Part 1947 – One, Two, Three Arrivals At Raven’s House.

Barbara left the room, but she didn’t loiter out in the hall as she had planned. She marched down the hall to the stairs and sat on the third step down.

She pressed her palms to her heated face.

How did this happen? How did I cross that line from love to desire? Is it from us not touching each other? Is that it? Is that all?

But no. I’ve felt like this all along. Just not to this degree and intensity.

I love him.

I want him.

She thought about what he had told her about Rebecca.

His first love.

His first time.

Rebecca.

What a complete idiot! How could she drop him so easily? What did she expect from him? What did she want?

Why wouldn’t she want to hang on to him? He’s so attractive. So…sexy.

That unexpected word took her by surprise. She lowered her hands.

I’ve never thought that about anyone before. I guess I never really understood what it meant. Especially since Hollywood seems to use it for any young actor who’s even marginally good looking.

But seeing him like that…

So soft and tired.

His easy flirtatiousness.

His messy hair.

His warm, tired voice.

How good he is with Sarah.

I get it.

I understand what it means.

Barbara smiled. “He worries that I’ll be like Rebecca. That I’ll sleep with him and dump him within 24 hours.” She shook her head. “That will never happen. That man is mine. I’ll slap away anyone who tries to steal him from me.”

Even if that anyone is Elsie Vansing.

***

“So, what do you think she wants?” Clarice parked the car in Raven’s driveway.

“I don’t know.” John thought back on his conversation with Barbara. “She didn’t sound upset. So, it can’t be something that Ambrose did wrong. Even if it were, why wouldn’t she just tell me over the phone or come straight to me? I don’t understand.”

Clarice patted his hand. “Don’t worry, you chunk of glorious loving.”

He couldn’t help smiling at that.

“We’re here. We’ll go inside and find out what’s what.”

He nodded.

They got out of the car and converged on the front door.

***

She’ll be gone when I come back.

She’ll be gone.

Tessa will be gone.

She’ll be gone.

I’ll never see her again.

She’ll be gone.

The taxi pulled up along the curb. “This the place?”

Jeff pulled himself out of his panicked thoughts. “Yeah.” He took a deep breath and held it for as long as he could. He exhaled slowly.

Keep calm.

Keep breathing.

Trust.

Trust LM.

He’ll protect her.

He’ll keep her safe.

If he doesn’t.

Jeff got out of the car.

If he doesn’t.

“If he betrays me, he will regret it.”

He paid the taxi driver and headed to the house.

****

John held Clarice’s hand as they walked through the foyer.

“Well.” Clarice said. “She wasn’t in the living room. Soooo, kitchen?”

“Maybe.”

She’s safe.

Ambrose wouldn’t dare hurt her.

Jeff remembered all of their interactions. He remembered how Ambrose looked at Barbara as if she were the only person worth looking at. “She’s safe. I trust him.”

They turned the corner to the stairs.

And there she was. Sitting on the third step down.

“Barbara!”

She jolted out of her thoughts and ran down the stairs. “Dad!”

She doesn’t seem to be upset.

She doesn’t look hurt.

Barbara hugged him. “You’re here.”

He returned the hug. “I’m here, pumpkin. You okay?”

“Yes.” She released him. “Dad, you and I need to talk about something important.”

John tensed up. “Go on. I’m listening.”

***

Jeff stopped at the front door and thought it over.

Knock or march on in?

He raised his fist, thought it over some more, and shook his head.

He turned the doorknob and went inside.

***

“Well. I’m waiting for one more person to show up and then—-”

The front door opened and closed.

Barbara smiled. “I could be completely wrong, but I think that’s our one more person.”

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