A bit of back story for Let It Begin(Kurztown 2.5) that involves all of the main characters. This is about 25 or so years before Let It Begin, though.
He walked down Main Street, his mind far away from the woman at his side. He knew she could sense it, but he couldn’t bring the now back into focus. It was the first time he’d come home in…months. Since before his marriage. It was the first time he’d brought Rachel here. And he already had the feeling she found it lacking. He wondered what she thought he’d come from.
“You were gone for awhile this morning, Patrick,” she said. “It’s a little cold to just be walking around.”
“I was visiting Mom,” he said, not looking over at her.
“You said…I thought your mom was dead.”
Patrick still kept his eyes forward. “She is. I haven’t been by her grave in almost two years.” He stepped up to the door of the diner and pulled open the door, letting her go in first.
She glanced around the room, her face tight. “Not much to it, is there?”
Irritation fluttered through him. He knew she’d come from just as small a town as he had. But, she’d completely left hers behind as far as he could tell. He might not have plans to move back here, but he’d never be able to completely leave it behind. He looked around the dining room and spotted a man sitting at a table along one wall. “This way,” told her before starting over to the table. As they approached, the man looked up from his cup of coffee. He looked completely worn out, his face pale, his eyes shadowed. Patrick couldn’t remember him looking this bad since the day they’d buried his mother.
“Dad, you remember my wife, Rachel.” It had only been three months since the wedding, so he doubted he’d have forgotten already.
He nodded but kept his eyes on the menu in front of him. Patrick knew he didn’t need to even look at it. That his father ordered the same thing every day here. The waitress would probably bring it over without him ordering at all. He let Rachel slide into the booth first, and she wrinkled her nose. He bit back a retort and picked up his own menu. “What’s still good here?” he asked his dad even though he wanted to ask if he was getting any sleep or if he’d seen a doctor lately. It wasn’t his job to take care of his dad. The older man had made that clear when he insisted Patrick not forego starting college right after high school. His mother had been dead a year at that point, and his father insisted he was fine on his own.
“You know they don’t make bad food.”
Just then a waitress came over and smiled at them. “The usual, Michel?” she asked his father, who just nodded back. “And for you, Patrick?” she asked, smiling at him.
“I’ll have the chicken and biscuits. Haven’t found any as good as yours, Diana. How’s that boy of yours?”
She smiled at him. “Doing just great. I swear, he’s only three and already Doren takes just after his father. We had a little girl just a little over a year ago. They keep me busy.”
“You look happy, though.”
Rachel looked between her husband and the waitress. Was he really flirting with another woman while she sat right here? She cleared her throat, and the waitress shifted her attention to her. “This is your wife, Patrick? We heard you’d gotten yourself married.”
Rachel knew what it was like in a small town, and still it irritated her. He hadn’t gotten himself married. They had married each other. “Yes,” he said, and at least had the grace to smile at her and take her hand. “This is Rachel.”
“Could I get a salad, please,” she requested before they could continue to talk around her.
The waitress noted it down and took their order back to the kitchen. Rachel pulled her hand from Patrick’s. “Did you date her?”
“Diana?” Patrick seemed startled by the question. “No. I went to school with her husband though. They have two kids and are happily married. As am I,” he reminded her.
Their meal was silent except for when Patrick and his father started talking shop. Rachel’s eyes always got glazed when Patrick started talking law. But, she mostly tuned them out now.
When they were finished, they left his father sitting there, still looking a little lost. “I’m worried about him,” Patrick finally admitted.
“He’s fine. Can we go back to the motel already? I want to lay down.”
Once they were in their room, she did just that. Patrick leaned down and kissed her forehead. “I’m going to go see some people. You all right here by yourself?”
She nodded and closed her eyes. Patrick wanted to curse, but he kept that all in his head. She’d been acting closed off ever since they left the city. Instead, he turned and left the motel.
An hour later, he was on his way back toward it to check on his wife. He’d run into a couple of his old friends, and talked to even more people he used to know. But, the one person he’d hoped to see, no matter how much he shouldn’t, hadn’t been around.
Then, he almost ran right into her. “I’m sorry,” he said almost before he’d processed who he’d grabbed onto to keep her from falling. “Natalie.”
“Patrick?” she asked, her eyes going wide. “I didn’t know you were back in town.”
“I heard you and Caleb had just moved back to town. How is he?”
“Adjusting,” she admitted. “His leg still hurts him, but he got a job at the tool and die place just outside of town.”
“Big difference from the Army, isn’t it?”
She gave a little nod and glanced down at the boy standing quiet at her side. “We really should get going back home. I want to have dinner ready before Caleb gets home.”
When she glanced up again, Patrick saw the dark mark on her cheek. He couldn’t help but reach out to it, but she flinched away. “What happened, Natalie?”
“It’s nothing,” she said, looking down. “Little Caleb accidentally hit me with one of his toys.”
He looked down at the boy, he did look like his father, then back at Natalie. That didn’t look like a mark from a toy. “Please tell me Caleb doesn’t hit you.”
She just wanted him to leave. She needed to get back to the house. Needed to put her son down for a nap and get the house clean and dinner started. She had too much to do before Caleb came home to stand around talking. “I told you, Patrick, it was an accident. We really have to get home now.”
He smiled down at her son, though. And she felt tears burn her eyes. His father never even looked at him like that. He had at one time, but the injury to his knee had done something to him. He was different, even when he hadn’t taken a pain pill or already finished a can or two of beer.
“It was nice seeing you again, Natalie.”
“I heard you were married, too.”
He nodded. “Rachel. She’s at the motel, right now. The trip seems to have tired her out.”
“You should get back to her then. I need to get home.”
He nodded and started past her. “I hope you have a Merry Christmas, Natalie. Maybe we can talk when you’re not in such a hurry.”
“I doubt you’ll be here long enough for that to happen, Patrick. I seem to always be in a hurry. I hope you have a good Christmas, too, though.”
Then, he just watched her walk away. Just as she had six years ago. When she’d gone to Caleb, just as she was doing now. He turned and started for the motel, but stopped when he saw Rachel standing on the sidewalk, staring at him. “She’s the one, isn’t she?” she asked when he reached her. “The one you’re always thinking about.”
He shook his head. “It’s not like that, Rachel. Natalie and I haven’t been a thing for-”
“But, you were. And you still have a thing for her.”
“Rachel, I married you. That doesn’t mean-”
“What? That you don’t still love her?”
He shook his head. “I love you, Rachel. You’re my wife.”
“Then, why were you looking at her like that? Why were you touching her?”
“She’s an old friend. And I’m worried about her. Her husband-”
“You know what? I don’t even care. I’m going back to our room. Do whatever you want.”
Patrick sighed and rubbed a hand over his eyes. He glanced once more toward where Natalie had headed, but she was already buckling the boy into his seat. With another sigh, he followed his wife. The ‘I don’t even care’ was a good sign that she really did. And he had to find a way to make this up to her.