Pine Street Scene 87

Allison listened to Leo’s explanation when he called to say he’d miss dinner. A clogged drain at a friend’s place, or something like that, and she reassured him she had plenty to eat on her own. She wanted to remind him to go to Franny, but figured that was up to Leo.

She planned to make a simpler version of breakfast-for-dinner: a couple of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions. She had some from the farmer’s market, tomatoes that would taste like food instead of tennis balls. Allison began chopping while her skillet heated up.

A knock on the door interrupted her preparations. She went to answer it, thinking either Leo had finished early and forgot his key, or her mother was sending her another something via UPS. Allison’s mother loved to send her quirky items she found on Amazon. The last package had included a kit to get out of your car if it sunk under water, a blade to cut the seatbelt and a diamond hammer to break the window glass. Allison wondered why her mother fantasized that her daughter would be driving across raging floods, when she knew Allison did not own a car. Still, there was something nice about reading the gift notes her mother wrote, knowing her mother was thinking about her.

But the person at the door was not Leo and it was not the UPS driver. It was a tall, angular young man with vaguely familiar features.

“Sorry to bother you,” the man said. “I’m new to the neighborhood, and wondered if you could point me toward the nearest grocery store? The kitchen in my rental is pretty bare, and my internet isn’t hooked up yet.” He smiled, and something about his smile made Allison want to close the door again.

“Um,” she said, stepping out on the front porch so she wouldn’t have to invite him inside. “Well, there’s Safeway three blocks that way.” She pointed. The outline of the store’s sign was clearly visible.

He turned his head to follow the direction she indicated. “Oh, okay, great,” he said. Turning back to her, he smiled again. “I know it’s kind of creepy for a stranger to show up on your doorstep. I promise I’m not creepy, really, and I hope I’ll have a chance to prove it, since we’ll be neighbors.” He retreated down the porch steps, and from the sidewalk said, “Thanks, neighbor.”

Allison locked the door and slid the deadbolt, something she rarely did before bedtime.

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