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|Fall From India Place(On Dublin Street #4)(17) by Samantha Young|
“Speaking of boys” – Eric, the department head, grinned up at me from his sandwich – “apparently you have a number of admirers, Hannah.”
I grimaced. “Are you talking about students?” I shook my head, walking over to the fridge to get my sandwich. “It’s just because I’m close to their age.”
“I think it’s more to do with the fact you wear pencil skirts, high heels, and sexy secretary blouses.” Nish sniggered. “And of course you look like that.”
My colleagues laughed teasingly at my scowl.
“So do you want to know who fancies you?” Eric grinned cheekily.
“No. Definitely not.”
“Jarrod Fisher is in Rutherford’s class. He got into it with another boy who said some inappropriate things about you. Both got punishment exercises. And then there’s my sixth-year. A kid asked me this morning in front of the whole class whether I thought he had a chance with you.”
I groaned into my sandwich, making them laugh, but the truth was it wasn’t the most comfortable feeling in the world to know that some of the minors you were teaching were having inappropriate thoughts when they looked at you. “Can we please stop talking about this?”
“Okay. Back to Cole then,” Nish said. “You’re absolutely sure that it’s just friends between you two? Because that picture you showed me… if I were ten years younger…”
I smiled. “He’s good-looking. But he’s my best friend. It’s not like that between us. Anyway, I’m too busy with this placement for a relationship. No matchmaking, Nish. I mean it.”
I sat in my old bedroom on the new single bed, staring at the boxes in the corner where I’d stuffed the picture of Marco. I felt like it had been haunting me, and the only way to stop it was to put it in the boxes I’d eventually store back at my flat.
Hearing a chorus of laughter downstairs, I smiled. It was Sunday. My home had always been a happy one. I was lucky to have two parents who had such genuine affection and respect for each other. They’d rarely argued. Most of the arguing had been between Dec and me as we got older. I gave a small huff of laughter. I guess that hadn’t changed much.
I smoothed my hands over the comforter of the new bed. Despite the changes this place still felt safe somehow.
A knock on the door surprised me, jolting me out of my reverie. Jo’s head popped around the door, followed by her bump and then the rest of her. She smiled as she looked around, her long strawberry blond hair swinging in its ponytail. “This brings back memories.”
When I was younger and Jo and Cole started coming to Sunday lunches, I’d bonded with Jo. Ellie was a great big sister, but she was very overprotective and a little too idealistic and romantic for me to confide in. Admittedly, I’d inherited that same romantic streak from Mum, but I was a little more reluctant to believe in fairy tales. Jo was more like me. She had her feet firmly planted on the ground, even when her head took a wander into the clouds. Before dinner she and I would sneak off to my room and I’d tell her all the secrets I couldn’t tell my overprotective family.
“Do you remember Marco?” I found myself asking.
Jo stopped and turned to me, her green eyes round with surprise. “How could I forget? Your first big crush.”
It was so much more than that.
I looked away, ignoring that flash of pain.
I glanced back at her to find her frowning.
“What made you think of him?”
I shrugged, attempting casual and hopefully not failing. “Mum asked me to throw out some of my old things. I found a photograph of Marco in the boxes. It brought all the old memories back, I guess.”
Looking pensive, Jo strode toward me and lowered herself onto the bed next to me. “That’s not surprising,” she said quietly. “I imagine you have a few regrets where Marco’s concerned. He left Scotland before anything could happen between you.”
I felt a flip of unease in my stomach. I hated keeping things from the people I loved.
“You really changed after he left,” Jo continued softly. “You became serious even before…”
My eyes found hers. “I guess that’s what regret does to a person.”
Jo took my hand. “You’re only twenty-two, Hannah. Plenty of time to find ‘the one.’”
Forcing the pain away, I smiled at her. “I know that.”
The fragments of the past can become restless ghosts, relentless in their haunting, unless you decide to take a stand against them to exorcise them. I think I’d just needed to say Marco’s name out loud to someone, to admit that I’d been thinking about him. It probably would have meant so much more if Jo knew the entire truth, knew the whole story between me and Marco, but it was enough for me to realize that what she’d said was true. I was too young to be haunted. I couldn’t let this resurgence of a life better forgotten ruin the life I wanted to make for myself.
I determinedly exorcised those memories, leaving them behind in my old room and venturing back into the present as I walked downstairs to join everyone.
My parents’ dining room was filled with chatter despite the fact that not everyone had made it to Sunday lunch this week. Ellie and Adam were at home because William had had a fever the night before and the three of them were exhausted. Jo’s uncle Mick and his wife, Dee, were on holiday in Las Vegas, so they weren’t with us, but Jo, Cam, and Cole were, as were Liv, Nate, Lily, and January. Joss and Braden were with us, too, along with Beth and Luke.
Mum had set up a kiddie table at the end of the room where Lily, Beth, and Luke sat with Mum, who was this week’s kiddie table chaperone. She had January in her arms as she watched over the wee ones and tried to feed herself.
“So, I need a favor and it’s a bit late notice,” I said to Cole over the children’s noise. Thankfully he was sitting next to me.
“I’m intrigued.” He raised an eyebrow. “Proceed.”
I smiled, rolling my eyes. “Well, your majesty, I’ve had a last-minute invite to my colleague’s wedding reception and I need a date. It’s next Saturday.”
“It’s just the after-party, so I guess we don’t need to be there until about eightish.”
“You’re a lifesaver.”