Willa knows she's finally ready.

Mama has said yes to everything, but Willa is very nervous anyway. She changes her clothes three times before she’s satisfied she looks Professional enough for the meeting with the new lawyer, the one that’s Officer Elspeth Kowalski’s old friend from high school.

“Wow” says Elspeth. “Never seen you all in black before. You sure this is a good thing?”

Willa looks herself over. Again. Maybe she does need some color, like Smart Willa pointed out before. She grabs a red print top from the closet. “How ‘bout this one?”

Elspeth nods. “Yeah. Oh yeah.” Then she reaches for Willa with her hands, with her voice. “Kisses. For luck.”

Once all the documents are signed, Mama won’t have to work at the shop anymore. Won’t own the shop anymore either, or the house. She says this is Willa’s time now and she wants to go to Florida, move in with Auntie Cicely in a place for retired people called The Hamlets. “The Social and the building rent from the Little Store, that’s plenty 'nuf for me,” Mama says.

Mama's taking hardly anything with her. Just clothes, some pictures, Grammy’s tea set, and the old man’s ashes. Willa and Elspeth have decided to wait till Mama goes before they move everything else downstairs, then find tenants for the upstairs. Won’t be long. Next week, soon after Billy’s leave starts, he and his new wife will drive Mama all the way down the interstate, get her settled in, then vacation for a while before Billy has to report to his next duty station as a brand new Sergeant.

“Nothin’ll be the same ever again” Willa murmurs into Elspeth’s shoulder after they kiss for luck. “I already miss Mama at work in the mornings.” Willa scrunches her eyes to keep the tears inside.

“We can visit her in the winter” Elspeth says. “When it’s cold around here.”

Willa considers this. The new morning cook is turning out OK, has even said she’s willing to learn how to work the automatic donut making machine Willa bought a few months ago. Which means someday she might take a night shift every now and then, give Willa a break. And the two new girls out front are pretty good, too. So yes. Maybe. For a few days or even a week. Maybe.

Willa smiles at Elspeth, a real smile, and she doesn’t stop her head from going up and down and up again. Her signal for maybe but no promises. Not yet. Because Elspeth talks and talks about how really popular Willa’s donuts are, about making sure supply meets demand, and probably that should come first, before taking time off.

Elspeth touches Willa's face. A soft touch, gentle. Her hand lingers. Elspeth knows everything will work out OK and her touch tells Willa not to worry. “Ready now?” she asks and Willa hears the something in her words that makes Elspeth so special. The something Smart Willa calls 'chipper.'

“Yeah. Ready as I’ll ever be.” Willa feels her smile grow all the way to a grin, which happens a lot when Elspeth is around. “Kiss me again for luck?”

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