Roman scowled at his GPS. The device had
been malfunctioning all day long. He wanted to get to the rec
center before it closed. Ellya High School’s 20th
reunion was in a few weeks, and he’d gotten roped into
checking out the sound system beforehand.
0.6 miles,” the GPS droned in an unfamiliar voice.
It normally sounded like his wife, Shelbie.
Or what Shelbie would’ve sounded like if she were still alive.
Now it sounded like a man with a Greek accent. Roman had tried
punching in the various voice settings but couldn’t get rid of
him and get the female voice back.
destination is on the left.”
Roman had heard horror tales of people
blindly following their GPSs off cliffs or into rivers. He
didn’t think he’d ever be that
guy. Yet here he was, in the middle of suburbia on
California Drive, miles from his downtown destination. The large
manicured lawns and antiquated address signs told him it was a
nice neighborhood. He punched the Cancel
Continue 0.5 miles. Your destination is on the left.”
He pressed the Cancel
Route button again.
you sure you really want to do that? You’re almost there.
Continue 0.3 miles.”
He eyed the device suspiciously and pressed
the button again. There was a delay long enough that he thought
he’d broken it. “Route
canceled. You have arrived at your destination on the left.”
He stopped and looked out the window. A
garage sale. He stared at his GPS. The checkered flag was waving
like it just won the Daytona 500. “This is not where I wanted
to go. I have half a mind to browse the garage sale and look for
a replacement for you.” He pulled the device from the
dashboard, turned it off, and threw it on the passenger seat
next to his briefcase.
A three-shelf bookcase, crammed full of
books, sat at the edge of the driveway across from his car. He
didn’t usually stop at garage sales, but he was a sucker for
well-thumbed novels. Yellowed pages turned any book into a
classic. Besides, as fast as he read, used books were easier on
his wallet. And since he was already here, he decided to give
the shelves a go.
After parking down the block, he made his
way back to the sale. A quick glance around showed nearly
everything on sale belonged to a man. Women roamed around with
armfuls of shirts and slacks. When he stepped up to the
bookcase, he saw a box containing women’s dance shoes next to
it: felt-bottomed swing and cowboy boots, as well as a few pairs
of Tango stilettos. They were well-used but still in good shape.
When his gaze fell on a pair that looked like Shelbie had worn
for years, his chest constricted.
A deep sense of nostalgia for the dance
floor gripped him. To
dance again. Yeah, that’d be nice. He’d have to try it
with a new partner and hope she could get to a Waltz twinkle
without kicking his ankles, though.
Next to the box stood a rack with numerous
women’s dance outfits: ballroom and pleated-fit flare skirts
and sequin competition dresses. He tried to concentrate on the
treasure pile of books, but the dance clothes kept drawing his
“Let’s be amazing.” The statement he
always recited to Shelbie before the competition music started
flowed from his mouth as if she were standing there in front of
him. He’d been thinking about calling up their old dance
studio, taking a few refresher classes, but seeing those dresses
turned his simple nostalgia into a full-fledged internal pledge.
As soon as he got home, he—
A woman’s voice said from behind him,
“Can I help you find anything?”
He turned to a cute auburn-haired woman,
about shoulder-height to him, and tilted his head to the books.
“No thanks. I’m just browsing.”
“Odd name, Just Browsing. I’m Feleena.”
He felt a bit silly as a blush heated his
cheeks. “Oh...I...I’m Roman.”
Her perfume was undemanding and lively,
which made him think of a meadow of daisies under a blue sky,
and when he looked into her sleepy brown eyes, butterflies beat
about in his stomach. Those eyes seemed to be waiting on him
to...take the lead? He’d seen that look in Shelbie’s eyes
numerous times before. And not just on the dance floor, either,
but when she needed him to make the next move. How strange to
find two women with that same allure. I’d
dance with her.
When she smiled, the cutest little dimple
on her right cheek winked at him. “Okay, Roman. If you need
anything, let me know.” She took off toward the house but
threw a quick glance over her shoulder at him.
He turned to look over the books, but an
immediate desire to talk to her about the dance outfits, as well
as to not let her out of his sight, forced him to twirl back. He
wanted to say, Don’t leave. I’m a lonely sound technician. I live with a stray cat.
I want to dance with you even though I miss my wife.
Instead, all that came out was, “Um, miss,” a little more
hesitant than he’d intended.
She stopped. “Yes?”
In hindsight, he was glad his
self-preservation instinct took over; he could think of no way
to explain his motivations and not sound like a babbling
buffoon. “Your name? Feleena? Like in the song El
Paso by Marty Robbins?”
“Yeah.” She laughed as she sauntered
back to him. “My dad was a big fan.”
He shared a quick chuckle with her. “Me
too. Sad song. Happy, too, though.”
“Sure. Feleena finally learned how much
the young cowboy loved her. I’m a guy. Fessing up how much we
love a woman is approaching the apex of romanticism. Add in a
bullet wound and it doesn’t get more tear-jerky than that.”
“Tear-jerky? Oh, goodness.”
The sound of her giggle was like Christmas
bells jingling in the air.
“Are you sure there’s really nothing I
can help you find?” She swept manicured fingernails toward the
dance clothes. “I thought for sure I’d seen you looking at
my old dresses there.” She looked at him with those expectant
“Busted.” He forced himself to break
eye contact. “My wife and I used to dance.” He looked down
at the box of shoes. “And the same dance styles by the looks
of what you have here.”
“What was your favorite dance?”
“The Waltz,” he whispered. “But my
wife died a few years ago.” He looked at one of the tables
nearby to hide the sudden well of tears. “Lot of men’s
clothing here. May I venture a guess? Your husband’s stuff?”
She put her hands on her hips and surveyed
the items scattered around her yard. “Roger died two years
ago.” She folded one arm across her stomach and rubbed her
neck with the other hand. “I finally got around to cleaning
out his closet.”
He slumped his shoulders. “Sorry for your
He looked at the shoes and the outfits for
sale. “So...you don’t dance anymore?”
She shrugged. “I don’t dance socially.
I teach now.”
“Smooth Ballroom. A little Country.”
He took a deep breath and thought of those
country boots sitting in the box. “Two-step?”
“Sure. A few barroom dances, too.
Cotton-Eyed Joe, East and West Coast Swings.”
“So why are you selling your dancing
“Too many memories...of Roger.” She
sighed. “I bought all new outfits and shoes.”
“I’ve thought about getting back on the
He’d already made up his mind to do just
that, but saying it out loud almost felt like...well, like
he’d be cheating on Shelbie. That’s
nuts. We used to social dance with other partners all the time.
“I don’t suppose...”
She raised an eyebrow.
the hell do you think you’re doing, Roman..? “Well...”
Just say it. Her eyes,
they keep asking me... “Would you consider dinner and
dancing? With me? I mean...”
“Miss Grey?” a chubby woman called from
behind her. “Will you take eight dollars for these two
Feleena stared into his eyes, her face
neutral, her sleepy brown eyes no longer waiting expectantly for
him, as if she’d turned on her teacher
eyes, a look that dance instructors made when their students
mistook the closeness of the dance with an invitation to become
more intimate. And he’d acted just like a student.
“Roman, I don’t go out with men I
don’t know. Especially men who walk up off the street.” She
pointed at the bookshelf. “Help yourself to whatever books you
want. On the house.” She quickly turned around to address the
chubby woman. “Ten dollars, Mrs. Hamilton.”
The woman held up the ties and studied them
with the eagle-sharp gaze of an experienced garage sale shopper.
A soft tisk escaped her lips followed by a look like she’d
smelled something sour. “I don’t know...”
Feleena was quick to turn the tide. “I
think Alex will like them. They’ll look good on his broad
Her sour look changed to one of delight, as
if she imagined the possibilities. “My husband would look
nice... Okay. Ten.”
Watching Feleena walk off, two fives in
hand, he had to peel his eyes from the way her jeans hugged her
backside. “Wow.” After a quick breath to soothe the sting of
her rebuff, he scanned the bookcase.
titles. That’s just great. Rub it in, universe, rub it in.
Well, hell, Roman. A silver-tongued-devil you ain’t. Give it
up, man. You’re a life-long bachelor now. He grabbed a few
of the more action-oriented tomes. Maybe
I’ll find some advice for lonely widowers in one of these.