The theme is April Showers. Basically, a shower (which can be interpreted almost any way you want) is the plot device responsible for bringing characters together.
The Ride Home
Weighted with a shopping bag in each hand, I stood under the awning of the local grocery store with my son, watching the rain. I had decided with the pleasant spring weather to walk the short walk from our house. Now, in light of the sudden downpour, it seemed to be a rather poor decision.
“It was cloudy but the sun was out when we went inside,” marveled Jensen, my fifteen-year-old. He leaned forward in order to glance at the sky overhead where more menacing clouds were looming in the distance.
“I don’t think it will let up anytime soon. We’re going to have to walk home in it.”
He looked at me doubtfully. “The loaf of French bread won’t survive that.”
“It will if we wrap the groceries in some of the garbage bags we bought.” Jensen gave me another skeptical look before glancing back out into the rain. I turned and pulled out a cart, settling the bags inside before fishing around inside one of them.
Smiling widely, I nudged him in the ribs with my elbow. “Oh come on, you used to love jumping in puddles when you were a little boy. Where’s that adventurous spirit?”
“I haven’t jumped in a puddle in years, Mom, and I’m wearing my new sneakers.” I glanced down to see the expensive athletic shoes I’d bought a few days ago and groaned. I certainly didn’t have the money to buy him another pair if they were ruined.
“We can wrap those in a bag, too. You’ll have to go barefoot.”
“Mom!” he exclaimed. “There are no sidewalks until we cross the street, and I’m not walking barefoot through the parking lot!”
I leaned back against the brick wall. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” I pulled out my cell phone, cursing the expense of a taxi. Even five dollars for a ride of a little over a mile was highway robbery in my mind. That was when I heard his low voice come from behind her.
“I have an umbrella if you need help getting to your car.” Turning, I found myself face to face with my brother-in-law’s best friend, William Darcy. We hadn’t seen one another for a few years, but he was still as handsome as the last time we’d crossed paths. That had been the night my father’s car broke down, and he drove me home from Charles and Jane’s anniversary party.
“Hello, Elizabeth.” The arm at his side held a large umbrella while the other held a noticeably full shopping bag.
“Hi,” I said in a weak tone, remembering the assumptions and accusations I’d made that night. I’d been so wrong, and now I was mortified.
Jensen, glancing back and forth between us seemed puzzled. “Hi, Mr. Darcy.”
I watched Darcy give a small smile as he extended his arm to shake my son’s hand. “You’ve certainly grown since I saw you last. I understand from Charles that you’re doing very well at your swim meets.” It was all I could do to prevent my jaw from dropping. He’d kept track of my son?
“At my last meet, I won the 200 meter butterfly and freestyle, and placed second in the 1,000 meter I.M.”*
Darcy smiled wider. “Congratulations,” he praised warmly. “I know you’ve worked very hard for it.”
Feeling my courage rise, I took a small step forward. “I appreciate the offer of the umbrella, but we walked here before the rain started. I was actually just calling a taxi to take us home.”
He took a long look back out into the rain. “As I recall, you don’t live very far from here.”
“No, it’s about a mile,” I clarified, glancing out to see what had captured his attention. Mine was recaptured by his voice, and I turned to find him appraising me once more.
“If you give me a moment, I can go get my car and give you a ride home.
I shook my head vehemently; embarrassed that he was being so nice when I’d been so horrid. “That won’t be necessary. We’ll be fine with a cab.”
“I know you would be fine, but you’d have to wait. The weather is worsening, and I’d like to know that you’re both safe at home before that happens.” He had an almost pleading look in his eyes, and I nodded as I heard Jensen thank him.
Putting my phone back in my purse, I turned to pick up the bags while I remembered the first time I’d met William Darcy. I’d been Maid of Honor for Jane’s wedding, and Darcy had been the Best Man. I had been drawn to him more than anyone I’d ever met.
I ignored that pull, because although I was only twenty-three, I’d been married to Ryan for the past three years. Jensen was also three.
We ran into each other from time to time over the years—Charles and Jane’s birthdays, the births of their children, christenings. I’d always been uncomfortable with the way I felt around him, not to mention, the way he always seemed to be staring at me.
Then, four years ago, my marriage imploded in a spectacular fashion. Unknown to me, Ryan had been having an affair for years. I made that discovery when the other woman, Lydia, showed up at my house one day while my husband was at work. She was pregnant and had a toddler in tow—a toddler that was a mini-me of Ryan. I filed for divorce as quickly as the law would allow.
Not long after, Darcy delivered the bombshell that he’d been in love with me for years. Perhaps I would’ve been kinder, if he hadn’t given his opinion of my marriage to Ryan and my mother, who I do admit is not the most couth of women, but I was still trying to pick up the pieces. I was also in no position mentally to be dating anyone yet, so I lashed out. I’m still mortified by the worst of it.
“What kind of man falls in love with a married woman! Did you fantasize that I would leave him and my son for you, or that I would have an affair with you?”
Now here I am, and he is enough of a gentleman not only to congratulate my son on his success, but also to ensure we get home safely.
I was suddenly startled by Jensen elbowing me in the side. As my memories cleared from my vision, I could see the car at the curb, and Darcy was getting out to open my door.
He took the bags from my hands before I could protest, placing them in the backseat with my son, and was soon back in the drivers seat, pulling out from the parking lot.
“So, you still live in Beau Chêne?”
“Yes,” I voiced aloud, since he couldn’t see me while he watched the road. I glanced down at my hands and then back to his face, studying him. He had a few grey hairs sprinkled in at his temples and maybe a line or two around his eyes. When did that happen?
Was he involved with someone? Darcy could’ve eloped or married privately. Charlie mentioned very little of him over the last few years, and I sometimes wondered whether Darcy had confided to him what happened that night. My brother-in-law had never withheld anything about him before.
I had just begun to face forward when he turned the car, giving me a clear view of his left ring finger—bare. There wasn’t even a tan line, and I felt a surge of relief. I often thought of him, and I hadn’t dated since my divorce. I’d had men ask me out, but for some reason, it never seemed right, or I was simply not interested. Was it because a part of me was waiting for him to return?
He stopped the car and turned to find me staring. Starting, I looked forward and realized we were in my driveway. Jensen grabbed the bags and thanking Darcy, he darted from the car. Darcy watched him punching the code into the panel on the garage to let himself into the house.
That was when I noticed how heavily the rain was coming down. It was in sheets and the garage was barely visible, even though we were really very close.
“You can’t drive home in this,” I said, staring at the rain as it poured down the windshield.
“I will probably remain here until it passes, if that’s okay with you.” I turned to find him observing me, much like he used to, and my stomach gave a flutter. He turned and cleared his throat while he studied his hands. “It was good to see you again.”
“William,” I said, testing a name I’d never used for him. His head popped up, and I held his steady gaze while I summoned my courage. “Please come in for a while. You can’t sit out here in the rain. It may not pass for some time.”
“I’ll be fine,” he claimed quietly.
“I know you’ll be fine, but you’ll have to wait” A corner of his lips twitched, and I knew that he was amused that I’d turned his own argument against him. “We can bring your groceries inside and put any that need it in the freezer or refrigerator. You can even bring your briefcase and ignore us while you work.” My heart dropped as he began to shake his head.
Impulsively, I made a decision and reached into the back, grasping his grocery bag by the handles. I then grabbed his briefcase as I opened the car door. I heard him call out to wait, but I was already running for my open garage. I glanced back and motioned for him to follow before I walked into the door.
Jensen had left his shoes in the middle of the laundry room, so I shifted them to the side, relieved he didn’t track wet footprints through the house. I took mine off and joined my son in the kitchen where he was already unloading the shopping bags.
“Thanks, honey,” I said as I set William’s things on the kitchen table.
“Is that Mr. Darcy’s briefcase,” he said in a surprised tone.
“Yup,” I answered with a smile. “The rain is too heavy for him to drive, and he was insisting on sitting in the car until the storm passed.”
“So you stole his briefcase so he’d have to come in?”
“Pretty much.” Jensen laughed, and I turned when I heard the door to the garage close. A minute later, William was entering the room in sock-clad feet.
My son smirked and shook his head. “I’m going to go work on my paper for a while.”
“I’ll call you when dinner’s ready,” I called as he rounded the corner.
William walked up to the table, and I turned to him with a raised eyebrow. “Do you have anything in here that needs to stay cold?” He nodded and pulled out some milk, cheese, and frozen dinners that I stored away for the time being.
Jensen had left out the ingredients for dinner, so I began chopping peppers while William leaned against the counter. Deciding that I couldn’t keep avoiding the elephant in the room, I set down the knife and faced him. “I owe you an apology for the last time we saw each other.”
He closed his eyes and quickly reopened them as if what I said caused him pain. “No, much of what you said was true. I was horribly rude to you.” He moved toward the kitchen table, removing his suit jacket and hanging it over the seat. “I have realized since that night that I felt so horrified at falling in love with a woman who was married, that I did everything I could to push you away. I would’ve never been able to live with myself if you’d only been an affair.” He returned to the counter, inhaling and exhaling heavily. “When I learned that you were finally free, I’m afraid I leapt without thinking. I should’ve never made those comments about your ex-husband.”
I shook my head. “Why not? They were true.” I shook my head ruefully. “Why don’t we do our best to forget it happened? Remember the past that is pleasant?”
William nodded, and I returned to cooking. “I know you moved after, but Charles never said where.”
“There were some major leadership issues with the offices in Australia, and I had been given the opportunity to manage them until they were running smoothly again. After that night, it seemed like a good opportunity to get away…to forget.”
My chest felt as thought it had been ripped in two when he said forget, and I realized that for the years he’d been gone, I’d been dwelling on him. A part of me always imagined he would return to me. Instead, he’d left to get over me, and the knowledge of that was painful. I felt the tears well in my eyes, and I couldn’t control them when they began to fall like the rain outside the kitchen window.
A sob escaped from my lips as he took the knife from my hand, placing it on the cutting board and gently pulling me back from the counter. “It must be the onions,” I said, wiping my tears with the back of my hand.
“The onion hasn’t been cut yet.” I groaned and covered my face with my hands.
“Elizabeth?” he murmured, pulling my hands away. “I left to forget, but I couldn’t. I found myself constantly wondering what you were doing. I drove poor Charles crazy with questions whenever I called. He finally told me to come back and find out for myself.”
A laugh bubbled from my lips, and William smiled, gently brushing the tears from my cheeks. “Do I dare hope that your feelings have changed?”
“Oh William, I was so stupid that night.”
He put his finger over my lips and pulled me close. “I thought we agreed we’d forget that.” I chuckled and leaned my forehead against his chest. He was so warm and his large hands rubbed up and down my back. I knew Jensen would return soon and ask about dinner, but I didn’t want to move—ever.
I looked up and one of his hands caressed my face while he leaned in and claimed my lips. He softly touched his tongue to mine, and my body burned in response. I pulled back and bit my lip in an attempt to control the wide grin that was spreading across my face. William smiled brilliantly, and kissed my temple as I turned back to the peppers I was chopping.
“So, what’s for dinner?” he asked with a mischievous glint in his eye.
I laughed and looked outside at the rain, hoping it would pour all night long.
© 2014 L.L. Diamond