[This is a multi-part story about Lexi Brown adjusting to her new life in Otter Village. Here are the chapters in order.
Lexi hadn’t realized how much work was involved in helping to organize the juice bar for her landlord at the Otter Days Festival. She’d assumed it would be a simple lemonade stand, but nope! Carolyn had decided she wanted a fancy smoothie bar with colorful fruit selections, and she’d roped the tenants into contributing time. She’d given Lexi and two others money for shopping, while a couple of the guys had been tasked to persuade a big box store to donate glassware and straws.
The week passed in a blur of work for Lexi. Between her new job at the souvenir shop and helping Carolyn, she didn’t have much time to worry about Kevin. She was bound to run into him again sooner or later in a town this small, but hopefully by then he’d have forgotten that he’d seen her picture before. Lexi’s photo had been splashed in the news six months earlier when her estranged husband, in a drug-fueled frenzy, had robbed the store Lexi had managed. He’d taken Lexi and a coworker hostage, and Nick, her brother-in-law had rescued them. But now she’d moved 500 miles north of all that…
Impulsively, Friday night after work, Lexi dashed into the salon on the way home and had her long hair cut short. She wanted more of a change, plus she hoped it would further distance her new self from her old one.
Lexi blushed. “Thanks so much.”
She covered her eyes with large sunglasses though and stuck a baseball cap on her head, feeling more secure with an extra “disguise.” This was a big charity cause for otter rehabilitation and already people were clicking away with their phone cameras. Lexi took a few as the high school band marched past followed by creatively costumed characters. She forwarded them to Vicky and got a thumbs-up in reply.
The first customers began trickling in at 8:30 in the morning, after they finished the 5K race. After that, business stayed constant throughout the morning. They were raking in the dough and Carolyn was thrilled. “Maybe I’ll get honored at the Chamber of Commerce dinner!” she said to her helpers. “I’ve been contributing for years, but I’ve never received a plaque.”
Lexi took a break mid-afternoon to use the restroom and get a sandwich. She took the opportunity to wander around and check out the other concession stands. A man was playing a mini-basketball game trying to win an otter. Lexi removed her sunglasses and stood in the shade, watching him hand over five more bucks. She smirked as she finished her sandwich, sure the game was rigged, but then he won. As the vendor gave him the otter and he turned around, she saw it was Kevin.
Crap, it was too late to leave. Lexi was trapped right in his line of sight. All she could do was smile and act like it was cool. “Hey,” she said. “Congrats!”
“Lexi?” Kevin grinned. “Great to see you again! How are your injuries?”
“Oh, no biggie,” she said. “I’m fine. Thanks again for your help that day.”
Kevin handed her the otter he had won. “For you. Obviously your presence here brought me luck.”
She took the soft little toy. “Oh, a beanie baby. It’s adorable! Thank you. How much did you actually spend to win this?”
“Don’t ask.” He laughed. “I like your new haircut, by the way, but I hardly recognized you there in the shadows. Trying to stay incognito?”
“Something like that.” Lexi smiled mysteriously. “A girl can’t be too careful.”
“Well, it’s nice to see you enjoying the beautiful day anyway.” He gazed at her. “Look, if you’re running away from some trouble, or an ex, I totally understand. You don’t have to worry about me–”
“Yes, it’s a gorgeous day!” she cut him off, not wanting to get into that discussion. “I’m actually helping at a smoothie stand. Are you hungry? I should get back.”
Kevin walked with her. “Can you make me a banana split?”
“I can make you a banana smoothie with frozen yogurt and strawberries and blueberries and coconut, topped with chocolate sprinkles.”
As they chatted and smiled, a reporter for the local newspaper snapped their photo and uploaded it with a story about the Otter Village Festival.
[to be continued]
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