“Maybe you should subscribe to the news website instead,” I suggest.
Clara sits at the table and pours herself a cup of coffee.
“I think I will.” My mom tosses it in the trash. “There are pancakes on the counter if you two want any.”
Clara gives me a questioning look. If they’re anything like last night’s dinner monstrosity, she’s out. But luckily it’s just whole wheat pancakes. Healthy but edible.
I put two on each of our plates and smother them with butter and syrup. Then I grab a glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee and sit next to Clara, across the table from my mom. But instead of eating, my mind starts to wander, and I find myself staring out the window. All those feelings I’d harbored for Deacon as a young teen come rushing back. They’re all consuming just as they had been back then. It’s like they’ve been lying dormant, awaiting his arrival.
Back when Deacon still owned the house next door, I used to get home long before my mom. I’d lie in bed and picture him knocking on the front door. When I would answer it, he was there with no shirt on and a bouquet of long stem red roses cradled in baby’s breath. He’d tell me how beautiful I was and how he couldn’t live without me one more second. Our twelve-year age difference never mattered to him in my fantasies. I was all he could ever want or need. In my daydreams he was a hopeless romantic.
I even used to tell people at school I was dating an older man. Because in my heart he was mine. And though I knew it wasn’t true and being together would probably never happen, I felt that if I said it out loud, tossed it up in the universe, that somehow—like wishing on a star—it would come true. I never said his name or told them he was my neighbor for fear my lies would get back to him, or get him trouble. But I sure as hell hinted at it. Not that anyone actually believed me. Most people thought I was lying. Or, on the off chance I was telling the truth, that the older ‘man’ I always talked about was some freshman in high school.
Sometimes, at night, I would look out my bedroom window and watch him dress. I didn’t think much of it back then, but now I realize I was a total stalker. His window wasn’t large enough to show his whole body when he would change. Just from the waist up. But I had a wonderfully vivid imagination.
I startle at the sudden sound of my name. “What?”
“Did you hear me?” my mom says. “You were spacing out.”
Clara smirks, and bumps my shoulder. She knows exactly what’s distracting me. She was the only one I ever confessed to about all of my Deacon fantasies.
“Oh, sorry. I was daydreaming. What were you saying?”
She blows at the steam rising from her coffee cup and says, “I was asking if you remember Deacon who used to live next door.”
I try to wipe away any signs of recognition or swooning at the sound of his name off my face.
“Who’s Deacon?” Clara says with that same mischievous tilt of her lips.
I glare at her.
“Vaguely,” I say to my mom.
“Didn’t you used to have a crush on him?” my mom says with a teasing lilt in her voice.
I hold my finger up to keep Clara from making any more comments.
How does my mom know about my crush? Was I that obvious? Or maybe it’s because everyone in the neighborhood had a crush on him at the time and she’s just assuming I was one of them.
“Probably. I was thirteen. I had a crush on everyone,” I say, hoping I sound as nonchalant as I do in my head.
“I talked to him yesterday when he first arrived in town.”
He’s been here an entire day and I’m only now seeing him?
“What did you guys talk about?” I ask, trying to pry more information out of her.
My mom puts her elbows on the table, looking out the window toward the house his brother now owns. “Poor thing got divorced a while ago. His wife left him and the baby in order to go party.”
My eyes open wide. Luckily she doesn’t notice.
That’s so horrible. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to leave Deacon to go party, or for any reason, actually. And who leaves their baby? Deacon and his child are better off without her as far as I’m concerned. While I do feel bad that Deacon had to go through all of that, I can’t say I’m too upset about him being single now. Maybe I actually stand a chance with him …
I shut that thought down again. Best not to get my hopes up.
“He has a job here in town,” my mom continues. “He’ll need a babysitter he can trust. I volunteered you for the job. I hope that’s okay.”
Clara glances at me, a playful twinkle in her eyes. It’s not hard to tell what’s on my mind, I’m sure.