“Hello, there. A mayor’s work is never done?”
Cade Benson squinted against the noonday sun and took in Laurel Kingston's long length. The Creative Director of WonderMart, herself.
Cade knew her type. Breeze into the small town, make a dazzling display and we’re here for you speeches before the corporate juggernaut rolled on towards the next small town that struggled to maintain a sense of community in the face of inevitable progress.
He had nothing against progress and the town could do a lot worse than WonderMart. It would serve to revitalize a stagnant economy for the area and provide jobs for many. No, he objected to the knowledge that WonderMart, for all its discount prices, would never really be part of the community.
Any more than the woman who grabbed his feelings from deep inside and made him want to settle down and raise a family would ever be part of the community, either. Women like her rarely stayed in such a small town by choice.
“Hello, Laurel. Sadie here has an issue that needs fixing.” He refocused his attention on the soapbox derby car. “These nuts need tightened because you don’t want to lose a wheel when you come screaming down Widowmaker Hill toward the finish line,” he explained to the little girl who stared in awe at him with a dirty, upturned face.
“I wouldn’t wanna to crash,” Sadie agreed solemnly. “This lady here said that we would get our pictures in the newspaper.”
“Well, I’ll bring the City Hall camera to take your picture, because I’m sure Ms. Kingston will be too busy ushering the corporate bigwigs around.”
“Why do your friends wear big wigs? Is it for Easter? Cuz my mama said that Brookdale used to have an Easter Parade and everybody would wear big hats and stuff. We don’t do that anymore.”
“Would you like to have the Easter Parade again? It sounds like fun.” Laurel knelt down to the little girl’s eye level. It also put her on Cade’s level as well. He could see the natural honey-gold streaks in her hair and just catch a whiff of her delicate perfume.
“I would wear a big hat with big paper flowers on it.” Sadie stretched out her arms to illustrate, which caused Laurel to overbalance.
“I think I'd like that, too,” Laurel told Sadie and favored Cade with a smile as he helped her upright.
“Maybe WonderMart would like to lead the parade,” Cade said in derision.
Laurel waved to Sadie’s mother who followed behind as the little girl navigated down the street towards home. “What a cynical attitude you have.” She tilted her head as looked at him.
Cade stood slowly, wiped his hands on the bandana that hung like a flag from the back pocket of his jeans. “I had no idea that WonderMart was the corporation with a heart. Does the WonderMart CEO plan to man a scooper at our next ice cream social?”
“Well, not the CEO of WonderMart, Mr. Mayor, but others will certainly participate.” Laurel looked away to return a greeting from the local realtor.
“You’d come from the city to scoop ice cream,” he snorted in disbelief. “Did Bob McCann just ask you to sign some lease papers?”
Laurel’s smile slid beautifully over her face. “I have to go. I have a proposition to discuss with you, if you can schedule me some time,” she called over her shoulder as she hurried towards the realty office.
Cade made up his mind in an instant. “Meet me at five o’clock in the town square by the flower garden.” He watched as she gave a flutter of her long, slender fingers in reply.
* * * *
Laurel hung up the phone and pumped her fist in silent exultation. “It’s perfect, if I do say so myself,” she crowed as she did a little victory dance. “Now to meet Cade and convince him.”
During the walk from her room at the local bed & breakfast, to her destination at the town center garden, she'd stop, stare and just breathe. Everything in the little town of Brookdale exuded Norman Rockwell type nostalgia. She certainly didn’t want to diminish that aspect.
She’d dealt with her share of objectors who balked at having a WonderMart settle into their town. It was never a good thing if the mayor led the opposition. She hoped that her proposition might curb his reticence.
Laurel reached the gardens, eager to meet Cade. Such a cruel irony that he who also happened to be the one man that made her heart thrum like a host of hummingbirds with beating wings. He never needed to know that sensation had figured into her recent life changes.
“I brought dinner.” Cade waved a white paper sack from a local meat market that specialized in slow cooked barbeque. “You can tell me about your proposal while we eat.” Cade placed a protective hand against her lower back as they navigated over an uneven place in the aged sidewalk towards a quaint gazebo.
“WonderMart has agreed to sponsor the Easter Parade as an annual event. I think its good business to revive a favored tradition. This will be my last official act for WonderMart.”
“The town will love the idea of reviving the parade. It’s gotten too expensive for City Hall’s coffers these past few years. You’re really quitting WonderMart?” Cade gave her a narrow-eyed stare.
“I resigned my position last week when I leased on that empty storefront on Main. I belong here. I can feel it. I’m putting down roots, so deal with it, Mr. Mayor.”
Hours passed as they enjoyed the sunshine that faded into a starlit evening while they shared their dreams.
“Well, Madame Shopkeeper, might I offer my escort for the upcoming Easter Parade?”
“I would be delighted to accept, Mr. Mayor. Do you favor Easter bonnets with large paper flowers?”
“Not for myself, especially, but I’d favor a certain lady under such a bonnet. Shall we seal the deal with a kiss?”
Two silhouettes blended in lengthened shadows across the sidewalk under a glowing moon.
The town would later declare the Mayor’s engagement had made it their best Easter Parade ever.