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The Shop on Main(2)

By:Kay Correll

She sighed. It wasn’t like her to feel sorry for herself, and to be honest, she didn’t. She loved her adorable boys. Loved the shop. Loved the feeling of making it on her own. Things were what they were. She pulled out of the long driveway and headed over for a much needed girls' night with her friends.

~ * ~

Owen Campbell stood under the live oak tree at the edge of the yard. The lawn was teeming with children of all ages. And dogs. Lots of dogs. More dogs than he’d ever seen in one place at one time.

He stood in the shade, avoiding the humid sunshine as much as possible. He tugged at the collar of his long sleeve button-down shirt. He’d at least rolled up the sleeves, but he lusted after a pair of shorts about now instead of his neatly pressed khakis.

He hadn’t known he’d be invited to a family barbecue. A big family barbecue. Two long tables lined the side of the yard and were filled with every kind of food imaginable. Twin little girls crawled in and out from under the tables. More tables were scattered around the yard and filled with people laughing, talking, and eating, along with a fair measure of spilling. The passel of dogs was helpful in that regard, not a scrap of food stayed on the ground for long.

He glanced over toward his half-brother, Jake. Owen was jealous of the easy way Jake moved through the throng of family—scooping up a little girl and twirling her around, drying the tears and replacing the fallen ice cream scoop of a dark-haired little boy, grabbing a glass of lemonade for an elderly lady sitting at the head of a table.

Jake hadn’t really wanted Owen to come to the barbecue, that much had been obvious when he extended the reluctant invitation. Jake’s mother had insisted Owen come because she wanted to meet him.

He saw the family members glancing his way, wondering who this friend of Jake’s was, and why he was here at their barbecue. Owen scuffed his loafers in the dusty soil beneath the tree. A puff of dirt covered his black leather shoes.

Oh, they’d all been nice enough to him, in an obvious you’re-an-outsider kind of way. Jake had just introduced him as Owen. Nothing more. Nothing less. The family had accepted that with only the occasional curious glance his direction.

Owen studied Jake’s face from a distance. He could see a resemblance to his father—their father—in Jake’s face. It’s what he imagined his father would have looked like if the man had ever once in his life relaxed. Jake had his father’s eyes too, just like Owen.

Owen searched for other signs of himself in Jake, but saw none. No mannerisms, nothing that would make anyone think they were brothers. Jake had a larger frame but moved with athletic grace. From what Owen could tell, Jake was one of those people who always fit in, could always hold his own.

He’d only met Jake two months ago when he’d come to Comfort Crossing to find him, the brother he’d never known existed until he'd come across an old file in his father’s desk mentioning a possible son in Mississippi. Possible? What the heck did that mean?

Owen had hired a private investigator, then later he had flown to New Orleans and rented a car to drive to this small town near the coast of Mississippi. Their first meeting had been awkward, to say the least. Jake, it seemed, had always known about their father. He wasn’t much interested in having any relationship with Owen. Jake made that perfectly clear.

So here Owen was back in Comfort Crossing, trying again. Where he now found himself baking in the stifling heat on a spring day with record breaking high temperatures.

He watched while his brother talked to a woman sitting at a table, then helped her rise. She rested a hand on Jake’s arm as they crossed the distance to the shade where Owen was standing.

“This is my mother, Sylvia Landry.” Jake glanced at Owen with a warning look in his eyes.

Owen held out his hand. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Landry.”

The woman stared at him for a moment, then slowly reached out her hand to touch his face. It took everything in his power to keep from flinching. She might as well have slapped him. She dropped her hand to her side.

“You look so much like your father.” Her voice was low with a melodious Southern drawl to it.

Owen cleared his throat. “You think so?” He didn’t see it, maybe refused to see it. He wanted to be nothing like his father.

“You have his eyes, just like Jake. But you’re more like him. Same build. Same chin.”

The woman’s eyes burned into him, scorching him with shame… his father’s shame.

“I hear he passed away last year. I’m sorry for your loss.”

He never knew what to answer to that remark. He’d sound like a callous jerk if he said it wasn’t much of a loss, that they’d never been close. The man had never been a father, not really. But instead, as usual, he just nodded.