He thinks he deserves a second chance--but does she?
Ryan's never forgotten that first, sweet, innocent kiss.
The way his insides curled up.
The way his entire body came alive.
He thought they'd be together forever.
But then, the siren call of the band took him away.
Women throwing themselves at him.
But he never forgot her.
She always held a place in his heart.
Even if she did tell him to leave.
Becky didn't want to love him.
Watching him walk away had been the hardest thing she'd ever done in her life.
She'd picked up the shattered pieces of her heart and forged ahead--making a new life for herself--without him.
Then he came home.
To bury his mother.
Seeing him, alone by the side of the grave threatened to unravel her.
If she could just keep her distance--until he left--then she'd be okay.
But his mother had other ideas.
* * *
Extract--the first meeting:
I tried not to look when Ryan walked past me, carrying out his mother’s body, with the assistance of the friends that we’d grown up with.
But I couldn’t help myself.
I saw the single tear that trickled down his cheek and my heart ached with pain.
For him or for me, or for both of us? I would never be sure.
Somehow, there were enough people milling around the graveside, that when I dropped a handful of red and yellow petals on Marion’s casket I still managed to avoid him.
Now he stood there—alone—at the graveside. I still couldn’t bear to look at him. Such a lonely figure standing at the top of the hill.
I should have left, but it didn’t seem right.
Something held me on the periphery. Maybe it was the spirit of his mother, but for some reason I couldn’t leave the churchyard.
Then a sudden movement caught my eye.
I watched, enthralled, as Ryan pulled at the tie around his neck.
Emotion bubbling out of him in a familiar way.
He pulled a piece of gum from his pocket. Even from down where I stood I could see the firm line of his jaw moving as he began to furiously chew the gum.
I knew exactly what he was going to do next. He folded the paper into a tiny, silver V. The action used to infuriate me. I would find hundreds of the damn things littered around the house. I could never understand why he did it and what drove him to fold the paper in the same way every single time.
Then I watched as he appeared to say a simple prayer and then the tiny V caught and reflected the late autumn sunlight as it fell from his fingers and down into his mother’s grave.
After another long moment, he turned and began the walk down the hill toward the churchyard gate. As he came closer, I didn’t avert my eyes fast enough.
Ryan’s blue eyes locked on mine with a laser-like force.
I wanted to turn.
But I stood there.
Motionless, like one of the wild rabbits that sometimes got caught in the glare of my headlights when I traversed the village lanes at night.
Every step brought him closer to me.
The closer he came to me, the louder and faster my heart began to beat until it was all I could hear, the rush of my blood running through my body.
The sound of my name on his lips still did things to me that I didn’t want to acknowledge.
“Ryan.” His name caught in my throat. Still, I couldn’t look away from his face.
“It was good of you to come.” The words sounded awkward.
“I loved your, Mum like she was my own.” There was so much to be said. So many shared experiences and yet standing here in front of him now felt so strange. I pulled my coat closer around me. I should have gone home earlier.
He stepped towards me, made to pull me into his arms.
I took a step back. “Don’t!”
I couldn’t let him touch me.
“I’m sorry, I just thought…” He sounded defeated. I should have taken some comfort in that. Instead, it just hurt.
If I let him touch me the fragile glue that held my heart together would crumble.
“When are you leaving?”
He cleared his throat, took a step back opening up the space between us again. “I have to be back in the studio in New Zealand in a week.”
A week. I only had to avoid him for a week. That was doable.
“Are you coming back to the house?” he asked. “I’ve put some food on. Friends and the extended family, they’ll all be there.” He looked at me in the familiar way he’d always looked at me when he was trying to persuade me to do something that he knew I didn’t want to do. He looked so lost and alone it almost broke my heart all over again. I knew if I went back to the house with him it would likely shatter my resolve to stay away.
Then he’d up and leave again for that damned band.
I shook my head. “No. I see most of those people all the time.”
“Ah, of course,” he nodded. He sounded almost sheepish. As if he’d forgotten that I lived here all the time and he was the one out there wandering the globe like a minstrel.
“I should go,” I said, as I looked up from my feet. I’d been trying to concentrate on a patch of grass that stood between us—it was littered with damp, yellow and brown leaves—and I figured if I kept my eyes downcast, there was less chance that I’d be seduced by Ryan Griffin all over again.
I shouldn’t have looked up, my hunch had been right. The hurt in his eyes was nearly the undoing of me. “I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry,” I said as I turned to walk away from him one last time.
“Me too,” I heard him say as I began the short walk back to my car.
I wondered what exactly he was sorry for.
The death of his mother—or breaking my heart?