Stranger

Lily wrestled with what to do. Walk towards the front of the Wal-Mart? What would Brandon do? Darlene stood cross-armed in front of Lily as if daring her to deny hitting the LTD’s massive right door.

Lily felt the morning sun now mocked her. The March wind continued to whip napkins from inside the LTD’s opened door. They fluttered insanely over the black asphalt of the parking lot in ridicule. Lily felt pierced by the contrast of brilliant blue light above and the faded black of Brandon’s AC/DC t-shirt. And the white napkins continued to flutter from the car.

“Brandon, where are my pajamas?”

“I ain’t got’em yet. I left my wallet in the car. I was just coming to get it when I seen this,” Brandon said, staring at Lily.

“Lady, you done got yourself in a mess. What you gone do about our door?”

“Brandon, listen. In short, I’m not going to do anything about your door. I was parked here when you pulled in beside me. As I was preparing to get out, I noticed your girlfriend here and I watched her for a moment before I got out of my car,” Lily said.

“Lady, who talks like you? What kind of person are you who watches people who pull in a parking space they have as much a right to as you?” Brandon interrupted.

“You watched me, lady? That’s kind of creepy. Then you hit my car door,” Darlene said. “You’re strange.”

“I was simply paying attention to my surroundings,” Lily said.

“Don’t sound like it, lady,” Brandon interrupted. “If you’d been paying attention, you wouldn’a hit our car door. Now, what you gone do about it? That’s what we want to know now.”

“If you’ll excuse me, I’m going into the store. I’m sure they have cameras. We can straighten this out. I’ll prove to you I did not hit your car. You are quite mistaken,” Lily said.

“You’re strange, lady. What’re you doing here, anyway?” Brandon said, as Lily began to move towards the store.

“I really don’t think that’s your concern,” Lily said.

“But I’m going inside. I’ll find the manager. I’m sure the store has cameras. That’ll put an end to this foolishness,” Lily said. Immediately she regretted her words.

“Who you callin’ a fool, lady?” Darlene erupted. “I knew you thought you was special when you hit my door with your little rich lady car.”

“I did not call you a fool. I only said this conversation is foolishness. And I’m neither special nor rich. I teach English at Covenant, and I’ve had this car for years,” Lily said in defense.

“I figured you thought you was smarter’n me. That’s why come you hit my car door,” Darlene continued.

“I’m going inside now,” Lily said. She avoided looking at Darlene as she sidled past Brandon, making her way more towards the store, regretting now the great distance with each heavy step.

“You’re strange, lady. We ain’t gone forget about you, believe it,” Darlene said. “We know where you work and what you drive. We been in Glim all our lives. Odds are we know lots of folks at that school.”

Lily continued walking. When she approached the sliding glass doors, she caught her reflection. Neither Darlene nor Brandon was behind her. They had not followed her into the store at all. The Wal-Mart doors slid open. Lily became aware of how hard she’d been walking when she stepped on the filthy gray doormat inside the store. She was suddenly disoriented. Why had she come to the store? She knew she had written on a Post-it items to pick up, but she could not recall any of them. An old man in a blue vest standing by some shopping carts spoke to her.

“Ma’am, may I help you find something?” he asked.

“Oh, good morning. I know this sounds strange, but I cannot remember what I came for,” Lily said.

The old man smiled. “Young lady, you’ll say that a lot more the longer you live.”

Lily turned around and looked at her car across the parking lot. It sat there undisturbed. There was no sight of Brandon, Darlene, or the LTD. Lily walked past the old man in the blue vest. He was talking with another employee about Lily. Lily overheard him say, “Strange folks around here some days.”

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