‘I... I’m sorry.’ Using the napkin, Jessie wiped at her tears again.
‘Hey, love. Has something happened?’ Slipping into the chair opposite Jessie, Elsie reached out and took Jessie’s hands in hers. ‘You’re shaking.’
‘I spoke to my sister and my mum yesterday. I think I need to go back home. I’m so sorry to let you down like this.’
‘Oh, love. Don’t apologise to me. You’ve got to do what’s right for you. Are you?’
‘Am I what?’ Jessie shook her head.
‘Are you doing what’s right for you?’
‘I...’ What was right for her? Certainly not staying here and seeing Simon every day. That was for sure. No, going home didn’t feel right, but with her mum and Kelly travelling back now, she might as well too. It made sense and by postponing going home, she was only going to make it trickier. ‘I feel awful. I’ve just been an inconvenience since the moment I came here.’
‘You haven’t, love. And I can promise you, Wendy, Diane, Heidi, Brooke and Teresa would agree with me. You’ve been a wonderful addition to our team. Wendy was only singing your praises yesterday. She was telling me how you’d basically one-handedly saved Claire and Callum’s wedding day by describing to Callum how the barn would look. You’ve been anything but an inconvenience.’
Jessie shrugged. ‘It doesn’t feel like it.’
‘Do you mind if I ask you something?’ Elsie spoke softly.
Jessie shook her head.
‘Are you leaving because you want to, or you feel that’s your duty?’ Elsie passed Jessie a handkerchief from her pocket. ‘It’s clean.’
‘It may sound like a difficult question, but one worth thinking about. Your sister will be fine. Your mum will be fine. Yes, they’ll want you home and they’d appreciate your support, but at the end of the day, this is your life, and you need to think that through. If you are enjoying your time here in the bay, what harm will it do anyone if you stay down here a few more weeks? Everything will still be there when you do go back.’
‘I know, but they need me. Kelly wants me to go home. She needs my support.’
Elsie nodded. ‘And what about you? Do you want to go back?’
Did she? She hadn’t. She’d wanted to stay more than anything in the world. And Elsie was right, all of her problems would still be waiting at home for her. She’d still have to face everything she was running from, but then who had she been kidding? She’d never been able to run from her problems. Thery’d always be there. This was just a brief break away from reality. She didn’t want to go back, but maybe that’s what she needed. She needed to go back and look at her life. Change things she wanted to, so she was as happy in her real life as she had been during this short escape. She shook her head. It just felt like such an impossible task. She didn’t even know where to begin, what to work on first. Besides, after speaking to Simon, it would be easier to go home rather than stay in the bay, knowing he could walk into the bakery at any moment. ‘I need to.’
‘Okay, love. Have you spoken to Simon about this?’
Turning away, Jessie wiped the handkerchief over her cheeks. The fabric was soft against her skin. ‘He’s the one who said I should go.’
A dull burst from a car horn sounded and Jessie slumped her shoulders as she caught sight of her car pulling up outside. Kelly was driving and her mum was sitting in the passenger seat. The irony hadn’t escaped her that they’d drivenhercar down here to pull her from her idyllic escape. ‘I’m sorry, I should go.’ Standing up, she picked up her suitcase. ‘Thank you for everything.’
‘Wait.’ Elsie pushed back her chair, the legs scraping against the tiles, and rushed around to her, bringing her in for a hug. ‘I’m only at the end of the phone, love. Ring or even better visit us, anytime, day or night. We’re all here for you. You’ll be sorely missed, love.’
‘Thank you for making me feel part of all this.’ Stepping away from the hug, Jessie indicated the bakery.
‘You are part of it. You always will be now. Take care.’ Elsie wiped a tear from her cheek.
Nodding, Jessie turned and pulled open the door. It was time.