A woman came to the door, wearing an apron over her T-shirt and jeans. The apron didn't do much to hide her pregnancy; in fact, it seemed to accentuate her growing belly. "Hi there," she said. "I'm June. Are you the Robinsons? I wasn't expecting you- I thought you'd cancelled your reservation." She looked back and forth between River and me.
"No," River said and she looked at me for a moment and I thought she was about to turn around and bail. What the hell was she going to do here in West Bend anyway? But then she answered. "We're not the Robinsons. Actually, I just wanted to see if you had any availability."
June looked back and forth between the two of us again. She paused for a moment, her eyes narrowing, and for a second I had the irrational fear that she recognized me.
But the moment passed, and June held open the screen door, beckoning us inside. Inside, the ranch house was painted in white and blue, the hardwood floors gleaming. It was a nice place, and I was glad that this was the place where June lived now. I was glad that my family wasn't responsible for destroying her entire life.
I was happy she had this, even though I didn't know her. I was too young back then, back when it all happened.
A kid, I wasn't sure how old, a couple years maybe, came toddling across the room on unsteady feet and June scooped him up in her arms. "What are you doing, little Stan?" She asked. "Did your daddy lose track of you?"
"Nope, I'm right behind him," a voice called out, and a man rounded the corner, dressed in faded blue jeans and a T-shirt, his arms covered in tattoos. I immediately recognized one of the tattoos as the identifying mark of a Marine Corps sniper. I was pretty sure that was Cade. I was young when all the shit happened, just a toddler, but I knew of Cade from later on, by reputation. I knew he'd been injured in the Marines, gotten a Silver Star.
I hoped he didn't know who the hell I was.
“Afternoon,” Cade said. “You all visiting West Bend?”
“I am,” River said. “He’s come h-”
I interrupted her. “Just visiting.”
River gave me a weird look.
“You know, you look so familiar,” June said. “I bet you get this all the time, but you look like that girl from the movies, the one in all those romantic comedies, you know who I’m talking about, Cade?”
Cade rolled his eyes. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m real big on the romantic comedies.”
“She’s married to that rock star, Viper Gabriel. Or getting married or something,” June said. “River - that’s it. River Something. It's on the tip of my tongue. The pregnancy is making me stupid lately, can't remember anything.”
River laughed. “Can you keep a secret?” she asked.
June leaned forward. “Of course.”
“I totally met her once,” she said.
“Did you?” June asked. “Are you from California or something?”
River shook her head. “Nope,” she said. “But I traveled out there.” She handed June a credit card and ID. I wondered if they had her real name on them, or if they were fakes.
June took her card to her laptop, talking the whole time. “Was she nice? She seems like she’d be nice."
River smiled. "I thought she was nice," she said. "Although some people seem to have mixed feelings about her."
I cleared my throat to cover my laugh, and River glanced at me. June didn't seem to notice.
"I have king size beds and a smaller room with just a twin," June said. "Is king size okay?"
"If it's open, I'd like to rent the house."
June paused, River's card in her hand, mid-movement. "The whole house?"
"If you have other guests, of course I understand," River said. "I don't want you to move anything. But if not, I'd like to just rent all the rooms you'd otherwise rent out."
June's brow furrowed, and I could feel Cade's eyes burrowing into the back of my head. They had to be thinking we had just stolen a credit card or something.
June looked at River for a long minute. "That's five bedrooms," she said.
River nodded, seeming completely at ease under the scrutiny. "That's perfect," she said.
June finally broke her gaze and nodded. "I think the next whole week was free except for the Robinson's," she said. "Tourist season is winter here, so things are slow right now. How long are you staying?"
“I’ll probably be here a few days, depending on things."
June clicked a few things on her laptop, and then looked up at us. "I guess the whole house would be fine then."
"Good," River said. "That's settled. Is there someplace I can rent a car?”
“Didn’t you two drive up in -” June asked, then stopped, distracted. “I forgot to even ask your name.”
River’s mouth opened, and I jumped in before she could say anything. “E,” I said. “Friends just call me E.”
It wasn’t true. Nobody f**king called me E.
“Well, let me give you a tour of the place - and Cade here can help you with your bags if you need help,” June said.