She was all befuddled. The ball had to be her closure, her triumph. But reminded that for
She climbed inside and slammed the door before I even got to the driver’s side. Once I was inside she turned her head to look at me. Let’s get this straight. I’m doing this to shut my mother up. You do not deserve this. I shouldn’t have to sit through it. But I am. If I don’t, my mom will nag me about it for weeks. I don’t have the time to listen to that. So get to the point. We can do it sitting right here. This shouldn’t be a long conversation.I thought about ignoring that and starting my truck, but I decided against it. Being seen driving around with Riley in my truck would lead to questions I didn’t want to answer. People seeing my truck in their driveway was easier to explain. I could say my mom sent me over with food for the family since they’re having a tough time with her grandmamma. That was believable.
Did that make me sound like a wuss? Yes, it did, but one thing at a time. I was here and that was something.I was still fourteen when all of this happened. Which made me young and stupid. I believed Rhett because he was my friend’s older brother, and the rest of the town was so outraged I figured they must be right. I didn’t question it. And . . . maybe I should have.She let out a short, hard laugh. Maybe you should have. She repeated my words and laughed again. I seriously don’t have time for this, she said as she reached for her door handle.
Wait. Please. Just . . . give me a minute. I’m trying to say this right.Sighing, she dropped her hand from the handle. I had a small window of opportunity here. She was no longer interested in getting people to believe her. That much was obvious.
Let me ask you something, Brady. Why are you having a change of heart? Because you saw Bryony? Because wouldn’t the girl you all assumed I was when I left town have slept with any guy from here to Arkansas to get knocked up?
She was giving me an opening. I took it. No. Because seeing you with her made me question everything. You’re a good mom. Bryony loves you. You’re taking care of your grandmother, homeschooling to get your diploma, and you could have given her up for adoption or even aborted her, but you didn’t. All those things say a lot about your character. They don’t say you’re a lying, careless manipulator.Issy had heard this story before but was always happy to hear it again. She settled back in her chair, like she was a little girl and Gramps was tucking her up in bed rather than vice versa.
‘And my father had died in the first war, and the bakeries in those days, they were fierce places. Black bread and mice droppings and who knew what, as long as you could get what you were after for a farthing, and feed your mites. People didn’t care. There weren’t no market for fancy cakes in that part of the world, no. But I started young, and there weren’t no one hungrier than me. I were up at four, sweeping floors, sifting flour, kneading; kneading? I had biceps like a boxer’s, no joke, my Isabel. People used to remark on it. The ladies especially.’Joe looked like he was about to fall asleep, so Issy leaned closer.
‘Course there was one good thing about working there, with the early starts and the big bags of flour … when it was that cold in the winter. And I mean proper cold.’ Joe looked around. ‘It’s never cold in here. They always stuff you up with scarves and dressing gowns till you think you’re going to pop like a sausage.‘But on those cold mornings, when you came in – and the ovens never went out, you know, they ran all night so the bread was always fresh, aye. So you’d wake up and man, my ma’s house – your great-grandma Mabel – oh, it was absolutely cold. Ice on the blankets, ice on the windows. You couldn’t dry a thing in the winter time, so you just kept it on. I’d build the fire up in the morning and I wouldn’t be able to light the kindling without trembling. We had some harsh winters then. But you stepped into that bakery and suddenly you could feel the warmth in your bones; feel it through your wet clothes and your damp wool and your chapped hands. The kiddies used to come in, Isabel, and you could see it in their faces; they loved the warm and the smell of it. There were real poor folks then, Issy, not like now when they’ve all got flatscreen TVs.’