Sitting in the small office tucked away in the back of her coffee shop, Sarah watched Amanda dance with a broom like a young high school girl in love. “What in the world are you doing?” Sarah called out.
Amanda continued to dance with the broom, skillfully moving around the kitchen on talented feet as a bitter winter wind cried outside. “I’m remembering my youth,” Amanda sang out. “I want to remember what it was like to be young and beautiful before this cold climate shrivels me up into a useless prune.”
Sarah leaned back in her chair and continued to watch her friend. “We’re not old,” she protested even though she felt much older than her mind wanted to admit. Glancing down at the blue wool blend outfit she’d bought in Fairbanks, Sarah wondered if it made her look like an old maid. There was no way she would have even touched the thing in her earlier years. But practicality and awareness of time had somehow crept into her taste in style, destroying hours spent in a closet wondering what to wear and replacing fashionable pieces with simple, warm clothes that were pretty enough to be a little stylish but also tough enough to battle the cold winds of Alaska. “Well, we’re not ancient...just...responsible.”
Amanda looked at Sarah. “When was the last time you put your hair in a French braid?” she asked.
Sarah lifted her hand and touched her soft hair, which was flowing freely down to the tops of her shoulders. “I cut my hair short after my divorce,” she reminded Amanda. “I couldn’t do a French braid even if I wanted to.”
“You know what I mean.” Amanda brought her dance to an end. “Thank you, Mr. Broom, you have been a lovely dancing partner.”
Sarah watched as Amanda leaned the broom against the wall next to the back door. Her friend was dressed in a lovely red and white striped candy cane dress that, somehow, seemed to draw out her beauty instead of appearing silly. “Well,” Sarah said, glancing at the paperwork sitting on her desk and the green bag resting next to the computer, “we did okay today...nothing great, but we’re not in the red.”
“We?” Amanda asked, strolling up to the desk. “Los Angeles, this is your coffee shop, not mine. I’m just a poor, lonely beggar that comes along sometimes for a free coffee and cinnamon roll.”
Sarah looked up at her friend. “Speaking of cinnamon rolls,” she winked, “if you paid me for the ones you’ve eaten I would be a very wealthy woman.”
Amanda stuck her tongue out and smiled. “It’s getting a bit late. Maybe we should get ready to leave? My stomach is growling and I’m anxious to cook my shepherd’s pie tonight. You’re going to love it.”
“My poor stomach,” Sarah teased. She grabbed the bank bag. “I didn’t see Conrad today. He said he might drop by.”
“Oh,” Amanda grinned. “I see.”
“I didn’t mean...you know...I mean...” Sarah fumbled. “June Bug, the last thing in the world I’m interested in right now is romance. It’s been three days since we’ve seen Conrad, that’s all.”
Amanda drew in a deep breath, her nose filling with the scent of coffee and cinnamon rolls. “Alas, the lost love shall never return,” she cried out in a dramatic voice and threw the back of her right hand to her forehead. “Oh, my love, where art thou?”
Sarah leaned against the office doorway and rolled her eyes. “Do you like walking? It’s a long way to my cabin.”
“Oh, the snow,” Amanda cried out again, “why do you torture me so? My love, aren’t you supposed to keep me warm? But alas, you are so cold...so cold...so cold...”
Sarah giggled. “Silly.”
Amanda smiled and looked at the baking pan still sitting on the stove where a single cinnamon roll greeted her gaze. Sarah followed Amanda’s eyes, but before she could say a word, Amanda dashed to the stove and snatched up the cinnamon roll. “We thespians need our energy,” she claimed, taking a huge bite of the cinnamon roll and chewing happily. “Your coffee needs work, but your cinnamon rolls...absolutely incredible.”
Sarah walked into the kitchen. “Here,” she said, picking up a roll of paper towels sitting next to the sink, “you’d better take these along, Mrs. Sticky Fingers.”
Amanda held up a pointer finger and motioned for Sarah to hold out the paper towels as she gobbled down the cinnamon roll and quickly washed her hands in the sink. “I don’t need the entire roll,” she chuckled and tore off enough sheets to dry her hands. “Let’s go, Los Angeles.”
“Let me get my purse.” Sarah walked back to her office. When she picked up the white bag sitting on top of the filing cabinet, the phone on her desk rang. “Even in Alaska someone knows when to call just at the right time,” she said to herself. She put down the purse and bank bag. “Hello?”
“Good, you’re still at the coffee shop.” Conrad’s voice seemed calm yet urgent. “Got time to talk?”
“I was just getting ready to drive to the bank and then go home. Amanda is going to make us some of her famous shepherd’s pie tonight. Why don’t you come over for dinner?” As Sarah spoke, a strong gust of wind struck the back door and kitchen windows. Even though it wasn’t snowing and the roads were clear—for the most part—the wind chill was viciously dangerous. “The roads are icy and I really want to get home. I shouldn’t have stayed open as long as I did, but a motorcycle group drove through town and stopped in for some coffee.”
“The ‘Freedom Road Grandpas’,” Amanda yelled out from the kitchen, picking up her pink purse from the counter. “A bunch of crazy old men who are going to catch pneumonia. It’s a good thing we talked them into staying the night in Fairbanks.”
“Yeah, I saw them leave town about a half hour ago,” Conrad told Sarah. Sitting in his office, staring out the window, he grew silent and listened to the winds howl outside. “Okay, sure, I’ll drive out and have a bite to eat.”
“Is anything the matter?” Sarah asked, concerned. “You’ve been quiet for the last three days. I thought we were friends?”
“We are friends,” Conrad assured her. “That’s why I'm calling. Sarah, I need your help. I’ll explain later. I’ll meet you at your place in an hour.”
Sarah tried to reply, but Conrad hung up on her. “What’s the news?” Amanda asked, walking up to the office door. “What’s going on with Mr. New York?”
“I don’t know,” Sarah answered in a confused voice. “You might want to make extra for dinner tonight because we’re going to have a third plate.”
Amanda raised her eyebrows. “I see,” she smiled.
“Don’t start,” Sarah groaned. “Come on, let’s get going before the roads get worse.”
Sarah and Amanda walked out of the kitchen to the wooden coat rack standing next to the front door. “It’s going to be absolutely freezing,” Amanda said, throwing on her faux fur coat.
“I know.” Sarah put on her coat. “Here, hold these.”
Amanda held Sarah’s purse and the bank bag as Sarah put on her winter gloves and ski cap. “My turn,” Amanda said.
Sarah quickly loaded her arms with the two purses and the green bank bag as Amanda covered her hands with warm gloves and put on a thick gray wool hat. As Sarah watched Amanda put on the hat, she smiled. “We’re like two peas in a pod, you know that?”
Amanda smiled back. “I know.” She looked at the front door. “Ready, Green Bean?”
“Ready, Lima Bean.” Drawing in a deep breath, Sarah reached out and pulled open the front door. Crippling, icy winds screamed through the door and attacked them. “Let’s move.”
“I’m with you!”
As Sarah hurried outside with Amanda, she spotted a black limousine parked across the street. She rushed to lock the front door and dashed away toward her Subaru with Amanda in the lead. The limo sat under a street lamp, casting a long shadow across the snowy street. Inside the limo, a set of dangerous eyes watched Sarah struggle against the winds toward her car.
“In time,” a voice spoke from the darkness of the car.
Crawling into the driver’s seat, Sarah stared into the rearview mirror at the limo. In her imagination, she saw a hideous, dark creature lurking across the street. “Anyone famous in town?” she asked Amanda.
“You mean that limo?” Amanda asked through chattering teeth. Slamming the passenger’s side door shut, she looked at Sarah. “Only me...but I never get a limo.”
Sarah buckled her seatbelt. “Buckle up, June Bug,” she told Amanda, “we may hit some unexpected ice.”
Amanda studied the lowering sun. “Somehow,” she said in a worried voice, “when the sun goes down...Snow Falls seems to transform into a scary place. I don’t know why. I love this little town, I honestly do. But when the sun sets...”
“I know,” Sarah said quietly. “Whenever the sun would set in Los Angeles I’d always feel somber, and a little afraid. The crazies came out at night. When I was a rookie and worked the night shift, tons of bad things happened when the sun went down.” Sarah put the Subaru into reverse. “Okay, heat’s on. It’ll warm up in here soon.”
Amanda looked into Sarah’s face as her friend backed out into the street. “Why did you become a cop?” she asked curiously. “Some women are happy to stay home, raise a family, bake cookies.”
Sarah glanced in the rearview mirror as she eased her car up the street past the sleepy, closed buildings telling the little businesses tucked inside warm bedtime stories. She looked at the limo again. Her cop instincts expected it to follow her, so she was surprised to see it pull out onto the street and take a right onto Candy Pine Avenue.
“I...decided to pursue a career in law enforcement because I wanted to be brave instead of scared,” Sarah answered at last. “As a young girl...I was always afraid. I was bullied in high school. I was always so scared to stand up for myself. Then, during my winter break in my senior year of high school, my parents and I took a trip to Colorado.”
Amanda leaned back in her seat. “Aspen?”
Sarah shook her head. “No,” she sighed. “My dad wanted to go hunting, so we spent a week at a hunting lodge. But,” she continued, her voice shifting into a positive tone, “because my dad insisted on staying at the hunting lodge, my life was changed forever.”
“I’m all ears.”
Sarah carefully came to a stop at a stop sign. Her bank sat up ahead on the left side of the street, nestled in between two brick buildings. “Well,” she said as a strong gust of wind rocked the Subaru, “there was a World War II veteran staying at the lodge. His name was Harry Fenney. Mr. Fenney was from Philadelphia and had participated in the Normandy Invasion.”
“Many good soldiers died on that beach.”
Sarah nodded. “Mr. Fenney was let out on Omaha Beach,” she said in a painful voice. “He was eighteen years old when his feet touched the sands of France.” She drove through the intersection and the car began crawling up to the bank. Pulling into a parking space, she looked at the single-story wooden building that resembled a small log cabin. “I remember Mr. Fenney telling me how scared he was. He said men were being gunned down right in front of him. And then he asked me if I wanted to see photos of some of his dear friends who had died on the beach.”
“Oh my, how sad.”
Sarah put the Subaru into neutral. “I saw four photos of young men who didn’t look old enough to shave, let alone die in war...their faces still live in my memory today. I remember thinking to myself how brave these men were...and how much of a coward I was. I even told Mr. Fenney those very words. And do you know what he said?”
“That sweet and dear old man told me that heroes are those who are afraid but storm the beach anyway,” Sarah smiled. “And that’s why I became a cop. I decided it was time to storm the beach, live or die. You see, I had to face my fears. I knew becoming a cop would take more courage than I had, but...it was time to storm the beach.”
“You did good, Los Angeles.” Amanda smiled and patted Sarah on the shoulder. “I wonder what other secrets you have hidden from me?”
“We have a lifetime of friendship to find out each other’s secrets,” Sarah promised. “Let me drop my deposit into the drop box.”
“Hurry,” Amanda urged, watching the last bit of daylight vanish behind dark clouds.
Sarah grabbed the green deposit bag and hurried out of the car. Amanda watched her friend slowly make her way up to the right side of the bank, where a metal night deposit drop box sat carved into the outer wall. Sarah quickly made her deposit, glanced up at the dark sky, and then fought the winds and slippery walkway as she struggled back to the Subaru. “All set,” she said, climbing into the driver’s seat and buckling her seatbelt. “Let’s get home.”
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