Excerpt from Broken Things
She finished drying the last of the dishes and stepped back into the big family room just in time to hear her mother say, “You’ll have to stay here tonight. It’ll blow over by tomorrow. No,” she held up her hand to ward off Sister Belnap’s protest. “It’s no trouble for us. There’s plenty of room. I couldn’t live with myself if I let you drive down the canyon in this weather.”
For the hundredth time that evening, Kendall’s eyes strayed to Patrick Belnap. He was looking at her. She quickly turned her attention to a fascinating glass ball on the Christmas tree. She couldn’t help watching him from the corner of her eye. They’d known each other for practically their entire lives. Two years ago, he’d left for a mission a short, acne-covered teenager, and now he was back a tall, handsome man with a spirit of confidence and goodness about him that made Kendall want to shy away from him like a vampire away from a cross. He had been one of her best friends, but now he looked like a stake president in the making. She didn’t know what a sinner like herself could say to him.
Kendall moved around to the back of the tree, away from her parents, away from the constant reproach of her sisters and brothers-in-law with their perfect temple marriages, away from Patrick’s beautiful brown eyes.
Or so she thought. But Patrick came and stood beside her behind the tree. “Hey, Kendall.”
“Looks like you’re stuck with us,” she said and inched toward the wall.
“I don’t mind.” He smiled. “Why have you been avoiding me all night?”
“I haven’t,” she said.
“Then why are you hiding back behind the Christmas tree? I know you better than that.”
Kendall fiddled with a bit of tinsel. You don’t know me at all. “I’ve changed, I guess.”
“Not that much.”
Yes, that much. She moved an ornament to a different branch. Her heart felt too heavy to hold in her chest.
“I’ve really looked forward to seeing you again.”
Oh, please don’t say that. She turned around and tried to look neutral. “I’m sorry, Patrick. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I think it’s great to see you again. You look great.” She stopped. “I just feel…awkward.”
“Because of what happened with your fiancé?”
“Shane.” Shame crashed like a flood through her chest. She stepped back and accidentally brushed an ornament off the tree with her shoulder. It smashed on the wood floor into half a dozen pieces.
“Oh, no.” Kendall knelt on the floor and picked up the broken pieces with shaking hands. It was a figurine of a little Christmas caroler in a red hat and mittens. Her grandmother had given it to her years ago. Tears brimmed in her eyes. “It’s ruined.”