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‘No. Yes. Yes, I tricked you, but for good reason. I needed to talk to you. I needed to hear your voice.’

Jessie tapped the heel of her foot up and down against the slabs beneath her. Here it was again. Kelly being Kelly. Everything was about her. Kelly had needed to talk to her. What about Jessie? What if she hadn’t wanted to hear from her sister? If she had, she would have answered her calls and her messages without being tricked into it.

‘I need to speak to you.’

It was always about Kelly. It always had been. Holding the phone at arm’s length, she clicked the End Call button. Placing her mobile on the wooden table in front of her, she watched as a couple and two children made their way down the hill towards the beach; the two children ran ahead, dancing and skipping as they went, obviously excited to be off to the beach at this time of the evening. The two parents meandered slowly behind them, caught in a bubble of conversation.

The two children paused opposite the pub, the older one grasping the younger one by the hand, waiting for their parents until they were told it was safe to cross. She used to do that with Kelly, hold her hand, make sure she was safe. When they’d become teenagers and the age gap had naturally seemed to diminish, they’d had each other’s back; Kelly had covered for Jessie when she’d sneaked out of the house to meet friends. Jessie had been there for Kelly when her first boyfriend had broken her heart at the age of fourteen. They’d been there for each other.

Pulling the sleeve of her cardigan over her hand, she dried the tears from her cheeks before clasping her hands in front of her.

‘Jessie, are you okay?’

Closing her eyes, she relaxed at the touch of Simon’s hand on her shoulder and nodded. She couldn’t very well tell him she’d had words with her sister, or more accurately, not had words with her. It wouldn’t be fair. He’d lost his brother. ‘All good.’

Perching on the bench next to her, he looked at her, reaching across and using the pad of his thumb to wipe a tear from her cheek. ‘No, it’s not. You’re crying.’

‘Sorry. I...’

‘You can tell me. If you want to, that is.’

‘I do. I just...’ She shifted position. How could she tell him? She still had her sister, and she was grateful for that. She was.

‘Is this about your sister? If so, you can talk to me about it.’

Biting her bottom lip, she looked at him. It wasn’t fair. Not for him. But would it be more unfair not to tell him, not to let him in? ‘Yes.’

‘She rang you?’

Jessie nodded. ‘She said she wanted to talk.’

‘And you don’t?’

Slowly, she shook her head. ‘No. I don’t know. I know I need to speak to her at some point.’ She looked across at the family, still making their way down the hill, and nodded towards the two girls. ‘I miss that.’ As soon as she’d said it, a wave of regret washed over her, and she grasped Simon’s hand in hers. ‘I’m so sorry. That was so insensitive. I shouldn’t have said that.’

Twisting his body so they faced each other, Simon took her other hand in his. ‘Jessie, yes, I’ve lost my brother and I miss him every day, but that doesn’t make what you’re going through any less important. You have every reason to miss her and what you had, and you can talk to me about it. I’m not going to break every time you mention your sister.’

She nodded.

‘Really.’ Taking both his hands, he ran his thumbs across her cheeks again before tracing the outline of her jaw and hooking his finger under her chin. ‘You have just as much right to talk about her as you ever did. It’s a rubbish situation you’re in and I understand, I expect you to have mixed feelings about her.’ Leaning forward, he placed his lips against hers, transferring his warmth to her.

‘Thank you.’ She looked back towards the road. The family had gone now, although she could still hear laughter in the distance. ‘I put the phone down on her and I feel rubbish. She needs my support right now, but I’m just not sure if I’m ready to give it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be. She’s pregnant with my ex’s baby and all I feel is anger and jealously.’ She took a juddering breath in. ‘That’s stupid, isn’t it? To feel jealous when she’s in the situation she is. But I’d always wanted a baby and Brad, my ex, had always been set against the idea of having kids. Completely against it. I’d accepted it, I’d had to. And then my sister gets together with him for a matter of months, and, bam, she’s pregnant.’

‘It’s natural to feel that way.’

‘It doesn’t feel natural. I’m jealous that my sister is pregnant and alone.’ She laughed, a hollow laugh which escaped her throat. ‘I’m jealous.’ There, she’d said it. She’d spoken her innermost thoughts. What would he think of her now?

‘Do you think he’ll get used to the idea?’

‘I don’t know. There’s no second-guessing Brad. He might, or equally, he might just bury his head in the sand and want nothing to do with any of it, pregnancy, baby.’ She shrugged. ‘It must be really daunting for Kelly, and I know, as her sister, I should be there for her, but I just don’t know if I’m strong enough.’

‘How would you feel if she got back with him?’

She frowned and stubbed the toe of her sandal against the slab beneath her. ‘It would be weird, but I don’t know. Yes, it would be strange and possibly a reminder of her betrayal, but I don’t want to be with him anymore, so maybe I’d get used to it?’

‘What are you going to do?’

‘Nothing. I just want us to go back in and enjoy ourselves. I’ll think about it a bit more tomorrow.’ Slapping her knees, she stood up. ‘You must think I’m a terrible person.’

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