Page 49 of Hopeful Hearts

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Yet, there was a familiarity in his tortured eyes that had made her ask the question.

“Don’t you remember me, little Soph?”

It took a few minutes for her brain to kick in before she leapt off the sofa.

“Uncle Austin?”

He didn’t say anything, but she knew from the look that passed between them. He was older, with a thick stubbled jaw and muscles he never had before, but despite all the changes, she knew it was him.

“Oh, my god. What are you doing here? Where did you go? What happened to you?”

“I see you’re still just as inquisitive as you always were.”

She thought she detected a smile, but dismissed the idea when she realised how tight his jaw was locked.

“What brings you back to the bay after all this time? Does everyone know you’re here?”

Her instincts were to throw her arms around him the way she would have last time she saw him, but his tense body language warned her off.

“You, actually, and no.”

“You wanted to see me one last time?”

“I wanted to see you. Not necessarily for the last time.”

“Do you know I’m sick?”

“I do. Your husband called me, but I needed to see it for myself.”

“Everyone’s going to be so happy to see you. Have you seen your parents yet?”

“Our parents,” he shrugged.

“What?” Sophia stared at her uncle. So much had changed for both of them since the last time they were together. She remembered his eighteenth birthday. How could she not? It was her first major event, and he’d let her plan every detail.

At just six years old, she’d had a keen eye for detail far beyond her years and he’d loved the racing car themed party she’d thrown for him. Sophia wondered if he remembered the day as much as she did.

It had sparked her joy of event organising and, after it she planned all the family parties and events, but she’d never planned one as meticulously as she had Austin’s. Partly due to the fact that it was the first time she had been trusted with the responsibility, but mostly because he was her favourite person.

A squeezing pain ached in her chest as she also recalled feeling like a deflated balloon for weeks afterwards when he’d disappeared and she’d been left wondering whether it was because she didn’t do a good enough job.

“Look, I don’t want to be the arsehole that shows up when you're sick and drops a bombshell on you, but if no one else is going to keep it real around here, then I don't have much choice.”

“Will you please stop talking in riddles? If you’ve got something to say, just spit it out.”

Austin swallowed, and she watched his throat bob as he did so, wondering what bombshell had brought him back to the bay.

“Alright, basically I’m your brother.”

Sophia stared back at him and tried to decide if he was drunk or losing his mind.

“No, you’re not, you’re my uncle.”

He shook his head. “They lied to us.”

“Who lied?”

“My parents, your parents, they’re all a pack of liars.”

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