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September in Texas. Maybe it wasn't as sweltering as August, but it was still damned hot and she had gotten spoiled to the milder Napa Valley climate.
Dusty closed her eyes and felt the weight of the air on her skin. It was cooler under the spreading branches of the old pecan tree. An occasional breeze touched the fine sweat on her face. The best course of action was to just sit still. But she couldn't do that for much longer because she had an appointment to keep.
At the moment, what she really wished she could do was walk across the street and into the lobby of the bank. She wanted to hear the loose threshold on the front door clank as the cool blanket of air in the lobby wrapped around her.
She wanted to walk past the teller's windows with their brass cages and exchange pleasantries with her daddy's secretary on the way to his office.
She wanted to see her father grin when he looked up from his papers, half-glasses perched on the end of his nose. She wanted to smell his aftershave when he stood to embrace her.
She wanted to lean back on the edge of the desk and tell him about her day.
But to do any of that, Dusty would need to turn the clock back fifteen years and more. An old line from Gone with the Wind crossed her mind. “Asking ain’t getting.”
The man who sat behind her father’s desk now would throw Dusty right back out on the street. In fact, she doubted she'd ever be able to walk through those front doors with their antique gold lettering again.
Thank God there were two banks in town or she’d be hard pressed to even open a checking account. As annoying as that might be, however, what really hurt was being shut out of the one place where she could still feel her father's soul.
He lived in every polished inch of oak and every cool marble surface in the building. The fact that she was denied those physical remembrances hurt Dusty someplace deep in her spirit, in a place far beyond tears. She would carry that denial long beyond any healing passage of time.
With a merciless act of will, Dusty drove those thoughts back down. No one in this town, at least not anyone on Main Street at noon on a workday was going to see Dusty Jackson sitting on the courthouse fence crying.
"Can I hep you, ma'am?"
She smiled and opened her eyes. It had been a long time since someone had offered to "hep" her.