My heels clanked against the tiled floor of City Hall, the high of the case I’d just won surging adrenaline through me. I loved my job. The hustle of a court room. The facts and research that often had to be done before a case intrigued me. Granted, having to deal with business law meant I wasn’t in the court room all the time, but when I was, I won. I was two seconds away from clicking my heels together and skipping.
Landing a job at Franklin and Collins fresh out of law school was unheard of, but I had worked hard, scored an internship and proved myself early on. Early mornings. Late nights. Grunt work. I did it all. Now I wanted partner, and it was so close I could taste it. It tasted like success and victory. A small-town girl who took on the big city and succeeded. That’s all I’d ever wanted since I was a little girl, and here I was, living my dream.
Smiling to myself and adjusting my briefcase, I silenced my cell phone, which hadn’t stopped vibrating. I frowned when I saw who it was calling.
Home. I sighed.
Home. I hadn’t been back to Nantucket since I’d left for college ten years ago. My brother Dylan and our parents still lived on the island. Dylan went into law enforcement, like my father, and worked at the local police department I laughed at the thought of all the crime he had to fight every day. Everyone knew everyone , except during the summer and tourist season, and even then, many of the same people returned to make money before college. You could drive from one end of the island to the other in less than two hours. There was one movie theater, which got movies way too late to make it even worth watching them. And they had just gotten their first Starbucks this year, which was attached to a lumber mill. My blood type was part Starbucks. I would never survive there. Not now.
The city spoke to me. The loud noises, the lights that were on at all hours. But most of all I loved that I could step foot outside of my apartment and find a little café that served coffee, tea or anything twenty-four hours a day. On Nantucket, you were lucky if the shops stayed open until five.
I spun around as Lee hustled to catch up to me.
“That was amazing. You made the defense squirm in there.” He smirked, his perfect teeth almost blinding me.
“Thanks. It was a slam dunk.” I tried to focus on his face, which was perfect too. With his chiseled jawline and clean-shaven smoothness. It was annoying because the way a suit looked on him always made me drool a little. I saw many men in suits in my line of work as an attorney but Lee filled his out a bit more than some with his lean muscles. We’d gone to law school together, built a solid friendship, and worked out together to let off the tension of the job. Running and lifting weights. But that was it. Our relationship was only a friendship. In my eyes, at least.
“Let’s go out tonight to celebrate.” Lee had asked me out many times, and while sometimes it was under the ruse of celebrating a case I’d won, or he’d won, I always said no. I didn’t date. I devoted every second to my work. He knew that. It didn’t stop him from trying.
“Lee, you know the answer to that.” I raised my eyebrow.
“Come on. Not a date, just dinner between good friends.” He reached out and squeezed my hand. My belly fluttered at the closeness of him.
And you just happen to be hot and make me want to question my no-dating rule.
My stomach growled and Lee laughed.
“See? Your stomach agrees.”
I smirked at his persistent nature. I needed to eat, right?
“It’ll have to be later. Like eight. I have stuff to do.” I silenced my cell phone again.
“Should you get that?” he questioned.
“Just my mom again. She forgets sometimes that I’m in court most of the day.” Which wasn’t a lie. My mother once called me three times in a row to ask me my shirt size because she’d found the cutest sweater at a local shop that she’d known I’d just love.
Lee nodded. “Okay, so I’ll pick you up at the office at eight?” He grinned. “Because I know you won’t be home.”
“You got it. And this isn’t a date!” I called after him as he walked away.
“Right. Heaven forbid.” He chuckled and waved from behind him.
Why did I say yes? I groaned and readjusted my briefcase on my shoulder. I needed food to survive. Eating was essential and something I often forgot to do until ten p.m. My stomach growled again and my phone rang. This time it was the office. I pushed aside the hunger and picked up speed to make it there quickly. This was the life I wanted. Hunger pangs, late nights and all. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
* * * *
Abi, my secretary, poked her head inside my open office door. I looked up, temporarily removing my focus from the paperwork in front of me.
“I’m sorry to interrupt but your mother kept calling. Now it’s your brother. I told him you’re busy but he insists.” She looked nervous as she fidgeted with the hem of her cardigan. Abi was my age, and while we had become close due to working together, she knew better than to interrupt me when I was busy. It was hard to get back into the zone. Especially after a conversation with my mother. It usually consisted of gossip about the town or my brother Dylan, neither of which I cared about. That was the life I’d left behind. For this.
I looked around my office, which had a killer view of downtown Boston. My mahogany desk took up much of the room and diplomas lined the wall. All of which showed that I graduated top of my class. There were no personal items in my office. That was how I liked it. I didn’t like to mix business with my personal life. Many of the other attorneys had pictures of their beautiful families hanging on their walls. I didn’t. It gave me a leg up. I could stay at the office as long as I needed because I didn’t have recitals to go to or someone at home waiting for me.
My life was perfect and exactly how I liked it.
“You can transfer them through.” I kicked off my heels, which had made my feet numb, and tucked my legs underneath myself as I continued to read case notes. I’d done many cases before, but this case had been specifically given to me by Mr. Franklin. When Franklin himself had slid this file on my desk, he’d told me he was trusting me with the reputation of his firm. I couldn’t let him down.
The sound of the call coming through filled the silence of my office. I liked the silence of my office. Other than the noises that carried through sometimes from outside, I didn’t listen to music because it distracted me. At only twenty-eight years old, focusing was what had gotten me this far. I wasn’t the only one left at the firm right now, and everyone else was doing the same as me, trying hard to prove their worth for one of the two coveted partner spots.
“I’m going to head out. It’s after five.” Abi shuffled her feet. I sighed as my stomach grumbled, reminding me that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I put down my papers and stood up. Stretching, my back made a loud cracking sound. I’d been sitting on this couch for way too long and my entire body ached.
“Go!” I waved her away “Just because I have no life doesn’t mean you shouldn’t,” I joked. Abi laughed as she walked toward the door.
The door clicked shut and I was left alone. I padded in my bare feet to the phone and picked it up.
“Hello. This is Lydia.”
“Lyd.” I cringed at the nickname my brother, Dylan, had called me growing up. Well, everyone really. I had been Lyd the Kid. The youngest child born to Pearl and William Duncan. I’d been bright-eyed with light blonde hair, and I’d had a knack for arguing about everything. I’d earned my title of lawyer before I was even six years old. Everyone had known not to bother to argue with me. I’d win. Even if I was wrong.
My brother’s voice sounded shaky and uneasy.
“Dylan, what’s wrong?” My heart started beating rapidly.
“It’s Dad. He’s gone.” Dylan sniffed and I clutched the side of my desk to keep myself standing upright.
“What do you mean gone? I just spoke to him last week. He was fine.” There was no doubt in my mind that I was a daddy’s girl. I loved that man something fierce. When I’d decided to move to Boston to pursue my education, he’d given me a wad of cash and a kiss on the forehead.
“Live your dream, baby girl. Don’t let anyone stop you.”
And I hadn’t. I’d never looked back at the small island I grew up on, or the people that I’d left behind.
“He had a heart attack this morning and was barely hanging on. Mom and I tried to get in touch with you. But…”
The guilt crept in. They had been calling me because my father was dying. The man who had never wanted anything less than for me to follow my dreams. Tears pressed against my eyes.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I was busy.” My voice was a whisper. There was no excuse that was valid enough to miss out on my father’s last breaths. Was this what regret felt like? Because I couldn’t breathe. The reality that my father was gone was strangling me, and my entire mind buzzed with memories. I pulled at my dress shirt. I could have said goodbye to my father and I’d let that slip away.
I closed my eyes and forced breath into my body. My head spun and I felt like I was going to pass out. This wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Both my parents were supposed to live until they were old and gray, passing peacefully in their sleep. No emergencies. Nothing sudden and catching anyone off guard. And not this young.
Boy was I naïve.
Life and Death. One wasn’t promised, the other, guaranteed.
“Even Ty tried. But we know how busy you get.” The mention of Ty’s name made my tears fall. Ty was my brother’s best friend and the man I’d thought I would marry. But when I’d left Nantucket at eighteen, Ty had decided to stay behind. He’d said he wasn’t bred for the city , and that had ended our relationship. We hadn’t spoken since that day. But there are just some things you don’t forget about living on the island and Ty Rue was one of those things. His contagious laughter. His love of life. How he never sat still or focused. He was my antithesis. We had once been perfect for each other. But now a decade separated us, and our love was just a childhood memory. A what if. A could have been.
“Ty tried to call me?” My heart clenched. Even despite the years between us, he still tried to reach out.
Dylan sighed. “This isn’t about past relationships or whatever. This is about Dad. Ty loved him too. Everyone on this island did. We need you, Lyd. Mom needs you. I need you.” Dylan paused and I heard someone in the background sobbing. “God, I can’t believe he’s gone.”
I started frantically shoving papers in my briefcase. I was knee-deep in cases and had deadlines almost every day but I wouldn’t miss my father’s funeral. I just hoped my job understood.
“Of course. I’ll be on the late boat tonight. Will someone be able to pick me up?”
“Yeah. It’ll be me or Ty. Mom’s not doing too well, and I don’t want to leave her alone.”
My mouth went dry at the sound of his name again.
“I don’t know if I can handle seeing Ty so soon.”
Dylan let out a small laugh. “It’s been almost ten years. Everyone’s moved on. We’re adults now, not teenagers falling in love with their brother’s best friend.”
I nodded, even though no one could see it. Of course, he’d moved on. I’d never expected Ty to stay single forever. While I didn’t date, it wasn’t because of Ty. It was because I was married to my job. I had everything I wanted. Yet hearing Ty’s name after all these years still made me weak in the knees. He was, without a doubt, the love of my life. But sometimes you had to sacrifice one thing in order to achieve another. Ty Rune had been my sacrifice.
I may be a tough-as-nails lawyer, but I had a heart, and while I hadn’t been able to get off that godforsaken island fast enough, there were times I missed the ocean breeze, my mother’s home cooking, my father’s laugh and Dylan’s teasing. And the ice cream shop that always gave Ty, Dylan and I double scoops even when we only paid for one. And Ty. There were times I wondered what my life would be like now if we’d stayed together.
“You’re right. I’ll text you when I’m getting in.”
“Okay. I love you, Lyd. I’m sad you’re coming home under these circumstances but I’m excited to see you. It’s been too long.”
“I love you too. We’ll get through this.” The reassurance wasn’t for him as much as it was for myself. I was strong, tough and could handle my emotions well. But nothing could have prepared me for the death of my father. I hadn’t seen any of my family since my law school graduation years ago. My parents had come to Boston to see me walk across the stage. They’d all been so proud, holding up a huge sign with my face on it. My family had never given up on me, even though I pushed them away. I whimpered at the realization that I’d never get to tell my father how thankful I was for having him in my life.
I ended the call with Dylan and my tears took over. Falling to the ground, I sobbed for my father that I’d never get to say “I love you too” to again. For my mother, who’d lost the love of her life. And for my brother, who’d idolized that man more than anything else in the world. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through this without having a full-blown breakdown. But I would be strong, like I always was, for my family. They needed me and I wouldn’t let them down.