Chapter 7

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Petronia sat on the sofa wrapped in a bathrobe. She had just taken a hot shower and downed two aspirin with a glass of wine hoping to dull the ache in her head. The television broadcast the news at six, but she wasn't paying attention, only having the set turned on to keep her company.

Leaning back on the sofa, she closed her eyes and squeezed the bridge of her nose. The aspirin was kicking in. Her headache had faded to a dull throb.

Her bad day started during the arrest of Slay Gunther, the chucklehead dump truck driver. Imagine naming a kid Slay! When he first told her that, she felt sure he was continuing to mess with her, but sure enough, that had been the name on his license. After settling him into the back of her patrol car, he had laughed at her as she searched the weeds for his credentials, hooting every time she had bent over.

To top it off, the sky had chosen that moment to open and pour rain, adding to Slay's delight while he watched her. While driving the man to the state police station in Newport, he had screamed the entire time, calling her every vile name he could think of until his imagination ran dry. Then he shouted threats, promising to call the ACLU. Although a screened partition separated them, the spittle from his screaming peppered the skin on the back of her neck.

Petronia strived to maintain a professional attitude as a law enforcement officer, but she couldn't help feeling a deep sense of satisfaction, even pleasure, when marching Slay Gunther through the station to a holding cell.

She detailed the incident to her barracks commander, Lieutenant Martin Jardine, and explained how she was going to throw the book at him. He told her she had performed her duty well, but...

From experience, Petronia knew nothing good ever came after her lieutenant uttered the word, "but."

He didn't want her to go overboard by stacking too many charges. It would give the appearance of being overzealous, if not outright vindictive. The district justice would see through it and toss most of the charges anyway.

Although Petronia understood his logic, it still frustrated her. She needed to blow off some steam and an idea came to her. It had been a long time since she went out and had some fun. Twisting the wedding band on her finger, Petronia realized she hadn't partied since her divorce from Charlie.

Her cousin, Maggie, had been begging her for weeks to visit. If she was free tomorrow evening, maybe the two of them could enjoy a girls' night out. She grabbed her cell phone and pulled up her cousin's number.

After the sixth ring, Petronia was about to hang up when she heard a grouchy, "Hello."

"Maggie? It's Pet."

"Oh, darn, I had just gotten to sleep."

Petronia checked the clock. "At half past six?"

"Sorry, cuz, I'm fighting a bitch of a cold. Sore throat too."

Petronia could hear in her voice how stuffed up she was. "Gosh, I'm sorry. I didn't know. Look, forget it. We can talk some other time."

"Wait. I'm wide awake now. What's going on?"

Petronia told her cousin about the arrest of Slay Gunther.

Maggie chuckled and then started coughing. After catching her breath, she said, "Slay? You're kidding."

"Nope, that's the guy's name."

Maggie started coughing again.

"I'm gonna go," Petronia said. "You need your rest."

"Not until you tell me the real reason you called."

Maggie was like that. She had a sixth sense and could tell when something bothered her. "I was wondering if you wanted to go out with me tomorrow night, but of course, that's out of the question now since you're sick." While talking, she twisted the wedding band on her finger, a nervous habit she found difficult to break.

"I can't go, but you should," Maggie said. "Go by yourself."

"Not without you. It wouldn't be fun."

"It would be fun if some great looking guy asked you to dance and then...you know...took you home."

Petronia scoffed. "I should be so lucky."

"C'mon, Pet, you're totally hot. I'll bet you get picked up within the first five minutes."

Was she totally hot? If so, why had Charlie left her for another woman? What stung even worse, the other woman wasn't younger but four years older than she was. "I'd feel weird going by myself."

"You are a law enforcement officer. You have nothing to be afraid of."

"I didn't say I was afraid. I said I'd feel weird." Really weird if some guy she had previously arrested tried to hit on her.

"Pet, it's been almost two years since your divorce. You need to put yourself out there."

Easy for Maggie to say. She was happily married to a great guy who doted on her. Charlie had often confessed his love, but he had never doted on her. "I'll think about it."

Maggie coughed. "Don't think about it. Do it. Then call me, and tell me all about how things went."

"Like I said, I'll think about it."

"Oh, and Pet...I know you continue to wear that wedding band as a shield to keep men away."

After the divorce, she had sworn off men until enough time passed for her to get over the pain. It had been the second time in her life she had suffered because of a man who had loved her and left her. Petronia thought back to a long-ago summer. To the first time. She wiped away a tear that had suddenly leaked from her eye. The ring made most men think twice about approaching her, but as Maggie reminded her, it had been almost two years now.

She still wasn't sure enough time had passed to risk making herself vulnerable again.

Maggie coughed. "Are you still there?"

"Yes."

"When you go out tomorrow night. Be sure to leave your ring at home. It's time you tossed it into the back of a dresser drawer where it will be forgotten."

Can you sense how sometime soon there might be an unexpected reunion?

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Can you sense how sometime soon there might be an unexpected reunion?

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