All About After the Rain:
How do you stop being angry at someone when they’re gone?
Kira Shepherd Blair’s older sister Neve died eighteen years ago at River Bend Park, on the night of the 1996 Marietta High School senior prom, and Kira is still mired in feelings she can’t resolve. So much of her life has been shadowed by Neve, from the adolescence she spent banished from the family spotlight because Neve was so greedy for it to the bad marriage she made at twenty-one because she and her parents needed the security and the promise of a future after Neve’s tragic death.
Kira is working to make a good life for herself and her ten-year-old son Jake after her divorce and is finally starting to feel that she’s getting on track, when Neve’s high school boyfriend Casey “Jay” Brown comes back to Marietta and turns everything upside down.
Casey has never known in his heart how much he was to blame for what happened to Neve that night, but when he and Kira are forced to work together at the renowned Haraldsen Architectural Foundation in the foothills of the Absaroka Mountains, she leaves him in no doubt as to her opinion on the issue.
That’s how you stop being angry at someone when they’re gone. You channel your anger into the man you hold responsible, the man who’s right here, no matter how heart-stoppingly gorgeous he is.
“Did you know she’s leaving?” someone said quietly beside her.
Kira turned her head and saw one of the figure skating moms leaning against the rink rail, just a couple of feet away. “Wh - ? You mean - ?”
“Corinne,” the woman confirmed.
“Yes, at the end of the week. You didn’t hear?” The woman leaned a little closer. “Was that your kid she was yelling at? You should say something, make a complaint to the rink management. It wasn’t really his fault. She had no cause to yell at him like that.”
“Yes, Jake is mine. I’m not going to say anything, though. Better if we let it go. But, no, I – I didn’t know Corinne was leaving.” It’s too good to be true. “Are you sure?”
The woman rolled her eyes. “Ohh, yeah. She’s telling everyone loud and clear, “now that it’s official,” quote unquote.”
“Do you know why?”
“I sure do! Alicia’s changing coaches.” The mom named one of the most high profile figure skating coaches in the country. “He’s based in Colorado, and the whole Favell family is moving there for the sake of Alicia’s skating – which, admittedly, is fabulous. But he doesn’t have space in his program right now for her sisters.” She gestured at two younger girls, aged around eleven and nine, as willowy and pretty as their cherry-clad big sister, heads bent as they unfastened their skates. “So Corinne is moving to Colorado so she can keep coaching them.”
“That seems a bit… unexpected.” Although maybe Ryan being in Colorado was a factor also.
Corinne was talking to the mother of the three talented skaters now. For a moment, her voice carried clearly across the rink again. “Her lay-backs were glorious today, Mrs Favell,” she crowed.
“Oh, she’s hitching her wagon to them, is what she’s doing,” the other mother said, “hoping they can raise her own coaching profile, if they’re talented enough. I’ll just bet she’s going to fawn over Alicia’s new coach like a dog slobbering a tennis ball.”
“Sounds as if you don’t like her that much,” Kira let herself say. Normally, she kept a tight control on anything she said to anyone about her ex-husband’s ex-wife, but today her simmering anger and the protectiveness she fought so hard not to give into had made her less cautious.
“Well, do you? She just yelled at your son, when he was sitting on the ice with a cut lip and a bruised butt, and when it was Alicia’s fault, and Corinne’s, just as much. The figure skaters had already been asked to leave the ice.”
“I have to admit, no, I’m not a big fan of Corinne.”
The woman laughed. “Nobody is, unless they’re important enough for her to suck up to, and then they think she’s wonderful, because she puts so much effort into making sure that they do. Sorry, I’m being a bitch, but my daughter and I aren’t even a blip on her radar, because my daughter’s not an “elite athlete,” she just does this for fun, instead of, like, to conquer the entire known universe, like the Favell girls, which means I get to see from the sidelines what she’s really like.”
Kira said, “I – I think I get to see it, too.” For different reasons.
“Mom?” said the woman’s daughter. She had her skates in their special bag, and a pretty jacket pulled over her practice clothes. With dark blonde hair and a dusting of freckles, she was a pretty girl, like Alicia, but not built nearly so much like an athlete or a dancer.
“Oh, you’re ready, hon?”
The teenager rolled her eyes. “For, like, fifteen minutes.”
“Which is a little weird, since you were still on the ice five minutes ago.”
“Love your attention to detail, Mom.”
The ribbing was good-natured on both sides. They went, with the mother turning to give Kira a quick wave and smile on the way. They’d become conspirators and almost friends during the short conversation, the way women sometimes could even when their paths never crossed again.
Corinne is leaving. Woot, woot, woot!
Kira felt like a teenager, too. The bitchiness of gossiping about Corinne with the other mom, and the relief of knowing her ex’s ex would soon be gone from the rink both felt like very adolescent states of mind. Petty and exaggerated and out of proportion. Things used to seem like that to her all the time at fourteen. Important. Terrible. Impossible. Wonderful.
Right now, wonderful took center stage.
She really is leaving. I can celebrate. How do I do that? With champagne?
Lilian Darcy is a five-time Rita™ Award nominee who has written over eighty romances for Harlequin, as well as several mainstream novels. She has also written for Australian theatre and television under another name, and has received two award nominations for Best Play from the Australian Writers Guild. In 1990 she was the co-recipient of an Australian Film Institute award for best TV mini-series.