Come Back to Me
Blessings, Georgia #6
August 28, 2018
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After a devastating fire pitted their families against each other, high school sweethearts Phoebe Ritter and Aidan Payne were torn apart. Twenty years later, Aidan is called back to Blessings, nervous about confronting his painful past. And that’s BEFORE he knows about the nineteen-year-old secret Phoebe has been harboring all this time.
As Aidan tries to make up for lost time with the family he didn’t know he had, Phoebe and Aidan rediscover long-suppressed feelings. But the past won’t lie buried, and old enemies threaten to destroy the peace they’ve fought so hard to find.
Seeing the porch light on as she pulled up to the house was just like old times. He'd done that since he'd been old enough to stay home alone, and she'd missed it. She grabbed her things, ran up the steps, and let herself into the house.
"I'm home," she yelled.
"Me, too," he yelled back.
She laughed. Just like old times. She left her purse on a table as she hurried into the kitchen, and found Lee at the stove, heating up food.
He gave her a big hug.
"I waited for you," he said. "Go change and get comfy. I'll set the table while you're gone."
"Wonderful!" Phoebe said, and hurried down the hall to her room.
She changed out of work clothes into a pair of shorts and an old t-shirt, and changed work shoes for sandals, washed up and hurried back to the kitchen.
"You cooked," she said, eyeing the table and the inviting food.
"I just added some baked beans and fries to the ribs and slaw. Sit, Mom. Let me wait on you tonight."
"I won't argue," Phoebe said, and smiled at him when he brought glasses of sweet iced tea to the table, followed by the food.
After filling their plates, they began to talk as they ate.
"My grade point for the year is 4.0 and I was accepted into an accelerated Physics
program next semester," Lee said.
Phoebe beamed. "Oh, Lee, congratulations. I'm so proud of you. I know you didn't get that from me."
Lee took a deep breath. "Did I get it from my father?"
Phoebe's smile slipped a little. The sorrow she lived with was once again, evident on her face.
"Yes. He was very smart."
Lee ate a few more bites, then took his phone from his pocket, pulled up the picture, and pushed it toward her.
Phoebe smiled. "A new girlfriend?"
He shook his head, then waited as she looked down.
Her fork clattered onto the table. She pressed a hand over her mouth, but it didn't muffle the moan.
He grabbed her arm. "Mom. Are you okay?"
"Where did you...oh my God. That's the store parking lot."
She looked up. "You took this today."
He nodded. "I saw him by accident. Wasn't for sure, so I took a picture, then came home and compared it to yours. He's older, but it's him, isn't it, Mom? That's my father."
She nodded, then started to cry.
Across town, Aidan was already asleep, more at ease in this old house in Blessings, than he was in his New Orleans home, sleeping with the best security system money could buy. But there was no way to control where sleep took him, or enough locks on a door to keep Phoebe out of his dreams.
He saw Phoebe running toward him. He'd been waiting for days and days for her to come but she had not. She'd been part of the people who'd shunned them, and seeing her now, the pain in his heart hurt so much it was hard to draw breath.
"I'm sorry," she said.
He hardened his heart and turned away.
"Don't leave," she cried. "I'm sorry, so sorry."
He remembered how soft her lips were against his mouth, and how her body curled into his when they embraced, and kept walking.
"Aidan, please," she begged.
He wanted to bury his face against her hair and cry, but he didn't, and then the dream hit fast-forward and they were driving away and she was running behind them, but this time she didn't stop. She was behind their car as they drove out of town. She was running right behind their car all the way to the interstate, and then all of a sudden she was gone. He turned around in the seat, searching for sight of her, but she had disappeared.
He was screaming at his Dad, "turn around, turn around. We can't leave Phoebe behind."