chapter one“Have you seen the new guy?”
Seraphina Guidry glanced over at her best friend. Hallie Rayburn had slid in next to her a few moments before, and she was practically vibrating with excitement. Gossip. The whole town ran on it. The good news was Sera loved some juicy gossip. “New guy?”
She kept her voice down in deference to the crowd around them.
“I got a look at him last night at the Piggly Wiggly,” Hallie explained in a hushed voice. “I had to go buy diapers because Johnny said he would pick them up but then he forgot and blamed it all on breathing in fumes from the rig. He knows I’m scared of that. Anyway, he was napping with Gracie despite the fact that child smelled to high heaven. I think the oil rig has permanently ruined the man’s sense of smell.”
If Sera didn’t get Hallie back on track, her bestie would end up giving a speech about how Johnny wasn’t paid enough to work on a rig since it would give him every kind of cancer and there really probably were crazy sea creatures that would eat him one day. She should never have let Hallie watch that mutant shark movie. “You were talking about the new guy.”
If houses were towns, Papillon, Louisiana, would be one of those tiny houses where the bedroom was also the kitchen. And in a super-small town, anyone new was the focus of immediate gossip. The town had really buzzed when Gene Boudreaux’s eighty-two-year-old friend from Facebook had come for a visit.
Hallie nodded and glanced around as if looking to see whether anyone was listening. “So I was in the baby section of the Piggly Wiggly and I decided to take a walk, you know, look at the expensive vegetables I can never get Johnny to eat. I kind of fondle them, to be honest. But then I looked up and there he was in that weird section where they keep the kids’ toys and the tools. According to what I’ve heard, he’s some kind of contractor and the hardware store had closed and he needed a hammer or something. I don’t know. I needed a cold shower after I saw him.”
“Hallie, you’re married.” Sera felt the need to point that out because she knew quite well everyone was listening. Well, everyone who could hear them, which was hopefully not a lot of people.
“I’m married but I can still appreciate a work of art,” Hallie replied in a whisper. “That man glows. He has all those muscles Hollywood stars have, and when he smiled at me, I actually stammered. Me. I was the most popular cheerleader at Armstrong High and I couldn’t talk to the man. I nodded and ran away with my diapers and a bunch of asparagus I’ll have to eat myself. He’s beautiful.”
“Are you talking about that Harrison fellow?” Sera’s mother leaned in. Delphine Dellacourt Guidry was in her late sixties, but there were days Sera thought she couldn’t keep up with her momma’s never-ending energy and zest for life. “Because Sylvie told Marcelle that he was the prettiest man she’d ever seen. Zep is up in arms because, let’s face facts, his looks are all he has.”
“Momma,” she replied in a hushed whisper because Zep was her brother and he could be sensitive.
Zep leaned in from behind her. “Nah, that’s fair. Look, there’s always a trade-off. I couldn’t be both stunningly handsome and super smart. That wouldn’t be right. But I did get a look at the man and he wasn’t all that pretty. Definitely not prettier than me. He’s got a prominent forehead. I think that means he’s close to our Neanderthal ancestors.”
“You understand neither human evolution nor what women want. He’s so much prettier than you,” Hallie argued.
“He is.” Her sister-in-law, Lisa, sat behind them as well. “He came into Guidry’s last night and I swear women gawked. Not kidding. I thought Merrilee Jenkins was going to have a heart attack. I have to admit, I gawked a little, too. Remy says the new guy was in the Army and he was decorated and everything because he lost a leg.”
“He was decorated for bravery in battle and he happened to lose a leg,” her older brother chimed in. “And can we remember where we are and what we’re supposed to be doing?”
“It’s all right. I’m not starting the service for a few minutes.” Father Franklin leaned against the church pews. “Your great-aunt wouldn’t mind. She was late for everything. Are we talking about Harrison? He seems like a fine young man, Seraphina. He’s here to rebuild the grand gazebo at Beaumont House before the big wedding. He’s Celeste’s sister’s son, though they’ve never visited before. I like that she’s finding some family again. It’s been a hard few years for her.”