Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash

By: Bev Pettersen

She rammed the plastic bags back into her pack, annoyed her hand trembled. At least no one was around, only this construction guy, and he wouldn’t have a clue about horse wormers. She peeked up, her breath flattening at his odd stillness. It was clear he was quite capable of drawing his own conclusions.

“What’s your name?” he asked, so quietly she wasn’t sure she heard him correctly. Which was perfect as it was probably not a good idea to give her name.

“Could you help me with this please?” she asked, her mind scrambling. “These supplements are past the expiry date. We’re clearing out the supply room. Getting ready for a big inventory… Never mind. I have them.”

She jammed the last bag in her pack and hoisted it up, so desperate to escape she forgot about her sore shoulder and winced at the sharp pain. An arm flashed. The weight disappeared.

“You shouldn’t be carrying around something that heavy.” He tossed the backpack over his shoulder with careless ease.

“It’s okay. I’m fine.” She glanced longingly at the door. “Really.”

“Show me your car.”

His expression was unreadable. Maybe he had swallowed her story of expired supplements. Best to humor him. Let a man help a little and their protective instincts always kicked in. She’d pick up her money tomorrow. Em would have it by Friday. Not a big deal, just a slight change in plans.

“This is so nice of you.” She rubbed her shoulder, pretending simple gratitude as she accompanied him down the aisle. “My shoulder is rather sore.”

“Shouldn’t fill your pack so full.”

The feed room is usually locked, she thought, and Wally wanted her to take the supplements before the inventory. But she nodded as though he’d imparted valuable words of wisdom. “You’re absolutely right.” She beamed another grateful smile. “Lucky for me you came along.”

He’d opened the door, pausing to let her pass, but the corner of his mouth twitched again so she quit talking and stepped outside. Despite his solemn expression, she’d almost swear he was laughing. Her father had taught her to read faces, taught her about all the little ‘tells’ in poker—a lip twitch was a dead giveaway.

“My car’s over there.” She gestured toward the green Neon, a mere twenty feet away. Normally the rust spots weren’t so glaring, but today it was parked beside a sleek black Audi with the shiniest wheels she’d ever seen.

“That’s the visitors’ lot,” he said. “Thought you worked here?”

“I do, but everyone parks where they want. No big deal.” Although no one ever took her customary space, next to Wally’s, the second closest slot to the door.

She glanced over her shoulder at the construction crew, anticipating their usual good-natured waves and catcalls. They were all oddly subdued so she inserted her key. The Neon’s tiny trunk creaked open.

A bag of empty cans needed to be pushed aside, and it was a relief when he finally maneuvered the pack of supplements between the blue bag and her spare tire. Usually she was fairly cool with this type of thing, but today she felt jumpy. Hesitant even.

“So that’s it? Nothing else to load up?” He paused, one big hand on the trunk, watching her with an odd expression.

“Yes, that’s all. Thanks.” He seemed to be lingering so she reached out and slammed the trunk, hit by a rush of regret. He was rather nice in an uptight way, even gallant enough to load her car. Yet she’d deliberately fed him misinformation. And he might need a job as much as she did.

“Actually Wally’s been a little stressed lately.” She retreated around the fender to the driver’s side. “Maybe it is best to wait until his door opens. But he’s planning a big inventory and cleanup so needs to hire some muscle. I really hope you get the job.”

His eyes hooded as she slid behind the wheel. He didn’t seem the indecisive type, but he definitely appeared to be thinking now. “All right,” he finally said, as though settling something with himself. “Anything else I should know?”

“No. That should do it. Although it does help if you like horses. And maybe smile a little more.” She grinned, turned her key and the engine sputtered to life. “Better hurry before someone else gets in line. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. And you can help me…load more things.”

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