Rocking the Boat

See You Tomorrow

As soon as he opened his eyes, his thoughts immediately shifted to Amina. Yesterday was the first time he had met her. Sure, he’d seen pictures of her when he visited the Moorehouse estate, but nothing prepared him for what he witnessed the other day. Though she was terrified beyond belief, Amina was beautiful in a plain way. If one compared her against her older sister Chaunice, Amina would come up short every time. James knew better, though, the so-called “beautiful ones” always stored enough poison to strike a man dead in one blow.

Amina’s beauty was subtle, almost hidden in a way. The more you peeled layers away the more distinguished she would become, he was sure of it. She was a pure woman, her large almond eyes told him so. For now, he had to make good on his promise to Charles. He had no clue why he took up such a challenge, it was literally a snap decision he hadn’t known he’d made until he uttered the words out of his own mouth. He enjoyed his quiet, solitary life. There’ve been many women who’ve thrown themselves at him, yet he couldn’t find the strength to deal with shallow money grubbing gold diggers. To alleviate this problem, he told them his occupation, a shoemaker and that sent them running for the hills. It always tickled his third rib when they turn up their noses at him. Good riddance, he motioned.

A nice hot shower called to him and he followed. Finally, bright-eyed and alert, he dressed in a charcoal grey sweater and black jeans with a pair of worn but comfortable black boots. To finish off his outfit, he pulled on a wool-blended dark grey overcoat and a light scarf to cover his throat. It was more than crisp out, he could see the frost on decaying leaves. Vermont weather could leave one bone cold if not prepared. James moved from Mississippi for a peaceful life and surprisingly found it in one move. Burlington was a quaint place and easy to become invisible in, which he appreciated immensely. No one would ever think to find him here of all places. It still hurt him to think about all the time that was wasted with his ex. She’d done a number on him he’s still paying for. Women are the deadliest creatures on earth and he has tried to steer clear of them except when it came to business.

Yet here he was devising a plan to pry loose Amina’s secrets. James had risen early in morning to head to the market for food for Amina. He had no idea what she liked to eat but one thing he knew women loved was chocolate. So off to the market he went with earth friendly totes in hand. No sooner than he arrived, Chaunice went out of her way to make her presence known.

“Good morning James, fancy meeting you here.”

“Morning miss Moorehouse.” Moving around her, he checked the produce and snatched up a pound of fruit and vegetables.

“How long do you think you can resist me?”

“Forever.” he replied not looking her in the eyes.

“Do you really think that it will work?”

“It’s been working so far.”

“Why won’t you date me?”

“We’ve been over this. I’m not interested.”

“Are you gay?”

“No ma’am, I’m straight as an arrow.”

“Stop calling me ma’am and miss Moorehouse. My name is Chaunice. Use it.”

“No, miss Moorehouse. I won’t.”

“Are you trying to be funny, James?”

“No ma’am, just trying to get my shopping done.”

“I’m certain I can break you down.”

“I’m sorry you think that way, but again, I’m not interested.”

“You think that now.”

“I know your kind and my kind and yours don’t mix too well.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Have a good day miss Moorehouse.” Leaving with his flesh intact amazed him to no end. Women these days were way too aggressive, it was like fending off a grizzly and he didn’t like it. He’d rather do the chasing. Some things just had to be on a man’s terms. Pushing on, he claimed everything he thought Amina needed including a chocolate cake. Once he paid his share, he was out the door and in the direction of her house. Driving along made him think of his boat and how he’d like to be out on Lake Champlain. Bobbing in the water, time seemed endless, quiet, the kind of quiet one had to experience to understand. Your soul was out there floating free without worries.

Reeling in his desire, he pulled to stop next to the curb, surveying the exterior of Amina’s home. He held no reservation of her graciously inviting him into her humble abode, not this time or the one after, but she’d let her guard down eventually. Getting out of the car, James grabbed the groceries and followed the path and skipped up three steps. His knocking probably startled her. But as expected, she pushed back the curtain then let it fall back.

“What do you want?” Yeah, she was spooked, he could hear it in her voice.

“I have groceries for you.”

“I don’t want them. Go away.”

“I’m fairly certain you haven’t eaten much this morning.” Silence lingered behind the door, so he waited. He waited five minutes before she spoke again.

“Did my father send you?” she asked suspiciously.

“No. You didn’t have much in the way of food and I wanted you to have a proper meal. I even provided dessert, chocolate cake.”

“I order food online, I don’t need handouts.”

“It’s not a handout. I truly want you to have this. I’ll stick the bags between the screen and front door and leave. I’ll stop by and to collect the bags this evening. Have a good day Amina.”

She watched him through the peephole do exactly as he said he was going to do. He turned, descended the steps to the path back to his truck and drove away. What was clear to Amina, he wasn’t doing this to be a saint. She didn’t trust him. All men are predators, waiting patiently for their next meal. Amina wouldn’t allow herself to be violated in that way again. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If she accepted the food, he’d be more inclined to keep coming back like a stray looking for food. If she declined, she’d starve for the day. She hated being in this forced position. Amina would be sure to tell James to stop helping, she didn’t need it. That should settle everything. All Amina wanted was to go back to her quiet life and live in peace. For now, her stomach was in knots, waiting for nourishment. Carefully opening the door, Amina peeked through the slit then swiftly grabbed the bags and slammed the door shut securing herself again.

Settling the bags on the dinner table, she rifled through the produce and moved on to the other bags. There was enough food for at least a week and the cake wasn’t a half bad addition. At least he bought her favorite cake. She had a sweet tooth for chocolate. Grudgingly, she gave him a half a point for doing something right. After storing away her goods, she sliced herself a hunk of cake and poured a glass of milk. Looks like today was going to be a good day.

~~

James finished more than he usually did in a day, completely repairing three pairs of high heels, adding soles to an additional pair of boots. He even started his custom order that should be ready to go in two weeks. A great deal of detail goes into making shoes from the ground, up as it were. Shoemaking by hand was a lost art he brought back by a stroke of luck. Seems many people were hunting for such a place so they wouldn’t have to toss good shoes. The Cobbler made good profit thanks to good customers, and there was the fact he was the only shoe shop in all of Burlington. The thought often crossed his mind that some of his frequent female customers break their heels on purpose just so they could get a good look at him.

He didn’t like much being looked at like a caged animal on display, but there’s nothing he could do about it. Thinking of caged animals led his to Amina, how she locked herself away from society. Though he lived pretty much to himself, he knew it wasn’t healthy to completely cut off ties with people, you needed them for better or worse. A tinge of sadness marked his upper lip. He wondered what could have happened to her to create the phobia she had. James found himself wondering about her more and more to the point he’d lost all sense of reality. A customer was in front of him speaking, about what, he hadn’t a clue until his ears decided to tune in. He was getting distracted, something he never was with his work.

“…so how much longer will I have to wait for my shoes Mr. Varberg?”

“Well ma’am, making shoes by hand takes time, but I’m glad to report I have them ready for you just like I promised. Give me a sec and I’ll bring them out.”

“Oh, bless you! I can’t wait to see them.” He was proud to say he’d never had one unsatisfied customer once they inspected and tested his work. James didn’t have many achievements but watching smiles wash over his faithful customer’s faces made him happy. After locating the sneakers, he headed back to the front lifting her shoes for her to see.

“Here you go Mrs. Wong. I’ll get these boxed up for you in a jiffy.”

“Don’t bother, I want to wear them now.”

“Why yes ma’am. I hope you have the fit and comfort you’ve been looking for.” James handed the sneakers over and watched Ms. Wong kick off her relatively moderate heels. She was like a kid in a candy store. Wong sunk her feet in instant support and pranced around relishing in the feel of pristine comfort.

“These are so…heaven, just heaven. I feel like I’m walking on clouds. Now I can really get down in my Zumba class!”

“Well I reckon so.” he chuckled.

“You’re amazing Mr. Varberg. Before I forget, here’s your payment.” He gladly accepted and wished her well on her way. She was the liveliest eighty-four-year-old he’d ever seen. He only hoped his golden years would be the same. As the day wore on, James found himself standing in front of the entrance of his shop, watching people stroll by. People were still dressed in shorts and light t-shirts. One woman had a scarf loosely tied around her neck. He just didn’t get the culture here sometimes, nor had he acclimated to the brutal winters.

It was almost closing time so he stored unfinished shoes on their proper racks and clicked the light off in the rear of the shop. An unusual lightness in his gait made him feel uneasy. He knew it was because he was stopping by Amina’s to pick up his bags, and there was this slight need to see her. Thinking back on the commotion when he first met her, her appearance hadn’t fit with the Moorehouse style. They dressed to the nines, even their casual lounge apparel looked expensive. Mrs. Moorhouse and Chaunice always wore their hair down, straight as a pin, not a strand out of place. An heir of sophistication lingered wherever they went and their manners were…hooded. The wife and daughter reminded him of all the old racist matriarchs in Mississippi who talked down to you ever so gently though their words were laced with barbed wire. James didn’t care for either women, but he kept his opinions to himself.

However, Amina’s style was quite the opposite, one would have never known she was a Moorehouse. She sported curly hair that was tied back at the nape of her neck, she donned gray cotton sweat pants that spilled over covering her feet and a simple white shirt and a cozy looking black duster cardigan that stopped at her ankles. She was the definition of comfort, a woman he wouldn’t mind coming home to.

What was he thinking!?

James’s resolve was slowly slipping. How could he even take care of a recluse, why was he even thinking about this anyway? Snatching his overcoat from a peg behind the register, he shrugged into it and wrapped his throat with the scarf then headed out into the crisp evening weather. He wanted to take a walk to clear his mind but a sense of urgency pushed him toward his truck and on to Amina’s. Less than a half hour later James was standing in front of her door with his bags. She had stuffed them in her mailbox beside the front door. Funny, he thought.

“Amina?”

“What?”

“So, you were waiting for me?”

“No. I heard a vehicle and saw your truck.”

“But you’re still by the door.”

“Yeah, because I’m talking to you.”

Right, like she was going to admit she missed him. “What did you eat for breakfast?”

“This and that. Listen, I appreciate your generosity, but let this be the last time you stop by here. I don’t need anything else from you.”

“I’m sorry Amina, I can’t do that.”

“Excuse me?”

“Why would I stop coming by when I’m so curious about you?”

“I didn’t ask for your curiosity. Please don’t come by anymore.”

“I’ll stop by tomorrow. Have a good evening.”

This man was nuts. Amina thought about calling the police but that would be more unwanted attention she wasn’t looking forward to. How could be care about her, a stranger? She wasn’t in the least interested in him. Letting the thought linger, a slight prick in her brain told her otherwise. But she ignored it and went back to editing and enjoying another slice of that decadent chocolate cake.

©privatethoughtsmadepublic. 2016.

Next part here, Rocking the Boat

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