I leaned against the door unable to wipe the ridiculous smile off my face. I couldn’t believe what had happened.
“There you are,” I looked up to see Beatrice who was holding a sleeping Harrison, “I’m just putting him down for his nap. Meet me in the living room.”
I took my coat and boots off and headed into the living room where Winnie and Jack were sitting drinking tea. There was a third glass that was half empty – I assumed it was Beatrice’s. Winnie smiled at me as I entered.
“Tea?” she offered.
“Please,” I replied as I sat down.
She poured me a cup of the black tea they were drinking. I took a sip – it was heavenly after having to once again gulp down a bitter cup of coffee this morning.
“Okay, spill,” I heard Beatrice’s voice behind me. She took a seat next to Jack on the love seat and picked up her cup of tea, “Where were you last night Riley?”
“Oh come dear, she’s an adult. She doesn’t have to tell us what she gets up to.” Winnie took a sip of her tea and winked at me.
“Um, yes she does when she misses Christmas dinner.” Beatrice retorted.
“I was with Wes,” I answered honestly.
Everyone’s facial expressions changed at once. They all looked a little taken aback – like this wasn’t the answer they were expecting. Beatrice put down her tea and leaned onto her knees.
“Wes Thornston?” she asked.
“I didn’t know this town had more than one Wes,” I replied.
“Oh come now Beatrice, Wes is a wonderful man.” Winnie said.
“I never said he wasn’t mom,” Beatrice looked over at Winnie, “But let’s face it even after a year what does anyone in this town really know about him.”
“I think he’s a decent guy,” Jack said as he set down his empty cup.
“More?” Winnie asked him and he nodded. She shakily lifted the pot of tea and poured him another cup.
“He’s a decent guy but he’s still a complete mystery,” Beatrice leaned back into the couch.
I shook my head, “What do you mean a mystery?”
“Well come on, the guy suddenly appeared in Peterborough from Las Vegas one day.” Beatrice cocked an eyebrow as if that was supposed to be enough information for me.
“I just showed up in Peterborough one day,” I commented as I took a sip of my tea.
Beatrice shook her head, “Totally different. You came from Boston which is like what? Only two hours from here?” I nodded and she continued, “He travelled three time zones without a job, formal education, or even a prospect of a place to live. You don’t do that unless you’re running from something.”
“I fail to see how her coming from Boston is different from Wes coming from Las Vegas,” Jack raised his eyebrows at his wife, “They both moved from big cities to a small town under similar conditions.”
Everyone looked at me. My heart started beating rapidly and I put my mug down, “Okay maybe it’s time for me to go.”
“Please don’t,” Winnie reached out and touched my arm, “I apologize for my daughter’s behaviour.”
Beatrice rolled her eyes at her mother.
“Can I ask one thing?” I looked at Beatrice – she nodded.
“How did Wes show up here? What’s the story?”
“Well early December last year suddenly this guy in leather and jeans showed up in town carrying an oversized backpack. No one knew who was so it was obvious he wasn’t related to anyone. Anyways, dad took pity on him and…”
“Dad?” I interrupted her.
“Yeah, dad,” Beatrice looked at me and then her expression changed when she realized I had never met him, “Oh right, you don’t know who dad is. Roger’s Reads was my dad’s business.” She paused and I gestured for her to continue, “Anyways, dad saw him every day in the café and eventually took pity on him. Gave him a job at the shop and let him sleep in the room you’re in now.”
“He lived here?” I was surprised.
“For almost a year and then he moved into the place he lives now.” Beatrice explained.
I nodded my head absorbing the story.
“Wow, Wes Thornston,” Beatrice sighed, “Gonna be a lot of broken hearts in this town.”
“I don’t think he’s ever dated anyone,” Winnie commented.
“No, we used to see him trying to sneak out of Sophie’s place,” Jack replied.
“And I think he went on a couple dates with Pam Lotterwithe way back when he first arrived,” Beatrice chimed in.
“Rumours,” Winnie winked at me, “I’d say he was saving himself for someone special.”
I could feel my cheeks flush at her comment. Beatrice and Jack scoffed and laughed at her mother’s remark and continued to talk about their theories of Wes’ mysterious appearance in Peterborough. I just sat back and sipped my tea enjoying what seemed like a normal family Christmas.
Later that day Beatrice and I were in the kitchen washing dishes. I scrubbed while she dried and put them away. Winnie had gone for a nap and Jack was in the living room playing with Harrison.
“Your mind is definitely not on dishes,” Beatrice handed a plate back to me – I looked and saw that it still had some caked on broccoli.
“Sorry,” I took it back and scrubbed it again.
“Thinking of Wes?” she gently pried.
I tried to hide a smile, “Maybe.”
“You know I wasn’t saying all those things to scare you,” she dried the plate I rewashed.
“But now you’re wondering why he came here,” she read my mind.
I nodded. Beatrice reached over and pulled the plug on the sink.
“There’s lots of speculation out there but ultimately only Wes knows why he came here.” Beatrice said.
I nodded again.
Beatrice put a hand on my arm, “For a good relationship to work you have to have good communication.” Beatrice smiled at me and then walked into the living room where Jack and Harrison were watching a Christmas movie. I walked over and leaned against the door frame watching as Beatrice lifted Harrison onto her lap. Jack had his arm around her shoulders. They were watching It’s A Wonderful Life. I smiled at the scene before me remembering Christmases spent in a similar fashion with my family. Suddenly a flash of my father whipping open my bedroom door came to my mind. I shuddered and closed my eyes tightly willing it away. I walked back into the kitchen and started to boil some water. I looked out the kitchen window – the moon lit up the backyard. The squealing of the kettle broke my thoughts. I poured the water into a mug that had a teabag of Chamomile tea and went to my room. I leaned up against the cold metal frame of my bed and closed my eyes. The idea that Wes and I could be something special seemed overshadowed by the fear that he was hiding something; or maybe it was that I was hiding something that could break us.
The next morning when I arrived at the book shop Wes was already behind the counter typing on the computer. As the bell signalled my arrival Wes looked up and smiled at me, his warm chocolate eyes looking me up and down. He came around the counter and wrapped his arms around my waist. He leaned down and kissed me gently on the lips. I closed my eyes taking in the feel of his velvety lips and the smell of his cologne. His five o’clock shadow tickled against my chin and cheeks as he deepened the kiss pulling me tighter to his body.
He leaned his forehead against mine, “It was a long night without you.”
“I know exactly how you feel,” I replied.
He let me go and smiled down at me, “I brought you tea today.”
“You remembered,” I said.
“Of course,” Wes said as he walked back behind the desk.
I began to pull my coat off, “I’m surprised you’re open today, it’s pretty quiet in town.”
“Everyone is in Boston,” Wes replied as he typed into his computer.
“If everyone is in Boston then why are we here?” I asked.
“The shop itself is closed today,” Wes said, “But our online orders are booming.”
“So what’s the game plan, boss?” I asked with a smile.