Read Somebody Like You Online

Authors: Beth K. Vogt

Tags: #Fiction, #Retail, #Romance, #Top 2014

Somebody Like You (8 page)

BOOK: Somebody Like You
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How did she switch gears like that? “Did Sam plan on making the military a career—I mean, was he going to stay in until retirement?”

“I don’t know. We hadn’t discussed it that much. It was a possibility.”

The waiter delivered their entrees: a steaming serving of sixteen-layer lasagna for him, and a trio of lasagna, chicken parmigiana, and spaghetti for Haley. After a healthy dose of grated cheese was applied over both their plates, Stephen sliced half his lasagna into small pieces, relishing the aroma of meat, marinara sauce, cheese, and Italian herbs. He looked up and locked eyes with Haley again.

“What?”

“Do you always do that?”

“What?”

“That.” She waved her fork at his plate. “Cut your food up before you eat it.”

“Yeah. It’s somewhat grade school-ish, I know. Why?”

“Sam did that, too. He also liked to dip his potato chips in—”

“Ketchup. We started doing that when we were kids. Drove our mom crazy.”

Haley turned her attention back to her meal. “For his birthday last year, I bought him some of those ketchup-flavored potato chips. He told me they weren’t as good as dipping chips in the real stuff.”

“He was right. Our parents said we had our own personal language when we were toddlers—no one else understood us.”

“Huh.” Haley seemed to file away the information. “How long have you had your car?”

“The Mustang? I bought it a couple of months ago.” Back when he thought he was headed for a promotion—not volunteering for a pink slip. “It’s my dream car.”

“Sam’s, too. He used to talk about winning the lottery and buying a ’65 or ’66 Mustang.”

“That was always the plan.”

“What do you mean?”

“Besides Marvel comics, my dad loves cars. Sam and I used to read his automotive magazines. We decided Mustangs were the coolest cars, so we were both going to get one. Sam wanted—”

“A black one.”

“Yep. I said the only color for a Mustang was red.”

“You didn’t change your mind.”

“Nope. So, Sam never got his Mustang?”

“He rode a Harley. The closest he got to a Mustang was the Christmas ornament I gave him the first year we were married.”

“I bet he loved that.”

“I think so. He was deployed at the time, so I didn’t get to see him open it.”

“Was Sam excited about becoming a father?”

Haley’s eyes searched the restaurant as if looking for an answer. His brother
had
wanted a family, right? Not that he could ask that question out loud.

“We’d talked about starting a family.”

“When are you due?”

“The first week in April—the fifth.”

Silence.

What was there to say? They were two strangers, eating a meal together, talking about a man they both knew. But Stephen’s memories of Sam were frozen in time. For him, Sam was forever a teenager, walking out the door—away from all their plans—to go sign on the dotted line and find his future in the army. Haley’s Sam was a grown man. A soldier. The father of her unborn child.

“I’m not sure what you want from me.”

Haley decided she might as well be honest with Sam’s brother—to a point. Her memories of Sam were few, a montage that started and stopped whenever months of deployments interrupted their marriage. And now Stephen wanted her to put her relationship with Sam on display so that somehow he could feel closer to his brother. Were there enough memories of Sam to create an image of a father for their son? There was no way she could make up for the years Stephen had lived apart from his twin brother. Was that even her responsibility?

“I don’t know if Sam would want me to have dinner with you, much less talk with you.” She sipped her lemon-lime soda, the glass cool against her hand. “Maybe I’m not the one you should be talking to. I still think you should ask your mother questions about Sam.”

She pushed away the plate of tepid pasta, her appetite gone. She’d have the waiter box it up so she could take it home. She’d be hungry later—the baby guaranteed that.

“My mother and I . . . We don’t talk often.” Stephen seemed to be weighing his words. “She believes I chose my father over her after the divorce—and when my father remarried.”

“Did you?”

“No. I just didn’t
not
choose my dad’s new wife.” Now it was Stephen’s turn to move his plate aside. “Sam and I lived with my mom for the first two years after our parents divorced, until we were fifteen. We had summers and some holidays with our dad—until he remarried. Sam said Gina tried too hard to make us like her.”

“Did she?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Don’t all stepmothers try too hard?” Stephen downed the last of his water. “After our first visit, Sam refused to go back. He was all about not upsetting Mom—about not abandoning her. He got angry when I refused to desert Dad. So we . . . we picked sides.”

“You with your dad and Sam with your mom.”

“Yes. He went to high school in Oklahoma and I went to high school in Pennsylvania. And then Sam decided to go into the army—instead of sticking with the plan to go to college. I got mad. He got mad. And I didn’t say good-bye when he went to boot camp.”

Haley motioned for the waitress, requesting to-go boxes for her and Stephen, too aware of the man across the table again. Would she ever stop flinching when she looked at Sam’s brother? “Well, it might be time to try and get along with your mom, because I can’t help you that much. And I need to head home now.”

Stephen grabbed the black plastic folder holding their bill, throwing some cash into it and then scraping his lasagna into the Styrofoam container while Haley boxed up the remnants of her entrée.

“Thank you for dinner. I don’t know if I was any help . . . Anyway, thank you.”

Stephen scrambled into his coat as she slid from the booth and headed for the front of the restaurant and the exit. “Wait. Let me at least walk you to your car. I wanted to talk to you about—”

As she passed a crowded booth, a man called out, “Hal? Hey, Hal!”

The too-familiar voice of one of Sam’s comrades brought her up short. He and his wife and another couple sat together, menus in hand. “Chaz. Angie. How are you?”

“We’re good. Just having dinner out. How are you doing?” Chaz rose to his feet just as Stephen caught up with her. “Who is—
whoa
!”

Chaz had deployed with Sam—had played a game of cards with Sam the night before he was killed. Been a pallbearer at his funeral. If only she could rewind the last thirty seconds so he wouldn’t be staring at Sam’s face again.

Even as Angie gasped, Haley put a hand on Chaz’s forearm while positioning herself between the two men. “Chaz, this is Stephen Ames—Sam’s twin brother.”

“What are you talking about?” Chaz’s gaze darted from Haley and then back to Stephen.

Haley forced the words past her lips again. “This is Stephen, Sam’s twin brother. Sam didn’t tell me . . . or anyone else about him.”

Chaz rubbed his hand down his face and then refocused on Stephen. “You’re Sam’s brother?”

“Yes.” Stephen stepped up, reaching out to shake Chaz’s hand. “Stephen Ames.”

“Geez, man, you look exactly like him. I thought I was seeing Sam’s ghost.” His eyes narrowed. “You okay, Hal?”

“I’m fine. I had dinner with Stephen because he just found out about Sam being killed in Afghanistan. He had some questions. That’s all. He’s heading back home after this.”

“Good thing.” Chaz huffed a humorless laugh. “He’d freak out a bunch of people if he hung around here.”

Haley watched as Stephen tucked his hands in the pockets of his chinos. “I take it you knew my brother?”

“Yes.” Chaz’s gaze stayed glued to Stephen’s face. “He was one of my best friends.”

“He was mine too for a lot of years. I’m sorry to say our parents’ divorce changed that.”

“Your brother was a good guy. A great soldier.”

“Thanks. I’m not surprised to hear that.”

Haley found herself between Sam’s past and what, only five months ago, had been his present and their future. Time to end this. “Well, I’m heading home.”

Angie spoke up from where she sat in the booth. “Let me know if you need anything, Hal.”

“Will do.”

five

W
hat had she been thinking?

As Stephen crossed the parking lot, Haley took her first full breath in over an hour. Sitting across from Sam’s brother had forced her into some sort of macabre, eyes-wide-open nightmare.

Her husband’s smile.

Her husband’s cleft chin.

Her husband’s broad shoulders and strong hands.

She could overlook Stephen’s hair, which wasn’t trimmed military-regulation high and tight, the way Sam preferred it. But everything else, including the voice, was Sam.

And then, the man sitting across from her would do something different. Something that would shatter the illusion.

Trying to stand when she entered the restaurant? Walking her to her car, even though she assured him that she was perfectly safe? Guys didn’t do that anymore. Sam never did that.

Using his right hand, when Sam had been left-handed.

Eating two huge servings of the unlimited house salad after
dousing it in creamy Gorgonzola dressing. Sam would have scorned the vegetables and focused on the bread basket.

“Sam, why didn’t you tell me you had an identical twin brother?” Her question broke the stillness of the car, returning her to the present and the reality that she was sitting in a parking lot, freezing. Time to go home. She could reheat her dinner, pay bills, maybe start another DVD to help her fall asleep.

Less than ten minutes later, she pulled up in front of her home. Why had she bought it? Did she even want to be here a year from now? So many people had told her, “Don’t make any major decisions during the first year after Sam’s death”—and she hadn’t. Except for buying this house.

Oh . . . and having a baby. But that decision had been made before Sam died.

Her phone jangled and she answered, knowing it was Claire, checking on her. “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. We had dinner. He asked questions.”

“And?”

Tucking the phone between her ear and shoulder, she opened the door and entered the darkened house. Found the remote for the flat-screen TV and turned it on, restarting
Hellfighters
, adjusting the volume to low. “And I realized how much I don’t know about Sam.”

“Don’t say that—”

“It’s the truth.” Moving to the kitchen, she tossed her Styrofoam container of leftovers on the brown, faux-granite counter, shrugging out of Sam’s coat and hanging it on the back of the bar chair. “You know Sam; he wasn’t much of a talker. A kidder, yes. A competitor, yes. A talker, no.”

“Could Sam’s brother tell you how the two of them got separated?”

“The parents divorced. Initially they were both with Miriam—until the dad got remarried. Then Sam picked his mom and Stephen picked his dad. Some kind of awful
Parent Trap
twist.” She opened the lid of the white Styrofoam container, dumping the lukewarm trio of entrées onto a plate and covering it with a paper towel. “I told Stephen if he needed more information about Sam to ask his mother, but I’m not sure that will happen.”

“Why not?”

“It’s pretty obvious Stephen is closer to his dad.” She kicked off her brown, fur-lined boots and padded over to the refrigerator, pulling out a Sprite. “But I am not responsible for patching up things between Stephen and his mother.”

“Have you told Sam’s mom that you had dinner with Stephen?”

“Just got home.” She placed her leftovers in the microwave, programming it to reheat. “I’ll call her later. She was talking about going to a Gold Star Mothers meeting last week—the group for moms who’ve lost a son or daughter in service to the country. I’ll have to see how that went.”

“What about you?”

The soda hissed as she popped the can open. “What about me what?”

“Have you considered going to a Gold Star Wives meeting?”

“No. They’re not for me. I don’t do that yadda-yadda sisterhood stuff. You know that. I’ve got to figure this out on my own.”

“You might appreciate being with other women who understand how you feel—”

“Me and strangers? I don’t think so. I’m sad. I miss Sam. And I’m going to have a baby in April. There’s not much to figure
out there. Grieve. Move on. Figure out how to be a mother to this little boy of mine.”

BOOK: Somebody Like You
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