Drawn To You (Paloma's Edge)

BOOK: Drawn To You (Paloma's Edge)
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DRAWN TO YOU

 

 

By Robin Shaw

 

Copyright © 2013 by Robin Shaw.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. Please do not re-sell or give away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient, or utilize the lending programs at your retailer. If you’re reading this book and you did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Formatting by
Little Dove Formatting

Dedication:

To my mother and sister. Both of you have always loved me truly, completely, and unconditionally. And because of that, I know what love really is.

 

Prologue

 

Four days ago…

 

Chase

 

Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking .— H. Jackson Brown, Jr. (Life’s Little Instruction Book)

 

In a blink of an eye, I missed her. And with my luck, I’d never see her again.

I’d waved to Scott, one of my teammates and friends, as he got into his Explorer and began his drive back to Ohio for the summer. I turned away from the girl for the slightest moment. She’d stood at the end of a long, crowded line for the bus.

A middle-aged man had passed by the girl. His hands were full. Bills fell out of the side of his pocket. No one else in the line had noticed. They’d been chatting with other people, anxiously waiting for the first-come-first-serve bus. The major benefit: the bus was cheap. The girl, however, had noticed. She’d picked up the bills and had run after the guy to return his money to him. Grateful, he’d made a gesture in what had to be an offer for some cash in return. But she’d declined and he’d left. Her suitcase had been tossed farther back. When she’d gotten back on the line, it’d increased in size.

Before I’d observed her look out for a complete stranger, I was gonna try to talk to her, ’cause she looked good in her t-shirt, sweatpants, and sneakers.

After my appointment with my coach, I had promised myself that if she was still there when I came out of my meeting in fifteen minutes, I’d give her a drive to where she needed to go to get to her destination.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Bethany

 

Beth, Sorry but
love doesn’t wait for you to be ready for it. – Cindy, xoxo

 

As I sat down by my bed, I must have read Cindy’s clichéd note a hundred times. I instantly knew that Cindy had left me because she was convinced that she was having the love affair of a lifetime.

My mom, Cindy Leann Pruitt
, had always insisted that I call her by first name since before I could walk; it was ingrained in me. My friends had thought it was cool when we were little. Their parents, though, hadn’t, and I had always felt like I was looked upon as a latchkey kid. Most folks in our small town—Franklin Parks, Florida—expected the worst from me because of Cindy. Trust me, I wanted to call her Mom…because, well, she was my parent. And that was what everyone else I knew who had moms did. I had told her how detached from her it made me feel to call her by her first name, how other kids had looked at me like I was a new creature at the zoo—or avoided me altogether.

Today, my plan had been to wait for the first
-come-first-served bus that took kids from the University of Miami back to Franklin Parks. However, Mariska and Jake, my two best friends, had called as I waited on the never-ending line and said that they’d pick me up. My beloved Ford Taurus, Betsy, had retired on me during New Year’s Eve. After I had spent some time with Jake and Mariska, I wanted to come home to Cindy.

W
hen I’d come home tonight, it’d been silent. There hadn’t been any evidence that she had recently been here. Cindy had worn a distinct perfume that lingered in the house no matter how many times I had opened the windows to air it out.

Momentarily, I
’d thought I was in someone else’s house when I’d smelled lemon and disinfectant. I had always done the cleaning here, or else it wouldn’t have been done. Walking around the kitchen after I came inside, I ran my fingers over the counter, inside the cabinets, and then the rusted kitchen table. No dust. All of the non-perishable foods I had stocked when I had been home during spring break were gone. And Cindy only ate fresh and organic foods, so it only meant one of two things: she had either taken them for her new boyfriend, or she had thrown my food away.

My temples began to throb. The pain brought back the times I had returned to my dorm from work and realized that sleep would be nowhere in sight because I had to study and complete assignments. The movement of my cell reverberated throughout my room. An image of Mariska with a goofy expression on her face popped up on my screen. I felt the corners of my mouth quirk up. I had forgotten to call Mariska once I was settled in. Who was I kidding? I hadn’t settled in yet. As I accepted her call, I realized that other than ruminating, the only thing I had managed to do was wash my hands. I definitely needed a nice and long shower. It was amazing that
Cindy even left sheets on my bed considering how bare the house was. I mean, was all of that necessary? What a way to add insult to injury.

“Sorry I couldn’t hang out longer,” Mariska said without preamble.

Understandably, she was tired. Her parents were constantly working and she took care of her younger brother, Pete, often. She and Jake had graduated last week and I couldn’t make it because of my last final.

I massaged my forehead. Hearing Mariska’s lilting voice eased my headache some. She always had that effect on me, one of the major things I had missed about her in school.

“It’s cool,” I assured her. “How’s Pete doing?”

I started towards the bathroom to retrieve some painkillers and quickly swallowed them. As soon as I was off of the phone with Mariska, I was going to order from Luigi’s.

“He’s socializing better in school. And that’s made things smoother around here.” I heard the smile in her voice.

“Pete’s a great kid. It’s just gonna take him some time to get outta that bashfulness of his.” I recalled how much her mind
had seemed to be elsewhere during the drive. “You’ve seemed stressed.”

Mariska sighed heavily. “
Nothing new. Mom and Dad are giving me the silent treatment because I am going to school in Miami.”

“It’s gonna be a major adjustment
for them. You’re their girl,” I carefully said. I didn’t want her to feel guilty, but I’d seen how much they loved spending time with her.

“True but since
eighth grade I’ve told them all of the schools I was gonna apply to. They’ve had time to mentally prepare. None of my choices were near Franklin Parks. And they knew I was aiming for the schools in Miami and Orlando.”

I plopped down on my bed. I imagined Mariska in one of her tie
-dye pajamas sets, sitting on my futon with her dark brown hair. Close to six feet tall, with a lanky build and the most beautiful sun-kissed skin I had ever seen, she could easily be a model. She had high cheekbones and dark brown eyes that really looked obsidian. I didn’t think she thought of herself as attractive, which had always bothered me. With my insecurities and my relationship with Cindy, I’d decided that I had no place talking to her about her self-esteem.

“Yes, but I am sure they think you and Jake are going to Miami only because of me,” I pointed out. “And your parents aren’t major fans of mine. Neither are Jake’s.”

“Big deal! I wanna be near you. So does Jake. Besides, I’ll only be two hours away. An hour and a half if traffic isn’t crazy. They’re acting like I won’t keep in touch. I definitely will.” Mariska cleared her throat. “And they like you, they just don’t like Cindy.”

“On top of that, they’re convinced that I’ll be a bad influence on you.”

“Then why haven’t you corrupted my virtue all these years? I am gonna do what I really wanna do, whether you encourage me to or not. Might as well be in college. And one of these days, there’ll be another scapegoat around here. Cindy and you will be hard to remember. So, how did Cindy act when she saw you?”

Her question reminded me that I didn’t know where Cindy was, or when or if she was going to come back home. The longest relationship that I recall
ed her ever having had lasted three months. The guy hadn’t been pleased at all when he’d found out that she had a kid. Soon after, the guy had broken up with her and she’d been in bed for a month, telling me never to have children because they’re “cock-blockers.” That comment made me feel great about my existence, about being a burden. Around the same time Cindy had been sulking about the end of her relationship, she’d advised me to start dating in order to “get my feet wet.” I’d been thirteen years old at the time. I’d started to have crushes that didn’t expire hours later and I hadn’t had a clue about what to do about it.

Since I was considered to be just like Cindy in Franklin Parks, I’d had no problem getting attention from my male peers in school,
and it had brought about looks of disdain from my female classmates. No one that I knew ever spoke badly about Mariska’s character. Jake had almost gotten suspended because he’d punched some boy who’d grabbed my ass. It hadn’t been the first time that had happened. Jake had just been there that specific time.

“Beth, you still there?” Concern laced Mariska’s voice and brought me out of my reverie.

“I am still here.” I dryly laughed. “Cindy’s not here, though.”

“Oh,” she said. “Don’t take it personally. You know she’s just out for the—”

“You can come by whenever. She won’t be back for a while. She might not ever come back.”

“What do you mean she might not ever come back, Beth?” Mariska asked as if I was being dramatic. “I just saw her this morning at Walmart. I know she didn’t answer your calls in the car
, but that’s not anything new, is it?”


That was this morning. As of this evening, she…left.” I took the small note from the side of my bed and fisted it in the palm of my hand, closing my eyes. “She left me a note and basically said that she had to follow her heart.”

Her voiced dropped. “Her heart
? You’re supposed to be her heart. She’s no longer the fifteen-year-old she was when she had you. What’s wrong with you? Why’re you so chill about this? And wait till I tell Jake about this!” Her voice shot up an octave. “Didn’t she say that you didn’t have to work during the summer?”


Cindy did. But if she comes—”

“Hold up! Beth.” She huffed out her alarm effectually. “That’s a big if, seeing how she’s never pulled this stunt before. Look, my parents just left for their shifts. I gotta monitor Pete’s bath.”

“Give him a kiss for me.”

“Will do.” Her tone had warmed. “He’ll be ecstatic. I love you. You know that, right?”

Everything she’d said came from a sincere place. Just like Jake, Mariska always looked out for me.

“Love you too.”

“Later.”

I st
ormed out of my room and into Cindy’s room. In a matter of hours, Cindy had also taken her mattress—something I think she purchased on her own—with her, to wherever she and her new Prince Charming had gone to.

 

***

 

Sleep evaded me. By the time I’d finished talking to Mariska last night and had showered, Luigi’s had closed. This morning, my stomach was a little cramped up from hunger and lack of sleep.

Was Cindy all right? Had she really left
abruptly because she’d wanted to? I mean, sure that note made it clear that she had, but perhaps she’d wanted to talk to me about it. She’d told me that I came first, but that she needed time to do “non-mommy things” so that our time together could be better. It made perfect sense to me. I imagine if I had a child that I’d still want a personal life, but I think I’d do some things differently. Okay, well, I think I’d do a lot of things differently. Not that Cindy wasn’t a great mom to me in her own ways. How long had she been forcing herself to parent me when she wanted to live her own life?

After I brushed my teeth and
brushed my hair, I smelled food. Heading downstairs, I heard chatter and the pulse at my throat quickened. I quickly walked to my room, retrieved my bat, and tried to be light on my feet as I paced down the stairs, relieved that it wasn’t an intruder. I didn’t live in the best part of Franklin Parks. Not the worst either. Break-ins hadn’t happened in a while, but my guard was up.

“Beth!” Jake called out to me. “Put that bat down!
We’ve got the copies of the keys you gave us!” I placed the bat against the laundry room door. I watched as he cooked some bacon. Flashing his perfectly straight and commercial white teeth at me, Jake opened his arms, and I wrapped mine around him. Mariska sat by the table, pouring the pitcher of lemonade into three glasses. She looked like a goddess in her long, light gold dress with spaghetti straps, sun-kissed bronze skin, and loose curls flowing past her narrow shoulders.

“W-
what’re you guys doing here?” I stammered.

“Well, good morning to you too, shit!” Jake shook his head, “Like you’re not lucky to see us at the crack
-ass of dawn.”

“Morning, Jake.” I inclined my head to
Mariska. “Hey.”

“Much better.”

He let me go. I walked over to her and kissed her on the cheek. She wreathed her arm on my waist. “This morning I told Jake what happened and he wanted to come over ASAP.” She mocked a dry cough. “He came home a little…late last night, like he does every night, so I couldn’t tell him sooner.”

He flipped the bacon over in a new frying pan. “Don’t I get a kiss too?” I walked back over to him. He leaned down and I pecked him on his jaw. As Mariska set down silverware on the table, she
shook her head.

“You guys didn’t have to—”

Jake clipped my lips with his two fingers. “I would’ve had breakfast cooked faster if I knew that you didn’t have any cookware or dinnerware. We know how you’re a…morning person.” He made a face, clearly not understanding how I usually woke up at six in the morning without feeling groggy or needing coffee. “Cindy most definitely wiped this house clean.”

“Jake!” I
was sure that they’d had a discussion about how to broach my mommy issues with me. Jake had deviated from her plan.

He turned off the stove. I looked at the counter
, where there were three platters filled with cut slices of white cheese, boiled eggs, and bacon on top of a spinach wrap. My favorite breakfast dish.

“It’s true!”
he insisted, and gestured for me to take a seat. “Luckily, it’s not too far from the dollar store.”

I swigged some lemonade, aware of the non-verbal communication between Jake and Mariska. “Taking all of the stuff from the kitchen was really shady on her part,” I murmured in agreement. “But that’s what she did.”

Mariska gave Jake a disapproving look. As she and I started to eat, Jake slumped his broad shoulders. He really could be Jared Leto’s doppelganger, minus the body build. He had the most alluring maroon eyes I had ever seen. It looked like he put eyeliner to heighten the almond shape, but it was natural. He had his mom’s eyes, a fact he took pride in.

“I’ve got the whole day free,” Jake told me as he spread his arms out. “Mariska doesn’t start work at Luigi’s till
twelve. I can drive you around so you can apply for jobs after I drop her off.”

BOOK: Drawn To You (Paloma's Edge)
9.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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