If you missed the first chapter, start here!
Having run three miles and safely delivered Heidi back to her house, Penelope decided to enjoy her snack of oatmeal cookies on the library lawn. The heritage rose gardens were in full bloom and the low walls separating the property from the street blocked the wind, making it quite pleasant to sit on the grass and stare up at the sky. Despite the pleasant scene only one other person shared the spot, a thin young man in a grey Georgia Bulldogs sweatshirt. He sat ten feet away ad had the look of a little boy lost in a store, trying to tough it out but on the verge of tears. Penelope was fairly certain she’d never met him, but he looked familiar. It wasn’t until he turned his head and a ray of light turned his hair a bright copper color that she remembered what Esther had said.
“Excuse me, but are you Jezza’s — sorry, I mean Daisy’s son?”
For a moment she could see him gathering himself to run, but then he nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Did you know her?”
“A bit.” Remembering what her son was like at that age she moved closer and offered him one of the cookies. “Not as well as I thought I did, I’m afraid.”
The corners of his mouth turned up at her last comment. “That just proves she hadn’t changed any since the last time I saw her.”
“It had been a while?”
“Three years.” He wiped the edge of his eye and lifted his head up. “I got here one day too late.”
While they slowly ate the cookies Penelope extracted his story. He and his mother had worked as a team, fleecing wealthy men as they traveled from one resort town to the next. When he’d secretly applied and been accepted into college they’d had a huge argument that culminated in Daisy leaving.
“I always thought she might get in touch with me at some point, but I never heard from her. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. She always taught me to walk away and not look back.”
The stylized bulldog on his sweatshirt caught Penelope’s eye. “I think she might have looked back a bit,” she said slowly. “One time when I came to walk her dog she had a UGA football game paused on the television. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but she never struck me as big football fan.”
“Not at all.”
Penelope nodded. “I don’t know if she was looking for you in the crowd or just watching the game because she thought you would be, but I’m pretty sure she was thinking of you.”
They watched a scrubjay land and dig in the grass. “How did you find her?”
“I saw her picture on a website for Mastiff owners and the location was encoded in the picture. She always talked about finding some rich guy and settling down and buying a Mastiff puppy. That was her dream.” He gave a weak smile. “I guess she was living her dream. That’s good, right?” His smile faded. “But I thought I’d have time, so I waited until I had a week off for spring break. And I was a day too late.” He moved restlessly. “I don’t even know why I’m still here. I should have moved my return ticket, but I thought maybe I’d learn more about her if I stayed.”
Penelope winced. “You weren’t at the memorial service this morning, were you?” She tried to imagine how horrified her own son would be by seeing photos like that.
For the first time he smiled. “I’m not surprised she arranged something like that. That was my mom. She loved to shock people.”
Penelope held out her hand and introduced herself.
He took it, his long fingers wrapping around her entire hand. “Steven. Or, at least, that’s the name I’ve been using for the last three years. It’s not my original name.”
Penelope settled into a more comfortable position and pulled out her phone to send a text. “There’s someone I think you should talk to, but while we wait, tell me about your mother. What was she really like?”
“She was the most selfish person I’ve ever met, but she could also be really fun.”
As they waited for Jake to show up they lounged on the grass and watched clouds float by while Steven told her stories about growing up on the run with the beautiful manipulative con artist who also happened to be his mother.
(Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)