The perfect match, p.52
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       The Perfect Match, p.52
 

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
Page 52

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  He was sitting at the bar, talking to Colleen, and he was smiling, though his eyes were somber. Didn’t anyone else see that, how sad his eyes could be, even when he was smiling? Didn’t they see that he was lonely? That his heart had been yanked out of his chest when Charlie moved?

  Then he looked up and saw her, and his smile dropped a notch. She gave a small wave, and he nodded back.

  The bar was noisy tonight, and Honor was grateful. The Yankees game was on and apparently was a good one, judging from the cheers from the patrons on that side of the bar. In addition, the fire department was having one of its famous meetings, which seemed to involve such grave activities as Jessica Dunn flipping quarters off her elbow. Brogan wasn’t there, at least, though she’d seen his car at the firehouse the other day. Gerard Chartier whispered into Jessica’s ear, and she rolled her eyes and slapped him fondly on the head before waving to Honor. Now there was a woman who didn’t mind being single. See? It could be done.

  Welp. Time to say hello to her ex-fiancé.

  She took a breath and went over, her heart stuttering. “Hi, Tom. ”

  “Hallo, Honor. ”

  Oh, fungus. Would she ever get over the way he said her name, his voice low and rich as hot fudge? Probably not, the eggs said, rubbing Ben-Gay into their knees.

  “How are you?” she asked, and by some grace, her voice was steady.

  “Quite well. And yourself?”

  “Just fine, thanks. ”

  How’s Charlie? Have you heard from him? How’s your dad? Are you staying in town? Please don’t move without saying goodbye. I think about you all the time.

  “It’s good to see you,” she said, and this time her voice was husky.

  This was a mistake. She shouldn’t have come, because it seemed like she was about to cry.

  “Hey, Honor. ”

  She jerked her eyes off Tom to see who was speaking. “Oh, Dana. Hi. ”

  Dana glanced between her and Tom. “Um, want to have a drink?”

  Honor waited. . . for what, she wasn’t sure. For Tom to say, Actually, darling, I want to talk to you, and then tell her he’d made a horrible mistake.

  “Good night, then,” he said, turning back to his beer. “Take care, Honor. ” Maybe there was something in his voice, too, but his eyes were on the Yankees game.

  “You, too. ” She followed Dana to a table and sat down with her back to Tom.

  “I heard you guys broke up,” Dana said, sitting down across from her.

  “Yes. ”

  “I’m really sorry. ”

  The words sounded sincere. “Thank you. ”

  Hannah O’Rourke brought over a martini. “On the house,” she said, “courtesy of the owners of our fine establishment. ”

  “Thanks, Hannah. ” Honor turned back to Dana. “So how are you? Um, Brogan and I talked a couple weeks ago. ” Brogan had emailed her a couple of times since the dreadful kiss, apologizing profusely, telling her about his confusion over Dana, yadda yadda.

  He was a good guy. But Honor was a little tired of him these days.

  “I guess everyone knows,” Dana said tightly. “I faked being pregnant. ”

  “So he said. ”

  “Aren’t you gonna ask why?”

  “Why?”

  Dana sighed. “I don’t know. ”

  “Sure you do. ”

  Her perfectly waxed eyebrows rose. “Yeah, okay, so I do. ” She shrugged and took a sip of her white zinfandel (the very thought of which made Honor shudder). “Here’s the thing, Honor,” she said. “Men want what they want. ”

  “Do they want women to lie about being pregnant?”

  “Okay, fine, I guess I deserve a little bitchiness from you. Brogan and I are still apart. Probably forever. As you probably know. ” She shrugged, the misery on her face belying her tone. “Maybe you have a chance with him, after all. ”

  “I’ll pass. ”

  “Why? Isn’t that why you and Tom broke up?”

  “No. ” She didn’t want to talk about Tom with Dana, that was for sure. “Did you ever love Brogan, or was this just. . . whimsy?”

  Dana looked at the table. “I loved him. Who wouldn’t?”

  “Then why did you lie to him?” Dana shrugged, and all of a sudden, Honor was tired. “How about if I tell you what I think, hmm? From my point of view, there’s only one reason why a woman would pretend to be pregnant, and that’s because she wasn’t sure the guy would stay with her otherwise. ”

  A tear slid off Dana’s face onto the table. “You’re right. Congratulations. As usual, Honor, you know everything. ”

  “What do you want, Dana?”

  Dana’s face crumpled. “It was so stupid,” she whispered, still not looking up. “You ever feel. . . I don’t know. Like you’re on the outside, looking in?”

  “Everyone feels like that sometimes. ”

  “Well, me, too. Ever since I met you, you and Brogan were a thing. You had a special relationship, and he was so awesome and all that. And you had this big fun family, and such a cool job. And I was jealous. I mean, there it is. I was. ” She swallowed. “And I really did like him. I always did. But I wasn’t about to make a move when you guys were together, even if it was kind of a fucked-up relationship. ”

  “Gosh. Thanks. ”

  “But then you broke up, and you were done with him. So yeah, I made a move. I mean, single men don’t exactly grow on trees around here. And imagine my surprise when it seemed to work. ” Another tear plopped onto the table. “Men like to sleep with me, Honor. But men love you. ”

  Honor snorted.

  “Look at Tom. Right? He comes to town and boom. He falls for you. ”

  “It’s not exactly working out for us,” she murmured.

  “Whatever. There’s not a guy here who doesn’t respect you and like you and think you’re smart. That doesn’t happen with me. Brogan was one of the few who seemed to want more than sex. But you’re right. I was afraid that the more time he spent with me, the less he’d like me, because that seems to be the way it goes. So I made up a baby, figured I’d get pregnant fast. I didn’t think beyond that. ”

  “I thought you didn’t want kids. ”

  “With him I did. Never thought I’d say those words. ” She wiped her eyes discreetly.

  All of a sudden, Honor wanted to be truly done. For way too long, Brogan had been a huge part of her life, bigger than even he knew. And for the past few months, Dana had been, too.

  It was time to end that.

  “Listen, Dana,” she said. “It was the wrong move, obviously. So own it, take responsibility for it and see where that gets you. I think Brogan really loves you. I don’t know why, but he seems to. If you tell him what you just told me, I think you might have a shot. ”

  Dana looked up, her green eyes watery. “Really?”

  “Yeah. I’m gonna go now, okay? Top Ten Tumors is on. ”

  Dana gave a snort of laughter, then grabbed her hand. “I’m sorry, Honor. I really am. ”

  “It’s really okay. Don’t think about it anymore. And good luck with Brogan. ”

  Strange, that she meant it.

  “Honor?” Dana said. “Listen. . . I called Immigration on you. A while ago. I just wondered if you were marrying Tom because of a green card thing, and. . . well. I hope it didn’t screw things up. ”

  Ah. Mystery solved. “No. It wasn’t that. ”

  As she fished her keys out of her purse, she looked over to where Tom had been, but he was gone.

  * * *

  ON SATURDAY, HONOR decided to take a bike ride, because that’s what people who had weekends did.

  May was so beautiful, the fruit trees blossoming in the small orchard the family still kept. There was Goggy, hanging out wash, waving as Honor rode past the Old House. Tomorrow, hopefully, she’d sneak some crap to the dump—Pops’s newspaper horde
was taking on terrifying proportion, but that was tomorrow. Today was all about exercise and fresh air.

  “We will be cheerful,” she told Spike, who was nestled in the handlebar basket on a fleece blanket. “We are cheerful people, Ratty. ” Spike yipped in agreement. She loved bike rides.

  Dogwood and crabapple trees were in full glory as she pedaled up Lake View Road to where the hill flattened out. She passed Bobby McIntosh mowing his lawn, and the smell of cut grass made her smile. Life was good. It wasn’t entirely complete, but it was a happy life. This beautiful town, the job she loved, her family, her faithful little doggy. . . it was enough. For now, it was enough. More would come in its own time.

  After a few miles, she pulled into a shallow parking area at the foot of the Keuka hiking trail, pushed down the kickstand and clipped Spike’s leash on. “Come on, baby, let’s take a walk. ”

  Birds hopped and twittered in the trees, and Honor could hear the rush of water from a nearby stream. The sun was warm, the breeze gusted.

  There was a bench up ahead, and a lovely view of the Crooked Lake. A familiar figure was sitting there, clad all in black. Spike went crazy, pulling on the leash, barking away.

  “Charlie?”

  The boy turned, then jerked his gaze back to the view.

  “Hi. How’s it going?” she asked, sitting next to him. Spike jumped up on the bench and wagged.

  Charlie said nothing, but he extended his hand so Spike could sniff it, making the little dog whine in joy.

  “Are you back for a visit?” she asked, wondering if Tom knew. God, it would mean the world to him if Charlie had come to see him.

  “I’m back for good,” Charlie mumbled. He picked at a hole in his jeans.

  Oh, crap. She’d never met Charlie’s father, but she had the sudden urge to throttle him. “I’m sorry,” she said.

  “Why? So my dad couldn’t make it work. Big deal. It doesn’t mean anything. What’s it to you?”

  “Does Tom know you’re back?” she asked carefully.

  He shrugged.

  “Have you called him?”

  “No, okay? Jeesh! Leave me alone. ”

  “You should call him, Charlie. He cares a lot about you. ”

  “I don’t care! I don’t care about Tom, okay?” Spike barked madly. “He’s not my father. I never asked him for anything! I didn’t want to learn how to box! I never asked him for that. He treats me like an idiot baby with those stupid model airplanes and presents, like he can buy me! Like I can’t tell that he hates me!”

  Yark! Yark! Yark! “Spike, be quiet,” Honor ordered, scooping up the dog. The dog obeyed. She looked at Charlie and squinted. Teenagers. Attitude. Yawn. “So you’re not a baby?” she said.

  “No,” he snapped.

  “Then stop acting like one. ” Huh. Hadn’t planned on saying that.

  “What do you know about anything?” He kicked his shoe in the sand.

  “A lot more than you, apparently. Tom has spent three years trying to stay in your life. ”

  “I never asked him—”

  “Shush. Now I know it must be incredibly hard to have had your mom die. My mom died when I was young, too. ”

  “My mom didn’t just die,” he said. “She. . . left. ”

  Honor softened. “I know, honey. ”

  “And what if she wasn’t coming back?”

  “I bet she was. ”

  “Yeah, well, you don’t know that. ”

  What was it about teenagers, that they loved thinking of themselves as the single most tormented individual on the face of God’s earth? “From what I’ve heard, she loved you, and even if she went away for the weekend, I imagine she was coming back. ” Charlie said nothing, and Honor sighed. “Mothers do die sometimes, and it does suck, and you never quite get over it. I’m sorry it happened to you. ”
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