Continued From Friday, July 13, 2012
Stepping out onto the front porch, Terry tried to recall when she’d had a better meal. The chicken had been a-maz-ing, and that cherry cobbler with homemade ice cream was well worth the extra time she’d need to spend on the treadmill next week.
To her surprise, several of the other guests had spoken to her, making her feel more like she belonged. She’d been guarded whenever Curt had passed by, and was relieved that he’d been too busy chat. All she really needed to do was avoid him tomorrow, and she’d never have to admit to being such an eccentric weirdo.
She leaned against the porch pillar, soothed by the sound of the waves lapping to the shore on the other side of the street, and the soft pastels of the evening sky.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Terry jolted as Lily, the owner of the guesthouse, appeared next to her. “Oh…yes.” Calm down, Terry. “I could sure get used to this.”
Lily wrapping her arms around herself, no doubt to stave off the evening chill. “Well, you’re certainly welcome to return any time.” She leaned in conspiratorially. “And tell all your friends.”
Terry tossed a smile back. “I will, absolutely.” Both women relaxed a little and looked out at the darkening sky.
“There you are, Lily.” Curt appeared at the door, sending Terry’s pulse into overdrive. He started toward them.
Terry straightened. The last thing she wanted was to get stuck talking to both of them. This split personality gig was just not working out for her.
“Sorry to interrupt.” Curt stepped up next to Lily, giving Terry a slight grin. “Rob and I finished the tables and he’s wondering if he can head on home.”
“Oh sure. Tell him he did a great job tonight.” Lily looked at Terry. “First night on the job for one of our bussers. It’s so hard to find serious workers.”
Biting her lower lip, Terry winced out a smile. She made some sort of affirming sound that didn’t commit her one way or another to either continent.
“I don’t know what I would have done without Curt this summer.” Lily gave him a warm look. “He’s really been my hero.”
A sheepish expression washed over his face. He turned to Terry, as if anxious to take the focus off himself. “You’re lucky you came on the first clear weekend of the summer. It rains a lot here, so a night like this is a real prize.”
Terry raised her eyebrows in mock interest as panic filled her chest. She prayed that he would leave, and not ask her any questions. Would it be totally bizarre if she just darted into the house with no explanation?
Lily inadvertently saved her. “I’m one of those crazy people who loves the beach even when it’s raining. It’s romantic.” She turned to Curt. “Don’t you think?”
That made Terry want to kick herself. What was wrong with her? She was going nuts keeping up a pretense for the sake of a guy she’d never see again, and who was clearly not interested in her anyway. Lily had just made it clear, with her romantic-rainy-beach comment, that he was already spoken for.
A potential explosion brewed in her chest.
Curt nodded in agreement with Lily, then tossed a casual glance at Terry. Common courtesy warranted some conversational input on her part, yet she stood there gaping like some pathetic French mime.
She couldn’t take it anymore. Suddenly, she blurted out, “I’m plain old Terry and I live in Portland. Two and a half hours away.”
“Oh…” Lily’s eyes opened wide and her eyebrows shot up. She sputtered. “…I…think… I knew that.”
Curt stared, his lower lip trembling as he said nothing. Terry was just about to slink into the house when Lily spoke again.
“Why don’t I just go talk to Rob.” She gave Curt a meaningful look, and disappeared inside.
Now that she was alone with Curt, she felt a little less like fleeing. She sunk into her shoulders, mentally composing a full explanation. Curt chuckled. She looked up at him. So he found this funny?
He looked out toward the beach. “I’m so relieved.”
“Yeah.” Tipping his chin down, he gave her a shy glance. “I can’t tell you how intimidated I was by ‘Terése from Paris’. I mean, I can relate to Terry from Portland. I’m from there too.”
She looked up, hope edging out the panic in her chest. “You are?”
“Yeah. I’ll be heading back there at the beginning of September for the start of the new school year.”
“Oh.” This wasn’t so bad. He hadn’t said anything about her being a freak. “So, you go to the U then?”
“I did, but now I’m a teacher.” He lifted his chin. “Sixth grade science.”
“Oh. Wow.” From beach slacker, to waiter, to sixth grade science teacher. What do you know?
“Lily helped me out by offering me this job for the summer. I kind of needed to get away from my normal life. Getting over a breakup.”
“A breakup?” Her brow creased. “But I thought…I mean, I assumed you and Lily…”
His eyes widened. “No…Lil’s my cousin. She needed help getting her business off the ground, and since I waited tables all through college it seemed like a natural fit. Plus, you know how it is when you get dumped and you just need to get away for a while?” He gave her a sincere look. “Sorry. You’ve probably never—”
“Actually,” she chimed in. “I’m here for the exact same reason.”
“No kidding?” His eyes lit up, then softened. “Sorry. It’s tough.”
“Yeah.” Leaning on the pillar again, she grabbed her elbows. “How are you getting through it?”
With a tip of his head, he gazed out at the shore. “I just keep telling myself that God loves me. It doesn’t really matter so much anymore if Annette does.”
He seemed so confident about that. If that was true for him could it be true for her too?
“So. Terry. Maybe you’d like to grab a cup of coffee some time, when we’re both back in Portland?”
A smile overtook her face. “I’d love to.”
“I know the perfect place.” He gave her a wink as he started for the door. “It’s a little bistro called ‘Mon Secret’. See you later, Mademoiselle.”
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