You Didn’t Love Me Then – Lily Baines

Dressed in her I-left-home-in-a-rush yoga pants and oversized T-shirt, sitting on a scratched and uncomfortable plastic chair in a police station, wasn’t how Libby Latimer imagined she would see Luke Delaney again after nearly fifteen years. “I’ll wait with you until the lawyer gets here,” Libby reassured the woman sitting next to her on the row of orange chairs, fidgeting with her hands. “Will he be okay there?” the woman asked. “He can get nervous with authority and … you know.” Libby expelled a quiet breath before replying, “I hope so. He’s a smart kid.” A uniformed police officer approached them. “Mrs. Porter, your son is being detained. You won’t be able to see him today. I’m sorry.” “We know. We’re waiting for his lawyer,” Libby replied instead of Mrs. Porter, who seemed to fade into her chair. “And you are …?” The female officer looked at Libby.

Libby stood up. “Libby Latimer. Her social worker.” “Okay. Listen,” the officer said in a lowered voice. “He’s not a minor, or I would have let her —” “I know. But she wants to wait until the attorney arrives, so I’ll wait with her.” The woman nodded and left. Libby sat back down and leaned her head against the wall. For a police station, it could be considered freshly painted and clean. She looked over at the water bar and coffee corner. Like many other establishments here, Wayford’s police station fitted the town it served—small, clean, dignified, well-off, almost wholesome. The neighboring town that she lived in and had driven Delia Porter from earlier that morning boasted most of these elements, except one. Few people passed back and forth through the quiet waiting area that contained just the two of them. Ten minutes later, the automatic doors of the station’s entrance whooshed apart, admitting a gray-suited and -haired man.

Libby waved at him, and he nodded in recognition. “This is Mr. Lewis,” Libby whispered, taking the older woman’s hand and getting up to greet the approaching attorney. “Mrs. Porter, I’ll go see John now, and we’ll get him home soon,” Lewis said as he reached them. “Libby can take you back to Riviera View, and then I’ll call and update you later. No point in you tiring yourself here.” Delia Porter’s eyes filled with tears as she just nodded, whereas Libby sent him the tight-lipped smile of those who had fought in the same wars. Turning to the policewoman who passed by, the lawyer added, “I’m representing Mr. John Porter. Can you take me to him, please?” “Everything will be okay now. Mr. Lewis is a good public attorney,” Libby whispered to Delia. He still cares about his clients, she refrained from adding. Just then, screened behind the lawyer and the policewoman, passing through the entrance and waiting area, she noticed a figure that she had imagined seeing for the last fifteen years but hadn’t actually seen.

With her gaze, she followed the tall, well-built figure of the light brown-haired and brown-eyed man who crossed the floor toward a corridor that stretched ahead. Her heart reeled even before it became clear that her eyes weren’t wrong this time. It was Luke Delaney. Mrs. Porter sat back in the chair that squeaked under her weight, clutching her purse. Lewis and the cop turned toward the corridor, as well. Libby’s heart pounded in her throat, where it had lodged at the unexpected sight of Luke. “I’ll go get you some water,” she half-whispered to Delia. “No, thank you, dear,” the woman replied, her voice still shaky. Libby got up, anyway, and crossed the waiting area to the water bar, her hands tingling and sweating. She needed water. All these years, she had thought she’d never see Luke again. She had been fine with never having the pleasure, and the pain, of laying her eyes on his face and figure that was so embedded within her. She handed a paper cup to Delia then sat back next to her, drinking from her own cup. Retrieving her cell phone, Libby didn’t have to scroll long through her recent messages list.

Hovering her fingers over Roni’s name, she typed one sentence—a quote. One that would tell Roni everything she needed to know—that Luke was back and that Libby was fighting the urge to either run and hug him or escape through the sliding glass doors. Another uniformed policeman trotted toward them. Libby had never seen this one before. That’s three uniforms on a Sunday, Libby thought as she got to her feet again. Wayford had more manpower per capita than Riviera View, her and Luke’s hometown, which was now three times Wayford’s size. “You’re her case worker?” the man addressed Libby, ignoring Mrs. Porter. “Take her home. Her son will be taken to San Luis Obispo for arraignment.” A whimper escaped Delia as she got to her feet and grabbed Libby’s arm. “Arraignment? Did Miller or Lewis send you with this update?” Libby asked the balding man whose eyes were circled with gray skin. “No. Who’s Lewis?” “John Porter’s attorney. He just arrived.

” “Oh, so maybe …” “Do you know for sure that John Porter is being sent for arraignment?” Libby tried to control the curse that hovered on her lips. “No, just …” “So maybe don’t scare his mother before anything is determined?” She couldn’t control the bite in her tone. “It will be okay, Delia,” Libby added softly, caressing the woman’s palm that was clutching her sleeve. “Is he okay?” Delia found her voice. “He can be difficult, but he’s a good—” “He was drunk when we brought him in, and we had to restrain him here, too, and he probably stole that car,” the man cut into her sentence. “Tell them, Libby, tell them,” Delia urged. “He’s a good kid.” She looked like she was going to faint. Libby wrapped her arm around her and tried to make her sit. “He’ll be fine, Delia. You heard Mr. Lewis. Let me take you home.” “Is everything okay?” A voice came from behind the uniformed cop. Libby was with her back to the speaker, bending toward Delia, who held on to her while she tried to calm her down.

His voice sent a warm shockwave down her spine. Still leaned toward the now-seated Delia, Libby pivoted her torso to look at the owner of the raspy, bass voice. She wished she hadn’t left the house in her Sunday-at-home outfit, her auburn hair in a disheveled bun. It seemed like a similar shockwave hit the man who now stood next to the policeman. “Liberty?” he said in that familiar rasp. Only few people called her by her full name. “Hi,” she somehow managed to huff while failing to stifle a faint smile that escaped her lips. Libby awkwardly straightened up, though not all the way, because her arm was still being clutched by the sobbing Delia. “Hi, Luke” she added, hearing the catch in her own throat. The policeman looked between them all. “Her son was brought in for driving under the influence in a stolen car, and possibly breaking and entering,” he volunteered the information. “We’re keeping him.” “Who’s doing the questioning?” Luke asked, his gaze lingering on Libby before he moved it to the uniformed man’s face. “Miller.” “Don’t worry, Mrs.

…” Luke started then looked at Libby for help. Their glances met, and she felt the air thinning around them. “Porter,” she managed to complete for him. “Mrs. Porter,” he continued. “I’ll go see him for you, okay?” Delia raised a pair of red eyes to him, nodding. “Thank you.” “You can go, Romano,” Luke then said. As soon as the other man obeyed, Luke turned to Libby. “I’ll be right back.” He, too, looked like he was trying to stifle a smile, because a trace of one started raising the corners of his mouth. Then, without waiting for a response, he turned and walked down the corridor where John Porter occupied one of the rooms. Libby dropped into the seat next to Delia and took a deep breath. Luke-fucking-Delaney. She could hardly believe it.

He looked so good. Still. So good. Had he moved back here from Boston? When? What was an Air Marshal doing in an airport-less town? Her heart hammered against her ribcage, and her palms were sweating as she held Delia’s hand. She wasn’t sure anymore who was holding whom.


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Updated: 14 January 2022 — 11:17

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