Say You'll Never Love Me(2)

By: Ann Everett


An hour later, Raynie swung her sister’s Lexus into the drive of the cozy cottage Celeste and Evan had built ten years ago. This house, in the right neighborhood, sold for close to a half-million dollars in Austin, but in Lubbock, it appraised at a fraction of that. Painted the creamy color of wild daffodil petals and trimmed in an odd shade of brown, it was the only home her niece had ever known. The thought of selling it caused Raynie’s chest to tighten. It was horrible to lose your parents, but for an aunt, a virtual stranger, to haul you off to another city six hours away? That would be traumatic even for a teenager. And Silbie was a first grader.

Next door neighbor, Mr. Remmus, waved from his front porch, and Raynie glanced at her watch. Soon, he’d be over for his daily visit. Funny how the old codger had taken up with her. According to Silbie, until Raynie’s arrival he rarely visited. She returned the greeting.

“I’m sorry. What did you say, sweetie?”

“Will I ever see them again?”

No matter what Raynie said, it wouldn’t be enough. This was the reason Celeste had made a grave error in judgement, leaving an impressionable six-year-old with a thousand questions to a guardian with no answers.

She drew a shallow breath because her lungs had closed off. Then she released her seat belt and turned to face the back. “Your mom and dad are always with you. They’ll be there when you play in the backyard. When you say your prayers at night. Every minute. Watching you. Missing you.”

“Are they here now?”

“I’m sure they are.”


Damn. “Oh, I don’t know. Could be sitting on the steps.”

Silbie unsnapped and leaned forward, narrowing her eyes into slits. “I can’t see them.”

“That’s because they’re angels.”

“Then how do we know they’re here?”

With every response, Raynie dug the hole deeper, and she wasn’t sure she’d get out. A few cheesy poetic responses might satisfy this sprout of a kid now, but she wouldn’t be this age forever. Then what?

“They’re like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. We can’t see them, but we know they’re here.” A lame answer, but one she hoped satisfied Silbie. Ready to end the Q&A, she didn’t give her time to say anything else. “Grab your backpack and let’s go in. You want a corn dog for dinner? I’ll do French fries. Lots of ketchup. Doesn’t that sound yummy? I bought fresh blueberries and strawberries today, so I can make you a fruit cup.”

Inside the house, the phone rang. Raynie turned the key in the lock, and Silbie rushed to answer it. “Hello. Hi, Grammy.”

Evan’s mother called several times a week, and that was a good thing. Raynie wanted Silbie to have a relationship with what family she had left. But Grammy Collins didn’t approve of the guardian choice. She’d made that clear.

When she finished the call, Silbie skipped into the kitchen. “May I go outside?”

“Do you have homework?”


“Okay, you can play until I get dinner fixed. Where was Grammy calling from?”

“Rome. That’s in Italy. I can show you in the geography book she gave me.”

“We’ll do it tonight at bedtime. All right?”

She nodded and headed to the backyard as someone knocked on the front door. When Raynie opened it, Mr. Remmus stood in the opening, mug in hand.

“Can I borrow a cup of bourbon?”

The old man’s gravelly voice sounded grumpy, but he was anything but that. His gentle nature caused Raynie to like him the minute she’d met him. The day of the funeral, he’d shown up with a basket of fruit and a philodendron, and the only neighbor who had continued to visit.

“Everything going okay?” He reminded her of George Burns without the thick glasses, right down to the cigar peeking from his shirt pocket.

“Okay, I guess.”

“You guess?”

She took the bottle from the cabinet and filled his cup. “Silbie asks a lot of questions I’m not sure how to answer. You know. Where Celeste and Evan are now? Will she ever see them again?”

He took a big gulp. “Ah, that’s good stuff.”

She smiled. He had the same reaction every time.

He set the drink on the counter and planted himself on a stool. “She seems happy, so I think you’re doing fine.”

“She doesn’t ask to go to the cemetery every day, so that’s better.”

“You hang in there kiddo. Motherhood ain’t easy. My Charlotte would have been a great mother, but it wasn’t in the cards for us.”

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