Tilting my head up, I find my mom glaring at me, but she can’t hide the tiny quirk to her lips because part of her likes I’m still a brat. Her eyes move to my stitches and soften, mouth turning into a frown. She knows not only my head was broken, but also my heart was as well. She gives me a pat on my leg before returning her attention up to the altar. The ending processional has started, and the congregation stands.
I sing under my breath as I have the worst voice in the world. After the processional, we start to file out of the pews. I follow my mom, nodding and smiling at people I know. We shuffle down the main aisle, the process slow-going as people will be pausing to shake hands and say a few words with our priest at the doors.
Keeping my head down so as not to run over my mom, I consider Jorie’s proposal. Maybe getting drunk today isn’t such a bad idea. It could temporarily obliterate Benjamin from my mind. Or it could make me stupid enough to drunk call him.
Ugh. Not a good idea.
And then, for some reason, I know I must look up. I raise my head, scanning the back pews, and right there… in the last row on the end, Benjamin sits and stares.
He’s dressed in a tan suit with a pale blue shirt. Hair slicked back rather than his mussed look, beard perfectly trimmed.
Sitting in an actual house of God. I’m surprised he hasn’t burst into flames over the abhorrence I’m sure he’s feeling to be in here.
When he smiles, my heart trips. He gives a slight jerk of his head toward the exit, a silent request I meet him outside. I nod in return.
Standing with cane in hand, he merges into the shuffling crowd ahead of me and I lose sight of him.
Eager to see what he’s doing here, I give a tiny nudge to my mom’s back, urging her to move faster. Of course she can’t, and she whips around to glare. I duck my head, giving her a submissive apology.
Practically bouncing from foot to foot as we make our way out of church, a million thoughts run through my head.
He’s here to proclaim his love.
Or give me a pair of panties I’d mistakenly left at his place.
No, he wouldn’t come to church to do that.
I mean… maybe to thumb his nose at God?
Ugh… why can’t these people hurry?
And then, my parents are shaking hands with the priest. I’m almost free. I resist the urge to push them past Father Gaul, then I’m right in front of him. His kind blue eyes rest on my stitches, and he brings his hand to the top of my head.
He murmurs a short prayer, then says, “I’ve been praying for you, my child.”
“Thank you, Father Gaul,” I say softly, then turn away from him, but my mother blocks my way.
Going to my tiptoes, I scan the crowd below the dozen or so steps leading out of the church. I can’t see Benjamin anywhere.
Maybe he was a figment of my imagination. Or someone who looked like Benjamin.
The people in the crowd are moving a little more freely, crisscrossing my line of sight and moving left and right to the two parking lots on either side of the church.
And then… like God parting the Red Sea for Moses, a path parts and I finally see him.
Across the street, leaning against his Audi that’s parked there.
It’s a damn Sixteen Candles moment. He’s even got his hands tucked into his pocket, pulling one out to hesitantly wave.
I resist the dorky move to look around as if it’s not me he’s here for, because I know better than that. Putting my hand on my mom’s shoulder, I lean into her. “I’m going to skip lunch today.”
She turns to me. “Are you feeling okay?”
I nod toward Benjamin. “Yes.”
Her eyes slide across the street to take him in. She’s my mom, so her lips flatten and she glares at him before saying, “His apology better be good.”
“Might not be an apology at all,” I say.
“If that’s the case, call me and I’ll set your brothers on him. They’ll teach him a lesson.”
I snort, then lean in to give her a kiss. “Call you later, Mamá. Love you.”
“Love you too,” she replies.
Taking a deep breath, I stare at Benjamin. He doesn’t move to me, but rather waves me over to him. I note he doesn’t have his cane now so he must have put it in the car, which must mean he doesn’t plan on staying long.
Oh shit… this is probably a final breakup meeting.
My stomach turns with dread as I make my way down the steps. I stop for several cars before I’m able to cross the street.