Allison Schultz brushed a strand of light brown hair away from her forehead and sighed. When her friend Molly agreed to come for the long weekend to help her settle in her new home, she readily accepted. However, she didn’t know Molly was going to use the time to point out all the reasons why she shouldn’t have left her job in the city.
“I can’t believe you moved to the outskirts of nowhere. You had a great job at the clinic—lots of business—and wealthy clients, too.”
“Yeah, well let’s just say I grew weary of paranoid people like Mrs. Bainbridge. I’m convinced she has Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy—only instead of a child, her dog is the victim.”
“There were plenty of legitimate clients too. Wealthy ones. I doubt anyone in this town has much more than two nickels to rub together. How can you expect them to pay for veterinary services?”
“Molly, this is ranching country. Lots of cattle and horses. I won’t be limited to treating small animals. Doc Witherspoon said the clinic has been profitable the past several years. You know I’ve always wanted to have my own business. The inheritance I received from my grandfather enabled me to.”
“But why Mill Creek?”
“The town I grew up in was much like this one. I’ve always been a small town girl at heart.” Allison looked out the window to the snow covered mountains in the distance. “Besides, you can’t top a view like this one.”
“I know, but—”
“Molly I appreciate your concern, but I don’t have any regrets. Besides, it’s a done deal. I open for business Monday morning—although I’m on call this weekend.”
Molly sighed. “It’s just that I’ll miss you. The clinic won’t be the same without you there.”
“I’m not that far away. You’re welcome here any time. Once I get things established here, I’ll visit you in the city.” She glanced at her watch. “We’ve done enough for the day. Let’s get changed. I’ll take you by the clinic, and then we’ll go into town for dinner.”
“You mean this town has a restaurant?” Molly grinned.
Allison shook her head. “You’re exasperating. Maybe not five stars, but I’ll take you to a local diner where you’ll swear you were eating home cooked food.”
An hour later, Allison and Molly walked into the Blue Canyon Kitchen. It wasn’t the type of place many people would choose to spend New Year’s Eve, but they had to wait a few minutes for a seat.
A hostess led them to a booth near the front. Allison took her seat and glanced around the room. Most of the men were dressed in jeans and cowboy hats and the women wore western attire.
Allison felt out of place in her brown suit jacket, matching slacks, cable-knit sweater, and leather pumps. She looked as if she belonged in a corporate boardroom and not in a small town café, but she had so few chances to dress up, she seized each opportunity. Still she felt as if everyone in the room was staring at her.
After the waitress took their order, Molly spoke up. “I admit that I’m impressed with the clinic. I thought it was going to be some tiny, run down hole in the wall. Have you met the staff?”
“Yes. Doc Witherspoon introduced me to everyone before his retirement. They all seemed welcoming. I think they were relieved that I plan to keep things as is and not replace them with my own staff.”
“That’s good. I know you’ve told me that small towns can be cliquish and not open to outsiders.”
“True, but I haven’t noticed that here. I do plan to modernize the place a bit by putting in a computer system. Doc did things the old-fashioned way. Paper files and ledger books. They aren’t even set up to take credit and debit payments.”
“Wow that is the dark ages.”
Allison looked up to see a tall man enter the restaurant. He was well over six feet tall and looked as if he could have walked off a movie set or Wrangler jeans commercial.
“Jonah, what brings you in here this evening?” the cashier asked. “Figured you’d be at the dance.”
“Not tonight, Sally. I’m looking for Tom Brewer. Thought he might be here.”
“He’s over there with the crew, trying to solve the world’s problems.” She motioned to a table near the back of the room where a half dozen seasoned cowboys sat.
“Thought they usually did that a breakfast.” He smiled, revealing the dimples in his cheeks. Thanks.” He looked down at Allison as he passed their booth.
“Ma’am,” he said and tipped his hat before joining the other men.
“Wow,” Molly said. “Talk about eye candy. I could get used to that. Sure you don’t need another tech?”
“Thought you didn’t like small towns.” Allison grinned, but had to admit Molly was right. The man called Jonah was certainly pleasing to the eye.
“Okay, you’ve sold me on small town diners,” Molly said. “The meal was delicious.”
“Told you so.”
“And the people aren’t so bad, either.” Molly’s eyes trailed to the back of the room. “Eye Candy is coming this way.”
Allison didn’t turn around, but she heard his voice when he stopped to speak to someone at another table. She couldn’t help but overhear the conversation.
“How’s it going, Marvin?”
“Okay. Guess you’ve heard about the new vet in town. That’s her sitting over there. Looks like a city slicker—too good for us country folks. I’ll have to start doing business at the clinic in Deerfield.”
“You’re not being fair, Marvin. Can’t always judge a book by its cover.”
Allison watched him leave the restaurant. “Maybe someone is on my side,” she said.
It’s January 1, a new year and a new month which means it’s time for First Friday Fiction. A few days ago, while pondering what to write, some character names sprang into my head. Allison Schultz, Jonah Reeves, Henry Odom. Before I even knew their story, I imagined Allison being a veterinarian, Jonah as a rancher, and Henry… Well, you’ll have to wait to hear more about Henry.
In this first installment of a new series, we find Allison has fulfilled a long time dream and purchased her own veterinary clinic in the small, quiet town of Mill Creek. But even small towns have their secrets. Things (and people) aren’t always what they seem. I hope you’ll like Allison’s story as it plays out over the next few months. For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy “The Arrival.”