Maggie rushed through the front door of the Thrifty Purchase. “Hello? Hello, I’m back!”
The clerk greeted her with a grim expression. “Maggie, I’m afraid I have some rather terrible news.”
“Oh no.” Maggie shook her head, dreading his next words.
“One of the grandkids was an understudy for a part in the Nutcracker. I left the shop in the care of my helper and drove with the wife to Raleigh to catch the matinee. I wanted to get there and back before dark. My eyes aren’t so good in the dark anymore. You understand?”
Maggie gave a single nod. “But about my camera?”
“Well you see, I was getting to that. My helper sold it.”
“No. Oh, please tell me he didn’t.”
“I’m afraid so. I’m sorry, Maggie. I feel rotten about it.” The clerk sighed, the lines at the corners of his eyes and mouth deepening.
“Do you know who bought it? Maybe I could-”
“Sorry,” the clerk interrupted and shrugged, spreading his arms, palms facing out. “The person paid cash so there’s no way of knowing who bought it.”
Maggie blinked back tears. “I understand.” She turned to leave but something in the display case caught her eye. She stepped forward to take a closer look.
“Is that a record player?”
“The phonograph? Oh yes. It came in last weekend. Are you interested?”
Maggie peered at the item behind the glass. “Could I see it, please?” She watched the clerk retrieve the object and, with careful movements, place it on the counter. Lifting the lid Maggie saw a faded pencil scrawl that read: Sam, I love you forever. Maggie.
But why would Sam sell his record player? Was he short on cash? He hadn’t mentioned any financial trouble to her.
“Maggie? Hello?” The clerk waved his hand in front of her face.
Maggie blinked. “Hmm? Oh, could I buy this? Please?”
“Yes indeed. I guess you’re giving this to the same friend that’s getting the record?” The clerk waggled his eyebrows.
Any other time Maggie would have chuckled at his Groucho Marx impersonation. Today she replied with a slight nod and wan smile.
“Are you taking this now or would you like my helper to deliver it?” The clerk patted the top of the case.
Maggie tucked the receipt into a pocket on her messenger bag and replied, “I’ll carry it, thanks. I’m just a couple of streets over.”
When Maggie returned home she hid the record player in the bottom of her closet, where she knew Sam wouldn’t see it. She didn’t expect he would be in her bedroom, much less her closet. This was not the time of year to take any chances.
Harvey began barking and Maggie rushed out to answer the door. There stood Sam with a pizza box in one hand and a brown bag in the other. Upon seeing the box, Harvey danced on his hind legs.
“Harvey, we do not beg.” Maggie reprimanded the golden retriever then stepped aside so Sam could enter. “Salmagundi Pete’s?”
Sam grinned. “Is this okay? Mrs. Rutherford loaded me up on restaurant coupons.”
“It’s better than okay.” Maggie chuckled. “That’s our favorite! Right, Harvey? Do we like Pete’s pizza?” Harvey barked and leaped around his owner in circles. “Okay then, go get in your chair for dinner.”
Upon her command, Harvey made a beeline to the living room where he pounced, cat-like into his chair.
“He’s awesome, Maggie,” Sam said, a note of awe in his voice. “No matter how many times I see him respond to your commands, it will still amaze me.”
“You amaze me,” she murmured, kissing Sam’s cheek.
He grinned, revealing one dimple. “Oh yeah? Because I respond to your commands?”
“Yeah, and because you used your masculine wiles getting pizza coupons out of Mrs. Rutherford.” She stepped back and giggled. “Who else came to see you today?”
Sam scoffed. “It’s not my fault women in this town share a book fetish.”
“More like a librarian fetish.”
“Too bad, so sad because I have a photographer fetish.” He gave an exaggerated wink that caused Maggie to blush.
“Well, right now I have a pizza fetish so c’mon.” She beckoned Sam into the living room where a small plastic tub held half a dozen bottles of root beer on ice. Two place settings occupied either end of the coffee table.
Sam set the pizza down between the place settings and put the bag next to the drinks. He took out pizza dough in the shape of a biscuit and handed it to Maggie.
“Ooh, Harvey. Sam got your favorite – garlic bones!” She held it in the air and tossed it across the room to Harvey, who caught it in his mouth. He settled in the chair and gnawed on the treat with a series of happy sighs.
Maggie and Sam sat on the floor on either side of the table. She handed the television remote to Sam.
“What’s this?” He asked, his eyes wide.
“I picked last week. This week it’s your turn.”
“Ooh, I wonder who shot Liberty Valance.” Sam cackled.
Maggie stared at him. “Really? You’d make me watch that again?”
“Nah. We’re going to watch the Man from Laramie.”
“What’s that? Am I going to hate it?”
“You’ll love it. It stars your favorite actor, Jimmy Stewart.” Sam grinned.
Maggie snorted. “That’s how you got me to watch the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”
…to be continued