She couldn’t do this. As much as a selfish part of her wanted to let the misunderstanding stand and hope Declan would get over what he felt, she couldn’t. She couldn’t do that to her friends. Declan was miserable and she was sure Miranda wasn’t any happier. So she loved him too: didn’t that mean she should want the best for him, want him to be happy?
Peggy paced her office. It had been two days since the game day at Miranda’s that had ended in disaster and she still hadn’t said anything. Of course, she hadn’t seen either Declan or Miranda since Saturday, but she knew that was more the result of her silence than vice versa.
Declan had finally realized what he wanted. What kind of friend would she be if she denied it to him?
She’d had a chance at true love. She’d married the man of her dreams and had many happy years with him before he was taken from her. Miranda’d never had that chance. All the more reason for her not to stand in the way.
It was just so hard.
Peggy stopped in the center of the room and closed her eyes. Hands clenched as she battled with herself. Unbidden, a popular proverb sprang into her mind.
“If you love something, let it go…”
“If it returns, it belongs to you forever,” she whispered the rest of the verse, or at least the best approximation of it she could remember. “If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.”
Resolute, she marched to her desk and picked up the phone.
“Declan? It’s Peggy. Do you have a moment free? We need to talk.”
She looked up at the rap on the window, grimacing at the sight of Declan in the doorway. As she’d anticipated, he looked awful. His hair was in even worse disarray than usual, his stubble now long enough to call the beginnings of a beard, and there were shadows under his eyes.
She sighed, gesturing for him to come in.
“What’d you want to talk about?” he asked with false cheerfulness as he perched on her couch. “Got a new case for me?”
Peggy shook her head. “How’s Miranda?”
The shadow deepened. “I…I don’t know. I think she’s been avoiding me. I don’t know what to do, Peg. I don’t know how to fix this.”
She nodded. “Declan…you were right, you did make a mistake on Saturday. But that mistake wasn’t telling Miranda you loved her.”
“It wasn’t?” Both eyebrows raised, he tilted his head forward to peer endearingly over his glasses at her, his eyes curious.
Clamping down on the voice that told her to quit while she was ahead, Peggy swallowed and forged on. “I didn’t tell you this because I didn’t want to break a confidence…but you need to know. You’re both making yourselves miserable over a misunderstanding.”
“Miranda has very strong feelings for you. She has for a very long time.”
His eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed in wary skepticism. “How do you know that?”
She smiled sadly. “She confided in me when Emma was in town. What you’d told her about your feelings for her, and how afraid she was of losing you.”
Hope started to dawn, but still his face twisted in confusion. “But then, why’d she…” He stopped, frustrated.
“Declan, you know Miranda better than anyone. You know how hard it is for her to reach out and open herself up to people, even now. For a long time, you were her only friend. She’s probably afraid of losing you. Afraid that what you said on the spur of the moment, you’d later come to realize you didn’t really mean…”
Now Declan’s eyes widened in horror. “Which is exactly what I said.”
“God, Declan…you took it back?” she looked at him, equally horrified.
“I…I panicked, Peg. She was just standing there, staring at me like I’d grown an extra head. And then she said…she didn’t know what to say,” he finished lamely. “No wonder she’s been avoiding me. If you’re right…”
“You confirmed her worst fear.”
Still devastated, but in a different way, Declan jumped up from the couch. “I’ve gotta find her.”
Torn over her success, Peggy stood as well. “I’ll call you if I see her.”
Impulsively, Declan threw his arms around her in a quick hug. “Thanks, Peg. Thanks for making me see the light.”
The woman in his arms fought not to cry until long after he had released her from his embrace and fled the room.