The next week, Tipsy dropped all three kids at Pelican Surf Shop on Coleman Boulevard, where they caught the early morning bus to surf camp on Folly Beach. Tipsy enjoyed a steady flow of texts from Will Garrison. She teased him that his texting impressed her, but he needed to learn proper use of emojis. He replied, That’s not my thing… ok fine . So far, he had yet to plan dinner, or ask her to see a movie, but she played it cool. Shelby and Lindsey stressed that she must not come off as needy via text. Texting-and-dating made Tipsy highly anxious. When she met Ayers, she couldn’t even afford a cell phone. If he wanted to talk to her, he had to call the sorority house. Now, an entire relationship could sink or float based on whether she texted Will the right message, within the right time frame.
She forewent running or lifting weights over several balmy mornings in favor of getting to know her new neighborhood. She’d traversed most of the picturesque downtown streets and had run at least a thousand miles on the beaches, but she’d never done much exploring in Mount Pleasant. Tipsy and Ayers’s house, in an agreeable if cookie-cutter subdivision off Long Point Road, bumped up against several similar neighborhoods, none of which offered any interesting architecture or breathtaking vistas. She’d driven through the Old Village, Mount Pleasant’s quaint historic district, before moving into Miss Callie’s. She had met friends for coffee, and taken her kids to the park at Alhambra Hall, but she hadn’t had much reason or opportunity to take in the minutia of its charms. If anything, the Old Village smacked of a secretive private club. While she and Ayers hadn’t had any financial worries until recently, they’d been light years from contemplating membership. Unlike downtown, where homeowners were accustomed to tourists gawking at their pastel paintjobs and brushing up against their window boxes, residents of the Old Village noticed strange cars and out-of-place people. Let the visitors overrun the Battery and King Street; the Old Village had no inclination to draw attention to itself.
Tipsy had an address these days, so after introducing herself to the neighbors and making sure that everyone on her street knew her face, she set about exploring. Haddrell Street, which ran along Shem Creek, had to be one of the few thoroughfares in the world where one might admire multi-million dollar mansions and buy fresh seafood straight off a shrimp boat. Hibben Street claimed the oldest house in Mount Pleasant, the Hibben House. It dated to 1755, but its extensive additions and renovations made Tipsy think of the Golden Age of Film, as if Greta Garbo might poke her head out a window and declare that she wanted to be alone. In the business district on Pitt Street, residents ate candlelight dinners, bought gourmet cupcakes, picked up medications at the old Pitt Street Pharmacy and shopped for home accessories.
And really, what more do you need in life? asked Granna.
Tipsy didn’t have to worry about talking around a mouthful of cupcake when she replied, Not much.
With every block she fell more in love. The oak and magnolia trees provided the perfect combination of shade-sun-shade as she walked. There were few sounds beyond birds, lawnmowers and the smack of boat hulls against waves on the streets closest to the water. The streets smelled of freshly cut grass and pluff mud, the viscous marsh muck exposed by the retreating tides. The condition of the houses ran the gamut from Town & Country spread to in need of an Extreme Makeover. Will had worked on many of them, and Tipsy pledged to ask him which ones. If she could find the right time to introduce that into the text conversation.
Even Big Ayers seemed reasonably content. At least for the moment, he’d stopped threatening to highjack her children. She still hadn’t figured out how Henry showed up at the GQB, but disgruntled ghostly stalkers were the problem of crazy people, not Tipsy Collins. She was managing her undead roommates, a job, three kids, an ex-husband, and a possible new paramour with ease. She might be broke, but fiddle-dee-dee, said Scarlett, I’ll think about that tomorrow. The only thing missing, besides a decent paycheck, was real painting inspiration. She stared into faces and at buildings and across rivers, but like a camera with a broken shutter, her mind refused to click on anything and capture it.
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