“At least my world doesn’t involve stabbing people in the back, and kicking them while they’re down.”
“No. It just involves wallowing in self-pity and shutting out everyone who gives a damn.”
I sucked in a sharp breath. “I did not shut you out. You moved on without me.”
“Not until you showed me how much you didn’t give a damn.” He shook his head, peeling his narrowed eyes off of me to cast an embarrassed glance at Owen and Sue. “Sorry. I’m sorry. This is inappropriate. We shouldn’t be talking about—”
“Why not?” I demanded, hands trembling as I held my fork. “We never talk about it. You just packed up and left and told me to talk to your lawyer. You wouldn’t even discuss what went wrong, let alone who got to keep what. You acted like I wasn’t even worth the effort it took to explain why you moved out. How do you suppose that made me feel?”
Graham held out his plate, his face pink. “Sue, these ribs are fantastic. Could I have another?”
She quickly served him one. “Sure, dear. It’s an old family recipe. My mother swears that putting a can of Coca Cola in—”
“I didn’t move out until you made it loud and clear that you no longer wanted me there.” Jamie’s voice was sharp and loud. It echoed through the otherwise empty mess hall. “I spent a solid year living with a woman who scarcely spoke to me, and never looked at me. Why in the hell would I have stayed?”
Before I knew it, my eyes had filled. “You could’ve stayed because we loved each other. Because we fell in love when we were fifteen years old, and because we were meant for each other. You could’ve stayed because we’d been to hell and back together, and that’s not something you just throw away, Jamie.”
“It’s James,” he answered coldly, slapping his napkin onto the table. It bumped his cutlery, and sent it skidding. “And I didn’t throw away anything. Because there was nothing left to throw away.” I drew in a sharp breath, but he didn’t pause. “You weren’t giving me a relationship to save. You didn’t want me anymore than I wanted you.”
The sound I made was quiet but clear as a bell. It sounded like a half choke-half cough hybrid, and it tasted of barbeque ribs. I quickly wiped my mouth with my napkin, then carefully folded it and placed it on my plate. Nobody looked at me. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on something else. Somewhere outside of the mess hall, a duck down on the lake quacked.
“Sue?” I croaked, pushing my chair back from the table. “I’m so sorry, but I’ve got a splitting headache. I think I’ll head to my cabin for the night.”
She looked up at me sadly as I stood. “Oh, dear. Don’t you want to stay for pie? We haven’t had a huckleberry crop yet, but since the weather’s been so warm, I found enough thimbleberries.”
My eyes were so full of tears it looked like I was staring at her from underneath the water of Priest Lake. “No, thank you. I really should just lay down. But if you save the dishes for me, I would love to come in and wash them in the morning.”
“Dishes are my responsibility,” Owen announced, once again twisting his beer bottle on the tabletop. “And if I remember correctly, James here offered to wash them with me. Right?”
Jamie didn’t look up. “I sure did.”
“Okay, then. Thank you for dinner.” Making a beeline for the door, I looked up at the ceiling, utterly willing the tears to stay inside my lids until I was far away from the main lodge. But I only made it halfway down the old wooden steps to the green before they rolled over the edge, and I dissolved into tears.
Owen had been correct. Nostalgia was definitely getting to me.