Shocking. Disgusting. Deceitful. That's how some might have described Daniel Revelstoke's behavior even before he fell in love with his first cousin.
Previously a don't-tie-me-down Don-Juan type, Daniel doesn't know Julie is his long-lost cousin when he meets her and starts trying to lure her away from her long-distance boyfriend. And by the time his mum drops the family-relation bombshell in his lap, he already loves Julie and it's too late to switch off his feelings. But dishonest habits die hard. He reckons if he can keep Julie from finding out they're related—just a little longer—he runs a better chance of winning her over. He's never loved anyone before, and if she's the one, she's worth a little deceit. Love can do dangerous things to your head. And worse things to your family.
"Daniel, I'll miss you so much!"
Miriam's tears and saliva soaked through my shirt, creating a wet patch on my neck. Bloody hell, now I'd be wearing mascara on my collar all the way to America.
"It's all right." I went back to puzzling out what I was forgetting. I just knew there was something. Passport? I pulled one hand out of our hug and slapped my coat pocket. No, there it was.
Heathrow's other travelers threw us glances. Some people looked sympathetic; others smirked. Couldn't blame them. I'm sure we looked ridiculous. "Come on, don't cry," I said.
"I can't help it. The last three weeks have been some of the best in my life."
"Yeah." Was it my mobile I was forgetting? No, of course – it was already gone. It wasn't going to work in America. My parents and I would get new ones over there.
"It's not fair," Miriam went on. "Having to be separated so soon."
"I know." Maybe it was that thing I'd read about the cougars. Oregon had cougars, not to mention rattlesnakes, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Really, what kind of developed country has cougars running loose? Still, I wasn't likely to find cougars on a university campus, so what the hell was bothering me?
My gaze cut to my parents, who kept their distance and pretended they weren't watching us. Dad looked at his watch, then at me. He raised his eyebrows, and scrunched his mouth into a regretful line.
Miriam lifted her face. Her eyes were red, making the gray irises look bluer than usual, and her eye makeup was smeared – all over my shirt. "I guess you have to catch your flight."
"Yeah." I made a smile of regret similar to my father's. I touched the sparkly moth-shaped clip in her hair. She was always wearing stupid clips in the shape of bugs. "Better go."
She nodded, and gulped down more mucus. I looked away and tried to remember if I had cleared out all the dirty magazines from the hollow space behind my wardrobe. Yeah, I had made sure of that. Wouldn't want the people who moved into our house to find those.
Miriam took a shuddering breath. "I love you."
All my muscles seized up. I stared at her for a second as if she had turned into a rattlesnake before my eyes. My mind screamed: Retreat! Retreat!
I stooped to grab my carry-on and took two steps backward. "Listen, babe, it's been so much fun."
She twisted her jumper sleeve in her hands. "You don't have to answer. I know it's not your usual thing with girls. Love, I mean. Any serious attachment. I just, I wanted to say it." She bowed her head, staring at her shoes.
I cast a glance around in desperation. My parents held my gaze this time. Mum tipped her head toward the gate in a "Let's go" signal.
"Look," I said, "I can't talk about this right now. Our flight..."
"I know." Miriam took her Underground ticket from her jeans pocket, and acted very interested in reading it. She wiped her eyes. "Suppose I should catch my train back."
I'm no idiot. I knew she was hoping I would sweep her into my embrace, give her a long movie-style goodbye kiss, and tell her I would never forget a single moment of my time with her. But that would be a lie. And while ordinarily I didn't mind lying to help spread the rumor that I was charming, today my mind was short-circuiting. Your last few minutes on English soil for who knows how long, mate. Any last words? Forgetting anything?
Nothing came to mind. Whatever I was forgetting, it wished to stay forgotten. I hoisted my luggage onto my shoulder, and advanced the two steps necessary to peck Miriam on the cheek. "Goodbye....