The Best Goodbye(4)By: Abbi Glines
All too soon, her smile fell, and she wiped away the tears that had formed from laughing so hard. She shifted her gaze to Brad. I made her nervous, but then I’d never been nice to her, exactly. She was just an employee I’d hired. I’d be leaving soon enough. I wasn’t here to make friends.
“Sorry, boss. I was reaching for a box on that shelf over there, and a bag of flour fell over, and, well, you can see what happened,” Brad explained, still chuckling. I tore my gaze from Rose and looked at Brad. He winked at her and began a futile attempt to dust the flour off. He needed a shower. I wouldn’t mind if he put some distance between himself and Rose.
Franny’s blond curls bounced as she ran from the edge of the water toward me. Mrs. Baylor sat under an oak tree with a fruity drink in her hand and a wide-brimmed straw hat on her head. The two of them had bonded, and Mrs. Baylor had offered to watch Franny while I worked. She said it gave her something to do and someone to spend time with.
Franny had never had any kind of grandparent in her life, but she wanted a family. It was something she’d always noticed about other kids—the way they were surrounded by a mom, a dad, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles—and she longed for the same thing. But it was the one thing I couldn’t give her, because I hadn’t had a family, either. As a foster child from the time I was five years old until I ran away at sixteen, I only had one person in my life whom I considered family. The only family Franny had, too: River.
She had my hair, or at least my natural color, and my eyes, and bless her heart, she seemed to have inherited my short stature, too. The only thing about her that wasn’t a complete replica of me was her complexion. I was fair, while Franny turned a golden brown from being out in the sun, even for just a little while. She got that from her father. She also had his sense of humor and his smile. But those were things only a mother would notice. To everyone else, she was just like me.
“I caught a fish, Mommy! A real live fish. Except I had to take the hook out of its mouth and throw it back before it died. I didn’t want to kill it. I hope the hook didn’t hurt it too badly. Mrs. Diana said it was OK. Fish are supposed to be eaten, but I wanted it to find its family. They could have been missing her.”
Franny hardly took a breath in her long explanation, then she threw her arms around my waist and hugged me tightly. “I missed you today, but we had fun. We made chocolate fudge brownies.”
I bent down to kiss the top of her head and turned to look over at Mrs. Baylor. She smiled warmly and stood up. The long strapless dress she wore danced in the wind around her legs as she walked toward us. She always looked so put together and glamorous.
“How was work today, Rose?” she asked.
“Good, thank you,” I replied, smiling. “I hear the two of you had a full day of fun.”
Mrs. Baylor grinned at Franny fondly. “This one makes the days brighter. But a fisherman she is not.”
Franny giggled and tugged on my hand. “Let’s go inside and have some brownies and milk.”
“Yes, let’s all spoil our dinner with the decadence of chocolate fudge,” Mrs. Baylor agreed, gesturing toward the main house. She never seemed anxious for us to go back to our own cottage. I wondered if she was going to miss Franny once school started next week. They had gotten so close. At least I knew that when Franny got off the school bus every day, she’d have a treat and a hug waiting for her.
It made everything so much easier. I had struggled with the decision to leave Oklahoma, where we were settled in and safe. Franny had friends there, and my job as the secretary at her school had kept me close to her. Moving here had been a major leap for us, but I had done it for Franny. And deep down, I had done it for River.