Read When Light Breaks Online

Authors: Patti Callahan Henry

Tags: #Romance

When Light Breaks (9 page)

BOOK: When Light Breaks
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“Well, you’re the one who always believes in angels.” Charlotte smiled with that sideways grin she has when she is right and I am wrong. “Maybe he was an angel reminding you to slow down.”
“I don’t think an old man driving a pickup truck qualifies as an angel with messages,” I said.
“How do you know what qualifies?” Mrs. Carrington sat down, plopped a book of bouquet photos in front of me. “Now, let’s get these flowers decided. You said you wanted white peonies, and if you want them in May, we have to order them now from Israel or we’ll be paying premium price and be lucky to get remainders.”
“Peonies were my Mama’s favorite.”
Mrs. Carrington patted my shoulder. “I know . . . so let’s get them ordered.”
I lifted my Tiffany-blue satchel, yanked out the pink wedding binder and flipped to “Flowers.” I found the picture I’d torn out the day I’d met Maeve, and handed it to Mrs. Carrington. “Can we duplicate this? I love the Swarovski crystals coming out of the flowers.”
“Absolutely.” She pulled a pad out from below the counter.
“Really?”
Mrs. Carrington sketched and made notes, taking over the designing in one fell swoop. I turned to Charlotte.
“I’ve got to find another band.”
“Flowers, Kara, flowers. Focus.”
“Okay . . . okay.”
Unknown Souls.
I touched Charlotte’s arm. “You ever hear of the Unknown Souls Band?”
“No.” She tossed her curls behind her shoulder and pointed to the sketchpad. “Flowers.” Charlotte put her hand on my leg. “You okay?”
“I think I’m getting sick . . . or something. I don’t feel all that great. Everything—like how much I love both of you—is making me want to cry.”
Mrs. Carrington stuck her charcoal pencil behind her ear, pulled her bifocals down on her nose and looked at me. “You worried about this bouquet? You know I’ve done your baptism, your sister’s wedding, your mama’s funeral, and I won’t mess up your wedding.”
“I know.” I hugged her. “This might be the one thing I’m not worried about.” I leaned over to glance at the sketches. “Perfect. That’s exactly what I want—except with white satin ribbon around the stems for the bridesmaids. Thank you so much,” I said. “You’re like family to me.”
Mrs. Carrington nodded. “Tell your daddy that.”
Charlotte laughed, then looked at me. “She has a big old crush on your daddy.”
“You do?” I raised my eyebrows at Mrs. Carrington.
“Oh, Charlotte, you are so inappropriate . . . I swear, sometimes I’m not sure who raised you.” Mrs. Carrington nodded toward the sketches. “Now let’s talk about what we came here to talk about.”
“Well, more importantly,” Charlotte said, “what are you going to wear tonight?”
“Tonight?” I unclenched my fist, raised my palms up in a question.
“Your shower.”
I plopped my forehead down on the counter. “Oh . . . I’m so not in the mood.”
“Only you would not be in the mood to get gifts.” Charlotte laughed and rubbed my shoulders.
 
My home was quiet save for the creaks and settling of the old house—a private conversation it had with itself daily. I entered the library off the front hall and sat down at the computer. I glanced at my watch—fifteen minutes before Peyton would pick me up for the shower at his mother’s house. I sat down on the antique rolling chair and flashed to the Unknown Souls Web site. Large on the flat screen, Jack Sullivan’s face appeared.
I would have known him even without the
“Jack Sullivan— songwriter”
written in jagged letters underneath his picture. It was only a head shot, but his hair was still dark and curly, almost shoulder length. A small goatee covered his chin. The last time I saw him, he’d had some fuzz on his upper lip—I remembered the way it felt when he kissed me.
I shook my head.
I clicked on Jack’s face and enlarged the picture. He wore a half smile—“a half-ass grin” Daddy used to call that expression. Daddy hadn’t liked Jack “one little bit”—trouble, nothing but trouble, he’d said. Mama had just rolled her eyes at Daddy. “That’s what they said about you, Porter, and look at you now—aren’t you the fine upstanding husband and father.” And then they’d kiss and I’d leave the room knowing Mama would eventually talk Daddy into liking Jack. But she’d died before she could do so.
“Be careful what you believe—it is who you are.”
Maeve’s words rolled across my mind, and I shook them off with a toss of my head. I knew exactly who I loved
and
why.
I clicked on the “About the Band” icon.
The Unknown Souls Band was formed after a performance at a benefit for the Mended Hearts Orphanage in Texas. The public response to their music and onstage presence has been overwhelming; requests for performances continue to pour in. The band was started by the two Sullivan brothers: Jimmy, the lead singer and guitarist, and Jack, the songwriter. Five years later, the band has grown in popularity and notoriety. They have just signed their first recording deal, and their first CD was released in February with twelve original songs written by Jack Sullivan. Their unique combination of mellow rock, Celtic and blues is blowing through the music industry like a breath of fresh air.
“Trouble, yeah, right,” I mumbled underneath my breath. “Helping orphanages and writing songs is very, very big trouble, Daddy.” I leaned back in my seat and released a long breath. A quick flash of something that resembled nostalgia, of being thirteen and full of hope, washed over me, attempted to open a place behind my heart.
I shut my eyes and ignored the memory of Jack’s good-bye in the predawn light of that summer morning so long ago. There was a time when I’d known every detail of the scene—reliving it over and over until vividness faded, emotion drained. I’d called upon the memory until it was all used up, until it was poured out, emptied.
There were two events in my life that produced an emotion so specific, so whole that I could not duplicate it with anyone or anything else. One was the loss of my mama. The other was Jack’s first touch. Seeing Jack’s face, I felt it—a sudden yearning for something unnamed that no one else brought to me.
I closed my eyes. “Jack,” I whispered.
“Kara?” Peyton’s voice startled me.
I jumped to my feet, tripped on the edge of the Oriental carpet, and kept from falling by grabbing on to the corner of the desk. “Hi, honey . . . hey. What’re doing?” I hugged him.
“Umm . . . picking you up. I rang the doorbell four times. You asleep in here?”
“I must’ve been . . . it’s been a very long day. Sorry.” I screwed my face up into a pout, then kissed him on the lips.
Peyton kissed me back. “You know, if you make that face and say sorry, I can never stay mad. I have a feeling you’ll be using that on me for all time.”
The way he said “for all time” sounded so sweet and full of forever—the opposite of loss and leaving and abandonment—that I smiled.
Then he glanced down at the screen. “What’re looking at?”
My fingers fumbled to exit the Internet. “Nothing. . . .”
He squinted at the screen. “The Unknown Souls. I heard them a couple years ago in Atlanta. They were awesome.”
“Really?” I tilted my head.
“Yeah, but I doubt you can get them now . . . they’ve gotten too big for that kind of stuff.”
“What do you mean?” I looked into Peyton’s eyes.
“Well, aren’t you looking for a band for the tournament benefit?”
“Yes,” I said, my voice sounding more like a question than a statement.
“Don’t get mad . . . you know I don’t intrude on your job. Rick just told me what a mess it all was at the meeting today.”
“I’m so thrilled that you have spies who can tell you how I’m doing at my job.”
“Now don’t get all huffy. If it weren’t for your job, I would never have met you. Then where would I be?”
“Not going to this shower.” I slouched against the desk, supported myself with my palms.
Peyton threw his head back and laughed. “Don’t you dare let my mother hear you say that. She thinks this is an absolute stroke of genius on her part. With her child an only son, she never thought she’d get to do any of this wedding stuff. A bar shower in the room she had designed to look just like an English pub—brilliant, huh?”
“Absolutely brilliant.” I grabbed Peyton’s hand. “Oh, by the way—how was the birthday party last night?” I poked him in the ribs.
“Boring and stupid. Truly. Those guys act like they’re still eighteen and just got their first fake ID.” He nuzzled my neck and kissed me. “I would have much rather been with you.”
“Me too.”
“I’m sure we have plenty of family dinners ahead of us.” The words sounded synonymous with “forever,” and they soothed me.
“Come on, let’s get this over with.” I pulled him to the front door.
“You’re ready?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I asked.
“Because you don’t have shoes on and your sweater is inside out . . . babe.”
I groaned. “Give me a minute.” I turned and ran up the front stairs to my bedroom.
I stood in front of the full-length mirror Mama had given me for my eighth birthday, and stared at my face. “Get it together,” I whispered, then yanked my baby-blue cashmere sweater over my head, flipped it right-side out and pulled it back down. The sleeve caught on my hair clip; I jerked it down to a grotesque ripping sound.
“Damn.” I yanked the sweater off and stared at a gaping hole in the right sleeve.
I walked to the closet and stared at my clothes. All I wanted to do was slip into my silk pajamas, crawl into bed with a cup of hot lemon tea and read the last chapter of
Beach Music
, discover if love was truly everlasting.
The only sweater still in its dry-cleaning bag was the black one with the beaded trim: guaranteed to be clean. I slipped it on and grabbed my black Gucci boots—the ones that killed my toes, but ones I’d wear until they fell apart because of what I’d paid for them, with my first real paycheck.
I came to the top of the stairs and looked down at Peyton. He stood at the front door with his back to me. He fidgeted back and forth on his feet while he fingered the walking cane collection at the front door, then lifted one that Daddy had bought in Charleston. He twirled it, put it back in the holder. He let out a long sigh and called my name as he turned.
“I’m right here, Mr. Patient,” I said, walking down the steps.
“You changed,” he said.
“Is that okay?”
“Yes . . . just noticing.” He opened the front door and made a sweeping gesture with his hand.
“Sorry . . . I’m just tired.”
“You do look a little . . . pale.”
I came up next to him, grabbed his hand and placed it on my forehead. “Do I feel hot?”
“No, but you look hot.” He pulled me toward him. “God, I cannot wait until we are in the same house and I can see you and hold you whenever I want. This living with Daddy thing is not working out well for me.”
Warmth ran over my body, and I immediately thought how to slip away that night before returning home—how to spend a few hours allowing his love to quiet the flurry of thoughts and feelings running through me. With all the craziness in our lives, it had been two or more weeks since we’d been together. I kissed his cheek. “Let’s go. I don’t want to face your mother if we’re even one minute late.”
“Good point,” he said and clasped my hand. “Very good point.”
 
The large pub room located off the garden terrace of Mrs. Ellers’s spacious home was overcrowded and stifling hot. Looking around, I was reminded that Peyton had bought this home for his mother, the fulfillment of a promise he’d made when he was six years old, when his father had walked out on them, to always take care of her. His protectiveness toward her was one of the many qualities in him that I adored. I stood behind the bar, which was piled high with wrapped gifts, and squeezed his hand.
“It is so hot in here,” I said.
“It is?” He took a long swallow of beer from a frosted mug with
Ellers Pub
etched in the glass.
This was a moment I should have savored. But I often found that when I should be most “in the moment,” I became an observer instead of a participant, as if I were watching my life through the lens of a camera—filtering it through the convex lens, the images distinct but distant. This habit of observing my life had started at Mama’s bedside the night before she died, and it hadn’t quit yet. I reached for my camera at one side of the bar, lifted it to capture this moment I might be able to fully enjoy later, while looking at the pictures.
There was Daddy talking to Mrs. Carrington at the far end of the room, near the door that opened to a deck. Mrs. Carrington motioned for them to walk outside, but Daddy shook his head and smiled. My heart hurt for him, as I knew how he felt—Mama was still in our hearts even if she wasn’t standing next to us. Someone can die, or leave, but the feeling of attachment doesn’t leave with them. Oh, if only it did—if only desire for them left when they did.
Scattered throughout the crowd were friends of mine who went all the way back to preschool. They talked loudly, yet all I heard was an overwhelming roar without words.
A handmade wine-cork backsplash covered the wall behind the bar. I was sure that my soon-to-be mother-in-law had drunk every single one of the bottles of wine from which those corks had come.
My kind brother, Brian, stood at the end of the bar flirting with Charlotte. No use in that—Charlotte had been avoiding his loving puppy-dog looks since she was nine years old. I smiled. He was persistent and adorable with his head full of blond curls and his quick blue eyes. He was probably trying to talk Charlotte into going to the most delicious place I knew in Palmetto Pointe—his shack behind a bluff on Silver Creek.
I leaned against the bar as Peyton’s mother, Sylvia, moved next to me. She tapped her red fingernails on the polished mahogany bar. “You having fun?” She leaned toward me, vaguely unsteady on her feet even this early in the evening.
BOOK: When Light Breaks
8.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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