50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5)

50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5) Page 13
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50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5) Page 13


“This is such a treat,” Maryellen said, slipping into the booth across from her mother at the Wok and Roll, her favorite Chinese restaurant.

“Just consider it an early birthday gift,” Grace replied as she glanced up from the menu.

“So, how are things with you and Cliff?” Maryellen asked. She didn’t bother with the menu because she ordered the same thing every time. She really should try something other than the chicken hot sauce noodles, but couldn’t make herself do it. The small family-owned restaurant ordered the thick rice noodles from the International District in Seattle. Maryellen could slurp up those noodles every day, she enjoyed them so much.

Her mother set aside the menu and there was such a depressed look on her face that Maryellen was shocked. “Mom?”

Smiling was clearly an effort. “I’ve given up on Cliff,” Grace said matter-of-factly.

“You don’t mean that.” Maryellen reached across the table and squeezed her mother’s hand.

“I do. In reality, I don’t have any choice.”

“No.” Maryellen couldn’t believe it. “I thought you were going to fight for him. What happened?”

Grace told her about the night of their big dinner date. She’d since learned from the veterinarian, who’d come into the library, that Midnight had survived. Hearing this from someone other than Cliff only seemed to increase her mother’s discontent with the on-again/off-again relationship.

Maryellen understood Grace’s frustration. Her mother had been so hopeful about this dinner; it was going to be a new beginning for her and Cliff. And then the evening had turned out to be such a disappointment.

“It was more than Cliff dealing with Midnight. I understand the stallion was in a life-threatening situation. That I could have accepted. But Cliff had obviously forgotten he’d even asked me out to the ranch. He seemed so…indifferent. My being there meant nothing to him. In fact, he seemed grateful to get out of having dinner with me.”

“Cliff’s not like that.”

“Normally I’d agree with you,” her mother said, “but I was there, Maryellen. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and that was the way I felt. Much as I don’t want to believe it, I know I’m right.”

Maryellen hated to see this relationship end, especially since Grace had worked so hard to win Cliff back. Until now, Maryellen had found him to be thoughtful and sensitive to her mother—far more than her own father had ever been. “You mean to say that after two weeks Cliff hasn’t even tried to phone?” she asked, incredulous.

Her mother shrugged. “He left messages a couple of times.”

“Well?” Maryellen looked at her sternly. “Did you return his calls?”

Her mother’s smile was sad. “Olivia thinks I should, too, but I can’t.” She sighed so dejectedly that Maryellen yearned to hug her and reassure her.

“Why not?” Maryellen really didn’t understand this.

She recognized from the stubborn way her mother shook her head that Grace wouldn’t call him. “Olivia says I’m a fool not to, but Maryellen, you have to realize how demeaning it was, how awful I felt—it’s hard to explain. Sad as it is to admit, I don’t think Cliff’s capable of getting beyond what happened with Will.” She paused; she’d never told her daughters the whole story, but Maryellen had pieced it together. “As far as he’s concerned, I committed the one sin he can’t forgive. He’d like things to be different, he might even want us to be together, but something inside him is incapable of forgiving me for what I did.”

Maryellen disagreed. “You’re wrong. He wouldn’t have phoned if that was the case.”

Grace shook her head again. “I’m sure Cliff regrets what happened, but there’s no need to drag this out any longer. I doubt he’ll phone again and after some soul-searching, I’ve decided that’s fine.”

Her mother might have talked herself into that decision, but Maryellen didn’t believe she was fine with it at all. The very first time she’d met Cliff and seen him with her mother, Maryellen had felt they were meant to be together. “Do you remember when I was pregnant with Katie?” Maryellen asked.

“Of course.”

“I was convinced I didn’t need Jon and that I could raise the baby on my own. Remember?”

A smile touched her mother’s eyes. “You were so determined to prove it.”

“Yes, well…It was easy enough to think I could do everything by myself before Katie was born, but afterward…it was a different story.” Never would she have imagined that one tiny baby could be so demanding. Most nights Maryellen had only managed to sleep in twenty-or thirty-minute stretches—if at all. A rash of ear infections kept Katie up at night screaming in pain. Thankfully Jon had insisted on being part of his daughter’s life and wanted to share the responsibility of raising her. Maryellen had quickly seen that Katie needed him, and so did she. “The similarity, Mom, is that I was so sure about everything—and I was wrong. Maybe you are, too.”

As Grace began to reply, Elaine, the owner’s wife, came for their order and predictably Maryellen chose her chicken hot sauce noodles. Grace asked for Wor Wonton Soup.

When Elaine had left their table and gone back to the kitchen, the restaurant door opened and in walked Cliff Harding.

Maryellen leaned toward her mother. “Don’t look now, but Cliff just came in.”

Grace stiffened. “Did he notice us?”

There wasn’t time to answer. Cliff walked directly over to their table and smiled down at both women.

“Hi, there,” Maryellen said, raising her hand. “This is a pleasant surprise.”

He acknowledged her, and removed his Stetson as he turned toward her mother. “Grace,” he said with a curt nod.

“Hello, Cliff.” Her mother’s voice was calm, and she kept her eyes trained straight ahead.

Maryellen admired her poise in this awkward situation. She watched as Grace slowly glanced up and offered Cliff the scantest of smiles.

“There must be a problem with your answering machine,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you.”

“Would you care to join us?” Maryellen asked, ignoring the daggers her mother was shooting at her.


Her mother hesitated only briefly. “By all means.” She looked at her watch as if to gauge how much of her lunch hour was left. “I’ll need to leave in a few minutes, anyway.”

“Nonsense,” Maryellen challenged. “We ordered no more than three minutes ago.”

Cliff sat at the end of the booth, setting his cowboy hat on the empty space next to Grace.

“It’s a little early for you to be having lunch, isn’t it?” her mother asked pointedly.

Cliff smiled wryly. “The truth is, I drove by and saw you and Maryellen in the window. I figured if you weren’t going to answer my phone calls, the best thing to do was talk to you in person.”


“I’m sorrier than you know about that night,” he said with sincerity.

So Maryellen was right. Cliff knew what he’d done and was trying to make amends.

“I was hoping you’d be willing to give me another opportunity.” His eyes pleaded with Grace. “I’d still like you to come out to the ranch for dinner,” he said in a rush.

Grace seemed to waver. “I—I don’t know.”

Maryellen wanted to shake her mother. “I’m sure she’d enjoy that very much,” she said firmly and ignored the kick as her mother’s shoe connected with her shin.

Maryellen nearly laughed aloud at the shuffling of their feet beneath the table.

In the meantime, Elaine brought Cliff a teacup and a menu. He accepted the tea, but declined lunch.

The small interruption was followed by an uncomfortable silence. “When would you like Mom to come over?” she asked.

“Maryellen!” Her mother’s protest was accompanied by a glare. “I’m sure Cliff has more important things to attend to than making me dinner.”

“I’d like to do it,” he countered, a smile twitching at the edges of his mouth.

“What date were you thinking of?” Maryellen was finding pleasure in this. It was a fitting turnabout, considering all the times Grace had tried to match her up after her divorce. She’d resented it back then, never suspecting that the day would come when she’d play matchmaker for her own mother.

“Thanksgiving,” Cliff said.

That astonished them both, and they stared at him.

“Thanksgiving,” Grace repeated softly. “I’m sorry, I already have an invitation.” She sent a triumphant look in Maryellen’s direction.

“To my house,” Maryellen said. Feeling she needed to explain the situation to Cliff, she added, “Kelly’s going to be at her in-laws’, so Mom was planning to join Jon, Katie and me.”

“Aren’t you flying out to be with Lisa?” Grace asked.

“Lisa was here earlier in the year,” Cliff said, and of course Grace knew that. “I thought I’d stay home. I don’t pretend to be much of a cook, but I can probably manage a turkey and fixings.”

Maryellen watched the lowering of her mother’s guard. No matter how hard Grace tried to convince herself the relationship was over, she couldn’t do it. In a matter of minutes, her resolve was visibly crumbling.

“I appreciate the invitation,” her mother said, her eyes warm with longing, “but I’m already committed to my daughter.”

“Mom, it’s all right, really. Jon and I won’t mind.”

“Nonsense,” Cliff said quickly. “I was hoping Maryellen, Jon and the baby would come, too.”

Grace met Maryellen’s eyes.

Maryellen felt a sense of satisfaction steal over her. “I’ll have to check with Jon, of course, but I imagine he’d enjoy the opportunity not to cook this Thanksgiving.”

“Then you’ll both be joining Cal and me,” Cliff said, as he got to his feet. He reached for his hat and when he smiled, it seemed to Maryellen that there was a new lightness in his expression. His habitual look was one of gravity and she’d rarely seen this kind of…elation on his face before.

She noticed that her mother was smiling, too.


The ringing of the phone destroyed the calm of the afternoon. Corrie reached for it on the second ring. “Roy McAfee’s office,” she said in her professional voice.

The lack of response caught her attention. “This is Roy McAfee’s office,” she repeated.

Silence again.

Sighing, she replaced the phone. When she looked up, Roy was standing in the doorway leading to his office, his arms crossed. He glowered at the phone as if it were guilty of some unspeakable crime.

“How many hang-ups have we had in the last couple of weeks?” he asked.

Corrie hadn’t counted them. “Two or three,” she said, but she knew it was more. She shrugged, making light of it. “I think the phone company must’ve issued a number similar to ours to a pizza parlor or something.”

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