Nine o’clock Saturday morning. Wind-driven mean cold washed through the streets of Pearl River. Winston’s Newsstand opened at five a.m. Seven days a week Steven Winston opens the shop promptly at five a.m. Steven is twenty-six. He is the fourth-generation owner. His great-great grandfather, Marcus Winston, opened the shop in 1918. After the great war.
Like most places in life, things you could really count on were often in short supply. However, residents of Pearl River could count on Winston’s Newsstand.
Winston’s Newsstand had the best coffee in town. Common knowledge. Marcus Winston used to say: “Life is tough enough. No one should be shorted on a good cup of coffee.”
No one argued.
Steven Winston was a stocky five six, dark chocolate eyes. Wore glasses, a reality he hated. He’d been next in line to run the family store, another reality he hated. It wasn’t that he hated the customers or his family or the store. What he hated was being stuck in Pearl River.
The only good thing about living in Pearl River was he was in love with Kitty Delia and she lived in Pearl River. He’d been in love with Kitty Delia since kindergarten. She was good enough to tolerate him back then. Kitty, with the famous Delia chestnut brown hair, then and now past her shoulders: thick, shiny, glorious waves. Good enough to eat. Her eyes dark, deep-set, glistening. Chocolate brown. Her face a soft oval, her lips, further evidence Michelangelo had ample reason to sculpt the human form. Now, at twenty-six, she was as beautiful as ever. More so in Steven’s eyes.
They had never been an item.
But toleration turned to a real friendship after Kitty’s house caught fire. Kitty was seventeen and suffered third-degree burns on her left arm. Many neighborhood boys who’d nearly begged for the chance to go out with her disappeared, some casting petals of pitiable expressions in their wake.
Not so Steven Winston.
He really did love her and care about her and made a point of visiting her in the hospital and when she was recovering at home.
The first time she put on a sleeveless dress after the fire, exposing her badly scarred arm, she called Steven and asked him to please come over. When he got there, she showed him her arm and asked him how she looked.
“Don’t lie to me, Steven. Tell me the truth.”
And he did. He told her the truth. “You look beautiful, Kitty.” He meant it.
“People are going to stare.”
“The hell with’m. Let’m stare. Hell, if those burn patterns were on canvas someone would call it a great abstract painting about the storms of life and pay millions for it!”
She laughed. “You know, you’re right.” She looked at her arm and said: “I name thee, Pompeii.”
He smiled. “You’re beautiful, Kitty.”