When Sandy agreed to come to Pine Grove for the summer to help out her Aunt Clarice who had her hip replaced, she never dreamed so much drama could be going on in a small town. Sandy was filling in for Clarice at the post office for the summer months until her aunt could get her bearings and come back to work. Sandy worked every summer in the post office during her school years in Portland, Oregon, where she lived with her parents until she graduated college.
Last summer, Sandy set up housekeeping with Dennis, her college sweetheart, until she found him cheating on her this past April and moved back in with her parents. Sandy was still recovering from the break-up and her parents thought it a Godsend for Clarice to send for her. The young woman was looking forward to a change of scenery.
On her first day, she met Bill Wilton, the man who picked up and dropped off packages. Bill was about thirty years old, handsome with brown hair and blue eyes and built like an athlete.
“You’re Clary’s fill-in?”
“Nice,” he said, looking her over.
Sandy blushed and continued to look around, getting familiar with where everything was.
“I come in here twice a day, Sandy, once to pick up and once to deliver. Which one will it be for you, sweetheart?”
She stared at him as if he was speaking Chinese.
“Just jokin’, babe. Calm down. Relax, you’re cute but I’m not going to attack you or anything.”
She smiled as he tipped his hat and was out the door with a load of packages. Sandy opened the mailbag Bill brought with him and began to sort the letters and small packages. When she was done it was ten o’clock. People began to come by and check their post boxes for mail. Although Pine Grove was a small town, at least forty people had post boxes. Sandy watched them enter. Cecelia Wright, a woman of fifty years, opened her box and squealed with delight as she pulled out a small package.
“Grandkids!” she said to Sandy as she carefully ripped open the package and shared the photos from her daughter.
Sandy smiled and cooed over each photo until someone needed service. She sold stamps and weighed several packages before Allison Gray came in. She had trouble getting her key in the lock as her hand was trembling.
“Allison’s waiting for a letter from Rob. Her fiancé,” Cecelia whispered to Sandy.
Sandy cocked her head, giving Cecelia an inquisitive look.
“He’s in Afghanistan. She hasn’t heard from him in over two weeks.”
Allison opened the small door to the post box and didn’t see anything. She reached her hand into the box and moved it around to make sure there wasn’t something small in there she couldn’t see. By the time she pulled her hand out, tears had started. She gave Cecelia a small smile, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and left quickly.
Cecelia packed up her photos and smiled at Sandy.
“Welcome to Pine Grove, honey. We’re small but you’ll be busier than you know.” Sandy spent the rest of the day selling stamps, helping re-wrap packages and distributing the shopper to box holders. Late in the afternoon, the door opened and a young man came in.
“Fifty priority mail stamps and envelopes, please,” he said.
Sandy looked over the counter at him. He was blond, about six feet tall with bright blue eyes and maybe twenty-eight years old, she figured. He propped the door open as he hauled in box after box of small manila envelopes.
He dropped the last box in front of the counter and looked up at Sandy. She couldn’t taker her eyes off him.
“I’m Price Quincy,” he said, extending his hand.
“Sandy Franklin,” she said, taking his warm, dry hand.
“You’ll be seeing a lot of me. I have a mail order fishing business,” he said.
“You sell fish through the mail?” Sandy asked, chuckling.
“Fishing equipment. Particularly flies,” he said with a laugh.
“Flies? Like the ones I kill with a fly swatter?”
He shook his head and laughed heartily.
“Hand-tied flies for fly fishermen. Stuff like that.”
“Oh, oh, I see,” Sandy said when she clearly didn’t.
“You’re Clary’s replacement? Where are you from?”
“Big city girl, eh?”
“I suppose so,” she said, leveling her hazel eyes at his.
She tossed her light brown shoulder-length hair at him and he smiled. His smile lit up his whole face, rivaling the reflected sun off the lake for brightness. Sandy almost lost her cool.
“Welcome to Pine Grove, smallest town in the county,” he said.
“Thanks,” she said, “now how many of these stamps did you want?”
Sandy sold Price the stamps, gave him the envelopes and stayed after closing helping him to pack the merchandise.
“Do you send out this many packages every week?”
“Only in the fishing season and then, only in a good week.”
Sandy turned away and smiled where Price couldn’t see her. She was happy he would be back every week. She had no intention of telling him Bill would pick up so many envelopes.
“Do you mail these on the same day every week? I could have things ready for you if you do,” she offered.
“It depends on the orders. You’ll know about my orders because you’ll be putting them in my box…box 52,” Price offered, looking her over when he thought she wasn’t looking.
“How long does it take you to fulfill them?”
“Depends on the order. I tie flies in advance but orders vary. I can’t always predict what will sell.”
“You make a living ties and selling flies?”
“That and taking people fishing. I’m also a writer, but that is an uphill battle.”
“Have you been published?”
“One book…a non-fiction on fly fishing,” he said.
“That’s why you have so many orders, eh?”
“I guess. I’m trying fiction now, though. I’ve been kicked to the curb by about ten agents so far. Summer is my big season for flies…my writing takes a backseat until winter sets in.”
“But it’s always summer somewhere, right?”
“Don’t you want me to write?”
“Of course. Do whatever you want…just sayin’” “I’m keeping you past closing,” Price said, looking at his watch.
“I don’t mind.”
“I’ll bet Clary’s wondering where you are. Can I give you a lift?”
“Sure, thanks,” she said, taking her purse and locking up the stamps and money drawer.
Sandy walked slightly ahead of Price, who watched the sway of her hips with interest. He opened the door for her, glancing at her legs as she got in and her skirt hiked up.
“What are you going to do when Clary gets well enough to come back to work?”
“Haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”
“Maybe you’ll stay here then?”
“Maybe, but why? I need to work and this job goes back to Clary in two months.”
“Maybe you could do something else?” “What?”
“I…don’t know…but you never know.”
“I won’t rule it out, but won’t count on it, either.”
He dropped her at the door. Sandy saw Clary looking out the window as she thanked Price, got out of the car and started up the front steps.
“Who was that drove you home?” Clarice demanded as soon as Sandy came through the door.
“Price Quincy, why?”
“No reason,” she said, smiling.
(To be continued)