Exiting the store with four overflowing bags of toys, Sunnie headed toward where she thought her Miata was parked. She stopped a brief moment, certain her car had vanished from the crowded parking lot. Then she spotted it behind an enormous work van. Sunnie huffed as she continued to her car; she’d never be able to see around that van when she pulled out. Once she placed the bags in her small back seat, she peered around the van to make sure no one was driving up the aisle.
Sunnie rummaged in her bag for gum, a much better habit than her other ‘pack-a-day’ habit. She unwrapped two sticks, then pushed a CD into the player. As the car filled with loud Christian rap music she put the car in reverse, bopping to the beat. Seconds later the sounds of breaking glass and mangling metal filled her ears, blocking out the music.
She rubbed a spot on her forehead where it had bounced off the windshield, then turned to see what had hit her. Attached firmly to the bumper of her small sports car was the sleek black nose of a police cruiser. The urge to swear came swiftly; Sunnie pounded the steering wheel a few times as she prayed to fight it off. It was a struggle she was now winning more than losing, thankfully. She prayed swiftly for patience and a good attitude before opening the door.
A tall officer stepped from the car, sporting a slight frown. He pulled his sunglasses up, resting them on the top of his closely cropped, brilliant red hair. Sunnie immediately noticed several things. He possessed a strong, broad build; his face was familiar; the frown had become an amused grin. Before she could form a coherent thought, he called to her, “Sunshine Young? Is that really you?”
Sunnie wasn’t certain who he was or from where she knew him, after all he had just run her plate number. “I don’t believe I know you, Officer…?”
“Jacobs. Tom Jacobs. We graduated Lakeville High together. You were in my senior English Lit class and Geometry. Aced them both, too, if I remember correctly.”
Sunnie cast around in her usually bright mind, but couldn’t find the reference. “I’m really sorry, Officer. I, umm…well, I…”
“You just backed out of a parking spot doing about eighty-five and creamed an official vehicle.” Officer Jacobs held his amused grin. For reasons unknown, that infuriated Sunnie.
“I was not going that fast! Besides, you weren’t there a second ago!” Sunnie’s temper flared.
Officer Jacobs’ amusement deepened, along with his grin. “All right, sixty. Where are you off to in such a hurry? Didn’t you look?”
“Of course I looked! You. Weren’t. There!”
Sunnie turned away with an exasperated huff to get her information out of the glove box. She fleetingly wished she kept an emergency pack of cigarettes in there as well. Today, she thought, would be a good day to start up again. Sunnie started as a shadow loomed over her. The pleasantly deep voice asked, “What are you doing, Sunnie?”
“Duh. Getting my information. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do, Off…?” The sneer got lost somewhere in her throat; she was not prepared to be looking directly into the clearest and brightest blue eyes she had ever seen. The amused expression returned.
“Yes, Sunnie, it’s exactly what you are supposed to do. Thank you.” Officer Jacobs gave Sunnie a slight nod. He took the paperwork from her trembling hands, then turning back to his car.
What am I doing? Sunnie thought to herself. I hit him, and I’m getting all…
Flustered was the word, but Sunnie shrugged it off. She turned to say another short, silent prayer. After a deep breath, she walked over to the cruiser. She leaned on the open door, peering into the car.
“Listen, Officer Tom, I’m really sorry. Sometimes my temper gets the better of me. I’ll behave myself now,” she offered, smiling that amazing transforming smile she had. Officer Jacobs imprinted that smile in his mind.
“It’s okay, Sunnie. I usually hear worse, trust me. I appreciate it. I rarely hear an apology. Now, we do need to be getting you a tow.”
“A tow? Why….”
Sunnie’s question trailed off as she turned to view the damage. The nose of the cruiser was almost to her rear tire. The trunk on the driver’s side was totally crushed. The tire seemed to be dangling at a strange angle. Sunnie uttered the first thing that came to her mind.
“Jude’s gonna kill me.”
“Jude? Your brother? It’s not his car.” Officer Jacobs seemed confused. He’d just run all of her information. Jude Young had not shown as the owner of the vehicle. Sunnie shook her head.
“Oh, no, car is mine. He’s a bit protective of it, though. Jude works at Vince’s Garage, in town. I’ll call him.”
“Yes, I know. We take all the department’s cars to Vince’s. Jude’s a great kid. He’s in my Guard unit.”
“Really? Great. That’s great. Excuse me a second, I need my phone,” Sunnie said with false cheer. She reached into her car, far enough that her shirt rose a bit. Officer Jacobs was afforded a very clear view of the Celtic knot tattooed across the small of Sunnie’s back. Officer Jacobs quickly turned his head to better concentrate on the accident report.
Sunnie reappeared, phone by her ear. Looking around at the gathering crowd, she said to several bystanders, “Don’t you have other things you need to be doing? Go on, shoo!”
Jude eventually answered, “Hey, Sis. Listen, some of us do work during the day, ya know. What’s up?”
Sunnie placed her hand over her eyes, praying for sisterly patience. Jude, as well as Silas, frequently referred to her business as her ‘lack of a job.’
“What. Ever. Punk. Listen, I need a tow.”
“What? Sunn, are you okay? What happened?” Sunnie grinned at the change in tone of Jude’s now-deep voice. It faintly reminded her of her late father, although she’d never heard that hint of protectiveness in his. Only aggravation and anger.
“Easy, big fella. I had a little fender bender in the parking lot. At the toy shop. I, umm…I hit a cop.”
Sunnie didn’t hear a response right away. She surreptitiously watched Officer Tom Jacobs, tapping away on a screen in his car. Sunnie wracked her brain, thinking of her high school classes. Why couldn’t she remember him?
Jude’s voice brought her back from the halls of Lakeville High. “Okay, Sunn, I’ll be there with the wrecker in ten. Don’t move! Are you hurt?”
“No, punk, I’m fine. I’m sure you’ll see me,” she hesitated, then added, “I have a Lakeville Police cruiser in my trunk.”
“You hit a cop? A Lakeville cop?” Jude’s voice rose an octave. Possibly two.
“Huh, yeah. Funny thing, he says he knows you. Officer Jacobs? Tom Jacobs.” Sunnie removed the phone from her ear just in time. Jude was beside himself at this news.
“You hit who?!? Sunnie! Of all the cops in the world, you hit my sergeant? I’ll be right there!” Jude didn’t say goodbye or wait for Sunnie to respond.
Sunnie shook her head, deciding to call her mother before Jude did. Somewhat relieved that Rob answered the phone, she quickly explained the situation. Rob agreed to come pick her up. Sunnie turned to find Officer Jacobs behind her as she ended the call. Her eyes rested on his handsome face with the fabulously clear blue eyes. Then she realized she should say something.
“Is everything in order?” Sunnie was unnerved over feeling so…unnerved. Maybe she did hit her head harder than she thought.
Officer Jacobs pulled the sunglasses down off his head, “All is fine. Jude’s on the way. I heard over the radio.” His hand brushed across her forehead. “Did you hit your head? You’ve got a mark there.” He seemed satisfied when she shook her head, her words completely lost at his touch.
“Can I offer you a ride home? You must be late for a birthday party. One of yours?” He pointed to the bags in the back of Sunnie’s car.
“Oh, umm, yes. I mean, not really. No, thanks. My stepfather is on his way, so long as it’s okay for me to go with him. I have a slew of younger siblings, nieces and nephews.”
Officer Jacobs glanced at the bags again, “Well, I doubt any are for Jude. Which sister is married?”
“Oh, they both are. Storm is in Europe, at a mission camp somewhere. Autumn is here in town, but you probably know that. Her husband runs the chiropractic clinic on Orchard and Main.” Officer Jacobs nodded, seeming interested in her family history. She mentioned her mother’s remarriage and their subsequent second family, unsure why she kept blathering on.
“That’s terrific! I’d seen her at school a few times. She was always very nice. You know, I always thought you ran away and got married.”
A much-too-loud, almost forced sounding laugh emerged from Sunnie. “Oh, not me! I ran away to school. I stayed upstate a while, in real estate. I came back to town a few years ago. No husband or babies.”
“That’s a shame, Sunnie Young. Damn shame.” he said seriously, before turning to flag Jude over. Sunnie removed the bags before Jude hooked it to the truck. He greeted Officer Jacobs before he turned to greet her with a dismayed shake of his head. She put her tongue out before thinking better of the action. She heard Officer Jacobs chuckle behind her back. It sent a disconcerting shiver up her spine.
Once her car was securely on the truck, Jude pulled Sunnie aside. “Sunn, are you sure you’re all right? Do you need a ride home?”
She unconsciously rubbed her forehead. “No, I called Mom. Rob should be here any minute. Thanks, though.”
Jude gave Sunnie a quick hug before shaking Officer Jacobs’ hand, “See you over the weekend, Sarge.”
Sunnie was relieved to spot Rob driving up the now-crowded aisle. She waved to him and signaled him to stay where he was. Picking up her bags, she turned to Officer Jacobs. “Thank you. I’m really sorry, again. I guess you have all you need?” Sunnie smiled, disappointed his eyes were hidden behind those dark sunglasses again.
Officer Jacobs nodded. “If I need you, I’ll find you.”
Disquieted by his comments, she turned to run to Rob’s car. Officer Jacobs followed her movements until they were driving off. “Damn fine woman,” he said to himself with a wave to Rob.
“Who’s your friendly officer, Sunnie?” Rob asked as they drove out of the lot.
“That is so. Not. Funny, Rob! I wish I had a cigarette! Just one! Did you tell Mom?”
“Of course,” Rob overlooked Sunnie’s quiet snicker. “She said you can use her car until you get yours fixed. Was it bad?”
“Sure it was bad! I hit an officer, who happens to be Jude’s unit commander or some such thing. Who insists he knows me from high school. How much worse can it be?”
Rob laughed, agitating Sunnie’s already frazzled nerves. “What is so funny, Rob?”
“Sunnie, I was asking about your car. Not your officer.” When he glanced over at her, he could see she was visibly flustered. Sunnie was a strong and confident woman, not given to bouts of diffidence. Her next statement interested him.
“He isn’t mine, Rob. I just hit him…that’s all.” Sunnie insisted a bit too adamantly. Rob drove them to his house in amused silence.