Where We Meet Again (Arrow Creek 1)

Page 7

My mouth snapped shut, and I spun away from him. I busied myself by gathering clean, dry clothes to put on from my dresser. “No reason. Can’t I just be happy?”
“Yeah, you can. Happiness looks good on you.”
The sad note of his tone had me turning around again. I clutched my pile of clothes to my chest, momentarily forgetting the soaked ones I wore. I tilted my head to the left and took in my older brother. “Speaking of, are you okay? You don’t look so good.”
“I’m fine. Just tired.” He waved me off with a swish of his hand.
Tired wasn’t the half of it. Deep purple ringed around his eyes, but we both looked that way. Mom spent half the night awake and yelling through her nightmares of the accident that stole our dad and her ability to walk at the same time. But the paleness of his skin was new. He looked ill, and it concerned me.
“Why don’t you go take a nap? I’m here now. I’ll just get changed and make mom some lunch.”
Ritchie walked toward me, wrapped his arm around my shoulders, and kissed the side of my head. “Thanks. I think I’ll do that.”
Then he left.
After I got changed, I did what I proposed. I also called our pediatrician and made an appointment for him for the next day. He didn’t look good, and I knew he wouldn’t do it himself.
He’d have done the same for me.
“Hey, Witchy Ritchie.”
I lower myself onto the bright green grass and caress the long blades with my fingertips. The morning dew clings to my jeans, making my backside instantly wet, but I don’t care. Nothing else exists when I visit my brother.
“It’s getting a little cold out here today. I miss summer already.” I tug my sweater tighter around my chest and cross my arms, staring off into the distant row of evergreen trees. “You’ll never guess who I saw the other day.”
He doesn’t answer, but I carry on the conversation, anyway. “I never thought I’d see him again, you know? What is he even doing here? I ran into him at the damn coffee shop of all places, and for a moment, I thought he knew everything. The way he looked at me… I mean, you knew Law. He didn’t miss a thing.”
“Most things,” I amend.
A shiver courses through me, and I return my gaze to the solid marble stone in the ground.
“What am I supposed to do?”
My chest aches and burns with the silence. I need my brother more than ever. More than I needed him when I left home, or when my daughter was born. At this moment, I face the heartbreaking reality that I hurt Law, and the confirmation that he continues to hurt after all these years.
I never expected him to still care. The sound of his voice plays on a loop, the anguished tone not belonging to someone who’s moved on.
He could have easily forgotten me. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn he has a family. A wife who dotes on him and kids. I envision them with his stunning eyes and unruly hair, who run up to him and scream Daddy when he comes home after a long day at work.
That could totally be the case.
Law was always handsome and popular. He’d been a sophomore on the varsity football team, and a starting player since freshman year. His coaches and teachers adored him, the student body worshiped him, and the cheerleaders loved him. Especially Stephanie.
Her name hasn’t graced my mind since before Evelyn was born, and I promised myself to put the past behind me. The pressure to grow up ensnared me as motherhood approached. If I wanted any chance to create a decent life for my daughter, I needed to forget all I’d lost. The choice to have Evelyn was mine alone, and I did nothing half-assed. The only thing in my life left unfinished was my relationship, or lack thereof, with Law.
Yeah… that word feels like acid in my brain.
His popularity was the catalyst. The fact he was too popular to be with someone like me started the heartbreak. The doubt.
“He’s left by now, right?”
I stretch my body in the damp grass, lying across the length of his grave, and rest my head against my folded arms. The ground smells like fall, fresh earth, and grass clippings, and it brings me some comfort. I have spent countless hours in this exact spot, inhaling the fresh air and thinking about my brother. To me, the unfiltered outdoors reminds me of home.
“He doesn’t live here. I’ll probably never see him again.”