Where There's Hope(6)

By: Marianne Rice

She hated using her savings, but she needed to prove to her daughter that they could be independent women. Besides, by the time summer rolled around she wouldn’t be able to afford rent and they’d be back at her parents again. Which was good. With Delaney home for the summer and Hope working so many hours, she needed supervision without feeling like she was being babysat.

“Hi, Mom.” Hope kissed the top of her mom’s head before plopping next to her on the couch. “How’s the quilt coming along?”

If there was one thing Diane Windward knew how to do, it was sew. And knit. And crochet. Whenever there was a fundraiser, be it for school or church or any good cause, Diane would donate a quilt or knitted hats or scarves.

“Girl Scout troop one forty-three wanted a simple flower pattern, so this one’s a breeze. And Mildred Kenney just put in an order for a wedding ring quilt, and you know when she wants it?” Diane looked up from her sewing and rolled her eyes. “For her daughter’s bridal shower on December first. That gives me barely six weeks to get it done. People. They think quilts make themselves.”

Diane was the town’s seamstress. The first one called upon to hem a prom dress, fix a zipper, mend a hole. It also enabled her to be home to watch Delaney while Hope worked. And gave her a flexible schedule so she could bring Delaney to her dance classes.

“If anyone can do it, it’s you, Mom.”

“I appreciate your vote of confidence, but these fingers are aging quickly.” She dropped the quilt and needle in her lap and rubbed her hands together.

“And taking care of your thirty-one-year-old daughter and almost twelve-year-old granddaughter isn’t helping any.” Hope rested her head against her mother’s shoulder and sighed. “I’ve been thinking—”

“I know what you’ve been thinking, and it’s not necessary. You and Delaney are welcome to stay here as long as you want. Forever. Your father would be devastated if you left. That little girl is the light of his life.”

“Mom.” The guilt trip wouldn’t work on her. She needed to distance herself from her parents before her skeletons became pubic knowledge. “It’s not like we’d go far. I’d never pull Delaney from her school, and The Happy Clam is here in town.”

“I know, sweetheart. It would be lonely without you two here.”

Hope sat up and spread the flowery quilt across her lap, running her finger along the intricate pattern. Her parents and Ty were the only ones who knew about Justin. About his accident. His brother’s conviction.

She didn’t know how long Cameron had been in town, but now that he’d made his presence known, it would only be a matter of time before people would know about their connection.

“I ran into someone today,” she started, unsure how to broach the subject.

“Oh? A friend from high school?”

“More like, college. But not really.”

“Your roommate? What was her name, Kimberly?”

“Kimmy. No. Not her...Justin’s brother. Cameron.”

Her mother stilled, lifting her questioning gaze to meet Hope’s. “Honey.” She moved the quilt to the end table and scooted closer, taking Hope’s hands in hers. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

“I don’t know.” Hope shrugged. “I’m kinda in denial right now. I never expected to see him. To come face to face with him. Especially in our hometown.”

“He’s here? In Crystal Cove?” She took Hope’s shoulders in her hands and drew her in for a hug.

Her mother smelled like Earl Gray tea and honey and comfort. Her strong arms and soft body assuaged her, making her feel like she was a little girl again when a simple hug from her mother could make the pain go away. And an oatmeal butterscotch chip cookie could turn the worst day in the world into a day filled with sunshine and rainbows and happiness.

Those warm arms held tight as soothing hands patted Hope’s head. “Tell me about it, honey.”

Hope leaned into her mother, soaking up her love. “He looks just like Justin. Only older. His eyes...” Cameron had the same genuine eyes Justin had when they first met at the pub. She didn’t see those eyes again until their date in New York. “His mouth...”

Justin’s mouth had been quick to quip into a teasing, knowing grin. There were too many dates when she didn’t see it do anything but latch onto a bottle, or laugh with his guys, leaving Hope to fend for herself.

In New York, though. In New York that smile of his, that laugh, the teasing and flirting, it had all been aimed at her. It’s when she fell in love with him.