Chapter 4

Lacey continued to stare out at the ocean as the afternoon begin to wane. She and Lincoln had talked the day away and she sat thinking about Mayfield and that awful New Year's Eve twenty years ago. Almost on cue, it started to rain, the drops blown by the breeze against the porch windows in an almost soothing pitter patter. Lacey realized that she had emptied the bottle of wine and that she was at least tipsy if not drunk.

Lincoln must have realized her deteriorating condition because when she semi-glided into the kitchen she found him making coffee for her.

"What did you mean when you said you could never stay mad at me?" She frowned as she stumbled her way onto the stool at the breakfast counter. Lincoln stood on the other side tending to the coffee machine.

"Cream and sugar?" He asked.

"Yes, please," she acknowledged. Then she realized her bladder was full of wine. "I'll be right back."

She sort of waggled her way to the bathroom off the kitchen and almost missed the commode as she sat to relieve herself. Jesus, she was drunk! She managed not to pee on herself or her clothes or the floor and she splashed cold water on her face in hopes of reviving herself before returning to the kitchen counter.

"Here you go," Lincoln said, sliding a large mug across to the counter as Lacey approached.

"Just a minute," Lacey requested as she continued past him and went out the back door, hoping the cool sea breeze and salt air would offer a quick sobering effect on her.

"It's raining," Lincoln said as he stood under the overhang watching her standing in the back yard with her face to the clouded sky.

"I know," Lacey replied. "And I'm a little drunk."

"Come drink the coffee," Lincoln suggested.

Lacey waved her hand in agreement and came back into the house, joining Lincoln at the kitchen counter. He handed her the coffee mug.

"Thanks," she said, slightly embarrassed. "I hope I don't start bubbling like a baby."

"Why would you do that?" Lincoln asked.

"After all the stuff we just talked about?" She groaned. "Are you kidding?"

Lincoln raised his eyebrow with interest. "Why are you here?" He wanted to know.

"I told you," she frowned. "Rotten Christmas with the boyfriend."

"You were going to celebrate New Year's Eve alone?"

"That was the plan," she acknowledged. "I was aware of the significance of this particular New Year's. Donald isn't interested in my past sob stories about dead former boyfriends and jailed former boyfriends and absent friends I told I hated so I thought I would be miserable alone."

""I get the feeling you're lonely," Lincoln observed.

"Oh, I would say that's a safe bet," Lacey sighed. "But it's nothing new. I've been lonely for twenty years."

"Mayfield," Lincoln sighed.

"You too?" She guessed. "Is that why you're here all alone?"

"I never forgot you, Lacey," Lincoln admitted quietly. "You're still as beautiful as ever."

She was caught by surprise by his words. "What did you mean before when you said you could never stay mad at me?" She asked again.

"You know, whenever I was with Bill and Barb, I'd always ask after you," he confessed.

"What?" She asked with confusion. "Why?"

"I always knew you were special."

"What in the hell are you talking about?" She demanded. "I thought you said you didn't drink."

"You were always so oblivious," he grinned. "Innocent. Naïve. That's what made you different from Barb and Deb and the other girls from our clique."

"I don't understand," she said with confusion. "Why are you saying these things?"

Lincoln sucked in a deep breath. "Lacey," he smiled. "I've been waiting forever for you," he revealed. "I think about you every day."

"What?" She asked with disbelief.

"Drink your coffee," Lincoln instructed.

"I'm sorry but I just don't understand," Lacey said.

"Are you hungry?" Lincoln asked. "Would you like me to cook us up some food? Or we could call for take-out if you want."

"Lincoln, what in the hell is going on?" Lacey wanted to know. "What are you trying to say to me?"

"I could never stay mad at you," he told her. "I stood by when you fell for Mayfield. I stood by when you fell for damn Stevens. I stood by when you hated me after the accident. I stood by when you moved away."

She stared at him with her mouth hanging open. "Oh My God," she finally said.

"Oh?" He teased. "You mean you found your Faith again?"

"What?" She asked, at a loss for words and confused by what he was saying.

"It's okay," Lincoln said. "I knew you didn't know. But I couldn't stay mad at you anyway."

She stared at him for the longest time. "I never really hated you," she finally said, softly.

"I know," Lincoln replied. "It was hard on all of us – what happened."

"I'm still drunk," she realized. "The coffee isn't working. I need to lay down."

"Okay," Lincoln said, coming around from the other side of the counter and taking her by the arm. "Den or sun porch?"

"Porch," she answered as she slipped off the stool.

Lincoln led her toward the sun porch.

"I wish Barb had taken that stupid Christmas tree down," Lacey grumbled as they passed the tree, causing Lincoln to laugh out loud since he had the same sentiment when he first entered the house.

Once on the porch, Lincoln eased Lacey onto the large long day bed along the wall. It was nearly dusk now and still raining. They could see the white caps of the surf in the distance.

"Why'd you stay friends with me?" Lacey frowned as she looked up at him from the day bed.

He took a seat next to her on the day bed. "We were friends since kindergarten," he reminded her.

"I obviously shit all over you," she sighed. "I wouldn't blame you if you hated me."

"I hoped one day you would find your way back into my life," Lincoln admitted. "It was stupid because I always made sure I didn't come visit here when I knew you were visiting."

"Why?" She asked.

"Because of that day," he confessed.

"I haven't been happy since that day," she sighed.

"I was always the third wheel," Lincoln told her. "Bill was the impressive genius. Mayfield was the likeable jock. Stevens was the smooth operator slick willie. Finer was the comedian. I just tagged along with no real identity other than being the friend – until the accident anyway, and then I was the hated murderer, crummy driver, and brain damaged loser."

"Stop," Lacey insisted. "Besides, how do you think I felt? Barb was the brain. Deb was the beauty queen. I was the fat cow."

"You were never fat," Lincoln insisted. "You were pretty, outgoing, friendly, good natured, and fun. And you landed two of the most sought after guys in the school."

"One of them turned out to be a bastard," Lacey reminded him. "Do you ever see Stevens around?"

"He works for his father but we avoid each other," Lincoln replied. "Finer moved away, of course."

"You were too nice of a guy to get screwed over by those two assholes," Lacey said with authority. "Everybody liked you."

"Everybody loved you," Lincoln rebutted.

"I wonder what would have happened if I had come back after college," Lacey mused. "Worked for Beetle Publishing or something."

"I often wondered too," Lincoln said.

"Would you have asked me out?" Lacey challenged. "Would we have gotten together?"

"I don't know," Lincoln admitted. "But I'd like to think we would have."

Lacey stared out the window. It was almost completely dark now.

"I can't stop thinking about you," Lincoln whispered.

Lacey's eyes teared up and she sucked in a large breath. "Are you trying to give me my Faith back?" She wanted to know.

"I hope so," he smiled.

"You'd find it in yourself to forgive me?" She asked.

"Love means forgiveness," Lincoln told her.

"Especially on this New Year's Eve," Lacey said softly.

Lincoln leaned in and kissed her. "Happy New Year," he said

Turns out the huge built in Jacuzzi in the master bathroom was a great place to sober up and that's where the naked and free Lacey found herself, counting down to midnight on New Year's Eve across from Lincoln to bring in the new year and to forget about all the old ones.