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His Lover's Little Secret Andrea Laurence 2022/8/3 13:54:41

Gavin knew what it was like not to have his family support his choices. But he hadn’t been brave like Sabine. He’d caved to the pressure. He envied her strength, especially knowing the high price she’d paid for her dreams. She had no contact with her family at all?

“You don’t even speak to your sisters, then?”

“Very rarely. They’re both older than I am, but the younger of the two talks to me on Facebook now and then. When we do talk, it’s like chatting superficially with an old friend from junior high you barely remember. We don’t share much. I don’t post anything about Jared online, so none of them know about him. It seems that when I refused the life they chose I was insulting them, too. In trying to make myself happy, I made everyone else mad.”

“So how did you end up in New York?”

“After graduation, I was toying with the idea of leaving Nebraska. I was working as a checkout girl at the grocery store and hoarding every penny I made. My parents had started this ridiculous parade of eligible farmers through the house each week at Sunday dinner just like they had with my older sisters. I could feel my opportunity to leave slipping away. If I wasn’t careful, eventually one of the men would catch my eye. Then I’d end up pregnant or married, and I’d never get to New York.

“One night, after I walked the latest guy out, I returned to the living room and announced to my parents that I was moving out. I’d finally saved up enough to get there and a little money to live on. I told them I had a bus ticket to Manhattan and I would be leaving in the morning. It scared the daylights out of me, but I had to do it.”

Gavin noticed the faint shimmer of tears in her eyes. The room was dark, but there was enough moonlight to catch it. Her parents hurt her and he hated them for it. “What did they say when you told them?”

She didn’t reply right away. When she finally spoke, the tears had reached her voice, her words wavering with emotions. “They said to go on and go, then. Why wait for the morning? My dad grabbed the bag I had packed and threw it in the back of his truck.”

Sabine sniffed delicately and wiped her eyes. “They were done with me. If I wasn’t going to be the daughter they wanted me to be, then I just wouldn’t be their daughter. My mama didn’t say a word. She just shook her head and went to do the dishes. That’s all she ever did was clean that damned kitchen. So I climbed into the truck and left. I wasn’t even finished packing, but I couldn’t make myself go upstairs to get the last of my things. I ended up sleeping in the bus station that night because I couldn’t change my ticket.”

“Just like that.” She sighed, pulling her emotions back into check. “They disowned me. I don’t know if they secretly thought I would fail and come running home, or if they were just tired of dealing with my eccentricities. I wasn’t the town tramp. I wasn’t pregnant or on drugs. I was smart, I graduated high school with good grades. I worked and did my share around the farm. But I didn’t fit this mold they tried to force me into.

“That was the last time I saw or spoke to my parents. The saddest part is that despite the fact that I wanted to go, I wanted them to ask me to stay. But they didn’t. They just let me walk out like I meant nothing to them.”

Gavin felt a sick knot start to form in his stomach. He’d done the exact same thing to her. All this time, he’d only focused on the fact that Sabine had left like everyone else in his life. He’d never considered that she might stay if he’d asked. And he’d wanted to. Every nerve in his body was screaming for him to say something—do something—to keep Sabine from leaving him, but he’d sat quietly and let her walk away.

“You know, people make mistakes. I’m willing to bet that they love you and miss you. Maybe they thought they were giving you one of those hard life lessons thinking you would come back and be more grateful for what you had. And when you didn’t...they didn’t know what to do. Or how to find you.”

“I’m not that hard to find. Like I said, I’m on Facebook. For a while, I even had a website for my art.”

Gavin shook his head. “It’s not always as easy as that, especially when you know you’re in the wrong. I mean, I did the same thing, didn’t I? I was stupid and stubborn and let you walk away. I had a million idiotic reasons for it at the time, but none of them held up the moment that door slammed. Whenever I think back on that day, I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d run after you. If I’d pulled you into my arms and told you that I needed you to stay.”