The Long Road Home(2)

By: H.D. Thomson

The driver stepped out and slammed the door behind him. He was tall, with long legs and wide shoulders. Thick black hair flowed past his collar to brush his shoulders. He strode across the yard with an inherent grace and confidence that had Clarisse frowning. There was something...

Gripping the windowsill with one hand, Clarisse leaned forward and watched the man reach up and thrust his hair back from his brow. The gesture pulled at her heart, and a tiny bud of apprehension formed in the pit of her stomach. When he drew closer to the house, Clarisse’s alarm escalated. She recognized his blunt facial features and athletic build. The hand on her cane whitened at the knuckles. No. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible. She swung around and met Jennifer’s guilty expression. “What’s John McDonnell doing here? Is this some type of a joke?”

“He’s your ride to California.”

“What!” Clarisse stared back in horror. “You can’t be serious!”

“When David told me that John was going to California, I naturally thought of you,” Jennifer replied. “Unlike you, I haven’t lost touch with my old friends.”

Clarisse looked back out the window in stunned disbelief. He was halfway across the front yard. She took in a couple of ragged breaths, but nothing could steady the wild racing of her heart.

“I can’t believe you had the nerve to try to get us together again.” Cane tapping against the saltillo tile, Clarisse limped rapidly across the room and away from the window. “There’s no way I’m going.”

Jennifer rose from her chair and moved to the front door.

“Don’t you dare open that until I’m in another room,” Clarisse warned. “I swear if you do, I—I’ll hit you with my cane!”

Jennifer’s eyes widened in alarm.

“I wasn’t serious,” Clarisse said with a mixture of frustration and dismay. Nervous laughter threatened to bubble up past her throat. “Please just tell him something came up. I’m not prepared to see him.” She brushed her clammy palm across the side of her leg. “You never told him about me, did you? Please tell me you didn’t mention my leg or the crash. I swear—”

“Calm down. I never told him anything.”

“Good. That’s good.” Clarisse nodded. She took another deep breath. “But now you’ve got to make him leave.”

“I can’t do that.”

“You have to,” Clarisse replied in a determined voice, “because there’s no way in hell I’m going to be stuck in the same car with him for over twenty-five hundred miles.” She rubbed impatiently at her brow with the heel of her palm. An unpleasant thought came to mind. “Does he have any clue who he’s picking up from your house?”

“No. I told him a friend of mine hated flying and needed a ride.”

“Do you have any idea how angry he’s going to be? He’ll think I planned this whole thing.”

Flushing, Jennifer avoided her gaze. “Ever since you broke up with him, you haven’t been the same. I know you still love him.”

“I never told you that!”

Jennifer snorted. “Well, it’s obvious you have feelings for the man, for God’s sake. You still have a picture of him in your bedroom. And don’t tell me you don’t!”

“I don’t want to hear this!”

“John isn’t as shallow as you think. He’ll look past your leg. If you’d just give him a—”

Clarisse didn’t wait around to listen to any more of Jennifer’s ravings, but stumbled into her friend’s bedroom and closed the door. Leaning against the oak wood, Clarisse closed her eyes. She needed to calm down. Seeing John so unexpectedly had mangled her composure beyond recognition.

At the sound of the doorbell, Clarisse glanced at her reflection in the mirror then looked away. She disliked the dark turbulent emotions in her sea green eyes and the flush to her high cheekbones.

John didn’t have to find out, Clarisse told herself. Like the mirror, he would see the image she presented to the outside world—flawless skin, a model-thin figure and thick, blonde hair that fell in waves past her shoulders. Nothing more. He would fail, like the mirror, to uncover the imperfect body beneath the clothing.