She met his gaze. He still had those beautiful chocolate brown eyes he’d had as a boy. He wore his hair shorter these days, with the very first few grey hairs. Life couldn’t have been all that easy on him. Although he had his father’s rugged looks, everything in his appearance screamed money. The clothes, his watch, the way he moved, and the English accent was clean as well. The stubble on his face was the only thing that showed neglect, but she assumed that was still a leftover from the travel.
… and a few more …
A small sigh escaped her when she noticed that her girl crush was still in full swing. Although it shouldn’t have been. After all, he’d been on her mind often, at least while going out with a man. She rolled her eyes at herself at the idea of comparing her date with a six-year-old boy. No wonder she’d still been single.
“The doctors have given him six months, but he’s very stubborn and doesn’t take his medication.” She hitched a shoulder. “I suppose any time.”
The way he spoke made Emily think there was also a slight pain in his voice. Another dead end in the conversation.
The first raindrops fell, and she checked her watch.
“I’d better be going. I’ll be back on Wednesday.”
Connor said his thanks before Emily turned to leave. She was startled, though, by Jack’s expression. The sadness stored from over twenty years was obvious in that moment. He must’ve heard their conversation, and she thought back on what had been said.
Connor nodded. “Sure. Just give me a bit longer to settle in.”
Disappointed, she assented. And understood. After all, he’d only stepped off a plane after twenty-four hours two days ago, to see his father for the first time in such a long time. “No worries. I let the boys know. Skye moved away a few years ago.”
His look told her that the name didn’t ring a bell, either.
As soon as Jack had told Emily earlier in the week that Connor was coming to Fermosa Bay, her whole body had reacted. She’d laughed at herself for still having a crush on him, but even at the tender age of six years, he’d been the love of her life. They’d spent hours at the beach, searching for shells, building sand castles, or swimming in the sea. The famous five of Fermosa Bay, as they had been called: Emily, Connor, Ethan, Niall, and Skye.
Then there’d been the accident, and she’d never seen Connor again until today.
The simple touch of her hand on his shoulder brought back all the memories and the fun they’d had.
Yet, it seemed they were only memories for her. The fun and mischief were nowhere to be seen in his eyes. Standing in front of her, he seemed distant and withdrawn. The constant grin he’d worn on his face was gone.
She tried hard to put on a smile. “I’m sure the others would love to catch up with you. How about a drink at the pub tomorrow night?”
Jane, Connor’s mother, opposed the idea of him travelling to the other end of the world, but something inside him yearned to find out more about his paternal family. At the same time, it scared the hell out of him.
He crossed one foot over the other and spread his arms wide on the railing. “I’ve taken a year off work.” With a shrug, he added, “I suppose a few months. See how I go.”
Emily stepped closer and when she placed her hand on his shoulder, an unexpected jolt went through him. “Are you all right?”
When he’d received Jack’s phone call, telling him he was his father, Connor had thrown words at him he’d immediately regretted before hanging up without listening to anything Jack had to say. Thank God, Jack had been persistent and called again the next day. Consumed with curiosity, he listened for half an hour, making notes. Jack had provided him with all the details, date of birth, name, and even provided him with a copy of his birth certificate and a few photos via email afterwards.
Three hours later, his mother had confirmed Jack’s claim to be his father. It’d been a tumultuous few weeks. They’d talked a couple of times on the phone, and finally Jack had told him about his terminal cancer and the real reason for finding him: he had invited Connor to Fermosa Bay to spend some time with him.
He’d been barely over seven years old when he and his mother had left Australia and made their new home in London. There were vague memories in the back of his mind about the first days in school in London. He’d been the newcomer and learnt quickly to adapt and make new friends. He and his mother had lived with his grandparents until she had found a job and had been able to afford a small apartment.
Squeezing his eyes shut, Connor was desperate for the slightest bit of memory.
But he came up empty.
“Your dad appreciates that you’ve come here.”
Connor shot around and met Emily’s gaze. For a brief moment, he lost himself in her eyes, inhaling the subtle scent of her perfume. He had no idea how to reply to her comment, so he turned back to watch the virga above the sea.
Suddenly the humorous expression on her face changed, but he couldn’t figure out what she was thinking. It bugged him that he wasn’t able to remember anything from his childhood here in Australia, but it annoyed him even more to see the disbelief in these two. The next few weeks were going to be a steep learning curve about his past. She stared at him for a long moment. Although he wasn’t coy when it came to women, it made him uncomfortable, and he turned to look out across the ocean again. There was a big container ship on the horizon, moving along at snail’s pace. It was barely visible in the distance, despite being near the coast. Closing his eyes, he compared himself to a ship in the ocean, so close to everyone, yet out of everyone’s reach as he once again wondered what had happened. Or why he was here, at the other end of the world, twenty-four flight hours away, about nine time zones ahead of his family back in England.
His father’s and Emily’s voices were distant as Connor tried his hardest to remember anything about this place. Remember somebody called Ethan or Niall. But he came up with nothing. Zilch.
Not even the mention of a kiss triggered any memories.