Fall from India Place Page 74

But laugh hard I did.

Marco was smiling, but he leaned his head down to Dylan and said, “You were right. Weird.”

Dylan gave a world-weary sigh that was far beyond his years.

I didn’t care if they teased me for the rest of my life. In that moment, all I cared about was that they’d be there for the rest of my life.



T he late June sun streamed in through my classroom windows, the light spilling over the kids’ empty desks. My last class of the year had already left, but I found myself immobilized. I couldn’t take my eyes off Jarrod’s desk. It had remained empty for the rest of the year whenever his class came into my room.

I didn’t want to forget.

It had been hard the past few months to find myself as a teacher again. Part of me had wanted to fall back on old habits and create a distance between myself and the kids. There was always supposed to be some distance anyway, but it was hard not to care about them, and in the end I decided if I stopped caring about them, I’d stop being a good teacher.

It hadn’t started out as the best year, but the past few months had begun to make up for that. One way in which they had was the permanent job offer I received from the department here at Braemuir. I’d be returning as a fully qualified English teacher after the summer. It was one less thing to worry about.

I had thought I would feel relief that the year was over and that I had the summer to enjoy before it started all over again.

But standing there in my classroom that last day, I couldn’t stop staring at Jarrod’s desk.

Sometimes it still made my breath catch when I remembered that I wouldn’t see him next year, that he wouldn’t get to grow up and become the amazing man I knew he could have been.

I hadn’t realized how hard the last day of school was going to be with that hanging over me.

“Knock, knock.”

My gaze jerked away from the desk and my eyes widened in surprised pleasure, my mood instantly lifting at the sight of Marco and Dylan walking into my classroom.

“What are you two doing here?” I asked, grinning happily as Dylan’s steps quickened. He reached me and instantly slid his arms around my legs. I hugged him close as Marco bent down to give me a quick, sweet kiss on the lips.

“I thought maybe you’d want some company. Not an easy day for you, babe.”

I shook my head in wonder. How had he known when even I hadn’t known? “I love you,” I murmured.

“I love you, too.”

I looked down at Dylan to see him watching us. I scrunched my nose up at him. “Guess what?”

“What?” he returned, genuinely curious.

“I love you, too.”

He smiled shyly and ducked his head.

So cute, I could die.

“Dylan, what do you say?” Marco chucked his chin.

Dylan shrugged. “Hannah knows I lu huh.” His words became a mumble, but I got the gist.

I gave Marco a look. “He’s four and he’s uncomfortable saying ‘I love you.’ I already pity his future girlfriends.”

Marco laughed. “He’s a man. He has a hard time showing his feelings.”

“You’re a man and you don’t have a hard time showing your feelings.”

“In public I do.”

“You just said you loved me in front of Dylan.”

“It’s just Dylan.”

“So you’re telling me that when we get married you’re not going to say you love me in your wedding vows?”

“You don’t say ‘I love you’ in wedding vows.”

“You do if you write your own.” I was completely messing with him and it was worth it to see the flicker of panic in his eyes.

“Write my own… vows?” His grip on Dylan’s shoulders tightened.


“You want me to write my own vows?”

I turned my mouth down at the corners as I shrugged. “Well, I might let you off with it, if you actually get around to proposing sometime.”

The light dawned in his eyes. “You manipulative —”

I grabbed my purse off my chair, ready to leave. “Finish that sentence and I won’t say yes.”

“I never asked,” he argued, ushering Dylan out behind me.

“But you’re going to.” I glanced back at Dylan. “Your daddy is a slowcoach.”

Marco looked at his son for help, but Dylan just looked at him with this “Really, dude” expression that made me love him even more.

“Are you sure he’s not my child?” I joked.

“Sometimes I wonder,” Marco muttered.

From school we got a cab back to my place so I could change for the evening’s event. It was Lily’s fifth birthday, and Gio and Gabby had generously offered the restaurant as a place to host it, closing off the back room for our private party.

Outside the restaurant we bumped into Cole and his new girlfriend, Larissa. She was a quiet, pretty auburn-haired psychology student who was clearly one hundred times more madly in love with Cole than he was with her.

“D-Man,” Cole greeted Dylan first. The two of them bumped fists, the brightness in Dylan’s eyes the only indication that he was thrilled to see Cole. While it had taken a few months for Marco to come around to Cole, his son had latched on to my best friend within a matter of hours after meeting him. They shared an overall seriousness that put them beyond their years and had a seemingly innate understanding of each other.

“What d’ye get?” Dylan gestured to the wrapped gift in Cole’s hand.

“Girlie stuff. You?” He indicated the present Dylan was carrying for us.

He scrunched up his nose. “Girlie stuff.”

Cole patted him on the back of the head and pulled open the door to the restaurant. “I hear you.”

“Hi, Larissa,” I greeted her with a coaxing smile.

In return I received a pinched smile. I couldn’t quite work out if it was because she was shy or because she, like most of Cole’s girlfriends so far, resented my presence in his life. I was sure it was the latter.

Marco and I held back as the three of them walked inside.

“She hates me,” I grumbled.

“You’re hot and Cole loves you. Of course she hates you.” Marco tugged on my hand, pulling me inside.

“Well, thanks for that very comforting and concise summary of the situation.”

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