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Today is a horrible day. That’s the mantra that keeps repeating in his head. Over and over and over. No matter how many times he tries to turn it around, nothing works in his favor.

And it’s all her fault.

Scott likes to think he’s a pretty positive and optimistic person. And he knows not everyone is going to be like him. But he didn’t think that he’d ever find someone that seems to be going out of her way, and doing everything in her power, to stop children from having fun.

And okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but seriously? Budget cuts should be for things like libraries (seriously, libraries are the worst, why is everyone who works at one related to Satan himself?), or that lady who’s trying to start a salad food truck right next to Mason Park (no one wants salad Amy, especially when you have the option of ice cream right next door). Budget cuts should not affect parks, where people go to play with their dogs and their friends and kids have the opportunity to run around and get exercise and experience the great outdoors.

And if, if, these budget cuts have to be approved, then fine, he gets it, it’s his own governments fault, but why take so much out of the park’s budget? Take the majority out of public works or animal control or something. It’s not like either of those departments are using their money wisely. Public works just spent half their budget on getting a real life PacMan machine in their office instead of fixing the potholes on Stonehill Drive and animal control has all but given up on the raccoons.

All he wants is a modest budget so he can build a park that will be used and loved by kids for generations to come and will be hailed as one of the best parks of all time, provide fun Movie in the Park nights for families, organize youth sports for the community, build an outdoor ice rink this coming winter, fix the playground in Jeffery Square Park, and add a splash pad in Mason Park for the kids in the summer. Is that so much to ask?

“Yes, it is,” Patrick tells him. Scott rolls his eyes.

“You’re supposed to support me no matter what. That’s what best friends do Chiddy.”

He gets a look for that. “No, best friends tell their friends the truth. Which is that no matter how much it bothers you, this budget thing is out of your control. You just have to wait it out man.”

“Oh Chiddy, wise, smart, handsome, nurse Chiddy. You always know what to say to make me feel better.”

Patrick smiles and stands up. “Good, I’ve got to get back to the hospital. See you later!”

“Bye!” Scott says to his retreating form. “Thanks for the advice.”

Patrick waves in acknowledgment.

“That I won’t be following,” he mumbles to himself.

Scott throws the rest of his lunch in the trash and marches back into the office.

“Kaetlyn!”

“Yeah, boss?” she answers from her desk, not looking up from her computer.

“Get Trent, Charlie, and Ashley. We’re having Movie in the Park.”

“Got it. Free popcorn?”

“Yes, it’s not movie night if you don’t have something to snack on.”

Kaetlyn smiles as she stands up. “And should we tell Patrice?”

He purses his lips and thinks. Patrice wouldn’t outright say no, he definitely wouldn’t try to stop him, but he might try to discourage him from going against the direct orders of the auditors. “If he finds out, fine, but don’t tell him directly.”

Kaetlyn nods and then leaves to go find the others. They’ve got work to do.

Scott observes the scene around him. Families mulling around, little kids getting their faces painted, teenagers setting up blankets getting ready for the movie to start, older couples waiting in line for popcorn and ice cream. The first Movie in the Park to kick off the start of summer is always a bigger spectacle and he likes to make sure there’s more excitement than just a movie.

Which is why when Charlie suggested ice cream sundae bar in addition to popcorn he had said yes. Even though he knows the only reason Charlie suggested the ice cream is so he can talk to the owner, Tanith. It doesn’t take a genius to know he’s head over heels for her, he gets ice cream there every day. But it was over 32 degrees today, everyone could use something to cool off.

He’d almost okayed Kaetlyn and Trent’s idea of having a Slip ‘n Slide, but thought that might get a little too chaotic. Plus, he still thinks the suggestion might have been part of their own plan to pull a prank on Charlie.

“Scott! Scott!” He hears his name being called in the distance and turns around, having to squint against the setting sun to see that it’s Patrice running towards him.

“Scott!” Patrice comes to a stop in front of him, hunching over, hands on knees to catch his breath. “I’m sorry,” he says between puffs of breath. “I let it slip you had planned this. The auditors are on their way.”

“What’s going on?” Ashley asks as she walks up, Patrick behind her.

“The auditors are coming,” he replies. He sees a car pulling up to the park and, sure enough, two women step out, the taller of the two looking grim, while the shorter one sports a huge smile.

“Wow!” Marie-France, the cheery one as Scott has come to think of her, says. “This is a lovely sight to see! So many families enjoying themselves!”

Tessa, the one with a frown permanently stamped to her face, glares at her. “Marie,” she says, exasperation evident in her tone. She turns to him. “Mr. Moir, I thought we were very clear about what would and would not be appropriate given the current financial situation of your government.”

“Yes well, I thought I was very clear on what I thought of those budget cuts. Movie in the Park is essential to the beginning of summer. We had to have it.”

She purses her lips and looks him up and down. “Listen, would it be nice if we could provide endless events for families and kids? Of course. Unfortunately that’s not the reality of this situation.”

“Look, all this popcorn and ice cream has been donated, the parks employees are here on their own time, the projector is borrowed from the community center and the movie is my own. The face painter over there is Liz, she’s a volunteer. Nothing actually costs. Just let us have our movie night.”

She bites her bottom lip and he has a brief flash of doing that himself, but dismisses it quickly. She may be beautiful, and when she glares at him with those green eyes maybe it makes his stomach swoop, but she’s pubic enemy number one (even higher up than Amy the salad lady or Deb the head librarian).

“Fine,” she concedes. “But this can’t be a regular thing. All future services have to be run by myself or Marie until we resolve your town’s financial crisis, Mr. Moir.”

“Deal,” he says, sticking out his hand for her to shake. “And please, call me Scott.”

Her mouth ticks up at the corner, like she wants to smile, and she takes his hand. “We really are only here to help. We should be on the same side.”

He has a hard time thinking he’ll ever be on the same side of anything as her. She’s slashing his budget and taking away the happiness of children.

(Patrick has told him before that he’s on a recent dramatic streak. He disagrees.)

“What movie are you showing anyways?” Tessa asks.

Scott nods his head toward the poster on the side of the community center with Westley and Buttercup holding hands. “Princess Bride. It’s what we always kick off the summer with.”

Her face lights up and even he has to admit that it changes her whole demeanor. She’s even more beautiful, if that’s possible. “Oh, that’s my favorite movie.”

He listens to the two opposing voices in his head. The one that says she doesn’t deserve to watch and the one that sounds suspiciously like his mother telling him that everyone deserves popcorn and a relaxing night.

His mom’s voice wins out.

“Well, we’ve got a couple blankets set up on the far side. And the popcorn is right over there. If you want of course.”

Red starts to creep up her face. “Oh no, I don’t want to impose.”

He laughs despite himself. “It’s a public event Tessa, your more than welcome to stay.” He looks around and spots Patrice near the popcorn, talking to Marie-France. Patrice is obviously flirting and it looks like she’s flirting back. “Besides, it doesn’t look like your partner plans on leaving anytime soon.”

Tessa seems to observe the two of them herself for a few moments before nodding. “Okay, I’ll stay. Thank you, Scott.”

He gives her a small smile and tells Ashley to help her find where they’re all set up before walking to the projector to get the movie started.

He looks around at all the families that surround him. Sees Patrick talking to Liz, who is painting a giant butterfly on a little girl’s face, looks over to see Kaetlyn and Trent laughing together, sees Tanith scooping some chocolate ice cream for Charlie, who has a wide smile on his face. He turns to his right, spies Tessa watching him carefully, eyes and mouth soft.

He holds her stare for a few seconds. Her eyes really are very piercing green, even from this distance. She gives him a small smile and a wave, before her attention is grabbed by Ashley, and his stomach flips again.

He shakes his head to clear his mind and focuses on starting the projector.