Her Best Friend
Her Best Friend
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- Second Chance
- Friends to More
- Small Town
Julie Hughes had a plan for her life. But that plan didn’t include moving home after college, single with no job. And it definitely didn’t include falling for her best friend.
Travis never asked out the one girl he wanted to in high school. But it’s against the rules to date your best friend.
Hoping things can be different now, Travis jumps at the chance to hire Julie at his store. But his plan to spend time with her is foiled when she tells him she signed up with a dating app.
As Julie goes on dates that are epic failures in every way, Travis is the one she shares the stories with. He’s more and more sure she’s the girl for him. But admitting his feelings might scare her away.
Will their friendship turn into something more, or will fear end their relationship forever?
Chapter One Look Inside
Chapter One Look Inside
Julie Hughes never thought she would return home from college single. But here she was, pulling into her parents’ driveway with the last of the items from her dorm room packed into her small SUV. She put the car in park and sat staring out the windshield. This house had been her home for as long as she could remember. Her family had moved in when she was a toddler and her sister was on the way. But last fall she had thought she was moving out for the last time. Who wants to move back in with their mom and dad after living on their own at college for four years? Julie could already imagine how her mom would always want to know where she was going and when she was coming back. She didn’t like the thought of it. But with no job and no prospects, what choice did she have?
“God, let this be temporary,” she whispered before climbing out of the car. Twin Creeks was a nice little town, she just hadn’t planned to stay there forever. The early summer temperatures were already rising in the Tennessee heat. From the backseat she lifted the smallest box, her graduation cap and gown laid over the top. She made it halfway up the driveway before the front door opened and her mother appeared.
“Hi, honey!” Elise Hughes called out. She reached for the box only to set it down and take her daughter into a breath-stealing hug. “I’m so glad you’re home.”
Julie felt her eyes roll in the back of her head and she coughed. “Mom, a little too tight.”
Her mom released her. “I’ve just missed you.”
“You saw me two days ago at graduation.”
With a wave of her hand Elise chided her, “Yes, but I mean before that. I’ve barely seen you since Christmas.”
“It was a busy semester. I had a heavy workload senior year.”
“Oh, I know, sweetheart. But you’re home now, and we can catch up on all our missed time. Now that…”
She didn’t finish the sentence, but Julie knew she was about to say “now that you don’t have anything else to do.” Julie had been applying for jobs for more than a month with nothing to show for it. “Yes, we’ll have some time together.” Julie gave her a quick smile before bending to pick up the box. The two made their way into the house.
“Want something to drink? I’ve got lemonade and sweet tea.”
Julie watched her with a twinge of jealousy. Growing up, Julie had always wanted to be like her mom—the perfect hostess fitting right into her role as a wife and mom. It was her dream to be married and have a family. Her friends would often tease her that she was really going to college to get a "Mrs. Degree," but she would argue it wasn't true.
Deep down she also wanted to get an education and hoped to have a successful career someday.
She realized she hadn’t answered her mom and was staring out the window. “Oh sure, sweet tea sounds great.” Julie loved her mom, and her dad too. She knew that they would be kind and caring to her as she moved back home. But the truth was, she was lonely and sad that she wasn’t having a summer-after-graduation wedding like she had always hoped.
Elise handed her a tall glass of sweet tea and leaned against the counter. “So what’s your plan?”
“Well, don’t waste any time, Mom.”
“What?” her mom feigned shock as she held her palms up to the air and shrugged. “I’m just curious.”
“I don’t know, Mom. This wasn’t the plan, so I don’t know what I’m doing now.”
“What do you mean?”
“I didn’t plan to move back here after college. I planned to be starting my own new life now.”
“You are starting your own life. Maybe the beginning isn’t what you thought it would be. But you’re here, and have the whole world in front of you. You can look for whatever job you want and start figuring it all out right now.”
Julie stared at her mom. Maybe she was right. A little glimmer of hope fluttered inside. Maybe there was something waiting for her. She just needed to find it. Preferably somewhere besides her little hometown.
* * *
Monday morning Travis Wright stepped through the coffee shop door and the familiar smell of the roasting beans hit him in the face. He placed his order with the girl at the counter and turned around, coffee cup in hand. His brain was working hard on business figures from the past week and thinking about the schedule for the upcoming one. But when he glanced across the shop, a familiar face caught his eye. All the business information faded as he saw the girl who had caught his attention a long time ago.
He watched as she stared at the computer screen in front of her. He knew that scrunched line in the middle of her forehead meant she was concentrating. She didn’t take her eyes off the computer. He sauntered over and without a word sat down next to her and scooted in close as he peered at the computer.
Julie gasped and flinched away from him, moving against the wall in the booth until he looked up at her with a mischievous grin.
“Travis!” She swatted his arm. “You scared me to death.”
He reached out and placed two fingers on her neck and tilted his head as his eyes rolled to the ceiling as if in deep thought. “Nope,” he said. “You’re still alive.”
She swatted him again. “What in the world are you doing?”
“Getting coffee,” he said, holding up the cup in his hand. “The question is, what in the world are you doing here?”
She let out a heavy sigh, “I’m back home.”
“Is that so?” Travis tried to stuff down the excitement he felt hearing that. Especially since she looked less than thrilled.
“For now anyway.” She motioned to the computer. “But I’m looking for a job.”
He squinted as he looked at the screen again. “What kinds of jobs are these?”
“Entry level assistant to a manager.”
“Nashville? Why in the world are you looking for a job in Nashville?”
Julie shrugged. “I’m just looking at jobs. Maybe in Nashville, maybe in Memphis, maybe in another city. Who knows?”
“What do you want to do?”
A look crossed her face, and he wasn’t sure what it meant. It was a mixture of sadness and hope. “I don’t know. But I need a job, and I don’t plan to live with my parents for long. So I need to start my own life.”
“Why not here in Twin Creeks?”
She met his gaze and held it for a few moments. As he stared back at her he took her in. His breath caught in his throat as he looked into her dark brown eyes. Her shoulder length brown hair framed her face, and she looked every bit the girl he had known his whole life. Maybe a little more mature, but still the same.
“I just don’t know if there’s anything here for me.”
“Sure there is,” his heart picked up speed at the thought of her moving away from the town for good. Even with her off to college, he always thought she would come back. “We both grew up here, you know. It’s a great place.”
“Of course I know that. Goodness, we’ve been in all the same places most of our life. School, church, sports.”
“Until you went off to that fancy college.” Travis dropped his gaze to the table and sipped his coffee.
“It wasn’t a fancy college.”
He turned and gave her a look. “Really?”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine, maybe it was.”
“And what did you study again?” he asked, even though he knew.
He scratched his head. “Translation?”
“Business for retail stores.”
“And you needed a four year degree for that?”
She swatted his arm. “It’s more complicated than it sounds.”
“Maybe,” he shrugged.
“Don’t you use your business degree?”
He shrugged. “Sure. A business degree is helpful if you run a business. But I always knew I would work with my dad and take over the equipment company one day.”
“I remember going out to your dad’s place when we were in junior high and climbing on the equipment.”
“Yeah, my dad remembers that too. Especially the time we ran the excavator into the building.”
Julie’s hand flew to her mouth and her eyes opened wide as she let out a laugh. “He was pretty mad about that.”
“I think I had to clean the floors and bathrooms at the shop for a month.”
“Sorry,” she said with a laugh.
“Of course you got off scot-free.” He poked her shoulder with his index finger.
“It was your idea,” she said, grabbing his hand to push it away.
There it was.
That twinge in his heart when their fingers touched. It had always been there. He remembered that day in the excavator, too. And he remembered how much trouble he had gotten in. But he also remembered the feel of her sitting close to him and his hand on hers as he showed her how the gears worked in the machine.
He cleared his throat and pushed away thoughts of scooting closer to her now. “So, what kind of job are you looking for?”
“Anything really,” she gave a shake of her head. “I started applying for jobs in the spring, hoping I would have something set up before graduation. Obviously that didn’t happen.”
“I didn’t know you were applying for jobs. I haven’t heard much from you in the last year.”
Julie put her hand on his arm. “I’m sorry, I know I wasn’t good at keeping in touch. I was just focused on finishing up school. But I’m in town for….” she rolled her eyes up to the ceiling, “for however long. So we can hang out.”
Hanging out wasn’t exactly what he wanted, but he would take that over nothing. “Sure,” he agreed. “Let’s hang out.” He tilted his head back and drank the rest of his coffee in two gulps. “But now I’ve got to get to work.”
“It’s good to see you, Travis.”
“You too, Julie.”
“I’m serious, let’s do something. Text me later and we’ll plan it.”
“Sounds good.” He pointed at her computer. “You know, this is a small town. If you’re looking for a job, you should close that thing and walk around town. You tell a few people you’re looking for something and you’ll have a job by the end of the week.”
She nodded slowly, but didn’t say anything.
Travis nodded too. He knew what that nod meant. He held his hand up in a wave and walked out the door thinking about Julie.
She wanted more. More than this town, more than a small town job.
More than him.