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Laurie drew a sharp breath as a glass shard pricked her finger. Gingerly, she extricated it and watched the blood bead. It clung to her fingertip in a perfect round sphere, then vanished in the cold stream from the faucet. Cal Morrison. As if she hadn't trouble enough. And yes, Cal was trouble with a big, bold, block letter T.
She fished another piece of glass from the drain. Her finger was bleeding again, and this time not beading, but running. She tossed the glass into the trash and angled the water around the sides of the sink. His hair was shorter, but just as blond, just as unruly. His voice, his stance, his eyes ... the way his mouth tipped into that sensuous smile ...
She was shaking. What had he expected? But that was Cal. Eternal optimist. There's always a way; just make it happen. She should have told him to go home with Ray, should have crushed any possibilities. She should have
She spun as Maddie, in her coat and nightie, ran across the kitchen and plunged into her arms. In one motion, she caught and lifted her child. Maddie tightly wrapped her arms about her neck, lip trembling, her tiny chest still lurching with silent sobs. Laurie looked up.
She hadn't heard the front door or any sounds of entry, but her mother stood in the kitchen doorway now, lips pressed into their permanently pained expression. "No matter what I tried ..."
"She's not used to it. This is all so new. The move, the change ..."
"She doesn't know me. She might have, of course, if you had deigned to visit."
Laurie sensed Maddie begin to calm. "I came for Daddy's funeral. You saw themthen."
Her mother's smile thinned her lips even more. It was so patronizing, her I'm-wounded-but-I-won't-argue smile.
Laurie accepted the guilt. "I'm sorry. It'll be better now. They'll get"
"Maddie was scared." Luke came in, carrying their little overnight bag. He set it down and shook the brown shaggy hair from his eyes. He needed it cut, but she resisted. He'd grown too serious for his five years, and the shaggy hair offset his somber eyes.
"We'll try again. I'm sure in a few days ..." She hated the entreating tone in her voice, more appeal than assurance.
Her mother pointed. "You're bleeding."
"I broke a glass. It's no big deal." She shifted Maddie to her hip and dabbed the finger with the dishcloth. "Thank you for bringing them back."
"I told you I would if there was a problem." Emphasis placed on problem, and a quick glance toward the source child.
Laurie deflected it. "I know you don't like to drive after dark." There she went, feeding her mother's martyr syndrome and heaping the guilt on herself. A reflex.
The sigh was expected. "Well, good night." Her mother's back in the brown boucle coat was straight and narrow as she let herself out.
Laurie took a long breath. The one stroke of luck was that Mother hadn't come while Cal Morrison was sitting in her kitchen. A shudder passed through her at the thought. She looked down at Luke. "Did you tell Grandma that Maddie was scared?"
He shook his head. "I didn't have to. She cried the whole time."
Laurie tightened her arms around Maddie's back and headed for the stairs. "Well, you're home now, punkin. We'll get you tucked in."
"With you, Mommy."
Laurie paused at the landing. She shouldn't. Probably she shouldn't. The women at the club had been appalled when she admitted her three-year-old still slept with her. Not every night, she'd been quick to add, but the damage was done.
"Okay. Until you fall asleep." She glanced down at Luke. "Did you like it at Grandma's?"
He nodded. "She made ice-cream sundaes. But she put pineapple on them." He scrunched up his nose.
Laurie smiled. "That's her favorite part."
"It's kind of yucky with chocolate syrup."
"I think so too. Jump into bed now, okay?"
Luke was easy. He burrowed between the sheets. " 'Night, honey." She flipped the light switch with her elbow on the way out.
Laurie deposited Maddie on the full-sized bed, removed her coat, and pulled the covers over her. She walked to the closet, undressed, and changed into her own pajamas, then climbed in beside her child. The bed creaked. What could she expect from an old one she'd found at a yard sale four days ago when she'd come back to Montrose?
She snuggled next to Maddie. Already the tears were dried, and sleepy eyes suggested a countdown of about four seconds to dreamland. Laurie smiled and kissed her daughter's forehead, then settled into the bed herself.
She supposed it was inevitable. In a small place like Montrose, she was bound to meet up with him sooner or later. She tried not to think of him walking home. Anyway, he liked walking. Guilt was not required.
Laurie laid a hand on Maddie's curls and snuggled in. After seeing Cal, she was glad not to climb into an empty bed with her thoughts, her memories.
Twilight by Kristen Heitzmann
Copyright © 2002, Kristen Heitzmann