“Oh, I see how it is,” I play with him. “You only open my car door when your mother might be watching.”
He reaches for my hand and bows dramatically. “I will open the door for you from now on if you like that kind of thing, Milady…however…” I place my hand in his, grinning hugely at his display, “…I did not take you for the type.”
“Oh, is that so?” I say in a horrible English accent and I raise my chin higher. “And just what type did you take me for, Mr. Parrish?”
He shuts the door and loops his arm through mine, keeping his back refined and his chin raised.
“I took you for the kind who didn’t give a shit as long as it would open when you wanted out.”
“Well, you were right,” I say and press against his shoulder as he walks me to the door inside the garage.
The door opens into the kitchen to the smell of pot roast. I’m thinking: She had time to cook a pot roast? But then I see the Slow Cooker on the counter. Andrew walks me around the bar and into the den area just as a pretty sandy-haired woman comes around the corner from a hallway.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” she says, taking him into a big hug, practically squeezing him with her little body. Andrew must be at least three full inches taller than she is. But I see where he got his green eyes and dimples from.
She smiles over at me with all the welcome in the world and to my surprise, takes me into a hug, too. I go all-in, pressing my arms vertically against her back.
“You must be Camryn,” she says. “I feel like I know you already.”
That strikes me as odd. I didn’t know she knew I existed until today. I glance covertly at Andrew and his lips pull into a secretive smile. I guess he had plenty of opportunities to talk about me while we were on the road, especially before we started sharing a room, but what surprises me the most is why he would have said much about me at all.
“It’s nice to meet you, Miss—.” My eyes grow wide as I look to Andrew for the information that I’m going to kick him in the shin for not giving me sooner. My lips tighten in aggravation at him, but he just keeps smiling.
“Call me Marna,” she says, letting her hands fall downward to grasp a hold of mine. She raises my hands up within hers, looking me over all the while with that glittering smile of hers.
“Have you two eaten?” she asks, looking at Andrew and then back at me.
“Yeah, Mom, we had something earlier.”
“Oh, but you should eat. I made a pot roast and green bean casserole.” She only lets go of one of my hands, the other she keeps grasped gently in hers and I follow her into the living room where a giant television is mounted over the fireplace. “Have a seat and I’ll fix you a plate.”
“Mom, she’s not hungry, trust me.”
Andrew comes in behind us.
My head is kind of whirling already. She knows about me, apparently enough to make her feel like she knows me. She’s so kind and all-smiles as if she actually loves me already. Not to mention, she held my hand and not Andrew’s to escort me through her house. Am I missing something here, or is she just the sweetest person with the most charming personality on the planet? Well, whatever the case, my feelings about her are mutual.
She looks at me and tilts her head to one side, waiting for me to speak up. I wince a little because I don’t want to hurt her feelings and I say, “I really appreciate the offer, but I don’t think I could eat anything else just yet.”
Her smile softens. “Well how about something to drink?”
“That would be great; do you have tea?”
“Of course,” she says. “Sweet, un-sweet, lemon, peach, raspberry?”
“Just sweet will be great, thanks.”
I sit down on the center cushion of her burgundy-colored sofa.
“Honey, what would you like?”
“Same as Camryn.”
Andrew sits down next to me and before she leaves to go back into the kitchen, she looks at us both for a moment, smiling with some kind of quiet thought. And then she slips around the corner.
I turn to Andrew swiftly and whisper, “What did you tell her about me?”
Andrew grins. “Nothing really,” he says, trying to look casual but it’s not working. “Just that I met this really sweet, unimaginably sexy girl that has a dirty mouth and a tiny birthmark on her inner left thigh.”
I smack him on the leg. His grin just gets bigger.
“No, babe,” he says, being serious now, “I just told her that I met you on the bus and we’ve been together since.” He rubs his hand across my thigh reassuringly.
“She seems to like me a little too much for that to be all you said to her.”
Andrew shrugs lightly and then his mom comes back into the room with two glasses of tea. She sets them down in front of us on the coffee table. They have little yellow sunflowers imprinted on the side.
“Thanks,” I say and then take a sip, setting the glass back down gently. I scan the coffee table for a coaster to put it on, but there isn’t one.
She sits down on the matching chair across from us.
“Andrew tells me you’re from North Carolina?”
Uh huh…that’s all he told her, my butt! I can just hear him grinning inside; it’s as loud anything audible. He knows I can’t glare at him, or smack him, or do anything I normally would do, really. I just smile like he’s not sitting right next to me.
“Yes,” I answer. “I was born in New Bern, but have lived in Raleigh most of my life.” I take another sip.
Marna crosses her legs and folds her ring-decorated hands within her lap. Her jewelry is simple, with two small rings on each hand and a pair of little gold stud earrings and a matching necklace draped in the folds of her button-up white blouse.
“My oldest sister lived in Raleigh for sixteen years before she moved back to Texas—it’s a beautiful state.”
I just nod and smile. I’m guessing that was just the icebreaker topic because there’s a bout of awkward silence hanging in the air now and I notice her glancing at Andrew a lot. And he isn’t saying anything. I’m getting a strange feeling from the silence, as if I’m the only one in the room who doesn’t know what thoughts are passing between everyone else.
“So, Camryn,” Marna says, letting her eyes stray from Andrew, “what were you traveling for when you met Andrew?”
Oh great; I didn’t expect that. I don’t want to lie, but the truth isn’t exactly something you just casually talk about over tea with someone you just met.
Andrew takes a big gulp of tea and sets the glass down.
“She was kind of in the same boat as me,” he answers for me and his answer shocks me into silence. “I was taking the long road and Camryn was taking the road to nowhere and it just so happens that they led to the same place.”
Marna’s eyes light up with curiosity. She tilts her chin to one side, glances at me first and then back at Andrew and then looks at both of us. There’s something warming, but very mysterious in her face and not the confused, skepticism I expected.
“Well, Camryn, I want you to know that I’m very glad that the two of you met. It seems your company has helped Andrew through some hard times.”
Her bright smile fades a little after her comment and I notice Andrew from the corner of my eye looking at her cautiously. I’m assuming she has said enough, or maybe he’s worried she’s going to say something that’ll embarrass him in front of me.
Feeling slightly uncomfortable being the only one here without all of the obvious information, I force a slim smile for his mother’s sake.
“Well, we’ve helped each other a lot, to be honest,” I say, smiling more now because what I’m saying is so true.
Marna gently pats her thighs once with the palms of her hands, smiles happily and stands up.
“I need to make a quick call,” she says with the flourish of her hand. “I completely forgot to tell Asher about that motorcycle he’s trying to buy from Mr. Sanders. I better call him before I forget again; excuse me for a few minutes.”
Her eyes secretly skirt Andrew just before she leaves the room. I saw it, surely neither one of them thinks I don’t know that there’s something else going on that I’m obviously not supposed to know about. I can’t tell if she secretly dislikes me and has been putting on a show in front of me so as not to make Andrew uncomfortable, or if it’s something entirely different. It’s driving me crazy, and I’m not as relaxed as I quickly came to be upon first meeting her.
And sure enough, a few seconds after she slips out of the room, Andrew stands up.
“What’s going on?” I ask lightly.
He looks down at me and I get the feeling he knows I’m not going to ignore this forever. He’s fully aware that I’ve been more observational than he wanted me to be.
His eyes scan my face, but he doesn’t smile, he just looks upon me as one might a person they’re about to say goodbye to. Then he leans over and kisses me. “Nothing’s going on, babe,” he says, now deciding to be the smiling, playful Andrew I know so well, but I’m not buying it.
I know he’s lying and there’s no way I’m going to drop this. I will for now while we’re here, but afterwards, that’s another story.
“I’ll be back in a second,” he says and follows the path his mom took.
I PROBABLY SHOULDN’T HAVE brought Camryn here because she’s smart and I knew she would pick up on the tiniest fluctuation in the conversation. Mom didn’t exactly make it difficult for Camryn, either. But this is an important meeting between them and I did what I had to do.
I walk through the den and down the hallway to my mom’s bedroom. She’s standing there waiting for me. She’s in tears.
“Mom, don’t do this, please.” I take her into a hug, cupping the back of her head in my hand.
She sniffles and chokes and tries to stop crying.
“Andrew, will you please just go to the appointment and—”
“Mom, no. Listen.” I carefully pull her away from my chest and I look at her, my hands secured to her shoulders. “It’s been too long. I waited too long and you know it. I admit I should’ve gone eight months ago, but I didn’t and now it’s too late.”
“You don’t know that.” Tears stream down her face.
I soften my expression, but I know she won’t listen to me no matter how convincing I sound.
“It’s gotten worse,” I say. “Look, all I want is for you to know her. She is very important to me. You’re both very important to me and I think you should know each other—”
My mom pushes her hand into my view and shakes it at me. “I can’t talk about this,” she chokes out, “I just can’t. I’ll do whatever you want me to do, and son, I already love her. I can tell she’s a wonderful girl. I can tell she’s so very different from any girl you’ve ever been involved with. And she’s important to me not only because she’s important to you, but because of everything she has given you.”