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Authors: Janna Watts,Jolene Perry

10 Weeks (5 page)

BOOK: 10 Weeks
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“Kay-Kay,” he calls.

I don’t turn around, but I
stop walking
. “Yeah?”

“I’ve got to see a friend in the hospital. Visiting hours end at nine. Did you… you could ride along with me if you wanted.”

A block of ice settles in my stomach. Because it feels like whatever my answer is going to be is huge. And I can’t decide if saying yes, I want to come is really the right thing. Because it’s so far beyond sleeping with him and still so firmly planted in the friend territory. I’m a mess of emotions.

I turn slowly and his mouth drops.

“Yes,” I say, brushing away tears. “Yes, I want to come with you.”

He takes three steps forward to meet me and traces his fingers beneath my eyelashes. “Don’t cry, beautiful. This will pass.”

Then he takes my hand and walks with me to the parking lot. Most of the campers are at evening activity, but some of the other counselors are heading out. They see his hand in mine. Glances are exchanged, but he doesn’t
release me
. And just like that, the ice melts into a pool of warmth. Because no matter what else happens, Alex, in his own way, has
claimed me.



The drive to the hospital is eerily quiet. I want to ask him who we’re seeing. I want to ask him what’s wrong with the person. I want to ask him why he held on to my hand when a week ago he would’ve dropped it. But instead, I stare out the window and watch the pine trees pass by.

My wedge sandals squeak on the hospital tile. Alex glances down at them and offers me a half-smile. “Probably should’ve let you change. But you know, visiting hours.”

I nod. “It’s okay. I’ll wait outside, right?”

“Yeah. That’d be good. I won’t be in there for that long.”

He stops at a door and looks at me for a second. Then, he wraps his arms around me and whispers, “Thanks for coming” into my ear. His hug is warm and delicious and everything I expected it would be and I don’t want to let him go, but he pulls away. Then he tucks a long piece of my hair behind my ear and pushes into the room.

I move down the hall to a bank of chairs. The plastic is cold against the backs of my legs
and I wish I had been smar
ter about my wardrobe choice
. Not that I imagined my evening ending in a hospital. I cross and uncross my legs as I stare at a CPR poster on the wall.

“What are you doing here?” a voice breaks through my haze. Irene.

“I’m…um…waiting for Alex.”

Her mouth turns down
and she pats her pockets like she’s looking for a cigarette. “You came here with Alex?”

“Yeah. It’s my night off.”

“I gathered that.” Her gaze moves over me in disapproval. Every inch of flesh showing is like a black mark on my future at the camp. “Well, if you’ll excuse me.”

She shuffles past me and I call out, “Irene.” She looks up. “Are you okay? I mean…are you here to see someone?” Irene has always been formidable and terrifying. I can’t imagine anything actually ever being wrong with her.

“Of course. I’m here to see my daughter. Same as Alex.”

She turns around and shuffles the rest of the way down the hall to the room A
lex is in. He’s coming out
as she’s entering. His gaze zeroes in on me before he mumbles a few words to Irene.

My brain is flooded with questions. How does Alex know Irene’s daughter? How come none of us knew she had a daughter? I’ve been at the camp for ten years. Surely, I would’ve caught wind of this.

Alex walks down the hall toward me. Slower now. Like he’s carrying a huge pack on his back. He stops in front of me and holds out his hand. I take it and let him pull me up.

“I guess you have some questions,” he says as he leads me out of the building.

“Yeah. A few.”

“All right. But can we wait until we get back to camp for me to answer them?”

I nod. “Are you okay?”

He stares at me
and his eyes glisten with unshed tears. “It’s hard to say goodbye.”



The ride back to camp is even worse. My mind is racing with questions and the peacefulness of the drive is overcome by the obvious heartsickness of Alex. He turns on the radio and listens to a couple of guys talk about hunting, then switches it off. His gaze wanders to my face a few times, but as soon as I look at him in question, he shakes his head and looks forward again.

He parks his truck and rounds the hood to my side. He opens the door before I can get my bearings, before I can brace myself for the rawness of his face. He takes my hand and pulls me out into the cool night and then steers us back to his cabin.

When the door shuts behind him, he releases such a long sigh that it sounds more like the beginning of a sob. I search the small wrinkles along the edge of his eyes. Laugh lines. Though now they’re more like sorrow lines, etching in his face a lifetime of pain that I have no idea about.

“Robin. Irene’s daughter. She’s dying. Cervical cancer.”

“I didn’t realize Irene had a daughter. I mean they don’t really talk about her. Are they estranged?” I ask.

“Yeah. They have been. I think Robin reached out to all of us again when she realized she was sick.”

I worry my bottom lip. “So you know her pretty well?”

He nods and moves next to me on the bed. The warm skin of his leg presses against mine and for the first time in awhile, the butterflies in my stomach don’t pick up speed. They’re still there. But this time, it’s like they’re waiting as much as I am.

“Robin’s my ex

I blink and my mouth drops open. “Whoa. I wasn’t expecting that.”

He laughs once, but it’s sort of brittle. “I’ll bet.”

“How long were you married?”

“A few years. In my mid-twenties. We were both young. Stupid. Just out of college. We didn’t really know each other that well. We didn’t really know ourselves that well.”

I nod because at this point, I don’t know what else to do. I’ve been blindsided and the mountain of history that is tumbling over me is making it difficult to breathe.

“So then one day about three years into our marriage, s
takes off. No note. No nothing. Like she just decided she didn’t want to live that life anymore. A few months later, after searching for too long, I get divorce papers in the mail. Irene and George knew she’d disappeared. They hadn’t heard from her either. It was like she became a nomad or something.
months after, my first summer living by myself without Robin, Irene offers me the job at camp. I think it was her way of apologizing for her daughter’s mess.”

He takes my hand and laces his fingers through it. I can’t seem to hear anything.
Robin was my ex
keeps zinging around my head, echoing louder than any of his other words.

“So she’s dying and wants to reconnect?”

He nods and squeezes my hand
, then traces circles on my palm

“Did you love her?” I ask and my voice sounds so tiny that I can’t imagine he sees me as anything other than a little girl with a crush.

“I thought I did. I don’t know. I was young. Love when you’re young looks different than when you’re older.”

It’s a slap in my face. I know it, but I’m too numb at this point to feel it. “Do you love her still?”

“No. Not since the day I signed those papers. Probably even before that.”

I release his hand and stand up on my ridiculous wedge sandals. He stares at me and every emotion is plastered on his face.
For the first time ever, he’s an open book.
I know what he wants, what he thinks he needs, but I can’t give it to him.
It nearly guts me, but I know I have to leave. I can’t be his evening solace. I want more
than that.

“Thanks for telling me. Thanks for letting me come tonight.” I move toward the door.

“Kay-Kay,” he calls out
and the longing in his voice almost stops me.

I turn to him and shrug. “I’m only nineteen. You’ve made your position clear. But I can’t be what you think you need tonight. I can be your friend. But I can’t be anything else. You think I don’t love in the same way you do? That I’m too young to understand? I love you so much I’m giving you exactly what you need right now. A night that you won’t wake up regretting.”

And with my heart sliced into tiny pieces and scattering at my feet, I walk out the door.

Chapter Nine

Three days. Seventy-two hours. Four thousand three hundred and twenty minutes. That’s how long it’s been since I left Alex. Since I said the L word then walked out. And now it’s Sunday and I have the entire day off.
and Jo have switched their days so they can go up to Bayswater for some festival I have no interest in seeing. So I’m on my own. I stare at my laundry bag in the back of the camp wagon heading to town. I have a whole day off and I’m doing laundry. I’ve reached a new low.

I slide into the passenger seat of the wagon and wait for whoever is dropping me off in town to show up. This is one of the only perks of being car-less at camp. Someone will drop you off and pick you up on your days and nights off. It’s a built in designated driver
and when Jo isn’t around to drive home from the Little Minnow, it’s sort of a godsend.

I prop my feet on the dash board and stare out the window. The door opposite me swings open.

“Buckle up.”

Alex. Of course. FML.

“You’re the driver? Since when? You hate driving counselors into town.”

He grins and a piece of my heart cracks off and drops on to the crappy vinyl seat. “Heard you were going to be the passenger so I volunteered.”


So we’re friends again? Maybe. Do I even want that?

He reaches across me and grabs the seatbelt. His hand brushes against my thigh as he clicks the buckle into place and a warm puddle of want moves from my belly downward. Nope. Friends isn’t going to be an option.

I inch back, pressing myself against the door. He starts the car and switches the radio on. Some sort of twangy country western thing. I hate Northern Wisconsin radio stations.

He taps his hands along the steering wheel and pulls out onto the camp road.

Four minutes into the silence, he takes a right on to the main highway.

“Laundromat is that way. You know, toward town.”

“You can do your laundry later. I thought we’d do something else.”


He nods and continues tapping on the steering wheel. “Yep.”

I need to get my head in the game. My gaze keeps wandering between his tan legs and strong hands. “How’s Robin?”

His mouth dips into a frown. “They’re talking about moving her to hospice. Irene is against it, but I think it would be best for her.”

“What does Robin think?”

He shrugs. “She doesn’t really weigh in. She’s on a lot of morphine. She’s not really awake. It’s Irene’s call at this point.”

“Hmm… Well, I guess she’d know what’s best.”

We drive a few more miles in the opposite direction of civilization before I can’t override my curiosity any longer. “Where are you taking me?”

“It’s not far now.”

That’s it. I’m being held hostage by the guy I’ve been thinking about since practically the first day of camp, maybe even before that, and I’m in full-on panic mode. I don’t know how to be with him. My usual banter won’t work because it’s almost exclusively based in innuendo and that ship has sort of sailed.

He reaches out and pats my leg. “Relax, Kay-Kay. It’s going to be fine.”

I’m not sure what he means by fine because currently my leg is on fire from where he touched me
and I am four seconds from grabbing the steering wheel, heading into the trees, and

Oh dear.

A few minutes later, he pulls into a tiny parking lot beside a boat dock. I blink. He opens the door and pulls a waterproof picnic basket from beneath a blanket in the backseat. So not what I was expecting.

He comes to my side of the station wagon and grabs me by the hand. “My canoe is over here.”

I walk behind him to the dock and see a beached canoe tilted over on the shore. He flips it right side up and grabs the two paddles beneath it.

“You were planning this for awhile, huh?” I ask.

“The past three days.”


He hands me the paddle and pulls the boat to the edge of the water. He drops the picnic basket in the middle and points to the bow. “Well, hop in.”

I slide off my shoes and stow them next to the picnic basket. Then I hop in the front of the canoe and look back at him. He’s staring at me so hard that my pulse speeds up. “Are you okay?”

BOOK: 10 Weeks
5.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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