“You are the worst friend ever,” I grumble, glaring at Emma Jo when she laughs.
“Do you want me to tell you the rest about Roy or not? Apologize and tell me I’m pretty,” Bettie demands, folding her hands together on top of the table and staring me down until I begrudgingly comply.
“I’m sorry and you’re really pretty,” I mutter.
“There, that wasn’t so hard now was it?” Bettie asks, grabbing her coffee cup and leaning back in her chair. “So, Roy Pickerson of Pickerson’s bar has a son who will be turning sixteen at the end of the summer, correct?”
Emma Jo and I nod and she continues.
“Right, so I guess Caden has been applying to take college courses next school year. He needed a letter of recommendation and good old Roy took it upon himself to ask everyone’s favorite mayor, since Caden has been mowing your lawn and pulling your weeds for the last few years,” Bettie explains with a nod in Emma Jo’s direction.
“Yes, he has. He does such a great job, too. He’s always here first thing in the morning, every three days like clockwork, even during the school year when he comes on the weekends,” Emma Jo explains.
“Right, well according to your husband, Caden didn’t mow the lawn in the correct direction and that doesn’t show good work ethics, so he refused to write the letter. Roy Pickerson was NOT a happy man,” Bettie finishes.
“You have got to be kidding me?” Emma Jo complains with a shake of her head.
“Are you really shocked at this point that you were married to a douchebag?” Bettie questions her.
“No, I guess not.”
Bettie smacks her palms down on the table.
“Alright, bitches, Bettie is here, and it’s time for me to work my magic. The entire town is crying in the streets like Jesus died and pointing their fingers in Payton’s direction because she’s like a stranger to them and they don’t trust her,” Bettie states. “Your to-do list now includes Make Nice with the Townsfolk.”
“How in the hell am I supposed to do that when no one will talk to me?” I question in irritation.
“Try not abusing any more dogs or complaining about the town you grew up in. You’ve been telling me since I met you how much you hate this place and how you never wanted to come back. Well, now you’re back, and as you’ve always said, word travels fast in Bald Knob,” Bettie reminds me. “These people know you don’t want to be here, and they can sense how uncomfortable you are being back here. Instead of grilling them on the streets, try being nice. Ask about what they’ve been doing since you were gone and get to know them as people and not as suspects on your murder list.”
I want to be offended by Bettie’s words, but she’s absolutely right. I’ve been miserable since I got here because I felt like I’d outgrown this town and the people in it. Then I rekindled my friendship with Emma Jo, hung out with my parents, kissed Leo, and had hours and hours of dirty thoughts about him. I kept complaining about all the things I missed and left behind in Chicago, when I should have been concentrating on all the things I missed here, where I grew up and where all of my best memories came from.
“Fine, you’re right. I’ll do better at being nice to people,” I reply with a sigh.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Can you say that again, maybe a little louder?” Bettie requests, holding one hand up by her ear and leaning over the table toward me.
“Don’t make me have Emma Jo bake you a blueberry pie,” I growl under my breath.
“Okay, I’d like to add something to the to-do list,” Emma Jo says in a quiet voice. “I’m going to come clean about my marriage and tell everyone about Jed’s abuse so people finally know that he wasn’t as good of a guy as they thought he was.”
“No! Not even no, but HELL-TO-THE-NO!” I argue.
“Payton, she has a good point. If people find out what Jed’s been doing to her all these years, they’re going to be sympathetic to that and stop trying to throw you in prison,” Bettie adds.
“I said no, and that’s final. I love you Emma Jo, but I’m not going to let you do that. You hid it for all of these years for a reason, and I’m not going to stand by and watch you spill all of your secrets and humiliations and relive all of those horrible memories so everyone will have something else to gossip about.”
Emma Jo’s eyes fill with tears and I reach over and grab her hand, giving it a squeeze.
“I wasn’t a very good friend to you for twelve years. Let me at least have this so I can stop feeling like such an asshole, okay?”
We sit staring at each other silently for a few minutes until Emma Jo finally nods and swipes away the tears that fell down her cheeks.
“Okay, fine. You give me no choice but to bump your magical vagina up to the top of the to-do list,” Bettie informs me, pulling out her phone from the front pocket of her cut-off jean shorts and tapping away at the screen.
“What are you doing?” I ask while she bites her bottom lip and concentrates on whatever she’s doing.
“Give me a minute. Genius takes time.”
After a few more taps on the screen, she puts the phone on the table and slides in across to me.
“Hey! That was MY phone! What did you do?” I ask in a panic, opening up all of my apps to see what I can find.
“Calm down, sweet tits. I booked a night at a spa in Louisville for me and Emma Jo tonight so you can have some alone time with the sheriff and rub that voodoo vagina magic all over him without worrying about being interrupted. Cast your spell and maybe he won’t arrest you,” Bettie suggests with a smile. “Don’t worry, I already sent a text to that fine man and told him what’s up.”