Published by Etopia Press: Available January 4, 2013
It was really him. Curiosity got the better of her, and she glanced back over her shoulder. Memories assaulted her as he removed his six-foot-plus frame from the car to stand in the center of the welcome circle. Her friends were all talking at him, their voices filled with excitement. Judging by his glazed expression, their reaction left him a little overwhelmed.Ten years. She rubbed her chest, thinking back to the invisible ache that had bothered her earlier on the drive here. She’d struggled the entire two hours to keep her focus on the road and not on painful memories from her past.
She flexed her fingers. Maybe the cause of her earlier distress was the fact that this year served as a milestone. Ten years since graduation, ten years since she last saw Tanner, and ten years since…fuck. When did she start counting? Molly searched the area for possible escape routes.
Colleen’s gentle shake brought her back to the moment. “Brad texted me earlier and said he took the afternoon off. He also said he was bringing a surprise with him. He’s been dating somebody new. I just assumed—”
“Um…yeah. I wouldn’t have expected Brad’s surprise to be Tanner either. It…ah…caught me off guard. That’s—” Oh, crap. “I just need a few minutes.”
“You’ve got no color in your face. I’m sure it will be OK. Awkward, yes, but probably fine.”
Molly’s heart palpitated. Colleen’s mouth moved, but the buzz in her ears drowned out the words. She swallowed hard. Air, she needed air.
“Besides, the others won’t let him cause a scene. You’re the one we’ve stayed close to over the years, not him. Our allegiance is to you, honey.”
Molly swung her gaze to where her childhood friends had gathered around the car, effectively pinning Tanner against it. Sam and Olivia, a couple since they were in diapers, were married now, and both glowed like beacons.
Violet, a transplant from Toronto when her parents divorced, hovered close, waiting for her turn to say hi.
Brad and Tanner had been best friends through grade school and high school. Brad had been pissed when Tanner left town without a word to anyone. Looked as though he got over it.
Molly had never told anybody why she and Tanner broke up. She’d stressed over it at the time, deflecting comments from friends about him disappearing days before graduation. She hated the thought of being subjected to the pity she’d see on their faces if they knew the truth. Everybody just assumed the breakup had been his doing. She never corrected them, just implied she’d agreed with his decision.
Colleen’s words began to cut through the insistent noise. Molly nodded. “Thank you. That means more to me than you know.” Unshed tears burned her eyes. She opened her mouth and sucked in a shaky breath, but at least she had oxygen in her lungs now. “You’re right. It will be…fine.” She gulped. “Why don’t you go over and say hi?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’m going to wait here for a few more minutes.” She began calculating the odds of sneaking past her friends and making a quick getaway before any of them noticed. She made a mental note to back her car in next time.
“OK.” Colleen gave her a final squeeze and walked over to join the others.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Molly closed her eyes, wishing for a paper bag. A really big one. She so did not need this in her life right now.
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