Until There Was You

Page 13


Suddenly, her dad’s voice boomed out. “Zicke zacke, zicke zacke!”
“Hoi, hoi, hoi!” Posey chorused along with the rest of the crowd.
“Folks, it’s so wonderful to have you here! Thank you for coming! Without further ado, the Barefoot Fraulein, Gretchen Heidelberg!”
Posey clapped dutifully as her cousin, feigning modesty, slipped her arm around Max. “Uncle Max, Aunt Stacia, thank you so, so much! It’s such a thrill to be here, back with my family, taking over Guten Tag. And you all have been so warm and wonderful in welcoming me, thank you all so much!” She flashed her teeth again and wiped a tear (or pretended to wipe a tear). “Guten Tag will be undergoing some changes, a new look, and maybe even a new name! But you’ll always have the same wonderful time you’ve always had here. So zicke zacke, zicke zacke!”
“Hoi, hoi, hoi!”
A new look? A new name? Since when? Posey closed her mouth, then took a slug of her drink. Granted, the restaurant could use a little…updating, maybe. But Stacia and Max loved it, didn’t they? And to Posey, it was as much home as her parents’ house.
Another hipster waiter walked past with a tray of something. Posey snagged an appetizer and popped it into her mouth. Flaky dough, cheesy, some meat inside. Fantastic, if minuscule. Before she could grab another one, the waiter was gone.
The reporter from Channel 2 was gesturing for Max, Stacia and Gretchen to stand together. Posey couldn’t hear what the question was, but Gretchen, standing in the middle, did most of the talking.
Huh. Her drink was empty. Time for another, that was clear. She waved to Otto and held up her empty glass. She was already a little dizzy, but in a pleasant way. And pleasant was called for. She caught a glimpse of Glubby, the moose with the broken antler. Would Glubby make the cut in the new look? If not, he’d always have a home in her church. She would not leave Glubby, that was for sure. Glubby was her friend. Glubby and his broken antler were more than welcome at her house.
People who weigh a hundred and seven pounds should not have two drinks on an empty stomach, a voice in her head warned. True enough. She would kill to scratch her boobs right now. Probably not advisable in public, though. Oh, to be home with Shilo right now, searching Google for pictures of James Franco. It would sure beat this.
“Thanks, pal,” she said as Otto handed her the whiskey sour. There was another waiter with another batch of tiny appetizers. Could she take the whole plate? She was starving. She managed to snag one—more flaky stuff—and popped it in her mouth. The room spun just a little. Kinda fun.
“Hey,” came a voice. Posey looked, then closed her eyes. Liam Murphy. Black high-tops, black pants, black shirt, black hair, looking like a really hip Lucifer. Hey, there. Feel like a sin or two?
“Yes,” she said. A flake of pastry fluttered out of her mouth. Great. Smokin’ Hot Lucifer and the Simple Farm Girl.
“Nice dress,” Liam said, giving her a disdainful scan.
“Bite me,” Posey said.
His eyebrows rose in surprise. “Sorry?” he asked.
Oops. Maybe he wasn’t disdainful. Maybe she was channeling or projecting or whatever that word was. “Nothing. How are you, Liam?” He didn’t answer, engrossed in his phone. Ass.
The last appetizer (tapas…please) had something spicy in it. Posey’s lips stung, so she took another sip of whiskey sour. It didn’t work; her lips still stung. She licked them. Liam glanced up, as if sensing tongue, then went back to his phone, dismissing her. Which he was good at, it must be acknowledged. A true gift.
Posey looked around. Mom and Dad, perpetually welded together at any social event, were schmoozing off by the kitchen; she could hear Dad’s booming laugh. Did they really want to change Guten Tag? In her entire life, it had never been discussed. And you know, maybe they could’ve asked her opinion. Asked for some help, being that she had the furnishings to redecorate ten restaurants in Irreplaceable’s barn.
There must’ve been a hundred people here—she recognized the mayor and mean Maya from the chamber of commerce who never remembered her name. Kelsey and Lola from the pastry shop waved; Posey probably stopped there enough to fund a mortgage payment. Sure, she knew everyone. But she was still alone. And being alone at a party, even a party hosted by your parents…well, it sucked. Kate and James had a standing movie date on Friday nights, carved in stone, though how much longer the kid would put up with that, Posey didn’t know.
She glanced at Liam, who was still checking his stupid phone.
“How are you, Cordelia?” he asked without looking up. And did he have to use that name? Huh?
“I have leprosy,” she said.
“Cool,” he murmured, his thumbs texting away. Posey rolled her eyes. Whee! The room spun.
“So, how do they treat leprosy these days?” Liam said, sliding his phone into his pocket, and Posey choked a little on her drink. Okay, first of all, apparently he had been listening. And second of all, hot diggety, he was gorgeous. Eyes so green and clear, just the hint of a smile on his face, like he was just a sin begging for a taker. Posey forced herself to look away, her face practically crackling with heat. Bieber! The man. Was. Edible.
His hands were in his pockets, and he seemed to have no inclination to leave. “Is your daughter here?” she asked.
Liam shook his head. “She’s at a sleepover. Teenagers, you know.”
Wow. Two whole sentences. Well, one sentence and a fragment. Still, it dawned on her that this could be classified as a real live conversation, which in turn made her mind go completely blank. If—just if—she wanted to charm Liam (not that she’d be dumb enough to try, mind you), but if she wanted to make him see that she was someone worth knowing and perhaps regret that he’d ever said anything mean about her, thus altering the course of her life (sort of)—now was the time.
“So,” she offered. Not exactly brilliant repartee. “How’s business?”
“We opened today.”
“Oh.” Wow. They were on a roll now. Think of something to say, idiot, her brain commanded. Otherwise, it was devoid of conversation ideas. She sighed and took another slug of her drink.
“Liam! My man! Dude, how you been?”
Ah, bieber. It was Rick. Rick Balin, world’s worst prom date, New Hampshire’s biggest beer belly. His little finger was still bandaged. Weenie.
Liam took the offered hand. “Hey,” he said.
“Dude, I heard you were back in town! So cool. And that motorcycle place? Awesome. Meant to come by today, couldn’t. I’ve been thinking about getting a chopper myself. Gotta have a sweet ride, know what I mean? Of course you do. What are you riding these days? Dude, we have to hang out. Wanna grab a beer sometime? Catch up?”
Liam’s expression was totally cool…and totally blank. Well, well, well, Posey thought, leaning against the bar with a very slight wobble, Batman didn’t remember Robin. Robin had, of course, gained about seventy pounds, lost half his hair, but still. Kinda funny.
“Man, we had some fun in those days, didn’t we? God, I miss high school,” Rick said, sighing. “Dude, Grey Goose martini, make it dry,” he said to Otto. “I love my Grey Goose,” he added to Liam. He had yet to acknowledge Posey, which was A-okay by her. “Sure, it costs more, but who cares? Gotta have the best. Right?”
Liam gave Posey a level look and smiled. Eyes crinkling, gorgeous, smokin’ hot. He looked right into her eyes, like she was the only other person in this entire restaurant, and Rick the Idiot Balin was their own private joke.
Holy Elvis. She was halfway to Planet Orgasm. Imagine if they bumped heads or something. She took a quick gulp of her drink and looked away.
Hello? Been here, done that regarding Hottie McSin here, a faint little voice said from far, far away. But that smile…and those eyes…
“Hello, hello! Posey, why are you hiding over here? Come out and mingle! Auntie and Max are looking for you!” Gretchen appeared, grabbed Posey by the arm and heaved her away from Liam. “Hi, there. We met a couple weeks ago. I’m Gretchen Heidelberg? The Barefoot Fraulein?”
“I remember,” Liam said, turning that smile to Gretchen, and whatever champagne bubbles were just dancing merrily through Posey’s veins went abruptly flat.
“Holy crap!” Rick brayed. “You’re even more beautiful than on TV!”
Posey turned to the bar to give Otto her glass—she knew better than to have another, that was for sure. When she turned back around, she was presented with Dante’s back, because the two men had flanked Gretchen. Because apparently it was the law that if you were male, you had to worship the Barefoot Fraulein.
Posey tripped off to find her parents. Good thing she hadn’t remembered to wear girly shoes, because it was getting dizzy in here. There they were, Stacia and Max, holding hands. So cute, her parents, and resembling each other more and more these days. They were roughly the same height—six-two—both with the fading blond hair and the strong-boned features of Bavaria. Soon, Posey mused, they’d just sort of grow into each other like two trees.
“Hey, you two trees,” she said, smiling.
“Baby! There you are!” Stacia broke free from Max to give Posey a kiss. “Are you having fun? Oh, you’re flushed. Do you have a fever?” She pressed a hand to Posey’s forehead, the human thermometer. “Ninety-eight point four. Hmm.”
“I had a drink,” Posey explained.
“Are you enjoying the party, Turnip?” Max asked.
She looked up at them, her doting parents. They seemed so happy. And if Gretchen taking over made them happy—even if that meant Glubby had to come home with her—she wasn’t going to say a word. “You bet. So much fun. So, a new look, huh?”
“We should go talk to the mayor,” Max said. “Come with us, sweetie. The newspaper wants a picture.”
“You know what? I’m gonna pass,” she said, enunciating carefully. “I have to find some more of those green thingies. They were great. Have fun! See you later!” Posey kissed her parents, almost but not quite losing her balance. She watched as they schmoozed and laughed, but when Gretchen joined them for the photo op, Posey decided it was time to become invisible again.
“DID I TELL YOU I’M on a new hormone replacement?” Mrs. Antonelli asked.
Liam choked on his beer. “Uh…no. No, you didn’t.”
“It works much better,” she said.
“I—I’m glad,” he said, not daring to look at her. Did she go around telling everyone this kind of thing? Was this some kind of geriatric pass? Would this party ever end? Liam glanced at his watch.
“What time is it, dear?” Mrs. Antonelli asked.
“Almost nine,” he answered.
“Oh! I have to go. I have to take my blood-pressure medicine at nine-thirty. And that estrogen. Don’t want to be late with that, if you know what I mean.”
He didn’t. But he had come with the old lady, so taking her home was his duty. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be fending off any Bengay-scented passes in the elevator. Meanwhile, a woman was giving him the eye, doing the hair toss and sidelong look. Why not just whip her bra off and toss it to him, huh? The message was received. Just not wanted.
His phone buzzed. Nicole, the screen read. Good girl, right on time for her check-in. “I have to take this, Mrs. A,” he said, taking the phone out of his pocket. “It’s my daughter.”
“Oh, that’s fine, sweetheart. I’ve got a ride with Lenore. She’s coming up to watch CSI: Miami. It’s our tradition. See you at home!”
God bless you, Lenore. “Hi, honey,” he said into the phone.
“Hi, Dad! Are you having fun?”
“Oh, yeah. You?”
“It’s really great. We’re about to watch Drag Me to Hell, so I have to make this short.”
“Nic, you know you don’t like scary movies,” he said.
“When I was, like, nine, Dad. I’m fine. So, I’ll call you later?”
He sighed. “That would be great. Thanks, honey.”
“Love you.”
“I love you, too, Nicole.”
She hung up before he’d finished saying it. Well, Liam guessed if Mrs. Antonelli could go, so could he. Maybe watch the Sox, despite their wretched start this year. Pay some bills. Check the locks. All that fun stuff.
He said his goodbyes to the Osterhagens and managed to avoid the red-faced fat guy who’d cornered him earlier. Someone from high school, obviously.
Those weren’t years he was particularly proud of. Then again, those years had brought him to Emma, so there was that. But before her, yeah, he’d been a shit. A few people remembered him fondly—the Osterhagens, of course, and the librarian who’d helped him stumble through Shakespeare. Marty, who’d let Liam work at his garage, had come by the other day and schmoozed about engines. Liam had even run into one of the bouncers from the bar in Kittery where he’d played a couple times, trying to pick up a little extra money before the Osterhagens hired him.
But then there were the people who weren’t so glad to see him. The girls-turned-women like Maya who, though more than willing enough back then, now seemed to hold a grudge. In the supermarket the other day, some guy shot him a dark glance and muttered “Dick.” No clue why, other than the suspicion that it had something to do with a female. Twenty years ago. Grudges seemed to be an art form around here.
But Bellsford was a pretty town, too, unlike anything in Southern California, Liam thought as he stepped out of the overheated restaurant into the cool night air. The downtown was crammed with little shops and restaurants, and antique iron lampposts lit the brick sidewalks. On one corner was the huge old granite bank, and across the street, the big brick church with a white steeple spearing up into the dark sky. Not the boonies, not the city, and just perfect for Nicole, he hoped.