Billion Dollar Cowboy(13)

By: Carolyn Brown

“I’m going to the ladies’ room. Tell Andy I’ll meet him at the truck,” Laura whispered to Colton.

“We’re all staying for the lunch. It’s kind of expected of us since we supplied the meat for the shindig,” Colton said. “See those doors right back behind the pulpit? They lead into the reception hall. Just follow your nose and the noise.”

Oh yes, sir, that rotten Andy was in hot water so deep that he might never get out of it. She pushed the door open into a room with yellow flowers and bright green vines trailing from floor to ceiling on the wallpaper. The stalls, woodwork, and vanity were all painted pale pink, and small baskets filled with fancy little lacy sachets were placed on the back of the potties. The aroma of roses filled the room from the sachets and threatened to choke her to death. The vines looked as if they could reach out and finish the job that the overpowering fake rose scent started. The room got smaller and smaller and her breath came in short gasps.

She slipped into a stall, put the lid down, and sank down. Putting her head between her knees, she took several long deep breaths. When she straightened up she was still mad enough to eat nails. Andy had to have known about the church lunch and he didn’t even bother to tell her. If he had, she would have brought her own truck so she could duck out. Spending Sunday afternoon with that woman who gave her evil looks and then delivered the benediction wasn’t her idea of a day of rest.

She was about to push the stall door open when several women rushed inside the tiny room and they all started talking at once. When she heard her name, she slowly sat back down and pulled her feet up so nothing was showing under the door.

“Did you turn around and look at that woman sitting beside Colton Nelson? Roger said her name was Laura something-or-other,” a woman’s voice said loudly.

“Laura Baker. He said her name was Laura Baker. Did you see those boobs, Ina Dean? If that’s what it took to get him, I would have gladly gotten mine made bigger. I’ve been in love with him since sixth grade and he doesn’t even know it,” voice number two said with a sigh.

“I think it was just a fluke that she sat beside him in church. Andy let her sit there rather than making her walk all the way around to the other end of the pew,” Ina Dean said.

“Oh, it’s his girlfriend, all right. They shared a hymnbook and Melody, Janice Delford’s granddaughter who runs the snow cone stand over in Bells, well, she told Janice that they were over there last night together. I tell you it’s his girlfriend, without a doubt, Ina Dean. You should have told us that you had a crush on him, Cynthia. We could have arranged some dinners,” the third voice said.

“Well, it’s too late now,” Cynthia said.

“Maybe not. If things don’t work out with that woman, you could still make your move on him and wind up with all those beautiful dollars,” Ina Dean said.

“Ina Dean Hawkins, how could you say that? I liked him before he was a billionaire,” Cynthia declared.

“Tell me I’m right, Patsy,” Ina Dean said.

“Hey, don’t get me to gossipin’ in the church. My niece can tell her lies any way she wants to spin them. But I’ll tell you one thing—that girl ain’t near as pretty as you, Cynthia. She’ll never clean up good enough for him to take to all those fancy things that he has to go to. Did you see her fingernails? They aren’t even polished, and those thick glasses make her look like she’s an old maid Sunday school teacher. He’ll never marry her, darlin’. It’s just a passing fancy that they are covering up by calling her an assistant. Assistant to whom, I wonder?” Patsy said.

Laura pressed her face against the crack between the stall door and the cool metal. She got a clear vision of a tall, somewhat thin woman that had to be Cynthia because the other two were too old to have gone to school with Colton. No matter which way Laura turned her head or how hard she flattened the side of her cheek, she could not see the other women.

“Well, it’s too late now, Cynthia. That rodeo is done over and you didn’t make it the eight seconds,” Ina Dean said.

“Whose side are you on anyway?” Cynthia sulked.