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New York - Later That Night 5 страница



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Her calls were finished and the small bag was packed and ready to go within the hour. Briar's legs felt like lead as she made her way across to Rueben's place. She found him inside making breakfast and was pleasantly surprised when he came over and gave her a hug as soon as he realized from her face how her talk with Megan had gone.

"I came to ask you for a favor."

With his hands still on her shoulders for support he nodded. "Anything you need, you know you just have to ask."

"It's nothing you'll have to sell your soul for. I just need a ride to the airport."

"You're leaving? Briar, you can't work it out with her if your more than a thousand miles away."

She patted his side before she took a seat at his small kitchen table. "If there's one lesson life teaches us, it's that some things can't be worked out. As a retired teacher you should know that. There are impossible math problems, the secrets of space and a slew of other things we'll never know for sure. For me it won't be anything so complicated."

"What do you mean?"

The sigh was released in the direction of Megan's home, which Briar could see from where she was sitting. All the windows were closed and the lights were off, but she knew Megan was still in there. "Simple. She lost her partner in an accident and it doesn't matter how much she cares about me or thinks that she does, the fact that I received Vivian's heart is something she'll never get passed."

"With time, Briar…"

"No, my friend, no amount of time is going to fix this. It's like a bad stock. When you know for certain that it isn't going to turn around, it's best to walk away and take your losses up front."

"Megan isn't a stock." He stood with his hands on his hips and sounded more than aggravated with her.

"No she isn't, but she isn't going to come around either. I have a life to go back to and that's what I'm going to do. It's going to be hard and I'm going to miss you, and it's going to hurt like hell for a very long time that she isn't in my life, but it's something I have to accept."

He didn't move but he did soften his voice. "Just promise me you won't forget about her or give up on her."

"I'm going back because it's the life I know, Rueben. Not because I want to give up on her. If I thought there was a chance that she would change her mind, I'd stay as long as it took."

Megan never saw Briar and Rueben walking to the jeep as she sat on her sofa and cried with the letter she now knew Briar had sent clutched to her chest. It was as if Briar had ripped open the wound of losing Vivian all over again by telling her what she had that morning.



When she did look out the window nothing looked different. The jeep was parked in the same place and Rueben was coming out of Briar's place after what she assumed was their regular morning visit. School started in a week and that gave her plenty of time to think about how to face Briar again. Or decide if she even wanted to face Briar again.

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The month of September and most of October went by, and Megan noticed that the jeep would be parked in different spots in their small lot so she figured Briar was just being kind and avoiding her, waiting for her to be ready to talk. Having the kids start to get excited about Halloween since she had them making decorations for their classroom made her days more tolerable.

Just like when she'd first lost Vivian, the routine and the constant dealings with her students had helped her take her mind off of Briar and the pain of not having her in her life. "Hell, Megan when it comes to Briar that was your own choice," she said to herself as she pulled into the lot at home after school one day.

For once the white jeep wasn't there but she saw it pull in right behind her. She suddenly felt both horrible and happy at the same time. Horrible for not having the guts to talk to Briar sooner than this, but happy that circumstance finally had done what she couldn't. What she wasn't expecting was seeing Rueben sitting behind the wheel. He had also been someone she'd avoided knowing how close he'd become to Briar.

"Hey, Rueben, getting to drive Briar's car today?"

"Actually it's mine now. I was just out picking up my medicine."

She grabbed her bag and joined him for the walk down the dock. "Did Briar decide to walk from here on out?"

"She went home, Megan. Since she flew, she didn't have use for the jeep anymore so she gave it to me because I refused to take any rent from her." He felt bad for being so blunt when he saw the look of hurt cross her face, but it also gave him encouragement that Megan would finally own up to her feelings.

"She's gone?"

"Girl, did you think she was sitting in there pining away for you?" He led her to the houseboat he had lent to Briar and sat her on the chaise on the deck. "She left not long after the day you two talked and she told you what had happened to her."

"I just couldn't handle it, Rueben. I know you think I'm probably an idiot but it's Vivian we're talking about."

"You know what I think."

She shook her head and tried not to think about how the chair she was sitting on felt when she'd shared it with Briar. "If you want to tell me off, go ahead. I know that you and Briar got close."

"This doesn't have anything to do with Briar." He pointed to the sailboat Vivian had loved so much. "I liked Vivian a lot. Thought you two made a cute couple as a matter of fact, but she was an easy one to figure out. She loved you and she loved that boat. Not much else caught her fancy and there's nothing wrong with that."

"I was thinking of selling it but I haven't been able to bring myself to not seeing it in the mornings when I leave."

Rueben put a hand over hers and the other under her chin so she'd look up at him. "I'm not questioning what you and Vivian had so please don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way. When my wife Joan was alive, there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't feel passionate about her. She was the person I worked hard for, tried to make a home for and loved with all my heart."

"It sounds like you still miss her," said Megan leaning into his touch.

"I do and I always will, just like a small part of you will always miss Vivian. What I wanted to say though, is that I never saw you look as happy with her as you did with Briar. Briar who loved art, who loved to see your face light up with something she wanted to show you and who did her best to find things you two could share." He felt bad when her eyes watered at what he was saying, but he kept on going now that he'd started. "I'm sure once you learned all about her, you'd find out that Briar has her own sailboat somewhere…"

"She can't swim so I doubt it."

He laughed and pressed his fingers against her lips. "I meant it as a metaphor, Megan. What I mean is she has something in her life that has nothing to do with you, the something she's passionate about that you never will be."

"So what's the difference then?"

"The difference is she'd give that up to keep putting those smiles on your face. You have to admit that Vivian wouldn't have given up that boat so easily, and she never did try to branch out to try and enjoy the things you do. Those things you enjoy so much and gave up for so long to make her happy."

"Don't you think it's weird that she has Viv's heart?"

"Before I answer that let me ask you something. Aren't you glad Briar's alive? No matter how that came to be, aren't you glad?"

The same paralysis that had come over her the last time she'd talked to Briar took over Megan's throat and she couldn't find a word that she could get out. Rueben was nice and stood pulling her up with him.

"Come on. Come help me box up some stuff Briar left behind. I have a feeling in my bones she's not gone forever and I want them to be here when she gets back. Some of the other things she told me to give away."

The inside of the place was neat, but Briar had left some things behind. On the table there was a stack of papers that had notes on them about different stocks she was following along with her laptop, closed and left as a gift for Rueben. Besides that the only other thing she'd left was hanging in the closet. The seersucker suit she'd bought because Megan had wanted her to had been abandoned.

"Do you have room for it at your place, or do you want me to give it to charity?" asked Rueben.

"I'll take it if you don't mind."

She went home after that and sat on the sofa holding the suit, pressing it to her face. Even after hanging in the closet for all that time there were still some traces of Briar's cologne. "Dammit this isn't fair. All I asked you for is a sign, Viv, and sending me someone who got your heart wasn't what I was expecting."

Mac caught the same scent she was enjoying and starting barking as if Briar was going to walk in any minute. When he moved close he realized it was coming from the thing in his mom's hands. He jumped up and sunk his teeth into the jacket trying to pull it away from her and carry it to his bed like he often did with things he found and enjoyed.

"No, Mac." Megan pulled back to keep it away from him not knowing what a good grip he had on it. One good tug and the pocket ripped dropping the contents on her lap.

She looked at it and could almost hear Vivian whispering in her ear. "You asked me for a sign and here it is. What you decide to do with it is up to you."

As an answer she picked up the phone and started making plans. It might be too late but she was going to try.

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"Briar, do you need anything else?" asked Shelia. More often than not since her boss had come back she'd come in and find her in the same position looking out the window with a dazed expression.

"I'm sorry, I thought I told you to get out of here hours ago. It's Friday, beautiful, go home and have fun with your partner."

Not needing an invitation she stepped into the office and closed the door. "Are you all right? Do you feel okay?"

"I feel fine…really," she finished when she received an expression of doubt. "I'm even going to Long Island this weekend to spend some time with my mother."

"You must be feeling funny if you're going to see Henley voluntarily."

"Halloween is on Monday and you know how much fun she plans for everyone. I'm just going as the hired help believe me."

"Have fun then. Now I can relax this weekend and not be so worried about you." She noticed the sound machine she'd given Briar was turned on to the sound of waves again. "Ever since you got back from your extended vacation I've been concerned that there was something wrong."

"Nothing time and hard work won't cure. Go on and get out of here."

Briar walked Shelia out and put her in a cab. After the trip down south she'd come to enjoy the freedom of driving herself, and when she was going out of the city as she had often to visit her mother, she had her new car brought around. This time she'd gone with the Toyota Sequoia. The bags she'd packed for the weekend were thrown in the back so she was ready to go.

The congestion of the city was left behind as she got closer to the house her parents had shared for years before her birth and where she'd grown up. After her father's death, Henley had opened it to a local organization that worked with mentally and physically handicapped children for certain events. Her Halloween parties had become legendary since the kids ran from one activity to the other until they were completely exhausted.

When she arrived the grounds were being prepared for the onslaught of visitors that they'd have over the next three days. Henley was right in the middle of all the activity but broke away when she saw Briar pull up.

"I swear I'd give you permission to smoke a cigar if you promised to put on some weight. I know the doctor told you to watch it, but you're getting to slim, honey." She ran up and threw her arms around Briar.

"Don't remind me about my vices, mom. It's hard enough getting through the day on only one cup of coffee."

"Walk with me so I can check out all the pumpkins I ordered." She took Briar's hand pulled her in the direction of the barn. "Have you heard from Megan?"

Henley wouldn't be put off like Shelia and had pestered Briar until she heard the whole story of her adventure. The tale had her planning a wedding until Briar got to the end. As much as she wanted to as her mother, there was nothing she could do to take away the pain.

"When are you going to stop asking me that question?" asked Briar.

"When you come to your senses and try one more time to get in touch with her."

"Mother, I'm not the one who wanted to end it. Did you not understand that part of the story?"

They stopped at some bales of hay and Henley took a seat. "Don't be sarcastic with your mother, Briar Kilston."

"No, ma'am, I haven't heard from her and I'm not calling her so drop the subject." She joined Henley and plucked a strand of hay out of the bale to chew on. "I'm fine really. I'm back at work, things are going well despite the craziness of the market, and I'm reading a lot more."

"What you need is someone to love you, sweetheart."

Finding that she enjoyed showing Henley affection, Briar reached over and hugged her much to her mother's delight. "What you don't love me?"

"Enough to see you happy and in love."

"Some people are really lucky when it comes to that like you and daddy. Maybe the rest of us should settle for being content."

"Never settle for anything or anyone, Briar. That was your father's motto and the reason I loved him so much."

"Right now I'll settle for a bowl of your vegetable soup," teased Briar ready to end the conversation.

They walked back to the house and spent the rest of the evening in the kitchen then in the den in front of the large fireplace. The next morning Briar got up wanting to take one of the horses out for a run and Henley sent her off with a kiss on the cheek and a warning to be careful. They had the same conversation every time Briar came over and repeated it the next two mornings when Henley sent her off with a kiss on the cheek.

Henley was helping the staff make caramel apples for the kids arriving in a few hours when one of the servants came into the kitchen. "Henley, there's someone here who'd like to see you."

"Is it someone from Hope Kids?"

"She didn't give her name, so I put her in Mr. Carlson's study."

"I'm Henley Kilston, can I help you?" she asked when she walked in.

"I'm sorry to bother you, ma'am, but I didn't know where to start."

"What's the old adage? At the beginning I believe is the best place," she pointed to a leather chair near the window where the young woman was standing.

"I'm Megan Beniot and I'm here about your daughter."

"My daughter told me about you Ms. Beniot and I have to say it's a surprise to find you in my home."

Megan squeezed the handle of her purse and took a deep breath. "I'm sure she told you how badly I behaved and I'm here to ask your help in finding her so I can apologize. What I did to Briar was unbelievably rude and I owe it to her to say I'm sorry. If I'm lucky she'll still be interested in being my friend."

"Can I tell you a few things about Briar before we talk about you seeing her?" Henley relaxed into her seat and studied the young woman she was more than sure that Briar was in love with.

"It's your right to tell me anything at all, ma'am."

"Please call me Henley and I should offer you something to drink since I have a feeling we'll be here awhile."

"I'm fine, thank you."

"Earlier this year I almost lost my only child to a heart that was broken because of genetics. In the last two months I've lost the child I knew to another broken heart, only this time a transplant won't cure what ails her. You hurt her and I want to know why?"

"Because I was an idiot and was drowning in guilt," said Megan. For the first time she voiced the thoughts she'd had the night before Vivian died and how she had wanted something more even when her partner was alive.

Henley moved closer and put her hand on Megan's knee. "Tell me about your Vivian."

For over an hour Megan told her about the life she'd shared with Vivian and how it had ended so tragically. For good measure she told Henley about the time she and Briar had spent together and how much she'd enjoyed it.

"It sounds to me like the one thing you treasured about Vivian was her true heart, but Briar is a better fit for you." Megan nodded at the assessment. "I knew from the time she was a baby that when she gave her heart away it would be to the most special of people. She's so much like her father that way. Once they commit it's a lifetime promise, Megan, I hope you understand that."

"I want nothing more than that."

"Then how lucky for you that Briar has given away the one heart that you treasure so much."

"You think it's that easy?" asked Megan.

"Things that are meant to be usually are." Henley stood up and took Megan with her. "Want a tour of the grounds?"

Megan wanted Henley to just tell her where Briar was but she didn't want to be rude by rushing her. "Sure, I'd love to."

"Trust me, Megan. I want you to see the grounds and then you'll hopefully come to realize what I did a long time ago when Carlson first brought me here."

"What's that?"

"No matter where you decide to live, this is the Kilston family home and it's a place to make happy memories. We stayed more permanently after Briar was born even though we have a place in the city as does Briar."

They walked out the back door through the kitchen and to the fence line close to the house. There racing through the open field on a black mare was Briar. Slowing as she got closer to cool down the horse.

"No more walking away," said Henley.

"I promise."

Briar never noticed her and continued on to the barn at a slow trot. When she pulled the saddle off and turned to put it on the stall divider, it fell out of her hand when she saw Megan standing there.

"I came because I wanted to tell you…" started Megan never getting to finish when Briar just looked at her like she wanted to bolt for the house.

Briar stood her ground with a million thoughts running through her head starting with paying Megan back and just walking away and ending with just taking her in her arms and kissing her. Her heart listened to her mother and her constant wishes for her to be happy and she started walking.

At first Megan was so shocked she didn't move but quickly relaxed into the kiss Briar had initiated. "I missed you so much," said Briar, her lips so close Megan could feel them moving against her own.

"I love you, Briar, and I want you to give me a chance to prove it to you."

"Only stock tips have to be proven, honey. I know you love me because I feel it in here," said Briar tapping over her heart. "And while my heart may have some memory of you, my love for you is real and it's mine."

"Just like me." There was a rustling behind Megan and before she could go on a very small dog found the person he'd been searching for for what seemed like an eternity to him. "Both of us belong to you, Briar, and we both love you," said Megan laughing at the way Mac was trying to crawl up Briar's leg.

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That night watching a group of kids congregate around Briar, who was helping them carve a pumpkin, Megan turned her eyes to the night sky and the full moon. Her thoughts turned to Vivian but only for a moment.

"I'll always have a special place for you in my heart and I'm never going to forget the life we had, Viv, and thank you for bringing Briar into my life. Be well and happy sailing."

She put her arms around Briar's neck from behind and pressed into her back. Watching Briar interact with the kids made her look forward to a happy life with a person who showed such infinite patience with these special little ones.

Perhaps Briar's new heart carried some of Vivian's memories, the knot Briar had tied without really realizing what she was doing the night she talked to Rueben proved that. When Mac had ripped the pocket of the seersucker jacket it had been the sign Megan had been looking for. It was the exact same knot that Vivian had given her for her birthday the last night they spent together. What was important was that she and Briar had a lifetime to make new memories that belonged only to them.

"I love you," said Briar turning from her carving duties to kiss the tip of her nose.

"I love you too, baby." A lifetime sounded good but Megan was sure it wouldn't be enough now that she had found her one true passion. But it would do for a start.

 





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