Mia glanced down at her fingers, tightening around the stem of her wineglass, and mentally told her hands to relax before it shattered. “It’s not what he has to say that I’m worried about,” she admitted, her voice soft.
“Then what?” Charlie asked, brow furrowed.
Mia wondered if she even had the words to explain it. “This morning,” she said after a pause. “Ditsy attacked the postman on the Esplanade to get this letter.”
“Okay,” Charlie said, drawing the word out. “Why?”
Mia shook her head. “The question is, how did she know he had it?”
“That’s easy,” Charlie answered. “Jacques told her. He’s been telling everyone all day you had a letter from…” He trailed off.
“Exactly.” Mia sighed and took another slug of wine. “The whole town knows I have this letter, and they’re all waiting to see what I do with it.”
“And if you open it?”
“Then I’m still George Page’s daughter.” She sighed again. “And everything that goes along with the title.”
“He’s still your father,” Charlie murmured. “It’s okay to want to hear from him.”
Mia gave a short, sharp laugh. “Not according to Aberarian. You know, I’ve spent fourteen years trying to make them forget that I’m his daughter. I knew they wouldn’t forget what he did, but I thought…”
“You thought they’d see you aren’t like him,” Charlie finished. “They do, Mia. I’m sure they do.” He reached over and squeezed her hand. “Besides, they’re the idiots who hired him as a teacher and voted him in to manage the museum.”
“And so they deserved to have their head of history run off in the middle of the GCSE mocks with the school secretary and the contents of the museum safe?”
“Okay, maybe they didn’t deserve that. I’m just saying, it’s not your fault.”
“But I was the last one here to blame after Mum skipped town. And you know what this town is like. Old scandals never really die, they just take naps. I’ll only ever be the daughter of a philandering thief.”
“And I’ll always be the outsider whose fiancee ran out on him.” Charlie shrugged. “If you want somewhere people don’t know you, why don’t you leave?”
“Because I love it here. I love the town and the beach and my friends.” She gave Charlie a smile. “Besides, there’s no way in hell I’d let those busybodies drive me out.” Charlie laughed, and she turned the question back on him. “Why don’t you?”
“Same reasons,” he said, but the secretive sort of smile on his face when he looked at her made Mia nervous.
Of course he wouldn’t want to leave. Not when Becky had just arrived.
“So, what are you going to do?” Charlie asked, prodding the letter near her again.
Mia stared at it, thinking hard. Then she said, “I’m not going to satisfy anyone’s curiosity. If my father wants to know how his daughter’s doing after fourteen years and thinks a letter will suffice, I’m not giving him the satisfaction.” She grabbed the letter and shoved it into her bag. “And if the town wants to know what he has to say, they can bloody well track him down and ask him themselves. Because I’m not opening the letter.”