Where There's Hope(2)

By: Marianne Rice

Ty leaned across the bar, piercing Hope with his intimidating stare. “Hope? What’s the deal with Cam?”

She chucked the rag in the sink and lifted her gaze to his. There’d be no hiding from Ty. He was the only one who knew what happened during her brief stint in college. And yet he didn’t know it all.

Letting out an exhausted sigh, she looked from Willie to Ty again. “Cameron Smithfield killed Delaney’s father.”

THAT HADN’T EXACTLY gone as planned. Had he known Hope would be working this afternoon, Cameron wouldn’t have stopped by The Happy Clam for lunch. He’d been enjoying his cup of clam chowder and BLT every Monday for the past month, knowing Hope wouldn’t be there.

Pulling up the collar of his barn coat, he shoved his hands in his pockets and walked to the end of the street, figuring he’d stop in at the Sunrise Diner instead; though he wasn’t sure he felt like eating anymore. A bell, like the one at Hope’s, rang as he opened the door.

Unlike The Happy Clam’s casual nautical atmosphere, the diner housed the stereotypical red Formica tabletops, scarred checked floor, and dingy plastic double-sided menu.

“It’s Cameron, right? Dwayne says you’re one hell of a workhorse.” A waitress with a mound of red and gray hair piled on her head eyed him up and down and winked. “You sure do look the part. What can I get for you, honey?”

The nametag on her shirt identified her as Priscilla. According to Dwayne and town gossip, which he heard a lot of down on the docks, she believed she had psychic abilities and was always attempting to play matchmaker. That was the last thing on his mind, well, for the most part.

“Can I have a cheeseburger, plain, and a small order of fries? To go?”

He entertained Priscilla with idle conversation while he waited for his order. She didn’t meddle, but he could tell she wanted to.

“I’ve been working here long before you were even born, Cameron the Workhorse, and one thing I can pick out quicker than a flea can jump, is a man down on his luck. You ever want me to do a reading, give me a call. But I can tell you this...” She handed him his food, keeping her fingers wrapped tight around the bag. “Good things are gonna happen to you. You have a nice aura around you.”

“Um, thank you.” He took his food and left before she saw past the aura and into his troubled soul. Cameron strode to the center of town, if you could call a park bench and a few picnic tables that overlooked the ocean a town square. It was a nice attempt of a tourist stop for sight-seeing.

Most traffic headed inland to Coastal Vines winery, but there was decent foot traffic along Seaview Drive in the summer. He’d landed in Crystal Cove in the height of tourist season, finding himself a job at CC’s Boatyard only a few days into his visit.

For the past three months he’d been laying low, staying out of sight, yet keeping an eye on Hope. He knew he couldn’t avoid her forever, it was a small town after all, but he wanted to avoid a scene like the one that had just played out.

Eating in her restaurant once a week made him feel connected to her. Like they didn’t have twelve years, a handful of lies, and nearly a third of his life in jail keeping them apart. Not that they’d ever been together.

At least, she didn’t see it that way.

He’d worked hard to make a new life for himself since he had got out of jail. Parole kept him in Connecticut, but as soon as his parole officer gave him the clear, he hightailed it to Maine, as far away from the past as he could get.

Eleven years in prison, and only the last nine with a clean record, didn’t bode well in the hiring department around upscale Connecticut. When your father is Judge Thomas Smithfield from Darien, Connecticut, it’s pretty damn hard to escape your crime.

Especially after he denounced you, besmirched your name more than it already was, and blackballed you from a hundred-mile radius of his people.

Cameron didn’t entirely blame his parents for disowning him. He’d been a punk teenager. He’d smoked his first cigarette at twelve, downed his first beer at thirteen, had his first hangover after swallowing a third of Jack at thirteen and a half, and slept with a woman old enough to buy his liquor when he was fourteen.

Not exactly the kind of boy you bring home to Mom.

Save that for Justin, his boy-wonder twin. School came easy for him, as did charm, sports, and winning their parents’ love.

Skipping the park bench, Cameron strode closer to the shore and sat on an outcropping of rocks. The biting cold burned his skin, and he welcomed the pain. Anything to alleviate the pressure in his chest.

Thomas and Janice never made a secret about loving Justin more. “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” “I can’t believe a son of mine got an F in history.”