The Bitterroot Inn(6)

By: Devney Perry


He chuckled. “Damn straight.”

I had found this gorgeous artisan tile with an intricate pattern of charcoal geometric arcs on a white background. Eight tiles put together created two different patterns that gave the bathroom floors character and class. As I took it in, I stood a little taller.

“I’m proud of you, Maze.”

“Me too. But I wouldn’t have gotten this far without all your help.”

Even though I’d done this bathroom floor myself, Beau had spent countless hours helping to remodel other parts of the building. All the work he’d done had saved me thousands of dollars. I used to pay him with free dinners, but now that he had Sabrina cooking for him, I was going to have to think of another way to thank him for his work.

“I’m always happy to pitch in,” he said. “Especially if you keep the cookie plate in the lobby full.”

“I can do that.” Cookies for construction. I’d bake a dozen of his favorite tonight.

I wound my arms around his waist for another hug. I loved both my brothers, but Beau had always been more than just an older sibling. He was my hero, and I was beyond happy he had found Sabrina. She was a wonderful friend, aunt and new member of our family, but more importantly, she made Beau happier than he’d ever been.

The ding of his smart watch interrupted our moment and I tipped my head back to give him a grin. “Tux time.”

He groaned and let me go, running a hand through his dark hair. “I probably shouldn’t miss this appointment.”

“Probably not.” I stepped behind him and planted both hands on his back, then just like I’d done as a kid, I tried to push him around. Using all of my might, I pushed hard, digging my feet into the ground. As per usual, he started laughing but didn’t budge.

“Come. On.” I grunted and pushed even harder but barely rocked him forward on his feet.

“Give up yet?” he teased.

“Never!” I repositioned my feet and gave him all my weight, holding my breath as I pushed, but still he didn’t move.

“Give up now?”

One last push with no success and I dropped my hands, panting as I straightened. “It’s like you’re made of rock.”

He grinned. “No, it’s because I’m a giant.”

I laughed as I walked past him out the door. Coby and Beau had a long-standing game of playing giants. If they were together, Coby was always riding on Beau’s shoulders, pretending to be a giant as they stomped Lego houses to smithereens or crashed cars off pretend roads.

After locking up the room, I walked Beau to his massive green truck. “Well, drive safe.”

“Will do. Call us if you want help this weekend.”

“Okay.” I waved as he got into his truck, then went back to the lobby.

My Thursdays were reserved for bookkeeping and I had a stack of bills to pay before lunch. Settling into my office off the lobby, I wasted no time diving into my work. Two hours later, my bank account was lighter and I abandoned my desk in search of more caffeine from the mini fridge.

Opening a Dr. Pepper, I hopped onto one of the barstools behind the lobby counter and stared out the window toward the motel sign.

It is so cute! How could people not love it?

A little over a year ago, I’d surprised the entire town by having the old sign taken down. It had been too ostentatious, nearly as tall as a streetlight, and its words had long since faded from years of sun exposure. The sign I’d picked to replace it was understated, yet perfect.

Sitting in the center of a raised flower bed were two, short white posts. Between them swung a classic white sign from an iron bar. It wasn’t just the new sign that had caused the uproar, it was what had been written on its face in clean black letters.

The Bitterroot Inn.

That sign, displaying the inn’s new name, had been featured on the front page of the weekly Tuesday newspaper two weeks in a row.

To this day, not many people understood why I’d wanted to rename the motel, especially since I’d kept the previous name for so long. But I had spent so much time making this place my own that I wanted a name I’d picked too.

The bitterroot was Montana’s state flower and a personal favorite. The moment I’d jotted down the words on a napkin at the café, I had known instantly it was right.

The next day, I’d ordered the new sign.

And the gossip had commenced.

The inn wasn’t the only thing that had changed these last three years. I had changed too. With every stroke of my paintbrush, every swing of my hammer, every turn of my screwdriver, I had changed.

Gone were the immaturities of a girl in her early twenties—being a single mother and business owner had chased those away. Gone was the naïve woman who had let a monster into her life—though not before I’d gotten the one good thing he had to offer. Gone was the young nurse brimming with spirit who had talked incessantly—I had learned to listen more and be mindful of the people I brought into our lives.

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