Priscilla Prentice gazed at the Chicago skyline. Her River North condo was on the 35th floor and she never tired of the view. Priscilla had just turned 30 and literally felt on top of the world. 

She admired her reflection in the glass. She was short and slender and her buttery complexion was a soft brown. She had deep brown eyes, her lips were full and her black curly hair fell in soft ringlets. She was head of HR for a large law firm and drove a Lexus. She had come far from her humble Forest Park roots. 

It was Christmas Eve and her fiancé, Dirk, was picking her up. Priscilla had first been attracted by Dirk’s rugged handsomeness but it was Dirk’s ambition that had won her over. He was a rising young attorney at the firm, so they hid their relationship from co-workers. Soon, though, they could be open about their love because Priscilla was certain Dirk was going to propose that evening at dinner.

She was certainly dressed for the occasion, wearing her sparkly dress and stiletto heels. The first sign something was wrong was when Dirk texted her, “Tammy, I’ll be a little late. I have to see Priscilla one last time and then I’ll meet you for drinks.”

Tammy, the blond receptionist she had just hired! Dirk had obviously texted her by mistake. Priscilla was still reeling, when she heard the intercom. “I can’t come up,” said Dirk, “But I wanted you to know the last two years were great. I’ll always have wonderful memories of our secret romance. But just be cool on Monday.”

The intercom clicked off and Priscilla fell apart. She hadn’t seen her family in months but found herself on the Blue Line headed to Forest Park. As the train sped west, Priscilla reflected on her childhood. She and her evil twin, Naomi, who was constantly in trouble at the Forest Park Aquatic Center, had lived two blocks from The Park. They played there year-round but their greatest fun was watching the No Gloves Tournament.

Her grade school friend, Dusty, was fixated on No Gloves. During games, he tossed a softball on the sidelines and talked of playing in the tournament someday. Priscilla laughed at his dream but Dusty grew to be 6 feet tall, with a muscular frame and unusually large hands. He played first base as a teenager on his way to softball stardom.

Meanwhile, Priscilla had concentrated on her studies at Middle School and graduated to attend PMSA. She became class valedictorian and earned a full academic scholarship to Yale. After earning her Human Resources Ph.D., she moved back with her folks in Forest Park. She spent summer evenings watching Dusty play softball at The Park. He had blossomed into a ruggedly handsome left-handed slugger.

Priscilla, though, tired of softball and hanging out with Dusty’s team at Barfy’s. Her gaze was fixed on the glittering skyline of Chicago. That’s where she wanted to be! Besides, she thought Dusty lacked ambition. He had planned to become a teacher but was so happy in his job at Public Works.

Priscilla got off the el in Forest Park and walked toward her parents’ bungalow. It had started to snow. It was the most perfect snowfall! Feathery and light as it blanketed the sidewalk. On a deserted dead-end street, Priscilla’s stilettos slipped on ice. She went down hard and hit her soft ringlets on the hard sidewalk. She lay there unconscious, as snow gently buried her. 

The sound of an engine and the beam of a headlight signaled a Bobcat was approaching. Dusty was at the wheel. He plowed sidewalks whenever he was needed. It didn’t matter if his family was in the middle of Christmas dinner, Dusty and his co-workers answered the call.

Dusty spotted a figure lying on the snowy sidewalk. Stiletto heels told him it was a woman. He stopped his Bobcat and ran to her side. He brushed snow from her face until he recognized it was his childhood love, Priscilla.

“Cilla, it’s Dusty,” but she didn’t answer. He frantically called the Forest Park Fire Department and they arrived immediately. Dusty wanted to ride with Priscilla in the ambulance but had to keep plowing to prevent other pedestrians from slipping and falling.

The next evening, Priscilla was recovering in her canopy bed. There was a bump on the back of her head. She thought it wasn’t serious but it caused total amnesia. Priscilla had no memory of who she was or where she lived. 

She lunged for her phone and scrolled through her Facebook page. Familiar photographs brought her memories flooding back. Just then, she heard singing. She ran to her window; magical snow was still softly descending. Dusty had parked his Bobcat and was leading a large group of carolers in “Silent Night.”

Three months later, the snow had melted and Priscilla was gazing through the window of her shop on Madison at Dusty in high-visibility gear hanging banners on the streetlights. Priscilla had quit her high-paying job, cashed in her 401k, and now sold scented candles at the shop she called “Sniff.” She had also sold her condo and Lexus and moved into a Forest Park two-flat. 

Dusty climbed off the lift and walked into her shop. “Dusty,” she gushed, “I should never have let you go, even though your team lost twice in the loser’s bracket.” They shared a passionate kiss. “It’s OK, Cilla. You thought I lacked ambition but I have a different kind of ambition.  Sure I have big-city access but all I want is small-town charm. I live to serve the people of Forest Park and to help people in need, whether it’s toy drives, food drives, or coat drives.”

Priscilla held him close. “You can’t fool me, Dusty. You’ll never be satisfied until you’re named MVP of No Gloves.” 

Priscilla’s phone suddenly rang. 

Naomi had been caught shoplifting at Walmart! 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.