Chapter no 36 – Noah

When in Rome

The bell above The Pie Shop door chimes as I step through just like it has every day since Amelia left three days ago. The door shuts behind me and I stand in the silence feeling acute loneliness for the first time in my life.

I used to revel in this quiet. Crave it. Now all I crave is her.

I miss her laugh. Her eyes. The curve of her smile, the feel of her skin, and even her shitty pancakes. What I wouldn’t give for a whole stack of them today. She left a message on my machine yesterday saying she was going into a meeting for the tour and she asked me to call her when I got in to work today, but I can’t bring myself to call her yet because I hate the distance I feel between us over the phone. I’m going to have to stay busy over the next nine months to get through them.

This morning, I plan to work myself to the bone here at the shop, and then I’ll go check on my grandma for lunch. I’ll come back to work this afternoon and stay open late, and then maybe Mabel has some chores I can do for her. The fence outside her inn could use a fresh coat of paint. Annie’s truck probably needs an oil change. Maybe I’ll run for town mayor.

“Wow, you look like shit,” says Emily after coming into the shop behind me. I grunt. I’m so depressed, I don’t even have any surly comebacks.

“Noah, I mean it, you look terrifying.”

“Heard you the first time,” I say, aggressively wiping down the countertops.

“Have you talked to Amelia today?”

I move to the high-top table and practically sand it down with how hard I clean it. “Nope.”

“Are you going to call her later?” Why is she suddenly so interested in my phone schedule?


Emily watches as I throw the rag onto the floor and use my shoe to scrub a stubborn stain. “Annie said when she was over at your house the other night, Amelia called and you let it go to your machine.”

I shrug because I really don’t feel like having this conversation with her right now.

Emily puts her hand on my arm and tugs me back when I try to pass her. “Hey, stop for a second. We need to talk.”

“Fine. But I don’t want to talk about Amelia.” My eyes are fixed on the wall across the room. I won’t look at my sister. I’m grumpy, and all my emotions are one tick away from boiling over and I don’t want her to be the one to absorb them if they do.

“Tough, you’re going to. Sit down.” She points to the high-top table. I don’t budge because I feel like being defiant. “Now,” she barks and I snap into motion, because damn, that woman is scary when she’s serious.

Emily doesn’t wait for my ass to fully warm the barstool before she cuts right through my heart with a butcher knife. “Amelia is gone for the next nine months.”

I swallow and glare at her. “Yes, thank you, Captain Obv


“She’s gone…” Emily presses on. “Now what are you

going to do about it?”

I snap my mouth shut because I wasn’t expecting that question. What does she mean what am I going to do about it? What is there to do about it? Amelia’s tour starts tomorrow and she’ll call me when she gets settled on the bus. From then on out, we’ll play phone tag for weeks on end until she finally gets sick of the hassle I cause her and breaks up with me. (We didn’t plan that last one but I’m fairly certain that’s what will happen.)

“Nothing. I’m staying here in Rome and taking care of everything and everyone while she’s on tour. I should think you of all people would be happy to hear that.” Emily grimaces like I punched her. And maybe I sort of did. This is why I didn’t want to talk to her about this. My reflexes are set to destroy. “I’m sorry…” I sigh heavily and run my hands through my hair. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No, don’t be sorry. You’re right, and that’s part of why I’m here.” She pauses and inhales deeply, exhales, then says, “I haven’t been fair to you—or to the girls. You and I are old enough to remember Mom and Dad and what they were like. We are old enough to remember exactly what it felt like that day when we got the call about them. And so we know exactly where our trauma comes from, whereas the girls feel it, but don’t always know why.”

My gut twists painfully. And when Emily’s eyes start filling with tears, it’s all I can do to not push this barstool out from under me and take off running. All I want is to escape pain, but it always finds me.

“I’ve realized recently that I accepted my trauma and decided to live within its bounds so I didn’t get hurt more.

It was easiest to know that I’m afraid of losing anyone and to not let them out of my sight because of it. But now I’m seeing that I’ve been more comfortable with the cost to everyone around me. Madison…” Emily pushes out a painful breath and shuts her eyes tightly. “Madison wanted so badly to go away to culinary school and I talked her out of it. She’s in a teaching job she hates because of me and my fears. Annie is so devoted to me that she hasn’t even considered the possibility of ever leaving this town, and I’m afraid she’ll never dream big now. And you…” A tear leaks down her cheek. I cover her hand with mine.

“And you have carried your own hurt as well as all of ours ever since you had to grow up at ten years old, and it’s not fair, Noah. And the one time you did let yourself really feel again, Merritt exploited it. And then, I did, too. When you came to help with Grandma, I should have been there for you and encouraged you to get back out there. To not give up on love. But instead, I used your hurt to my advantage to keep you close to us so that I could feel safer. But it’s time for both of us to stop padding our lives so we don’t feel bumps in the road anymore. I think we’ll get hurt a lot in this life, but maybe it’s worth it because sometimes we will experience really amazing things, too. Maybe not everything will end in hurt. But we’ll never know if we don’t try.”

I laugh incredulously as I squeeze Emily’s hand, threatening my own damn tears not to fall. “You came to this life-changing conclusion yourself?”

She smiles a little guiltily. “Did I mention that I also started going to a therapist the day after I blew up at you over dinner?”

“No. But I’m proud of you, Em.”

“Don’t be proud of me yet. I might never go back. That woman does open heart surgery in her office and it’s painful as hell.”

We both laugh before Emily’s expression softens again. “You love Amelia, but I can tell you’re already giving up because you’re scared to death of her being the one to do it first. Don’t push her away and become unreachable because you’re afraid to lose her.”

Damn. She’s right. I am doing that.

“You love her, Noah. Give your relationship everything you’ve got. Really go for it, and make her a priority instead of keeping yourself unattached in case you get hurt.”

“How? She’s going to be all around the world for nine months.”

Emily laughs. “They make these things called airplanes. And if you decide to use one, we’ll be here to cover for you while you’re away. We know how to take care of Grandma just as well as you do. And we’ll make sure the shop runs smoothly, too. Go spend some time with her on tour. Don’t let your breaks apart be so long.”

“You’d really be okay with me leaving town more often?” “I’ll get used to it. Don’t worry about me so much.”

Emily stands and leans over to kiss my forehead. “Also, stop being a grumpy ass and get a cell phone. And Wi-Fi while you’re at it so you can text and send pictures. It’ll help a lot.”

I grumble even though I’m thankful for her input. “I love you, Noah.”

“Love you, too.” And now, I need to say those words to Amelia again face-to-face.

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