Thirty-One and a Half RegretsBy: Denise Grover Swank
While Bruce Wayne had been making progress at becoming a productive member of society, David had been making strides of his own. He’d been working at the Piggly Wiggly since Bruce Wayne’s trial for murder three months ago, longer than most jobs he’d held.
Sure enough, I found him stocking a shelf with cereal. He stood bolt upright when he saw me, a box of Cap’n Crunch shaking in his hand. “Rose, what are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for you.”
The color drained from his face. He put the box on the shelf.
“I stopped by your house a little while ago to bring Bruce Wayne some chicken soup and apple pie. Imagine my surprise when he wasn’t home.”
David picked up another box, his hand shaking so badly the cereal inside rattled. “Maybe he went to the doctor after all.”
I put my hand on my hip. “Was he plannin’ on spending a really long time in the waiting room? ’Cause it looks like he took most of his clothes with him.”
He threw the box down and took off running.
He headed for the back exit and I followed him out the door, cornering him on the loading dock.
He turned to face me, wide-eyed. “I didn’t want to do it.”
“Do what?” I took a breath and held up my hands in surrender. “It’s okay, David. Just tell me where he is. I want to help him.”
He shook his head. “The best way you can help him is to let this go.”
None of this made any sense. My voice broke. “I don’t understand. Why did he leave?”
“I don’t know for sure. He was gone when I got home from work last night. I called you this morning to cover for him. In case he came back. If his parole officer finds out…”
“I know,” I said, the words full of worry.
David squared his shoulders. “Are you goin’ to turn him in?”
I shook my head. “No. I don’t want him to get into trouble. I want to help, but I can’t do that if I don’t know where he went and why. He wasn’t sick, was he?”
“So where was he instead of working?”
“All I know is that for the last few days he’s been leavin’ early in the morning and only coming home to sleep. And then last night, he didn’t come home at all. The other day I asked him where he was goin’, ’cause I knew he was calling in sick to work, but he insisted that I didn’t want to know. I could tell he was scared.”
“Scared of what?”
Pressing his lips together, he shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“If you hear from him, promise to call me immediately. Okay?”
“Please, David. I’m worried sick.”
“Okay.” He nodded. I could tell from the look in his eyes that he was worried too, which only made me feel worse.
“Thanks.” I headed out to my car and called Neely Kate. When she didn’t answer, I left a message telling her what I’d found out. I was deep in thought when I pulled up to the nursery, unsure what to do about Bruce Wayne. I grabbed my drawings from the truck and headed for the back to work up some estimates.
Violet was standing behind the register, but she came around the end of the counter when she saw me. “Rose, I need to tell you something.”
I stopped and blinked. “Okay.”
“I got a phone call yesterday, from the Arkansas Small Business Administration. They’ve presented us with a wonderful opportunity.”
“Oh, that sounds great.” I swiped some loose hairs from my face, my mind still stuck on Bruce Wayne. “What is it?”
“Well…” She twisted her hands in front of her, looking at the floor. “They want to feature our business. We’ll be part of a press conference and they’ll post a story about us on their website. And they’ve promised to give us that grant I applied for, the one that will let us expand into the lot next door like we’ve been talking about.”
I dropped my defenses and gave her my full attention. The grant meant I wouldn’t have to come up with the extra cash. “That sounds great, Vi. Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?”
“Well, there’s a catch.”
My back stiffened. “What is it?”
“The presentation is part of a campaign stop.”
“Joe’s?” A band constricted around my chest and I fought to take a breath. It couldn’t be.
She cringed and her words rushed out. “When I agreed, I told them you wouldn’t be here. That’s why I didn’t mention it yesterday. I didn’t want to hurt you. But they called back today and said we both had to be present. And if we’re not, we won’t get the grant.”