After showering, Lacey pulled on a comfortable gray sweater, another pair of jeans, then went to the hallway closet to get fresh towels and washcloths for Sean. She walked them to the first guest room, the one Estelle used when she stayed over, set them on one of the bathroom shelves. She brought out fresh sheets from the room’s closet, remade the bed. Hoped that Sean wouldn’t be turned off by the floral pattern on the cover.

Strange, she felt lighter today. The pain would, of course, always be there. It just wasn’t as acute today. Maybe, her mother was right. Being alone wasn’t always good for you. And keeping busy kept her mind away from darker thoughts.

As she finished straightening up, she began to reconsider her aversion to seeing a counselor. But that would come later. It was too soon, too raw. She wasn’t ready to open herself up yet, to divulge the pain that had been swirling inside her. She wasn’t ready to talk about Calvin…not the way she needed to talk about him.

She went back downstairs into the living room. Sean was rooted to the sofa, the television going. A suitcase was parked near the leather chair. The wool coat he’d worn to the burial was thrown over the case.

“Your room’s ready. It’s the second one on the left, past Cal…past Calvin’s room. Why don’t you take your suitcase up.”

He got off the couch, picked up his coat and case. As he walked past her standing near the entry, he accidentally brushed her shoulder. He turned, probably to apologize. But that small action brought his face just an inch away from her own. She smelled the coffee on his breath, felt his breath on her lips.

She saw him glance at her lips for a second, and in that second she thought he was going to lean in. To actually kiss her.

The thought should have repulsed her.

Instead she felt herself moistening, and that frightened her.

She saw in his eyes that his thoughts were following hers...and that he was waiting…but for what? He couldn’t possibly...

She broke the spell, moving back a step. His face was flushed, his breathing unsteady.

“Let me know if you need anything else,” she said, then beelined to the kitchen, denying to herself what had just happened. Right now, she couldn’t be in the same room with him. Not until she’d gotten the flurries out of her head.

Good lord - what had she done inviting him here?



Upstairs, Sean placed his still-packed suitcase in the guest room closet, not comfortable with using any of the drawers. Right now, he wasn’t even comfortable being here. He’d passed Calvin’s closed door, not daring to look at it. Not after what had almost happened today...and what had happened six years ago.

Still, he couldn’t stop thinking about what might have occurred a few minutes ago had he not been rooted to the ground./

Had he misread her look? He could have sworn she’d been waiting for him to make a move.

“Forget it, stupid!” he mentally kicked himself. Of course, she hadn’t been waiting for anything but for him to get out of the way.

But what would have happened if he’d kissed her?

So many times, he’d imagined how her full lips would feel beneath his own, how she would welcome his tongue, let his hands roam her curves...and downstairs, suddenly it seemed it was about to happen.

He lay down on the bed, realizing that reliving his fantasy had made him stiffen. He was on his way to a full boner if he kept thinking these thoughts, entertaining these feelings he hoped he’d purged from his mind years ago.

Coming here had been a mistake. He was dredging up things that needed to stay buried. He should just go back to the hotel for the next couple of days. After that, he would fly back to Indiana and leave everything behind. He needed to stick to his original agenda.

There were a couple of friends he wanted to see, to catch up on old times with. Suzanne, especially...

And there was the house. His old house. He pictured the expansive California bungalow, the garden bed that was always populated with more weeds than the hydrangeas his mother tried to grow. He remembered his basketball court out back, with the bent rim and half-tattered net. He had gotten a lot of wear out of that court. He and Cal.

He hadn’t seen his former home in almost a decade. Probably another family was living there now, imprinting it with their own memories, hopefully happier ones than those he and his family had left behind.

Lying on the bed, he felt the walls closing in on him. He needed to get out of here, get on his bike and ride around, clear his head.

He grabbed his coat, headed down the stairs. Even though he knew he should let her know he was going out, he couldn’t bring himself to call out.

He opened the door and closed it quietly behind him.



                            
return to excerpts