Duncan kept his head down against the wind, a chill running through him that was out of proportion to the slight dip in the temperature this morning. He crossed the street in front of his mother’s house and ducked down the alley-like short cut that he and his friends had always taken to Cupid Cove High School. Mom had been sleeping when he’d left. She wouldn’t know that he’d detoured a bit with her surprise cupcake.
His thoughts went back to the bakery and its proprietress. She’d seemed as sweet and cheery as her pastries. And, of course she knew his mother. That was the way with small towns. Everyone knew everyone else and their business. Places like Cupid’s Cove had a way of putting labels on their inhabitants. She must not have heard his. It certainly wasn’t hero.
The path he’d been following came out on the driveway of the last house on School Street before the school. The grass in the back yard was a shade longer than last week when his offer to mow the lawn had been rebuffed. He followed the driveway to the kitchen door at the side of the house and knocked.
“Hi, Duncan,” the five-year-old towhead answering the door said.
“That’s Mr. Hines, Angie,” her eight-year-old brother Jason corrected from behind her. “What do you want?”
“To see your mother.”
“She doesn’t want to see you,” the boy said.
“Are those from Miss Lacy’s bakery?” Angie asked, pointing at the box he was crushing in his hands. “For us?”
“Yes.” He unclenched his fingers. Lacy. The name suited her. Delicate, feminine.
“Jason is right. I don’t want to see you,” a disembodied voice said from the front of the house. “Please leave.”
Jason reached over his sister’s shoulder and started to pull the door closed. Duncan pressed the box into Angie’s hands before the door closed in his face. He heard the lock click.
Leave. There was nothing he’d rather do than leave Cupid’s Cove. But he couldn’t. Not yet.