Cold Comfort by Kathleen Gerard

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ISBN: 9781611877212
Pages: 41

It’s Thanksgiving weekend and workaholic photojournalist Anna Maria “A.M.” LaRusa returns to Federal Hill, a small Italian-American enclave in Rhode Island, to spend a quiet holiday with her only remaining relative, her Aunt Minnie, a hip, 96-year-old who texts and has a blog. But when a blizzard Nor’easter threatens New England, there is a change in plans. As A.M. and her aunt prepare for the holiday and the storm, A.M. unexpectedly runs into a man she hasn’t seen in ten years—a man whom she still refers to as "the guy who broke my heart in college"—and her weekend and her life are suddenly upended. Stuck amid the snowy deep freeze that paralyzes the region, A.M. begins to wonder if her cold, wounded heart from an unrequited love will ever thaw.

I stared into the glass cases sporting wide-eyed aquatic creatures with fins and gills and glistening scales set alongside trays of mollusks and shrimp laid out on ice with as much care as fine diamond necklaces sitting on velvet at a jewelry store. I glanced at my watch. Time was quickly ticking away so I said, “Hello. Hello…Giacomo? Anybody home?”
Out stepped a man much younger and taller than the Giacomo I’d remembered. I couldn’t get a good, clear look at him, as he was standing behind the uncovered tanks housing foraging lobsters. Wearing jeans, a faded R.I.S.D. t-shirt and old sneakers, he looked to me, wiping his hands on a towel as he asked, “Yes, how can I help you?” A New England accent tinged his voice.
When the man’s gaze met mine, time seemed to stop. I was stunned. Breathless.
“A.M.?” he asked.
My belly thrilled at the sound of hearing myself referred to by the initials of my first name. It didn’t take long to recognize traces of a man I used to know—his well-defined biceps filling out the arms of his worn t-shirt; his trimmed goatee; his receding hairline cropped ultra-short, no doubt, to conceal its diminishment. His face was no longer thin, but the familiar impish glow glimmering behind his warm, chestnut-colored eyes was unforgettable.
“Ohmygoodness. A.M., it is you… Your hair—it’s so much shorter. And it’s lighter…”
I ran my fingers through the layered, shoulder-length, dyed strands remembering how in college my long, thick mane used to hang down my back at one point almost to my derriere.
“…It looks good. Becoming on you,” he said, scrambling. “So tell me. How are you?”
“I’m good. Good.” My heart was pounding so fast, I suddenly felt woozy and unwell. I ran a hand over my mouth, praying that I didn’t have traces of powdered sugar from the sfogliatelle pastry still dotting my lips.
In truth, this chance meeting had thrown me totally off kilter. The spontaneous part of me, the part dictated by my heart, was truly glad to see Jack. But my mind overruled my heart and unearthed a whole hodgepodge of feelings for Jack from a very long time ago.
Jack was a guy—really, the guy—who broke my heart in college. Although I don’t think he knew how deep and profound a wound he’d left in me. At the time, the slow dissolution of our relationship was all-consuming. Thankfully, the years had dulled the sting. He, and the thought of him, had ultimately been reduced to an every-now-and-then passing flash—the what-could-have-been-but-wasn’t-meant-to-be—that burned brightly in my mind only to dim just as quickly.
“It’s been a long time,” he said, studying me as if checking to see whether I had retained my youth any better than he’d retained his.
“Yes, it has been a while,” I agreed. “Hard to believe we graduated college what…is it eleven years ago?”
Jack nodded. “I was really hoping to see you at the reunion last year.”
“Oh, I couldn’t make it,” I told him. “I was on assignment.”
“On assignment? Sounds important… What do you do?”
“I travel a lot. Work as a photojournalist for the Associated Press.”
“Wow! You’re still there… That’s great.”
“And what about you?” I asked.
“Me? I work here.” He gestured with his hands, motioning around the fish store.
“Really?” I narrowed my sights on him. “Since when?”
“Since…” he hesitated. “Since I couldn’t feed my family on what I was earning as a starving artist.”
I quickly read between the lines of what he’d told me, but was unsure how to respond.
Okay, sounds like he couldn’t make a go of an art career… He’s married…has a family—outside of me, who doesn’t?

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