Where We Meet Again (Arrow Creek 1)

Page 9

“No, it’s okay. I shouldn’t have said anything. I need to go.” Noting my immediate error, I move to step around him toward the parking lot, but he matches me step for step.
His enormous body may barricade my exit, but it’s his words that immediately stop me in my tracks. “Did I ever look for you? I looked for you tirelessly. The night you left, I stayed out until the cops found me, because my parents couldn’t find us and they had to call for help. Everyone thought we ran away together, but I knew otherwise since you left me behind.
“Nobody saw you go. Nobody heard a thing. As far as the residents of Logansville knew, you fucking vanished. I spent hours searching abandoned lots and drainage ditches, scared out of my damn mind that I was going to find you beaten, raped, or worse, murdered. I looked for you for months.
“But you couldn’t have asked that question alone, you had to throw the word even in there, somehow insulting me further and implying that I’d just forgotten about you the second you disappeared as if you’d meant nothing to me.”
He eviscerates me. My heart burns where it beats steadily in my chest. He didn’t just stab it; he set the bloody stump on fire. I knew my decision to go affected him, but to hear the straight anger and pain in his voice after all this time is more than I ever expected.
Either my pain is more concealed than I thought, or he ignores it.
“A few months after you disappeared, my father came to me and said he received a phone call. You’d gone to live with a great aunt in Maine, and you were to have no contact with your friends back home. Now I can see that’s bullshit too.” He settles his hands on his hips and rolls his neck. The facade crumbles. He throws his hands in the air as he roars, “Does this look like fucking Maine to you?”
Seeing it, feeling it, knowing he wouldn’t make a move out of anger to hurt me, I still nearly jump out of my skin. “No. I never went to Maine,” I rasp through a dry throat.
Law’s eyes turn distrustful. I don’t blame him. But out of all the pain I’d caused, that lie isn’t mine. I never pretended I’d moved to Maine, asked no one to spread that rumor. It appears his father had his own agenda and did whatever he could to make sure Law moved on from me.
Not that I can blame him. If it eased a modicum of his son’s pain, I should be grateful.
Should be, but I’m not.
“You’ve been here the entire time, haven’t you?” The question doesn’t lilt at the end, his voice dead with resignation.
I don’t want to answer, but I also don’t want to lie to him anymore.
The silence spreads between us. A breeze blows briskly against my cheek, but I hardly register the chill. Our eyes lock on one another in a stare I think might go on forever.
Until I break it.
“I know this means nothing to you now, but if I could somehow show you how sorry I am, I would. I did the best I could with what I had, and this is how my life turned out. I think it’s great you’ve been visiting Ritchie all this time. I know it’d have meant a lot to him, too. Look,” I run my fingers through my tangled hair, frustrated because he seems to ignore me again. “You need time and I do too. I should get going. But if you come back in a few weeks and would like to get coffee and catch up, I’d be open to that.”
“Where are you off to?”
His selective hearing messes with my don’t get riled up attitude. In the spirit of being civil, I answer him vaguely. “I have plans.”
“It’s her birthday,” he states, as if he knows her and hadn’t only heard about her three days ago.
I breathe sharply through my nose. “Yes.”
A look of contemplation crosses his face. “You know it’s–?.
“I know.” I cut him off and smile sadly. “I never forgot. I’m reminded every year.”
Law only nods once before turning back to Ritchie’s grave.
It seems like an obvious cue to go, so I start for the parking lot. This time, he doesn’t stop me.
“Happy birthday, Law,” I say, hurting that for the first time since his sixteenth birthday, I speak those words within his hearing range.
“Thanks,” he mutters somberly, and I wonder if he feels the same.
As I drive away, I realize I didn’t give him a way to contact me. The knowledge hurts more than it should after all this time. Even more evidence that it’s best he doesn’t come looking for me. We don’t need to reconnect. What would that solve? He’s probably changed a lot over the years, and I have a daughter…
It’s safer to leave the past behind us and continue with our separate futures.