No Looking Back

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Dani

“So I’ll see you tomorrow?” I asked Wes as he locked up the shop.

“Nah, you take the weekend.” Wes replied, “I will see you Monday at seven thirty.”

I nodded my head, “Have a good weekend then.”

I trudged off in the direction of home not knowing what I would do with the two days off Wes had given me. I could explore Peterborough, though there wasn’t much to it and I could see most of it through the front window of the book shop. As I approached the house I decided to sleep on it and decide in the morning.

When I walked in a delicious smell filled my nose.

“Something smells good,” I said to Winnie as I entered the kitchen.

“Pot roast – my daughter is coming for dinner,” Winnie sounded very excited.

“Oh, I’ll go to the diner for dinner then,” I suggested and began to turn to leave.

“You will do no such thing. You’ll stay and dine with us,” Winnie said matter-of-factly.

I felt a warmth spread inside me at the invitation.

“Come and help me peel the potatoes,” Winnie said.

The creak of the front door at six signalled the arrival of Winnie’s daughter. I smoothed my shirt hoping to make some sort of good impression.

“Mom, I brought the pie,” I heard Beatrice before she entered.

She was an average size woman not much older than myself with dark brown hair in a pixie cut. She had full lips and deep chocolate coloured eyes which juxtaposed her pale skin. Behind her came in a bearded man who looked rough around the edges carrying a toddler with the same dark hair and eyes as Beatrice.

“Oh you must be Riley,” Beatrice smiled at me as she placed the pie on the counter and held out her hand, “I’m Beatrice.”

I took it, “Nice to meet you.”

The man came closer to me and I fought the urge to slink away.

“This is my husband Jack, and our son Harrison.” Beatrice said.

Jack nodded at me, “Good to meet you.”

I nodded back barely making eye contact.

“I’m going to go and set up in the guest room,” Jack handed Harrison over to Beatrice.

Beatrice set Harrison down on his feet, “Go find nana.” She gave his bum a playful smack and Harrison ran towards the living room yelling “nana” repeatedly.

Beatrice turned her attention to me, “So you’re the new tenant.”

“Yep,” I smiled.

“I’m glad mom has someone living with her. I’m so worried about her ability to take care of herself.” Beatrice said.

“I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.” Winne said as she came into the kitchen holding Harrison’s hand, “But it is nice to have someone around just in case.”

I smiled at the wizened woman as she handed Harrison off to his mother and opened the oven door to check on the pot roast.

“So where do you work?” Beatrice asked as she lifted Harrison into her arms.

“Roger’s Reads,” I replied.

Beatrice’s expression changed to one of intrigue, “You work for Wes Thornston?”

I nodded.

“Lucky girl,” Beatrice said, “Must be nice to have that to look at all day, he is very sexy.”

“Sexier than me?” Jack came up beside Beatrice wrapping one arm around her waist and using the other to tousle Harrison’s hair.

“No one is sexier than you baby,” Beatrice teased and kissed her husband’s cheek.

Jack rolled his eyes and took Harrison from her and disappeared into the living room.

“Alright, enough gossip. Let’s help mom by setting the table.” Beatrice said.

The next day I walked to town my hands warm inside the gloves that Wes had given me. The bell dinged as I walked into the shop. Wes looked up from the non-fiction section where he was helping another customer. I nodded politely in his direction and then walked over the fantasy section in search of the book Jeremy wanted me to read. It didn’t take long to find. I quickly flipped through the pages of the book and then headed to the front counter. Wes was now standing behind it smiling at me as I approached. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as I approached him and a quiver between my thighs.

“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” Wes read the title of the book as I handed it to him, “Don’t tell me you’ve never read this before.”

I could feel my cheeks flushing, “Never.”

“Seen the movie?” Wes asked.

“Nope,” I replied simply.

“Live under a rock your whole life?” Wes joked.

I giggled, “No, just classic literature is more my thing. You know, The Scarlett Letter, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby et cetera.”

“You liked Of Mice and Men?” Wes asked.

“I don’t know how much you can like a tragic story riddled with unnecessary death but I think the theme of loneliness and powerlessness is something that everyone at one time in their life can relate to.” I said.

Wes gave me a half smile, “I never thought of it that way. I just saw it as a tragic story of two men trying to make life work in their favour and failing at every turn.”

“How much for the book?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Wes said handing it to me.

“You can’t afford to just give this to me. I’m going to pay you.” I insisted.

“Well if you really want to pay me then…” Wes was interrupted by the bell of the door going off.

“Riley!” I heard my name and turned around to see Jeremy and Gus walking in.

“Hi Jeremy,” I said.

Jeremy grabbed the book from my hand and smiled when he saw the title.

“I see you bought the book,” Jeremy said.

“Have you started reading yours?” I asked.

Jeremy sighed, “I’ve started but Little Women is hard to get into.”

“Just give it a chance. I promise you’ll love it,” I said.

“It’s a classic man,” Wes was leaning on the counter. He had a look in his eye as if he were challenging Jeremy. “I’ve read it twice. It’s great.”

“Well, how about I commit to finishing your book by Friday and then we can discuss it, say over dinner?” Jeremy asked.

“Like a date?” I asked.

“Not like a date, an actual date,” Jeremy answered.

“Sounds great,” I said, “I live with Winnie Boyd, the small Victorian house at the end of Forester Lane.”

“Pick you up at seven,” Jeremy squeezed my arm.

“Alright Casanova, let’s get these boxes unloaded.” Gus said giving Jeremy a small push towards the back.

I smiled after Jeremy but I realized when he touched me my stomach didn’t turn in knots the way it did when Wes was even two feet from me. I turned back to look at Wes whose expression had turned from warm and friendly to cold and irritated. It didn’t matter how I felt about Wes, there was no way we could ever be more than just a boss and his employee.

“Thank you for the book; I’ll see you Monday,” I said as I turned and walked out the door into the frigid winter air.

Over the course of the next week I spent every spare moment I had in the fictional world of Hogwarts meeting a myriad of interesting and complex characters. I was never much of a fantasy reader but something about the writing drew me in, kept me turning the pages. As I organized the loft I would sneak pages in determined to be done the book in time for Friday. My first date with Jeremy – my first date ever really. Wes kept his distance from me only talking to me when he needed me to do something or if he was stepping out.

On Wednesday I was sitting at the computer dealing with the online orders where a blonde woman walked in. She wore a long royal purple peacoat with a low cut black shirt, skinny jeans, and heeled leather boots - completely inappropriate for the weather conditions.

She walked up to the counter her heels clicking on linoleum, “Hi, who are you?”

“I’m Riley, I work here,” I responded, “Can I help you find something?”

The woman looked me up and down and then gave me a confronting smile, “Is Wes here?”

“I’m here,” I heard Wes’s voice from behind me. I turned around to see him walking in from the back of the shop. Sophie scurried towards him and wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a peck on the lips, “Riley, Mr. Dunn is coming down and is looking to borrow a copy of Huckleberry Finn. Can you please find it and have it ready for him?”

I nodded my head and made my way towards the loft listening intently to the conversation between Wes and the blonde.

“What are you doing here Sophie?” Wes asked.

“I came to see you,” Sophie said, “I hadn’t heard from you.”

“I know,” Wes replied.

I pretended to be looking for the book but in reality I knew exactly where it was. I didn’t want to miss a word.

“I was hoping maybe we could get a cup of coffee,” Sophie said.

I heard Wes sigh.

“You have help now, you can leave for thirty minutes to spend some time with me.” Sophie said.

There was silence. I held my breath waiting for his answer.

“Okay,” Wes said, “Let me get my coat.”

I could feel my heart shattering with each word that rolled off his tongue.

“Riley keep an eye on the shop, I’ll be back,” Wes called up to me.

I nodded even though he couldn’t see me. As the bell rang signalling their departure I felt my heart sink. Of course Wes wasn't single, but why did I care? He was my boss, it's not like we could have anything more than a professional relationship. So why did his leaving with Sophie hurt so badly?

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