"Oh, we're just getting started." Joan shrugged and tipped her head to one side, her gaze roaming over Nikki from head to foot and back again. "Are you sure you're okay? Brock is treating you all right? You don't have to stay with him. Whatever help you need, I'll get it for you."
"Like a ride home?" Nikki stood up, reaching for that cart that somehow managed to keep up with her.
"If that's what you want, when you're ready."
"I'm not. I'm where I want and need to be."
"You know," Joan said, standing slowly, somehow holding Nikki prisoner with just her gaze, "I've had this awful feeling that last talk we had sort of gave you the excuse to run away with Brock."
"Huh?" Nikki honestly couldn't remember what Joan referred to.
"I told you about having to run away from my mother. Well, our situations are entirely different. The difference between life and death. I needed to run away, to stay alive. You didn't need to."
"Oh, yes I did."
"Okay, I won't argue with you, because it's pretty clear you're in love with him, but I'm talking about the destruction of your soul. That's how bad it was, that I had to get away from her. Maybe you were miserable, knowing your folks were going to catch on and come between you and Brock, but it's not the same thing."
"Have you ever been in love?"
"I didn't know what love was until God gave me my soul back."
"Don't start lecturing me--""Okay, I won't." Joan glanced over her shoulder at Margie, who did a very bad job of pretending she wasn't listening.