There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
—Zora Neale Hurston
BRYCE WITHERSPOON MOVED around the party intent on enjoying herself, although the host was the last person she wanted to be around. However, she knew Kaegan Chambray felt the same way about her. Yet, as always whenever he hosted one of his acclaimed cookouts, he'd included her on the guest list. They both knew the reason why.
Since moving back to town, their childhood friend Vashti Alcindor-Grisham, forever the peacemaker, had let them know she was best friend to them both and wouldn't take sides. Nor would she allow either of them to pit her against the other. So whenever Vashti was invited to one of his cookouts, Kaegan sent Bryce an invitation, as well, to keep the peace. Vashti's motto was There Are Things That Happen In The Past That Are Best Left There.
Bryce figured she could make things easier on Kaegan by not coming, but then, why should she? He certainly didn't try making things easier for her by coming into her parents' café regularly. Kaegan would arrive every morning at the Witherspoon Café for blueberry muffins and coffee, knowing she would be there and, more likely than not, be the one to wait on him.
It wouldn't be so bad if she could forget what he once meant to her. It had been ten years since their breakup. She wasn't twenty-two anymore. Since then she'd dated, but what she'd shared with Kaegan had been special. At least she'd thought it had been. He'd been her first in a number of things and on so many levels. That was why the pain of their breakup still managed to linger even after all this time.
And it hadn't helped matters when he'd returned to the cove four years ago with a chip on his shoulder, still believing he was the one who'd been wronged. She'd decided to show him that he wasn't the only one who could carry around a chip, and at this stage of the game he could believe whatever he wanted about her. All those years ago she'd tried proving her innocence and he hadn't wanted to listen to what she had to say, so what he thought now didn't matter.
Coming to his parties let him know she could be in the same room with him and feel absolutely nothing. She figured he was determined to prove the same thing to her, which was probably why he frequented the café every day.
Okay, she knew there was another reason why he patronized the café. He might not like her, but he loved her parents and they loved him. He was good friends with her two older brothers. But they didn't know the whole story.
She'd never told anyone what had happened between them to end things. In fact, she'd only just told Vashti last year.
One night when Vashti's husband, Sawyer, was out of town, Bryce had stopped by her best friend's home. Once Vashti had put her newborn son, Cutter, to bed, they'd opened a bottle of wine and put on a sappy movie, and Bryce had told Vashti everything.
She could recall her conversation from that night like it had been yesterday...
* * *
"KAEGAN AND I decided we wanted to be more than friends while you were gone to that home for unwed mothers to have your baby, Vash. That's when we became girlfriend and boyfriend."
Vashti nodded. "But he left here two years before we finished school and rarely came back. How did the two of you keep the relationship going?"
Bryce took a sip of her wine. "You recall my mom's youngest sister, Janice?"
"The one who moved from Canada to live in DC?"
"Yes. I would make the trip by catching the bus to see her and would spend time with Kaegan, as well, since he was stationed in Maryland."
Vashti seemed to mull over that admission. "I remember in our senior year how you would occasionally take the bus on the weekends to visit your aunt. I can't believe you never told me what you were doing and where you were going," Vashti said in an accusing tone.
"I wanted to tell you, Vash, but you were in your own little world during that time. You were still grieving after losing your baby. The last thing I wanted to do was overwhelm you with my happiness when you were so unhappy..."
* * *