By: J. B. Salsbury

“Is that . . .” I squint at the blueprint, figuring out the numbers. “Eight feet? Roughly?”

He sets his steely gaze to mine and I fight to hold his stare. The color is so light blue they’re almost white and, set against skin that’s been exposed to the sun and the elements for what I’d guess to be close to sixty years, gives him an eerie and intimidating look. “Seven and a quarter.”

I fidget, tugging my hat down to my eyebrows. “I can do that.”

“I’ll need a mock-up for approval.”

My hands go into my pockets as nerves and excitement war in my chest. “Did they want something specific?”

He rubs the back of his neck, still studying the blueprints. “I showed ’em your last piece. They want something along those lines.”

The last one I did was an outdoor scene, a river flowing with deer drinking and a family of black bears grabbing fish from it. It was inspired by the view outside my front door, so coming up with another one should be easy enough.

“Same wood, sir?”

He shakes his head and exhales heavily. “Been here for two months now. You can call me Nash. Local pine will work.” He makes a frustrated growling noise, then shifts his gaze to a few men unloading supplies from his truck. “Cody!”

His son snaps to attention at the booming of his father’s voice. “What’s up?” He takes in his dad and gives me a chin lift that I return.

I’d never tell them, but Nash and Cody Jennings are the closest people I have in my life. They helped me out when I had nothing, and although it doesn’t seem like much, this little powwow is considered a pretty deep conversation for us.

“I need you to take a guy to the Wilson homestead and get as much of the wood you can fill in your truck.”

Cody pulls off his work gloves and shoves them into his back pocket. “Wilson place? Why?”

“Hippies from the valley. They want as much repurposed woodwork as we can provide. Wilson property is owned by the bank; they said we could take what we want since they’re gonna level it all anyway.” Nash pulls the blueprint and rolls it up.

“Can’t take my truck.” He throws a thumb over his shoulder. “They’re unloading the siding and have to go back for more.”

“Take Lucas and his truck. See what you can salvage.” His tone implies this is not a suggestion.

“Sure thing.” Cody sets his black eyes on mine, so different from his father’s, which makes me wonder what his mother looks like. From the little I’ve picked up in the two months I’ve lived here, she’s not part of either of their lives anymore. “You ready?”

I pull out my keys and we move to my navy blue pickup. It’s an older model, nothing fancy, but it’s full-sized and built for hauling.

Luckily the Wilson homestead isn’t far, so I won’t be forced to talk much. Between Nash and Cody, the younger seems to be the most talkative of the two. Although he gave up asking me about anything personal after only a few days of knowing him.

It’s better that way.

Too much sharing would lead to stories of the past.

Stories would lead to feelings.

Can’t hold back the blackouts unless I stay numb.


Ain’t this a bitch.

Sitting outside the old double-wide portable office with the Jennings Contractors sign slapped on the side, my stomach ties in knots. It’s not facing off with one of Payson’s most respected citizens, which isn’t saying much for a town with a population of 15,000, and it’s not my dad’s disappointment I’m nervous about either. It’s the satisfaction I’ll be giving him once he sees he was right.

“Good luck makin’ it out there on your own, Shy. You don’t belong out there. You belong here in town close to your momma.”

“Pretty sure she doesn’t give a crap where I go, Dad, seein’ as she’s dead. Besides, she left home when she was my age, found you. Don’t be a hypocrite.”

I cringe at the memory of our last conversation the morning I left town, his glare practically shoving me out the door along with the parting words that sliced through my gut.

“You’re nothing like your momma.”

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