“That doesn’t seem so bad,” Pippa said. “Odd, but still sane.”
“You’d have to know Old Chloe,” Will explained. “Old Chloe would’ve burned Bennett’s shirt before she’d’ve ironed it.”
My phone vibrated in my pocket. I’d turned off email notifications, and couldn’t imagine anyone was possibly calling or texting me. Pulling my phone out, I looked down to see a text from my sister.
This sucks. I want to hear Bennett texts in our van, not with all these people. I want our little group back.
I quickly typed a reply. Organized tours maybe aren’t the thing for us?
What is up with sad-sack Becky?
And of course Becky approached me again on the tour, asking to talk.
I let go of Pippa’s hand and, after my pretend wife gave me a small nod of approval, stepped to the side, into the shadows of the oak barrels.
My stomach tightened. I really liked Pippa, too. “Cam seems . . . great. Congratulations.”
“And thank you for taking her out to do yoga this morning,” I said with a smile. “She has a pretty fun sense of adventure.”
“I didn’t realize she hadn’t done it before.”
“I’m sure she’d done it lots, just in her imagination.”
We both laughed courteously—awkwardly—until Becky looked to the side, taking a deep breath. And before she could speak, before any sound escaped, I already wanted out of this conversation.
“Look,” I said, “I don’t think we should do this.”
“You don’t think . . . we should talk?” she asked.
Her face was so familiar to me, even aged six years as it was. Big brown eyes, dark brown hair. Becky was always described as “cute”—because she was petite, and perky, and—this trip aside—always had a smile on her face. But she was more than cute; she was beautiful. She just wasn’t made of something very solid inside.
“Right now? No,” I told her honestly. “Not while I’m on vacation for the first time in years.”
After giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze, I walked back over to the group, sliding my arm around Pippa’s back. My sister caught my eye and then looked over to Becky, who was returning to Cam’s side with a defeated frown. Shaking my head, I tried to communicate that everything was fine, but Ziggs looked determined.
With a quick nod, she ducked out of the group and back toward the winery lobby. She caught up with us about ten minutes later, a picnic basket slung over her arm and a triumphant grin on her face. “Let’s bail.”
We should have known it would rain.
“Never trust a blue sky in October,” Ziggy said, giving up on trying to repackage her sodden sandwich and dropping it back into the basket the winery had loaned us. We were seated under an enormous oak tree, and it sheltered us from most of the rain, but an occasional spout would fall from one of the branches, soaking an unexpected spot.
“Whose rule is that?” Will asked, gently chucking her chin. Water ran down his face, dripping off the tip of his nose, but he didn’t seem to care. “I’ve never heard it before.”
“I just came up with it now.”
“It’s oddly warm,” Pippa said, turning her face to the sky. At everyone’s protesting expression, she added, “It is, though. In London, when it rains, it’s so cold you don’t just feel wet, you feel waterlogged.”
“It’s true,” Ruby agreed. “I thought, coming from San Diego, that I would love the rain. But I’m over it.”
Despite this, none of us seemed to mind the rain all that much—certainly not enough to leave the meadow beside the winery, framed by fall colors, trees lush with late-season apples.
“I’ve never lived anywhere but London and Bristol,” Pippa said. “I would miss the Mums, but I don’t know that I would miss London, exactly. Maybe I need an adventure. Myanmar. Or Singapore.”
“Move here,” my sister said, lying down in Will’s lap as he wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
“Right now that sounds bloody amazing. Granted, it’s probably the present state of mind—cheating ex back in London, dreary job, we always want to move wherever we end on holiday, et cetera—but I do think I’d enjoy a stint in the States at some point.”
Propping herself up on an elbow, Ziggy perked, serious now. “Okay, then why not? Do it!”
“It’s not so easy,” Niall said quietly. “Getting a job, a visa . . .”
“I mean,” Ziggs said, wiping a few drops of water from her face, “if you’re interested, I have a lot of connections in the engineering world.” She continued on about international hires and some people she knew in the field, but I tuned out, watching Pippa instead. She was such a surprising mix of gentle and brash, of focused and flighty. It was almost as if I could see the little girl in her battling with the responsible woman, figuring out which would lead the way.
“I don’t know,” Pippa said, voice quiet. “I have a lot to figure out.”
The rain picked up, beginning to fall more heavily from the leaves until we no longer felt like we were sheltered. Soon we would be inundated.
“Guys,” my sister said as we stood and collected our trash, “I know I brought it up last night, but I think we need to cut this trip short. We have two more days in the area, and it just feels like . . .”