Perfect Couple

Page 37


"Wait a minute," Brody called after him. "We didn't even order. What if we'd wanted something different from our usual?"
Sawyer marched back to our table and gave Brody a baleful look. "Did you want something different?"
"No," Brody said.
"See?" Sawyer started to move away.
"I did," I said, raising my hand.
Sawyer turned back to me. His eyes were crossed. "The only reason you're saying you want something different, Harper, is that I pointed out you always want the same thing." He walked toward the kitchen without giving us another chance to complain.
"That's not the only reason I want something different," I murmured in the direction of the kitchen door, which swung shut behind him.
"Very, very bad waiter," Brody muttered, picking up his fork.
We ate in silence for a few minutes. The wait staff was cranky, but the Crab Lab's food was delicious.
Finally Brody said, "You'll have a big adventure next year. You'll major in photojournalism at Harvard or Oxford or somewhere a million miles away."
I shook my head. "Try Florida. I'm on my own to pay for college. Mom says she doesn't have the money. She already borrowed money from Granddad to buy the B & B."
"Yeah." Brody nodded like he understood. I figured he was on his own too.
"My grades are good," I said. "I'll get an academic scholarship. It won't pay for everything, though, so I've been working on getting my photography business off the ground. That's why I photographed the 5K yesterday. And if I had a killer portfolio to show an art department-or a journalism department-I might get another scholarship from them."
Brody nodded. "You've got it figured out. I wish I did."
"You make good grades too," I reminded him.
"I'm in the college-track classes," he said, "but my grades aren't great. They're okay, but not scholarship level."
"You'll get a football scholarship," I said.
He shrugged.
"What would your major be?" I asked. "Or what would you do instead if you didn't go to college?"
He swallowed a bite and said, "Coast Guard."
Oh. He'd been so positive about my dreams that I didn't want to be negative about his, but I couldn't help the wave of nausea that washed over me. I pictured him in rescue gear, headed across the tarmac at Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg to a helicopter that would lower him over a compromised ship in rough seas.
If that was the life he wanted, I could never be with him.
BRODY PAUSED WITH HIS FORK hovering over his plate. "What's the matter?" he asked. "You look sick all of a sudden ."
"Nothing." The nausea passed, along with the heat that had rushed to my face. My skin was left cool. A line of sweat had formed at my hairline. I took a deep breath through my nose, exhaled, and forced myself to take another bite of salad. "You know, my dad is in the Coast Guard."
Brody frowned at me. "Really?"
"Is he stationed down at St. Petersburg? How does he run the B & B?"
"It's just Mom," I explained. "My parents have been separated for a couple of years."
"Oh." Brody lifted his chin, puzzling out my words. "Are they getting back together?"
"I hope not. Um . . ." I racked my brain for a way to describe the situation.
"I'm sorry," Brody said. "You don't have to tell me."
"No, it's not a touchy subject, just complicated." I put down my fork. "See, my dad cheated on Mom. Often. She finally kicked him out and filed for divorce. But ending a marriage in Florida isn't that simple. One of two things has to happen." I touched my first finger. "One of you has to be crazy. Actually, both my parents would be good candidates there, but they would have to be proven crazy separately in court."
Brody chuckled like he was familiar with this feeling, then took another bite of his sandwich.
I touched my second finger. "Or, the marriage has to be 'irretrievably broken.' That's the wording. Mom had her day in court. My dad told the judge that the marriage wasn't irretrievably broken. Instead of giving Mom a divorce, the judge sent my parents to marriage counseling. Mom went to the first appointment. My dad didn't show. The judge held my dad in contempt of court."
"Oh, shit," Brody said.
"It gets better," I said with a lot more bitterness than I'd known I felt. "My dad came crawling back to Mom. She comforted him, if you know what I mean. He moved back in. A few weeks later he cheated on her again. She kicked him out and filed for divorce. This has happened, I don't know, maybe four times in the past two years. It's about to happen again, because Mom has another court date next week."
Brody wasn't laughing like he was supposed to. He didn't make a snarky comment about Mom like Kennedy had when I told him this story. Granted, Kennedy's words had hurt my feelings, but I was used to his sarcasm. I couldn't get a handle on Brody's silence. Maybe my description had been too convoluted-too much like my own family life had felt for the past two years-and I needed to clarify.
"My dad wants to cheat on her and keep her too," I explained.

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