He didn’t let go.
Pete touched his thumb to his lips, lifting his pinky in the air.
“No. I wasn’t drinking. The girl Taylor was with in San Diego? She’s pregnant.”
Pete’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline, and he released my arm. I hurried to the stairs, taking them two at a time.
I jumped in the shower, pushing down memories of the previous evening before they could surface.
I was never so glad to be working on a Saturday. It would be busy, and there was a festival this weekend. There was no better distraction than impatient, hungry customers. Without a phone, Taylor would have no way to contact me, other than coming to the Bucksaw, and I knew he was on second shift that day and the next.
I was conflicted, trying not to cry one minute and fighting anger the next. I worried, knowing he was miles away in the burning woods with so much on his mind. Leaving him alone to deal with Alyssa hadn’t helped matters any, but I had created the mess we were all in. Taylor had made it worse. But his job wasn’t going to change, and neither were our problems. It was time I bowed out for good. One of us had to do it.
I walked down the stairs, tying my still damp hair into a bun at the crown of my head, and I heard Phaedra having a one-sided conversation. I pushed through the double doors and sat on my regular counter in the kitchen, across from the center prep table.
Hector was washing vegetables, keeping his head down, not saying a word. Pete was peeling potatoes, grimacing at me while he worked.
“What the hell is going on?” Phaedra asked.
Chuck was standing behind her with no sign of talking her down. I opened my mouth to speak, but she held up her hand.
“And don’t tell me it’s nothing, that it’s no big deal, or that you just had a bad night because nothing that’s nothing is going to make you curl up in the fetal position on a tiled floor for an entire night.”
I snapped my opened mouth shut. Phaedra could intimidate anyone, but she had never been so cross with me.
“When I asked Taylor for the break, he went to San Diego to see his brother. He ended up … with another woman while he was there. He told me about it in Saint Thomas. We’ve been working through it.”
I sucked in a breath, feeling a lump form in my throat. “She came to the hotel last night. She’s pregnant.”
Audible gasps came from all four of my coworkers.
Phaedra shifted, trying to uphold her stern demeanor. “What does Taylor have to say?”
Phaedra held out a set of keys and tossed them to me. I caught them, recognizing the key chain.
“There is also the matter of your parents dropping off your vehicle. You’ll have to move it. It’s sitting in customer parking.”
“I told them you didn’t want it,” Chuck said. “The key is in the ignition.”
I looked down at the shiny metal in my hands. “My car is here? They just left it?”
Phaedra pointed in the general direction of the street. “Next to where Kirby usually parks. Well? Get goin’.”
“Why are you angry?” I asked, wiping my cheek with my wrist.
“I’m not angry, damn it! I’m worried. Beat it. I’ve got pies to make.” She whipped around, wiping her eyes as she marched to the back.
“Falyn,” Chuck said, his voice soft, “Pete finding you on the floor like that is concerning. We wish you’d talk to us.”
“It just happened. I haven’t had time to talk to anyone.”
“So, he knows it’s over then.”
I gripped the keys in my palm, feeling the edges digging into my skin. “He has something far more important to concentrate on.”
I turned for the door, but Chuck called out, “Falyn?”
“You should let him decide if you’re his priority or not.”
“It’s not that I don’t think he would choose me,” I said over my shoulder. “It’s just that I couldn’t live with myself if he did.”
After work on Saturday and Sunday nights, instead of waiting for Taylor to come to the Bucksaw after his shift, I would get into my car and drive. I would keep my foot on the gas pedal until I was too tired to continue, trying to get lost and find my way back again.
Monday, I told myself that Taylor would know better than to show up at my place of work, but at eleven thirty, he and his crew arrived.
Kirby, already knowing what to do, sat them at the back table, and Phaedra took their orders. I did my best to ignore them, but Dalton made it a point to tell me hello.
I remained polite, only seeing Taylor from the corners of my eyes. He was staring at me, waiting for me to see him, but I passed by.
My feet moved even quicker than normal toward Chuck’s voice. There was no food in the window, so I knew he was allowing me a moment to collect myself. I slipped through the double doors and escaped to my countertop, letting it support my weight as I leaned against it.
I quickly shook my head. I took a deep breath and then used both of my hands to burst through the swinging doors. If I looked unsure in my decision to end things or showed even a second of weakness, Taylor would be relentless until I gave in. If his post-island actions were any indication, he would never give me a moment of peace.
Taylor didn’t try to make a scene. He ate his food and paid his bill, and then they left.
By one o’clock the next day, I thought that I’d seen the last of him, but he arrived for lunch again—this time, with Trex in tow. Phaedra waited on them again.
I passed by their table, and Taylor reached out for me. “Falyn. For the love of Christ.”
Even though the desperation in his voice made me want to break down, I ignored him, and he said nothing else. Just a few of the closer tables noticed, but Phaedra frowned.
I nodded, pushing through the double doors, knowing Phaedra was heading to Taylor’s table. When she returned, I looked at her from under my brow, ashamed that she had to deal with my problems.
“I told him he can still come in, but only if he promises not to cause a scene. He’s agreed not to bother you.”
“Should I tell him not to come back?” Phaedra asked. “I hate to be mean to the poor kid. He looks like a lost kitten.”
“I don’t think he would take that well. It’s just for the summer, right? He can’t drive here every day when he’s back in Estes Park. By next summer, if they come back, he’ll be over it.”
Phaedra patted my arm. “I don’t know, baby. From where I’m standing, it doesn’t look like either one of you will.” She scrunched her face. “You sure you can’t try to work it out? I know it’s a mess, but it might be a little easier to fix it together.”