Previously: Jesse has come to see Sarah Jane and her brother and sister-in-law. He said Rachael, their long lost sister, returned to town with him.
The Bandbox Hat
I stood. “Rachael came with you? Where is she? Still at the motel? Let’s go!” I made for the door but no one else got up or even stirred. Except for Anna who’d been standing already. She sat and tucked her heels under the edge of the wicker chair.
I paused with one hand on the screen door and surprise flicked my consciousness. “Did you hear Jesse? She’s here.”
Jesse held up a hand in that placating motion I found so irritating. “She was here.”
I knew it was too good to be true. Rachael home again after all this time. I trudged back to the rocker I’d occupied. “What happened?”
“She called Peter this afternoon,” Jesse said.
“Oh.” Realization and fear crowded the fear out of my heart. “Let me guess. Cassie answered the phone.”
Jesse nodded. “She left immediately. She caught a bus out of Rosedale before I knew what happened.”
Cassandra Jaeger had been Rachael’s best friend in high school. When Rachael left town without a word to anyone, she’d been the one Peter turned to for help with the baby and to listen to his broken-hearted questions. It doesn’t take a meddling tratscher to guess what happened next. Peter and Cassie had been married eight years and added another boy and a baby girl to their family. Little Jonathan[CLP1] , although not so little anymore, was a proud big brother. Peter asked that my family not be intrusive into their lives and we obeyed. We, or at least I, figured one of these days Jonathan would want to know about his mom and the rest of his family and we’d get to know him later. So far though, he seemed oblivious. He’d race by me on the playground without a second glance. I was just one of the teachers, not his aunt who loved him before he was born and sang him to sleep when his mom walked out.
“Did she know Peter remarried?” I asked.
Jesse shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
“This is ridiculous,” Anna said. “Surely even Rachael was not so deluded to think she could waltz into town after all these years and Peter would beg her to come back and that everything would be the same.”
I whirled. “No, but she didn’t have the fact that her former best friend has stepped into her life rubbed into her face either.” I turned back to Jesse. “How could you let this happen?”
“Me?” He stood, a shocked expression on his face. “I just offered her a ride up here.”
“Exactly.” My voice shook and I moved back to the door. I wouldn’t give either Jesse or Anna the satisfaction of seeing me in tears. “Both of you took off out of here as soon as life didn’t go according to your plan. Then you think you can pop up like some … some Whack-a-Mole and wave your arms and smile your killer smile and everything will be like it was. Well, I have news for you Jesse Hofer: Life went on. And we’ve done just fine without you. Just fine.” I pulled on the screen door but I hadn’t paid attention and the bottom edge hit the toe of my shoe with a loud thwack. It bounced back into the opening and rebounded out again. I flung it open, then dashed through and up the stairs.
[CLP1]nephew – Rachael’s baby