Read The Good Daughter Online

Authors: Jane Porter

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women

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BOOK: The Good Daughter
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“Yes. Doing well there. It’s been a good fit.” He gestured to his table. “Would you like to join us? I can grab some chairs.”

Polly grimaced. “I’m sorry, but it’s late, and Fiona’s husband is expecting her—”

“Do you have a second, Polly?” Jon asked, interrupting her. “I’d really like to talk to you, to apologize—”

“It’s not necessary, Jon.” Polly was blushing. “That was years ago.”

“Maybe. But I’d feel better if I could apologize. Can we just step outside?”

Polly nodded and went outside with him, and Fiona slipped out, too, needing to get home, leaving Kit to hover uneasily by the table, aware that Jon’s friend was sipping his beer and watching her.

Unable to avoid the inevitable, she turned and smiled tightly. “Hi.”

He smiled back. “I’m Michael Dempsey,” he said, stretching out a hand.

“I’m Kit,” she said, shaking his hand.

“Have a seat,” he offered.

She took Jon’s chair, not knowing what else to do.

“You didn’t touch the drinks,” Michael added.

Kit glanced at the table she and her friends had just left. Their three drinks were still sitting there. All three glasses were full. “We were just getting ready to leave when they arrived,” she said, feeling extremely awkward. Michael Dempsey had to be somewhere in his mid to late thirties. And he wasn’t bad-looking. In fact, he was rather good-looking, in an athletic sort of way, with his tanned skin and thick, wavy, dark blond hair. His eyes were a light blue and almost the exact color as his cotton dress shirt. “Do you work with Jon?”

“No. Just friends.” He smiled at her, and little creases fanned from his eyes. His teeth were very straight and white.

It struck her that he knew he was attractive and that he’d
worked his charm—and that particular smile—on countless women before her. “Do you know Polly?” she replied.

His smile grew, as if he recognized the ploy. “No. But Jon was just telling me about her. He speaks very highly of her.”

“She’s amazing. She’s one of my best friends.”

“So you are all teachers.”

“Yes. We”—Kit broke off to gesture to the table where she, Polly, and Fiona had been sitting just a few minutes ago—“all teach at the same school. A Catholic school in Oakland.”

“That’s nice.”

“We didn’t know each other before we started working together but we’ve become really close. I’ve known Polly almost seven years, and Fiona for the past three.”

“You girls go out a lot?”

“Just once or twice a month. Keeps us sane.”

“You always come here?”

“Usually. It’s familiar, and convenient, since Polly lives close by. What about you?”

“I’m still new to the area. First time here. But I like this place. It’s mellow. Has a good vibe.”

“It does.” Kit looked at him more closely, wondering if it was fair to be prejudiced against him simply because he was good-looking. Or was she prejudiced because he was good-looking and he knew it? Either way, she wasn’t sure she liked him. “Where did you move from?”

“I’ve moved around a bit with work, but I’m from Houston.”

“I thought I heard an accent.”

“Not too strong, I hope.”

“No. So what do you do?”

“Work in the oil business.”

“You’re with Chevron,” she guessed.

He nodded. “Just got transferred here a month ago.”

“Which office?”

“San Ramon, but I live not far from here so I’m close to offices and operations in Richmond and San Francisco.”

“What do you think so far?”

“Still finding my way around. But I like being close to a city and you’ve got all the professional sports, too.”

“My dad and brother love that about the Bay Area, too, although my dad roots for the San Francisco teams while Tommy has become an A’s and Warriors fan.”

“Who do you root for?”

“Niners. Grew up watching Montana, Young, and Rice make history. Loved Jerry. Loved Ronnie Lott. They were incredible. And then the Niners fell apart and sucked for a while—”

“A
long
while.”

She shrugged, feeling cocky. “But they’re back. We’re in the play-offs. And I think we’ve got a good chance against the Saints this weekend.”

“So who is your favorite player?”

“Patrick Willis, middle linebacker. He’s a playmaker. He makes things happen.”

“I have to say I’m impressed by Alex Smith this year. He’s proven himself to be quite a quarterback—” He broke off as Polly appeared at the table with Jon right behind her.

Kit could tell from Polly’s expression that she wanted to go, and quickly. Kit got to her feet. “It was nice to meet you,” she said to Michael. “And good luck settling in. I hope you’ll like living here.”

Kit glanced at Polly as they walked silently to her car. Polly wasn’t happy. “What was that about?” Kit asked her. “Why did Jon want to talk to you? What was so important that he needed you to step outside with him?”

“He wanted to apologize for a shitty thing he did a long time ago.”

“What did he do?”

They’d reached Kit’s car and Polly faced her. “He took credit for something I did, and then stole my biggest account from me, earning him a big fat bonus and a promotion, when both should have been mine. Schmuck.”

“And he feels bad now?” Kit asked, unlocking the car doors.

“Apparently so.”

“He is a schmuck,” Kit agreed as they both climbed into her car.

“I know.” Polly was silent a moment as Kit started the engine and merged with traffic. “Worse, we were seeing each other back then. He was supposed to be my boyfriend. I thought he was the one.”

Three

T
he
one,
Kit silently repeated, after dropping off Polly at her condo complex and heading for home, a charming 1895 Queen Anne in Oakland’s Highland Park.

She’d owned her house only since June, and it still needed a ton of work, but she didn’t mind. Her dad and uncles had helped with some of the bigger home improvement projects, while she’d tackled other do-it-yourself projects on her own after getting inspired by HGTV. Some of the projects hadn’t turned out so well, but just trying to do something outside her comfort zone had been rewarding. Exciting.

Her love affair with her house had helped her unplug from Love.com. She didn’t need a man to give her stability and security, not when she was doing it for herself, and she was so happy in her little house, with its high ceilings and big windows and red dining room with the glossy white trim.

There were moments when a little voice niggled inside of her, teasing her with possibilities…Wouldn’t it be even more wonderful to share her beautiful little house with someone else? Wouldn’t she love to have men’s shirts and coats hanging in the closet with hers again? Kit had liked seeing Richard’s suits and button-down shirts across from dresses and blouses in their condo. His clothes gave the closet a sense of order. Purpose. She felt more grounded somehow, seeing his starched blue shirts and white shirts in close proximity to her coral and peach and burnt-cherry sweaters and dresses. Kit loved color. Warm, lush color. Maybe redheads weren’t supposed to embrace color, but Kit couldn’t stay away from it.

And, of course, Richard, the engineer, hated color. He was always asking Kit to tone it down…her laugh, her voice, her curls, her personality. Why had she stayed with him? How could she have imagined that she’d be happy with a man who would decorate their condo only in shades of gray, taupe, and beige?

Were those even real colors?

She rubbed at her forehead, disgusted with herself for wasting ten years on someone who hadn’t ever truly loved her, and didn’t really want her. Ridiculous. She’d never had great self-esteem, but still.

Kit parked and swiftly climbed the steps to her front door, grateful that over the summer Dad had installed automatic lights on her front porch so that she never came home to a dark house.

Dad was so good about doing little things like that. He’d always put his family first, and their safety was number one. He was generous with his time, too. Kit had thought all men would be like Dad.
Wrong
.

She was just shutting the front door behind her when her phone rang. It was her sister Sarah calling from Florida. Sarah was raising her children in Tampa Bay, as her husband, Boone,
was a designated hitter for the Rays. “Hey, girl,” Kit said, locking the door behind her. “How are you?”

“Fine. Am I catching you at a bad time?”

“No. Just arrived home. What’s up?”

“Heard that Cass’s birthday dinner was kind of intense.”

“Kind of.” Kit dropped her leather satchel stuffed with books and student papers on the couch in the living room and kicked off one shoe and then the other. “Tommy was all over Cass last night, too, never leaving her side. At first I thought it was because he was being protective, but then later, after the whole make-a-wish thing, I realized he was trying to keep her from talking about the miscarriage.”

“Do you think it was that, or do you think he just didn’t want her talking about babies in general?”

“Both. He’s over the baby thing. And you know Tommy: when he digs his heels in, he’s stubborn. Nothing can move him.”

“Sounds like he needs time.”

“I don’t know, Sarah. I get the feeling he’s really, truly done.”

“He can’t be
done
. What about Cass? She wants to be a mom.”

“I know. Cass is struggling. It wasn’t a great birthday.”

“Speaking of birthdays…you’ve got one coming up.”

Kit walked toward the kitchen, flicking on lights as she went. “It’s not one I feel like celebrating.”

“Forty is not bad anymore.”

“Because you’re heading there yourself?”

Sarah laughed. “I still have six years.”

“Lucky you,” Kit sassed, opening the refrigerator in the kitchen. Yogurt, yogurt, yogurt. Carrots, wilted lettuce, an old container of hummus. Nothing very appetizing. She closed the refrigerator door. “How are the kids? Boone? Is he looking forward to spring training?”

“You can’t change the subject.”

“I just did.” Kit opened a cupboard, scanned the crackers, popcorn, and cereal boxes before grabbing the box of Special K with strawberries. She had no milk, so she’d eat it dry. “And I’m hoping to get tickets for their first season appearance in the Bay Area. Do you know when that is?”

“I’ll send you his schedule, but you haven’t distracted me. We’re going to do something special for your birthday, Kit.”

Kit returned to the living room with the box of cereal, plunked down on the couch, and turned on the TV, muting the sound. “This isn’t the year to celebrate, Sarah. Not with Mom…” She couldn’t finish the thought. Didn’t even try.

“But it’s Mom’s idea to celebrate your birthday, Kit. It’s what Mom wants,” Sarah said sternly.

And if that was the case, Kit was defeated.

“If it makes you feel any better, Kit,” Sarah added, softening her voice, “it’s not just for you. It’s for you and Brianna. Mom wants to celebrate that her twins are turning forty—”

“Brianna will hate the fuss, too.”

“—by going on a cruise.”

“A
cruise
?”

“Mom’s never been on one and thinks this is the perfect way to celebrate with the entire family.”

“You’re not serious.”

“I am.”

“Sarah!”

“It’s what she wants, and she’s really excited about the idea, and she asked me last week to handle the logistics. She was going to announce it Sunday night at her house, but then didn’t think the timing was right with Cass so upset.” Sarah paused, and Kit could hear her rustling through a stack of paper. “Mom suggested mid-February as a possible date. She thought you had a few days off next month around Presidents’ Day weekend and asked me to
look into different options. There’s a seven-day cruise out of L.A. on the eighteenth that goes to the Mexican Riviera. And before you say it’s too expensive, it’s Mom and Dad’s treat. I’m to book five cabins. You’d share with Bree, of course.”

Of course, Kit thought, because not only was Bree her fraternal twin, but Bree was also the only other single in the family. “Does everyone know?”

“I sent an e-mail to the others a couple of hours ago and heard back from Meg and Cass, but haven’t heard from Bree yet.”

Kit wasn’t surprised, finding it impossible to picture her bohemian, rebel twin, who worked as a tropical disease nurse in Africa, on a cruise ship. But if the cruise was for their mom, it’d be very hard, if not impossible, for Brianna to say no. “Cruises aren’t exactly Bree’s thing.”

“Not exactly my thing right now either,” Sarah confessed, “as the timing is terrible for us, especially Boone, who is training hard right now, but as it is for Mom, we can all suck it up for seven days.”

“You’re right.”

“So get a substitute teacher lined up for February eighteenth to twenty-fifth. Boone’s trying to get permission to arrive at spring training a day late. He was supposed to report to Port Charlotte on the twenty-fourth, but hopefully Joe Maddon will allow him to join us. It’s probably the last time we’ll all be together.”

For a moment Kit couldn’t speak. “I’m holding out for Easter. I think Mom can make it until then.”

“That’s three months from now.”

“I know. But Mom’s hanging in there—”

“You’re not being realistic.”

“Maybe you could be a little more optimistic!”

“And what? Not be prepared for the call that you’ve moved her into hospice care? That I need to jump on a plane and come say good-bye?”

“Why are you even talking like that?”

“Because it’s real.”

“I
know
it’s real. I spend every weekend at the house with Mom. I can tell she’s weaker. Frailer. But I’m not going to let her go without a fight—”

“You make it sound like I’m pushing her into the grave!”

“Well, aren’t you?”

“No! I’m planning a damn cruise, Kit!”

“You don’t need a cruise to see her, Sarah. Just get on a plane and come out here. Come see Mom. Sit with her. Spend a weekend with her, like I do.”

“You don’t think I want to? You don’t think I look at my calendar all the time, trying to figure out which days I could go, how many days I could be gone, who I could get to stay with the kids so I could see her?”

BOOK: The Good Daughter
2.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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