Sunny Cavanaugh arrived at the Crown Realty Office just in time to pick up the key to 2458 Stoney Hawk Drive. The open house would begin in seventeen minutes and the two story stucco home was twenty minutes to the south. In a flash, she darted in, grabbed the key off the hook and started out again.
“Hey Cavanaugh, how about at ride?” Mike McCloud called after her just as she opened the door.
“Sorry, Mike,” she groaned, “I’m late.” Right, she was late. The truth was … she felt trapped every time she was stuck talking to him. He was absolutely obnoxious, raining on every idea for marketing the company’s large inventory of homes she came up with. Besides, with their past, she wasn’t sure if she could ever forgive him. And, she didn’t want to try. She had gotten used to holding onto anger and hurt feelings. They were like old friends.
“Late is okay … just slow down on Stoney Hawk and I’ll jump out,” he said with a grin.
Sunny stopped in mid-stride, her face pinched. “Stoney Hawk? Why are you going to Stoney Hawk?”
His jaw dropped mockingly, “An open house. Have you ever been to an open house?”
“Do you want a ride? Or, do you want to have a smart mouth?” Sunny growled. “That open house is mine, Mike.”
“I know. Kevin Crown gave the opening to you.” Mike waved his arms around as he backed out of the building. “That’s a huge house. I thought you could use some help.”
“You mean, that’s a huge commission,” she snapped back, pulling the car key from her pocket.
“I’ll share it with you,” he offered.
She stopped again and stared at him, gritting her teeth. “Did you just say you’re going to hijack my showing and then share some of the money with me?”
He shook his head and attempted to explain his brilliant plan differently. “Cavanaugh, we’ve known each other since the sixth grade. You know Stoney Hawk is in my neighborhood. I know the house we’re listing. My Uncle Jamison lived there before he moved to Colorado last week. I grew up on the next street.”
“And, you know, I grew up next door to you, so it’s my neighborhood, too.” She shook her head, her sunny disposition faded. “We used to be best friends, Mikey. What happened?”
He shrugged and looked away. “We grew up I guess.”
She stopped again and pulled on the sleeve of his denim jacket. “We were even closer when we grew up … until you met Heather.”
“Heather?” he stumbled over her name. “Never mind. Give me the keys. I’ll drive.”
“You want to drive my car?” she gasped. “Never mind, Mike … you can walk.”
“No, no, no,” Mike sputtered out. “I’m sorry. What was I thinking? You can drive.”
Again she stopped, putting her fists on her waist. “You’re giving me permission to drive my own car?”
Mike hung his head. “This isn’t going well,” he murmured to himself. “Forget I even opened my mouth.” He rubbed his chin and began again. “Hey, Cavanaugh. How about a ride? I could help you with the open house.”
Sunny hurried toward the parking lot, thinking up a plan as she walked. “Okay, I’ll agree to this … if, and listen carefully, I did say … if … if the house sells for above the asking price within one week of the open house, we’ll share the commission.”
“Wow,” he teased, “your generosity is underwhelming.” He thought for a minute and added, “That’s not a bad idea.” He looked at the row of cars and added. “Which one?”
“Right here,” Sunny said as she pushed the remote button. “It’s new.”
“This one?” Mike shouted, pointing at a small red and white vehicle. “This isn’t a car. It’s a baby shoe with a steering wheel. You don’t get in. You put it on,” he gulped.
She slammed the flat of her hand on the car’s roof. “Do you want a ride or not?”
“Yes,” he snapped back. “I want a ride.”
They both got in the little two door car. Sunny thought it best to not talk at all. It was a beautiful summer day and she just wanted to enjoy it. The streets, lined with mature oak trees whose branches draped over the street and met in the middle, looked like a tall green arch. Sunny thought of the wedding arbor she had planned and cringed. “Oh no,” she gasped.
“What’s wrong?” Mike asked.
“It’s the fourteenth,” she whispered as tears gathered in her eyes. “This would have been our third Anniversary.”
“I know,” he said as his face softened. “I wake up every year … knowing it’s the fourteenth.”
She looked over at him as she parked in the drive of 2458. “I didn’t know you remembered.”
“We were bound together since we were both twelve,” he said as the car seemed to grow smaller. “Who gave you your nickname … Sunny?”
“You did,” she said as she felt her cheeks grow hot. Mike was sitting too close for her to be able to keep up her wall.
“Growing up, every time I saw you, it was like the clouds parted and the sun came out,” he said as he started to reach for her hand. “You know the McCloud’s moto … if you don’t see clouds, you don’t see a McCloud.”
Sunny smiled a little and wished she hadn’t. “Your father certainly had a negative view on life.”
“Still does,” he said as he chuckled. “Growing up, you were my daily inoculation against having the ain’t- it-awfuls metastasize into my whole being.”
Sunny didn’t say anything. If she did, her entire life might flood back in. Her childhood with Mike was so happy it hurt.
“Do you have any idea how long you’re going to hate me?” he whispered.
“Hate you?” She started to put her hand on the door handle to get out and then paused. “You know I’ve never hated anyone in my life.”
“What do you call three years of silence?”
She smiled again. “Peace.”
“Sunny,” he began as he took her hand. “I haven’t been at peace for three years. Maybe that’s why you can’t stand to be around me anymore.”
“I never said that,” she denied and then remembered her very thoughts when he asked for a ride. “It’s just that you’ve gotten so sassy.”
“It’s called arrested development I guess. I stopped growing when you stopped talking to me … three years ago yesterday.”
“I saw you kissing Heather Alford, Mike,” she blurted out, sounding more like angst than anger.
“No you didn’t. You saw Heather Alford kissing me.” When I pushed her away, you had already left. Then, when I finally found you down by the lake, you wouldn’t talk to me.”
“My world had crumbled, Mike. Nothing was safe and predictable anymore.”
“Except your pain,” he said quietly. “Your pain was the only feeling you recognized.”
She thought for a minute and asked, “You didn’t kiss Heather?”
“Nope.” He pulled her fingers to his lips. “Whenever you’re ready to smile again, I could sure use the sunshine.”
She sighed and smiled. “I do remember the sunny days. And … I like them better. If you’ll stop acting like a junior higher, I’ll stop thinking of you as a cloud, Mike McCloud.”
It turned into a beautiful day. She finally decided it was easier to carry around a happy heart, than one stuffed with pain. She chose to be Sunny again.