Welcome back to Day 16 of Just Jot It January, which also happens to be another Stream of Consciousness Saturday post. Today’s prompt is “what”. Warning: there are some spoilers for future stories in my Gilbert, Co series(so far only Duty to Protect is out), so if you don’t want any hints of what happens in Chasing the Ghost and Freeing His Heart, you may not want to read on. Here we go:
“What are you doing here?”
Rylan turned at the voice behind him. He’d been swirling the whiskey in his glass for at least the last five minutes. He hadn’t even had a sip of it, though. He’d been asking himself that same question almost all night.
The woman who stood there wore one of the bridesmaid’s dresses. Her blonde hair was too short to do the up-do the others, beside the bride, had done. Her brown eyes were about the only difference he saw from her brother, and they were studying him right now. “You’re Jason’s sister.” Kirsten. He’d never forgotten her.
“And you used to be his brother-in-law.”
It felt like something struck him right in the chest at her words. Lauren. Over the last nearly half decade, he’d managed to lock most of that grief away. When it tried to escape, he painted. He couldn’t do that right now, though. He’d left all his supplies at home. Apparently that had been a mistake. His hand itched to pick up a brush, but not to paint through memories of his dead half-sister.
He wanted to paint her.
“I’m surprised Jason, or Connie, even would have invited you. Not after what your father did.”
Her words broke him out of his thoughts, and he narrowed his eyes at her. She didn’t look angry, although her words sounded slightly accusatory. He finally took a sip of his drink, just so he could wet his throat.
“Well, he didn’t. Exactly,” Rylan admitted.
Now, she did look angry. “So, you’re crashing my brother’s wedding? He said you aren’t, but I think maybe you are just like your father.”
Another blow, right to his stomach this time. “That’s something I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of before. Usually the insult is that I’m nothing like him.”
Something shifted in her face, then, had she caught the bitter tone in his voice? Whatever. Why was she judging him anyway? She didn’t know anything about his life, or what his life had been growing up with his father. He’d gotten out as soon as he could.
“I’d take that as a compliment. That man nearly killed my brother.”
And that was why he couldn’t really blame her for her anger. Or the fact she seemed to be trying to protect Jason. “To answer your first question, my brother, Patrick, invited me along.” So, Patrick was only his half-brother. He didn’t actually have any full siblings, though there were a lot of half-ones. What could he say? Both his parents got around.
Well, his mother did. Patrick had just learned last month that she was dead, had been dead for years. He was still trying to get past the guilt that he didn’t feel very much grief over that fact. But, he’d never known her. She’d handed him off to his father and left his life shortly after he was born. Patrick, at least, had a few very early memories of her.
“Jason was okay with that? After your father-”
“I know exactly what he did.” He may have understood her anger, but he wasn’t going to be lumped in with that man. “I had nothing to do with it. I haven’t had anything to do with him from the day I turned eighteen. I hope he does rot in a cell, even though he probably won’t.”
Her face paled, and he wished he could take some of the words back, or at least the vitriol behind them. “I came up to visit my brother. He and Kellie were coming here, and he ran it past Jason first to make sure he was okay with me coming. So, no, I’m not crashing your brother’s wedding. But, don’t worry, I don’t think I’ll be staying long.”
Something drew his attention behind her, and he saw a little girl making her way over. She was adorable. She had the same blonde hair as the rest of the Matthews’ family, but her eyes were a bright green, the one thing she seemed to have gotten from her father.
“And who is this?” he asked, kneeling down a little. He’d been close with Jason and his family when the other man had been married to Rylan’s sister. And he’d never forgotten those eyes. Or the other man they belonged to, and how much he’d hated him for the way he’d treated Kirsten. “Another bride?”
The girl giggled, though her dress was a close match to Connie’s. “You’re silly,” she said. “I’m Cora. I’m gonna be seven in five more days,” she said, spreading the fingers of one hand out to show him.
“Wow,” he said, grinning at her. “That’s amazing. You think your party’s going to be as big as this?”
She giggled again, and the sound helped wipe away some of the darker feelings that had been pressing down on him. From just above him there was the sound of a soft snort. “Maybe they’re right, and you aren’t like him,” Kirsten said softly. Then, she dropped right down into a crouch beside her daughter. “Cora, this is your Uncle Rylan. Do you remember Lauren?”
The girl frowned but nodded. “She’s gone. She had a little boy. He was younger than me.”
That blow hurt. Adam. If it was possible, that hurt even more than the loss of his sister.
“That’s right,” Kirsten said. “Lauren was Rylan’s sister. So, he was your uncle.”
The girl looked right at him. Then, she smiled. “Can you dance, Uncle Ry?”
He laughed and even Kirsten smiled at him. “She loves to dance.”
He smiled back at the girl and kissed her forehead before taking her hand. “Of course, I can,” he said. “Why else would you come to a wedding?”