Chapter Six

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The following three days, Oliver avoided the café. Finn hadn't been in either, and Cassidy was happy that the tourists had increased in number so that she was too swept off her feet at work to take a break and risk bumping into them at the beach.

So much for being brave.

Every time she pictured Oliver walking through the door, Cassidy felt like she couldn't breathe. Her throat would tighten, and her heart would race, like she was some stupid love-sick teenager all over again. The only difference this time was that she felt sick with fear rather than anticipation. The day would soon come that they would have to talk about the past – or at least say a passing hello to one another – but she couldn't be sure that she'd be in any fit state to handle it like an adult. Knowing now what Mitch had said to him all those years ago didn't make things any easier; Cassidy had never wanted Oliver to outright hate her.

That said, given the way she'd left, how could he not?

The fact that she'd only been sixteen when she'd made her rash decision to up and leave Whitstone Bay rather than to face the consequences of her actions ought to have led her to forgive herself. At the time, it had seemed like a kindness. If Oliver couldn't find her – if he thought that she didn't love him all those years ago – then he'd be able to get on with his life. The fact that he'd driven to Whitstone Bay in a nice car with decent clothes on his back told her that he'd not wallowed in misery after their breakup and had done something productive with his life, and she might have believed he'd forgotten all about her if it hadn't been for the look on his face when they were finally eye-to-eye again.

There was an expression she would never forget; a mix of confusion, shock, and unfathomable hurt.

Thank God for Bill getting her out of there before she could see that expression morph into anger and she had to be on the receiving end of it. They both needed space to come to terms with being in the same town again – to gather their thoughts – and to decide if it was even worth dredging up such ancient history if he was only going to be in the area for a brief time before he disappeared again.

As a teenager, Cassidy had envied Oliver's ability to leave Whitstone Bay behind every summer. He would climb into the back of his parent's car and be whisked away from the impending grey, dreary, winter months when the town would be battered by gale force winds and tumultuous waves which roared up along the beach, too frightening for even the most experienced surfers to contend with. During that time, he got to enjoy all that London had to offer; great food, great coffee, great clubs, and great shopping.

It all sounded so... great.

Whitstone Bay was... less so.

Oliver's emails had sustained her to an extent, but Cassidy always read them hoping that he might extend an invitation to her, telling her that his parents wanted her to come and live with them for a month or two, so she could have a taste of the life he got to live every day; the life that she might get to share with him when she was finally old enough to leave home and attend a university in the city.

It was the dream of their future together that had kept her going during his long absence.

Now she was an adult, she realised how stupid she'd been.

Not for falling in love – it was something almost all teenagers went through – but for pinning all her hopes and dreams for the future on one guy who wasn't even old enough to know what he wanted to do with his own life by that point, let alone how he could support another person in theirs.

In a way, their parting had been a blessing.

Cassidy only wished it had been done differently.

'I haven't seen Mitch in a few days,' Bill commented while Cassidy dropped off an order from a sweet elderly couple. 'Has he got the message?'

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