After living in Charleston for a few weeks, Angelica had been searching for the perfect setting for the perfect run. It was an endless quest that plagued most runners and half the thrill was in the search. She had yet to find it, but was still on her quest, which is why she found herself on the Isle of Palms that morning. She had recently set about the task of training for a marathon in the near future, and designed a workout regimen that she vowed to start that day. However, the previous night’s rain and the morning’s sun combined their efforts to alert the humidity and put a damper on her enthusiasm. Life could slow down to a crawl in heat like this and with the warm air and thick humidity it was hard to believe it was only June.
She stretched her muscles slowly, gave herself a pep talk to try and motivate herself, but it was too late — she was already dreading it. Her toned legs were sunburned from yesterday’s lounging on the beach with her best friend Kate and the sand and saltwater in the air made her legs sting even more. She couldn’t imagine it all mixed with sweat. All of this helped her with her procrastination, dousing whatever motivation she had, so she decided to take a walk instead. Her golden retriever, Tillie, didn’t want to let her get away with dilly-dallying because she always demanded her morning runs as much as Angelica.
She flipped through some songs on her iPod, not really finding anything, but settled on an upbeat tune. Wanting to satisfy Tillie, she started to jog, but as quickly as she started, she stopped. She just couldn’t do it so she decided to walk along the shore and watched the waves break as her head thumped to the beat of the music — a migraine settling in. Tillie pulled on the leash, trying to run ahead, splashing here and there in the surf. Angelica looked toward the sky and saw the clouds thickening in the distance as people clamored towards their cars in hopes of beating the rain. She appreciated this quiet moment, as if she and Tillie had the beach to themselves. In the distance, she noticed the pier that stood tall and proud, and no matter how many people trampled across it daily, it never looked tired, wishing she were that strong. Waves swirled around the posts before making it to the shore and tiny crabs sidled to their cubby holes they dug in the sand, disappearing into the darkness. Today it looked as if the pier was enjoying the quiet and solitude too with only a few fishermen throwing in their lines, not afraid of a small rain shower, intent on making the big catch. The only sounds were the waves crashing against the shore and a few pesky seagulls that flew nearby, complaining as they searched for morsels leftover from the tourists. Angelica outstretched her arms, tilted her head back, and inhaled deeply, tasting the salty air. It was so thick you could almost snatch it up and tuck it in your pocket.
Just then, she felt something bump up against her feet. She relaxed her arms and looked down at a piece of driftwood wobbling in the surf. She bent down and picked it up. Tillie was still pulling on the leash wanting to run so she decided to run the energy out of her and threw the driftwood into the surf. Tillie took off with all the bounding energy she could muster, kicking back sand toward Angelica where it collected at her feet. Watching Tillie almost do a belly flop in the ocean, Angelica smiled and rubbed tiny particles of sand between her fingers before brushing them off on her shorts. She wiggled her feet to uncover them and felt small dunes on the inside of her shoes.
She stood there watching Tillie, arms crossed over her chest with her hands grasping her shoulders as she was lost in thought. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a yellow Labrador jump into the water to fetch the piece of driftwood along with Tillie. She giggled at the sight and looked over her shoulder to see a tall, slender, ruggedly handsome man approaching. The smile left her face and she looked around to see if she could escape, not really wanting to have company, but before she could sidle away like the crabs into her own fortress, he spoke. “Hi! Sorry about Moose. He saw you throw something and couldn’t resist.”
She glanced down at her feet and said, “No problem. But he might have to apologize to Tillie.” He rolled a dog leash into a small ball and tucked it into his pocket. Politely, he held out his hand and said, “He won’t hurt her. He just wants someone to play with him. My name is Nick. It’s nice to meet you.”
She didn’t shake his hands, using the excuse that they were dirty. For extra effect, she rubbed her palms together and asked, “Is he always that playful,” nodding toward the dogs.
Angelica noticed how he became uneasy and shoved his hands into his pockets. “He’s a typical yellow lab, full of energy,” he said, shrugging. “I think for the first three years of his life, I would have served him to you on a platter, but he has turned out to be one of the best dogs. Very loyal.”
Angelica remained silent, looking out toward the horizon.
Nick continued, “But when he was a pup, he had little feet and you wouldn’t have guessed he would have grown to be this big. He likes to throw his weight around sometimes and pretend he’s a lap dog,” he said. “I got him from an animal shelter and they named him.” He let out a hearty laugh, shook his head, and continued, “At first I thought it was a funny name, kind of like naming a small poodle, ‘Killer.’”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Moose and Tillie romped and played in the surf as Nick and Angelica enjoyed the show. She glanced at Nick periodically from the corner of her eyes and gave him a half-hearted smile when she saw he was doing the same. She noticed the boyish way he acted, of how he seemed to be carefree, and how easy he handled himself, probably comfortable in any type of situation or so she assumed. His hair was nut-brown with tips that were highlighted. His skin was browned from the sun as if he spent a majority of his time outside. She guessed he must have been a typical beach bum, possibly a surfer. His body was rippled and toned like a runner, but his choice of clothing was something that needed work — ripped knee-length khaki shorts and a shabby, stained white t-shirt that looked as if it hadn’t seen a washer in quite a while. Color coordination was not his strong suit, she decided. His hands were in his pockets, fiddling with his keys and jangling some loose change — a nervous tic? Yet, she could see he was trying act nonchalant and confident.
They stood in silence for a moment until Moose ran up to her, his hair wet and sandy, bringing her the piece of driftwood with Tillie right behind him, her tongue hanging out. They both shook their bodies, removing the water from their coats and got Angelica and Nick wet. Angelica pulled her head back and said, “Yuck.” She gave both dogs a quick, but slight pat on the head with her fingertips and then Moose sat in front of her, handing her his left paw. She shook it and said, “Nice to meet you Moose.”
Nick said to him, “Give her the other one.”
Angelica let go of his left paw and Moose then shook with his right. “Now both,” he said. Moose did as he was told and shook with both paws. That was all it took, Angelica was being suckered in, but she always had a soft heart when it came to animals — any animal. People were a different story.
“Is this how you two charm all the ladies?” she asked, relaxing a bit.
“Of course, and he’ll probably ask you for your phone number next.”
“Is that so?” she responded and let out a small giggle.
Angelica looked up at Nick as he smiled. Hmmm…nice smile, she thought. Moose ran off to chase a lurking seagull with Tillie right behind him. Their friendship was instantaneous. At that moment, Angelica wished she could let go of the past and be that carefree.
She wasn’t ready to give out her phone number; especially to a stranger she just met on the beach, but she could almost hear Kate whispering in her ear, telling her to be brave, that she didn’t have anything to lose. After all, it’s not like she had to call him back if she didn’t want to. He didn’t seem to push the issue and for that, she was relieved.
“Do you come out her often?” Angelica asked, breaking the lull, and desperately wanting to change the subject.
“Yeah, I used do my morning runs out here three to four times a week, but in all honesty, I haven’t been out here in a while. What about you?”
“I’ve been trying to find a nice beach to run on with Tillie,” she said.
“Are you a tourist?”
“No, job transfer,” she replied.
“Where are you from originally?”
“Dallas,” she said and shrugged her shoulder. “I was transferred here. I really like the area.”
“You’re a long way from home. I’ve never been to Dallas, but I hear it gets really hot there during the summer.”
“Yes, but it’s the humidity that will get you. It’s humid here too, but at least there’s an ocean breeze,” she said.
“True,” he said, kicking the sand. “I was born and raised here in Charleston.” He wiped the sweat from his brow and asked, “What kind of work do you do?”
“I work in the ER at the Medical University of South Carolina,” she said.
“Doctor, actually,” she replied.
“Ah,” he said as he smiled and kicked the sand a little harder, digging out a shell. He bent down to pick it up and handed it to her. The way he said that made her feel self-conscious.
She tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “What?” forgetting about the boundaries she had set for herself. She pulled her hand back, remembering and thought it was odd the way he was making her feel — a little flirtatious.
“Nothing. I just didn’t picture you being a doctor. Maybe an uptight accountant is more like it,” he said as he arched his eyebrows to let her know he was teasing.
Again, Angelica didn’t respond and wrapped her arms around herself, her wall of protection. He did it again, made her feel self-conscious and she wondered if she really gave the impression of being uptight.
“I’ve insulted you, haven’t I?” he asked.
Her lips formed a tight, straight line as she asked, “So, what do you do for work?” What she was really thinking was that he was kind of s jerk for making assumptions about her personality. Even if he had formed an impression about her, joking or not, did he have to be rude and actually say it out loud?
“I’m a firefighter,” he said.
“Oh,” she said, growing quieter. Now it was her turn to make him feel odd, but she wasn’t really trying to keep score. She didn’t think she was doing it on purpose, maybe subconsciously.
He looked at her, arched his eyebrows again, making it seem that he was confused as to why his being a firefighter made her so quiet. The sudden silence made her feel a little uneasy. Nonetheless, he smiled and asked, “Since you’re new to town, have you had much time to explore?”
“Not really. I’m still trying to get settled in and I don’t really know anyone, except for my friend Kate. We went to college together and after she moved here to Charleston, she suggested that I apply for a job here too. She works in labor and delivery. Anyway, she’s always so busy and it’s better when you have someone else to pal around with,” she said.
“How about finding a guide to show you around?”
“Know of any good ones?” she teased, looking at him and catching a glimpse of the run in his eyes. Her stomach twisted.
“There’s one standing right in front of you. I’ve lived here my whole life and you surely couldn’t do any worse.” He held out his arms as if to say, Look at me!
She thought about it for a brief moment, looked at her feet and said “I don’t know.” She felt the heat rise in her face and was sure that she had turned every shade of red in a sixty-four count crayon box.
“Who knows, you might actually have some fun,” he said, trying to convince her.
She was apprehensive but decided to take a chance and said, “Maybe you’re right, I don’t know though.”
Nick stood in silence, giving her space, not wanting to make her more uncomfortable than she already seemed.
“I suppose I could do worse,” she said, adding a shy grin. “What did you have in mind?”
Nick perked up and said, “Well, if you aren’t busy this afternoon, how about we mull it over lunch and we’ll decide from there? If you like seafood, we can go to Fleet Landing. It’s located downtown near Waterfront Park on Concord Street. It’s close to all of the historic sites.”
“I love history” she said. “And, yes, I’m free this afternoon. It’s my first day off since I moved here.”
“Excellent. How about we meet there at noon?”
She thought about it for a moment and hesitantly accepted his offer, “I will see you there, Nick.”
“I have a question for you though,” he looked puzzled. He arched his eyebrows and asked, “What’s your name?”
Embarrassed that she had messed up their introduction, she replied, “Angelica.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you again. Do you prefer Angelica or do you go by Angie or Angel?” He held out his hand to shake again.
“Just Angelica,” she replied.
“Well, Just Angelica, I will see you at noon. Do you know how to get there?”
“I’ve seen it before and pretty sure I won’t have any problem finding it. See you then,” she said.
Nick held out his hand again. Hesitantly, Angelica took his into her hers and gave him an affirming shake.
“Come on Moose! Let’s go buddy,” he yelled over his shoulder. Moose came running up behind Nick as he jogged down the shore. Tillie looked up at Angelica as if she were wondering why her new friend, Moose was leaving and why she couldn’t go with him.
Angelica tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, smiled and said to Tillie, “Let’s go home girl.” She took off her shoes and socks, shaking the sand from them and wanted to feel the hot sand between her toes as she walked back to her car.
Several minutes later, Angelica walked in the door as her cell phone beeped, indicating she received a voice message and when she checked it, she heard Kate’s voice on the other end. Kate sounded like she was out of breath as she explained she met a couple of guys last night, one being a total douche, but the other being perfect for her. Angelica dreaded the blind dates Kate tried to set her up on and now wondered why she ever let her talk her into them so long ago.
Kate was the one who set her up with Stephen, who was charming at first, but turned physically abusive the longer they were together. He tended to drink a lot and it got worse as the years went by, but she didn’t make excuses for him then and she wasn’t about to start. While they were dating, he seemed like the perfect guy, but when they decided to move in together, things only got worse. About three months after settling in, a physical confrontation broke out when she asked him if he would put his clothes in the hamper. He had a horrible habit of leaving them wherever he took them off. Some people might consider it a small request, but it turned into a fight that blackened her left eye and split her upper lip. He tried to make it up to her afterwards, like he always did, by being overly nice and romantic. She discouraged his advances by pushing him away from her, which only fueled the fire. He pushed her against the counter, bruising her back. Of course, after it happened, he tried being her knight in shining armor, telling her how sorry he was and that all he ever wanted to do was take care of her and keep her safe. He asked if they could go, “make up,” and the thought of having sex with him, made her shudder, but to keep the peace and avoid another disaster, she agreed. Deep down, Angelica didn’t trust his intentions as he carried her up the stairs. She was wrong in thinking he was being romantic, because when he reached the bathroom, he threw her into the bath tub and told her to wash herself off. He said that he was going to the beer store and for her to be ready for when he got back. Instead of doing what she was told, she packed what few belongings she could grab and high-tailed it out of there, first going to Kate’s and when she wasn’t home, she went to Nana and Poppa’s house, where she had lived after her mother was murdered several years ago.
After that, she was apprehensive about dating anyone, but Kate insisted that she was sorry — that she never saw it coming — and wanted to make it up to her. “Harry would be perfect,” Kate had said six months after the episode with Stephen. Harry, whose mother used the named literally because he had hair growing in places it shouldn’t be growing and none in places where it should. Angelica didn’t have anything against bald-headed men, quite the contrary, but what she did have a problem with was the hair protruding from his ears and nostrils and his horrible sinus condition that he tried to clear during dinner, sounding like a gaggle of honking geese headed south for the winter. It was like watching a car accident — she couldn’t stop staring and she couldn’t believe she was a witness. By the time they finished their meal, she was rather nauseous. As he walked her to her car he said he had a wonderful time and that he would ask to be her friend on Facebook. She just nodded and got into her car, grateful she hadn’t signed up for any type of social networking. He tried calling a few times the following week, but when she didn’t return his calls, he finally got the hint.
Then there was Max, the self-indulgent ageist who probably should have been classified as a pedophile. Clearly, Angelica was too old to be a notch on his bed post, not that it was a place she wanted to leave her mark. “My type,” he said, “is just over the age of eighteen (barely legal as he pointed out), blonde, with big boobs.” He cupped his hands in front of his chest for emphasis. He scored some points for honesty, but she couldn’t see herself sitting there for another second. She didn’t even wait for their date to being and excused herself from the table at the restaurant where they agreed to meet, saying she needed to use the restroom and added, “Maybe it’s time to keep your pickle in your pants!”
Utterly disgusted, she bypassed the door of the ladies room and walked out of the restaurant. She grabbed her cell phone, called Kate and threatened her within an inch of her life, adding that it was hopeless for her to find Mr. Right. Kate claimed she was too picky, but in all honesty, Angelica too busy with medical school to have a social life, as Kate so often accused. It didn’t matter. Angelica was happy where she was. After she finished school and got settled somewhere, she figured love would find her when — if! — she cleared a space on her plate. But deep down, she knew that Kate had good intentions as she had proved during their college days.
Shortly after Angelica moved to Charleston, they picked up where they left off as if life had never gotten in the way with Kate saying that she was so happy Angelica got the job at the hospital. Even with her having good intentions, Kate had always been flighty and flirtatious with anything that still had all four limbs and was breathing. Honestly, Angelica thought Kate would have negotiated on them having all four limbs, but who was she to say? Angelica put a boundary on their friendship though — no more blind dates! — but she knew, somehow, someway that Kate would find a way to meddle in her life. After all, that’s what best friends were for.
Now she had met Nick and was anxious to hear back from Kate after she called her back and left her a message on her cell phone. Labor and Delivery had been busier than usual lately, so she knew it would be later today (after meeting Nick for lunch) when she would hear from her. At least by that time, she’d have more to tell her. It was then that she thought she probably shouldn’t have called her until after their date, because if she didn’t really like him, then there was no harm done. But the prospect of having a date made her feel giddy with excitement, even if she didn’t even really consider it a date, but just two friends touring the town. Angelica’s stomach churned and knew that as soon as Kate listened to her voice messages, the secret would be out and she would never let Angelica off the hook, hounding her with all kinds of questions and prodding her to go out with him again.
Angelica jumped in the shower, shampooed her hair, soaped up the rest of her body, rinsed and soaped up again because liked how the clean scent lingered much longer. Facing the showerhead, she leaned in, letting the water flow across her body, streaming shampoo and hot water down the back of her neck. She watched the stream of water flow down into the drain, lost in thought. She had to remind herself not to get close to him, because she promised herself that she would remain single in order to prevent herself from getting hurt. She finished rinsing, turned off the water, grabbed a towel, and stepped out into the cool air. She always loved that feeling — hot shower, cool air. Standing in front of the mirror, she wiped away the moisture and fog with a hand towel that she kept hanging on a hook nearby. All it did was create uneven streaks so she used the hair dryer to dissipate the moisture.
After drying her hair and applying a little make-up, she threw on some shorts and a clean v-neck white t-shirt. After taking a few turns in front of the mirror, she was satisfied and walked over to her computer to look up the address to Fleet Landing. Even though she knew the approximate location, she didn’t want to take the chance in getting lost and give any reasons for Nick thinking she was an idiot. She printed out the directions and went back downstairs, where Tillie was waiting by the food bowl.
“Trying to tell me something, girl?” she asked, petting the top of her head and finally giving her a hug. She held her head in her hands and scratched behind her ears, her favorite spot. “OK, I’ll get it for you,” she said. As she was getting her food and water, the telephone rang. She debated on whether or not to answer it, not wanting to be late, but saw that it was Nana on her caller ID. She picked it up and said, “Hi, Nana.” It was a name she started calling her grandmother when she was little.
“How did you know it was me?”
“Caller ID,” she said.
“I just can’t seem to keep up with all this technology anymore.”
“Nana, caller ID has been around for quite a while now,” she said.
“Don’t sass me, young lady,” Nana said with a laugh.
“I forgot who I’m dealing with. How’s your day going?”
“Well, you know how Poppa is. He hit his head on the cabinet again, but this time he hit it so hard there was a gash and blood was everywhere. I had to take him to the ER to have it sewn up. It took me forever to scrub the floors. Do you know how hard it is to get blood out of white tile? Now he’s acting like a big baby and wants to be waited on hand and foot. How is Charleston?”
Nana always had a knack of changing the subject, sometimes in mid-sentence, and tacking on several statements or questions at one time, always making Angelica shake her head in disbelief.
“Well, I’m glad Poppa is okay. Charleston is nice. You guys would really like it out here. In fact, I met someone who is going to show me around today so I can get more familiar with the town. I’m meeting him at noon.”
“Yes, him. His name is Nick. He’s just a nice guy. Don’t go playing matchmaker again, please,” she begged.
“Why not? I’m good at it,” she said proudly. She could almost imagine Nana rocking in her chair, tapping her foot with authority. Of course, Poppa wouldn’t have been too far from her, probably reclining in his barcalounger. Nana was dogmatic, a no nonsense kind of a woman.
“Um, no thanks.”
“You deserve to be happy. I know you ran away from what happened with Stephen and your mother, but it wasn’t your fault.”
Angelica said tartly, “I didn’t run away from anything,” and before Nana could answer —like grandmother, like granddaughter — she quickly changed the subject and said, “Can I call you back later? I really need to finish getting ready.”
“Okay, but make sure you actually call me back this time. I can’t wait to hear about your date.”
“It’s not a date,” Angelica huffed.
“Right, sorry.” She was sure Nana rolled her eyes when she said that.
“Alright, I’ll talk to you later,” and before Angelica hung up the phone she said, “I love you.”
She grabbed the directions to the restaurant, her keys, and headed out the door, telling Tillie that she would be back later.
When she arrived at the restaurant, the hostess nodded and said Nick was already there, seated on the deck. She followed her as they walked through the restaurant and Angelica felt like all eyes were on her, making her feel self-conscious, and she put her head down and examined her clothing choice. Maybe I am dressed too casually, she thought. Almost tripping over a chair, she looked up and saw Nick smiling — now, laughing at her, as she blushed.
She saw that Nick’s hair was windblown and that he was dressed casually in a pair of khaki shorts, a navy blue t-shirt, and flip-flops. This time, his attire was a little more acceptable — nothing ripped or stained. She was glad he looked as comfy as she did and glanced at a sign hanging over the bar that said, Come as you are! She hadn’t thought to ask about the dress code earlier.
The air was still quite warm, but the breeze made it bearable. Small palm trees in planters surround the deck and rustled as the wind picked up. There was a small crowd outside but not as bad as it was inside. Nick pulled out a chair for her and as she sat down he said, “There you go, Just Angelica.”
She snickered and asked, “Are you always this obnoxious?”
“Sometimes,” he winked.
The waitress came to take their drink order, looking thrilled at the thought of having to earn a living waiting on hungry customers. Nick turned to Angelica and asked, “How ’bout a typical southern drink? Maybe a Mint Julep?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t drink alcohol.”
“Not even a glass of wine now and then?”
“Nope, not even a glass of wine now and then,” she said as she shook her head.
Nick turned to the waitress and said, “House wine of the South, two glasses,” and gave her a wink.
“Lemon?” the waitress asked in perfect southern drawl, sounding more like laymon.
Puzzled, Angelica asked, “House wine of the South?” thinking that Nick had ignored what she said or was the most insensitive human being to walk the earth.
“You’ve never had sweet iced tea?” he asked.
She blushed and nodded, “Yes, I’ve had it, just never heard it called that before.” She looked at the waitress, “Can I have unsweetened tea and no lemon for me, thank you.” She wanted to accentuate her southern accent even more to match the waitresses — calling it laymon so that maybe she would understand her, but she decided to swallow her natural sarcastic ability, saving it for another time. She was sure that Nick would be deserving of it later since he was being rather obnoxious himself.
The waitress rolled her eyes and left to get their drinks. When she returned a few minutes later, both glasses had lemon in them. Angelica tossed the lemon slice in a small bowl on the table and grabbed a packet of sweetener, stirring it in her tea. The waitress glared at her, popped her gum and asked, “Are ya’ll ready to order?”
Angelica looked at Nick who said that if she could trust him for a moment, he could order for the both of them. Obviously, he didn’t know that trusting someone did not come easily to her. Nonetheless, she agreed just this once, wanting to relish in a true Charleston experience.
“We’ll start out with the Fried Green Tomato Stack and then for entree’s the Charleston Shrimp and Grits,” he said looking up to the waitress.
Smiling, Angelica interrupted, “I’m a vegetarian,” almost apologetically.
“Really? What’s a vegetarian?” he joked. “Ok, how about giving her a bowl of grits then?”
Angelica laughed, saying, “You said I could trust you.”
“You can.” Looking at Angelica, he asked, “How about the spring vegetable medley pasta fettuccine? Not exactly southern cuisine, but it’s good.”
“Anything else?” The waitress asked and turned on her heels before Nick could answer.
He looked at Angelica, raised his eyebrows and said, “It’s hard to find good help these days.”
“I guess so,” she replied.
“So, you’re a vegetarian? Didn’t you tell me on the beach this morning that you liked seafood?”
“No, I said I liked history,” she winked.
All he could do was look at her and smile. “Fair enough,” he said and nodded as he passed her the bread.
While waiting for their dinner, they talked about their families, friends, job, and hobbies. She realized they had more in common with each other as each minute passed and it only made her even more nervous than before. When he talked a little about his job, he wouldn’t look into her eyes and she got the sense that he felt like he was somewhat ashamed for not being a doctor, lawyer, or an accountant — something more “white collar,” as he put it. All Angelica could think about was that him being a firefighter only brought up bad memories for her. He went on to tell her about his mother and father, a topic that was difficult as she could tell by the wounded look in his eyes. He fumbled for words as he told her that he never understood the inner working of the brain in someone with Alzheimer’s, making life for everyone frustrating and left feeling helpless. He looked down at the table, folding the napkin in his hands and his face was etched with sorrow as he explained how his mother left his father because of the disease, saying it was something she couldn’t or no longer wanted to deal with, leaving him in Nick’s care. It wounded Angelica to see him in pain and her heart wrung with pity.
Their conversation continued and began to lighten as they teased each other on various topics. It was if they had known each other for a long time. He asked if she was married or dating anyone. She hesitated and said, “I’ve never been married, and no, I’m not seeing anyone.” She said it coldly and she was sure he felt her bitterness. She could feel him pull back a little as if to put some distance between them and figured he was counting the locks she had on the door — the entryway to the wall she had built around herself.
“Me neither,” he hesitated and shrugged. “I haven’t dated anyone in so long that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been waiting to find that special spark — a connection — with someone before I even thought about dating again.”
Angelica nodded her head in agreement and took a sip of her ice tea. She didn’t want to reveal too much about herself, knowing that the conversation could quickly become uncomfortable for her. She knew the dangerous possibilities of going down that path and she wasn’t ready to talk about it, at least not with someone she just met.