(The next afternoon)
Kathleen's breath caught in her chest as she stood in front of Fox Books. She'd experienced this feeling before; the feeling of losing someone you love so deeply. She never thought anything would hurt worse than losing her mother.
The idea that she was responsible for losing Joe hurt Kathleen deeper than she thought was possible.
She should just leave. It was a mistake to try and win him back, even knowing that Nelson had written the article.
Joe would never forgive her. She doubted his trust and wasn't trust the very foundation of a relationship?
Swallowing hard, she entered the store, which was bustling with customers who pushed their way past her, as though she were invisible.
And right now she wished she were.
In a daze, she approached the information booth where a boy was typing something on the computer.
"Can I help you, lady?" he asked, startling her with his tone.
She glanced at his name tag; Stephen.
He couldn't have been more than seventeen and clearly wasn't happy to be there.
Stephen wouldn't have lasted long in her store. A bookseller for The Shop around the Corner not only had to have a love for children and books, but a genuine appreciation for people in general. She wondered what credentials Fox Books had used in hiring this kid.
Quickly she pushed the thought from her mind.
Stop it Kathleen.
The Shop around the Corner is gone.
The realization made her heart ache again and she willed the hurt away. When would this pain end?
"Did you need something, lady?" Stephen snapped, starling her out of her thoughts.
"Um, yes... I was looking for Joe Fox."
"Joe Fox?" Stephen replied, as though she had spoken a foreign language.
"Yes. Do you know where he is?"
"He's gone." Stephen said, much too harshly.
"Oh... Well, do you know when he'll be back, because I really need to talk to-."
"He left town." Stephen interrupted.
Kathleen's heart sank. Of course he left town; probably to get as far away from her as possible.
Tears welled in her eyes and she had to fight to keep them at bay.
"Thank you." She said, but no sound came out.
Taking one last look around the store, she turned and headed for the exit.
She stopped abruptly at the familiar voice.
No... It couldn't be...
Slowly she turned around.
To Kathleen's surprise, he actually seemed happy to see her.
"I thought you were out of town."
"Out of town? Where did you hear that?"
Kathleen pointed to Stephen, who quickly averted his eyes; a sure sign that he'd been eavesdropping.
"Right..." Joe said. When he rolled his eyes, Kathleen couldn't help but smile.
"Well, I... I guess I should be heading home." She pushed the door open and stepped outside.
His hand touched her shoulder, and she looked up at the ceiling, trying desperately to keep her tears from falling.
"I-I really have to go."
Slowly he turned her toward him. When she looked into his eyes, a lone tear escaped and she fought back a sob.
"Can we go somewhere and talk?" Joe whispered, as he brushed the tear from her cheek.
"Mmmm hmmm..." was all she could manage to say.
He nodded at Stephen. "I'm gonna be out for a while, so if anyone calls, foreword them to my cell phone, okay?"
"Sure thing." Stephen nodded, never taking his eyes off of the computer screen.
Joe returned his attention to Kathleen and took her hand. "Come on."
They walked hand in hand out of the store and down the sidewalk until they came to a familiar spot;
The 91st Street Garden.
Joe led her to a bench and sat down beside her. They turned to each other, both of them speaking at once.
Laughing at the coincidence, they shyly looked away.
"You first." Joe said.
"I-I'm sorry." Kathleen said in a trembling voice.
Joe tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "Sweetheart..." he said the name so tenderly that the tears she'd been holding in rose to the surface and began to fall.
"Come here." He took her in his arms and held her as she sobbed into his shirt.
After a few minutes, she raised her head and looked at him tearfully.
"You have nothing to be sorry for." Joe said. "The fault is mine."
"But I didn't believe you when-."
He silenced her with a kiss.
"My father and I talked this morning." Joe said. "He told me all about the article and how he went to your apartment. I guess I was wrong about him. Kathleen, I'm sorry... about a lot of things. Our business rivalry, you losing your store and especially about your being humiliated on television like that. Believe me, I wish I would have seen that article sooner because I would never-."
Kathleen stroked his face with her fingers. "I love you, Joe."
"And I love you, Kathleen."
The kiss they shared was sweeter than she ever dreamed.
When the kiss ended, Joe smiled and took her hand. "Come on, let's go home."
As they walked hand in hand through the streets of New York, Kathleen sighed. Suddenly she turned to him.
"You know, I was wondering..."
"Do you think that Nelson would have liked my mother?"
Joe smiled, remembering his grandfather's fondness for Cecilia.
"I think my dad would have loved her. He takes after my grandfather."