Falling for the Flyboy(6)

By: Trish Milburn


“Thanks.” A sudden thought occurred to Amanda. “Did you ride your bike all the way from school?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“That’s almost five miles. You must be cold.”

“It’s no big deal. I ride everywhere.”

“Couldn’t you take the bus or have someone drive you?”

“No kids live on this road, so the bus doesn’t come out here. And my mom’s working.”

“Isn’t it dangerous?”

Tilly smiled, highlighting her natural beauty. Smooth dark skin, long shiny black hair.

“Not much traffic on this road but farmers. And we don’t have a lot of crime around here.”

Tilly knew Cedar Bend much better than Amanda, but the thought of her riding that distance alone still didn’t sit well.

“You must be thirsty after that ride. Come on in and I’ll get you some lemonade.” The girl probably needed hot chocolate instead, but Amanda was out.

Tilly leaned her bike against the porch and followed her inside. When Amanda returned from the kitchen with two glasses of lemonade, Tilly was staring at a pile of gifts ready to be packaged and shipped. Teddy bears, quilts and woven baskets nearly fell off the shipping table.

“You made all these things?” Tilly asked with a touch of awe that made Amanda both proud and uncomfortable.

“Yeah. Now if I can just get them boxed up and ready to ship.”

“That’s part of the job, right?”

Amanda nodded. “And helping me keep track of the orders. Have you worked with the Internet much?”

It seemed an odd question to ask a modern teen, but Cedar Bend was also pretty remote and she knew the likelihood that many of the residents didn’t have the money for computers or Internet service was fairly high.

“Yeah. We have some computers with Internet service at school. One of the computer companies donated them a couple of years ago.”

“Well, that’s where most of my orders originate, although I do get some mail orders and phone calls.”

“I learn quickly.” Tilly pulled a piece of paper out of her faded book bag. “Here’s my resume. My references are on there. Mrs. Thompson is one of them and a couple of my teachers. There’s not much of a work history, but you can call—”

Amanda held up her hands to stop Tilly from talking until she ran out of breath. Tilly’s nervousness touched a protective instinct deep inside Amanda.

“Slow down. I don’t have to call anyone. Mrs. Thompson recommended you, and that’s good enough for me.”

“I have the job?”

“Yes.”

Tilly exhaled as if she’d been awaiting word on whether she’d live or die and had received good news. “Oh, thank you.”

“You’re welcome, but don’t you want to know how much it pays?”

“It doesn’t matter. Anything’s better than nothing.”

Tilly’s matter-of-fact answer, her gratefulness for such a small opportunity, stunned Amanda.

“Well then, when can you start?”

“Can I start now?”

The question surprised Amanda despite Tilly’s enthusiasm. “I guess. Do you need to call your mother?”

“No, ma’am. I told her where I was going.” Tilly looked down at her feet, as if ashamed that she’d believed in herself enough to assume she might get the job. “I told her I didn’t know what time I’d be home.”

“Alright. As you can see, I’ve got plenty for you to do. You can work for a little while, but I’m sure you have homework and need to get home.”

“I did most of it at school,” Tilly said.

Amanda glanced at the bulge in Tilly’s book bag. Maybe the girl was fibbing a little, but Amanda didn’t think any less of her. Her excitement about getting a job and eagerness to please were probably compelling her to downplay any other responsibilities.

“All the same, we’ll start off slow today. Tomorrow’s a school day, and at risk of sounding like your mother, school comes first.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And you don’t have to call me ma’am. Call me Amanda.”

Tilly smiled. Feeling better than she had all day, Amanda smiled back.