Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(50) by Susan Mallery
Elissa’s father took the seat across from hers and reached for her hands. “How are you really?” he asked.
The contact felt both familiar and strange. She squeezed his fingers. “I’m good, Dad. How are you?”
“Fine. Fine. Still at the bank, of course.”
“Your father’s been made district manager,” her mother said proudly.
“Wow, that’s great, Dad.”
Her mother carried the iced tea glasses to the table. “Come join us,” she told Bobby who hovered in the background.
He reluctantly took the fourth chair.
Elissa accepted a drink, then sipped while everyone stared at her.
There was a surreal combination of old memories and a new situation. She wasn’t sitting in her usual chair. The view was wrong, even discounting the remodel. But she couldn’t remember where she usually sat.
“You’ve grown up,” her father said.
“You’re so pretty,” her mother told her. “You’re all right? Healthy and everything? Do you have a job?”
“I’m good. I’m a waitress and I make jewelry on the side.”
Saying it all aloud made her want to cringe. She’d been raised to believe she would go to college and have a career, not work in a diner and barely get by. Still, she’d survived on her own under difficult circumstances and she refused to apologize for that.
“So you don’t need money?” her father asked.
Elissa stiffened. “No, Dad. I didn’t come here for money or anything. I wanted to get in touch with you.”
“Kevin, don’t,” her mother said. “Elissa’s back. That’s a good thing.”
“I know that,” her father said. “I’m happy. It’s just…” He frowned. “You were gone for so long. We didn’t know what happened to you. Your mother…”
“I missed you,” Leslie said, interrupting him and smiling. “Where do you live now? In Washington?”
Elissa remembered what Bobby had said about her mother having to go away for a rest. Had she had some kind of emotional collapse? Guilt settled in her stomach. If something had happened, Elissa’s disappearance was the reason.
“I live here. In Seattle.”
“Seattle?” Her mother’s mouth trembled. “So close. For how long?”
“A few years now.”
“But you n-never…” Leslie pressed her fingers to her mouth. “I see.”
Elissa’s father released her hand. “You didn’t want to call and let us know you were all right? You didn’t think that was important?”
Bobby swallowed and stood. “That’s my fault.” He cleared his throat. “Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something. I’m really sorry. I know you’re going to be angry and upset and I can’t blame you. What I did was wrong.”
Both their parents stared at him. “This isn’t a good time, Bobby,” Leslie said, her voice shaking. “Not a good time at all.”
Kevin put his hand on her shoulder. “Just relax, Leslie. We’re fine. Everyone is fine.”
Bobby shifted his weight and looked as if he would rather be run over and left for roadkill than speak. “I, ah, I’m the reason Elissa never got in touch with you before.”
As Elissa still didn’t know how she felt about what Bobby had done, she didn’t feel the need to come to his rescue now. She kept quiet while he explained her phoning and what he’d told her.
Her mother turned back to her. “Elissa, no! How could you believe that of us? Of course we wanted to talk to you, have you come home. Do you know what we went through? Do you know how hard it was? How horrible?” She stood and faced her son. “Bobby, why? You saw. How could you have kept this from me?”
She took a step, then gasped and sank back in the chair. Kevin was at her side in an instant.
Elissa half rose, then sat down. “Mom, are you all right?”
Her mother gave her a shaky smile. “Of course. This brings back so much. Don’t worry about me.”
The words said all the right things, but the darkness in her eyes told another story. Her leaving had changed everything, Elissa thought unhappily, and not for the better.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry I ran away. I should have called.”
“You should have come home,” her father snapped.
“She tried,” Bobby said. “Don’t blame her, blame me.”
His willingness to take all the responsibility surprised her. “It wasn’t just that,” she told her brother. “I shouldn’t have left in the first place.”
“I’m better, Kevin. I’m all right,” her mother said, then patted her husband’s hand. “It was that boy, wasn’t it? The one you were dating.”
“Mitch,” Elissa said. “Yeah, he’s the one I ran away with. We ended up in L.A.”
“I knew it,” her mother said, fighting tears. “I just knew it.”
“We looked in Los Angeles,” her father said. “There were too many kids down there. On the streets, in shelters.”
Elissa hated thinking what they must have gone through. “I wasn’t in either place. I lived with Mitch for a few months. Then we broke up and I got a job with another band.” She decided to gloss over the more sordid aspects of her earlier life. “It turns out I had a great knack for finding cheap accommodations and making other travel arrangements, so that’s what I did. I was paid in cash and usually rented a room in an apartment with a bunch of girls, so there’s no way you could have traced me.”
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