The Girl He Left Behind

By: Patricia Kay

Prologue

The boy stands under the overhang, guitar case in hand, his backpack stuffed with his belongings. The bus will arrive any minute. Beyond the overhang the rain falls steadily. It has been raining for days here in the Texas Hill Country.

His gaze sweeps the station platform.

Is she coming?

He’d told her she had to be here no later than eight o’clock. The station clock now reads eight twelve. The bus is due to leave the station at eight fifteen. The boy looks at his phone again. Should he risk calling her house? But what if her father answers? For at least the hundredth time since they’d become a couple, he curses her father’s stupid rules. Eve is one of the few girls left in their senior class who doesn’t yet have a cell phone. He has no way of contacting her without alerting her parents.

He looks around slowly, hoping this time he’ll see her, that she’ll be out of breath from hurrying, saying how sorry she is that she made him wait, that she didn’t say yes when he first started talking about her coming with him, that she made him worry. But she’s not there. The only other person on the platform is an older man who was already there when the boy arrived.

She’s not coming.

His heart thuds painfully as the truth sinks in. Yet he isn’t really surprised. Down deep, hasn’t he always known she wouldn’t come? That he’s never been good enough for her? Hasn’t he been lying to himself all along, pretending she would change her mind and come because he didn’t want to think about the alternative?

You’re on your own. She doesn’t love you enough to defy her family. You knew she wouldn’t leave home. It was never gonna happen. Forget about her. The two of you together was always a fairy tale, and you’ve never believed in fairy tales.

He thinks about how he’d once told Aaron to grow up, saying, “There ain’t no Santa Claus, kid, and you might as well get used to it!”

He sighs. Yeah, there ain’t no Santa Claus. And there sure as hell wasn’t gonna be a happy ever after for him. Not with Eve anyhow. He’d have to make his own happy ever after by making his dream of a career in music come true.

The hiss of air brakes heralds the arrival of the bus, and the boy pulls his baseball cap more firmly on his head and darts through the rain toward the opening doors.

Two minutes later, as the bus pulls away from the station, heading east toward his future, the boy gives one last, long look at the town where he’s spent all eighteen years of his life so far.

Then he turns resolutely away. No more looking at the past. From now on, he will only look forward.





Chapter One

Twelve years later...

Eve Kelly stared at the headline.

Adam Crenshaw and Version II Launching Fall Tour in Austin

She could hardly believe her eyes.

Adam.

Adam was finally coming home. He would be performing in Austin. Which was less than an hour away. Eve swallowed while the enormity of what she’d just read in the online version of the Austin American-Statesman sank in.

Twelve years. It had been twelve years since the day Adam had ridden out of her life. Twelve years to wonder if she’d done the right thing or if her long-ago decision had been the worst one she’d ever made.

She sighed heavily. Read the accompanying story quickly. There wasn’t a whole lot of information, just the fact that Adam Crenshaw and his band would be opening their North American tour in Austin at the Frank Erwin Center the first week of September, and that tickets would go on sale next month. The reporter also mentioned that this would be the first time Adam’s band had performed in Texas even though he had grown up in Crandall Lake. There was a photo of the band with Adam front and center, but it had been taken from a distance, and his head was bent over his guitar, so she couldn’t see his face.

“Time to head out, Eve. You gonna come to Ernie’s, have a drink with us?”

Eve started. She hadn’t heard Penny Wallace, one of her coworkers, approach. She glanced up and smiled. “Thanks, but I can’t. I have to stop at the supermarket, then pick up the twins and take them over to Bill’s.”

“They spending the week with him?”

Eve nodded. “Yeah.”

“Okay. See you on Monday.”

After Penny walked off, Eve shut down her computer and gathered her things. Her head was still full of the startling news about Adam, but she couldn’t sit here and think about it, nor could she call her cousin Olivia to tell her the news. Not if she wanted to get the twins to her ex’s by six thirty, as promised.

Fifteen minutes later, she strode into her favorite supermarket and headed straight into the produce department. She was having Olivia for dinner the following night and needed fresh salad stuff. She also wanted to be sure to send some fruit with the twins tonight. Maybe she couldn’t compete with Missy, their stepmother, as far as baking cakes and pies from scratch, but she could make sure the twins had plenty of fresh fruit while they were there.

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