Denial Ain't Just A River in Egypt

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Gareth hadn't lied about the letters. He'd sent them to the old address, and they were all returned to him, their envelopes stamped many times between its origin and final destination, which had been Gareth's postal box in L.A. It was so like him to write down his L.A. address, Riley thought, even though the letters were all postmarked in Hertfordshire, England. And now they were all in front of her, all unopened, sent in a span of six months after she visited him.

Riley started crying after reading the first letter, and she kept crying till she finished reading all of them, each one saying how much Gareth missed her and how sorry he was for what had happened at the producer's house. And along with details of how filming was going on, everything so new to him, each letter asked her why she hadn't answered him.

Afterward, Riley wondered what would have happened had she received them, had she not allowed herself to bundled out of the apartment so unceremoniously by those assistants that Gareth now claimed weren't his. Sure, they may have been at that producer's party, but he hadn't sent them.

And then there was the money, all twenty grand of it.

Though it was late, Riley found herself searching through the old boxes in her closet, trying to find the bag that had contained the money. It had been a vintage designer bag — a Louis Vuitton. She'd almost even sold it and would have made close to $200 on some consignment website, but what would have been the point in that?

She kept it to remind herself that she'd almost died from an overdose because of what had been inside that damn bag. She'd allowed herself to be defined by that stack of hundred-dollar bills. Then she remembered Gareth's face when he'd assured her that he would never do such a thing. Never, he had stressed with horror on his face.

But if it wasn't Gareth, then whose idea of a sick joke had it been to move her out of her apartment, leaving only a mattress on the floor and a bag of money? Not even a note.

After a few agonizing minutes, Riley wondered if she should just leave it alone. It belonged to her past, stopping her from moving on for so long. She'd held on to that grievance for three years and look where it had gotten her—not very far from where she'd started.

Riley put the letters away on her bedside table. Forget dinner. She was too worried to eat, too confused by the events of the past few hours and the things that Gareth had told her. She needed to be ready for the visit from the Health Department in the morning, to deal with the repercussions from the review about the rat someone swore they saw at the Library Cafe. But if Gareth was right, it was probably just someone with a grudge against the cafe for some reason. And after having cleaned up the entire cafe and not finding a single rat or mouse dropping, she thought he was almost certainly right.

* * *

Though the review about the rat remained on their Yelp page, a few regular customers left their reviews about how the Library Cafe was one of the cleanest places in Manhattan. Just as Gareth had suggested, the review about the rat had to be fake since, unlike the new reviewers who gave the Library five stars and written reviews for other businesses, this one only had that single review for the Library Cafe.

Riley figured that maybe she better start getting the hang of social media after all. It didn't take much to set up an account for the cafe. It would certainly highlight their products and their services. Besides, it was about time Allen ushered the cafe to the current century. It wasn't as if the Library Cafe hadn't already caused a stir on social media, with two major movie stars showing up at the counter two days in a row.

She could always focus on what the Library Cafe was known for the most—good coffee and amazing baristas behind the counter, people she'd trained herself. It was the place to find Ashe's caffè Medicí besides the flat white long before everyone else started offering them. And then there were the exclusive roast blends she'd come up with herself, after having worked with a roasting company upstate. How many pounds did they ship out to out-of-state customers each month?

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