Where We Meet Again (Arrow Creek 1)

Page 27

“Why did you buy so much?” Evelyn asks through a yawn that pivots into a cough.
“Mistake,” I grumble around the last spoonful of my soup. “Changed my mind on the kind, and since they couldn’t put it back, the employee gave it to me for free.”
“That was nice of them.”
I redirect my hand to rub the muscle between her neck and shoulder. She isn’t complaining, but I know she has to have muscle aches by now.
“Yeah,” I answer, recalling the true events of the evening. “It sure was.”
Before long her breaths turn soft; Until the coughing starts. After I shift my dinner tray to the coffee table, I slide my leg out from beneath me to get more comfortable. Evelyn sleeps while I stroke her hair, and I get lost in my thoughts.
My words from earlier play back in my head. I wonder if Law recognizes them. If they make him feel as lost and nostalgic as they do for me. I wish I had his cell number so I could lash out at him over text, but I know it wouldn’t do us any good.
We aren’t good for one another. Whatever we had in the past was nothing more than a childhood crush. And yeah, maybe if I’d stuck around we could have made a go of things, but that isn’t how our lives worked out. I didn’t stick around. He didn’t come looking for me. The world kept on spinning until it dumped him back into my life. Too much time has gone by. The hurt and the resentment won’t stay buried forever. I can count on one hand the number of recent encounters we’ve had, and none of them were pleasant. In fact, they seem to escalate, which should give me my answer.
With my daughter in my arms, I can make sense of it all. We’ve been good for a long time, just the two of us, and I’ll do anything not to upset our balance.
My eyes grow heavy. Throwing out a hand blindly, I nab the remote from the coffee table and end the constant flickering from the TV. The room plunges into darkness.
I leave Evelyn asleep on the couch, but before I do, I cover her with the throw from the back of the couch. She thankfully doesn’t stir. Then I get ready for bed alone, just as I’ve done every night for fourteen years. Something I would continue to do on the nights that Law upset me and those he didn’t. Something that, even if we become friendly with one another, I’ll still do alone.
That’s the woman I am. I’m happy with my life and everything I’ve built for my daughter and me. I’ll be damned if I let a few encounters with him ruin that.
On this night, though, settled in my bed and waiting for sleep, I do something differently; I let myself remember. I dredge one memory up and cling to that thought as sleep pulls me under.
Fifteen and a half years earlier…
“Where are we going?”
Law’s hand squeezed and tugged me up the dirt path. He glanced back at me with a crooked smirk but said nothing to answer my question. His bright eyes spoke of his excitement for him. We were on another one of our adventures, and as usual, he refused to tell me where we were going.
One nice part about living in a small town was being able to get where we wanted by walking or riding our bikes. Law and I lived close enough that we walked to one another’s house, and once we were together, our parents let us go anywhere. Well, his parents did. My dad was dead, and my mom probably couldn’t care less. In two months, Law would have his license and his dad already promised him his old truck, so this era of our lives was ending.
The early morning breeze whipped my hair around my face, the strands tickling against my cheeks. Sunlight filtered through the boughs of the trees, ripe with mid-summer leaves. It was chilly, but in a few hours and after a few miles of hiking, it would warm up.
“What if something happens to you, and I have to call for help? I’ll have no idea where we are, how we got here, and how to get out. A bear or something’ll eat me, since everybody knows bears like their food living instead of dead. I don’t think it’s fair you always get to lead the way.”
I stumbled over a rock. Law’s arm went taut, and he spun around to steady me. He moved his grip from my hand to my hip. I had to tip my head way back to look him in the eyes. I swear he grew six inches in a month that summer. When he looked down at me, he smiled, and my stomach flip-flopped.
“In a couple months, you’ll have your driver’s license. You can lead the way then.”
My brow crinkled, and I frowned. “So will you. And I won’t have a vehicle, either, which means you’ll have to drive.”
He let out a laugh and scratched his eyebrow with the side of his thumb. “I suppose you’re right, darlin’. If you’re lucky, I’ll let you drive occasionally.”
“You aren’t funny.” I crossed my arms over my chest. I was annoyed, but not actually upset. This was one of those differences between us I had learned to live with. Law still had parents, and I didn’t. Not really. He’d get a car on his birthday, whereas I’d have to save up for one.
And it was fine, for the most part. I wasn’t against being independent. Mostly I was happy for everything that Law had, as a lot of those things benefited me too. I only became bitter when I wanted to do something for him and didn’t have the means to do so. At those times, I felt inadequate.
“Yeah, well, you’re cute.” He moved his hands from my hips to cup either side of my head, just above my ears. He tugged me off balance. I nearly fell, and to save myself, I twisted my fists in the shirt at his waist. Law bent down and planted a kiss in the center of my forehead. “Now, quit whining. We have a lot of trail left to cover, and we aren’t going to do it by standing around.”
Any response died in my throat. My skin tingled where his lips were, and I hoped it never stopped. Law grinned wider and hiked his backpack up on his shoulder before he started up the path again.
It took me a second to get my head back on straight and chased after him.
My favorite thing about exploring the woods with Law was we didn’t have to fill the silence with chatter. It felt natural to walk the trail and peacefully take in the outdoors. Our steady breaths joined the birdsong and the soft rustle of the nearby leaves.