked.

“We wouldn’t buy a building without looking in it first,” Sebrina said, as she opened her car door. “I’ll meet you at the store.”

“Why not just ride with me?” Celeb asked, standing on the other side of the hood.

“I want coffee first.”

“We’ll get you some coffee.”

Sebrina looked at April. “Are you coming?”

“No, I’ll see you at dinner.” April gave Sebrina a girlish smile, then began walking toward her car.

“No need for both of us to drive.” It was a short drive, and Sebrina probably wanted to go straight home from the store, but if she rode with him, then he could spend more time with her.

Sebrina smiled, closed the door and locked her vehicle. “Okay,” she said as she walked toward the passenger door.

***

Goodness! Sebrina wiped the blood off her paper cut. She hadn’t cut herself this much when she worked with knives in a restaurant. She lifted her skirt and counted the blood stains on the fabric. She shook her head and scanned the counter for the notepad. If she was going to deal with this much paper every day, she’d need band aides.

Celeb marched through the back door, to the front counter. “Sebrina, where are the . . .”

Sebrina stood in front of him, holding her “paper cut” finger. She stared at Celeb. “Where is what?”

“Did you cut yourself?” Celeb shook his head, before Sebrina could answer, he asked, “We need bags of horse feed: could you order them? Here’s the number for the supplier. I have to go to the clinic; someone ran over their dog.”

He laid the clipboard on the counter and turned to go. He tapped his fist against the door frame and turned around. “Are we still on for tonight?” A teenage-boyish grin covered his face.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t miss it.” She returned Celeb’s grin. Butterflies fluttered in Sebrina’s colon. She never thought she’d say yes to a date with Celeb Johnson.

After Celeb left, she walked into the office and sat down in front of the computer. She searched for the company’s website, while thinking about her date.

***

Celeb slid the chair away from the table and waited for Sebrina to stand in front of it before he slid it forward.

Cattle paintings hung on the walls, surrounded with western sayings. The smell of BBQ drifted into the dining area, causing her nose to wrinkle. The steakhouse was the finest restaurant in town, yet she would have chosen another place, had she had the choice. Celeb sat across from her, ordering his drink. Sebrina jerked out of her thoughts and quickly scanned the menu.

The waiter stood beside her, pen in hand, waiting to write down her drink order. “I’ll have a coke.”

Once the waiter left, Celeb focused his attention on her. “I thought you were quick at making decisions.”

Sebrina forced a smile. Obviously when Celeb left behind his bullying days, he took his unthoughtful remarks with him.

“Not when I’m in a rush.” Sebrina scanned over the menu and without thinking, mumbled, “You haven’t changed much.”

“Huh? What did you say?” Usually Celeb’s casual grin and caring eyes would have woken butterflies in her stomach, but today it only make her feel awkward.

“I—I just thought you haven’t changed much since high school.”

Celeb kept his smiling position.

“When you used to bully me.”

“Well maybe I thought you were pretty.” Celeb rested his elbows on the table.

Sebrina sighed, crinkling the napkin on her lap. “Guys who think girls are pretty don’t say hateful words to them.”

Celeb’s expression sobered. He nodded as he focused on his lap. “Nice girls don’t put snakes in other people’s locker.”

Sebrina’s jaw dropped and she raised her voice. “I didn’t put snakes in your locker.” The costumers at the other tables looked at her. She lowered her voice and twiddled with the table cloth. “I had Billy do it.”

A dry chuckle escaped Celeb’s lip. “That’s the same thing. At least I had the guts to pull my own pranks and not hire someone to do them.”

“You couldn’t hire anyone to be as mean as you are.”

Celeb started to frown. What did I say? Why is he frowning? Panic rose up her throat as she thought of the last word she spoke.

“I didn’t mean that you’re rude now, I meant back then.”

Celeb forced a smile. Couldn’t he handle one rude comment? One that she hadn’t even meant to say. If he expected other people to handle his comments, he should handle other people’s comments.

“I didn’t mean anything by it.” The waiter set their drinks on the table; after he left, she focused her attention on Celeb. Was he going to say something?

“Just that you haven’t forgiven me for our high school days.”

“You never did apologize.” Sebrina sipped her coke.

“I thought I showed it by treating you with respect and kindness—now.”

Sebrina nodded. “An apology would’ve been nice.”

Celeb studied her for a few seconds. Maybe he’ll apologize now. He took a sip from his water, then let his eyes drift to the corner of the restaurant. Sebrina lowered her head, and focused on the kitchen door. Every few minutes the waiters walked out with trays of food, but every time they walked pasted their table. Sebrina sighed and drank her coke. This was going to be a long night.

***

“How did your date go, the other night?” April asked, dusting off the counter.

“Not good. I don’t think there’s going to be a wedding.” Sebrina wiped down the coffee area behind the counter.

“You didn’t talk about your wedding on the first date, did you?” April stared at her sister. “You scared him off.”

“No, I didn’t talk about a wedding.” Sebrina shook her head. “We talked about high school, how we used to bully each other.”

“Oh,” April dropped the duster and sat down on a bar stool.

Sebrina leaned her back against the counter, holding the cloth; studying her sister. When April didn’t say anything, Sebrina said, “I called him mean—on accident and he just stopped talking, like a little boy. How childish of him!” Sebrina let out a stressful chuckle.

“Did you ever think that he’s ashamed of his old self and that calling him rude now, would remind him of the person he used to be?”

Since when did her sister hand out motherly advise? Maybe that came with age, whatever it was, Sebrina didn’t have it. Otherwise she wouldn’t have ruined her date, by acting like a twelve-year-old.

Sebrina clapped her hands against her legs and sighed. “What do I do now?”

April shrugged.

“Sebrina!” Celeb stepped into the store and waved her toward the door. “Come out here for a minute.”

Sebrina dropped the cloth on the counter and walked out the door, April following.

“Why didn’t you order horse feed?” Celeb pointed his hand to the pallets of feed in front of the store.

“I did. It’s already here? I only ordered it two days ago.”

“Yes, it’s here, but you ordered chicken feed, instead of horse feed.” Celeb dropped his arms and squinted, avoiding the harsh sunlight.

Sebrina bent over the stacks of feed and read the labels on the plastic. A chunk of tears clogged her throat, making her unable to speak. She backed up and focused on Celeb.

He studied her for a minute, his expression softening. “We don’t need chicken feed: we had a lot.”

“We can have this as extra.”

“Now we don’t have money for horse feed.” Celeb’s gentle voice made it hurt more than it would have if he’d screamed.

The chunk in her throat vanished, and embarrassment filled its spot. If only her sister hadn’t witnessed it all. She was probably laughing on the inside, waiting for Sebrina to cave in and give up her share of the store to April.

Sebrina walked inside and continued wiping the counter. She couldn’t help with anything outside, she already lost half their costumers by not supplying horse feed. She didn’t need to ruin anything else. Not to mention, she’d ruined a date with her business partner. Maybe she should quit while she was ahead. But then she’d give her sister the satisfaction of being right. More than that, she’d disappoint the man she’d grown to love.

 

To be continued . . .

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