Things I Never Told YouBy: Beth Vogt
THE WHAT-IFS TAUNTED ME every time I visited my parents, but any hope of beginning again had vanished years ago—if there’d ever been one.
What would have happened if my parents had gone through with selling the house in Colorado Springs my sisters and I had grown up in? If they’d labeled and taped up all the boxes—the clothes, the books, the dishes, the photographs, the awards, and the trophies—and unpacked them in a different house?
A change of location. A chance to start over.
But unexpected loss held my parents captive.
For the most part, our family seemed unchanged. The kitchen clock—a porcelain plate decorated with bright red-and-yellow flowers but lacking any numerals to designate the passing of time—hung in the same place it had since a dozen Mother’s Days ago. The same white wooden shutters hid the bay windows in the breakfast nook. The same worn round table in the middle, surrounded by four chairs adorned with nondescript blue cushions our mother changed out every few years—whenever Johanna reminded her to do so.
I pushed the Start button on the once-new dishwasher. My parents had installed it at the Realtor’s recommendation when they’d planned to move into the larger house that offered a coveted view of Pikes Peak.
Time to focus on the cheesecakes—the engagement party dessert finale. The hum of the dishwasher blended with garbled conversation as the door between the kitchen and dining room opened, the sound of Jillian’s fiancé’s booming laughter sneaking in. Geoff and his corny jokes.
“Just getting the dessert, Kim—”
“I’m not your timekeeper, little sister.” Johanna’s no-nonsense voice interrupted my concentration.
I stiffened, gripping the handles of the fridge. Why hadn’t I posted a Do Not Enter sign on the door? Maybe I should have caved to Nash’s insistence to attend the party, even though tonight was more work than play for me. Why not have my boyfriend act as bouncer outside the kitchen? Flex his muscles and run interference?
I had no time for my oldest sister. Any minute now, Kimberlee would return from setting up the silver carafes of coffee and hot water for tea, along with cream, sugar, spoons, and other necessities. She’d expect the trio of cheesecakes to be arranged on their individual stands—my job tonight, since we’d only had the caterers deliver the food for such a small gathering.
“Do you need something, Johanna?” I pulled the first cheesecake from the fridge, my mouth watering at the thought of key lime and dollops of whipped cream. Being the party planner for tonight meant I’d had no chance to indulge in the hors d’oeuvres or cocktails, despite this being my other sister’s engagement party. And vegan or not, I could appreciate a decadent dessert—and postpone interacting with Johanna.
“You and Kimberlee are pretty good at this event-planning business.” Johanna leaned against the kitchen counter.
“Mom and Jillian seem happy. That’s the important thing.” I settled the cheesecake on its stand, the plastic wrap clinging to my fingers as I uncovered it. “It’s all about finding out what people want and then making it happen.”
“Festivities is making enough to pay the bills, apparently.”
Not that I was going to produce an Excel spreadsheet of our accounts payable and receivable for my oldest sister.
“You two didn’t charge Mom and Dad full price—”
“Really, Johanna?” Not sparing my sister a glance, I shoved the fridge door closed with my hip, a turtle cheesecake balanced in my hands.
“Oh, don’t get in a huff, Payton. Honestly, how do you manage your customers if you’re so touchy?”
And this . . . this was yet another reason why I didn’t come home unless absolutely necessary. I concentrated on transporting the second cheesecake from the fridge to the island, refusing to square off with my sister. Best to change the subject and prep the desserts.
“Jillian and Geoff seem perfect for one another, don’t they?”
Johanna took the bait. “Of course they do. They enjoy the same foods. The same movies. He makes her laugh. They’re content with a typical version of happily ever after.”
And now my question had set Johanna’s sights on Jillian. Should I ignore the unspoken criticism or not? “You don’t approve of Geoff?”
“I wouldn’t marry him. They remind me of that old nursery rhyme. ‘Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean . . .’”
“And I suppose one of the reasons you’re marrying Beckett is because you make such a good-looking couple?”
“You’ve got to admit he’s easy on the eyes.”