The last few months hadn't exactly been a love story as one might expect. True. It was gentle and kind for the most part. There was a quietness about it that Carson could not disturb. Not even now. It was true. They were growing apart.
Maybe he couldn't be a preacher's husband, after all.
Essie was busy. Nonstop. When she did have time for him, it was talk about her classes, her work..that preacher she worked with. Her eyes lit up when she spoke of Brother Caleb. Carson knew it was a matter of time.
And she was on a mission of some kind at Thanksgiving.
Of course, he'd been invited to Henry's. His Dad, Ren and Gage would be at Macy's for a little while. And then the rest of the night was intended for a little face chat with Halie and her family.
He wasn't going to do a thing. But he ended up at the Mega grocery store staring at pizza, but maybe it was the Chinese food he really lingered for. And then he looked over at the deli where the fried chicken smelled like homecooking. That's when he saw her from behind.
For a moment he thought he might be back home. If she'd been in cutoffs and a tank, he was sure it was Charlie, who was still a sunny blond, maybe a tad darker, but her denim jacket was thin and those old boots had to be hers.
He froze. Why would Charlie be here? They'd been friends. Always. Maybe she was the one who got away.
He could hardly think he loved her. But she always calmed him. She never wanted a thing from him. And now he felt as if he might be in an ocean of grief. How could he have forgotten about her? She was his first kiss. They were only twelve. And she was very much his equal.
She could definitely out ride him on a skate board or a wave, but she'd never admit it.
Her parents were just as much wayward as his. He never knew her address.
Well, he was going Google her name, but she never told him her last name. He nursed his bottom lip. If only he'd asked.
When she turned, he saw her smile. And she said, "Carson?"
It took his breath away.
They went to Thanksgiving dinner at Henry's.
He wasn't sure Aunt Myra approved.
"How long has it been since you've seen her?" Aunt Myra wanted to know while he was washing dishes.
"An awful long time." Carson couldn't count the years. "It was just an accident, you know." He told her about seeing Charlie at the grocery store.
"Maybe it was fate. Was she looking for you?"
"No." He shook his head. He knew she was looking for a job. Evidently, it wasn't easy finding a job when you got out of prison, but he didn't tell Aunt Myra that part.
Derrick knew his words were hurtful as soon as said them to Rossie.
Why was he like this? Old habits were very hard to die. He hadn't meant to be so dreadful. Derrick was trying to be funny, but it was no joke. He knew exactly what had happened to Rossie and he knew he was the reason.
"Look, can..can we just start over." Derrick finally sighed once they'd managed through the ever so quiet meal back at Zane's place.
Naturally, she had friends from where she worked and neighbors too. He'd gotten a chance to catch up with the woman who worked at Oliver's. He mentioned he'd worked their one summer which felt like a life time ago. He didn't even know if that person he'd been even existed anymore, but Derrick was polite and asked about Oliver and his brother.
It was shock to hear that Ian was in England now. And married with a kid.
Derrick felt as if the wind was taken out of him. He felt left behind, but here was the future right before him.
"Start over?" He knew Rossie wasn't buying it.
She did look amazing. He hoped she didn't think he thought she was fat. He hugged her then knowing her and the baby were the only chance for a real family. When the baby kicked, his stomach felt it too.
He laughed softly. Derrick didn't want to give up, after all.