Welcome to TUESDAY TALES. We’re returning to romance in ‘Starting Over’. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘raid’.
Victoria and Toby, seemingly mismatched with her love of antiques and the past and his desire to not delve into the past, are having a drink together. She’s anxious to see if he’ll keep his part of the bargain and share about his grandmother.
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Composing himself, Toby continued. “A drunk driver ended their life. Coming home from the Stockyards one night. They’d driven to Fort Worth to celebrate their anniversary. Coming home, a truck, driven by a drunken backwoods low life, ran the red light and plowed into their Oldsmobile.” He took a deep breath and continued speaking, before his courage fled. “I was just a young boy, but my world was shattered. They were the only bright spot in the treacherous minefield of my childhood. And they were taken from me.”
“I’m sorry,” Victoria murmured. “My heart aches for the young boy you were. That must have been devastating.”
“It was. I survived. Life goes on.” He spoke brusquely, as if it didn’t matter.
“So that’s why you wear the hard shell around you, to protect you from more sorrow?”
He looked up, gazing into her eyes deeply and intently, for just a moment with no guard, no shield. “No one’s ever taken the time to try to see what’s inside that I don’t show the world. Why? What does it matter, this old stuff from the past?”
“Because that’s the part that really matters – the parts hidden inside. That’s the real you, not the façade you paste in front of you as a show. I don’t care about the masks. I want to know the real person inside.
Toby laughed, to break the seriousness of the moment. It was getting a little too touchy-feely for him. “And here I thought you were just interested in my sexy ride and my money.”
A flash of irritation surfaced, until Victoria realized that he was purposefully joking, to break where the conversation was headed. For someone with that much pain hidden deep in his soul that he hadn’t dealt with, he’d be uncomfortable and it was best to touch on memories like this in small doses.
She held up her glass as if to toast and laughed. “No, it’s not your baby blues, your Beamer or your money. It’s the old papers, lace and trunks you keep running across. It’s your antiques, baby, that’s what I lust after.”
They relaxed into an easy banter after this. Toby was glad that they’d crossed the flashback in time to his childhood and were back in the present. Victoria was pleased that they’d broached a difficult topic that revealed the source of his coldness and lack of sentiment. It wasn’t that he was lacking in emotion. It was simply buried beneath years of a calloused exterior. She looked around the room. “There’s a lot of history here.”
“I knew you’d like it. You and your soul from the past. You’d be amazed at Denton’s past. I remember a story I heard one night when I was hanging out at the pizza place on the north side of the square.”
“You were hanging out a pizza joint? That doesn’t seem to be your M.O.”
“Well, I was younger then.” He riffled a hand through his hair, causing a disturbingly surge of warmth to flood through Victoria’s body. “Back in my college days.”
“You went to college here?”
“Yep. Compliments of my grandparents. They’d set up a trust fund for me, which was enough to put me through school if I was careful.” He glanced up towards the ceiling, as if expecting to see their spirits floating in the room watching him. “With a part time job with a local contractor, I made it through. Leaving me enough money for a beer now and then. My buddies and I were downstairs, having a brewskie one night, when an old-timer joined us. He was in his cups that evening, so we weren’t quite sure what was fact and what was fiction. He was telling us about the tunnels that ran under the town, from the courthouse to different buildings in the square. There were hidden rooms and deeper tunnels where they stored the alcohol back in Prohibition days. Supposedly he was a young boy in town when there was a raid on the establishment. ‘Coppers everywhere’ he said. Of course, we didn’t know if it was truth, or if it was the gin talking.”