“This one has cream.” He handed her the cup carefully before sinking down into the chair I’d occupied earlier. His shoulders shrugged slightly, as if he were trying to make himself seem smaller and less imposing in front of this frail woman.
“Do I know you?”
He smiled and introduced himself, holding out his hand to grasp hers gently.
I took a step closer, wondering if I might be able to reintroduce myself now that Cameron’s presence had officially dazzled her. Her focus turned back to me, her wide-eyed approval unchanged. I pulled up another chair by Cameron’s and sat tentatively.
“Is this your husband?”
My jaw fell agape as I searched for an answer somewhere between the truth and what Ruthie would want to be the truth. Never mind what I wanted to be the truth. I couldn’t begin to grasp the magnitude of my feelings about that yet.
“No, Grandma. He’s a friend.”
Her hopeful eyes softened a bit as she glanced between us. She sighed and took a sip of her tea. “That’s a shame,” she murmured. “He seems like a sweet boy.”
She looked up from her tea, captivated by Cameron again. “Is this your wife?”
He laughed quietly, and shook his head. “Not yet, Ruthie.” He leaned in and whispered, as if sharing a secret between them. “Do you think I could convince her?”
The wrinkles at the corners of her eyes deepened and she answered with a coy smile. Meanwhile, I tried my damnedest not to reveal the wild reaction that my body was having to their outrageous conversation. My hands stiffened and trembled around the flimsy cup, threatening to compromise its stability around the lukewarm contents.
“I think so. You seem like a wonderful young man, but you have to promise me something.”
“For you, Ruthie, anything.” He teased her with a crooked grin.
“You must promise to take care of her.”
“Because she’s my only granddaughter.”
I’d managed to keep my frail emotions from flying all over the damn room for the next twenty minutes. Eventually, Ruthie let us know she was tired and going to take a nap. We both kissed her goodbye and left before she had a chance to wonder if we were coming or going. I walked ahead of Cameron, pausing at the reception area. The same nurse looked up from her reading.
“How was she?”
“Wonderful, actually. Thank you for taking such good care of her. She seems well.”
“That’s what we do.”
“I have a question, though.”
“Has anyone else been here to see her?”
She hummed and thought for a second. “Let me check, sweetheart. One second.”
A few agonizing minutes passed while she sifted through files in a cabinet in the back of the office. She returned with an opened file. “You’re the only one who’s visited her since she’s come in, except last month.”
She set a sign in sheet in front of me, turning it so I could read the name scribbled by her finger.
My heart stopped. My trembling hands covered my mouth and the whole world seemed to stand still in that moment.
“Maya, are you okay?”
I reminded myself to breathe when Cameron’s hand warmed the small of my back. I nodded quickly, thanking the woman for her help. We stepped outside. Snow had started coming down hard.
“We need to head back now,” I said, walking briskly to the car.
“The roads are getting bad.”
I clutched my hands together, trying to still the tremble. “I need to get out of here. Cameron, I can’t stay here.”
“Hey, okay. Relax.” He tucked the windblown strands of my hair behind my ear, brushing my cheek as he did. “Is there a place to stay around here?”
I shook my head. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t deal with any of this now.
“Cam…just, whatever. Let’s get out of here.”
He guided me to the other side of the car. “Get in. I’ll be right back.” He ran back into the home and returned a few minutes later, revving the engine to life.
“What are we going to do?” I barely recognized my voice, it was so quiet.
“There’s a bed and breakfast down the road. We’ll stay there and everything should be clear in the morning.”
I nodded. Laurel Estates disappeared in a white haze, and before I knew it, we pulled into the drive of a large Victorian house, its windows illuminated with warm light as darkness descended on the stormy day. I followed Cam inside and the host led us to our room on the third floor, which seemed to be empty of guests. I didn’t imagine Laurel Falls was a major destination, but every town needed someplace to stay.