Authors: Lora Roberts
“I’d duck, anyway.” I smiled at Mom. “I’m not the marrying kind.”
She looked troubled. Dad thundered, “You’d better attend Mass, girl, and get yourself straightened out. You’re asking for damnation, the way you’re going.”
“Actually, I’m going West.” I cleared my throat. “But I wondered—Mom, you want to go look at the leaves tomorrow afternoon? I noticed on my way into town, the quakies are turning.”
“What a nice idea!” Mom was delighted. “Why, it must have been two or three years since we’ve been out to look at the quakies, isn’t it, Fergus?”
Dad just stared at me, amazed. “A big game is on TV tomorrow!”
Molly laughed. “I think it sounds great. I’d go if I didn’t need to be at the hospital with Biff. But Amy and Renee might want to go. You could take my car.”
“And we’ll stop for pizza.”
Molly looked puzzled, but Mom clapped her hands. “Yes,” she cried. “I love pizza.”
We settled on a time, and I got up to leave. Molly followed me to the door.
“We’ve been planning to go to Hawaii this winter,” she said casually, walking me out to the bus. “Maybe we’ll stop over in San Francisco and visit.”
“Sure.” I tried to sound welcoming, but I felt dismay. Molly, the family princess, visiting my humble little cottage? I couldn’t see her sleeping on the lumpy sofa bed that Amy had used.
“We’ll stay at a hotel—I know you’re hard up for space.” I could forgive her the condescending voice in which she said this, since it relieved my mind. “But maybe you can show us around a little.”
“That would be fun.” We smiled at each other, and her eyes filled with tears.
“My little sister.” She hugged me once, fiercely. “I’ve missed you all these years.”
I hugged her back. We stood there, silent, not knowing what to say.
“Well,” Molly said finally, brightly, “I’ll come by tomorrow, and you can drive me to the hospital. And go on for your aspens and pizza!”
“A truly cheesy excursion.” I got in the bus and drove away.
I crossed the Bay Bridge at dusk, with the lights of San Francisco tempting my gaze away from the traffic that whizzed past me. When you drive a bus, you sit up high; I could see the Transamerica Pyramid and the fantastic top of the Marriott, which is nicknamed the Jukebox for its extravagance. My whole body hummed with road vibrations; I’d been driving since early that morning, stopping at Donner Summit to fix some lunch and let Barker run. He’d been sitting in the passenger seat for the last twenty miles, scenting the ocean in the breeze.
We cruised down 101, mingling with commuters. After the airport, the traffic lightened considerably. I was low on gas, but figured I could make it home. And that’s all I wanted—to be home.
By the time we reached the Willow Road exit, I wasn’t really safe to drive any more. But Babe knew the last few miles like the back of her tires. I turned off Middlefield, wound around Palo Alto Avenue, turned onto my street. Babe slipped down the driveway and stopped, panting, in front of the garage.
Drake’s lights were on. When I opened my door, Barker bounded past me and tore wildly around the yard, revisiting all his favorite smelling posts. I shut the driver’s door and had a big stretch, breathing in the fragrance of freshly cut grass and the roses next to the driveway.
Before I could start hauling my stuff out, Drake came hurrying out of his back door. His frizzy hair stood on end, a sign of emotion for him, and his wire-rimmed glasses made him look like a young, fit Einstein.
“Liz!” He grabbed me in a bear hug, and it felt good.
Real good. I hugged back. When he kissed me, I kissed him back. That felt good, too, but remembering how attractive I’d found Kyle, I doubted my ability to know what was what with men.
“It’s good to be home,” I said, and Drake seemed satisfied with that.
“I’ve missed you a lot. And yes, your seedlings are fine, but I think they need to be planted soon.”
“I’ll get on it tomorrow.”
“And I got you some milk and eggs and bread and stuff.”
My stomach growled. Barker stood on the front porch, gazing commandingly at me—he was ready to remember his way around the house.
“Come on in, then,” I told Drake. “I’ll fix you some tea.”
Copyright © 1996 by Lora Roberts Smith
Originally published by Ballantine Books as a Fawcett Gold Medal Book
Electronically published in 2003 by Belgrave House
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This is a work of fiction. All names in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to any person living or dead is coincidental.