Jilted Groom(5)

By: Mia Carson

Grams set her heavy tote on a nearby chair and clasped her hands in front of her. “Kris, I know your family hasn’t been the easiest to deal with. I never thought I’d have a daughter that cared more for drugs than her children,” she said bitterly. “But he is your brother and the only one besides you who might turn out alright. If he doesn’t know he has at least one person on his side, he might not stay on the straight and narrow.”

Kris gripped the wrench tighter as she stared Grams down, the woman who had raised her and her brother when their parents couldn’t be bothered to be actual parents. She was tough and never a pushover, but damn, when she gave Kris those puppy-dog eyes, game over. She puffed out her cheeks and tossed the wrench onto the table.

“Fine,” she conceded and held her hands up to ward off her Grams. “Fine, I’ll have lunch with him.”

“Good, he’s already at the diner.” Kris’s mouth dropped open, and she growled curses under her breath. “What was that, dear?” Grams said lightly as she picked up her tote and slung it over her shoulder.

“Nothing, not a damn word. Let me close up the shop, and I’ll be there.”

“Thank you, Kris, really,” she said and with a satisfied glint in her eyes, left Kris’s shop.

Kris rolled her eyes, cleaned her hands, and locked up her tools and keys to the cars in her garage. On a Sunday, she was the only one there, but she had two other guys who worked with her. Charlie, a good friend and ex-boyfriend, and Frank, when he wasn’t too drunk to work, but that was the best she could get when living in a Podunk town like this. Grabbing her work cell and keys to the tow truck, she rolled down the garage doors, padlocked them, and walked across the hot pavement to the diner. Its silver sign glistened in the afternoon sun, and Kris held her hand over her eyes as she ran across the two-lane road, ignoring the horn blast.

“Watch it, Kris,” a man yelled out his window.

“Sorry, Mr. Fitz,” she called back. “That part came in for your tractor, by the way.”

“When can you fix it?” Mr. Fitz asked, coming to a dead stop in the street, but he blocked no one.

Kris mentally ticked off the other cars in her shop and shrugged. “Maybe by Thursday?”

“I’ll tell the wife to make up some bourbon balls for ya,” he said and waved his ratty hat at her before he drove off.

Kris waved and walked into the diner. The wash of cold air sent a shiver down her back, and she wiped the sweat from her face with her hand, searching for Dennis. His hunched frame took up one whole side of the small booth table towards the back, and she sucked in a deep breath, her hands clenching at her sides before she forced them to relax. He was her brother, her blood. She couldn't ignore him forever.

“Hey,” he said when he spotted her coming towards the table. He stood and opened his arms as if to hug her, but stopped halfway. “I… uh, I was hoping you’d make it.”

“I needed a break,” she said and sat down quickly, hoping he’d do the same. “Order yet?”

“Nah, just a pop,” he answered, motioning to the drink. “I was trying to wait for you.”

She nodded as she picked up the sticky menu and glanced over it, not that she needed to look. She’d grown up in this damn place and the menu hadn’t changed in nearly twenty-six years, but she couldn’t bring herself to stare at her brother.

“Kris,” he said and tugged down the menu so she had to look at him. “Grams put you up to this, didn’t she?”

Giving in, she set the menu down. “No, of course not,” she lied, but Dennis’s lips twitched in a grin, and she leaned back against the booth. “Maybe… Look, it’s not like I don’t want to have lunch with you. I do, I just… I’m not sure…”

Dennis reached over and held her hand gently in his big one. She stared at the black tattoos covering his knuckles, hand, and connected to the sleeve of his right arm. The twisted brambles and dying roses gave his arm a bulging effect, not that it needed any help. Her brother had always been a big guy, six and a half feet tall and easily three hundred pounds of muscle. The full beard didn’t help, or the scars on his neck and face from his days on the streets. Kris didn’t see what other people saw, though. She saw her big brother, and as she stared into his hazel eyes that matched her own, she squeezed his hand back with that weird sibling understanding they had.

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