This is pretty good for me, making it back for so many posts in a row. I hit almost all of February’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompts. And I’m having a good time with it, so I’ll probably continue on. Today’s prompt is “this and that” so let’s get on with that.
This is some backstory(or maybe the beginning of) the next book in my Kurztown series. If you’ve read any of my Wednesday snippets from Love Who You Love, you might recognize this character.
“This is quite a surprise.”
Gabriel lifted his head from the plans rolled out on his desk. He had to blink a few times before he registered what, no who, he was looking at. “Lora?” No, it couldn’t be. The last time he’d seen her…He shook off that thought. Didn’t even want to think about it.
“Your dad said you were in here.” She seemed a little hesitant. “But, it was your brother’s name I was given.”
At the word brother, it felt like he’d been hit right in the stomach. Her brother…No, that’s not what they were talking about. “Chris?” What did his brother have to do with any of this? With her?
She smiled at him. “From what Aaron always told me, he’s your only brother. Unless there’s another you never talked about.”
There was that punch in the gut again. Aaron. He hadn’t uttered that name in nearly two years. One year, nine months, and eighteen days ago. Not since he’d turned and walked away from the cemetery. “No,” he said, his voice catching as he pushed the one word out. “It’s just Chris. And Lyndsey, but she’s not my brother. Obviously.”
Lora’s eyes twinkled as she just smiled at him. “You never babbled like this when I saw you on my Skype calls to Aaron.”
Another memory he didn’t want to have brought up. He rubbed at a spot just under his elbow. He’d been looking forward to getting home soon and five his arm a break. But, he still didn’t even know what Lora wanted. “Why are you here, Lora? I tried calling you for weeks. I told you you’d always have my shoulder if you needed it. You made it clear you didn’t.”
The sparkle in her eyes went out at that, and he could have kicked himself. “That’s not why, Gabe. I’m here about your brother’s project.”
His mind went blank for another moment. Then, it fell into place. “It’s the company’s project. Chris had the initial idea for it, but we’re all invested in it.” He let himself really look at her now. The last time he’d seen her, she’d been swathed in grief, everything about her dulled. That wasn’t the case now. Her auburn hair was cut shorter than he’d ever seen it in those video calls, but her face was bright, though that light still hadn’t come back into her eyes.
“What do you have to do with that?”
“You plan to build homes for veterans. Everyone knows that’s a particular pet project of mine. And they know why.”
There it was again, though she didn’t come right out and say his name this time. If Aaron had been able to have a place to stay, maybe he would not have been so lost. Maybe they wouldn’t have lost him. “Lora,” he said, choking on her name. His fingers rubbed at the spot where limb met stump, and Lora’s gaze followed the movement.
His father and brother didn’t even like to acknowledge his lost limb, but Lora looked straight at the artificial arm. Like it didn’t even bother her. “When I heard Saranno Construction was doing this, I assumed you’d be out working on the site. You’re the one drawing up the plans, though?”
He nodded. “It’s what I went to school for once I got out of the Army. Couldn’t swing a hammer anymore, but I learned to use my other hand to hold a pencil. And most every is computer-generated these days anyway. I can work a mouse just fine.”
Finally, that light was coming back into her eyes. Thank God. He’d say anything if it helped with that. Even when he’d crashed those video chats, he’d always tried to do that. To erase the worry he could see. It felt like something positive he could do, even when he couldn’t seem to do it with his own family, when hell raged around them.
“So, I guess it’s you I should be talking to then.” Her smile seemed forced now. “Maybe we can talk about what your plans are over some food. Aaron said he’d been here with you once, and the diner has some pretty good food.”
“It does,” he agreed. He thought for a moment then nodded. “I could go along with that.”
The last thing he’d heard from Aaron, he’d asked Gabriel to always make sure his sister was okay. He wished he’d realized that was the last phone call he’d ever get from his friend. There’d been a letter, too, but that hadn’t come until after, and he couldn’t bring himself to open it. His throat thickened at that thought and the numbers flashed through his head again. One year, nine month, eighteen days.
As they walked out the door, he told himself not to think about his friend. Or these crazy feelings he had when he looked at Lora. Yeah, he definitely didn’t think his friend had meant that by making sure she was okay.
So, he wouldn’t think on it or act on it. And that was that.