After All These Years

After All These Years by Sally John

Book: After All These Years by Sally John Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sally John
Anne turned wide eyes in her direction. “Izzy?”
    â€œYeah, yeah.” Isabel paused. She needn’t go into everything. “I knew him in college.”
    â€œKnew him?” Anne prompted.
    â€œWe were both in journalism.” No reason to go into their living arrangements of so many years ago. “We dated for a short time right before he graduated, when I was only a sophomore. I never heard from him again.”
    Anne and Celeste exchanged glances.
    Isabel’s heart thudded. She had been off all evening. Now she heard the bitter undertones in her criticism of Cal and superficial description of Tony. None of that would be lost on her friends. She reached for a fair middle ground. “But then, I never tried to contact him again either.”
    Gentle Celeste smiled. “He’s awfully charming. And nice-looking.”
    On the floor, Anne swung her legs out behind herself and began doing pushups. “Surface stuff, Celeste. I’m sure our
Izzy
wasn’t
taken
with him.”
    Isabel rocked the chair with a vengeance. She simply did not want to get into her past, but these were her friends and their assumptions were on target. “All right. I was nuts about him. There, I said it.”
    They all burst into laughter.
    Anne crumpled on the floor. “He is
way
cute, Dizzy Izzy.”
    â€œHe really is,” Lia agreed, “Busy Izzy.”
    Celeste giggled. “How about Fizzy Izzy?”
    Isabel walked to the front door and opened it. “I think it’s time you all went home.”
    Amid peals of laughter and hugs, they filed past her, calling out more renditions of her name as they strolled down the sidewalk.
    â€œMizzy Izzy!”
    â€œTizzy Izzy!”
    â€œWizzy Izzy!”
    She leaned against the door frame and watched them drive away. The fact that she had deceived the women who loved her best made her feel sick.

Ten
    Cal shifted in his chair at the kitchen table in the apartment above the pharmacy. Chloe’s blue saucer eyes hadn’t left his face for the past ten minutes. The little Sutton girl, Mandy, giggled behind her hand.
    â€œGirls!” Lia reprimanded. “You’re being rude to Deputy Huntington.”
    Grinning, Chloe turned to her aunt, nodded, and pointed her thumb in his direction.
    Lia’s dark eyes widened. “Chloe Neuman! If you two are finished, please excuse yourselves!”
    â€œExcuse me! Excuse me!” The girls popped off their chairs and raced across the small kitchen into the hallway, laughter trailing behind them.
    â€œCal, I apologize.”
    â€œWhat was that all about?”
    Lia grimaced. “Chloe is on the lookout for a dad.”
    â€œA dad? Oh…I see. I guess. I mean…”
    She laughed. “Yes, you’ve got it. She thinks you’d fit the role perfectly, Peppermint Teddy Bear. But don’t look so panic stricken. I’m not in the market!”
    â€œKids are…” He shrugged his shoulders, at a loss for an inoffensive adjective.
    â€œThey seem to make you uncomfortable.”
    â€œThat’s putting it mildly. They unnerve me. Give me an escaped convict any day.”
    â€œWeren’t you a kid at one time? Or were you born wearing a sheriff’s uniform?”
    â€œI was born wearing a football uniform. Just grew up into the other one.”
    â€œI see. How about some coffee now?” She carried their plates to the sink and switched on the coffeemaker.
    â€œThat doesn’t sound like a traditional Chinese beverage.” He had just finished wolfing down the best egg rolls and kung pao chicken he had ever tasted.
    â€œNeither does apple pie. It’s my father’s medley of European genes taking over. When my sister and I were little, he’d make coffee after a meal like this to go with his pie, which
he
had baked. Mom would just smile—my parents are still absolutely devoted to each other—but Grandmother, watch out!”

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