They ate in silence for a few minutes. She forced herself to eat slowly so she could savor every bite. Across from her, Hamon had no problem gobbling down his burger. Even licking the salt from his fingers as he stuffed fries into his mouth. It was refreshing to see there was no pretense of him trying to be anything other than what he was. It was as if he didn’t care what others thought about him, which finally compelled her to speak.
“I have a confession to make.”
“I’m not a priest, if that’s what you’re thinking.” He grinned to let her know he was halfway joking.
“While you were gone, I called the market to have them deliver a few things.”
He glanced over at the front door. “When are they supposed to arrive?”
“Not until tomorrow morning. But while I was on the phone, I asked the lady, Sheila, if she’d ever heard of you.”
She didn’t know how he would react to the news, but the last thing she expected was for him to sit back in the chair and cross an ankle over a knee as he fed the last of his fries into his mouth.
“What did you find out?” He seemed amused.
“No. Why would I be?”
“Not even peeved? Just a little?”
Dropping both feet to the floor, he leaned over the coffee table, closer to her. “Listen. You’re a young woman who has severe health problems, or else you wouldn’t be on oxygen. You come back to town where you grew up, but you know practically no one. You’re alone, you’re afraid, and you’re very wary of complete strangers who try to help you. Especially men. If I was in your shoes, I’d probably feel the same way.” He leaned back again. “So what did she tell you?”
“That you were in the Air Force. That you were shot down, and were a POW for over a year before you were released. You got an honorable discharge because you’d been injured. You moved to Templeterry even though you don’t have any family here. You drive for YouRide as another source of income. Oh, and half the women in town are secretly in love with you.”
That last part made him laugh out loud. It was genuine, infectious, and almost lit up the room. Brindle could easily see why women might swoon over him. If she could afford to laugh, she would. Instead, she forced herself to keep it to a wide smile.
“Well, I guess that explains why the majority of my return customers are mostly female,” he quipped. “All right. Tit for tat. Time for me to confess. I peeked inside your suitcase and saw your discharge orders from the hospital.”
She stared at him wide-eyed. “Did you read them?”
“No. They confirmed what I suspected.”
“That you’d come directly from a hospital.” He paused for a second. “Can I ask what’s wrong with you?”
“I have pulmonary fibrosis. My lungs are turning into concrete, which means I’ll eventually get to the point where I’m going to die of asphyxiation.” Her words sounded clipped and harsh, but she couldn’t help it. She’d been fighting this disease and her inevitable death for months. For nine months, to be exact.
Hamon stared at her for so long, she began to feel uneasy under his intense gaze. Dropping her eyes, she tried to munch on some fries. When he spoke again, his voice was soft but without any pity.
“You came home to die, didn’t you?”