Things I Never Told You(3)

By: Beth Vogt

The upstairs bathroom was empty, lit only by the flickering flame of a cinnamon-scented candle. Where could Jillian be? A thin band of light shone out from beneath the door of Johanna and Jillian’s former bedroom at the far end of the darkened hallway. Why would my sister be in there? As I moved past my old bedroom, my fingertips brushed the doorknob for a second. I pulled my hand away, balling my fingers into a fist.

I paused outside the bedroom and then rapped my knuckles against the door. “Jillian?”

Nothing . . . and then, “Payton? Do you need me for something?”

Just for her party. I eased the door open, stepping inside. “What are you doing up here? It’s time to open your gifts.”

What had once been Johanna and Jillian’s room was now a generic guest room. At the moment, the only light came from the slender glass lamp on the bedside table. My sisters’ beds had been replaced by a single larger bed covered in a gray-and-white paisley comforter. An idyllic outdoor scene adorned the wall across from the dark oak dresser.

Jillian, who’d been hunched over on the corner of the bed, straightened her shoulders. “I, um, got a phone call and decided to take it in here away from all the noise.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yes. Absolutely.” Jillian’s smile seemed to wobble for the briefest second. “Did you need me for something?”

“Your engagement party? It’s time to dismantle that Jenga tower of gifts in the family room.” I shook my head. “Tsk. And after all the hard work I put in arranging it.”

“Right.” Jillian smoothed her yellow empire-waist sundress down over her hips. “It’s been a wonderful party, Payton.”

“Thank you for saying so, but it’s not over yet.” I touched Jillian’s shoulder. “You’re really okay?”

She nodded so that the ends of her hair brushed against the back of my hand. “Yes. Nothing that won’t wait until Monday.”

I didn’t know why I’d asked. It wasn’t like Jillian would confide in me. We weren’t the “Will you keep a secret?” kind of sisters. “All right then. Why don’t you go find Geoff and I’ll bring you both some dessert? Do you want key lime, classic, or turtle cheesecake?”

Now it was my sister’s turn to shake her head. “I should skip it altogether. We’re going wedding dress shopping soon enough, and I know I’m going to look awful—”

“Oh, stop! Don’t become a weight-conscious bridezilla.” My comment earned the ghost of a laugh from my sister. “What’s wrong?”

“You know Mrs. Kenton?”

“Of course—the family friend who can get away with saying, ‘Oh, Payton, I knew you when . . .’ and does. Every time she sees me. She pull that on you tonight?”

Red stained my sister’s face. “No. She just said—in the nicest way possible, of course—that she hoped I’d lose a few pounds before the wedding.”

“And what did you say?”


Of course she didn’t. “Jillian—”

She waved away my words. “Forget I said anything.”

“It was rude.” And Mrs. Kenton, family friend or not, could forget about ever seeing the recipe she’d requested. “How about I bring you a small slice of each cheesecake? Calories don’t count at engagement parties, you know.”

“Really small slices?”

“I promise. This is a celebration. Your one and only engagement party.”

“You’re right.” Jillian stood, brushing her straight hair away from her face. “Tonight, we celebrate. Tomorrow . . . well, we’re not thinking about that, are we?”

“No, because tomorrow means playing catch-up for me. And prepping for next week.”

And Saturday morning breakfast with my family.

Something else I wasn’t thinking about.

Breakfast at my parents’ always required drinking at least three cups of coffee.

I retrieved the glass coffeepot from the kitchen and brought it to the table, pouring a steady stream of dark liquid fortitude into the Dallas Starbucks mug from one of Dad’s business trips. A trip equaled a coffee mug. Just like everything in the kitchen, the coffeemaker was outdated. Maybe I could convince my sisters to buy our parents a Keurig for Christmas. “Anyone else need a refill?”

Only Dad nodded, moving his faded orange-and-blue Broncos mug closer to me so I could add coffee, the roasted aroma filling the air. After returning the pot to its proper place, I slid into my chair across from Johanna and began sweetening my coffee.