From Chapter 3
The population around Taberville was too small and spread-out to allow for route delivery, so people had to pick up their mail. She was waiting on the clerks to finish sorting it into the boxes when Artis Pennell came in, flashing that wide smile.
“Too hot for this late in the year,” she offered.
“Yeah, but tobacco’s all gone to market and there’s only fall plowing.” He opened one of the large boxes on the bottom row, lifted a thick stack of mail onto the counter and began to pitch the junk into the trash can with a smooth flick of the wrist.
Tracey had thought about him more and more in recent months. He was a few years older, with a little more gray in his dark hair than in hers, a little bit of paunch. Like her, he was divorced, but with a son. Artis had moved back to his parent’s place. They were alike in that, too, turning to country life and what it could do to ease the loss.
The clerk thrust two bills and a Penny-Pincher into her box. Artis was still sorting as she walked past, and she lingered outside, reading a rummage sale notice tacked to the power pole. She smiled when he came out and felt a little jolt when he lingered to talk, his two big dogs behind him panting and turning around in the truck bed.
“How are things coming on the old place?” he asked. His blue eyes were bright, agreeable, nested in crows-feet crinkled against the sun.
“All right. I’m fighting the plumbing right now.”
Artis nodded, his lips pursed for a moment as though he were considering something. She plunged ahead, encouraged by the casual way he eased his back away from the side of the truck, refusing to listen to that voice in her head reminding her, no more men, no more men.
“You come over for a glass of sweet tea sometime and I’ll show you my handiwork.”
His smile faded to an open-mouthed gape. “Oh, honey,” he said. “Let’s just stay neighbors. You got too much cat in you for a hound like me.”
He hadn’t laughed, had just pulled himself right away and gotten in his truck, leaving her standing there with her mail sliding out of her hand.