Authors: Molli Moran
As You Turn Away
By Molli Moran
Copyright 2014 Molli Moran
All Rights Reserved
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To my mom, who told me my first stories, and to my Grandma Jean, who taught me how to tell my own.
“You know something else I didn’t miss about Georgia? The heat.”
Quinn Reynolds gathered her hair with her free hand, and peered into her phone. This version of her New York City apartment was sized down to fit the video chat window, but she smiled at the sight of fresh flowers in the vase on the table.
“Oh quit whining.” Lanie briefly appeared in the frame before she was on the move again. “It’s three days…plus you’re in an air-conditioned hotel, aren’t you?” She moved her phone and her face filled the screen, dark curls springing everywhere. “Or did I forget to tell you the air conditioning is out here?”
Groaning, Quinn rolled over onto her stomach. “That’s criminal. I’m so sorry I left you there to deal with creepy Jake.”
Lanie raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know, Q. I’ve been lonely lately, so I was thinking of taking up with him. He’s maintenance, so he’s probably good with his hands.” She held a serious expression for a moment before dissolving into giggles.
“Ewww!” Quinn dropped her head onto the pillow. “Delaney Shaw, don’t even joke!” She shook her head as the world moved again. Lanie was sitting in Quinn’s favorite chair, legs curled under her. “Seriously though, when I get back, I promise to hook you up with a normal, nice, hot dancer. Or anyone who isn’t a total weirdo.”
Snickering, Lanie nodded. “Okay, that’s definitely a deal I’ll take you up on, and remind you of. Considering you broke it off with Will, I’m guessing you’ll be back in the dating scene?”
Quinn made a face. “I don’t think so. After this visit with my parents, I’ll probably be too stressed to date for awhile.” She frowned. “And truthfully, the last few guys have been great, but I haven’t felt that spark…that intense connection.” She drummed her fingers on the nightstand. “I miss that first-date jitter, that
sort of nervousness. I miss sex that feels…emotional. I don’t feel any of that anymore.”
“That’s because you don’t let anyone
.” Lanie’s eyes met Quinn’s through the phone, her chocolate gaze frank as ever. “I know there’s someone amazing out there for you if you’d give any guy half a chance.”
“I hope you’re right.” Sighing, Quinn stood, and smoothed the wrinkles out of her dress with her free hand. The light pink color flattered her, but she knew her mother would find some flaw: it was too casual, or it washed her out, or it was too short. “I can’t think about that right now, but once I’m back and settled in, I promise I’ll take a real interest in the next guy I date, okay?”
Lanie nodded. “Sounds like a plan. I miss you already, and hey—no matter what your mother pulls, just remember you get to come home in a few days. You’re staying in the motel, right?”
“Yes.” Quinn rolled her eyes. “There’s no way in hell I want to stay in that cold-as-ice mansion they call a house. It’s so big and formal.” She thought of the mismatched pillows and picture frames in her and Lanie’s apartment, and the various other culture and color clashes they’d decorated with over the years. “Not my style at all.”
“Okay, baby girl. Stick to your guns, and don’t let them get to you.” Lanie blew her a kiss. “But remember, if your dad seems open to really talking, go for it. Love you!”
“Love you too,” Quinn echoed, and ended the call. She turned on some music on her phone and strode into the bathroom.
Her flat iron was hot, so she worked on her hair, separating it into sections. She loved the dark color to her hair, but it had a mind of its own. Lanie consistently teased her about her “atrocious bedhead” in the mornings, but it was out of Quinn’s control. She knew there was no hope of getting it perfect, but she wanted to try for dinner with her parents.
She’d put off this visit for as long as she could, especially considering the way their last trip to New York ended. They’d barely made it through dinner without tearing each other’s heads off, and Quinn had no illusions about tonight being any different. There were a million reasons she left Georgia in the first place, and she had a feeling tonight was going to remind her of every one of them.
Quinn hesitated with her hand on the handle of the restaurant door; after taking a deep breath, she finally made herself walk into the building. The hostess asked about her reservation, and once Quinn gave her last name, she followed the girl to a table smack-dab in the middle of everything.
Her mother must have heard the clicking of Quinn’s heels, because she twisted in her seat while Quinn was still several feet away. Quinn took the time to study her mother, looking for even a hint of interest or excitement. Instead, Moira Reynolds appeared exactly the same as always: calm, cool, and elegant. Her fair hair was styled in an elegant up-do, and her eyes surveyed Quinn with a look so frosty, Quinn could practically feel icicles forming in the air between them.
“Mom, Dad.” Quinn stalled as she met her father’s gaze.
Clay Reynolds had a commanding presence that still intimidated her, even as an adult. His blue eyes arrested her attention even now. Instead of holding out her arms for a hug as she’d intended to, Quinn swallowed, and kept her hands still at her side. She studied her father for a long moment, unsure of what to say. The silence was like static across a radio station you tried desperately to tune in because you’d heard it playing your favorite song.
“Hi.” Quinn felt ashamed of how small her voice sounded.
Her father’s hair was still as black as her own was, though when he ran a hand through it, she noticed the sprinkling of gray. For a moment, she thought he would hold his hand out to her, but he let it drop to his side. She felt her shoulders slump at his response, but made herself remember Lanie’s advice.
“Quinn,” her mother responded. Her lips immediately flattened into a line.
Stopping the frown that formed and pulled her mouth down was impossible, as her name emerged in that thin tone. Quinn bowed her head for a moment to downplay how much the formality stung. Each time they called, she hoped that by some miracle, something would change. That this would be the point everything went back to normal, or they would at least find a new normal. That she’d be able to work through her anger toward them. And she was wrong, every time. More often than not, the phone calls ended early, if not abruptly.
“This place must be wonderful from the looks of it.” After settling into her seat, Quinn glanced up, steeling herself against the myriad of negative emotions she knew she would see in her parents’ eyes.
Her father faced her. “Brandon McIntire highly recommended it.”
Quinn knew the name, but only in passing. Her dad dabbled in stocks, aside from his law practice. Truthfully, Quinn wouldn’t have known any of his colleagues if they were standing in front of her. The lazy summer days spent at the country club while her father played golf and brokered deals were long past. That, like so much, belonged to a world she left behind when she stepped on a plane to New York.
The only thing Quinn missed about her hometown and her past were the years before her father’s career took off, launching him to a new level of responsibility and wealth. She remembered days filled with laughter and family outings—then suddenly he was always working. Looking back, she realized her mother pushed him to each new level, encouraged him to develop new contacts, to open his own law practice, and to move from their old neighborhood into the sprawling home they owned now.
They each seemed happy there, but Quinn never was. The house was too big, too overwhelming, and as the years passed, too
. It was missing the life and warmth to consider it a home. The distances between them at the dining room table, and in general felt like miles.
“I’m sure the food will be good,” Quinn ventured softly. “And we can talk.”
“I’d like that.” Her father’s lips curved in the barest hint of a smile. The expression was foreign on him, but not unwelcome. Quinn smiled back.
“I’ll be back.” Moira’s voice rang out in the silence, cracking like a whip. “I have important people to see.”
Quinn knew her mother hated when her father’s veneer softened, but her actions still felt like a slap in the face. Quinn swallowed hard but felt tears gathering in her eyes. She wished Lanie were here, or another of her friends. She needed a buffer between her and her parents. Quinn didn’t know how
to take their words, and worse, their silences, as an insult. She wasn’t as hard, as practiced as her mother and father were. She still felt pain, disappointment, and anger at the way their once-close relationship crumbled. And she still couldn’t look at her mother without remembering their last words—and the many fights leading up to that moment.
Staring after her mom, Quinn sighed, and studied her menu. She could feel her father’s gaze on her, but she didn’t know what to say. She knew he was trying, and that if she found the words, if she could just take the first step across the chasm that yawned between them, they might have a real conversation. But the words just weren’t there. Quinn didn’t know how to begin to heal things, even though the truth was she missed her father desperately.
Her mother’s voice brought her back to the present, as she returned to the table. “Quinnlan, your father and I want to talk to you.”
Quinn winced; she knew what this meant. They brought up the same subject each time she spoke to them. They wanted her to move home. They believed she belonged here, had even gone so far as to say she could dance here, too. What they would never understand was what she clung to on the nights tears clogged her vision: there was nothing for her back home. She had taken care to sever all ties when she left, effectively destroying her safety net and the temptation to fall back to what she knew.
What she understood—and what they
—was that she’d never thrive here. Her father would always be here, just out of her reach. And her mother would always be here, waiting to tear down Quinn’s self-confidence, her hopes, and her dreams.
“I know what you’re going to say.” She pushed her hair out of her eyes.
“We think you would be happier in Georgia—”
“No, Mom, I
,” Quinn interrupted. “I’ve been in New York for four years now. When are you going to respect my life, and my decisions?”
Her mother’s sigh was loud and prolonged, oozing out like syrup trapped in a bottle. “Young lady—” The tone was like breaking glass, and too familiar. “When will you stop thinking you know what’s best for yourself? You don’t understand the opportunities you’re missing here—that much is evident by your willingness to throw them away, along with your future.”
Quinn recoiled. She bit down hard enough on her bottom lip to taste blood.
“Moira, maybe we
listen to her.” Her dad reached for his drink. “We’ve been trying for some time now, but Quinn really does seem happy where she is.”
Quinn took a deep breath, steadying herself. This was the first time her father ever outright disagreed with her mom, the first time since she left that Quinn realized she might have at least a reluctant ally in him. This was more of an effort than he usually made, and she dared to look at him.