Author Note: …Hope makes a decision for her dad
Chapter 06 – The Last Goodnight
The sun had set on Howdy's Market holiday party and the last burger had been grilled. Friends and family were stuffed, drunk and/or napping on the park lawn. Maw Maw was running around with her coupon for Donut World and Burt was chasing her just in case she dropped it.
Barney was pleased that the picnic was a complete success – when the street lights turned on the tents were coming down. Some small fireworks were set off for the kids but the bigger fireworks would show up later that evening.
Bethany was walking back to the tree where she had left Jimmy and a sleeping Hope. She was carrying fresh drinks, when she spied Sabrina sitting on the ground talking to Jimmy. Using the shadows of a bushy hedge, Beth stopped and waited for the conversation to end.
Sabrina wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, "I don't know why it should bother me - I mean I knew Wyatt would only be here for a little while, but Jimmy….I think he's going back too fast. I don't think he likes it here." She hiccuped a little and added, "I don't think he still feels the same about me."
Jimmy's heart melted. The lights reflected in her unshed tears and all he knew was that his heart was filled with tenderness for Sabrina. "Maybe Wyatt's been away too long. This is a great town…I mean look at you! You got a great job….you're going to school. You have friends. I mean you have GREAT friends! I'm one of them."
Sabrina instinctively reached out and enveloped Jimmy in a hug. His arms went around her naturally as he returned the embrace. Sabrina sobbed into his shoulder, "I don't think he loves me anymore!" Awkwardly, Jimmy patted her back all the while delighting in the soft scent of her shampoo. "You still have me."
Bethany gasped and dropped the cans of soda. Carbonated liquid fizzled and spilled on the ground. She saw the couple turn at the noise and covering the sob that threatened to escape, Bethany ran towards Barney.
Sabrina sat up, "I think Bethany is upset."
Hope woke up and yawned. Jimmy was confused. Did he grab Hope and run after Bethany when Sabrina needed his attention? Did he leave Sabrina, the girl of his dreams who was upset….to chase after a coworker – one that had the best smile in the world?
Jimmy looked at his daughter who smiled and pointed at Sabrina. She raised her little arms and Sabrina picked her up. It was Hope's decision. Jimmy would stay and comfort his wannabe girlfriend.
Bethany watched sadly as Jimmy helped Sabrina to her feet. Adorable little Hope Chance was wrapping her tiny arms around the other woman's neck. Beth watched from the front seat of Barney's car - it was true…Bethany Clark never had a chance with Jimmy Chance. She felt a tear fall over her cheek as Barney pulled out into the street.
Sabrina stopped in her tracks. "Where's your date?"
Hope chortled, "ookie!" Jimmy looked around and Bethany was no where to be found. "I don't know. She ran off and I guess she's gone."
"Oh…that's too bad. Do you think you could give me a ride home?"
Jimmy looked at his parents who were now standing behind Sabrina and nodding their head in approval. "Uh….yeah, I guess I could take you home. I sure wish I knew what happened to Bethany…"
Virginia decided to explain, "I saw her run off and get in your bosses car. I guess he's driving her home so Jimmy…..why don't you let us take Hope while you take Sabrina to her house?"
Sabrina shook her head, "Mrs. Chance….that's not necessary – I'm sure I can hitch a ride from Eddie."
Maw Maw was still running after Javier and Burt reached out and easily snatched the Donut World certificate from an unsuspecting Maw Maw. "Sabrina – it's not a problem. Virginia and I were going to take Hope out for a cake donut with sprinkles. Let Jimmy drive you."
She smiled. "If it's not any bother Jimmy." Jimmy seemed to stand up a little taller. "No…it's no a bother at all." On the inside he was smiling.
There was an envelope in the same slot as Jimmy's time card that Monday morning. He looked around to see if someone was watching as he pulled it out of the metal slot – no one was checking on him. Jimmy walked to the break room and sat on a folding chair.
I had such wonderful dreams of us.
You don't remember me and I really didn't expect you too. I was just a librarian at high school and you were just a nice guy with an overdue book in a rainstorm. You might remember me as Big Butt Clark bar.
Five years was a lifetime ago and I'm not that same girl and you aren't the same guy. You belong with Sabrina – I can see it and accept that there's no place in your heart for a girl like me.
Please kiss your adorable daughter and let her know she has the world's best father. You will be such a great dad – you have a wonderful family and if karma allows….you'll have Sabrina some day.
Jimmy? Please don't ever forget me? Just promise me that.
Jimmy took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He DID remember Big Butt Clark and felt sorry for her having to run and catch the bus each day. Javier and Marcus used to make fun of her but she just ignored them and carried on through the day. He felt sort of bad that he hadn't been nicer to her but then high school boys were usually jerks….yeah, Jimmy Chance was one of those high school jerks.
He carefully folded the letter and tucked it in his back pocket and pulled on his blue vest. Wow, what was he going to say to Bethany when she started her shift tonight? Did he apologize or pretend like nothing happened? That was going to be a tight call.
Eddie was putting his till tray in the register and making sure the receipt tape roll was fresh. Jimmy grabbed a fresh box of plastic shopping bags T's and set up his end of the bagging area. "Dude, good picnic eh?"
Jimmy shrugged, "Yeah…it was great of Barney to put on the picnic for us." Jimmy turned at a tap on his shoulder. It was Sabrina's fresh face and bright eyes. "So…where's your girlfriend?"
Jimmy was flustered. "Girlfriend?" He gulped and his hand went instinctively to his back pocket. He turned just in time to see a flustered Barney striding towards them. 'I can't believe it!" Barney exclaimed.
Sabrina leaned on the counter, "What's up boss?"
Barney waved a piece of paper at the trio. "Bethany quit. She said she couldn't work here because it was a conflict of interest."
Eddie looked at Jimmy, "What's Barney mean?"
Barney blew an exasperated breath, "Mrs. Matheson…remember her?" He looked at his employees who clearly didn't have a clue. "The old woman that clips coupons? The penny pincher?"
All three workers exclaimed, "Oh!" Yeah, they remembered that old nag. Sabrina asked, "What about Matheson?"
Barney looked at the resignation letter. "Apparently, Mrs. Matheson bought 50 % of Delberry's market."
Jimmy smiled. He hated that old woman. "So what's the problem?"
Barney looked sad. "Mrs. Matheson is Bethany's great aunt and Bethany, who is a great employee by the way, is now my competition! I'm going to lose customers and a great shift worker. What a horrible way to start a Monday!"
Sabrina patted Barney's hand. "Well…look at this way….you may have lost an employee and a bad customer – but you still have us!"
Jimmy laughed nervously and couldn't help but wonder if the real reason had something to do with Bethany's letter to him. The silence was awkward and eventually all four individuals found something that needed to be worked on or fixed and they each went their own way.
Virginia read the letter and smiled sadly. "Honey, honestly I don't think she quit the market because of anything you did. If what Barney said is true then she just moved on to greener pastures."
Burt bit into a crispy chicken thigh. "Yeah, If I didn't have my own lawn business I'd quit if I had a rich aunt."
Virginia smiled at her husband, "Burt, you don't have any rich relatives….a crazy brother and his fake family maybe... but you love your lawn business so stay out of this conversation."
Burt glared at his wife and chewed his chicken. Virginia handed back the letter. "She was a nice girl Jimmy. Just accept it and move on. There will be other nice girls but I know your heart belongs to Sabrina whose heart, unfortunately belongs to that Wyatt character. You just need to figure out what's best for Jimmy."
"Thanks mom. I'm going to take Hope for a walk before I put her to bed."
"Okay sweetie and if you see Maw Maw washing her hair with the garden hose again, just pretend that you're camping too. She thinks she's in Yosemite with the Sierra Club."
Jimmy smiled and reached for his daughter who was nibbling oyster crackers in her high chair. "Let's go Hope.
The street lights were dim and the dusk sky was purple. Crickets were chirping and dogs barked halfheartedly as Jimmy pushed the stroller down the sidewalk. He looked at his daughters smiling face, "….and she was funny and nice to be around. I think I could have been a better friend."
Hope clapped her hands and gurgled something that sounded like "ookie" and her father smiled. "Yeah…she smelled just like chocolate chip cookies.
Jimmy? Please don't ever forget me? Just promise me that.
Bethany's written request still burned in his pocket. "You know Hope…you are going to meet a lot of people in your life. Some of them not so nice and some of them great – like Bethany. She was great and made me feel like I was somebody again. I mean, you know how I feel about Sabrina….but for a little while, she made me feel better about myself."
Hope smiled and blew a spit bubble. Jimmy laughed and wiped her cheek. "I only hope that you find people that make you feel good about yourself. As your dad…that's all I want for my little girl."
The stroller had reached the end of the second block and Jimmy steered it around the bright red fire hydrant and headed for home. Hope was making some happy nonsensical noises and he smiled. Meeting and making friends with Beth had been a good experience and if he could surround himself with people that made him feel good then he could be a good example for Hope. He would do this for his daughter.
It was hard being a single dad and it was harder still to be a role model, but Jimmy Chance was glad he had his family to fall back on. They may be a little off kilter for the rest of the world but for Jimmy and Hope they were perfectly good enough. He was happy and his daughter was happy.
He did this for his little girl and for now….that was enough.
Thank you so much for reading and reviewing my story. It kind of escaped and got bigger than I intended to write it but it was fun.