The Best Goodbye(Rosemary Beach #13)(11) by Abbi Glines
I wasn’t sure if I should even bring up making a pizza here. He seemed really excited about the place in Grayton Beach. Asking a guy over for dinner wasn’t something I’d ever done. And although he was becoming a friend, I was still nervous.
“Everything OK?” he asked, as he walked toward me. His brow was creased in a concerned frown.
“Yeah, it’s just that Franny fell asleep. She was sick earlier this week, and she’s still not a hundred percent yet.” I paused instead of offering to make him pizza. Brad was nice enough to accept even if he didn’t want to.
“That’s understandable,” he replied, then glanced over my shoulder at the house before looking back at me. “Would you be up for ordering pizza instead?”
That was the reassurance I needed. “I actually have everything we need to make pizza here. I could cook for you,” I offered.
A smile spread across his lips. “I’d like that.”
“OK, let me wake Franny and move her to her bed. She’ll want to talk to me for a few minutes, I imagine. Come on inside. I don’t have any beer, but I do have sweet tea,” I told him, feeling a silly smile on my face that I couldn’t help. This was nice. He was nice.
“I’m a big fan of sweet tea,” he replied.
I wasn’t good at this, but he didn’t seem to mind. I led the way inside, then quickly made him a glass of tea. Franny slept through it all. I didn’t want her waking up and being confused by a strange man in the house. She wasn’t used to men being in our home at all.
“Here you go,” I said with a smile, as I handed Brad the glass. “Just give me a second to move Franny.” I really wanted to ask him to step outside while I did it, but that would seem rude.
“I’ll just enjoy the view of the water from your back porch,” he said with a wink, before heading for the door.
It was like he could read my mind. I almost said thank you but stopped myself. When he was safely outside, I went over to the sofa and gently ran my hand over Franny’s hair. “You need to get into bed,” I whispered close to her ear.
She stirred before slowly blinking her eyes as she tried to focus on me. “M’kay,” she mumbled, then snuggled deeper into the sofa.
“I can’t carry you, so you’re going to have to stand up. I’ll walk you to bed.”
“M’kay,” she said again, and held up an arm for me to take. Grinning, I helped her stand and tucked her close to my side.
“I love you,” I told her.
“Love you, too,” she replied in a groggy voice.
I wanted to give her everything. All the things I never had. And for the most part, I’d done that. I had given her a stable life, and she had no doubt that she was safe and loved.
When we got to the bedroom, she went directly to the bed and curled up without opening her eyes again. I took the covers and tucked her in, then pressed a kiss to her head.
“Do you like him?” she whispered, opening her eyes to look at me.
“Who?” I asked, wondering if she was dreaming. She often talked in her sleep.
“The guy on the back porch.”
“Oh!” I replied, surprised.
She smiled, then closed her eyes again, pulling the covers up to her chin. “Save me some pizza for tomorrow.”
With a laugh, I kissed her one more time before going to join Brad outside on the porch.
Twelve years ago
I waited outside the school for Addy. Every day, she’d meet me out here, and we would walk home together. Once we had ridden the bus, but when I’d punched a kid in the noise for shoving Addy out of his way and knocking her to the floor, I’d been suspended from bus privileges. Which was fine with us. We enjoyed the walk home.
Addy always told me about her day, and I loved hearing her talk. She’d laugh at things I said, and I’d try my hardest to be funny. It felt like those laughs belonged to me. Addy didn’t laugh enough at home. My mother made sure of that. But every chance I got, I gave her a reason to laugh. It gave me more pleasure than anything else.
The doors opened, and Addy stepped outside. Her blond curls hung down her back, and she squinted into the sunlight as she looked for me. Stepping forward, I waved my hand, and just like that, her face lit up. Again, that smile belonged to me. She only gave it to me. My chest got tight every time.
“Hey, River, are we still on for Friday night? My parents are out of town, so you could come over and watch a movie.” It was Mallory Buchanan, who came up beside me and flipped her hair over her shoulder dramatically.
“Yeah, sure,” I agreed.
Mallory had been flirting with me for two weeks, so I’d asked her out for Friday. I didn’t usually flirt with girls or talk to them in front of Addy. I could see it made her uncomfortable whenever I did. I glanced back at Addy and saw that her smile was gone and she was walking more slowly. She wasn’t in a hurry to get to me now. Why did Mallory have to talk to me out here?
“Yeah, I gotta go,” I said to Mallory, without taking my gaze off Addy.
I hurried toward her. The forced smile on my face was meant to ease her mind. Addy had become my best friend. She understood me in a way no one else did, and I got her, too. We looked out for each other and told each other everything. Except that I tried not to bring up girls in front of her.
“Hey, you,” I said, when I got close enough.
“Hey,” she replied, and her cheeks turned a light shade of pink. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”