The man’s blue sweater and red cowboy boots and cuffed pants didn’t make the best outfit she’d ever seen, but Carmen knew there was just something about him.
She couldn’t take her eyes off him as she danced. She even missed Clara breaking into some moves she definitely would’ve joined in on otherwise.
Finally Clara had to interrupt, “what are you doing sweetie? Who are your eyes burning holes into?”
Carmen walked over to Clara. “You got me, I was eyeing that man in the blue sweater.”
“The man who looks like he was dressed by depressed cowboy in a flood?”
Carmen busted out laughing. “yes, him.”
“Well… then go talk to him,” said Clara.
Carmen walked over to the man and introduced herself. They talked a little, smiled a lot, and laughed a bit too. Most of it was small talk, neither of them asking deep questions from the start. After all, they were meeting in a club, who stands in the middle of a club having a deep conversation?
Carmen Butler was so happy to have met Davin Branham. He told her his family had just moved away from Windenburg to Newcrest, so this was a bit of a farewell for him. She told him he was lucky to have family nearby, and they exchanged a hug.
Carmen got butterflies with the way he looked at her, but he didn’t initiate any flirts, so she decided to leave it at just that. They were friends now, so she knew she’d see him again.
Leaving the club floating on a cloud, Carmen returned home very hungry. It was almost morning when she finally sat down to eat, saying a quick prayer to the Watcher that the food tasted good.
Carmen forced down as much as she could, before falling asleep on the couch. She dreamed her big sister was there to wash the dishes.
When Carmen awoke in the early evening, right before sunset, she had bills waiting on her. She felt a brief moment of horror as she realized she didn’t have enough money to cover them.
She was not about to call home to beg for money they didn’t really have to give. Carmen decided right then and there she would do a better job of focusing on her career. It was one of the quickest ways to make sure she was financially stable. She didn’t want to be a starving artist forever.
With new resolve, Carmen headed inside to do her dishes. Almost to prove how adult she suddenly could be, she ate leftovers of fruitcake that the Pancakes, who she still hadn’t met, left for her as part of her welcome wagon.
As night fell, she headed around to the side of the house. She found items to dig up, and hoped they would be worth enough so she could
afford an easel pay her bills.
She stood for a minute and took in her surroundings.
Carmen: I’ve been spending so much time in Windenburg, I haven’t really been paying attention to my own backyard. Aside from the park benches across the street, I know nothing of Willow Creek. Once I work hard enough to get a promotion, I will celebrate by going on a date with my town.
Carmen harvested a few plants native to Willow Creek, intent on starting a garden. Nothing like a garden to really supplement your income.
She even went digging for frogs.
Carmen: If my brother could see me now, how he’d laugh and laugh. Artist Carmen digging around in the dirt, indeed.
She stayed out all night collecting and harvesting and digging. As the sun rose, she started on her garden. It was humble, but it would provide her with income and fresh produce.
Carmen headed inside, spending her last money on an easel instead of her bills. As she painted and hummed and danced, she hoped her gamble would pay off. She also allowed herself a small moment to allow the daydream of her
spare bedroom art room transforming into a nursery with a little baby Fyres Branham in it.
After work later that day, it was clear that Carmen’s gamble paid off! She got her promotion and paid her bills without her utilities being turned off. After paying her bills, she still didn’t have money for any additional lights in the house, but she felt confident she would soon.
Carmen went to the park to celebrate and was happy to see Laurel Epstein again. She asked after Laurel’s family and happily announced her own promotion. Laurel smiled a tense smile at the man in between them.
He leaned over and said, “you’re friends with Laurel? I don’t know why, she’s awful. She’s hiding secrets that would make you admire that wonderful family of hers a bit less.”
All the color drained from Laurel’s face.
Carmen realized she didn’t know the man, so she introduced herself.
Ignoring the awful things he’d just implied about Laurel, Carmen chose a friendly introduction. “Hi! I’m Carmen, what’s your name?”
Laurel had already left, looking angry, and after their quick introduction, then man left the park too.
Hugo Villareal and Daniella Holloway explained to Carmen that she already knew him. They thought she was joking when she said she’d never met the man before today.
“Great joke Carmen, you’re turning out to be quite funny!” said Hugo.