Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons Page 63

“Hello, Violet.”

“Rose, I’ve called to apologize.”

My mouth dropped open and my brain scrambled to take in her words.

“Are you there? Say something.”

“Yeah, I’m here…I’m just…”

“Do you forgive me?” Her tone was snippy, not what I expected from someone truly contrite.

“Well, Violet, what exactly are you sorry about? You hurt me deeply.”

Her voice lowered. “Rose, honey. I really am sorry. I know I hurt you and I don’t know what got into me. Of course you’re good enough for Joe. That wasn’t what I meant. It all came out wrong. I watched Momma be mean to you for years and I just can’t bear the thought of someone else being mean and spiteful to you. Who’s goin’ to protect you?”

“I can protect myself. And if I can’t, I think that Joe did a pretty good job of provin’ that he could.”

“Yeah, he did.” She was silent for a moment. “I’m going to the Henryetta Garden Club meeting tomorrow night. The guest speaker is talkin’ about roses and I know how much you love yours.”

I had a rose garden in my backyard. I’d have to leave it when I moved, and the sadness that gripped me caught me by surprise.

“Anyway.” Her voice was light and breezy. “I thought maybe you’d like to come with me.”

“Isn’t Miss Mildred president of the Garden Club? I thought they met during the day.”

“Well… they usually do, but they’re trying out some evening meetings to see if they can recruit some new blood. The median age of the Garden Club is currently around seventy-eight.”

That made sense.

“So? Do you want to come? I can pick you up at six forty-five.”

I had nothing else to do, and if I were busy maybe I wouldn’t miss Joe so much. “Okay.”

“Great! I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She hung up and I thought about her sudden turnaround. I was glad we weren’t fighting at the moment, but I was waiting for her to pull her next stunt. I was going to have to tell her about my pending move, and I suspected it wouldn’t go well.

I picked at my chicken, missing Joe again. This was ridiculous. Cold chicken made me want to cry. And it made me want to hear his voice. What in the world was wrong with me? I decided that I should talk to him now, in case he called when I was out.

He answered on the second ring. “Hey, darlin’, how was your day?”

“Great. I turned in my notice.”

“You really did it?” He sounded awed.

“Of course. The sooner I leave the DMV, the sooner I can move up to Little Rock.”

“I can’t wait.”

“Me either.”

“Have you told Violet yet?”

“Nooo… but she called and apologized.”

“What exactly did she apologize for?”

Nothing slipped past this man. “She said what she said came out wrong. That I was good enough for you. She said she was worried that someone was going to hurt me and she wouldn’t be able to protect me.”

“Uh-huh,” he answered in a monotone.

“Yeah, I don’t trust her either, but I’m goin’ to the Garden Club with her tomorrow night.”

“I didn’t know you were in the Garden Club.” He sounded guarded.

“I’m not. But the guest speaker is a rose expert so Violet thought I might want to hear her since I love roses so much.”

“Well, I hope you have good time.” He was still reserved, not that I blamed him.

“What did you do today?”

“Oh, borin’ police stuff.”

“You can’t tell me.”

“I can’t give you details. But I can tell you that we’re getting ready to set up an undercover sting.” Something in his voice set off alarm bells in my head.

“You’re going undercover.”

“Not yet.”

Yet. My heart sputtered with fear. “When?”

“A few weeks.”

“For how long?”

“I don’t know, darlin’.”

I swallowed the lump in throat. “How long have you known?”

“A week.”

“And you’re just now tellin’ me?”

Joe sighed. “I’m trying to get out of it. I put in for another transfer.”

“Why? You love your job.”

“I love you more.”

I was torn. I didn’t want him to go undercover, but I didn’t want to be the reason he gave up something he loved. “Then why am I movin’ to Little Rock when you’re not even gonna be there?”

“It’s not like Henryetta, Rose. I don’t have to live there. I’ll see you at night.”

“But you’ll still be in danger?”

“A policeman is always in danger, Rose.”

And there was the crux of it. Other than his time in Henryetta, I tended to picture Joe behind a desk since he usually called me from his office during work hours. But the reality was much more dangerous and I could lose him at any time.

“Say something.”

Honesty seemed the best way to go here. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Tell me that you still love me.”

“Oh, Joe.” I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead into my hand. Joe had never lied to me about his job. I knew full well what I was signing up for when I started seeing him. What gave me the right to hold it against him now? “Of course I love you. I’m just tryin’ to calm my fears.”

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