Not even a hurricane could knock the sarcasm out of you.
And I didn’t know if I could let them. They could be my repentance, I could let them selflessly take what they needed and leave me shattered, and maybe in some twisted way, I’d find peace. Yet I still had some measure of self-preservation left that made me want to run away. Because people could disappoint you, and sometimes that was okay, but sometimes, like with my dad, it wrecked you so badly it changed you irrevocably. I’d made so many mistakes because of that, and I was afraid that when Aidan inevitably disappointed me, I’d lose what little of myself I still respected.Aidan’s eyes narrowed on me and he said, I haven’t told anyone that.
Because I’m being haunted, Nora, and I sense you know all about being haunted.Horrified that he could see that, I shook my head. You don’t know anything about me.Your name is Nora Rose O’Brien McAlister. You were born November 12, 1992, in Donovan, Indiana. You lived there until you were eighteen years old when you eloped with Jim McAlister to Vegas, and then returned with him to Edinburgh. You were married three years before he died of a brain aneurysm. You work at Apple Butter on Cockburn Street and you live alone in Sighthill. He paused as I tried to recover from the shock of him having all that information about me. I remember you, Pixie. I remember locking eyes with a pretty girl in a pub one day and then lifting her off the floor after her husband got into a fight with a drunk over her. And I remember seeing you again the next day in the supermarket, knowing you were too young and too married, and wanting you anyway. And maybe if it had been six months earlier, I would have been a selfish bastard and tried to seduce you, damn the consequences. But my sister was in a flat above the supermarket, dying, and I’d promised her and my niece I’d make pancakes with syrup.
A tear splashed down my cheek before I could stop it. I brushed it away quickly, impatiently.I’m not the kind of man who would allow his ten-year-old kid to spend so much time with a woman and not have her investigated, Pixie. So don’t take it personally.
When I didn’t say anything—I couldn’t speak for fear I’d burst into tears—Aidan continued, his words no longer fingernails picking at my wounded memories, but a knife, slicing them clean open.
I know your secret, Nora. I know that you really become Peter Pan for yourself, not for the kids. What I can’t understand is why an obviously talented, smart, twenty-two-year-old with her whole life ahead of her would volunteer on her day off at a sick children’s hospital … because she needs to. Because you do need to, Nora. I see it. Is this more than your husband dying too young? Or did you love him that much you can’t see that life still goes on? Whatever it is, like me, you’re haunted. And I can’t help but need to know … what the hell happened to you?The next day I picked her up right on schedule and was pleased to see that her hair was down once more. She was wearing the sweater I’d given her, just like she’d promised.
Both my mom and dad were a little surprised when I’d asked if it would be all right if Jamie came by for dinner. It wasn’t a big deal—whenever my dad was around, my mom would have Helen, our cook, make enough food for a small army.I guess I didn’t mention that earlier, about the cook, I mean. In our house we had a maid and a cook, not only because my family could afford them, but also because my mom wasn’t the greatest homemaker in the world. She was all right at making sandwiches for my lunch now and then, but there’d been times when the mustard would stain her nails, and it would take her at least three or four days to get over it. Without Helen I would have grown up eating burned mashed potatoes and crunchy steak. My father, luckily, had realized this as soon as they married, and both the cook and the maid had been with us since before I was born.
Though our house was larger than most, it wasn’t a palace or anything, and neither the cook nor the maid lived with us because we didn’t have separate living quarters or anything like that. My father had bought the home because of its historical value. Though it wasn’t the house where Blackbeard had once lived, which would have been more interesting to someone like me, it had been owned by Richard Dobbs Spaight, who’d signed the Constitution. Spaight had also owned a farm outside of New Bern, which was about forty miles up the road, and that was where he was buried. Our house might not have been as famous as the one where Dobbs Spaight was buried, but it still afforded my father some bragging rights in the halls of Congress, and whenever he walked around the garden, I could see him dreaming about the legacy he wanted to leave. In a way it made me sad, because no matter what he did, he’d never top old Richard Dobbs Spaight. Historical events like signing the Constitution come along only once every few hundred years, and no matter how you sliced it, debating farm subsidies for tobacco farmers or talking about the Red influence was never going to cut it. Even someone like me knew that.The house was in the National Historic Register—still is, I suppose—and though Jamie had been there once before, she was still kind of awed when she walked inside. My mother and father were both dressed very nicely, as was I, and my mother kissed Jamie hello on the cheek. My mother, I couldn’t help but think as I watched her do it, had scored before I did.