Page 86

The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:53:09

“I love a man and I let him go,” Savannah whispered. “I really love him.”

Janice plunked down on the edge of the desk. “Does he love you?” she asked.

Savannah nodded, staring at her hands. Useless, those hands. Numb and unfeeling without Matt to touch.

“Well, honey.” Janice sighed. “Men are simple creatures and that’s the truth. If they love you, then they’re yours. It’s just the way it is.”

“He wants…too much…too much from me.”

“Well,” Janice huffed. “Bill tried that, too, in the beginning and I told him that real women aren’t like girls in those porno films. We don’t—” Janice stopped and turned bright red. “Maybe we’re not talking about the same things.”

“He wants me to leave Bonne Terre. He wants me to go to him.” Even saying it made Savannah’s stomach hurt and her head dizzy.

“Well.” Janice stood. “That’d be all right. A nice trip—you could take Katie.” There was a commotion out by the desk and Janice glanced over her shoulder.

“Well,” she said, “everyone’s a little wound up out there. I better go take care of things.” Janice patted Savannah’s shoulder and brushed back the hair she’d been wearing loose for some reason. As though Matt could see it. As though Matt would even know. “You take whatever time you need, Savannah. When Joey was sick last year you were so good to me and I’m happy to return the favor.”

Janice was gone and Savannah’s office pounded with quiet.

She pressed hands to her head.

It had been four weeks since Matt had left. Four weeks and three days. The first week she’d kept thinking he would be back. He had to come back. All of his things were in the sleeping porch. Five shirts. Four pairs of pants. The files. His bag. His toothbrush.

But as the first week faded into the second week, she realized he was leaving these things behind the way he’d left her, and the shirts seemed sad. The pants forlorn.

It had only gotten worse. She slept in those shirts. Carried a river stone she’d found in the bottom of his bag in her pocket. She wore his cologne, used the last of his shampoo.

She was losing it. Every day seemed longer and harder to bear. Every night full of misery.

Discovery had more work for her. Not that she cared.

Katie didn’t play hide-and-seek anymore. The three of them got together every night and played poker, but it was halfhearted at best.

Matt’s chair, still pulled up to the foot of the table as though he’d just gone to the bathroom or gotten a drink, seemed so big. So empty.

The piano collected dust. The house was so silent, so devoid of music it seemed like a black hole.

“Well, look at you,” Margot said as she walked into Savannah’s office, her hair tied back in a scarf. The ends, blue and green and red, fell over her shoulder. “Giving the gossips something meaty to chew on for a change.”

She didn’t look her age but no one was going to live forever. Margot would die. And Katie…

“I don’t want Katie to live like I do,” Savannah said and Margot stepped in, shutting the door behind her. “I don’t want her to be scared.”

“Of what?” Margot asked as if this conversation made sense.

“Of people, of leaving the Manor, of…” Savannah sighed. “Falling in love.”

“Well, then I imagine someone should show her that there’s nothing to be afraid of. That falling in love is something to treasure. A gift. A very very rare one.”

“Why haven’t you been in love?” Savannah asked.

“I was, a very long time ago.” Margot sat in the chair across from the desk. “Your grandfather was quite a man. And when he died in Korea, I knew that was it for me. Some people get love like that a few times in their lives, but I wasn’t destined to be one of them.”

Savannah took a deep breath. “So it’s up to me?” she asked. “I’ve got to show her that love is a gift?”

Margot laughed. “You’ve got a very good man waiting for you.”

“I know,” Savannah said. She slipped her hand in her pocket and found that river rock, curled her fingers around it until it seemed to get hot in her palm.