Home > The Road to Rose Bend(8)

The Road to Rose Bend(8)
Author: Naima Simone

   Pain and, God help her, a sliver of shame sliced through her chest, straight to her heart. Because his accusation had contained a kernel of truth.

   An image of Cole standing so alone in that cemetery snapped to mind. No doubt he and Tonia would’ve raised their child in a warm, nurturing family. Because even as a teen she’d witnessed their love for each other—had even been envious of it. No one would ever accuse Cole of being selfish. The kind of devotion he possessed for his wife wouldn’t allow room for it.

   It seemed unfair that he’d lost his marriage by the whims of Fate, and she’d thrown hers away.

   “We all make sacrifices for those we love, Sydney,” her father said, and she ground her teeth together against another blast of pain.

   Who was he referring to? What loved ones? Daniel? Their child?

   Carlin?

   Because Sydney had sacrificed. For her marriage. For her sister. Over and over. But in both circumstances, it hadn’t been enough.

   “So, what’s the plan, Sydney? You haven’t been back home in almost ten years,” Patricia reminded her with a shake of her head. “What do you plan to do? Where are you going to live? How are you going to support yourself and a baby? What about prenatal care...”

   “No, I haven’t been back here in a long time, and I admit it. If not for being pregnant, I don’t know if I would’ve returned. But I’m here. Regardless of my personal experience in this town, it’s a good, safe place to raise a family. I want him or her to have that sense of community, that tight-knit closeness that’s next to impossible in a city. I want my baby to have...family.” She wanted her baby to have them. To be loved and accepted by them. Needed them to give her child what they hadn’t been able to give her. It couldn’t be more abundantly clear that she and her parents shared a strained relationship and that might not change. But she knew them; they wouldn’t take their disappointment out on an innocent baby. They would love their grandchild.

   She’d bet on that when she came home.

   Home.

   She thought of the house she’d passed on the drive into Rose Bend. A white, two-story Victorian on a corner lot. Gorgeous—with a steeply pitched roof, a lovely turreted tower, wide bay windows and a wraparound porch. It’d been breathtaking, yet still managed to appear homey, welcoming. Perfect for a loving family. A pang of longing echoed in her chest even now, as it had then, and she rubbed her knuckles against the ache. She would love to raise her baby in a house like that with both parents. A house meant to be filled with laughter, joy and affection. Maybe she couldn’t give her baby that house or two parents, but she could offer her child the unconditional love of a mother, security and stability.

   Contrary to what her parents thought.

   Sighing, she lifted her hands, palms up. “I know what my showing up here unannounced seems like to you. That I’m being impulsive and thoughtless. And I’m responsible for that opinion. I should’ve spoken to you about the divorce, about the baby. But I didn’t because...” Because you might’ve talked me out of it. Because I couldn’t bear letting you down. Again. “I just didn’t,” she finished quietly. “I’ve prepared for this move. As a grant writer, I can work from anywhere. And I make enough to support myself and the baby. Daniel and I agreed that while I’m pregnant, he will keep me under his insurance to cover my medical expenses. And then after he or she is born, Daniel will add the baby. I already contacted Moe Dennison on the drive here, and she agreed to lease me one of their rental cottages for the next couple of months while I decide on a permanent place here in town.”

   “Basically live in a B&B? No,” Luke balked, frowning. “What would people think? That we kicked our own daughter out of our house? No,” he repeated, with a decisive slap of his palm to the table. “I won’t have that kind of talk.”

   A small, humorless smile curved Sydney’s lips. “Right. Can’t have the Rose Bend townspeople gossiping about us. Glad to know that’s the first reason that pops into your head for inviting me to stay here.”

   “You know that’s not what I meant,” her father objected.

   “Sydney,” her mother murmured at the same time, but she held up a hand to still their protests.

   “I’m tired,” Sydney said, a soul-deep weariness winding through her veins and infiltrating every muscle. The baby, she silently convinced herself. Fatigue came with the territory. It had nothing to do with her parents’ not-so-warm welcome. Pushing back from the table and her barely touched dinner, she stood. “If it’s okay with you, I’m going to crash in my old bedroom for the night. I’ll head out to Kinsale Inn in the morning.”

   “Sydney, really,” her mother pleaded.

   And in that moment, Sydney desired nothing more than to circle the dining room table and lay her head on her mother’s shoulder as she’d done as a little girl. Have her mother wrap her arms around her and whisper everything would be okay, that God never gave them more than they could handle.

   The need for that embrace, for those words, throbbed inside her chest like a barely healed wound. One that had just scarred over and could be ripped open with just a careless movement.

   But Sydney didn’t round the table. Didn’t seek the hug, the comfort that most likely wouldn’t be offered.

   Instead, she murmured good-night and left the room, climbing the stairs she hadn’t treaded in years. What was the saying? You can’t go home again? Thomas Wolfe had meant a person could try to return to a place from their past, but it wouldn’t be the same as they remembered it.

   Oh, Thomas.

   If only that were true.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR


   “DAMMIT,” COLE SWORE as freshly made coffee sloshed over the rim of his mug and scalded his fingers. Gingerly lowering the cup to the kitchen counter, he lifted his hand to his mouth and sipped at the drops of the dark brew.

   Because it was a crime to waste good coffee. Any amount.

   The pounding at his front door that had caused the accident in the first place echoed through the living room and into the kitchen, as the two rooms were separated only by a long breakfast bar. He didn’t have long to wonder who waited on the other side of the door. Not when his thirteen-year-old twin brother and sister yelled his name through the wood.

   “Cole! Hey, Cole! Open the door!” Sonny boomed.

   “We know you’re in there!” Cher added, following it up with more obnoxious knocking.

   Yes. Sonny and Cher.

   Moe and Dad had named Wolf, Leontyne and Sinead at birth, and Cole’s biological parents had given him his musical name. Florence, his second to youngest sister and now eighteen, had come into the family when she’d been four. The twins had arrived six years later, when they were five. Upon their official adoption, Moe and Dad had allowed them the choice of keeping their birth names or selecting new ones. Each child had decided on a musician-inspired name like their older siblings. At least Florence, obsessed with the Supremes at the time, had chosen the gifted but tragic figure of Florence Ballard as her namesake. But the twins...

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