Authors: Jane Porter
Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women
Still horrified, and deeply ashamed, Kit called Brianna a few days later and confided in her. Brianna didn’t like that Kit couldn’t
recognize a predator and told her to let this serve as a wake-up call. Assholes abounded. Wolves lurked in sheep’s clothing. Kit had to be smarter in the future. Kit agreed.
It’d been five weeks now since that date, and Kit had told no one else, just as she’d never told anyone about what had happened when she was little. Because there were some things you didn’t talk about. Some things you couldn’t tell your sisters, or even your best friend.
“You just need confidence,” Polly said, reaching out to catch Kit’s hand in hers in an effort to stop Kit from winding the thread any tighter around her finger. “You need cojones. Balls.”
Kit nodded, smiled, eyes stinging because, truthfully, she knew she needed a lot more than that.
“Set limits. Define your goals. Be clear on what you want,” Polly added. “Look at me. I only go out with guys I like. I don’t do pity dates. If a guy rubs me the wrong way, he’s out of here. If the date isn’t going well, I bail. If a dude I don’t like keeps calling, I tell him I’m not interested.”
“Straight out like that?” Kit whispered.
“Hell yeah. This isn’t the UN. I’m not a diplomat. Not interested in winning Miss Congeniality. I’m trying to meet the right guy, and I refuse to waste time on the wrong guy.”
Tears filled Kit’s eyes. She blinked hard, hating her secrets, hating how weak she was. The Brennan women were fighters. They were proud and smart and survivors. Why hadn’t she fought Parker? Why hadn’t she smashed her fist into his face, stomped on his foot, put a knee in his groin? That would have been the admirable thing to do. That would have been brave. “You’re amazing,” she said to Polly.
“No, not amazing. I just had a jerk of a father and he’s helped me recognize the jerks of the world. Thanks to Daddy, I can spot them a mile away.”
“He might have been a jerk, but he made you strong.”
Polly sighed and dragged a hand through her still-damp hair. “Strong? I’m not so sure about that. Sometimes I think I’m broken. Because all I know for sure is that I don’t want kids. I’ll never be a mom. I won’t even date a man with kids. Total deal breaker.”
“You don’t think you’ll change your mind? Down the road…when you meet the right guy?”
Polly jumped up off the coffee table and paced the room. “Jon Coleman was the right guy, but I didn’t want marriage, didn’t want babies, and so that was that.”
Kit watched Polly march back and forth, trying to burn off nervous energy. “We’re such opposites. You want a man, but no kids. I want kids, but not the man.”
Polly dropped down onto the bottom step of the stairs. “You used to want to get married. Last year you were desperate for Richard to propose.”
“Yeah. But I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not waiting around anymore for a man to want me or love me and marry me so I can have kids. I don’t have to have a man to have kids. I can do it on my own.”
Polly’s eyes widened. “You mean with a sperm donor?”
“No! I wouldn’t do that.”
“Good. I was going to have to hit you upside the head.”
Kit laughed. “You still might.”
“I’m thinking about adopting.”
Kit nodded, her smile wavering, before disappearing. “I’m seriously considering it.”
Polly’s brows pulled. “How serious is serious?”
“I’ve begun filling out paperwork with two different agencies.”
“I want to have a family.”
Polly seemed to be choosing her words with care. “Don’t you think you’re rushing into this? You and Richard only broke up six months ago.”
“It’s been seven. And I don’t think I’m being impulsive. I think I’m being practical. I love kids. I’m a great teacher, and if I can handle thirty-some hormone-charged teenagers at one time, why can’t I have a child of my own?”
“It’s not that simple, is it?”
“How is it complicated? I’m almost forty. My mom’s dying. Everyone else is married. I want a family of my own.”
iona arrived just before noon, and after she dropped off her suitcase and things in the upstairs bedroom, they walked across the street for lunch at Paradise Beach Grille with plans to catch a matinee movie afterward at the Capitola Mall.
Fiona didn’t mention Chase during lunch, and neither Kit nor Polly brought him up. They talked about everything else, though, from the weather to school to travel plans over the summer before heading over to the movie theater to see
a black-and-white film that had been nominated for a number of Academy Awards.
hadn’t been Polly’s first choice—or second choice; she liked action films, thrillers, but even she ended up loving the (mostly) silent film.
They grabbed coffee and tea afterward at the Capitola Book Café and discussed the movie and how utterly gorgeous the French lead was, but none of them could remember his name. Fiona was going to look up his name on her phone but got distracted when Mary Dillon approached their table.
Kit was the first to recognize her and she rose to greet her. She’d taught all five of the Dillon kids at Memorial—Sean, Conor, Siobhan, Aileen, and Patrick—with Patrick having graduated the year before last. “Mrs. Dillon, how are you?”
“I’m well. Thank you,” Mrs. Dillon answered.
“You know Polly Powers and Fiona Hughes from Memorial?”
“I do. And it’s nice to see the three of you on holiday together.”
“Would you like to join us?” Fiona offered. “I can get you a chair.”
Mrs. Dillon smiled but shook her head. “Thanks, love, but can’t stay. Just popping in to get a book for my sister. I’m living with her right now. In Aptos. Quite a change from the East Bay.”
“I didn’t know you’d moved,” Kit said, remaining on her feet. Mrs. Dillon had been one of the most warm and supportive parents she had ever met in her career. The Dillon children had been just as wonderful—polite, kind, and good-humored like their parents. “Did Mr. Dillon finally retire, then?”
For a moment Mrs. Dillon couldn’t speak. “Frank died this past summer. Just a week before his retirement.” Her voice cracked and she struggled to find her voice. “My sister thought a change of scenery would be good for me. But sometimes I think it’s been too big a change. I miss the house we raised the kids in. Miss the memories. There were so many good ones.”
“There would be,” Kit agreed.
“It is nice here, though. Just different.”
“Have you found a new parish church?”
“I go to Mass, but it’s not the same.”
“Of course not.”
Mary Dillon said good-bye then and Kit hugged her, and while hugging her, she was reminded of her father’s sisters. Solid, kind women with big hearts.
Kit sat back down at the table after Mary left. “That’s such a
shame about Frank,” she said huskily. “He was lovely. They were such a close couple, too.”
“The whole family is wonderful,” Polly said. “I taught four of the five. All of them but the oldest.”
“That was Sean,” Kit said, supplying his name. “He was one of my favorite students. He loved to ask questions, get me talking, get me on a tangent. The kids think they’re being so clever when they get you off topic, but they don’t realize that you know you’re off topic and you’re choosing to talk about other things.”
“I only taught the youngest,” Fiona said. “Patrick. He was gorgeous, wasn’t he? All the girls fancied him.”
Polly removed her tea bag from her glazed mug. “You know Patrick’s in Afghanistan.”
“I didn’t know that,” Fiona said.
“Me either,” Kit said.
“Joined the army last year. Just hope he makes it home.”
Kit exhaled slowly. “Me, too.”
it couldn’t stop thinking about Mary Dillon, and, returning to the beach house, she disappeared into the kitchen to call her mom, suddenly compelled to check in with her. Dad answered Mom’s phone.
“Mom’s sleeping,” he said. “I’ll have her call you when she wakes up.”
Kit glanced at her watch. It was nearly six. Dinnertime. Mom never slept this late. Or had she only just fallen asleep? “Is she okay?”
“She’s been sleeping a lot this weekend. But isn’t in too much pain.”
But she was in pain. “Poor Mom.”
“She’s in good spirits, Kit.”
It was Dad’s way of saying don’t get maudlin. She’s not in the grave, yet. “What are you doing tonight, Dad?”
“We’ll probably just watch a movie. I was thinking of renting
. Your mom had said she wanted to see it, and she read the book, didn’t she?”
“She did. I did, too, and saw the movie. It’s good, but it’s a tearjerker. At least for me it was.”
“Anybody die in it?”
“Yes. But Mom already knows the story and the acting is fantastic. It’s well done—”
“Chicky movie, isn’t it?”
“You know, one of those girl movies.”
“Because it’s written by a woman and stars women?”
“Just want to know what I’m watching.”
“It’s good, Dad. And it’s not all weepy. There’s some really funny parts. You’ll be all right. Trust me.”
He made a grumpy sound. “I never said I wouldn’t be fine. I was just gathering information.”
Kit suppressed a smile. “Are you all right for dinner?”
“Your aunt Megan dropped off a lasagna earlier today,” he said, still sounding grumpy.
“That’s nice. You love lasagna,” she said, knowing that the whole Brennan family would rally around Dad when Mom died. They’d visit with him and bring him food but eventually he’d have to move forward, single, like Mary Dillon.
What would he do once he was alone? How would he manage? Would he keep the big family house, or would he want to downsize to something smaller?
“I’ll be there next weekend,” Kit said.
“That’ll be nice, Kit. It’s always good to have you around.”
“Give Mom my love.”
Kit hung up and leaned against the kitchen counter, so full of emotion that she couldn’t breathe. The emotion wasn’t bad either. She was lucky to be born a Brennan. Lucky to have her family and their love and their loyalty and their humor.
It was good. Life was good. Everything was good.
Polly entered the kitchen, spotted Kit leaning against the counter, and closed the door behind her. “You okay?” she asked.
Kit took a quick breath, tucking hair behind her ears. “Just checked in at home. Everything’s fine.”
Polly unfolded the kitchen stepstool that served as a seat. “But…?”
Kit shook her head. “There’s no but. I’m blessed. I’ve got so much. Shouldn’t want anything else.”
“But you do.”
Kit didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. “So I guess there is a but.”
“It’s not bad to want things, Kit. Doesn’t make you a bad person.”
“Don’t want to be selfish.”
“You’re not selfish!”
Kit ducked her head, studied her fingers, which she’d laced tightly together.
Here’s the church, here’s the steeple…open the door…
“I never, ever expected to be single at forty. I thought by thirty I’d be married, and by thirty-five I’d have three or four kids. I wanted a big family. Planned on a big family. Didn’t plan on this life.”
“Your life’s not over. Tons of women get married at forty, and most of them go on to have children.”
“I’m honestly not trying to feel sorry for myself.”
“I know that. You’re just talking things through. And that’s good. You need to think things through before rushing into adoption—”
“Why are you so against adoption?”
“I’m not against adoption. I think it’s wonderful for couples who want to have children, but I don’t think it’s the right thing for singles—”
“Are you serious?”
Polly nodded somberly. “I grew up with a single mom. It was hard. And she was a dedicated mom, but it was a struggle.”
The kitchen door swung open and Fiona stuck her head around the corner. She was smiling so broadly that her dimples were showing. “Can I come in? Or am I interrupting?”
“Come in,” Kit said, pushing away from the counter, glad for Fiona’s arrival. The last thing she wanted was to continue this adoption discussion with Polly. Polly had a valid opinion, and Kit wasn’t discounting her experience, but there were a lot of single moms in the world who were doing a great job.
Fiona checked her smile as she entered the small kitchen. “You don’t look very happy,” she said, cautiously glancing from one to the other.
“But you do,” Kit said. “Did you finally talk to Chase?”
Fiona nodded, her smile returning. “They’re coming home early. There isn’t much snow and he says he’s missing me. I’m going to meet him at the house at noon and we’re going to have a date.”
Kit hugged her. “That’s great news!”
“Glad he got smart,” Polly added.
Fiona’s forehead creased. “So what’s going on in here? Didn’t sound very good.”
Kit shrugged. “We’re just having a difference of opinion.”
Fiona looked from Kit to Fiona. “About what?”
“Kit adopting,” Polly said bluntly.
Fiona turned to Kit.
“That was my reaction as well,” Polly said.
Kit was livid with Polly for dropping the news on Fiona like that. “It’s no one’s business but mine,” she said, folding her arms tightly over her chest.
Fiona’s nose crinkled, her expression worried. “I think now’s an excellent time for a glass of wine. I saw a bottle of chardonnay in the fridge. Shall I open it?”
Wine poured, they settled in the small living room, Polly and Fiona on the couch and Kit in the rattan chair that had been hers all weekend. Polly stretched her feet out onto the coffee table and focused on the toes of her shoes. Fiona moved the cushions around her, trying to get comfortable. Kit just stared down into her wineglass.
“Don’t be mad, Kit,” Fiona said finally, breaking the silence.
Kit couldn’t immediately speak, too busy wrestling with what she wanted to say and what she shouldn’t say. She didn’t want to fight with her best friends. But at the same time some things were private. Personal. “It wasn’t Polly’s place to tell you that I’m thinking about adoption,” she said at last. “I’m only in the early stages and it’s all still very new to me. No one but the two of you know, and I’d like to keep it that way.”