This is a sequel to my original short story, Shadows. It can be found here on the Story Lounge and it would help you understand a lot more if you read it first. The italic and symbol ~O~ indicate a scene from the past. Just thought I’d tell ya, in case of confuddledom. I tried for the whole wavy lines and visual effects, but the Story Lounge is on a tight budget. 😉
Disclaimer: This work is the copyright of the author. All characters and original ideas come from within the deeper murk that is my brain. If you want them to resemble a well-known warrior and her bard, then go right ahead. But those belong to Ren pictures.
Sex: This is a story of a relationship between two females. Shock horror, so that means lesbians! This story also contains a relationship with a male and female. Oh my, so that means straight! The lovemaking scenes are of a lesbian nature, but nothing to graphic. But if you are under 21 or the law of the land says it’s illegal to read such things, please move on. Also if you find any of this disturbing I advise you to stop reading now. There are also scenes of mild violence, again nothing too graphic.
Angst: This is a new warning for me mainly because I have had so many feedbacks’ telling me off that I didn’t have one.
WARNING. There is angst. So now you are warned. <g>
My thanks: To my partner for putting up with me when the bard is at work. For all my readers who give me comments and views and help me become a better writer.
Dedication: Kim and her partner, this is for the both of you, I know you will understand why.
Now I know you have all just scrolled to here and missed all my witty remarks above. So without further ado. …
I didn’t know it was possible to go through life dead. To be a walking breathing bundle of nerve endings; of bone, of blood, all fed by a heart that wouldn’t stop beating no matter what I wished or prayed for, a heart a year ago that died in a blaze of pain. Twelve months, fifty-two weeks, three hundred and sixty days, 8 765.81277 hours, 31 556 926089034 seconds and last of all, forty two million, seventy five thousand, nine hundred and four beats of a shattered heart. Oh yes, I know the passage of time of each of those, because to me I felt each one like a raw acid on my soul.
So I stopped feeling, stopped wanting, stopped needing, I turned to what I knew, what I could trust, my work. At first the choice was to forget, to lose the senses I had left in a bottle, to turn off the feelings, to get to a place of numbness, an awareness of nothing. But the bottle never worked it just unleashed the truth, and the truth was I was alone, I had lost, we had lost. The sunshine we had both craved and were promised wasn’t even given a chance. No chance to burn us alive as we stepped from the shadows. Because we never did, we went on as before locked in our own world of time and moments stolen. In truth it was life burnt me alive, one that now leaves me with nothing and her with what she had before.
Maybe it would have helped if I could have cried. But for some reason I couldn’t, I just got angry, at her, at myself. Part of me begged and pleaded to go to her, to forgive, to forget, to go back to those moments of love and hang onto them as a shield against the truth around us and let that be enough. But the other part was too hurt, to bitter, so lost and angry, that it silenced the pleas of the soul.
So I walked away, no, I ran with what was left of myself. I ignored her calls, her letters, I moved away leaving my apartment, our house empty and unused. Lost myself in the way of the world where I knew she could never reach out too. Because I knew she still even after everything wouldn’t leave her boys and her life with him.
I cried out in the pain, sending wishes of want into the skies and any god listening, holding on to the hope that I would turn around and she would be there, her eyes telling me she had chosen me above all else. But that soon died as each night came and went and in the morning my eyes would open and the pillow next to me was my only companion.
So instead I looked for anyone to fill that pillow, threw myself back to a time I sowed my wild oats, but unlike then it wasn’t about discovery, this time it was different, it was to feel anything with anyone. Instead I ended up hating the want in myself, hated the women that gave themselves to me, because they couldn’t see the pain and disgust. I wasn’t a lover to anyone because I used that moment of release to ignite the anger of loss. In the end months of doing that destroyed the last of who I was, I hated myself, so that too I stopped and my inner redemption was destroyed.
I became nothing; no wants, no needs, no love, no hate, and that is where I am. I live, I breathe, I work, and life and time moves on, beat by beat of a broken heart my new constant ticking clock.
Maybe it’s today, the date of today that sends me hurdling through time and space to the past, the memory of the time before. I can’t stop those moments where I lose myself in self-pity and raw memories of the heart. Those I have never learned how to temper yet. They are like a stalking tiger in my outer vision, always waiting for a gap or hole in my defences to spring forward and slash a gash on my healing.
Maybe that’s why I’m sitting here on the corner of ninth and third sipping coffee in the dawns light and going over everything in my head, oblivious to the world turning around me into a blur.
It doesn’t really matter what the reasons are for remembering because as soon as I start reliving the beginning of us, I always find myself at the end. The day the world shattered and the inferno of truth destroyed the hope of maybes.
Sighing, I take a sip of coffee, grimacing as the cold taste crosses my lips; I place the cup down in disgust. Time always did disappear when I’m caught in memories. I should get up and leave, go to the appointment I know is approaching, one I have been waiting and working for. A private collector who holds one of the few letters of Wagner sent to his lover. One I know I can sell to another for double what I will pay. But even that love inside for my work is gone, I don’t feel the joy of hunting and capturing a prize anymore, just another part of me that is dead and lost.
I call the waiter over ordering another coffee and sit back and let my eyes trace over the world passing around me. My gaze rests on a mother crossing the street, her two children’s hands clenched tightly as they cross, seeing the look in her eyes of protection. I feel my jaw tighten and tear my eyes away, as once again that stalking tiger takes the opportunity to jump on me with memory claws drawn. I have to close my eyes as the sudden assault of the past washes over me.
I don’t know why I had come, some part inside me that Sunday morning wanted to know, wanted to see.
Through the years with Kaitlan I had heard all about her boys. Kyle is so much like her both in looks and ways. A tender eight year old that is wise to others’ emotions and who would cry if anyone else was hurt, but hold it all inside with a stubbornness I had grown to love in his mother. David the eldest, with Johns colours but with the eyes I love in his mother. He is more rough and tumble, the one with the harder shell against life. But she and I know deep down he is the true dreamer of the family.
I chuckle as I take my seat at the back of the baseball field, my cap pulled down over my eyes with my long hair tucked up underneath, making myself blend into the crowd as much as possible, I sit. My eyes already searching the dugout, seeing the children’s baseball team warming up, ready for the game.
I hadn’t talked to Kaitlan about my decision to come, she knew I wanted some small part of her life with the boys, but neither of us could figure out a way to do that. Being a friend to her and known to her husband only caused both of us to run scared of ever crossing that line. But more and more I wanted to see them, even if it were from the shadows, I wanted to be a part no matter how small. So no, I hadn’t told Kaitlan of my plans that weekend, she didn’t need to know. All I knew was I needed it, to share a moment with them. The baseball game seemed the perfect solution to me, out in the open, in a crowd big enough to cover me.
So here I am.
My eyes jump and so does my heart as both recognise the blonde haired woman worm her way through the wall of small bodies. I feel the smile coming to my lips as I see her bend down to the small boy who looks so funny engulfed in the catchers helmet and mitt. I know it’s Kyle and I watch them interact for a few minutes and find myself grinning as soon as the boy does to something his mother says to him. My grin increases as I watch her capture him in a hug and his look of utter embarrassment. I can almost hear her laugh as she walks away back to the parent’s enclosure, blowing him a kiss and watching his face go beet red at the action.
I let my eyes wander over her body and I feel the warmth of love race through my heart. My smile falters, and so does the warmth within me, feeling it getting suddenly cold, as I see him step forward and grab her to him in an embrace, his eyes smiling with love and his mouth coming down to lay a kiss on her neck. I watch her giggle and snuggle into his arms, bringing his hands into her as they both sit, both their eyes locked on their son as he takes his position.
For the first time I begin to wonder if this was such a good idea.
The cheer from the crowd breaks my eyes from them and I turn as much of my attention to the game as I can, fighting against the urge to keep glancing back at them. The popcorn I’m eating is dry and tasteless in my mouth as my fight loses and I find my eyes leaving the field of play and turning back to them. She is sitting forward, her hands clenched in her lap, her eyes focused solely on her son, watch her tense and wait as the pitcher winds up his arm and watch her as her son catches the first strike. She jumps up yelling again her face full of pride and love, only sitting when her husband pulls her down. His face creased in laughter as he forcibly has to keep her seated.
My eyes shift to the game for a moment focusing on Kyle as he catches yet another strike, covering the ball solidly in his leathered palm. My eyes jump again to her watching her biting her nail feeling the pent up buzz of excitement radiating off of her. Watched her eyes burn a hole into the batter wishing him to fail. The third strike and the sound of leather hitting leather sends her to her feet yelling in triumph, it also sends her jumping up and down into her husband’s arms.
As much as I don’t want too I find her excitement and her energy filling me and I’m also up and yelling before I know it, when I realise what I’m doing and how exposed I’m making myself I sit immediately. I chance a glance to her and sigh in relief that she didn’t see me. I put aside the jealousy I feel at watching her husband touch her and talk to her, I put aside the hurt part of me at seeing the love in her eyes when she looks at him. I put it away because today wasn’t about that today was about the boys. I wanted this, so I made myself live with the cost of coming here and I turned my attention now to their day.
The first innings went quickly, the other team now were all out for three, after a five minute change over where she ran and grabbed both her boys into a hug and then ran back. The game continued.
I recognised David as soon as he stepped out of the dugout, watched him tap the bat against the heel of his boot and wander to the plate. He wiped his hair from his eyes and all his focus went to the pitcher. The determination in his face made a knowing smile quirks at my mouth. I had seen the same look so many times in her. It fell silent and then a whoosh as the sound of leather hitting wood was quickly followed by the yell of the crowd, and above all of them I heard Kaitlan’s screamed “Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssss” as the ball sailed over the pitcher and deep into the field. David took off like a rocket clearing each base then sliding to home. I was on my feet again yelling my happiness, watching as his team mates patted him on the back. When my eyes went to her she was a mass of excitement her face filled with pure joy and pride. But once again she shared it with the man next to her. I sat down silently, the cold water of reality dampening my own pride and joy for David.
I shouldn’t have come, this is what she had tried to tell me, to save me from. I had never felt so outside of her life as I did right at the moment. I wasn’t part of it, and if truth were told I knew at that moment I never would be, not like this. There wouldn’t ever be that happiness in the boys or her, because I could never replace their father. My eyes shifted to him, I so badly wanted to hate him, to think of him as some kind of tyrant, but he wasn’t. He was a father who gave to his children, a husband who loved his wife, who was fair in life and his work, he was a good man. How could I hate him?
If anything I hated myself rather than him. I had finally become my mother, the destroyer of a family and home. The ache inside almost choked me. I needed to leave, and leave now. I waited until another run was made and the crowds of families were up on their feet cheering and I started to zigzag my way through them towards the exit. As everyone sat I was caught half on the stairs to the door and I picked up my speed jumping the remaining steps, I don’t know what made me look back but I did and met startled green eyes staring back at me across the field. I froze, caught in her stare. Seeing the surprise turn to question then to fear, she glanced quickly over to her husband then back to me. For a moment I saw nothing but pure panic consume her. I kept her gaze letting my eyes show I meant no harm, just having to do that hurt inside. She took a breath letting her own eyes softened in love and then in understanding as she saw my gaze flick to the boys on the field, as sadness filled her green orbs as she realised why I had come. When her gaze left mine to go to the boys again, I turned and fled.
The coffee cup hitting the table pulled me out of the past, as I nodded thanks to the waiter I once again felt the hurt I felt that day, the hurt of realising I would never have that part of her or the boys. It had changed something in us. We had talked about it the following weekend when she had stolen away from him. As we talked we both voiced our now growing fears, that the future we had planned and wanted was really just a wishful dream. The part of being together hadn’t changed, that was still part of us, the change was the wanting things to be as happy as they were now, it never would be, breaking the family and losing John from the boy’s life and hers would never bring back the happiness I had seen that day.
That night we didn’t made love instead we had just taken shelter in each other’s arms, holding on to each other as if our lives and love depended on it. I never again went to see the boys in fact I began to distance myself from that part of her life. I knew it hurt her when I changed the subject when she started to relive her day with them, but soon she began to understand why and she stopped telling me.
I think in a way it was the beginning of the end of the way we were.
I rose finishing the hot coffee, letting it warm more than the cold I felt from the brisk October day, I let it seep across the cold ache that now lived permanently inside. I paid the bill and headed for my appointment, turning all my thoughts to my work, pushing back that memory tiger as I crossed the street. When I reached the other side I was ice inside again, the walking talking living dead.
I lay in bed staring at the shadows lining the hotel ceiling, shadows of night becoming day. The sale had gone well and the price I had gotten was better than even I had expected and for a moment as I held the letter in my hands, some of the old joy and passion I felt for my work had surfaced. It was brief, but a part of me was still smiling at it. I had taken it almost immediately to the bank I used here and placed it in the safe and then had contacted the buyer in Japan. I was now fifty thousand richer. I could buy what I wanted, do what I wanted.
My eyes found the shadows again, dancing images of black on white, streams of movement in my vision. The problem was I didn’t want anything, the whisper inside me raised its head. No, I wanted something I could never have and that was still the problem.
I rolled over and punched the pillow taking out a little of my anger, then closed my eyes and forced myself to go back to sleep. But as always it never came, I have grown weary over the year to sleep, because sleep brought dreams, a place I had no control, a place she still held.
After an hour of tossing and turning I gave up and rose and dressed, slipping on my leather overcoat and headed out of room and the hotel. I called a cab and told him to take me to the nearest bar that was open at this hour.
By lunchtime I was back, slightly the worse for wear of a good Scottish whiskey and reeking of both that and the woman who had been crawling over me as I sat in the seedy bar. The shower did nothing except remove the odours, the tight feeling in my stomach was still there, self disgust.
The only reason I had planned a late flight out was an old friend had persuaded me to visit, and If I had been sure she wouldn’t have tracked me down I would have cancelled. But Candice would have.
When I arrived late afternoon Candice already had a stream of guests, which gave me time to weave my way through and grab a drink before she spotted me.
“Good god you look like death? What the hell have you been doing to yourself?”
Her pure New Yorker voice came from behind me and I drew in a breath and forced a smile onto my face as I turned, steeling myself.
“You on the other hand look as lovely as ever Cherie.” I sipped my drink, after I toasted her.
Her face scowled, her grey eyes looking me up and down, after a while her eyes softened and she frowned. “Christ Lee.”
I placed my empty glass down and snagged another one off the tray from a passing waiter. “So…. Why the party?”
She looked up, a little surprised. “My opening… you forgot?”
I glanced up seeing the brief pain flash in her eyes before she could cover it.
“I … I….” I looked at the ground feeling like a real heel. Knowing that I was so caught up in myself I had. “Yea… I’m sorry I did.”
Her hand on my arm finally forced my eyes to face her. She was giving me a sad smile. “Come on. I think we need some space.”
She tugged me through the group of so called friends, not one of which I recognised. She paused at the door to her bedroom, turning to the crowd.
“Eat, drink, and be merry. I’m gonna go catch up with an old friend, and I’ll see you all tonight at the opening.”
She didn’t wait for the response she just pulled me into the empty room.
Once inside she opened the large bay windows, letting in both air and light, she came back, pausing to take the glass out of my hand, ignoring my scowl, before going to sit on the edge of the bed, looking up at me as she patted the space beside her.
I scowled again, knowing the tone she was using as her mothering one. All my scowl did was make her cross her arms and scowl right back at me. Rolling my eyes I moved to her side and sat.
“So, mind telling me why you look like shit and vamoosed out of all our lives last year?”
I moved to stand and her hand caught mine. Her voice now had lowered. “Hey. Lee it’s me here ok. Just me.”
I swallowed hard. I wasn’t ready to talk about this with anyone. Her hand left mine and I moved back to my drink, taking it and moving to the chair opposite, ignoring her disapproving look.
“Not going to tell me are you?”
My answer was to take a long gulp.
“Ok then.” She stood, walking up and down, at times pushing her hair back off her face. Then she stopped in front of me. “Well if you’re not going to tell me, I’m going to guess.”
I felt my eye brow rise.
“Let’s see…” she looked at me. “….A woman… right?”
She stared right at me, I didn’t shift my gaze or lower from hers, but my heart was beating to the point I was sure she could hear it.
“Still got the poker face I see.”
I couldn’t help it. I felt the smile twitch at the corner of my mouth.
“Ahuh.” She exhaled. “…. Must have been some woman to make you up root and leave your house and friends behind without a word… didn’t work out though right?”
I took another drink, looking into the bottom of the now empty glass. “I didn’t leave to be with her Candice. I left to get away from her.” I was surprised I had answered.
Her face didn’t hide the surprise. “Really? Wow, you must have kept her quiet… I mean you never mentioned you were seeing someone.”
“How long were you seeing her before you took off?” Now there was genuine curiosity in her voice. I could see her trying to work out any clues she had missed before.
I didn’t expect her to come over and slap me across the shoulder.
“Hey.” I sat back out of the next downward blow.
“You have got to be kidding me…. Three years? You were seeing her for that long and none of us knew.” She went back to the bed and sat down. The look she threw me would have frozen ice. “God damn you Lee, Jesus. What was she butt ugly or something.”
I just sat there silently then took a glance over. I couldn’t tell if she was angry or just upset at the fact I didn’t trust her enough. When she looked up I saw she was upset more than anything. I forgot sometimes that the hard shell she wore to others wasn’t really who she was underneath.
Her eyes flared for a moment. “Why the hell couldn’t you tell at least me….? I mean I have been your friend for hell of a lot longer than that!”
She sighed deeply. “Ok. So what happened? She cheat on you?”
I winced, and wished there was more alcohol in the now empty glass. “Or something.” It came out as a tired whisper.
She let out a long sigh. “You’re not going to tell me anything, are you?”
“So you’re going to be the usual self pity martyr and suffer in silence.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Don’t Candice. I’m not in the mood.”
She crossed her arms again, giving her long blonde hair a flick back over her shoulder. Her tone taking on the one other people saw most often, it dripped with sarcasm. “Or what? You’re going to leave? Oh wait, you did that already.”
I rose slamming the glass down. “ I don’t need this ok, I contacted you and told you I was leaving, I gave you an address to reach me, believe me no one else got that courtesy. “ I took a hitched breath driving back the anger I knew wasn’t really aimed at her. “I’m sorry I forgot your opening, I will be there if you still want me, but get this.” I walked over to her. “I’m not going to discuss her with you. I can’t, more importantly I won’t.”
Her jaw set and I thought she was going to argue with me, then her eyes softened. “I’m not the enemy Lee.” She relaxed back. “And yes I want you at the opening, you should be, it was you that got me to quit my job and told me my work was any good in the first place. I haven’t forgotten the fact you paid my rent for a year you know.”
I took a breath, letting it calm the anger in me, seeing she was giving me a break. “Your work is better than good Candice and we both know it. What time is the opening?”
Her smile grew. “Eight thirty at the Anchors gallery.”
I battled for a moment on the fact my plane left at nine. “I’ll be there. I’ll rebook a flight tomorrow.”
She blinked at me. “You’re leaving again?”
I nodded. “I don’t live here anymore Candice. This city doesn’t hold anything for me. I come back to check on the stores and when I need too, but…. But it’s too much being here, please understand that.”
She nodded slowly, but I could see in her eyes all the questions. “At least stay here tonight? The party is going to the plaza after the opening, this place with be empty and if I’m lucky I won’t be back till morning.” She flashed me a sexy smile.
I laughed. “No. its ok, the hotel can handle me for another day. But thanks.”
She took a small breath. “I’m only going to mention this once, if you do want to talk I’m here, don’t lock all of us out. Well not me anyway… ok?”
When I didn’t say anything she just gave me a long hug, then moved to the door. “You got something to wear tonight right? It’s not going to be a bar.” She lessened the cut of her words by adding a smirk.
I looked down at myself then at her in question her answer was both her eyebrows rising as she walked back grabbing my arm herding me towards the door. “Oh sister…. we need to shop.”
She ignored both my scowl and grumble and answered both with a deep laugh. I knew I was in trouble.
I wondered how shopping for an outfit for me had turned so quickly to Candice needing a complete new wardrobe for her. I was sat in the corner of the fashion shop with my black dress in the bag. My eyes would rise occasional to meet the grinning face of my friend as she disappeared into the cubicle for the fifth time. I just rolled my eyes turning my gaze back to the week old magazine I had picked. After a few minutes of flicking through I got bored, throwing it back to the table. I had already turned down the free coffee and just let my eyes roam over the top class store.
I felt my heart flip as I spotted a blonde woman walking to the viewing mirror, it wasn’t the woman that caught my breath it was the dress, a long flowing green that dipped at the back to reveal a perfect V view of the spine.
I looked away swallowing, feeling the memory tiger spring forward. When I closed my eyes I felt the tears pushing at the corners. The present began to buzz to nothing as I felt myself transport back to the past. I tried to fight it, but all I had in my vision now was the dress and another time, in fact the first time I saw her.
The noise was the kind that buzzed around your ears like an unwelcome bee, turning all conversation around you into unrecognisable ‘blah blahs.’ I wasn’t sure why I had stayed to the after charity gala, I suppose it was because I didn’t want to be alone.
The auction had gone well I had put in a rare copy of Alice in wonderland and was pleased it had reached a worthy amount. What also made it a plus was the fact the money was going towards the children’s play foundation, meaning the money was going back into the city. I made conversation with the few people I knew and actually began to relax and just have a good time. I started to play a game inside my head, picking out people and trying to work out what they did for a living. At the moment I was focused on the grey haired man leaning against the far wall who was totally engaged in conversation with a woman half his age.
“Is anyone sitting here?”
The question caught me by surprise, I hadn’t heard anyone approach, although that wouldn’t have been difficult, the music now was starting to shut out even the buzzing of the party around. When I turned I had to keep my reaction closely under wraps, the woman in front of me just seeped beauty and the fact the dress she was wearing only added to it.
She smiled tilting her head. “Is anyone sitting here? If not, do you mind? These shoes may look good, but god they’re killing me.”
My eyes dipped to the said feet then slowly I ran my gaze over all of her. I saw her blush slightly.
“It’s ok…. sorry I’ll find somewhere else.”
“No.” I almost shouted the word. Then found myself swallowing as I was presented with her back, a back that was completely exposed in a skin viewed V. The rest of the dress was just as good, hugging her perfectly.
Her head quickly came round, now looking at me over her shoulder, an almost amused look on her face. I quickly shifted my gaze to her rising. “I’m sorry. Please sit here.” I pulled out the chair.
Her smile radiated her face into even more light. “Thank you.” She sat.
So did I, taking the movement to compose myself.
“You’re the book dealer?”
“Yes, I’m sorry I don’t….?” I studied her trying to put a name to the face.
She waved her hand at me, laughing. “I’m a nobody really, so no need to be sorry. It’s my husband who is on the committee. Dr Roberts.”
“Oh.” I nodded, and told the part of me whose balloon just popped, at hearing her married to shut up. “Yes, I liked his speech.”
She grinned again, then held out her hand. “I’m Kaitlan.”
I couldn’t help but answer her smile. “Lee.”
Her hand was smaller than mine and fitted perfectly against my palm, I held it I know for longer than I should but something didn’t want to let go. She eventually pulled hers free and her head ducked. But not before I saw the slight blush on the edge of her face.
“Your dress is beautiful.” For some reason my voice was hoarse. I coughed to clear it, taking a drink.
She sat back, smoothing down the skirt. “I know.”
I laughed and her face quickly came up to mine, her eyes going wide, realising how that must have sounded. “God, that was vain right?”
I sipped my drink, relaxing back and simple nodded. I could feel the warmth inside me starting, my eyes travelled over her again, before I gave myself a slap to pull myself out of it. I was attracted to her, but she was a big no go area.
“I’m not. I mean I don’t usually….” She exhaled in frustration. Which just made me laugh louder. Her face came up again this time shyly. “What I meant to say was, yes I know it is. I don’t usually get to dress up like this and if it weren’t for a very generous mother I would have turned up here in jeans and a shirt.”
“As I said it’s beautiful and it suits you, goes with your eyes.”
This time her smile was shy again, her gaze met mine until she felt uncomfortable and she lowered her gaze. “Thank you.”
We sat in silence, both of us looking out into the party.
“How do you find the books?”
The question pulled me back. “Sources mostly, once you have a name for yourself, and a solid reputation, people with rare books will come to you when they want to sell. The same works for the buyer, they will contact you and let you know what they are looking for…. That and the fact you get to know who collects what.”
She nodded. “It must be something holding something that old in your hands, I mean holding the past. “
I grinned, enjoying the fact she actually seemed to understand what most people missed. To most it was about how old and how much?
“Yea, that’s how I feel. It’s a passion. It has to be, most of the time the waiting and the legality mean it’s boring as hell.”
She returned my grin, her eyes at that moment catching the light and sparkling, the green in them danced. It was only after I realised we both been staring that I looked down. I cleared my throat. “So what do you do?”
“Oh mostly I’m a mother, although I do write a little.”
Kids! My inner thoughts added another no go area to the list. “Yea? What do you write?”
I watched as she totally transformed in front of me, her face relaxing and an added sparkle come into her eyes.
“At the moment I write for my children, well I did, they’re a little old now. Mostly it’s fantasy.” Her eyes dulled a little, then she smiled. “I should find more time for it, but.” She shrugged. “Life always gets in the way.”
“There’s always a place for fantasy Kaitlan, the world needs it. Sometimes it’s too cruel.” I knew my voice had taken on a slightly bitter tone, and her head tilted in question. “Maybe one day I’ll be selling yours.” I made my face lose the tenseness I knew she saw.
“Doesn’t that mean it has to be over fifty years old?”
I laughed again. “No, I also deal in new books. I have too it’s a balance to keep money coming in.”
“Then I hope it does the other books justice. I mean if I ever get that far.” She smiled softly.
I raised my glass to her. “Oh I’m sure your work will, call it a hunch.” I sipped my drink, watching her over the rim.
She blushed again then rose. “Well thanks for the breathing space, hope you enjoy the party.”
I nodded rising, offering my hand. “It was my pleasure and if it hadn’t been for you Kaitlan my only memory of this would have been stuffed shirts and boring conversation…. I’m especially glad I was here to see you in that dress.”
She blinked at me in surprise, slowly taking my hand. “Thank you….” She grinned. “….Again.”
I nodded, squeezing her hand briefly before letting it go. I couldn’t help it. “My pleasure….”
She looked strangely at me, then dropped her hand, turning to head towards the bar area.
I stood there watching her, knowing I had been flirting, knowing that I wanted her to come back. I let my eyes trail over her, drinking in her body like a thirsty woman left in the desert for days. I felt my grin start as she paused at the door to look back at me, her eyes showing the fact she knew I was checking her out. Then she gave me a slightly nervous grin of her own, before turning and leaving.
As I sat, I asked myself what the hell I was doing.
“Lee? Are you alright?”
I sat forward blinking the present into focus to find Candice bending over me, concern written all over her face.
“Give me a minute.”
She nodded, going to my side and rubbing my back. I sat forward, putting my face in my hands, waiting for the shaking throughout my body to subside. I hurt.
“Have you eaten at all today?”
I threw her a sideways glance.
“Yea, that’s what I thought. Come on.”
Once again I found myself man handled and heading towards the exit.
I felt like a child as Candice sat opposite me in the restaurant, she watched every fork full of food pass my lips till I swallowed. She wasn’t satisfied until I had finished off a starter and a main course, her eyes only leaving mine when the dessert trolley came into her space.
“So, you’re not eating, you’re obviously aren’t sleeping well… and of course you’re not going to talk about it.”
I just gave her a look, checking my watch.
“Ok, as were not talking about it, why on earth did you choose Boston?”
I sighed heavily. “Candice, you’ve never even been to Boston so stop making that face.”
She blinked innocently at me. “Well I’ve never been to Iraq either.”
My eyes shot round to her, slightly wide. “Iraq? You’re comparing Boston to Iraq?”
She dabbed the napkin at her mouth before replacing it on the table. “Of course not, geesh, I do have some education. The weather is totally different.” She rolled her eyes. “All I’m saying is whatever does Boston have that New York doesn’t? Well I suppose they do have that tea party history thing going, and all we New Yorker’s have is the fact we conned the Indian’s.”
I resisted the urge to shake my now confused head clear. Sometimes Candice just made the simplest conversation surreal. Finally some part of me caught on to what she was doing, she still held the innocent look as I gazed over to her.
“Candice, it wasn’t what Boston had, it was what it didn’t. Ok?”
Her eyes studied me, then slowly nodded. “Ah… it could have been anywhere other than here, right?”
“Right.” I felt my jaw tensing, wishing she would just leave it alone. “Look, I’ve been a good girl now and eaten all my dinner, do you think it’s safe enough to let me go to the hotel on my own.” I tried to keep my voice teasing but I knew by the scowl on her face she heard the underline annoyed part.
“Fine, go. I’ll see you tonight at the opening.” Her eyes came up to mine and locked. “Right?”
I rose taking the bill as I moved around to her and placed a kiss on her cheek. “Right, eight thirty, I promise.”
Her face softened. “Good, don’t be late. I’m going to be sooooooo nervous.”
I laughed. “Cherie, for you to be nervous it’s going to take a lot more than complete strangers and critics ripping your work apart.”
She grinned up at me. “Boy, do you know how to make a girl feel better.”
I bestowed another kiss, then turned to leave. Knowing without looking her eyes were locked on my retreating form and I didn’t need to bet she would be frowning.
The gallery was impressive as I moved through the foyer into the main rooms, large windows in the high roof let the natural light into the vast open space. Chrome benches specked the area, giving each visitor a place to stop and actually look at each piece in turn. Two large banners were arched across the entrance, with ‘C. Taylor Exhibit’ in swirls of Goth lettering. I moved further in, taking a breath as I saw how many people had actually turned up, it was a sea of white shirts and stiff collars.
I let my eyes go over each work that hung on the walls. Candice was a new age painter, her canvas ranged from ten foot to the smallest to thirty foot her largest, her choice was watercolours. As I let my eyes roam the room I discovered that most of her main pieces were suspended above us. Each one held in metal lines at each corner, which gave the art a slight movement as the air conditioning blew against them. Her work was the kind I liked, pictures you knew what you were looking at. No mass of dots that held a mysterious meaning, or waving lines of colours that symbolised the birth of a deer, or something that no matter how much I squinted or tilted my head, I could never see. Her work was art, well what I called art; trees, valleys, sea, storms, sun, moon and life. Her talent was making each piece breathe.
I let my gaze wander over the crowd trying to spot the woman of the hour and heard her laugh before my eyes had found her. I zigzagged my way through heading to the tight group under one of her larger pieces. As soon as she saw me her eyes lit up and she held out a hand. I reached her and took it, brushing it across my lips. Her arm went through mine, pulling me tight beside her. I could feel the buzz of excitement running through her.
“I’ve sold ten, can you believe it? Ten!” she let out an almost childish giggle. “Two more and I’ve paid my bills for the next two years.”
I chuckled. “Nothing to believe Cherie, how can they not like them.”
She slapped my forearm. “Oh, phissst. I’m just surprised anyone turned up, well not really, it is free food and drink.”
Her eyes then went to me, looking me up and down, till the point I felt nervous.
“What?” I swallowed as her eyes travelled over me again.
“Why don’t I look that good in a black dress?” her hand went to her hip.
I looked down at myself. “Give me a break Candice, it’s a plain dress. “
She bit her lip for a moment, thinking. “You’re right it’s not the dress’s fault it’s yours. God, sometimes I could go and do the gay thing if everyone looked like you.”
I snorted. Then her teasing vanished as she dug me in the ribs to get my attention, her tone dropping, her eyes focusing on a grey haired woman standing under one of her canvasses. “You see her?”
I looked over, then back at my friend. “Yea.”
“She’s the art critic for the New York Times.” Her eyes opened slightly in awe.
She rolled her eyes. “So, if she likes my work, I might as well just move out and buy a condo now.”
I grinned. “What colour?”
She answered my grin. “You’re always so sure I will make it big.”
I shrugged. “Haven’t been wrong so far having I.”
She passed me over a glass of champagne, then toasted hers to mine. “No, never, and for that I am eternally graceful.”
I clinked my glass to hers and sipped, not hiding my blush at her praise.
“Aw, I made you blush.”
I gave her a look, which just made her hug me. “Come on tiger, I want to show you the one I’m not selling that is driving everyone nuts.”
She wasn’t lying, the picture we were approaching had a line of people looking at it. As I drew nearer I could see why, it was a storm at sea and Candice had captured it to the point I could feel its power. I could smell it, feel it. It had more passion than watching Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’. I knew she was good, but this only proved how wrong I was, she was magnificent. I was aware that she stood silently next to me, waiting.
I turned my face set and serious. “I want it. How much?”
A small smile came to her face, making her eyes twinkle. “I thought you would, it’s yours.”
I blinked. “What?”
“It’s yours. I did it the year after the ocean trip…. I saw how your eyes lit up when you saw that storm. And….” She blushed and looked down, looking at that moment about five years old. “…. I…. Well I wanted to give you something as a thank you. I knew no matter what you wouldn’t take money.” Her eyes came up again. “But, I knew you couldn’t resist this.” A knowing smirk touched her mouth.
I looked back at it, then to her. I didn’t have the words inside me tell her how much it meant, so I just picked her up into a huge hug, lifting her off the ground, she let out a small squeak. “Thank you Candice, I….. Just thank you.” I squeezed my arms around her more.
I felt her grin on my neck. “You’re welcome.”
Then I became aware of everyone staring and I placed her back down, grinning at her.
I felt my grin freeze along with my heart and lungs, as my eyes caught the widened green eyes of one I knew to my core. I couldn’t move, I wanted to but the signals from my brain to my legs had run away. I took a rough inhale.
Candice was looking at me, then around as if she was trying to figure out what she was missing, her hand came onto my arm. “Lee? You ok?”
My eyes were locked on Kaitlan’s, her gaze was just as shocked and wouldn’t be surprised if I was sporting the same agony white look. I saw her start to shake, I resisted the impulse to cross the room and just grab her into my arms. But reality stepped in and gave me a hand to get back to breathing, John came forward, concern filling his face as his hand went to her arm, an almost mirror image of what Candice was doing to me.
I couldn’t look away, it was like that moment your facing a fear, when everything inside resists common sense, when your stomach clenches so tightly it pushes pain throughout your whole body, when your legs turn to jelly and refuse to move. Even though the brain and body know it would be better to run, to hide, and too get away.
“Hey Lee, you’re starting to worry me here.” Again her eyes flicked around, they paused on Kaitlan, looked back at me and then back to Kaitlan again.
Then Kaitlan broke our gaze, turning towards her husband, her hand grabbing him, I saw her whisper something, he nodded whispering something in return, slipping his arm over her shoulder, as he led her away. She didn’t even look back. I wanted to cry, I could even feel my chin start to crease and tremble.
Candice looked once more in Kaitlan’s direction then straight up to my face, and I saw complete understanding dawn. Her chin set and she grabbed my arm and steered me right away.
I was shaking as she moved me through the crowd, her hand felt both like a vice and a lifeline. She didn’t pause when she came to the ‘ do not enter’ rope, she simply unhooked it and opened the door beyond, pausing only to wrap her arm around my waist as she moved us in and closed it.
I found my legs touching a chair so I sat. She left me going to the water cooler and pouring a glass, handing it too me, she knelt, her hand rubbing circles upon my lower back.
I took in a long shuddering breath, which unlocked everything hidden inside, and I cried, coughing out deep vocal sobs I had no control over.
“Oh Lee.” I heard the sadness.
Her body came around me, like a giant comfort blanket, drawing me into her warmth, till the point all I had in my senses was her subtle perfume.
I focused on breathing, slowly getting myself under control, embarrassed at the fact Candice had seen me this way. I managed to move, loosening her hold, until I could stand, mopping my eyes and shutting down the side that hurt so much. She looked up at me from the knelt position, her eyes speaking volumes but her words were silent, she waited.
Time passed how long I don’t know, all I did was pace, my eyes occasional flicking to the door as if expecting Kaitlan to burst in and claim me. But all that happened was time continued to pass. Only the click of Candice knees as she rose intruded into the silence.
Her voice was tentative. “Lee?”
I looked down at my hands.
“That was her?”
I took a shuddering breath, slowly nodding.
I knew it wasn’t really a question, I could see as I looked up, her brain was working overtime, trying to figure it out.
“Yea she’s married, kids as well.” My tone was bitterer then I indented.
Her grey eyes drew level with me and I could read the surprise there, she knew my history, she knew how I felt about it.
“I, wow… I don’t know what to say.” She exhaled noisily.
“What’s to say, I was an idiot… I went into something I hated, knowing she wasn’t going to leave him… what’s to fucking say.”
She stepped back as the anger rose. “Hey, I’m not judging you.”
I spun at her. “Aren’t you, in some small way aren’t you? Because I haven’t stopped judging myself over this.”
“Lee, please. Come on.”
“I’m sick of this. I shouldn’t have come back here.” I moved fast towards the door, when she stepped in front of me I was slightly amazed that she could move that quickly in heels.
“Now wait one god damn minute here… because of her you left before. Because of her I lost my best friend without one explanation. I don’t think that’s fair to me. Or for that matter you. Stop running, damn it.”
My eyes flashed at her as she stood in front of the door. But she held her place, her own eyes flaming at me.
“ Lee… please don’t leave I know you can’t go back out there but… please this opening means so much to me, and I’d like you here, or near… It won’t last much longer…. we can go back to the apartment and talk… I think you need too.”
“I don’t want to talk.” I moved my hand to the handle, which was stopped as she caught my hand.
“Well silence doesn’t seem to be doing you much good.” She pulled her hand away.
I bit the inside of my mouth, keeping in the anger, knowing she didn’t deserve its attack.
“Candice, please move.”
“Only if you promise you will go to my apartment and wait. Please give me a chance to be a friend.”
I gave a curt nod. But she still didn’t move.
I gave her a look that would have scared anyone else off, but she still held firm.
“Promise?” She still persisted.
I inhaled. “Ok. I promise to wait at your apartment.” I looked right at her. “….But I’m not promising to talk.”
She sighed. “At this point I’ll take what I can get.” She stepped out the way.
I flung open the door keeping my eyes locked on the exit and not taking any notice of anything or anyone. My mind already betraying my control and showing me the memory of the past I didn’t want to see.
Rose blossom that’s what I could smell, it surrounded me with its sweet scent, but it didn’t come from any tree. It filled my senses from the woman standing opposite me in Starbucks. A woman I thought I wouldn’t see again, one I had met at a charity event almost a month ago and whose memory had plagued my dreams. I blinked from my thoughts as I realised she was talking to me. “Sorry, what?”
Her smile creased. “I asked what you were thinking about?”
“Oh,” I dropped my eyes, feeling my face colour.
She chuckled. “Never mind must have been something to put a blush on your face like that.” She bit her lip nervously.
“You.” I coughed out the word between an inhale and a swallow.
Her green eyes sprung wide, her face taking on the same tinge of red that just graced mine.
“Me?” She swallowed.
I felt my inner flirt raise its head briefly before common sense reminded me who I was talking too. “The charity event. Where I had seen you before.” I kept my face innocent.
She almost sighed in relief. “Oh.”
I matched her grin.
I felt myself relaxing, finally getting over the shock of walking into her in the street. “So, what brings you down to my neck of the woods?”
Her flustering vanished, as she felt more comfortable in the conversation. “Well actually I was looking for your bookstore.”
My eyebrow rose. “Why?”
“Well, to be truthful, my little boy has just started full time school and I have more time on my hands then I know what to do with.”
I waited. Ignoring my stomach as it flipped at the mention of her son.
“I got to thinking about a lot of things, and well…” she paused, her eyes coming up to look at me.
I shifted slightly feeling the jolt this time in my stomach as something else rather than the reality of her being a mother and a wife. I turned my focus fully to her voice.
“Well, I’ve decided to concentrate on my writing. But fantasy doesn’t seem to be working…. I think I did that just for the kids. I don’t think it’s really me.”
My face must have showed my confusion.
She laughed. “Not making much sense right?”
Her grin covered her face, and filled me with warmth I hadn’t felt in a long time.
“I wanted to see the old books you had, get a feel of them, and maybe, well I suppose maybe kick start something inside me.”
I took the two coffees I had ordered and motioned for her to go to a table. She followed. We sat.
“So why my shop? There are other old book stores out there.”
She took her coffee, nodding thanks and shrugged. “Because you seemed to understand that my writing was important to me.”
A brief shot of sadness entered her eyes, which she covered by the time she looked up. “Not really.”
I caught the surprise as she sat back. “Thanks. See that’s why I wanted your shop, you wouldn’t think I was weird at wanting to do something like this. My only problem was tracking it down.”
I laughed. “I’m in the telephone book.”
She wagged a finger at me. “Under Lee, um I don’t think so. I had to play detective and go back to the charity event and find your last name, which of course didn’t help with the store name. I spoke to Hilary James… do you know her?”
I nodded, knowing the name as one of the organisers I had donated the book too.
“Well, after convincing her I wasn’t a stalker she told me the address and….” she sat back spreading her arms. “Here I am… although bumping into you in the street wasn’t part of the plan.”
I felt my eyebrow rise again. “You had a plan?”
Her face suddenly got sheepish. “Um yea, I was going to, well.” She looked down at her cup.
God she was adorable.
She looked back up. “Kinda silly now that I’m thinking about it.”
Now I was really intrigued. “Come on spill it.”
After I long time, in which I thought she wasn’t going to tell me, she suddenly looked up.
“Well, I was going to stand in the bookshop, make sure you were somewhere behind me, and well…. We’ll see if you remembered my back.” her gaze dropped as her face flushed.
I was glad I hadn’t been drinking because I knew I’d be wearing the liquid down my shirt. I was also thank full her gaze was locked on her hands, because I knew there would have been no way to hide my surprise or my arousal at the flashback of the image of her at the party, or more to the point the dreams. By the time she looked up I’d managed to suppress at least the last part.
“Kinda silly. Right?”
I smiled. “No, not at all. In fact a unique way of meeting me again.”
A smile replaced the nervousness on her face. “I like to be different.”
Our eyes locked and I felt myself open up inside, which slightly confused me. Was I reading her right? Was she flirting? She was straight. Right? One thing I did know she was married. When I realised what I was questioning, I felt a jolt of something else, fear.
I cleared my throat, needing to change the subject. “So…. You want to visit my shop?”
Puzzlement laced her green eyes staring at me, then she blinked and it was gone, her mouth taking on the smile I had come to like. “Oh yes.”
We rose, heading to the door. I opened it for her and as she went past me to go through, I couldn’t help myself, I dipped my head low, so close I inhaled her perfume and let it wash over me, so near her ear, that my warm breath bounced back off her skin and caressed my lips.
“I would have recognised it.” I whispered.
She stopped dead, her breath catching, when she turned to me her eyes were the deepest green I had ever seen.
“You… you would have?” she had to take a breath. Genuine curiosity entering her eyes, and a touch of something I wasn’t sure of.
I nodded, knowing I was playing with fire, playing with something I should be running the other way from. “Yes.”
A smile twitched at the corner of her mouth. I wanted to kiss her. The thought jolted me back into reality. But before I could run she had broken the gaze and moved out of the doorway and I felt my breathing resume, I was in trouble and both my heart and head knew it.
As the dream faded, I didn’t remember how I had gotten from the gallery to Candice’s place, or even how I ended up face down on the couch semi naked. My senses had returned when I felt a gentle caress on my bare back and for a brief moment I was transported back to a time when love surrounded me. The harsh reality didn’t take long to rob my waking haze of the warmth of it.
When my eyes finally focused enough, I watched as Candice lifted a blanket and laid it over me. She gave me a sad smile and picked up the empty bottle from the floor giving it a look, with her eyes widening then going again to mine in shock.
“You drank the entire bottle?” she glanced around for a second then back. “Alone?”
I grumbled, moving to sit, pulling the blanket around my shoulders, huddling like an ancient American Indian outside a tepee, and at that moment feeling just as old.
She gave a long sigh then moved away to the kitchen, clicking on the coffee.
“Is that the answer you’ve found?” Her voice was both accusing and bitter.
At first I was going to tell her to mind her own business. But considering I had just passed out on her couch and the cause of it was her bottle of brandy. I bit my tongue and just nodded, and then wished I didn’t as the room spun and my head sent a message to the rest of body that it wanted to disown me. I swallowed trying to get my stomach to stop playing leapfrog. Just as it started to obey a cup of steaming coffee was shoved under my nose. I only had time to look up and catch the smug knowing look on her face before I dumped the blanket and headed to worship the porcelain goddess.
I came back feeling lower than a beaten dog, but cleaner. I had taken the time to shower and track down my dress. I scowled in Candice’s direction as I filled myself a coffee and moved back into the living space. She sat sipping a soda, a big dressing gown wrapped around her, all the makeup gone she looked about five years younger.
Her eyes studied me as I moved to the chair. “Feel better?”
I sat. “No.”
“I’m not surprised.”
Silence fell as I drank from the cup, welcoming the warmth on my raw throat.
“How long have you found the answer in the bottom of a bottle?”
My eyes shot over to her. “I haven’t…”
Her eyebrow perked.
“That was the first time in almost six months… I did before,” I paused. “I realised in time, before it became a problem.”
Her face relaxed a little. “Good, I don’t want a lush for a friend.”
I rubbed my eyes, sitting back tiredly. “Thanks for the support.”
She didn’t miss the sarcasm. “After my family history Lee do you really think I could be around another drunk?”
I blinked up at her as another part of my brain woke up and reminded me about Candice’s mother. My eyes fell. “Sorry. I….”
She interrupted. “Forgot… it’s becoming a habit.” She placed the glass down and rose, moving back into the kitchen, returning with a bag of chips. “Want some.”
My stomach rolled, I quickly shook my head.
“If you’re interested at all, I sold all the paintings.”
When I looked over she was popping a chip into her mouth with a proud look shining out of her grey eyes.
“I’m interested.” I forced myself to rise and went over and yanked her up, she squeaked in surprise as I engulfed her in a hug.
“I’m always interested and I’m also an asshole of a friend, forgive me. Congratulations Cherie.”
Her answer was to squeeze harder as her arms wrapped around me. “You’re not an asshole.”
I leant back so my face was clear from her, giving her a questioning eyebrow raise.
She snorted. “Ok, a little… But thank you. God I did it…. Lee I’ve really done it. I’ve gotten five requests for interviews, not only that the gallery wants another exhibition within the next year. God.”
Now she was bubbling like a kiddie in a sweetie shop. I laughed just drawing her back into me. “I told you so.”
She slapped my arm. “Hush, let me enjoy the moment.”
One thought slipped through, it amazed me with her family history how many times she actually slapped me. It gave me warm feeling that the trust and love she gave, she gave freely, when I really didn’t deserve any of it. I couldn’t help myself, maybe it was the relief of something going right around my life, maybe it was the fact I hadn’t hugged anyone in such a long time. I couldn’t help it as I felt the tears spring into my vision.
Her head tilted back for a moment, just looking at me, without saying a word she just tucked her head back under my chin and increased the force of her hug.
Finally she drew away, tracing a kiss against my cheek. “Can you talk about it?”
She must have felt my body jerk. She quickly patted my cheek, returning her head to my chest. “Ok, I’m not worried yet, you came here and didn’t run off.”
I felt the smile against my neck. “I know, still haven’t broken one to me yet.”
“It’s just hard Candice. So hard.”
She squeezed me again. “I wish I could say I know, but I don’t, all I do know was what I saw and what I see. “
I swallowed, I pulled away from her, offering my hand, which she took and led us both to the couch. We sat.
“Do you know her?”
I watched her face debate whether to lie or not. “Yea I do.”
I nodded, I had figured as much. “Thanks for not lying.”
She shrugged. “Glad I didn’t either.”
I twitched an answering smile. “How?”
“How do I know her?”
She blew out a gust of air. “Her mother owns the gallery.”
I sat back. “Shit.”
She winced. “I could say in my defence that if I’d known her name and who she was before, I wouldn’t have let you walk into the lion’s den as it were.”
“Yea.” Suddenly life was getting far too complicated again.
“Didn’t you figure it out? I mean you did know about her mother, well I mean her family and stuff?”
I didn’t need to look at her to see she was trying to figure out what Kaitlan meant to me and how much I was involved in her life.
“I know all about her family Candice, including her mother, I guess I just didn’t put two and two together, and yes I knew she owned galleries. It just didn’t occur to me to check.”
The one word answer from her kinda said it all. Another thought entered my head, one that began to panic me.
“Her mother, she didn’t see, she didn’t notice what happened did she?”
Her eyes shot to mine filling with anger. “For fuck’s sake, what if she did. I can’t believe you’re trying to protect her, after what she did.”
I closed my eyes, was I really doing that? After all this time? Yea, I was.
“Causing her unwanted questions from her family isn’t protecting her Candice, and you don’t know what she did.”
She rose suddenly, moving right in front of me, so I had to look up.
“Oh yes I do, because I have the result of whatever it was sitting right here in my apartment, and before that I saw the look in your eyes at the gallery. Plus the fact I haven’t seen you for over a year in the first place, and you’ve come back looking like you have been beaten up and thrown away. So don’t tell me I don’t know.”
I really didn’t want to fight. “Candice, I knew what I was getting into with her, she never lied. So I’m to blame for the ending as much as she is.”
“Polly rot!” she turned away from me, folding her arms to her chest.
If we hadn’t been in the middle of the argument I would have found her response hilarious, but it told me just how much she really was getting mad at me. She only started using ‘Polly rot.” When she was trying to control saying something else that could never be taken back, in a way it gave her an outburst to use while she calmed her anger. It was one of her defences around seeing her mother.
She didn’t turn. “What?”
“Can we stop yelling yet, my head hurts?”
She glanced over her shoulder at me, pinning me with a steely grey gaze. Letting me know my attempt at calming her with the sympathy vote wasn’t going to work. “You’re really not going to tell me a damn thing are you?”
“I can’t. Not yet, not tonight.”
This time she turned. “You mean never. As I remember you’re flying out tomorrow, and you have never been a letter writer.”
My nostrils flared, as tired as I was I felt the challenge. “Candice.” Her name was turning into a growl.
“Ok, let’s try a different tact. Why don’t I tell you what I know about Mrs Kaitlan Roberts.”
My eyes jumped to her, giving her a warning, which she ignored.
“I’ve talked to her a lot in the last couple of months. She’s been working on and off at the gallery as a promoter. Helping her mother with the advertising.”
Despite my growing anger I felt curiosity raise its head.
“She’s nice. In fact up until tonight I liked her. She seemed honest and genuinely friendly. I’ll have to revise the honesty part.”
“She’s good at what she does, but, well I always kinda thought she was too sad, guess I know now why…. I couldn’t ever put my finger on what it was…. I mean I saw her with her family.”
I winced again.
“But…” her brow creased then she shrugged, “I don’t know maybe it’s the artist in me, her life picture always seemed to be missing something…” her eyes levelled on me again. “I can see why you fell for her.”
I looked up surprised. “You are?”
She rolled her eyes. “Christ Lee, I may not be gay but I have good taste. She intelligent, funny, beautiful, not a dope or a dog so yea I can see why you fell in love with her… it was love right?”
I had to inwardly smile, very smooth my friend very smooth. “Yes.”
“On her part too?”
I inhaled, that was the only pause in my answer. “Yes.” My voice was low.
I watched as she stood there, one finger on her chin, thinking.
“She stay for the kids or him?”
The question felt like a kick to the stomach. Candice never did pull punches. “B…” I had to swallow to finish the answer. “Both.”
“Polly Rot!” she started to pace. “I don’t get it, if I were for the kids I could at least understand how you can say she was in love with you and still choose them, but I can’t get it if you’re throwing the husband into the equation…. How on earth can you say she was in love with you and then she choices him?”
“Candice, it’s complicated.” My head was starting to pound.
“Damn right it is. You said you’d been seeing her for three years?”
I sighed rubbing my temples, “Yes.”
“And in that time she was with you, I mean going behind her husband’s back and I’m assuming there was sex involved here.”
I glared at her.
“So she’s fucking around with you behind her husband’s back and you’re expecting me to believe she was in love with him enough to choose him over you. Sorry nope can’t believe that one, you don’t fuck around on someone you love.”
“I didn’t say she choose him because of love.”
She stopped pacing her head whipping around to me. “What?”
I rose heading to the kitchen to find something for my exploding head. “You heard me.”
Her rant paused as her brain tried to get around the new information. She moved into the resting against the counter. “She doesn’t love him.”
I found the pills sending thanks to god and began to wrestle with the child proof top in frustration. “Not in the way you think.”
She took the bottle from me and quickly opened it, totally ignoring my glower as she handed two pills into my palm. She sighed heavily. “Lee, love is love.”
I tipped my head back forcing myself to swallow then drank down the glass of water to loosen the bitterness of the pills on the back of my throat.
“No, it isn’t.”
This time she followed me, curiosity filling her eyes.
“So, tell me?” she sat back in the chair opposite.
“You love me right?”
She nodded and a smile came to her mouth. “Yea you dope.”
“But you’re not in love with me.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh god this is the conversation that starts with, if you’d ever been in love you’d know the difference.”
A soft chuckle escaped me. “Yes… and it’s true. It’s different Candice.
“And she isn’t in love with her husband.” Her brow scrunched, trying to work it out.
I could see by her eyes she still didn’t understand.
“No she isn’t, but she loves him, she been with him for over fifteen years Candice she has children by him, he’s…” I needed to take a breath to continue. “He isn’t an asshole ok.”
“As much as you wished he was.”
I didn’t hide the quirk of a smile, I knew she knew me too well sometimes. “Yea, as much as I wished he was.”
“So she what, fell out of love with him?”
I rubbed my temple again wishing the pills would hurry up. “To be honest I don’t think she knew what happened. “
Her brow furrowed. “Ok this is getting way to confusing, let’s go with an easier question, if she’s gay how could she be with a guy?”
I would have snorted if I hadn’t seen the seriousness in her comment. “God Candice, you want to think about that one.”
She looked sideways at me, seeing if I was making fun of her. “No, answer me, she’s gay so why is she with a guy?”
I really didn’t believe I was having this conversation with her. “She likes both male and female ok.”
Both her eyebrows rose. “Bi?”
“Wow, haven’t met one of those before.”
This time I did laugh.
She looked at me in question.
“Candice you are priceless.”
She scoffed. “Stop changing the subject.”
I sighed, “I am not going into the bees and bees or the birds and the birds conversation with you, and for your information you have been in the company many times with bi’s.”
Both her eyebrows shot up. “I have?”
I laughed again at the expression on her face. “Yea you have, they just don’t wear a badge saying it.”
“It would make it a hell of a lot easier if they did.”
I snorted. “Why, would you be interested?”
Her answer was a growl and a pillow in my face. I replaced it on my lap.
“Candice, she wasn’t in love with her husband when she met him, but she grew to love him. Then… then she met me and realised something was happening. Something she didn’t understand, but with me it was too strong, too much…” I exhaled. “With me it was different.”
Her eyes were studying me closely. “Because she didn’t love him anymore?”
She shook her head. “I’m sorry I’m trying to understand this but, it’s getting so confusing.”
“I told you it was complicated.”
“Yea no shit.” She rubbed her eyes.
I could feel the headache medication starting to dull the throb. “Ok, let me try to explain that ok…”
She nodded eagerly sitting forward.
“I meant by partly that if she had been still in love with him we wouldn’t have become lovers. “
“Ok, I think I get that one.”
“I also meant partly because the sexual attraction we had for each other, we both tried to fight, in fact we tried to stay away from each.”
Her eyes widened.
“Candice I can control my libido, when I need too you know.”
She bit her lip, I knew she was biting back a retort. “I notice you used the word tried.”
I smirked. “Yea. We tried.”
“Is that what it was at first, lust?”
“Kind of yes… looking back at it now I know it wasn’t just that for either of us. But it was easier then to label it sex. I told myself I would enjoy the time I had with her and that would be enough. It was fun, dangerous and beyond any sex I’d had before. That really should have told me it was something deeper.”
“So she was good in the sack then?” Her chin was resting on her hand.
I snorted the water I just sipped. “Jesus Candice.”
She grinned over at me. “That would be a yes then.”
I glared at her as I wiped down the front of the dress.
“Ok I think I’m getting most of it, I don’t get the Bi thing, never have never will, but the loving him thing I think I get that. I mean if I was with someone for that long I’d feel responsible for him, not want to hurt him, not want to break up the family and god the kids coming into to it, you weren’t kidding when it came to complicated.”
I just sipped my drink, knowing she wasn’t finished yet.
“But what about her? What about you? None of it seems fair to either of you. Where do you two come into the equation here?”
I placed the glass down on the coffee table very carefully knowing my hand was shaking. “In shadows Candice, in shadows.”
She looked at me in question. “The affair and you as the other woman waiting around for her to visit?”
I nodded trying to hide the hurt I felt at all those memories of cancelled dinners. “Yes.”
“Polly rot!” She started pacing again, after about five minutes her pacing slowed. “She doesn’t seem the kind of person to do that to a person Lee.”
“To me or to him?” I sat back tucking my feet under.
“To you. Oh hell, for that matter to him either. Cheating with you. I mean if she was genuinely that much in love with you, to make you live like that, waiting around. That doesn’t seem like love to me.”
I felt my defences rise. “I had a choice in this Candice. I wasn’t some kind of lap dog waiting for a treat.”
“So, she did try and make you leave?” she was curious again.
“Yes.” I gulped remembering the pain the times she had tried to make me leave. “Several times.”
“Hmmmmmmm.” Her pacing resumed, until she turned back. “Why didn’t you?”
“Because by that time I knew she was in love with me.”
“What about you?” her head tilted.
I smiled sadly. “I already knew I was, I just didn’t know till then she was.”
She scratched above her eyebrow. “Boy, this is so deep.” She sat again, this time with a tired sigh. “And you kept this all inside for three years, never telling any of us.”
I heard the hurt in her voice. I sat forward my feet coming back to the floor.
“Candice how could I…. All my life I have vowed never to do what my mother did, in fact I judged every one of my friends that did it so harshly that I didn’t talk to them again, and here I was having an affair with a married woman with children. How could I expect any of you to understand and not judge me? It was easier to keep it inside and still have a somewhat normal life outside of her, with no judging. But most of all, friends that treated me the same as always without a mass of questions. You’ve got to understand it wasn’t that I didn’t trust you. I needed the normality Candice I needed the sanity of life around you, around the others. With Kaitlan I was slowly going insane knowing she was going back to him all the time she left me, knowing she had a life outside of me, outside of us…. I needed that too to balance it. Can you try and understand that was why?”
She sat back. “I think that is the longest sentence I have ever heard from you in the ten years I’ve known you…. Wow.”
I laughed. I returned the favour of a thrown cushion. “You’re a brat.”
She caught it in mid air, her face growing serious. “I know, and I won’t say I’m not hurt that you didn’t trust me, but I can see why… even if I don’t like it, I can see it.”
I exhaled my held breath. “Thank you.”
She was thinking again, I glanced down at my watch not surprised to see it was after four am.
“So was it worth it?”
Her question bolted my eyes up to her. “Was what worth it?”
“You mean how I am now. Don’t you?”
She slowly nodded, sadness filling her eyes. “Yea I guess that what I’m asking.”
I swallowed. “I asked myself that a lot over the last year, and yes it was, no matter how much it hurts inside me Candice, if I could go back to the moment I started it, I still would. I love her and as much as that tears me up right now knowing she’s with him.” I swallowed again knowing my eyes were leaking my hearts pain down my cheek. “I wouldn’t change it.”
I saw tears misting in her eyes. “Would you change the outcome?”
That one hurt. “Yes… I wouldn’t have left.”
Her eyes widened fast and I couldn’t help the dry smile I made.
“Yes Candice I left her. More to the point I ran as far as possible. I made sure she couldn’t follow. Even though I knew deep down she wouldn’t.”
“But…but you said she choose him and the kids.”
“No, I made her choose, something happened. “ I paused pushing back the memory I wasn’t ready to face yet. “If I hadn’t pushed it or made her she wouldn’t have had to give me an answer. One I knew she would never back down from. I gave her an ultimatum. I didn’t trust enough to let time make the decision for us. I wanted more and I made her choose. I lost. “
I knew the answer I was giving her was a simplistic version of what happened.
I rose, moving to her and giving her a kiss to the cheek, seeing her totally surprised eyes staring up at me. I moved to the spare bedroom pausing at the door to look back at her.
“If I could change it I would go back to that day and keep my mouth shut, because even stolen moments were better than this emptiness I’m trapped in without her… good night my friend and I’m so proud of you for today.”
Not waiting for an answer I entered the room and closed the door. Letting my back sink back against the wood and let my tired emotional battered body slip finally to the floor and I sat.
Time, time passes, it always has it always will, the world turns, one thing that is just as constant is the bodies need for sleep and that’s what I had done. The need had overtaken the pain the loss, and the frustration. As I stirred into the waking world my body was protesting the fact of my choice of bed. I could smell bacon filtering into my senses along with the pain in my joints. I rose, letting out the groan as I felt my back pop into place as I stretched. The groan was quickly joined by the grumble in my stomach, yet another constant, hunger.
I knew Candice kept a spare set of jeans and shirt in the top drawer and walking like someone twice my age I took them and headed for the shower.
When I emerged back into the living room I looked somewhat human again. Candice looked up at me smiling rising to get me a coffee.
“I wasn’t sure if I should wake you.”
I glanced at my watched surprised to see it was after noon, no wonder I ached.
She placed the cup down as I sat at the table. “Thanks.”
“You want eggs and bacon I made extra in case?”
Taking a long gulp of coffee I nodded. She quickly returned to the kitchen removing the plate from the warmer and brought it, then took her seat again, eating from her plate as she watched me.
“Did you sleep?”
“Like the dead.” I bit into the bacon almost drooling over the taste as it exploded in my mouth.
“Good, I’m glad. Um, you ok after last night’s talk?”
For the first time I noticed how nervous she was. Chewing I smiled over at her. “Yea I’m ok.”
I could see the relief spread across her face. “You blew me away you know, I mean with what you said.”
I sat back. “Candice I don’t think I can go into again ok, not this morning.” I shifted.
“No, I know, I mean… ah shit, what I’m trying to say is I didn’t expect you to talk to me at all, I just wanted to say thanks.”
“Thanks? For what?” I seriously had no clue what she was on about.
Her eyes softened. “For trusting me enough.”
“Oh.” I pushed the egg around my plate, sighing. “It wasn’t about trust Candice, I thought you understood that.”
“I don’t mean telling me about her, I mean trusting in me enough to let me get close.”
I paused in mid chew as I realised what she meant. “Then you’re welcome.” I finished chewing.
She grinned over at me. “So are you still going to fly out today?”
I swallowed the egg in my mouth, thinking for a moment. “I want too.”
“I sense a but coming?”
I smiled. “Yea… “I looked over at her. “ I’d like to spend some time with an old friend I’ve neglected recently.”
She sat back her eyes smiling. “Really?”
“Anyone I know?” she folded her arms.
“Oh, you know her, she’s annoying.”
She picked up the napkin and threw it at me. “Brat.”
I caught it wiping my mouth. “So,” I suddenly felt nervous. “Can I hang out here for a while with you?”
The silence almost sent me running to the bedroom to grab my things and leave, then I looked up and realised she was making me sweat on purpose.
She suddenly lent forward. “I’m not going to stop asking questions I can’t promise that and I won’t. But I won’t push. Still want to stay?”
She grinned, the kind of grin that told me I had done something right in our friendship. One I suddenly realised I had missed a lot.
“ Ok, well today I can’t do anything, I have a full booked day so that gives you time to go to the hotel pay the bill and haul whatever belongings you have back here. I won’t be home till after eight so the place is yours…. I’d um ask you to come with me but it’s at the gallery, sighing stuff and interviews.” She waited for my response.
“No problem… I’ll get my stuff, I have a manuscript to sort out the sale on, I was going to leave it to Ted but as I’m here I’ll deal with it, I’ll just bring the laptop back and video meet with the client.”
She nodded rising to clean her plate and place it in the dishwasher. I sat and just ate my breakfast. She returned with her coat on and bag in her hand, pausing at the door to leave.
I looked around to her. “Hmm?”
“What do I tell her if she asks about you?”
I blinked. “Who?”
Candice took a breath. “Kaitlan.”
I swallowed, feeling my breakfast stir in my gut. “Why would she, she doesn’t know you know me does she?”
She almost rolled her eyes. “She didn’t, but I’m pretty sure after last night she does now, she should be there this morning… so what do I tell her?”
I turned my gaze away. “ She won’t ask.”
“But if she does. I kinda need to know what you want me to say here Lee, come on.”
I chewed the inside of my cheek. “Nothing. Tell her nothing, make up something.”
I heard the sigh from behind me. “Fine, be stubborn. See you later.”
“Yea about eight, I’ll cook.” I looked back over my shoulder, softening the tension I knew was in my face.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhh then I’ll be here on the dot. Later gator.” Then she was gone.
I sighed heavily, why did life have to be so complicated.
The day went exactly how I explained it to Candice, I went to my stores and spent time with the managers. Ted was more surprised I was still in New York then in the fact I wanted to handle the sale and the client. I stopped at the hotel after and collected my things and paid the bill, I arranged for my luggage to be taken over to Candice’s place for six o’clock, knowing I’d be back there by then. I then called my office in Boston letting them know I was taking a few days off and wouldn’t be reachable unless it was above important.
I avoided the places Kaitlan might have been, not really trusting in the fact that she was supposed to be at the gallery. If anything that was the only thought I had of her, I kept myself busy. So when I found myself heading in the direction of my old apartment I was shocked. It was after I left the last store. It was the one nearest to it. Whether it was my body on autopilot I don’t know. I was concentrating on listening to the audio file on the last accounts of the store when I looked around me and recognised the street. I literally stopped in my tracks. Breathing in the smells of the flower shop on the corner, listening to the sound of the schoolyard opposite, all so familiar to me, it hurt. I’d missed it; I had missed all of it, the mixture of old buildings and new, missed the sidewalk that dipped as you moved from the new covering to the old slate. It still felt like home.
I hadn’t sold the house some part of me couldn’t, it was one of the things Richard had left me in his will, it had been in his family for two generations, how could I sell that. I debated whether I wanted to see it, whether I wanted to be anywhere near it. I was already walking closer before my mind had made decision. My heart casting the winning vote. It looked good as I approached, I had hired a caretaker of sorts he was a neighbour I trusted, I had contacted him with the offer not long after my exodus to Boston. Some part of me needing to know the house was in good hands.
I stood at the gate looking up at it. I reached into my pocket pulling out my keys recognising the deep copper one and I walked up the stairs. I didn’t care that this was nuts I didn’t care that this one place was my most dangerous flaw, for her to find me.
The door squeaked a little as I opened it, sounding like a thunderclap in the quiet. I smelt the scent that is always in buildings that have been shut up to long and it saddened me more than I’d like to admit. It told of desertion and neglect. My foot falls echoed as I cleared the doorway, large white sheets covered the furniture turning them into motionless ghosts. But it was clean, no dust settled anywhere, at least that part of my conscience was clear, the caretaker was doing his job. It felt empty, not just of people but of love. Not just the love I had there with Kaitlan, it was empty of the feeling of a home that was loved, cared for, lived in.
I opened a drawer, moving back the dustsheet. Letting my fingers move through the contents. I knew there was nothing important there, I had sent for all the things relevant to my work to be shipped out, most of my clothes had moved with me too. No, what reminded now were things that we all put into drawers and forget about, little things.
I moved to the window opening it, welcoming the clean breeze. I sat in the window seat turning my eyes to the playground, not helping the smile at all the memories of sitting there each morning watching the children playing, my mind shifted to thoughts of Kaitlan. This place had become our sanctuary, my apartment in the city was for conveyance but this house was saved for those times I had more than a night with her. But most of all in our future plans it was to become our home.
The cough at the door made me jump out of my skin, I rose, turning to face it, relaxing only when I recognised the intruder. “Shit.”
“Sorry, Miss Harrison I didn’t know you were back, I saw the window open.”
I felt my heart calm. “Jesus.” I ran my hand through my hair.
He smiled nervously. “Sorry again.”
“No, it’s ok Mac. Just… No, I’m not back, I mean I am but I’m not staying I was in the city for a few days so I thought I’d check out the place, I should have contacted you, but it was kinda a non planned visit.”
He smiled nodding, I was glad he didn’t mention the fact I was a babbling idiot.
“So you won’t be wanting the sheets off then?”
My gaze flicked to them, then back up. “No, I was just leaving.”
“Oh, okay. Well it was nice seeing you again, should I continue to monitor this place, or will you be selling?”
I blinked at him in shock. “Selling god no. But yea you’re doing a great job, I expected dust everywhere.”
He shuffled slightly. “Not how I work. Place like this deserves to be looked after.”
Just that comment made me feel guilty. I reached over closing the window. Walking with him back to the door. I let him lock it.
He nodded then he looked up. “Oh, did the other lady find you ok?”
I stopped on my descent down the stone steps. “What lady?”
He scratched his head, his old face creasing as he thought. “ Must been about six months ago, pretty young thing, she came back maybe six or seven times trying to find out where you went… I told her what I told everyone, there was no address or contact number… but she seemed really upset about it. She was really persistent, wanting to know if I could give you a message.” His eyes locked on me. “But I remembered your instructions no messages and no one gets the address.”
My mouth had gone dry. “Do… Do you remember her name?”
He scratched the grey at his temple. “Kathy, no wait wasn’t that, something like it though. Do know last name was Roberts. Thing was I don’t think I would have given her the time of day normally, ya know I had people asking all sorts of questions about you. But well, I remember her from the beginning of when you left, she was back and forth from here almost every day. that and the fact my wife was sure she had seen you with her a few times in the past.”
I grabbed the side rail. “Kaitlin?” All I could think was six months ago she was still trying to find me.
His face broke into a grin. “Yea that was it, so did she find you?”
I shook my head.
He sighed. “Pity, I almost gave into her about the message thing, she seemed so upset. Hope it wasn’t anything important she needed to get a hold of you about, but I kinda figured that if you knew her that well she would know where you were.”
I pulled myself together enough to smile at him. “Thanks Mac.”
I caught his answered good bye as I headed down the stairs, but only just, blood was roaring in my ears.
My first instinct was to find a bar and get rid of the feelings, but I soon recognised the trait I was quickly falling into. I grabbed a cab and headed to the only place I knew was safe right now, Candice’s place. When I got in I really didn’t know what to do with myself. My brain was in over load, Kaitlan didn’t stop looking for me. She hadn’t just let me walk away. She really had tried. A part of me welcomed it, let it repair a small part of my broken heart that I had meant enough to her to try and reach me. Another part was curious as to why after six months she had tried again. What had changed in her? Why did she need me so much at that time? None of the store managers mentioned anyone trying to contact me. It didn’t make any sense.
I had calmed myself enough by the time my luggage arrived and I lost my thoughts in just putting stuff away. To keep busy I started on the meal for Candice, and time passed. An hour later with the food cooking and the timer set I moved into the living room feeling totally exhausted again, I flicked on the TV and let daytime soaps stew my brain.
Time, time is constant; time is a loop, a loop to the past.
“I still can’t believe it?”
I looked up grinning, not only at the voice speaking, but also at the sight opposite me in the park. Kaitlan was a like a children at Christmas, sitting there in shorts and white top, her dusty blonde hair bleached in streaks from the sun. She oozed energy and her whole body rippled with excitement.
“I just can’t believe It.” she laughed then sat back, flopping her body onto the blanket, kicking her legs in the arm. “Yes, yes, yessssssssssssssssssssssssssss.”
I laughed scooting forward, taking the letter from her hand, one I had already read twice. I coughed clearing my throat and put on my best imitation of posh.
“Mrs Roberts. Please find enclosed a cheque for one hundred dollars for the short story submission to our magazine. The piece will be published in our August edition. We would be very interested in any further works. The copyright will remain solely yours. With thanks and regards. Judith Hooks.”
She looked up at me with grinning green eyes. Then her legs and arms began moving around her in earnest. “Yes yes yes yes yessssssssssssss.”
I laughed, enjoying just watching her. I didn’t care that everyone passing was giving us strange looks. My whole insides were bubbling just caught up in her pure joy. Still grinning I reached around and pulled the bottle of wine from the hamper, filling two glasses and passing one to her as she sat up.
“God.” The grin on her face spread from ear to ear. “Just, god.”
I grinned back, realising my jaw was actually starting to ache from doing it so much. I chinked my glass to hers then raised it. “Congratulations.”
I slight tinge of embarrassment now came onto her face. “Thank you.”
Her voice had dropped to the one I knew showed how shy she really was underneath when it came to accepting praise.
“To the newly reborn bard.” My eyes never left hers.
This time her grin wrinkled her nose and added an extra touch of deep green to the colour of her eyes. “To the bard.”
She touched her glass to mine, our gaze locking over each rim as we drank. The warm breeze picked up around us, stirring the summer scents into my senses, mixing on my palette with the spice of the wine. But the dryness in my throat and on my tongue had nothing to do with either of them. I knew the cause of it, I’d felt it burning deeper into me over the last two months of knowing her. It wasn’t only a bodily attraction it was all of her; her mind, her heart, the innocence and unique way of looking at the world. That life is to be cherished no matter what the trials, that all things that happen are for a purpose and shape each person in turn. I had kidded her about it, telling her she was Forrest Gump and everything was a box of chocolates. I still remember her laugh, echoing around the library and getting us glares from the curator.
That’s one of the other things, her openness to share the way she feels, laying her emotions bare, unlike me who guarded that part with a vengeance. But most of all it’s her self-sacrifice, all others come before her. Even if it meant it left her unhappy.
During the first month together I felt comfortable enough to share the fact I was gay, already knowing her answer, and she didn’t disappointment, all she had said was. “So?” Looking at me in that innocent way as if it should make a difference to her and our friendship.
My eyes now looked over at her, smiling at the memory. She grinned back sipping her wine, then turned her gaze to watching the park.
All of these things have steadily seeped into my heart and the pull towards her is both amazing and terrifying. I have learnt to keep it to myself, not risking the growing friendship between us, finding it becoming more and more an important part of my life.
I looked down at the letter again, I hadn’t been surprised that her work had been accepted, I had been the one to talk her into sending it. What surprised me was I’d been the first one she had told. Her call had come that morning, even on the phone I could hear her joy, an infectious happiness that left me the whole morning whistling and getting looks from my staff. Without even thinking I had quickly come up with the idea of the picnic in the park. In the past our meeting had always been left to her arrangements, I had taken her by surprise, I knew it as I heard her inhale sharply and I had started doubting I had made the right choice until I heard her breathless ‘yes.’
She looked sideways at me. “You’re thinking again I can see smoke.” Her tone was teasing.
I snorted as I lay back, enjoying the easiness between us, closing my eyes and just letting the sun warm me. “What’s not to think about, I am sitting next to the 2009 poet laureate.”
She chuckled, shifting so that her body was stretched out along mine, only a hairs breath between us. Her elbow on the blanket, her hand holding her tilted head. “You are… are ya?”
I had to shield my eyes, the sun blinding me as I turned to look at her. I was going to make a joke until I saw the seriousness in her eyes. I didn’t mean my voice to drop so low and take on the one I recognised as one used in passion. An overwhelming moment of desire slipped past my guards. The nearness of her, the scent of her flashed through me like a flood.
Her eyes slowly slipped closed, a smile pulling at the edge of her mouth. A lazy wishful smile, purely innocent, yet at the same time sensuous beyond belief. My eyes fell to her lips, seeing the perfect bow at their middle, the fullness of the bottom one. She didn’t wear heavy lipstick just a trace to heighten their beauty. I licked my lips and when I looked up I was surprised to see her eyes dipped and watching. I saw her swallow and a deeper green spread into each of her orbs. Before I knew what she was doing she had shifted closer to me, one finger reaching out to brush a lose hair, which had blown free and settled on the corner of my mouth. I inhaled sharply as her touch traced it, I held my breath, closing my eyes and commanding my brain to remember, to engrave it into my memories.
My heart rate increased as I felt her move, so near now my body could feel the touch of hers. I couldn’t help it I sharply inhaled, almost groaning as my senses were filled with her to overload. I felt her movement stop suddenly, I blinked my eyes open to find her leaning so closely over, her face no more than a hand span from mine, her hair coming down each side to fan it. I waited, looking at her in question, time stilled.
She swallowed hard, her breathing now matching mine, confusion flitted in her eyes, crossed with curiosity. She touched my face again, her eyes shifting to mine as I inhaled and swallowed. Her eyebrow rising slightly and a touch of understanding dawning as she realised she was doing this, her touch. I tried to push it aside to keep what her simple innocent caress was doing to me, but I knew my eyes lied. I expected her to draw back from what I knew she must be seeing there, but she didn’t, she stared deeper. Her pupils turning to dots as she focused. I held my breath hoping that would stop my reaction. Her attention went back to her fingers on my cheek again, watching them move over the ridge of bone beneath my skin, feeling the tremble of muscles under her touch. She continued down until they traced my jaw line pausing there. My heart was thumping so hard I thought any moment it would leave my chest. When her fingers moved and just brushed the underside of my ear, I needed air fast and I drew in a rugged breath. Her eyes rose quickly to mine and locked. A torrid of emotions raced across her face, her lips parting slightly as she drew in air, I could see the conflict battling beneath the surface of green. I lay frozen wanting to just grab her and pull her fully to me and cover her lips in a kiss.
As if reading my mind her head dipped lowering her lips aiming for mine. My surprise was quickly replaced with passion as the world narrowed to nothing more than the feeling of her touch, her breath. The sounds of the park replaced with the sound of her hitched breath and the buzzing in my ears as our lips began to move against each other. Hers were tentative and exploring, dipping and sucking. It was hard but I kept my kiss slow letting her lead. She parted my mouth with her tongue, feeling her hands clasp down into a tight grip on my shoulders as the kiss deepened, her body sliding against me, I could feel her warmth engulf, consume me and I started kissing her with the passion I felt. When her tongue snaked out and touched mine I felt the power of it to my core, I couldn’t hold the groan any longer. Her eyes sprung wide, suddenly realising where she was, who she was, she shot off me backing away like a crab on all fours, so quickly she sent the wine bottle sideways spilling its contents onto the blanket. One of glasses smashed as her foot kicked out connecting with it. Her eyes were wild and panicked, they went everywhere but to me, she started shaking.
“Oh my god.” The shock made her voice stutter and catch.
I swallowed hard, the fear in her eyes dousing my passion better than any bucket of cold water. I sat up slowly. “Kaitlan.”
Her terrified eyes touched briefly on me then she was up gathering her things together in a rush.
“Kaitlan it’s ok… please.” I wanted to reach out for her but I couldn’t take the maybe of her flinching from it.
“ I … I have to go.”
“ Kaitlan… please look at me.” I kept my voice as reassuring as possible. How I did it I don’t know my own insides were screaming.
Her back was too me as she continued stuffing her things into the bag. “God, oh g…” her voice cut off as I heard a sob.
I shifted to my knees, my heart pounding now in a painful way. I didn’t want to lose her. I wasn’t sure what to do, I didn’t know what happened, I was still reeling from the kiss, but the cost of it was too high, I could see that and that fear prompted me to speak my heart.
“Don’t go… we can talk about it… it’s ok… just… just don’t go like this, I can’t lose this… Kaitlan please.”
Her movements froze and for breath I thought she could hear me through her panic, but my hopes dashed as she dipped picking up her phone still not turning. She stood tall her back to me. I could see the trembles rack her.
“Don’t hate me.” Then she ran.
Her voice was so low and filled with pain it tore at my heart I rose quickly into a run following. “Kaitlan, WAIT…”
Her shout of, “ I can’t… I can’t.” and the desperation in it, stopped me dead in my tracks.
I knew I was being too quiet even for me, Candice’s curious looks from across the dining table were enforcing the fact. I was thankful she wasn’t questioning me as to why.
I had jumped up at seven thirty the oven alarm tearing me from the dream, it had left me feeling shaken and with a bittersweet pain. By the time Candice had arrived after eight I had the dinner served out and ready, and small talk had bluffed her enough to not let on something was wrong.
“Well you’ve still got the cooking thing down pact.” She patted her stomach, sighing in contentment.
I smiled, shifting the pork around my plate again. I caught out the corner of my eyes her gaze dipping to the plate then back up to me.
“So mine telling me what’s up? Or is that taboo?” she sipped her drink, watching me closely.
I was surprised she had actually resisted this long, I pushed the plate away. “I went to the house today?”
Her eyes widened slightly.
When she didn’t say anything, I continued. “Kaitlan was still trying to contact six months ago.”
I looked over to her. She sucked her bottom lip slightly. “Didn’t you think she would be?”
I sat back. “To be honest. No.”
She finished the wine, reaching across to refill it, she offered more to me, but I shook my head.
My eyes rose to her. “Why what?”
She shrugged. “Why didn’t you think she would still be looking for you, I mean you’ve already told me in not so many words, she is the love of your life and you were hers? So why is it a surprise she still would be looking?”
I looked down.
“Lee… I been thinking a lot today about what you said last night and something just isn’t making sense. I mean not the stuff I have no clue on, but something kept coming up, that no matter how I look at it, it just doesn’t make any sense.”
“She wasn’t at the gallery today by the way.”
“She wasn’t?” I kept my gaze locked on the pattern of wood of the table.
“Nope, her mother said she called in sick, if you ask me, which I know you won’t, I think she was playing chicken.”
I looked over at her my brow frowning. “Chicken?”
She glared at me. “Are you turning into a parrot? Yes chicken. I think she’s worked out I know you. And she didn’t want either the chance of me asking her lots of questions, or more to the point you being there you dope.”
My head fell. “Oh.”
“You seem disappointed? Especially as you told me to make something up and lie to her only this afternoon. I would have thought you would have been relieved.”
I threw my napkin down and got up. “I am.”
I glared at her as I pulled a beer from cooler.
She was still sitting at the table as I choose the coach. With a sigh she finally got up and came over. “I don’t want to fight.”
I sipped. “Good neither do I?”
“But I just don’t really understand any of this and I find that so annoying don’t you?” ^
I glanced sideways at her.
“Oh I don’t mean this situation on your side is annoying, I mean the annoyance of trying to work something out in your head and no matter what way you look at it just doesn’t make any sense.”
I wasn’t sure what she had just said, “Um…. What?”
She sagged back, stretching her legs out and kicking off her shoes, giving her toes a wiggle. “You don’t just leave things Lee, you never quit. It’s not who you are. So by my workings out you left for a reason, a reason big enough to make you walk away, and more to the point keep you away.”
I paused in mid swallow realising now what she was getting at. I knew she was watching my face for a reaction.
“You kick a dog long enough Candice it will learn to stay away from you.”
She frowned. “Well that’s useful information thanks. If I ever get one I’ll remember that.”
I stood up. “You’re not that stupid so please don’t play it, why don’t you just ask me the question?”
“Thought we weren’t in the mood to fight?”
“Ask me the damn question? I know I’m not going to get any peace until you do and frankly I’m just too tired for word games tonight.”
She stood up, her eyes sparking. “Fine, why did you really leave, because you keep saying it was you and not her, so what was it?”
I gritted my teeth. “I hit her.” The bile taste in my mouth filling as it did every time I remembered.
Candice actually stepped back, her eyes blinking so many times I thought she was fitting. “What! You…. What?”
I inhaled deeper. Then steeled my face as I looked up. “I hit her, struck her, whacked her, smacked her, punched her… there’s a lot of words which one do you need.”
She blinked again for a moment her mouth opening and closing as if to get the words passed her throat. Then I saw the anger coming back.
“Hit her? You fucking hit her?”
“Yea.” I kept myself straight knowing what was coming.
She tried to calm herself but I could see the rage underneath. She was trying to work it out, her eyes kept going back to me, trying to read her friend in front of her, a friend she thought she knew.
“You slapped her right, a slap…. Jesus that’s bad enough but you meant slapped right?”
I met her eyes I could see the veil of hope and pleading underneath that I wasn’t what her mother was.
I swallowed hard, feeling guilty for oh so many reasons, knowing what my answer was going to do to her, to our friendship. “No, Candice. I punched her.”
The veil in her eyes vanished to be replaced with anguish and then full anger.
When she spoke her tone was pure ice. “How many times?”
“Does it matter…. Isn’t one enough?”
I saw it, as her eyes changed, hatred. I felt like I had the day I’d hit Kaitlan, I’d finally betrayed the last person who trusted me.
“You fucking bitch, no one deserves that, especially someone that fucking loves you, trusts you… no matter what she did, she didn’t deserve that. Fuck…”
I could see the tears now.
“God damn it Lee. You, you of all people I trusted never to be like that. Arghhhhhhhh. Get out, just get the fuck out.”
She swung around so fast for one ironic moment I thought she was going to hit me. Then she stormed right across the room into her bedroom the door slamming so hard a picture fell off the wall behind me and as the glass broke, I knew exactly how it felt.
I didn’t try to go to her and explain, what was the point, I was everything in her nightmares now, no matter the reason of why. I didn’t bother packing, I didn’t even take a coat. All I knew was she wanted me out and all I had left was to honour that. I left.
I just walked, I crossed streets, I passed houses, I kept going. I would have run but I didn’t have it in me anymore. I didn’t want a drink I didn’t want anything. That wasn’t true, I wanted time back, to turn it around to the day and second of when I fell into hell. The impossible, everyone wants it at some points in their life the impossible.
The park was dark when I got there only the pathway lights lightning the area, giving the darken shadows of treetops the eerie appearance of moving giant cobwebs in the wind. An owl hooted somewhere, the only other sound was my footfalls on the tarmac. It seemed funny as I walked, that this place in the middle of the city could feel so isolated from the world. A bark echoed around, rebounding off the trees, fading away to nothing. I continued walking, ignoring my bodies shivering from the cold, seeing my breath mist as I gulped air through my sobs.
I wanted to go back and tell her I was sorry, sorry that I’d hit Kaitlan, explain how it happened, why it happened. But I knew she wouldn’t understand. How could she I didn’t. I hated myself for striking out, I hated myself more than Candice every could. She was right there wasn’t an excuse for doing it, but in the moment the sane brain that knows what is right and wrong isn’t there in the spilt second rage. The difference of being in control and losing it. There is no excuse and there is no sorries and worst of all there is no going back.
The sob that caught me this time made me stop unable to breathe enough to walk. Still trying to get myself under control, a sound made me focus outside of pain and turn my attention back to the world. The self-preservation part of the brain kicking passed the anguish in me. I turned scanning the path behind, realising as I looked around I had come deep into the park and off the main path. Fear kicking in, making me shiver even more. The sound came from the left and close, causing me to spin around expecting to see someone standing right there in front of me. I listened. Feeling the pump of adrenaline as the brain released the endorphin of survival. When I didn’t hear anything after a few minutes I walked slowly towards the path a head.
I saw a blur out of the corner of my eye, tensing my body as it flashed closer before I could turn, the weight hit me. Tossing us both down the embankment through the leaves, over and over we rolled, locked together. I felt the ground scratch my arms. I pulled hard trying to dislodge the hands on my throat using the momentum of his weight against him, all that got me was a knee to the gut as I had to stretch out to use my body. I curled up as much as I could feel the dig to my ribs from his elbows.
I glanced up at him seeing the wild look in his eyes and the grin on his face, I could smell him, and he stank. A sharp pain flashed in my stomach as he rose up slightly punching me in the gut, I tried to suck in air as I felt it leave me in an “ooooooafff” of sound. But I wouldn’t let go of his arms. He growled in rage, battering me with his body to try and get the upper hand.
I felt the roll begin to slow, his hand came around trying to lock onto my throat again I grabbed his little finger pulling it back and twisting, he yelled freeing his other hand from between us to slap me across the face. I looked sideways seeing the end of the hill coming up fast, our legs kicking against each other. Him trying to hang on, while I was trying everything to get him off. I shifted onto my right side wincing as I felt the ground rip into my shoulder, wishing I had my coat on instead of shirt. Shifted so I could get my leg between his legs, drawing it down and up sharply. He spat at me grinning, knowing what I was trying to do, where I was trying to hit, his thighs clamped down.
As we landed at the bottom, I felt the thud on my back and the air leave me as his weight came down on top as we tumbled off the last of the hill over the wall onto the path. For the first time I noticed the flash of light in his hand realising it was off a blade, my struggles increased.
“Get off me you smelly basterd.”
He went to slap me again, my arm came up blocking it, shoving it away and using the backward movement to contact a punch to his face, he yelled again this time in rage and anger. My left hand was busy holding his wrist with the knife in it. He grunted shifting his weight throwing my balance off long enough for him to punch me in the face.
It stunned me I felt my body lose the grip on his wrist. He punched me again, this time I saw stars, blinking it back I gulped air, feeling my body respond again, but to late the knife was raised up ready to come down. Time seemed to slow. I looked at him, feeling the punch imprint throbbing on my cheek, tasting the copper in my mouth and I found it funny, so fucking ironically funny. I laughed at him, at the irony, at the world, at destiny and all of it. I laughed a mad laugh of someone insane.
His body sat on mine, pinning me, the knife above his head poised. He blinked, he stopped, his body still tense for the strike, surprise written all over his face.
“What are you fucking laughing at bitch?”
I couldn’t help it I laughed harder, his image becoming blurry as the tears raced from my eyes.
“Life.” I laughed again, the laughter turning inwardly. I thought of Kaitlan.
He still sat there in the same poise, looking at me as if I was totally insane. Then he raised his arm again this time the blade on a fixed course.
“Well you aren’t going to have to worry about it much longer.” This time he added a chuckle of his own.
I closed my eyes knowing what was coming but I still couldn’t stop laughing, almost hysterically, I knew I should raise my arms, I knew I should fight. I didn’t because I welcomed it. I welcomed it because I deserved it.
The yell, followed by a shot silenced me, slamming me back into reality. My eyes sprung open, my arms finally coming up for protection.
He jerked back. Tittering and his body swaying, the blade still on its journey. His face showing the shock then the pain hit him he dropped the knife, its point bouncing off of me with no force behind it.
I yelled pushing him off, scrambling away my eyes never leaving him.
“Police don’t move.”
His body relaxed from the tenseness, slipping back to sit on his knees his hand grabbing at the splash of red at his shoulder, then his eyes rolled in his head and slipped back onto his side.
I watched as the two cops came out of the darkness one of them going to fallen man the other giving me a brief look before fixing his gun on the man. The first one checked for a pulse and nodded then quickly fixed handcuffs, stepping back his mouth going to the radio on his collar. The second one holstered his weapon turning his attention to me, his arms out his body crouching.
“Hey you’re ok… it’s going to be ok.”
It started slowly the shaking, and spreading outwardly, coating my skin in slithers of ice. I hugged myself, drawing my legs up tightly. My eyes fixed on the knife on the ground.
The cop knelt down. “I’m Officer Jenkins. Miss?”
I hadn’t had time to be afraid before, time to realise what was happening, I just did what I did from instinct. I don’t think I even knew I was fighting him, I wasn’t thinking. But now I was. The reality of what it was, where I was, and mostly what had almost happened slammed into my chest. Another shiver raked me, sending my body into a painful spasm. I swallowed hard.
“I need your name? Can you tell me what happened?”
I looked at him, suddenly really seeing him for the first time, I felt the second cop come behind me, making me flinch as he placed his coat around me.
My eyes went back to Jenkins. “Lee…e…e.e.” I clamped my jaw shut, trying again. “Lee Harri…son.”
He nodded, smiling reassuringly. “Do you know him?” his eyes flicked to man.
I shook my head fast, sending shooting pains across my face and neck. “No… no. I … he….”
I had to swallow as I felt my stomach swirl bile. I clamped my mouth shut which just caused more pain. My vision spun and I started to pitch forward, catching myself at the last second as head spun.
“Shhh it’s ok.” He moved his hand forward then as a second thought I could see him take it back. “You can tell us later ok. We need to get you to a hospital.”
I turned my head as I heard the wail of the sirens.
He grinned at me. “Right on time.”
The sirens wailed again, my head buzzed, his voice faded and the world faded.
I’d been sitting at my desk trying to keep my mind on work. It wasn’t any good for the last two weeks I was fighting the urge to call Kaitlan. The day in the park had left me with a hollow pit in my stomach that no matter what I did I couldn’t fill it. She hadn’t contacted me and I was just to chicken to talk to her, not wanting the phone slammed down.
During the time away from her I tried to work out what had happened. Sure she had kissed me but where had it come from, had I missed her attraction, or even the curiosity. Thinking back I realised she had flirted on various occasions, subtle hints of flirting which I had taken for her being comfortable enough, I had other friends that did this, straight friends. It’s safe for them. It’s fun. But Kaitlan’s kiss had changed every single of one of those times she was flirting, but the problem was now in hindsight, she didn’t know she was. Just like the kiss it was out of control for her without thought and as soon as her brain was working, the result was what had happened.
I sighed sitting back, throwing my pen across the desk. If it had only been the kiss, a curious kiss I probably wouldn’t even be rethinking it all so hard, but I’d seen, and I’d felt the passion in it. A curious kiss isn’t that. So the problems start, she’s married she’s got kids, where does that leave it?
I rubbed my palm into my eyes, raking my hand back through my hair, leaning back and hearing the wood of the chair creak.
I missed her friendship, I missed her laugh, and I missed her. So what was I going to do about it…? The answer hurt… nothing. I had to forget and move on.
I looked up finding Jerry standing sheepishly at the door.
He swallowed. “I know you said not to bother you but….”
“There’s a woman here.”
I waited picking up the pen again to deal with the book in front of me.
“Well I know you said we should handle everything, but she’s not a customer, she well…”
I looked up catching him scratching the back of his neck. “She’s what?”
His eyes darted up to me. “Well she said to tell you she’s Kaitlan.”
For a moment I was frozen then I was up, rising to fast as my knees connected with the underside of the desk, wincing I stopped, reaching down to rub them. My head snapping back to look over at him.
“Tell her, I mean ask her to come in.”
He nodded and almost ran out of my doorway.
Shit, my throat was closed my heart beating and my damn knees were thumping in pain to the beat. I sat back down rubbing the needles out of them.
The small voice made me look up again. She stood just inside the doorway half in half out one hand holding on to the woodwork. A nervous smile twitched at her mouth. I must have looked a sight, sitting hunched over both my hands rubbing my knees, I looked up again adding a nervous smile of my own.
Her eyes dipped to my legs. “What did you do?”
“Whacked them on the desk.” I stretched one out relieved to feel the throbbing calm.
Briefly she grimaced in sympathy. “Oh.”
She still didn’t leave the doorway.
I couldn’t help it as my eyes just travelled over her and drank her in, feeling the hollow feeling my stomach lift and fly away. She was beautiful. I couldn’t deny it any longer, this was more than friendship I felt. When I refocused she was still standing there her green eyes watching me with a curious depth. I pulled myself together, rising ignoring the streak of pain, taking a breath of thanks when she didn’t move back.
“Would you like to sit?”
She looked down at the chair. Then walked over keeping the chair between us as she moved into it and sat.
I smiled back, then wondered if sitting on the edge beside her would be too much, deciding it was I went back round to the chair I was sitting on. I watched her fidget, her hands twisting on the edges of her coat.
“Could you shut the door?”
My eyes went to it then back to her in question.
“I…. Well I don’t want anyone to over hear what we are talking about.” She looked down.
I jumped up walking over quickly to close it, my stomach clenching not knowing what she was going to say but getting the feeling I really wasn’t going to like it. I returned to the chair and waited.
She took a deep breath, then looked up at me. “I came to apologise.”
“There’s nothing….” Her raised hand silenced me.
“Please let me finish… please.”
I nodded snapping my mouth shut.
“I didn’t…” She exhaled, “boy this is hard I had this all sorted in my head what I was going to say.” She flashed a nervous smile at me.
I stayed silent.
“I shouldn’t have kissed you.” Her eyes fell.
Just hearing that hurt. I nodded and lowered my head.
“But most of all I shouldn’t have just run like that.”
I just nodded again.
“And I’m sorry for not calling you, you deserved better than that from me…. But,”
I knew what was coming next and the fist in my stomach returned, but I was never a coward, I steeled myself and lifted my gaze to her. Waiting.
Her eyes stayed away from mine as she spoke. “But I don’t think I can see you anymore.”
There it was, the fist became a knife. “Ok.” It even surprised me that my voice came out so broken.
This time her eyes levelled, meeting mine. “Just ok?” her head tilted.
For some reason that made me angry, in fact the whole thing made me angry. “Kaitlan what am I supposed to say?”
“I’m, well I’m not really sure, just say what you’re thinking?” her eyes still held the strange curious green.
“ That would be a bad idea.” I suddenly needed to pace, so I did.
I stopped, looking at her, trying to see if she was playing some kind of game, but all I saw was the total look of innocence and confusion expression she always gave.
“Why did you kiss me?”
She blinked sitting back slightly. “I… shouldn’t have done that.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
She shifted, her eyes going to the door.
“You asked me to say what I was thinking, well that’s it, why did you kiss me?”
I thought she was going to bolt, she had the same look of frightened colt. I knew I was pushing and I knew she would run the frustration of the whole situation just made me ache inside. I walked back to the desk.
“Never mind, thank you for coming to tell me face to face, I expected an email or at best a letter.”
I picked up the pen, catching the fact my hand was shaking.
“You, you expected this?”
The timid voice made me stop, finally I looked over to her. “Yes I did. As I said thanks for doing it face to face.”
I sighed. “Why did I know this was coming, or why am I accepting it all so calmly?”
“Both.” She swallowed causing her voice to drop.
“Because you’re married with kids, I’m not a fool, I know you’re confused about the whole thing and now I’ve become a problem to get rid of.”
I watched her flinch.
I continued. “What’s the point of being mad at you or even hating you.”
She flinched again.
“That doesn’t get either of us anywhere. Except mad and hurting. Kaitlan I’m sorry I’ve lost our friendship I truly am, I miss it, I miss you.”
Her eyes came up, this time with tears glistening in the corners.
“But I’m not sorry I returned it when you kissed me. It was just at too high a price.”
She sniffed, I could see she was controlling her emotion to cry.
I softened my voice knowing that this was probably the last time I would ever talk to her. “Kaitlan, I don’t hate you. You couldn’t do anything that could make me do that.”
That just seemed to break the control she had and she silently shed her tears. I was torn I wanted to just go to her and wrap her in my arms and tell her everything was going to be ok, but in truth I knew it wasn’t.
“I confuse your life, the answer is a simple one, you can’t see me anymore.” I gave her a bittersweet smile as she looked up at me with such agony in her eyes it pulled at my heart.
“I’ll abide by your rules I won’t try and contact you, but if…” I had to take a breath, as my throat became raw. “If you ever need me for anything, even if it’s just to talk, I won’t hang up the phone on you. Even if it’s a year from now. I’ve valued our friendship and I meant it, I’ll miss you.”
I could hear her small sobs, and that just made the pain in my throat worse.
A part of me wanted her to just get up and leave now, so that I could let go of the emotions raging and pulling my chest into a painful vice. But still she sat there weeping. I had no choice I had to get out of there. I stood up walking towards the door.
“I have to go, leave when you’re ready, I’m glad I met you Kaitlan, thank you for being my friend.”
Her voice was small, quiet, an almost whisper in a breath. I stilled, one hand reaching for the door. It was so silent I could only hear her stuttered inhales and my heart thumping.
“Please don’t go.”
‘Run.’ My mind yelled it. ‘Don’t go there.’ My mind screamed it. ‘Leave now while you can.’ It roared in my head. But still I turned finding her now standing looking at me.
“Why?” I managed to talk.
“Because I don’t know what’s happening to me, but I know I don’t want you to go.”
I exhaled sharply. “Just let me go.”
She looked right at me. “I can’t.”
I closed my eyes. “I complicate your life.”
I opened my eyes when I heard her step forward. “Then let me go.”
Confusion flashed across her face. “I… I can’t.”
“Damn it what do you want from me?” my own confusion rose, I wiped my hand back through my hair.
Her face cleared and her eyes rose to mine again. “I don’t know.”
Arghhhhhhhh. My insides screamed. ‘She’s married. You won’t win.’
My years of self control and self preservation kicked in, all those years of knowing what I wanted, never being ruled, never being controlled. All those things made their mind up. If she wouldn’t let me go then I’d make her.
I steeled my gaze, removing any touch of how I felt for her. “Is it a fuck you want, no strings attached right?”
She literally gasped as her mouth fell open, her eyes widening. “What!”
I shrugged. “Straight woman curious happens all the time. Hear about how great it is with a woman and want to give it a go.”
She blinked again. “No, god no.”
She stepped back as I stepped forward. “Come on, don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it, cos that kiss lady tells me different.”
Her eyes snapped wider. “Lee?” now total confusion covered her eyes and face.
I stroked my finger alone my chin, hating myself every single second, but this was the only way. “ Well I’ve done it before so I’m up for it, you know I’m attracted to you, and the friendship is already toast, so why not?”
Her hand went to her mouth and the look in her eyes changed to one that showed exactly what she thought of me right then. I was a bitch and she was getting it now.
“I’m discreet, so don’t worry about the husband finding out.”
I saw it coming, I didn’t bother to move. Her hand flashed out the palm connecting with my cheek, then she pushed past me flinging the door open enough to catch my back and left. I stood still facing the window my face burning and my heart somewhere below hell. I gulped the sob in my throat away.
Then I found myself pulled sideways, the world spinning before I knew what it was. Two hands went in to my hair, forcing my head down, my eyes only had time to see her angry face before I was pulled into a kiss, a rough deep kiss, one that curled my toes and forced my brain to stop thinking. The kiss continued, my wits came back to me and the desire rose until I raised my arms and engulfed her, pulling her too me, this time when I groaned she didn’t leave, the kiss got deeper, tongues touching, tasting, dipping, pushing. Then she pulled away from me so fast I swayed.
“I don’t want just a fuck and that’s the damn problem.” She stood there her chest heaving, anger flashing in her eyes along with the desire.
I had no clue what to say, what to do.
“If it were, I wouldn’t be in such a fucking mess. I haven’t stopped thinking about you from the first time I met you at the party, even the whole time I was seeing you I knew I should have stayed away. This is so confusing to me, because I know it isn’t only about sex, damn it. It’s deeper, so much deeper that it scares the fucking shit out of me. I wish it was about sex, I could control that, but you make me feel so out of control Lee. I haven’t felt like this about anyone in a very long time. In fact I’m not even sure I have before.” She wiped the tears from her face with an anger swipe. “I don’t understand it, I don’t understand me, I don’t fucking understand any of it. But here I am doing what I vowed to myself I wouldn’t do.”
I still didn’t know what to do or say. My lips felt bruised my heartfelt bruised.
“Say something damn it?”
I just stared at her.
“I… I.” Words just wouldn’t come, I wanted to run so fast I could feel my body tensing for it. She seemed to see it, her anger calming immediately. Her hand came up slowly, her fingers going to my cheek.
“I shouldn’t have hit you. But you made me so damn mad at you.”
I swallowed, my eyes glancing sideways at the door, I felt my breathing now hitch so fast I was sure I was going to pass out, at the same time my body was leaning into her palm on my face.
“I’m so confused Lee, so fucking confused. It isn’t about sex, I don’t want to fuck you and leave you. I care too much to do that to you. I want you to go, I want you to stay but I don’t know what I want.”
I looked down at her. “Yes you do.”
Her eyes rose from their attention to my red cheek, meeting mine. “I do?”
“You want me, you’re attracted to me and every time you stop thinking you take what you want… but your life means you can’t have me.”
Her hand dropped. “You make it sound so simple.”
“It is…” I forced a dry smile. “You’re married. You have children.”
“Yes.” Her eyes filled with the sadness shade of green I had ever seen. “I know, but every time I think of not seeing you again, it hurts so much inside.”
I swallowed, knowing exactly how she felt. “I know.”
“I didn’t mean for it to happen.” Her eyes dropped again, her tears dripping off her face to pool on my wooden floor.
She fell silent.
“Did you mean what you said? About having fucked a married woman?” She sounded like a small hurt child.
I wanted to say yes, that part inside was begging me too, knowing that would do it and she would leave, but that part that cared for her wanted her to know the truth, I took a breath.
Her eyes came back up to me, her eyes misted. “Then why say it?”
God. I hated seeing her cry. “Because I wanted to make you leave.”
“Why?” her voice was pleading.
I met her eyes. “Because you’re not going to let me go Kaitlan.” I felt my own tears started to fall. “…. And I’m not strong enough to leave you.”
She looked right at me, I felt she was looking into my very heart, she held the gaze then with a huge exhale she dropped it.
“Then what do we do?”
I moved away from her, needing the distance to get her out of my senses.
“We stay away from each other.” It was hard to say.
Her breathing hitched. “I don’t think I can. I tried and everyday it got harder and harder. Even the things I worked out to say to you didn’t work in my head, but I had to see you to tell you. I couldn’t say goodbye on the phone or in a letter no matter what you thought of me, I’d never do that.”
I closed my eyes, my back to her. “Kaitlan you have a husband you have children.”
“Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you know how I feel looking at him and knowing I want to see you? Feeling like I feel, knowing what I’m doing.” I heard the anger come back.
“Yes, but you’re following the need, the want. That will go when you stay away from me, it did before.”
She moved in front of me. “You think it was easy to come here today?”
I sighed. “ No, no I don’t, but the time away from me got your thinking straight didn’t it, came up with the plan of what to say, talked yourself into what you were going to do? You’ll do it again.”
For a moment her mouth opened to argue, then she clamped it shut and slowly her head lowered as she nodded.
“It will do it again, go back to your life Kaitlan. Talk yourself into it if you have too…. Put me down as experiences just don’t let me complicate things. Please.”
Her head came up again. “And what about you…. Is it so easy for you?”
The anger in me began to rise again. What the hell did she want from me? I was making it easy to walk away.
“God damn it Kaitlan. Do you think that, really think that? That I haven’t been battling with myself to just pick up the phone and talk to you, to hear that you’re ok. Fighting with me between telling you the kiss meant nothing and it meant everything. That the thought that I might not see you again is tearing me up inside, that if I do see you again scares the shit out of me. You’re married god damn it, you know how I feel about it, you know what happened to me. I’m fighting my own fucking demons here.”
I moved away from her fast, choosing the books on the corner of desk to vent my anger, I pushed them aside so fast they flew across the room. I stood trying to get myself under control, she hadn’t said a word,
I finally looked over. “No, it’s not easy for me.”
A smile twitched at her mouth. “It’s nice to know it’s not one sided.”
I did a double take. “What?”
Her face tinged briefly with red. “I said it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.”
Was she really that innocent? I stared at her. She was blushing, right in the middle of us both arguing and hurting she was blushing and I saw it, in her eyes the uncertainty.
“Kaitlan its not one sided, the feelings or the attraction…. Ok?”
She blushed deeper. “Ok.”
“You really thought it was just you, even after the kiss in the park?”
She shuffled her feet slightly. Part of me grinned inside, she really was adorable.
“I. I mean I didn’t know, I spent a long time thinking, and… Well I mean I kissed you, and you… well you kissed me back. But I didn’t know if that was attraction, or… well reaction.” She blushed again.
I found myself really grinning. “And now?”
She looked up at me, her eyes springing wide. “You mean after that kiss.”
“Well, I mean… well that wasn’t … I didn’t.”
I knew if I laughed she would feel hurt. I knew I shouldn’t do it, I knew I should leave it. But I found my feet walking towards her anyway, stopping only when I was in front of her, my head tilted slightly down to look at her.
“I’m attracted to you, and I want you so badly I ache inside.”
I reached down letting my thumb breeze across her cheek, smiling when her eyelids fluttered closed. This was it, I told her I couldn’t leave and I knew if I kissed her the way I wanted too I would be sealing my fate with her, to either be hurt so badly or to be caught and pulled to her for as long as she wanted me.
I lowered my head slowly and captured her lips in a kiss, putting everything I felt for her into my lips, my mouth, and my tongue. I felt her moan both in my mouth and in my soul, her arms coming up around me, mine going around hers, feeling her press in body into mine, curve to curve, bone to bone, skin to skin, beating heart to beating heart. The kiss went on, both of us breathing into each other’s mouths as we opened them to deepen the kiss. Slowly I broke it, watching her eyes blink open, but this time I didn’t see panic or fear, I saw desire, acceptance and want.
I didn’t let my arms drop from around her.
“Wow.” She blinked at me, her face breaking into the grin I’d come to need to see.
I grinned at her. “Ahuh, wow.”
She grabbed me to her, burying her face into my chest. “We are in so much trouble Lee.”
I pulled her tighter. “I know.”
We stood there for how long I don’t know, locked in each other’s embrace.
Then she spoke her voice half muffled into my shirt. “But I can’t let this feeling go. I can’t let you go, and can’t stay away from it. I’m sorry I just can’t.”
“I can’t either. I’m sorry too.”
Her eyes studied me, then she took a breath her voice dropping to the one I’d come to realise meant it was hard to say or ask.
“I don’t know if I we can ever be lovers Lee? It’s not that I don’t want you, I do, it isn’t that, but, but, I don’t think I could ever do that too…” her voice trailed off and I felt her body tremble.
For a moment I was surprised then I realised what she was really saying, she didn’t think she could betray him by doing that, kissing and this and even the feelings she felt, she could handle the guilt over.
“Can you do that, can you be with me like this and not go….” She swallowed again. “…. And not go that far?”
Could I, could I do that, want her this much and push that side of me away. I was willing to do it for the friendship. So what was the difference, it would be a still be friendship. Her eyes still studied me.
“I don’t know.” I gave a lope sided grin. “But I’m not going to jump you if that’s what you’re worried about.”
She snorted a laugh, the relief lighting her eyes up, squeezing me to her. “I’m not worried about that especially as my track record for jumping you isn’t so hot.”
I echoed her laugh. I knew I was in trouble right then and there, deeper trouble then I first thought, as my brain echoed. “It would be so easy to fall in love with you Kaitlan.” The thought froze my breath.
She felt it, her head looking up at me again. “This is unfair to you isn’t it?”
I smiled at her. “I make my own choices.”
She answered my smile, I watched it faultier and some of the fears return. “What are we going to do?”
I looked down at her, bringing my lips down to hers for another kiss, this time it was sweet, tender. I broke it pulling away. I knew what I was going to do, I knew what I was going to say, but it went against everything I vowed never to cross in my life. Her eyes were watching me.
I tipped my head back, closing my eyes, only opening when I felt her tug on me.
I swallowed. I was damned to hell. “I’ll do whatever you choose Kaitlan?”
Her eyes widened as she realised what I was giving her. “I can’t leave my husband and children Lee.”
Even though I knew that would never happen, just hearing her saying it hurt me far more than I thought anything could. “I know.” My voice was hoarse.
“If….” She bit her lip. “If you ask me too……..”
I cut her off, “I lose.”
She looked me deep in the eyes for a long time. “Oh god.” Then she started crying pulling me closer.
I felt my own tears coming and I held on as if my life depended on it.
It was the smell that assaulted me first, the clinically smell that installs itself on your brain from childhood. Visits to the doctors or dentist. It didn’t make any sense my mind tried to figure it out, as the voices and noise began to slowly seep into my hearing.
“Bp, 101 over 57, heart rate 95.”
“Good, let’s get some fluids into her. Start a drip, let’s see if we can rehydrate her a little. I don’t want anything by mouth until I can get the results of the abdominal scans.”
I swallowed feeling the dryness in the back of my throat, blinking.
“Doctor. She’s coming around.”
Doctor? Why was there a doctor? I blinked as I felt my eyelid raised a light that made me wince, flashed in my eyes. I swung out only to have my arm captured.
“Easy, easy there. Miss Harrison you’re in St James hospital, can you open your eyes for me?”
My arm was released and finally I focused my eyes on the men and woman around, and as I did the whole reason for why I was there came flooding back. I felt the bile and by the quick movements of one of the nurses, they saw what was going to happen by the look on my face. The next thing I knew I was throwing up into one of that stupid kidney shaped things.
I felt some ones hands go to my back and rub. “Easy you’re ok now.”
I swallowed, feeling a slight prick on my other hand turning to see the nurse attach a drip.
My attention went back to young man on the other side.
“I’m Dr Marshall. I need to ask you some quick questions? If that ok?”
“Can you tell me what day it is?”
I blinked at him. “Day?”
He smiled. “And the year?”
His smile deepened. “Good, now I need to examine you ok?”
I sat there as he went over each and every part of me, testing leg reflexes, moving over each bruised part with care and attention. Shining the light again in my eyes and then asking me to follow his finger. When he was satisfied he smiled down at me again then wrote out his finding on the clipboard.
“I need to ask you something?”
I nodded again.
“Were you raped?”
My eyes sprung wide. “No.”
He patted my shoulder. “We didn’t think so, but in this type of case we have to ask. Now we can start getting you cleaned up.”
I just nodded again, actually realising for the first time that I may have been, raped or dead. I swallowed hard, my hands gripping the sheets on the bed.
I didn’t answer my voice was somewhere else, screaming inside.
“Miss Harrison are you in pain?” his voice began to fill with concern.
I shook my head fast. “No.”
Then he seemed to understand. “You’re safe here.”
I looked up at him through the tears that seem to have a mind of their own now and just nodded.
“Is there someone you would like us to call for you?”
I was about to say Candice, then I realised I couldn’t, in fact there was no one to call, no one now who gave a damn.
“No, there’s no one.”
He simply nodded. “The police would like to take a statement, do you feel up to it?”
I glanced over at the door seeing the two figures through the glass. “Sure.”
The doctor smiled again. “The good news, there seems to be nothing broken, I’m awaiting scans to make sure the bruise on your stomach isn’t a sign that there’s more damage. Which I don’t think there is, but to be on the safe side until I do, you’re on a drip and not letting you eat or drink. Apart from the few stitches I had to put into you temple the worst injuries you have that are worrying me is the concussion and the fact you were unconscious for so long. So we will be sending you down pretty soon for a MRI and an X-ray… The minor injuries are cuts, scratches and the bruising on your shoulders and lower back. We’ll get them cleaned up soon. We’ll be keeping you in overnight and see how it goes from there. Ok?”
I nodded, pushing my hand under the covers to run over the tenderness I could feel on my stomach. It was hot against my palm. Then my hand went up tracing the ragged skin and bump at my temple. “I got off easy.”
He smiled at me again. “Good, keep thinking on the positive.” With that he nodded and headed over to the nurse by the door talking to her, and then he left.
She came over. “I’ve got to take some blood.”
I held out my arm, catching for the first time the scratches across the skin. I wondered what the rest of me looked like. I watched her push the needle in thankful of the fact she knew what she was doing.
“Do I look like a racoon?”
Her eyes looked up at my face, smiling. “Does it feel like you do?”
“I feel like someone stomped on my head. Then went away came back and did it again.”
She withdrew the needle, placing the cap on the blood she’d drawn. “I could get you a mirror if it would make you feel better?”
I rested my head back against the pillow. “Nah, I’ll think the worst, that way when I look I can be surprised.”
She put the cotton bud on the insertion point pushing my lower arm back up, then smiled again. “If you need anything the bell is to your left. Leave your arm like that for a few minutes. Ok?”
I nodded, watching her leave, opening the door as the two policemen came in. I didn’t recognise either of them.
“I’m detective Pislman, and this is my partner Detective Reeves. We’d like to ask you about the attack?”
I nodded to the other detective as he took the seat beside my right. He moved forward, asking me for my contact details, I gave him the address of the house. Knowing as soon as I was out of here that would be the only place I could go I would feel safe.
“Can you tell us why you were in the park so late?”
My eyes moved back to Pislman. “I had an argument with someone. I needed to get away I started walking and ended up in the park.”
“Was the argument with the man who attacked you?”
“No…. No I’ve never seen him before.”
“Ok, in your own words tell us what happened?”
So I did every single detail. He wrote it down as I spoke. Going over parts, asking me questions till the point my brain spun. Finally ending on Candice’s address, but I let him know I wouldn’t be staying there when I was released.
Then he closed his book, smiling down at me as he rose. “Well I think that’s all I need to know for now.”
His partner rose as well giving me the same automatic smile.
Suddenly I needed to know something. “Is he dead?”
Reeves paused, turning back. “No. Just a gunshot wound. He’s being treated in a different hospital, under guard.”
For some reason that made me feel better, not worse. “Thank you.”
He nodded as if understanding it made a difference to me. “We will contact you later.”
I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself, as the door reopened and two nurses came in to clean the wounds and me. After that the tests and scans began.
When returned to my bed, I was tired beyond belief. The poking and positioning had left my already bruised muscles screaming. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t allowed food, just the thought of eating made me nauseous. By the early A.M. the pain in my head was getting to me, its constant bell tone throb was setting my nerves to the limit. To my relief I finally got the all clear on both brain damage and abdomen and was allowed the drugs I needed to relax my body, I feel into a exhausted sleep.
It felt like a breeze, dipping and touching just above my eyebrows, a soothing caress that made me sigh. I didn’t want to open my eyes in case it was part of a dream, it just felt too good. A loud crash of a trolley outside of the ward, made me jerk.
“Shhh, it’s ok.”
I knew the voice and slowly I opened my eyes. Blinking as I realised Candice was sitting in the chair, her face smiling but I could see the remains of tears. I turned from my side, wincing and pausing my movements as my stomach clenched into a tight vice.
“Do… Do you need a nurse?” Candice was up already moving to the door.
“No.” I eased myself up to sit, breathing through the pain.
She still kept walking.
“Candice. Hey it’s ok.”
She paused unsure.
“Honestly, it’s just my muscles letting me know I’m out of shape.”
She frowned, but did come back, retaking her place in the chair. “Somehow I don’t think that’s the problem.”
I smiled nervously. “How did you know I was here?”
“I was awoken this morning by the boys in blue. Scared the fucking shit out of me, they wouldn’t tell me a thing only that you had been attacked.” She fell silent.
She looked up at me, frowning again. “You don’t look ok.”
I winced as I moved to get comfortable. “Racoon right?” I added a smile.
She snorted, some of her tension eased. “I was thinking more along the lines of a one eyed panda.”
I made a face. “That bad.”
She shook her head, her voice dropping. “I thought you were dead.”
“Oh…. sorry.” What was I supposed to say to that?
She shrugged, pulling herself together. “Why didn’t you get them to contact me last night? Instead I get grilled for over an hour asking me when you left, why you left.”
I looked sideways at her. “Why do you think?”
“Guess I deserved that one.” She moved to take out a cigarette then remembered where she was.
My brow frowned. “You gave up years ago.”
“Well lately I’ve need it.” She snapped.
Chastised I shut up.
“Jesus. I didn’t come here to fight, or yell at you… you scared the shit out of me.” Her hand shot out taking mine and squeezing.
“I didn’t mean too, it just happened.”
She nodded, sniffing. “Trouble just finds you. Doesn’t it.” She added a short laugh. Her hand was still squeezing mine as she talked.
“Guess it does.” I turned my head looking out of the window, focusing on nothing.
“You’re really ok though right, I mean they wouldn’t tell me a lot?”
My gaze came back to her. “Yes I’m really ok, just a headache from hell and a lot of bruising that I’m really gonna feel tomorrow.”
“He…. He didn’t … I mean he.”
I pulled her hand upwards stopping her talking.
“No Candice he didn’t rape me.”
It seemed strange that I had the courage to say that, even though I was the one attacked.
The relief flooded across her face. “God.” She moved fast catching me by surprise hugging me in a bone crunching embrace.
“Um Candice… ow!”
“Shit,” she jumped back. “Sorry god sorry.”
“Will you sit your making me nervous.” I kept as much pain off my face from her hug.
We both watched as a nurse came over. She looked first to Candice. “See I told you she would be awake soon.” Then her gaze came to me. “The consultant will be doing his rounds soon, and we can find out what he wants done with you.”
I looked over at Candice who was looking at the nurse with daggers.
“She’s not a piece of meat.”
The nurse actually blinked in surprise. “Excuse me.”
I patted Candice’s hand. Then turned my attention to the nurse. “That’s fine thank you.”
I could hear Candice biting her tongue. As her eyes followed the retreating nurse, only speaking when the door closed.
“Jesus. What the hell happened to be gentle to those in peril?” She looked sideways at me. “What are you grinning at?”
My grin vanished, aware again of what had happened just the night before.
“You were defending me. It felt good.” I let my eyes drop.
She cleared her throat. “I shouldn’t have told you to leave… this…. wouldn’t have happened.”
The guilt rang out of her voice, I looked sharply around. “You’re kidding, Jesus Candice this isn’t your fault, as a matter of fact it’s not mine either. Jesus it was that basterd’s.”
She wiped the tears angrily with the back of her hand. “No…. I was wrong. I yelled at you for all the wrong reasons Lee. I took out my rage from the past on you.”
“I let you down.” I swallowed.
“No you didn’t, it had nothing to do with me. Maybe you let yourself down, or Kaitlan. But not me… you’ve never ever given me reason to doubt you in ten years Lee, you’ve never raised a hand to me in any shape or form. I…” She took a breath. “…. I won’t say hearing that you hit her hasn’t change something about the way I look at you, but.”
She exhaled. “…. But…. I still trust you. I don’t know the reason you hit her and you already know my feelings on hitting someone, so what’s the point of going over it again. I’m willing to give our friendship the time to get over this and I hope you can forgive me telling you to get out.”
“Did you practice saying that all night?” I hid my grin. The relief inside of hearing that I hadn’t lost her friendship was making me want to cry again.
Her eyes jumped up to me, she snorted. “Busted.”
I pulled her over giving her a small hug. “There’s nothing to forgive ok, and don’t blame yourself, this wasn’t your doing, I’m the one that walked into a park in the middle of the night and got my arse kicked.”
She laughed against my neck, holding on to me again. “I thought I’d lost you.” Her words were a whisper on my skin.
“Hey, I’m too stubborn.”
She laughed sitting back, this time staying on the edge of the bed so she could lean into me. “I am sorry.”
“Forgiven and forgotten.”
She smiled at me, looking down and tracing her thumb on the back of my hand. “Did you mean to hit her?” Her eyes dipping and rising, unable to meet my eyes.
I inhaled sharply. “No, and if I could take it back I would.”
She nodded. “Is that why you were so adamant to stay away?”
“Some of it yes. I just…I just couldn’t face her knowing what I did. That… that…”
She looked at me, finishing it for me. “You’d do it again?”
I nodded, sniffing the tears back. “I got so mad Candice. I never thought I could get that mad with anyone, with her most of all.” I felt my heart ache again. “….It happened so fast. I didn’t even know I’d hit her till I saw her lying on the floor. Then I realised what I’d done.”
“It was just the once then?” I knew she was studying me closely.
“Do you want me to contact her?”
This time I virtually jerked away. “No! God no.”
“Don’t you think she deserves to know this has happened to you?” She had grabbed me and pulled me back against her.
“Candice leave it please, it’s over. We’re over.”
She sighed heavily. “You’re fooling yourself, it’s far from over.”
“Then leave it in the past where it belongs.”
She moved off the bed, returning to the chair. “ And what about her, you keep saying you’re staying away because of hitting her, well she must have either forgiven you for that or needed something else, Lee she was looking for you six months ago remember?”
“Would you forgive me? For that.” my head snapped up.
She flinched. “This isn’t about me.”
“Would you trust me again?”
“God damn it Lee this isn’t about me.”
I half smirked. “That’s what I thought.”
“Stop it, just stop it. I’m not leaving you and you’re not going to make me leave. You’re going to stay my goddamn friend whether you like it or not. No matter how annoying you are.”
I suddenly felt so tired, I sagged back. “I’m not trying to make you leave. But I can’t take this all the time with you Candice. Please leave it alone.” I looked at her. “….Please you can’t fix this.”
She relaxed losing some of the frustration she felt. “I hate seeing you so sad.”
“I know.” I gave a weak smile.
We looked at each other and I felt some of the lost friendship mend a little. I looked up as I saw the door open and felt my stomach fall so far I thought was going to throw up. Candice saw it her hand coming up to hold mine.
“Lee? What’s wrong?” She turned her head following my gaze.
“Good afternoon ladies I’m Dr Roberts. How are we feeling Miss Harrison?”
Candice was looking at him then at me, her eyes widening as she realised who was standing at the foot of my bed reading my medical notes, Kaitlan’s husband.
His eyes came up smiling at both of us, and then they held on Candice’s. “Hey I know you you’re the artist from the gallery?”
Candice just nodded, her hand coming up almost automatically to shake his across my bed. “Yea.” Her eyes shot to me for a moment, then back to him, managing to smile.
He shook her hand, flashing a huge smile. “I love your work, so does my wife. But you know that, she’s spoken of you often.”
“Yea I got to know her pretty well.” Her eyes went to me again.
Now, I wanted the earth to open up right now. He turned his attention back to me his smile getting wider.
“I know you too, you’re the book dealer right? I think we met at a charity thing? You were helping my wife get into her writing thing.”
I nodded, biting back the retort, that it wasn’t just her writing thing, you moron, it was part of her heart, her soul. Forcing myself to acknowledge his offered hand. Kicking back the ugly thoughts of the fact his hands were now touching the woman who was once mine. I took my hand back quickly.
“Small world.” He grinned again.
I just thought. ‘ Yea no shit .’
“Well, I’d wish we’d met again under better circumstances….” His eyes dipped to the chart in his hand. “….I’ve read your report. It looks like you have had a rough twenty four hours.”
I still just nodded, thinking. And it’s just getting better and better . I didn’t trust any part of me right now to do what they were supposed to. I was focused on just breathing and resisting the hysterical laughter that had claimed me in the park at how the world really sucked sometimes. I chanced a brief glance at Candice to find her sitting there with her mouth slightly ajar. I knew how she felt.
I realised he was talking to me. “Sorry what?”
He smiled again. “I said the tests have all been clear, we should be releasing you later today. I’ll arrange a prescription for the pain meds for a week, along with some muscle relaxants, which should help. If after the course finishes you are still in pain I want you to go to your doctor. Ok?”
He clapped and rubbed his hands. “Well I think that’s it then, I’m sure you want to get out of here?”
I nodded again.
His face grew serious. “Miss Harrison I’d like to mention, this hospital has an excellent therapist unit. Sometimes it helps to deal with this sort of attack by talking to someone neutral.”
I was trying hard not to glower at him, I forced a smile. “Thank you. I’ll think about it.”
He gave a nod. “Are you feeling any new pain around the head area?”
He moved forward and I couldn’t help the flinch, it wasn’t because he was a man, it was the fact of who it was.
He stopped. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
My brain yelled. You already have, she chose you .
I relaxed my body as much as possible, which eased even more as Candice retook my hand, when I looked up at her I could see the same pain reflected back in understanding. I let him check over the wound and then examine the rest of me. Keeping my mind and eyes focused somewhere outside of myself. My thoughts right away from the fact of who he was and the images I had of Kaitlan and him together. I was doing well until I heard a voice come from the doorway.
“Dr Roberts your wife and son are here?”
I thought Candice’s grip on my hand was going to break the bone. I wondered which god hated me so much to do this.
He lent back removing the stethoscope from his ears, briefly looking down at his watch. “They’re early…. tell them I’ll be back in my office in ten. Thanks.”
The nurse nodded. “She actually told me to tell you she’d be in the canteen feeding yourrrrrr child.”
I closed my eyes. This was too cruel, to damn cruel.
He laughed, waving the nurse away turning his attention back to me. “Ya know when he’s eating it’s my child. Not hers. He eats enough for a football team.” He laughed again.
He seemed to notice that something was wrong, his face turned completely serious. “Miss Harrison are you in pain.” He lifted my wrist taking the pulse, his eyes going to his watch, then over to the monitor.
I wanted to laugh, I wanted cry, I wanted to crawl somewhere and die. Yea I was in pain. I steeled myself raising my eyes to him, putting a smile on my face. “Just my head a little.”
“You’re sure? You’ve too pale for my liking.” His flashlight flashed in each eye.
“No. Really I’m fine just been a long day.”
When he was satisfied he stepped back, still giving me a not so sure look. “Well maybe I should keep you in for another night.”
The thought terrified me, to be around him and maybe her. “No, honestly I’m fine I just want to go home and rest.”
Candice seemed to pick up on my panic. “Doc, she will be with me, I’m not letting her out of my sight.” She patted the back of my hand, giving me a reassuring smile.
My heart was thumping so hard, the pain inside causing the rest of me to tense up, which just seeped lava into my muscles.
“Well as long as you can stay with her, especially when she’s sleeping make sure it is sleep and not unconscious.” He gave me another unsure look.
“I just want to go home.” My voice sounded pathetic.
Finally after looking at Candice again he nodded.
I exhaled my thanks.
“But she will be under your care ok? You notice anything and I mean anything you don’t like, call this hospital.”
Candice nodded, squeezing my hand I answered it with a vice grip of my own.
He smiled as he replaced the clipboard to the bottom of the bed. “Well I’ll arrange the release form, I doubt if I will see you again. Good luck.” he started to walk way. “I hope you will think about the therapy.”
I gave a curt nod, my eyes watching him nod. I held it together until he cleared the door and it closed. Then I lost it. “Oh god…. oh god.”
Candice had moved as soon as the door clicked, engulfing my shaking form. “Oh honey.”
I had calmed enough with fifteen minutes for Candice to draw away. She sat there with pity and understanding in her eyes. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Candice I’ve got to get out of here.”
She nodded without argument she was up heading towards the door. “I’ll see if I can hurry up the release. I didn’t bring any clothes, you going to be ok if I dash back to my apartment and get you some? I don’t think there’s much of yours left.”
I just nodded. “Hurry.”
She ran back kissing me on the cheek. “Like the wind.” With a smile ran out of the room.
It all came back to the damn ticking clock. In the past it had been waiting to see Kaitlan, time away from each other. Then time with her, limited time, watching the clock knowing she would leave me, cherishing every second. Then it became cursing the seconds I waited for her in shadows, hoping she could get away, that I wouldn’t get a call to cancel. Now time was my companion again, a silent stalking hunter, baiting me every time the door opened wondering if she knew I was here. Would she come? Would she stay away? I felt the insanity of the past come back, with unanswerable questions. Minutes became hours, although no more than fifteen had passed. I wanted out.
Nurses came and removed the IV, bringing with them water and made me drink. Taking last heart checks from the monitor, BP followed. Even though I fought it my eyes would go to the door, then away. Finally I was alone again, alone except for Time.
I’d never really felt trapped before, I’d heard people talking about the feeling, relating it to being a caged animal with no escape. I never really understood. Now I did. If I could pace I would have been up and mimicking the lions in the zoo. Growling and pacing, backwards and forwards as if the motion would simulate freedom. But I couldn’t, I’d tried to rise on my own and got as far as swinging my legs over the edge, stopping when my head spun and only just holding back the urge to scream out in pain. I sat there on the edge, breathing air willing the pain and dizziness to go enough for me to get up. It almost made me laugh the image I had of stumbling through the corridors with my butt flapping in the breeze. I was finding humour in the strangest places right now.
The nurse came in, catching me sitting giving me a glare a mother would have been proud of and without a word simple grabbed my legs and swung them back under the covers, tucking in the sheet.
“Dr Roberts is signing your release. Your friend is coming back with clothes. When that happens and only then.” She enhanced the glare. “….Only then will we come in here and arrange for a chair and let you go home.”
I didn’t have a choice, I nodded. She handed over the small cup that held the pain pills and I took them without question. Needing at least one part of me soothed to oblivion.
Making sure I had done what she asked she left.
When the door opened I didn’t look up, just thinking that the nurse had some other law to enforce. Then I heard it, an inhale, a sharp inhale, the kind that sounds like nails on blackboard. My heart rate jumped, I swallowed. Time had just run out.
“Oh my god. Lee.”
I still hadn’t looked. I didn’t have too. I knew the sound of my name on those lips. I heard the disbelief, the pain, the shock. Silence followed mixed with harsh breaths, it told me she had been running, and told me she was trying to control herself. It was interrupted by the sound of heels on tiles as she bolted from the doorway. I still hadn’t looked, I couldn’t.
“Whaat… whhaaat happened?”
I didn’t speak, the words were frozen somewhere below the lump in my throat and still I didn’t look, believing if I didn’t she would just go away, that I wouldn’t have to face her, I could hide. I was battling inside so hard, a bigger part wanted her, needed her, more now than I ever did. She was so close I could smell her perfume and its scent sent all the memories rushing to the surface, along with the ache in my chest. I could hear her shifting, hear the underlined crack in breathing, knowing it meant she was holding back the tears.
I closed my eyes, it hurt to hear her.
“Lee please look at me?”
My hand clenched the sheet. The pull to her was still there, just as strong, and worst of all it hadn’t died. My head turned.
Her eyes went sadly to my face, her hand coming up to cover her mouth as her gaze filled with the damage he had done.
“Oh baby.” She took a step forward, fresh tears springing in her eyes, the emotion within pushing the caution and reality aside and unheard, like it always did.
“Don’t.” I exhaled the word sharply, my body cringing at the thought of her touch, yet wanting it so badly I began to shake.
It stopped her immediately, her face battling with what she wanted to do and the look on my face. Her inhale gave her the time to compose herself. “Are you ok?” her voice was shaking.
This was hard, this was too damn hard. All I wanted her to do was hold me, tell me it was over, and take away the feeling inside and over my skin of feeling dirty and scared. But I knew that wasn’t mine now, that gift she had. My eyes suddenly went to door, feeling myself shake at the thought of him coming in and seeing us. “You should go Kaitlan. You shouldn’t be here.”
“I couldn’t stay away. How could I? “ She walked past the bottom of my bed, stopping in front of the window, her arms coming up to hug herself, her back ridged. Her gaze locked somewhere out on the horizon.
“John told me Candice was here, I thought, well I thought first it was her. Then he said she was here for a friend.” Her head turned briefly looking right at me. “….I knew it was you. I felt it.”
God her eyes, I’d forgotten they could hold so much emotion. I could see the fear, the pain, and the stricken hollowed depth in each orb giving her a haunted lost look. I had to turn away taking a breath, before I lost myself.
By the time I looked back up her eyes were fixed again somewhere over the city.
“He didn’t tell you?”
She shook her head. “He can’t talk about patients.”
“You asked him?” it surprised me.
Her voice was sad again. “No, he wouldn’t have told me anything. His work always comes first.”
I already knew that, I’d listened to her talk about it often enough, it was one of the reasons she fell out of love with him. Not for the reason like this, that he wouldn’t talk. Just in the fact that the years of him training and then becoming a doctor had put a distance between them, one that couldn’t be repaired.
“Did you just leave him sitting there?” I was curious now as to how she explained this one.
Her shoulders rose and fell as she took two long breaths. “I told him I wanted to make sure you were ok.” She looked over. “….Are you?”
“Not really.” It seemed stupid now to lie, especially to her.
“Who did this?”
I would have smiled in the past at hearing the anger of protection enter into her voice, now it just made me remember where we were, who we were.
“I got attacked last night in the park, by a man, I didn’t know him.”
She swung round her eyes going wide, already on the way towards me. “Attacked! How attacked? Lee? Lee?”
She was near panic I recognised the signs. But I had to think of me. Just being around her was killing me inside.
“Please don’t come any closer Kaitlan. I… I can’t take that right now.”
Kaitlan came to a stop, her eyes widening again, and a different type of anguish entered, I realised what she was thinking, why shouldn’t, she I would have.
“I wasn’t raped. Just beat up a little.”
The relief made tears drip down each cheek. “Thank god.” Then she looked up realising how that sounded.
“I know what you meant.” I forced a smile.
A small smile was returned. “You’re really ok? I mean as much as you can be?”
“Besides looking like a one eyed panda and some bruises. Yea. The other guy got off worse.” I tried to make it into a joke. I failed.
This was difficult, not just because I had lost her as my lover, not just because she was once my whole life. This was awkward on so many different levels. How do you do small talk? When I knew her every little sound, knew her most intimate scent, can still map her body in my mind like a blind man reading Braille. I returned to her gaze, realising this was just as hard on her. It made me feel better in a small way. “I’m ok Kaitlan. Honest.”
Her body relaxed, her shoulders slumping. “What happened?”
She looked around choosing the chair Candice had been sitting in, I didn’t miss the fact she moved it back respecting my request for space. When she was ready she looked up, this time giving me the look that said, no bullshit.
I shrugged. “I needed a walk I choose the park. Bad choice.” I managed a small smile. “He attacked me. We fought….”
I swallowed remembering the knife, but she didn’t need to hear that. “….The police showed up, end of story.”
Her brow frowned. “Somehow I think there’s more?”
I stayed silent.
“….But I won’t push it. I’m just glad you’re ok.” She smiled again, her fingers brushing the tears from her cheek. She looked at me deeply, then her eyes closed, when they opened they were blank of emotion again. “How do you know Candice?”
I caught the fact she was changing the subject. I welcomed it. I was already starting to break inside. “I mentioned her to you, she’s the one I call Cherie.” I hoped my voice was level enough for her not to notice.
“Oh.” Her face brightened as she remembered. “That’s her.”
I nodded. Glad that my bluff was working.
“I like her.” she grinned.
“There’s a lot to like… she been a good friend. Even when I didn’t deserve it.”
Her frown returned. “Why didn’t you deserve it?”
I sighed, shifting to get comfortable. “You weren’t the only one I left a year ago.”
“Does she… does she know about us?” she bit the inside of her cheek.
I looked over, trying to see whether it was out of fear she was asking or curiosity. As I watched, I still wasn’t sure. She had learned to hide some of her feelings so well, even from me. That suddenly made me hurt even more. I looked away. “She didn’t not at first. I just left… but yea she does now.” I added. “….Most of it.”
“Does she hate me?”
My head turned back to her. The words were spoken so quietly, if there had been any other sound in the room, I would have missed them.
“Jesus Kaitlan. Why on earth would she hate you?”
Her eyes snapped up. “Why do you think? You told her about us…. I don’t come out very well in the telling. A woman cheating on her husband, turning you into the other woman. Promising you things and then going back to him. Treating you so badly you left everything, everyone.”
Every single word stung, the truth usual did. “She doesn’t hate you.”
Kaitlan scoffed. “Yea right.”
I met her eyes. “She doesn’t. That’s not who Candice is.”
“Then she’s more forgiving then I am.”
I wondered what she meant by that. My eyes went to the door nervously. She saw it.
“He won’t come here he’s got rounds.”
“I wasn’t thinking that.” I snapped. Both of us knew I was lying. “I wondered how long Candice was going to be.”
“Oh… are you staying with her?”
“Yes. She told him she’d keep an eye on me.”
I was getting uncomfortable for a different reason now, I didn’t want this to start going into the past. I didn’t want the question I knew she was biting her lip to ask.
“Can I see you again? I mean when… when we have more time.”
I inhaled. It always came down to time. I couldn’t do this again. I shook my head. “I don’t think… that’s a very good idea.”
She just nodded lowering her head, shielding me from the tears I knew were starting again. I looked towards the window. I heard the scrap of the chair as she stood.
“I’m… I’m glad you’re ok Lee, no matter what you think of me, that part has never changed. It’s still important to me. You’re still…” Her words faded off.
My eyes closed.
I heard the catch in her voice, it was the first time I’d heard her say goodbye. Tears were already reacting to the word. I couldn’t say it back. I finally looked around when I heard her fading footsteps, watching her leave, knowing she was crying. She always used to look back before, giving me either a flashing smile or a sad one at our parting, but always with a look of love.
This time she didn’t and that seemed to hurt most of all.
When had it gone wrong, so wrong? How could a moment at the beginning of us change from the feelings of want, of need, of being so in love we flew. How had the fire of passion turned life so cold in the end. I closed my eyes.
Rain, I’ve always loved the rain, it seemed to clean everything around with its downpour, and it also cleared my thoughts. In my youth I used to spend hours in the tree house sitting and listening, watching. It mesmerised me.
I love the smell too, the tangy musk of life. I’m smiling as the scent reminds me of another thing I love. I know she’s late. I didn’t need to look at my watch to know it, I’ve become an internal timekeeper now. I was excited beyond belief, I felt like a kid and at the same time like an idiot that I was this excited about seeing someone so much that my pulse jumped at the mere thought.
It has been a hard summer for us both, a learning summer, both in our relationship and in the fact of how hard it really was going to be. Not just because it was in secret and how careful we were, but also in the emotional cost. Ever since we decided to go into this madness together our time had been odd hours for lunch and stolen afternoons, talking on the phone when we could. Our kisses now were almost the first thing we did when we met each other in a safe place. When it wasn’t safe we would steal looks and touches, till the point neither of us could take it any longer and we would end up in the restroom of the restaurant or in the underground car park, groping like teenagers.
My bodies need for her touch grew at every meeting, I literally ached for her. Just kissing would do more things to me than I thought was possible and I would leave her, with a tight ball of want, and so wet that I would have to take care of things myself. It was harder now to keep in my passion, at points we both would lose control, get so caught up in our sounds, our skin, our touch, the world and common sense would disappear. Then I would feel her pull away and look at me with sadness and passion glistening in green, and we would hold each other till we could control it again. I even surprised myself how much control I did have. So here I am waiting, standing in the park under the tree where she first kissed me, getting soaked to my skin and I’m still grinning like an idiot because I know I’m going to see her for the afternoon. The first time I’ve seen in three weeks. She has been on holiday in Greece with her family.
While she was away I discovered how it felt to endure endless jealousy. So much so I began to question the sanity of what I was doing with her. It got worse as time talking or any communication became nothing more than odd emails sent from Internet cafes when she could get away. With her gone the jealousy and fear were overriding the need. I’d never really thought before about him and more to the point their sex life. But through those weeks it plagued me in waking and in dreams. It gave me a reality slap in the face, making me realise exactly what our life together would be.
I even went out one night, to a club I used to go too, knowing I’d find someone there to share my bed. Got as far as feeling her skin arching below me, felt the burn of need from her touch. Then into my mind came Kaitlan. It froze me, I felt like I was betraying her, even though we had never shared our bodies. I pulled away from the woman, seeing her stunned look when I told her I had made a mistake. All she yelled at me as she left I deserved. For the remaining week that Kaitlan was away I discovered that keeping busy and tiring my body to exhaustion meant I would sleep in peace.
“You’re thinking again, I can see smoke.”
Her voice came from behind me making me jump, stilling my heart. I closed my eyes letting the purr of it travel through me, smiling more as the memory of the first time she spoke those words came back.
“You can turn around you know I won’t disappear.”
It made me smile that she knew what I was thinking. Opening my eyes I turned, not ready for the jolt of passion that pulsed as I looked at her. Leaning against the tree, half of her obscured by the trunk, one hand spanned out as if holding on, the rain running off her like a crystal waterfall. She was tanned the sun had laid its hand on her skin, giving her now a golden hue, it only heightened the green of her eyes into shimmering emeralds. Her hair too had been touched, it was lightened with strikes of almost white sun. My eyes fixed on hers and I could see the teasing there and just hidden inside it I could see the nervousness, it was then I realised I was nervous too.
“Hi.” I swallowed to try and clear my voice.
Her eyebrow went up and a smile tugged. “Just hi?”
I grinned, wanting nothing more than to strip her naked and see just how far the tan line went. By the time I looked back up I swallowed hard as I saw the passion yelling out of her eyes. We stared at each other, then she blinked, breaking the gaze and moving away from the tree. She stepped forward. It was then that I noticed she kept one hand behind her back. Stretching my head forward I caught a glimpse of the small package she held in her hand, I grinned.
I tried to duck around to see, but she quickly stepped away keeping her front to me.
“What’s what?” she flashed me an innocent grin.
I tried again, side stepping one way then the other to try and catch her out. She laughed moving fast putting the tree between us. “Nothinggggggg.”
I narrowed my eyes, growling. “Kaitlannnnnnnnnn.”
Her smile froze and I watched as she shuddered, closing her eyes briefly before laughing. “God, stop that.”
I grinned this time in a different way. “Stop what hon?”
Her mouth set, but I could still see the joy in her eyes. “You know what… and if you want your present you will.”
I ducked suddenly left, and she let out a shriek, darting quickly around the tree, always just keeping me at bay. “Lee.” She was laughing but trying to control it.
“Gimmeeeeeeeee.” I made another grab only to find my hand slicing through thin air as she bolted, heading across the park. I took off feeling my own laughter bubbling.
We must have looked like the escaped insane, two adults running and chasing in a rainstorm our ringing laughter and yells echoing around. I increased my strides narrowing the gap, nearly catching up. Her smaller frame meant she could stop faster and she did. Causing me to over shoot, giving her enough time to stick her tongue out at me and take off towards the trees. I knew and she knew it was only a matter of time before I caught her, but that didn’t matter, this did, the fun… the falling back so quickly into what we were before she left.
I stopped, seeing her now guarded by two trees, her laughter ringing in my ears like Christmas bells.
She held out her hand, trying at the same time to catch her breath and stop the laughter. “Now… behave.” She wagged a finger at me.
I grinned, taking a step forward. “Or?”
She threw me a look. “Or you don’t get what I have for you.”
She snorted. “Oh please.”
I blinked puppy eyes.
She couldn’t hold it any longer she laughed out loud. “Oh god.” Then her eyes sobered, “I’ve missed you so much.”
I felt my grin faultier as the emotion I’d kept at bay for three weeks rippled over me. “Me too.”
Her smile radiated as she moved out from behind the trees coming to stand in front of me, holding out the package.
I took it, not bothering to examine the paper covering it, tearing it off,
“I should have just wrapped a brown bag around it.”
I smiled sheepishly at her, then I suddenly got nervous, this was the first present she had ever given me. What If I hated it? What if it reminded me every time I looked at it of her time in Greece with him?
“Go on open it, it’s not going to bite you.”
I took a breath. Pulling the lid back, hearing the squeak of the hinges. Her nervous eyes watching me. I blinked, clearing the rain from my vision, looking up to her and smiling. Inside the box sat an angel, small in silver, her wings spanning outwards, in one hand she held a heart the other a sword.
“I know you don’t wear jewellery. But when I saw it I had the jewellery change it from a necklace into a pin, I thought you could put it in your wallet. You know clip it inside, no one else has to see it if you didn’t want them too.”
I breathed again, letting my fingers trace over the little figure.
“It’s a guardian angel Lee, you need someone to watch over you and protect you when I’m not around. You don’t take care of yourself. I tried to get it ready before I left…”
She stopped, I heard her take along breath.
“I wanted you to know that when I’m not here with you, that… that part of me will always be.”
I still stared at it, feeling my face get wetter, knowing it wasn’t the rain.
“If you don’t like it. It’s really ok.”
I heard the nervousness increase in her voice.
“I like it, I like it very much.”
I finally looked up seeing her eyes go wide at the fact I was crying.
“Don’t cry… please don’t cry, I didn’t mean it to do that.”
I moved fast grabbing her sealing her mouth with a kiss. Putting everything I felt into it until she stopped talking against my mouth. Feeling her body respond and the moan from both of us cutting off any thoughts. Then I pulled back holding on to her.
“Thank you. I love it.” I resisted the urge that was screaming inside me to say… I love you.
“Uh… huh? Oh Ok… Wow.”
“I’ll give you presents more often.” She giggled, holding tighter to me.
“You don’t need to give me presents for me to kiss you Kaitlan.”
Her body shuddered as I said her name close to her ear.
“I … I don’t?”
“Ok just checking.”
She reached up pulling my mouth back down to her. I could taste the rain on her lips, smell the rain on her skin, taste her. The heat swept through me, taking me to that point where I could lose control. I remembered where we were, in a public place, this wasn’t safe from her. Unwillingly I backed off. Her hand held my head for a moment forcing me to her lips again, and after a moan escaped her I knew I had to be the one to act. I moved my lips away.
“Kaitlan this isn’t a good idea here.” I was trying to control my breathing.
She blinked her eyes open, moving then around to see, realising where we were, then sheepishly she backed off. “Sorry.”
“Nooooo never be sorry.” I breezed a touch across her face. “We just can’t here.”
She grinned. “That and the fact I’m getting wet.” Her mouth froze open, followed quickly by a blush, a deep creeping flush that crept over her neck and filled her cheeks.
I chuckled. “It’s nice to know I’m not alone.”
I didn’t think it was possible, her blush got deeper and her eyes shot to the floor.
“Oh my god Lee.”
My chuckle got deeper, she really was cute beyond belief. “You’re not telling me you didn’t know you did that to me?”
Her eyes shot up opening wider, her mouth working but nothing came out.
She was so easy to tease. “Because you do. In case you didn’t know.”
Her eyes were up again, this time staying on mine. The blushes still on her cheeks. “I do?”
I knew I couldn’t tease now, she had the questioning look in her eyes, the one that showed her whole heart right out there in the open.
I nodded. “Oh yea.”
The smile that came to her face warmed my heart. I knew this was getting to close to her, so I looked down at the angel again, taking it out of the box, offering it to her.
“Put it on.” I held up the collar of my leather coat.
“You … you want it there?” surprised eyes bounced from the collar to mine.
“Ahuh. Right on my shoulder, so I know you’re always at my side.”
I bit my lip, realising what I’d said, but instead of fear in her eyes her whole face filled with a dazzling grin as she stepped forward and pinned it on.
There in the rain with both of us covered in the clouds tears we locked eyes and both of us knew something had changed.
As I opened my eyes, the need to find the angel took over, I wanted to feel it, see it. But I knew I’d put it away a year ago into the box it came in and packed it into storage in Boston, even that near me then was too much and now I couldn’t have it. The truth was I couldn’t have either of my guardian angels.
Candice came within the next half-hour, I didn’t tell her what had happened but part of her had guessed. She didn’t ask any question, she just helped get me dressed. After dealing with the paperwork we finally left for the apartment. I wondered as we drove in silence, if she had spoken to Kaitlan. I didn’t ask.
Over the following week she spent days and nights watching over me as if I were a breakable doll. She kept well away from the subject of Kaitlan and I, as if she finally understood it was time to leave it alone.
Slowly my body began to heal. By the end of the week the headaches had gone and the only pills I took were the muscle relaxants. My body was now nothing more than a criss-cross of deep yellow and purple bruising.
When I first looked at the damage to my face, I understood both Candice’s and Kaitlan’s reaction. Racoon or even a panda didn’t come close. The cut above my temple stood out like an angry line at the edge of my eyebrow, giving it a constant state of being raised. While the bruise below pulled my face out of proportion giving it an unbalanced strange symmetry. What was more shocking was the fact I could clearly see his finger marks on my cheek where he had slapped. As I gently probed the skin, I wondered if this was how Kaitlan had looked, had I done this to her. Were my marks branded on her skin like this? Which led to another question, if they were how did she explain it to her husband? Only Candice interruption that day saved me from falling into the madding existence of never finding an answer to the past.
I made a pledge to myself, no Kaitlan, not in my mind, or in my questions. I pushed her so far deep inside that she didn’t exist. I could handle it that way, deal with it, all the emotions, I buried them. Candice tried to talk about her, bring her into conversations, but she quickly learnt I wasn’t going to answer and soon even she didn’t bring her up anymore.
By the second week the bruises faded, I no longer needed the pills to relax my muscles, they were healing on their own. Giving me back the freedom to just walk around without pain. The small stitches dissolved leaving a white curved scar above my eyebrow, a permanent silent witness to the attack. I started getting my life in order again. My unplanned stay meant I had various appointments on hold back in Boston. Candice had finally left my side for short periods, returning to work at her studio. I dealt with most of my business via video link, the others I corresponded over the phone.
That week also brought the police back into my life. I went through the whole statement and questions again. After it was finished they informed me, my case wasn’t going to go to trial, the man was already on parole and the attack had revoked it. His lawyer had struck a deal with the DA, and he was going back to prison to serve his original sentence of seven years for an earlier assault on a woman. One who hadn’t been as lucky as me. The information had left me shaking and sick to my stomach, and through it all Candice was there again.
So here I am into the third week, with a body healed and no earthly reason why I shouldn’t be flying out on the next flight. But still I’m here with no plans to do it. I’ve argued with myself constantly, to leave the past in the past. But still I’m here. Candice has brought normality back to my life, one I had depended on before through my insanity. One I’m finding I’m depending on more and more again. Maybe that’s why I stay.
I look up as the door opens, giving Candice a grin as she enters.
“Well don’t just sit there.”
I’m up helping with the brown bags, catching one just in time as she kicks shut the door.
“I hate shopping.”
I laugh carrying the groceries into the kitchen, balancing the other bag as she dumps it in my arms and goes to kick off her shoes and go sit on the couch.
“No, what you meant to say was you hate food shopping.”
“Smartass.” She started to rub her feet. “God that’s good.”
I grin over as I placed the groceries away. “Maybe you shouldn’t wear five hundred dollar shoes down a market aisle.”
“Stop picking on me and get me a drink.”
I looked over my shoulder raising an eyebrow, a stupid smile was her answer accompanied by a batting of her eyelids. Shirley Temple would have been proud.
I rolled my eyes, snorting. “Wine or soda?”
Making sure the freezer goods were away, I pulled two sodas from the cooler. Handing hers over as I sat.
“Bad day at the office dear?” I pulled the tab.
“You could say that, I scrapped the angel piece.”
“What? Why?” I looked over totally surprised.
She shrugged taking a sip as she sat back. “Wasn’t working.”
“But you worked so hard on it.”
“That’s the problem, I don’t have to work hard on something, it…. Well it usual just comes.”
“I liked it.” I knew it came out like a pouting five-year-old.
The fact was I did like it. She had shown it to me the first week I was ill. Bringing it into the bedroom and letting me lay there and watch her work. It was fascinating, watching separate colours merge and blend, until I saw it become an image and then a painting. Her talent truly amazed me. The other reason I liked it so much was that it reminded me of the guardian angel pin.
“Awww thank you. But it wasn’t right.” She shrugged again, getting up to go into the kitchen. She returned biting into a carrot. “It happens sometimes.”
“But all the work?”
“Yea I know that’s a bitch, wish I’d seen it wasn’t going to work sooner, I really hate when it happens, always makes me feel like a failed.”
“So what do you do?” I sipped my drink, realising I didn’t have a say in the matter. I suppose it was the price every artist pays when something wasn’t right.
She disappeared back into the kitchen, I got up this time moving to the stool and sitting, watching her start preparing dinner.
“Well usually I blank the canvass and use it for ideas. I don’t like using used canvass for my work, I like a clean slate.” She leant over towards me. “Open.”
I opened my mouth, receiving a cut carrot, snapping it shut chewing.
“You mind salad tonight? I picked up some fried chicken.”
“That’s fine, I could have cooked?”
“Nah thought I’d give you a break, well more my waistline.” She turned her head flashing me a smile. Then returned her attention to the chopping board.
I suddenly remembered something. “Marcus called, said that tomorrow is ok.”
She looked around, this time grinning big time. “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
I laughed. “Hot date?”
“Oh yea. This is number three, if he’s lucky he might get to second base.”
I covered my ears, laughing. “Too much info from the straight gallery.”
She snorted, and then paused in her motion with the knife on the carrot her eyes locking on mine. “You have any pain today?”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “No mom.”
“None?” Her eyes narrowed.
She studied me, when she was satisfied she went back to chopping. “Good.”
“Who is Marcus? And why haven’t I met him?”
She placed the salad bowel on the counter, smacking my hand as I reached out to snag a pepper.
“Behave and go set the table.”
With a grumble I rose. “So who is he?”
“He…. Well. he um….”
I paused in my movement in placing the cutlery looking over to her. “He um… errrr what?”
She inhaled deeply. “He works at the gallery.”
I continued placing the forks. “Which gallery?” as soon as I asked I knew which one she meant. I looked over to confirm. “Anchors?”
“Yea, I met him the night of the opening. We’ve been seeing each other on and off since then.” She shifted now nervous.
“So why didn’t you tell me about him?”
She looked up. “Well duh, why did you think…? I’m dating a guy who I met the night the shit hit the fan.”
I laughed. “As always Cherie you have a wonderful way with words.”
Her whole body relaxed and she echoed my laugh. “Well that’s why anyway. I know the whole … you know who is taboo.”
I ignored the last comment. “So is he nice?”
“Ewwwwww, god I hope not. Nice is sooooooo boring… God Lee sometimes I wonder which century you were born in.”
Just the look of distaste on her face got me chuckling. “I’m not that bad.”
After placing the food out on the table she went back into the kitchen. “Yes you are… I can’t believe you used the word nice.”
I gave up trying to explain as she came back and flashed me the look. Instead I sat, helping myself to chicken and salad.
“So, he an artist?”
“God no, we’d kill each other… he’s a guard there.”
I stopped in mid chew. “A guard?”
She nodded. “Yep.”
I was finding it hard not to laugh. “You mean one of those guys with a uniform, a walky talky…. Handcuffs. That type of guard?” I watched the edge of her face flush. Bingo.
“You little kinky vixen.”
She flushed again. “Oh shut up.” she threw a carrot at me.
Still chuckling I went back to eating.
She sat back flashing me a grin. “You know I like this?”
I nodded tucking into the chicken again.
She rolled her eyes. “Not the food you dope… this.” She motioned her fork first to me then to her. “….Coming home finding you here, eating together, you know that sort of stuff.”
“Yea.” I smiled. “I do too.”
“It’s kinda like having my very own Will and Grace home show.”
I snorted a piece of chicken, quickly reaching for the soda. “Christ.” I coughed my airway free.
She reached over laughing, slapping my back. “Easy there, Will.”
I gave her an evil look as I swallowed another gulp of soda. “I think you wait purposely to say things like that when I have food in my mouth.”
“Might do.” She snapped a carrot in half with her teeth.
“Evil, just evil.” I shook my head.
Her eyes gleamed as another carrot entered her mouth following the fate of its twin.
The meal continued. Finished we both cleared the table and kitchen. Candice went and changed coming back to relax on the couch next to me.
“So what you do today?” she nudged me over to get more space to lie out.
“Sorted out the three exchanges via video link.”
“Hmmm. You go out?”
My eyes turned from the ball game on the plasma screen. “No, why?”
“No reason.” She reached across picking up the book she had left from the night before.
I studied her for a second, then turned my gaze back to the screen.
“You go out yesterday?”
“No, you know that.” I clapped as my team struck a home run.
“When was the last night you did go out?”
My head turned again. “Ok what’s going on?” I reached over grabbing the remote clicking the game off.
She placed the book down shifting forward. “You haven’t been out since the attack. Do you know that?”
My mouth opened. “Yes… yes I have.” Then it shut as I realised she was right.
“Doesn’t it bother you or seem odd?”
For the first time I thought about it. “Yea now that you mention it.”
“ Have you tried going out at all?” her voice was completely calm.
“No, I mean, well no. I haven’t had too.” That was true. I had everything I needed within the walls, what wasn’t Candice had brought.
She nodded, “that’s what I thought… kinda why I’m not surprised you haven’t returned to Boston.”
“You saying you want me to leave.” I snapped it at her.
Her eyes jerked up. “Now how the hell did you turn, I’m surprised you haven’t left into me saying get out.”
I scratched the scar over my temple, suddenly feeling it pulse. “Well. No. I know… ok what are you saying?”
She fell silent for a while then sat back a little, giving me space. “I think you’re becoming depended on this place. You know a safe haven.”
For some reason that made me uncomfortable, I stood up. “Did you date a shrink or something?”
“No you jerk I looked it up on the Internet… I’m not an idiot Lee I can work stuff out on my own. And Jesus, there’s no need to get so defensive. I’m only trying to help.” she folded her arms.
“Sorry.” I mumbled.
“So, what do you think?” she reached over picking up the fallen book up.
“Maybe.” My mind was racing over everything she said. Was I afraid?
“Well at least that’s a start.” She gave me a small smile.
“What do I do about it?”
“Go out.” She shrugged.
“That simple.” I snorted.
“Face the fear, and before you ask that one I read off a book cover.”
Her joke eased the building tension in me, I laughed which faltered feeling my eyes widened as she gave me a smug look. “You mean now?” I felt it, the panic at just the thought of stepping outside.
I knew she saw it when the smug look changed to a soft understanding smile. “No time like the present, how about going down to Georgia’s for ice cream my treat.”
“No.” I swallowed.
“No, I know you’re right but…. Can we wait till daylight?” My eyes darted to the darkened skies outside the window.
“Oh Lee there isn’t anything out there, it was freak attack, he was a freak.” She moved forward.
“Candice you telling me this won’t happen again?” I tried to steady the panic in my voice.
“Well no I can’t say that, but is it anyway to live your life afraid like this.”
“I’m not afraid.” I stiffened.
Her eyes filled with doubt, but she stayed silent.
I swallowed again.” I’m not ready to do it, is all…” that even sounded weak to me.
“And in daylight?”
“I can handle that better. “ Could I? I was already questioning the answer.
She sighed heavily sitting back pulling the pillow free plumbing it, looking over to me her face changing, softening, she bit her lip.
“You telling me you’re afraid of the dark you big proud fairy.”
For a moment I missed the teasing in her voice, I was about to snap at her again when I saw it. The relief of it made the panic push away from my chest.
I grinned. “Fairy?”
“Aren’t lesbians’ fairies too?” True question entered her eyes.
“Not that I know of, no.”
“Damn I’m never gonna learn to talk like the gay sisters.” She pouted.
I roared with laughter pulling into a hug. “You are such a goof, and you drive me nuts sometimes, but I love you anyway. I don’t know what I’d do without you Gracie.”
Giggling she returned the hug. “Probably cross dress badly.”
Laughing deeply, I hugged her even closer…. Yes she was my normality, god help me.
It’s hard to admit you have a problem, no matter how small or large it is. We are programmed through our lives, whether it is parents or peers to remain silent and to try harder. Admitting it comes down to embarrassment or a sense of failure. Candice that night had been right. I was scared to go out. For me a fear is something to be battled, my whole life was about moving forward, bettering myself. Vowing to never become my mother, I had failed at that too. It was strange, even though I had done what my mother had done, not one part of me saw life through her eyes, or now understood her choices. I guess hate is a lot harder to overcome than fear.
It had been a long time since I thought of my mother, so long in fact that my memories left her face blank in my dreams. I knew I looked like her, I knew my physical appearance matched hers, the only thing that differed were my eyes, those belonged to my father. Through the days of facing the fact I had a problem of going out, my mind went back to my childhood, I whole different type of fear, rejection. A curiosity was starting, one I thought would never raise its head. Where was my mother now? Was she alive? Was she still with the man she left us for? The question passed quickly though, the child part inside raising its hurt head and yelling that if she really cared she would have contacted us. Being an adult and having reasoning doesn’t always out weight the broken infant inside.
I’d spoken to Candice about it, she had been supportive as always, even though she would have given anything for her mother to vanish. She offered to go and find out, or help me search and it was strange as soon as the option was there, I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to know. This was just another way for my mind to make excuses and not face the fear I had now.
Candice had left me early this morning, It was after nine now, I was dressed and sitting staring at the door. I’d been this way for over an hour. Each time I had rose before or even thought about going beyond the barrier, my body broke out in a sweat. The nearer the door I got, the more my body rebelled, egged on by the images in my mind. Images of the attack, images of the knife. The only way to stop it was to return to the chair.
I rose again, taking a long deep breath, feeling my skin prickling already, the scar at my temple now pulsing to the increased beat of my heart. Each step was a fight against the instinct to run. By the time I reached the door my hand was shaking as I reached for the handle. This was hard, this was ridiculous.
But I’ve always been stubborn, always been a fighter. I reasoned with my mind, throwing logic into the fear and still I stood there, my hand paused above the silver metal of the knob. A sense of me slowly moved over my body. I can control this.
The breath I inhaled filled my lungs, now or never. My hand grabbed the handle, knuckles white as I held to hard and pulled back, stepping back so fast as my mind added an image of an attacker with knife raised waiting beyond.
“Shit.” I was a mess and I hadn’t even left the building yet.
I took my leather long coat, pulling it around like a shield of armour, and stepped into the hall, thankful that none of the other inhabitants were there. Checking that I had keys I slowly closed the door. Standing like a titan guarding the entrance before I could calm myself enough to move. I choose the stairs not needing the enclosed space of the elevator to fuel my panic. Three flights down my body was now burning for a different reason, it was also the first time I had taxed my muscles. I could feel the heaviness on them from not being active.
I stood in the lobby, the pigeonhole of mailboxes to my left like mute watchers. The glass doors ahead the only protection left to the outside world. I swallowed again wondering why I suddenly needed a drink, and not of water. It made me realise how close I had come to becoming dependent on it again. Cars went by, people walked all oblivious to the battle taking place. I felt like a coward and I didn’t like that feeling. The walk to the doors, the opening, the stepping outside, I did so fast I didn’t have time to think about it.
For more minutes than I could count the world spun, noise became so amplified I had to resist the urge to cover my ears. Slowly it calmed, I calmed. My eyes still darted looking for any sign of danger, there was of course none. The panic receded, like a tide washing away from my skin, taking away the sweat and heat. My breathing returned to somewhat normal, my heart fell into the steady beat that you don’t notice.
A smile began to pull at the corner of my mouth. I walked, joining the crowd of people, merging with them as they went about their day to day lives. The more the distance from the apartment grew, the more I could feel the panic peek out with a rush of fear. I swallowed it back, keeping my legs moving. After thirty minutes even the panic was losing its hold on me. When I was sure I was returning to the apartment because I wanted too and not because I had to, I turned and started the long walk back. At least one thing in my life was under control again.
“Kaitlan asked about you today.”
My hand paused on the bishop, I made myself focus on the game we had started an hour before. I moved the piece sitting back. “Check.”
“What!” Candice’s attention went back to the board. “How in the hell did you do that so fast.” Her eyes flicked to mine then down again.
I waited, torn between wanting to know what Kaitlan had said and wanting to push it away like I had done over the last month.
Candice took my bishop, looking up with a smug look. I grinned at her, returning my gaze to the board, moving a pawn forward.
“Don’t you want to know what she said?” she quickly moved her queen across.
“No.” I moved the castle up and took a pawn.
Her brow creased as she concentrated. “Hmmm.”
I sipped my soda, looking over the board, smiling as I watched her move her knight into the trap I had been setting.
“Can I ask why?” She sat back reaching for her own drink now.
I moved my queen across taking the free pawn. “Because I don’t want to know.”
“Ahuh.” She moved her knight up and took my exposed bishop. Kissing it before placing it with the others she had taken.
I traced my eyes over the pieces, seeing what she was trying to do, I moved the castle across to protect the king.
“She was at the gallery. I had to take two of my new paintings down for a photo shoot, their doing next year’s calendar. She’s virtually taken over from her mother in running the place.”
She moved her bishop across.
“Which paintings?” I moved a pawn forward opening up for my remaining castle.
I saw a small smile twitch at the corner of her mouth, no wonder she sucked at poker. She was easier than a book to read.
She moved her own castle up, smirking as she sipped her wine, watching me over the rim. “Oh, the Sunrise Medley, and Windspring.”
“I like those.” I made myself go slow, moving my hand over a few pieces as if I couldn’t make up my mind, then I pulled my rook forward, knowing I was leaving it to be taken.
She didn’t hesitate, she moved her queen up and took it, her eyes gleaming. “Check. Ha!”
I just shook my head, moving the castle across to protect the king, putting it in the next square blocking the check. Knowing she couldn’t take it with the queen, otherwise my king would take it.
She frowned. “Shit.” Now her full concentration fell onto the board.
I laughed, knowing she was now going to take her time to sort out her moves. I watched her look at every angle and every move. As I watched curiosity was raising its head, so I wasn’t surprised when I found myself speaking.
“What did she say?”
Candice’s eyes jumped to mine. “Wow, I didn’t think you’d ask.”
I shrugged, reaching across to pop some peanuts into my mouth. “So?”
“She wanted to know if you were ok? “ Her eyes were studying me. Her hand still holding her queen to withdraw out of harm’s way.
“What you tell her?” I ignored the fact my heart rate had just picked up.
“I told her yea, mostly you were?” her attention returned the piece, moving the queen back to safety.
“You didn’t tell her I was scared to go out, did you?” This time my eyes jumped to hers.
“Nooooooooo. I just told her you healed ok, but you get headaches sometimes, but mostly you’re ok.”
“Ok.” I moved a pawn a space.
I knew Candice wanted to talk more, I could tell by the way her lips were pulled into a tight thin line. She didn’t. I was surprised again at her restraint. I watched her move.
“What she say to that?” My mouth was dry so I sipped my soda, noticing it tasted of nothing.
“She asked where I live.” Her eyes nervously flicked to mine then down.
I sat forward, so fast she had to grab the edge of the chessboard. “Hey watch it.”
“What? You didn’t tell her.”
“You really think I’d do that… Geesh thanks.” She glared at me as she replaced two of the fallen figures.
“No, sorry no I know that, it’s….” I took a breath, getting annoyed with myself that the panic got out of control so fast. “I just don’t want her here.”
“Duh, like I don’t know that, I’m surprised were actually talking about her at all to be honest… “She shrugged. “ Besides if she really wants to know my address it’s on file at the gallery.” She added a wicked grin.
“Shit.” My eyes widened.
She sighed. “Lee do you really think she is going to intrude into your space? She seems the kind of person that wouldn’t do that. Especially if she knows you as well as I do, all that would get her is you on the defence and putting Nikes on and running for the hills.”
I calmed, she was right, but it didn’t stop the crawling feeling in my stomach that this safe place wasn’t so protected anymore.
“It’s your move.” She sat back smiling.
Both our attentions went back to the game. After ten minutes of pieces being moved and checks being blocked, the calmness took me again as my brain got involved in the chess.
“Did she look ok?” I cursed myself for asking, and cursed more the fact I still needed to know.
Once again surprised grey eyes jumped up from their focus on the game. “Honestly no she looked tired.”
She moved her castle across.
“Well kids will do that to you… so I’m told.” The way Candice’s eyes narrowed told me she heard the bitterness. “Well don’t they?”
“How the hell do I know, nearest I’ve gotten to kids is you.” She smirked.
She grinned, sticking her tongue out at me. “I suppose teenagers will do that. I know when I was one I got wild. But my mother didn’t give a damn enough to have sleepless nights.” She moved her bishop across.
I looked at the game again realising she had changed her original attack, I looked at her giving her a grin. “Oh sneaky.”
She just raised an eyebrow as she drank.
I quickly brought my remaining bishop across, leaning back. “Besides I wasn’t talking about the teenagers I’m talking about the younger one. I remember her telling me the two boys both suffered with colic really bad. She hardly slept.”
This time Candice sat back, the move forgotten as she looked at me, total Confusion on her face. “ Ok you’ve lost me. What the hell are you talking about? Is it possible for an eleven-year-old to get colic? I thought that was a baby thing. Surely they grow out of it.”
I frowned. “Candice I’m not talking about Kyle… I’m talking about the baby.”
Candice blinked even more confused. “What baby? Kaitlan hasn’t got any baby. I think I’d notice a drooling crying thing.”
I felt my mouth open to laugh, then realised she was serious. “You haven’t?”
She shook her head, adamant. “Hell no, I’d notice.”
“No? As in you haven’t seen it? Maybe she left it in childcare or something? She wouldn’t bring it to the gallery surely.”
She scowled. “Lee I’ve seen her family pictures and I’ve talked to her. Before I found out what happened, and you actually returning to New York, I liked talking to her. I got the tour with her, ya know the ‘my family’ tour. She’s only got the two boys…” Suddenly she looked over to me. “…..Wait a sec I’m missing something here, what made you think she has another kid?”
I couldn’t sit still I needed to pace. It didn’t make sense. My mind went over everything, taking me back, remembering what she said. I realised Candice was calling me, I stopped.
“What’s going on?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“Ok I’ll start with an easier question. Why did you think she had another kid?”
I swallowed. “I know because she told me she was pregnant.”
Candice eyes went so wide, in another circumstance it would have been comical. “Holy shit. When?”
The memory assaulted me to the point I closed my eyes, believing that could stop them, it didn’t. “The last night I saw her.”
“That would make the kid about four month’s old right, now I mean?”
I just nodded.
“Lee. She’s never mentioned another child.”
Suddenly another image entered my mind, an image that made my eyes spring wide. One where she was lying on the floor covered in blood, staring at me with shock and betrayal in her eyes. I felt my heart jolt, felt my stomach lunge. No… no… no… no… no… no… nooooooo. Screamed throughout.
Candice got up reaching out for me as I swayed. “Jesus, what? Is it your head? You’ve just gone grey… shit you’re scaring Me.” her hand came over to my back as she drew level. “Lee talk to me?”
I looked at her, stared at her. Knowing she could see the agony I felt reflected in my eyes. My mind filled with one consuming dreadful thought. My mouth opening, trying to form words.
Candice grabbed my shirt. “Lee shit…. What? For fuck sake what?”
“The night…” I swallowed. “She told me, is the…” I grabbed her arm so hard she winced, holding on to her in a vice, trying to stabilise the spinning out of control world. “….I hit her… oh god Candice what if she… What if that… if it… If I….”
I knew I was babbling, but I knew she was getting it as her face changed to one of shock, anger, of disgust, finally ending on understanding and compassion.
“No, Lee come on it wouldn’t….” But she stopped as her own questions were raised.
I pulled away from her. “Could it Candice, could I have done that? Could she have lost the child because of me?” I was sobbing but I ignored it.
“Oh Lee.” She stepped forward, stopping when I backed away from her. Greys eyes looking at me with such pity and pain, it only made it worse. “Honey I don’t know.”
I sat down my head falling into my hands. “God I didn’t… please tell me I didn’t….” I choked back both a sob and bile.
She sat next to me, her arm coming slowly up to rest across my shoulders.
I turned my head to her, feeling more pain than I thought was possible. “Tell me I didn’t kill her baby Candice.”
She shuddered, her eyes leaking her own pain. “I can’t honey… I wish I could, but I can’t ….”
It was the last straw, I broke. But through my sobs and self-disgust I heard her whisper into my ear. “Kaitlan’s the only one that can.”
I’m tired of crying tired of losing what last control I have in my life. Like a broken child Candice had to take care of me again, taking me from the living room, undressing me as I stood there like stone. Unaware of her words oblivious to her soothing. My mind was frozen, trapped on the moment I hit Kaitlan, but now it was worse far worse than it had ever been. I didn’t notice when she sat me down and pushed me under the covers and placed a blanket across. It wasn’t me, the body was there but my mind now was somewhere between hell and blackness. I’d killed her child that was all that remained, I’d taken the life of her flesh and blood. It made me weep again inside, but the tears never touched my eyes. I was a curse to her from the moment we met and now an innocent life had paid the price and with that thought I closed my eyes to a haunted sleep.
The nightmare was vivid so vivid I lashed out, feeling my back handed strike connecting with something, turning to see her lying there, her eyes so bright that they stood out with the betrayal of her soul. I sat up my eyes snapping open, air coming in gulps and gasps, sweat running over my skin in chilled fingers. Darkness, I panicked. The door flew open light screaming into the room like a ray from the heavens into the blackness, blinding me.
The bedroom light went on, chasing the demons and shadows back to their lair. I blinked, my squinted vision picking up Candice’s dishevelled form coming closer.
“Lee… it’s ok… it’s just a dream.” She grabbed my hand, pulling it into her lap as she sat on the edge of the bed.
I cringed, trying to pull it away.
“Hey come on, shhhhhhhhh, it’s me.”
I stopped struggling, shuddering as I cleared the haze away. “Candice?”
I heard her inhale. “Yea honey.”
I swallowed again. “I…”
I couldn’t finish I quickly pushed her away, seeing her wide look as I shot past her into the bathroom, just catching the toilet in time before my stomach did what it had wanted to do all night.
She was instantly behind me, holding back my hair, rubbing my back. When I finished I sat, falling sideways so my back rested against the shower door. I don’t think I’d ever felt so weak in my entire life and at the same time felt so numb.
She reached over pulling down a face cloth, rinsing it out before handing it to me. With a small smile on her face as she brushed a lose hair from my forehead then flushing the toilet she lowered the lid and sat, gazing down at me.
I used the cloth to wipe my mouth then rested my head against it. My chin on my knees fighting the need to vomit again. Her hand started stroking my hair.
“Hey there’s nothing to be sorry for. It what best friends are for right?”
I gave a weak smile. “How did you know?”
Her brow frowned. “Honey you screamed like a banshee, and I don’t know what you broke but I thought we were under attack.”
I knew she was trying to ease me with humour. But right now nothing seemed very funny, I was falling apart inside and I didn’t know how to fix it.
My eyes rose in question.
“Can you talk about It?” she bit her lip, the nervousness returning. “Maybe it will help… maybe it’s time.”
I didn’t have any fight left in me to argue with her, I felt so tired so damn tired.
“Lee?” her hand caressed my shoulder. “I … I don’t know what to do.”
I heard the tremble of fear, it made me look up again. “Me either.”
She inhaled deeply. “Would talking help?”
I sighed. I felt more battered then anything the attacker had done to me. “Maybe.”
She didn’t hide the surprise very well as her grey eyes touched mine. “Really?”
Now I was nervous. “You sure you want to hear it?” What would she do if she knew the whole truth? Would I lose her as well? Even in my tiredness those thoughts froze what little there was of my heart.
“Yes… yes I do.” She kept her eyes locked on mine, and I studied them trying to see if it was a lie.
“You won’t like it Candice… you….” I paused. “ You won’t like me.” I dropped my gaze.
She moved down, kneeling in front of me. “Honey it won’t change are friendship, I know you hit her I’m dealing with that. Lee please let me help. This is killing you. I can’t stand to see you like this.”
She stood holding her hand down to me, I looked at it then up to her. I took it letting her pull me up.
“I hope it doesn’t change us Candice. I really do.”
She gave my hand a squeeze then headed out of the bathroom. I quickly washed my face, avoiding looking in the mirror, I didn’t need to see who I was anymore.
I stopped briefly in the bedroom, pulling on a dressing gown, as I pulled an arm through my eye’s fell on the bedside lamp smashed on the floor. So that was what I hit. I turned doing up the tie on the robe following Candice into the living room, steeling myself for what I was about face again and tell.
She sat silently on the couch her legs drawn up under her, her hand nervously picking at the lint on gown. I wanted a drink so badly I nearly got a bottle and down it. Instead I walked past the cabinet and aimed for the chair near the window, needing the space between us to sort out my head. I inhaled a deep breath, then lifted my eyes to her.
“She was going to leave him.”
Her mouth opened to speak but I held up my hand.
“Please don’t. If you have questions save them ok…. I can’t do this if I have… if I have to keep stopping.”
Her mouth snapped shut and she nodded.
“It was in May she told me, we had a night together. I never pushed her or mentioned to her that I wanted the same thing, I didn’t need too, and she knew that.” A smile jerked at my mouth as I remembered the feelings. “She arrived that night, quiet, she didn’t talk much through dinner…. I knew something was wrong.”
I got up and walked across pulling a soda from the cooler looking over to Candice in question, she just shook her head. I returned to the chair, pulling the tab and sipping. Just the action of holding the can and drinking calmed my nerves. I focused on the can, tracing my fingertip around its edge.
“….I couldn’t take it anymore, her silence so I asked her… she looked at me with such determination in her eyes I thought she was going to end it, end us.”
“She told me she couldn’t do this anymore…. She wasn’t where she wanted to be. She was going to leave him.” Another smile came at this memory. “I think I just stared at her like some kind of idiot. I couldn’t talk. I mean….” I met Candice’s eyes again. “….I never truly believed she’d leave him. Ya know?”
Her eyes gentled as she nodded.
“But she meant it. I could see it I could hear it.” I took a small sip. “….But I didn’t get my hopes up, we’d had other times where she had said it and well, it just never happened… I don’t think I really believed it till July when she asked me to help sort out a good lawyer and for somewhere for her to live. It was then she told me she wasn’t having sex with him anymore, that she’d been putting him off for months and only giving in when she had no other option. She told me she hated doing that to me, that she felt she was mine and now she was betraying us. That no matter how many problems it caused, she couldn’t do that to herself anymore or lie to him that way.”
I took a breath.
“When she realised she felt like that, all the other things she had talked herself into to stay with him, just didn’t make sense. It was a big turning point for her, for us… God, I can’t explain how I felt then Cherie, I felt like I was flying…”
I grinned over to her, seeing the matching grin returned.
“She knew it was going to hurt him and knew that the kids would hate what she was going to do, but she couldn’t live the lie. She wanted me.” I grinned again. “ We started planning for the future our future. I got her talking to a lawyer…. she started working out her finances. I wasn’t to be involved in the break-up, mostly for the children’s sake, but also she didn’t want him to know she’d been having the affair with me for three years. She wanted to spare him the betrayal and as much hurt as possible.”
I stopped talking taking another lung full of air.
“We agreed that she would rent my house, I would live in the apartment and we would keep seeing each other there, over time I would be introduced to the kids and from there we would work on it.”
I looked over to Candice.
“I didn’t mind, to me it didn’t matter I couldn’t have her all at once that our life was on hold. Because all that mattered was she was mine, only mine.”
I saw immediately that Candice understood what I was really talking about. Even now I couldn’t say it out loud, the fact how much her having sex with him killed me inside.
I turned my gaze back to the can.
“Before it had been about time because of him, life revolved around him. I shared her. Now it was our rules, this time we did it for the children to make them feel secure, to know that just because they weren’t living with their father didn’t mean they weren’t loved… I … I didn’t want them to feel abandoned, but most of all I didn’t want them to hate her.” I swallowed hard.
Candice moved to speak then closed her mouth. I nodded to her.
“I understand was all I was going to say.” She smiled… “Go on.”
“It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t going to be acknowledged in her life for a long time, to either her children or her family. All that mattered was one day I was. So we started work on the house, decorating up two of the smaller rooms for the boys. The lawyer worked with her on what she should expect in court, whether he was nice about it or not. “
“That was hard for her to find out she really might have a fight on her hands for both money and her children. But she still wanted to go ahead. She said she was tired of lying, tired of hurting and most of all tired of having to put us on hold.”
I sat back trying to ease the tension in my back.
“Over the next months we worked hard on the house and with everything else until finally we were ready. It was up to her.” my eyes fell. “She was the one who chose the date to tell him. I never pushed her, even though I wanted to just get a truck go there and pack her things, every damn day.”
I swallowed hard.
“She wanted Christmas to be at the house with him and kids, she wanted to give them that one last memory. So she chose Feb 3 rd ….. After Christmas it got harder for her. John was never stupid and ever since she had stopped sex the arguments between then were getting worse. He didn’t understand what was happening.”
I took a drink.
“But she wasn’t going to let him push her into saying or doing something she regretted.”
I looked over to her again.
“It was so hard for her Candice seeing him in pain and knowing she was the cause of it. Knowing she was planning to leave him and needing the time to prepare for it. She would come to me sometimes and just cry her heart out through the entire time there, and hold on to me in such desperation that I thought she was going to break in two. There were a couple of times I thought she would go back and call it all off, but she didn’t. She felt guilty about everything, her children, him, and me.”
I cleared my throat, moving the hard fist away as I felt all the pain again.
“At times I thought I should walk away, stop complicating her life so much, and not give her any option… But every time she sensed it in me, she would make love to me with such love Candice, with such tenderness that my heart wept.”
I looked over seeing the tears, I gave her a reassuring smile.
“I couldn’t leave her, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. I just couldn’t.”
I paused, knowing what was coming next, feeling the tight ball in my stomach get even tighter. I took a long drink of the soda, then took and even longer breath. I needed to move around, so I did.
“Before the leaving date, we agreed for a month before we wouldn’t see each other, it was hard for both of us, but we didn’t need him to look back with suspicion. The rent deed for the house was all drawn up and was in my lawyer’s name acting for me. There was no tie to me at all. I hadn’t heard from her in over two weeks and I can tell you my mind was all over the place, believing she had changed her mind, talked herself out of it. That any moment I was going to get a call or letter telling me she made a mistake. It didn’t come. She sent me an email telling me everything was ok and not to worry.” I smiled looking over to Candice. “See she knows me just as well as you do, she knew I was going nuts.”
Candice managed a small laugh. “Yes.”
I sobered. “The date got closer, but I stopped seeing it as a doomsday clock, now to me it was the freedom one, for her, for me…For us. I went to the house the weekend before to make sure everything was set, I didn’t…. I didn’t expect her to turn up there, I mean the door went and I opened it and she was standing there soaked to the skin.”
I stopped talking my mind going back to that image, she was drenched, her hair hung around her just dripping water, and her clothes were stuck to her skin. Her eyes were red raw, her whole body shuddered, and when she looked up at me the pain and anguish I saw just made me freeze.
Candice’s voice pulled me back. My throat raw as I continued.
“I knew something had happened, I didn’t know what, and I got her in, dried her, got her warm, gave her a drink, I kept asking her to tell me, all she would do was grip my hand harder and shake her head. I asked her if it was one of the kids? She just kept shaking her damn head. I asked was it him did he know about us? Again with the damn head shaking. I was going so nuts Candice I didn’t know what it was and she wouldn’t talk to me, just kept staring at me with agony in her eyes.”
I pushed back my hair, crunching the now empty can in my hand.
“I told her I needed to know, I couldn’t fix anything if she didn’t tell me.” I paused. “She just grabbed me so tightly and said I couldn’t fix it. “
I paced feeling the anger and frustration from just the memory.
“She told me to sit down, god I hated those words, I feared those words. I could feel the hope inside me shrivelling away…” I swallowed. “She wouldn’t look at me at first…. Just went and got herself another drink and came back, then pulled the other chair over so she was in front of me… and I sat there like someone expecting the death sentence.”
I walked to the window staring out across the city, hugging myself to try and calm my bodies shudder memories.
“She didn’t even look at me when she told me,” I swallowed. “Told me…. She was pregnant.”
I heard Candice gasp.
“…. At first my brain couldn’t understand it, I mean how could that make her be like this. Then reality smacked me in the heart and soul and spat in my face… she’d lied. The whole time she had lied, she was still fucking him. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that betrayed in my life, even…. Even my mother hadn’t made me feel the way I felt right then.”
I stopped talking composing myself enough to go on, thankful that Candice hadn’t spoken or come over. I turned my head gazing at her over my shoulder.
“I didn’t want to believe it, that she’d do that. I argued with her she couldn’t be… it seems so fucking stupid now how I argued it. Telling her it couldn’t happen, that she wasn’t sleeping with him anymore… I pleaded it… she just looked at me with those eyes, crying eyes and told me it had happened at Christmas.”
“Lee… I.” Candice stopped, but I heard the half cut off sob.
I turned my head away.
“When she said that I couldn’t deny it anymore… she lied. I remember getting up and shaking her hand off my arm, ignoring her crying and pleading for me to listen to her. That it had just happened. She didn’t even think about it afterwards, it wasn’t going to happen again so I didn’t need to know, she told me she didn’t need to hurt me that much. She’d forgotten she’d stopped taking contraception in June. It didn’t occur to her that this might happen…”
I turned around.
“I honestly don’t know what she said Candice, half of me wasn’t there right then. I was trying to sort out in my mind what her lying meant… I was arguing with myself that it didn’t matter that she could still leave him, we could still have a life together, and we could bring the child up as ours… I wanted children with her, I loved the boys, but there was always a part that envied John because he was there at the birth, was there through their life…. This child could be that… I would get over the hurt, I could deal with the lie.”
I bowed my head finding for the first time there were no tears left.
“I pushed aside the hurt I felt… I went back to her knelt in front of her, took her hands in mine, I even fucking kissed them… I told her it didn’t matter. That when she left we would deal with it together, that we could bring the child up together…”
I stopped, closing my eyes to all the memories that assaulted me, the look in her eyes of pure shock and surprise, the way her mouth just fell open. Then the way her eyes lost that look and her emotions suddenly vanished in front of me.
“She got up, moving away from me. I remember her hands, they wrung together, pulling at each other… I just watched her, wondering what she was thinking, wondering why she wasn’t throwing her arms around me and crying from relief… I just sat there like a fucking idiot not even seeing what was coming.”
“Kaitlan turned to me…. speaking in a voice I didn’t know and told me she couldn’t leave him now.”
“ That fucking bitch .”
My eyes jumped to my friend, who was up and coming towards me. “Candice.”
“No! Don’t you Candice me. For fuck sake how could she do that? How could she say that to you?”
She shook my hand off. “No… Jesus I could fucking kill her.” then she stopped realising what she just said, the shock if it taking the anger out of her… “I…. I didn’t mean…. oh God Lee, how could she do that to you.”
I pulled her close. “It’s ok.”
“No it’s not.” She pulled away. “And you went through this all alone Lee. Just… god, just… Polly rots!”
Her using those words made me want to smile, but also made me realise she was now trying to control herself again. I understood how she felt, I would have felt the same way if anyone had done this to her.
“Can you listen? There’s more I want…. I think I need to tell you this.”
She nodded against my shoulder. Then moved back to the couch, grabbing a handful of tissues as she sat. “Go on I won’t interrupt again.” Then her angry eyes fixed on mine. “….But I’m not apologising for calling her a bitch or thinking it.” She blew her nose.
I nodded. How I could argue with her, at the time I felt the same thing. “I called her that you know.”
She sniffed looking up. “You did?”
“Yea.” I still felt the shame as I remembered. “….I called her a whore and a lot worse… When I calmed down I realised she meant it… I was desperate. I was losing her. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t going to leave him because of the child… I argued with her, begged her to tell me she was just scared that it wasn’t because she wanted to stay with him…”
I turned away from Candice again, moving back to the window.
“She told me the child needed its father… I felt like she’d just stabbed me… I realised as I stared at her she really believed that. All her conditioning from her parents was so engraved in her she really fucking believed it… but she didn’t leave it there, she told me it wasn’t fair to John to take his child away from him… that she couldn’t do that. It changed everything in her, the way she looked at us, the way she looked at her life with him. That sacrifices have to be made for children, no matter the cost.”
I stopped, breathing deeply for a long while.
“You know?” I turned to face Candice again. “….If I had stopped long enough and walked away and came back I would have realised she was terrified, that all the things she said she said out of fear…. That all her small paranoia’s that I knew were screaming at her to be told it was going to be ok… that everything she said she wanted me to beat down and convince her otherwise.”
I gritted my teeth, feeling the muscles in my face flinch.
“But I didn’t stop me didn’t hear… I got mad, I got mad at her, at her parents at him… I got mad at everything. I remembered all those broken promises, all those cancelled dates. Every fucking thing I got mad at… but most of all I got mad at her. It was a cold rage Candice it burned, yet at the same time I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel anything except hurt. I hurt so I wanted her to hurt. Everything I yelled at her, about how she was no better than my mother, that she didn’t give a shit about anyone except herself… I was tired of being her gay fuck… that she shouldn’t treat me like I mattered to her…”
I knew I was yelling now, just like I did that night.
“I got mad to the point I didn’t know what I said… Where I was, what I was… I … got…. I got so mad that when she grabbed me, yelling it wasn’t true, yelling she loved me, wanted me… I got so angry inside when she held me, still fucking held me with some invisible bond that just choked and suffocated, stopped me from leaving her. Even then it did it… I needed to get it away, her away… I lashed out and backhanded her across the fucking room.”
I slammed my head against the window pain, hearing Candice jump behind me.
My voice was broken, raw from the yelling.
“I remember wondering what the sound was, why I could hear breaking glass. I turned around expecting to see her in the chair, but she wasn’t she was lying there on the floor, her hand holding her mouth… I couldn’t understand why she was down there. Lying there like that… I couldn’t understand why she was looking at me like that… Then I saw the blood, it was seeping through her fingers. I remember watching it just… just run over the back of her hand, spreading outwards as it touched the cuff of her shirt… It dripped too off her hand onto the floor. Then she started crying, deep long sobs. I … I moved forwards to help her up but she shrunk back from me, her eyes filling with fear…”
I looked over to Candice seeing silent tears track down her face.
“I didn’t know why she was afraid of me… I didn’t know why she was bleeding… not at first… I just stood there looking at her, wondering why my hand hurt, I remember looking down at them”
In the present I mimicked the action, looking at the back of my hand in the exact same way, then looking over to Candice again. My voice had fallen to a whisper.
“Even when I looked at the redness on my knuckles I still didn’t understand… I tried to figure out why… I remember starting to cry and not knowing why I did… I remember hurting so much inside and not knowing why… I remember starting to shake so hard, that I could see my hands moving. I remember hearing a sound so sad and filled with pain and wondering who that poor soul was. I remember realising it was me. I remember her calling my name… but not understanding any of it or knowing why and then I did. It all came back so fast… so fast it spun me inside out… I’d hit her.”
I moved back to the chair, suddenly needing to sit as my legs lost their strength.
“I’d hit her Candice. The fact I’d done it scared me, the fact I had no control or memory of it terrified me. She was in danger from me. I didn’t know if she started talking again or telling me about going back to him or anything if I would do it again… I didn’t know what to do. She still sat on the floor staring at me, she’d moved closer and I just moved away… I realised it was him, he was what made me this mad, that he was the cause of everything between us, all the harsh words, or the anger. It was him… she never said going back to him that we would end. I don’t think she could end us anymore than I could. All I did know was this was killing us… I wasn’t even sure I still had her, the look in her eyes watching me just yelled of disbelief and fear and most of all betrayal … I couldn’t live like that anymore, I couldn’t make do with shadows anymore, not after nearly making it so close to the sunlight…”
I paused, collecting my memories.
“She got up, moving to the chair, grabbing the wet towel to putting it to her face… I couldn’t look at her, couldn’t look at what I’d done… I told her I couldn’t live like this anymore… I asked her to choose…. She begged me to take it back to not ask… that we would sort something out. That we just needed time… I told her I couldn’t share her anymore, and her going back to him meant just that… I told her to choose again… and she did………………………………… Him.”
“I left.” I shuddered. “…..I vaguely remember pulling her arms off me, calmly just grabbing her wrists and standing up and pushing her back into the chair… I think she called out when I walked away… I remember slamming the door… I remember suddenly wondering why I was so wet, then realising it was raining and I was somewhere I didn’t recognise.”
I leant back in the chair.
“I went to hotel. I didn’t feel, I didn’t think, I was numb to everything… I stayed that way for over a week… If I’m truthful I don’t know what happened. When I came out of it I knew I had to get as far away from her as possible, I couldn’t be near her, see her, talk to her, because I knew if I did, I’d go back. I also knew I had to give her that, give her that distance, she had chosen so I needed to make sure I wasn’t part of her world anymore… at least I could do that one thing for her now. So I did… I left her, I left you, I left the city. I made it impossible for her to find me. I tied up every loose end in case she could trace me from there. I cancelled the lease in her name on the house. I paid off the lawyer and I cancelled our joint account, to her I had become a ghost that she could never track down…. And I’ve stayed away until now.”
I felt drained, I felt ill and I waited to know what Candice would think of her friend now.
I heard her leave the couch and come over, and without a word she wrapped her arms around me. I grabbed her into a returning embrace. I held her when she cried. Neither of us spoke, we didn’t have too.
Candice fell asleep in my arms, this time it was I who took care of her. I carried her into bed, placing a kiss on her forehead before heading back to mine. I cleared the broken lamp ignoring the memories it brought up. I felt better for having told Candice, but at the same time it seemed to have drained me of what strength I had left. Not the strength of a body, but the strength of the soul.
I moved under the sheets, welcoming the coolness on my skin. I didn’t know what I was going to do when morning came. I wanted to sleep, wanted at this moment to sleep away the rest of my life. Even before I felt take me, I knew I was going to dream of her again.
“This is beautiful.”
“Yes it is.” But I wasn’t looking at the lights of the harbour or the water’s refection. My eyes were fixed on the silhouette of her, half in light the other in dark.
Her face turned, our eyes meeting. She smiled one of those slow sexy smiles that told me she knew what I was looking at. “Thank you for bringing me here.”
I moved to the ferries railing, leaning my arms to rest, tilting my face to the natural breeze, feeling my hair whipped across my face. I knew she was studying me now, the same way I’d just looked at her. It made my skin burn. I let the feeling wash over me, then turned. For once she didn’t drop her gaze. I smiled, watching the same smile stretch on her lips.
I cleared my throat. “You know it really surprised me that you’d never been on the ferry before?”
She laughed. “I just never thought about it. I mean who knew it was like this. When you hear ferry, you expect cars noise… need I go on.”
I shook my head, chuckling. “Well that’s pretty much what it’s like in the day, but at night….” My eyes went to New York skyline again. “….Well as you can see it changes. So what do you think?” My eyes fell on her again, reaching over I brushed a hair back.
The genuine honest look came into her eyes. “It’s beautiful.”
“You’re beautiful.” Her voice had the tinge of wonder it always had when her mouth spoke her thoughts.
My breathing hitched and I blushed. I wanted to kiss her, but I knew this wasn’t the place. Knowingly she took my hand giving it a squeeze before dropping it and her gaze going back to the view.
I looked down at my watch, feeling the tension in my stomach as I saw we only had an hour left together. I was surprised when she had called that day and said she was free for tonight. We rarely got to see each other outside of the daytime.
Her head turned, her eyes dipping to my watch then back up to my face, I tried to put on a smile but I knew I failed. “Why so sad?”
I tucked my hands into my jacket pockets. “Time.”
“Ah.” She smiled. “What if I told you that I’m not on a time line tonight?”
My eyes jumped up. “You’re not?”
She shook her head, biting her lip. “Nu uh.”
“At all?” I felt giddy.
“Well I do have to return before nine am tomorrow. “
I frowned and swallowed hard at what she was saying. “What? How? I mean… explain?” I didn’t know what this meant, I knew what I wanted it to mean. But I wasn’t going to let hope take over.
“John is away at a seminar this weekend, he isn’t back till tomorrow afternoon… my mother thinks I’m out with friends. She has got the boys overnight, there probably being spoiled rotten.”
“Isn’t that dangerous.”
“No they’ll get over the sugar rush.” She grinned, which faltered when I didn’t return it. She stepped forward. “Lee. How can it be dangerous? I am out with friends…. You are a friend right?”
I inhaled. “You know what I meant.”
Her face fell. “I’m sorry, maybe I should have checked you didn’t have anything else planned for tonight. I shouldn’t assume.”She turned away from me, facing out to the bay.
“What’s that supposed to mean.” My mind, body and soul were totally off balance trying to figure out what a night with me meant, really meant. But what she’d just said stung.
She kept her back to me as she spoke. “I have no business in your private life. I really should have checked first.”
That one stung too. Then I began to realise what she meant. She thought I had someone else. I reached over pulling her around to face me. “You don’t!?” I dropped my hand. I was finding it hard to hide the hurt and the anger that she could be that stupid to believe that.
Her eyes didn’t meet mine, “No I don’t… I have no right too.”
“No right?” The anger jumped. I turned away for a moment about to walk away, then turned back. “So if I told you I fucked someone this afternoon before I came to see you. That would be ok with you?”
She flinched. “As I said it’s not my business.”
“That’s not what I asked Kaitlan?”
She inhaled sharply, her voice snapping. “I don’t control what you do.”
I wanted to throw my arms up. “Jesus. Answer the damn question. It wouldn’t bother you to know I have sex with other woman?.”
Her eyes darted around nervously, realising people were staring, as my voice rose. “Lee…. Not so loud.”
That just seemed to make it worse. “I don’t care.” I glared around at the ones watching, daring them to say something, they didn’t, they just lowered their gaze or found something else to look at.
Her hand grabbed me pulling me around. “I don’t care either. The difference is I have too.” She removed her hand.
Her eyes imploring me to understand.
“Answer the question?” I swallowed the anger back, really needing to know now.
“I can’t ask you to be celibate.”
She may as well have kicked me.
I watched her face change to pure pain as she realised what she had just done. “Lee…I.”
She reached out but I stepped back, as always my hurt came out as anger. “Well if you excuse me Kaitlan. I have to
find a woman to fuck.”
I walked across the deck, down the stairs as fast as I could, ignoring her calling. I stepped off the ferry as it docked moving fast through the disembarking crowd and got lost it in.
I couldn’t believe her, I really couldn’t believe her. How could she think that and not know I wouldn’t do that to her, to us in a million years.
I took a cab and went to a club, sitting in the back next to the shadows, watching the women dance. Watched as some approached then back off when my eyes flashed at them. I stuck to beer, knowing that if I took something stronger I would give into the part inside that wanted to take someone to bed, just to spite Kaitlan. Why should I care about sharing my body when she obliviously didn’t?
The more I sat the more I realised how much it hurt. In the end I knew the club wasn’t the place to be. I left moving back into the night. I didn’t like the feeling inside at being mad at her and I liked the fact even less this was our first argument.
I took a cab back to the house, pulling up my collar as I stepped from it, protecting my face from the worst of the downpour. I pushed open the gate and stopped dead, blinking to make sure I could see what I was seeing or more to the point who. Kaitlan sat there on the steps outside the house. Her head bowed, arms wrapped around herself. Looking every part of a drown rat. She looked absolutely miserable. The anger inside receded. But then I remembered her words and the anger won again. A flash of lightning across the sky made her jump and her eyes found mine. She stood up slowly.
“What are you doing here?” I didn’t move.
Her eyes fixed on me. I knew she could see the steeled look I’d put there. This time a rumble of thunder sounded followed by another streak of fork white in the sky.
Her lips moved to speak then they stopped as her eyes fell.
I didn’t want to be angry with her, so I bit back what I wanted to say. “Ok then, how long have you been here?”
My eyebrows rose. “You’ve sat there in this storm the whole time?”
I pulled my wet hair off my face, feeling the frustration. “Why didn’t you just go home Kaitlan?”
Her eyes came up again this time with tears in them. “Because I didn’t want too.”
God she was so infuriating at times. I moved walking past her mounting the steps. “Go home Kaitlan just go home.”
Her hand coming up and laying on my arm stopped me.
I inhaled. “Please what?” I looked down at her upturned face.
“I didn’t want tonight to be like this.”
My eyebrow perked, sarcasm came into my voice. “Oh really what were you expecting?”
For a moment green fire burned in her gaze then it cooled, replaced with the lost look she got when she was hurting. “Ok I guess I deserved that.”
I sighed. “Kaitlan go home.” I again moved up the stairs, only to have her grab my arm and move around in front of me.
“For?” I looked down at her hand, until she removed it.
“For saying what I did.”
“You only said the truth.” I took my keys unlocking the door about to step in.
“No it wasn’t.”
Her voice was almost a whisper, but I heard it as if she had shouted it from the rooftops. I stopped, half in my house and half out, I turned slowly to her. “What?”
Her eyes came up to mine. “It wasn’t the truth.”
I felt my insides settle, but at the same time my heart jumped. Could I believe her? I waited, not trusting my voice.
She took a large breath. “I do care whether you sleep with anyone else.”
She looked at me again. “I don’t like it.”
We locked eyes.
A loud echoing boom of thunder made both of us jump.
“Jesus,” I peeked out into the street seeing the heavens open.
Her small voice next to me pulled my attention back.
“Did you find someone to fuck?”
I swung around at her. “What? You really think I’d do that? Jesus Christ Kaitlan.”
“No… yes. I don’t know… “Her fists balled at her sides. “ I don’t know.”
I glared at her every part of my body wanting to go inside and slam the door.
“Do you think I’ve been sleeping with someone else the whole time I’ve been with you?”
She bit her lip then shook her head.
“Then why, why say that?”
Her head snapped up her eyes flaring. “Because I can’t say that to you, I can’t expect you to give up on a sex life while your with me, how can I, how can I ask you to do something I’m not able too. That isn’t fair.”
I blinked. Finally I understood. “So because you sleep with him, I’m supposed to sleep with other people?”
“No…. God this isn’t coming out right.” Her face twisted in frustration. “I can’t give you that promise to be faithful Lee, how can I expect you to do the same.”
I snorted a laugh, a disgusted laugh. “Well thank you very much for giving me permission to go fuck elsewhere.”
“Damn it… that’s not what I meant.”
“ Oh yes it is, but you forgot one thing Kaitlan, to me we are in a relationship, it doesn’t matter how when or where you are, I made the choice to be with you and to me that means I am fucking faithful to you. It means something to me not to betray you on that level and more to the point I don’t want to be fucking someone else… and excuse me for assuming that I mattered enough to you for you to give a shit. And believe it or not I can keep my pants on when I’m fucking horny.”
I turned away and stepped into house slamming the door.
The knock made me jump.
“Go away.” I moved away from the door pulling my jacket off.
“No.” her voice was stubborn.
Arrgggggggggggggggggggggh. “Go away Kaitlan go home, you’ve made it clear.”
“No I haven’t please open the door.”
“No.” I hung my jacket up on the hook.
“No.” This time my voice sounded every bit a spoilt child.
Then it went quiet, I waited, then curiosity got the better of me and I moved nearer the door to put my ear to it. The thump against the wood jerked me backwards. The following shout nearly knocked me on my arse.
“GOD DAMN IT I HATE IT, I HATE THE FACT YOU MIGHT SLEEP WITH SOMEONE, I HATE THE FACT OF YOU BEING WITH SOMEONE ELSE.”
Another thump sounded against the wood.
“I DON’T WANT YOU TOO, I DON’T WANT ANYONE TOUCHING YOU THE WAY I WANT TOO… IT’S MINE YOUR MINE.”
Thump. THUMP. Thump.
“JUST THE FUCKING THOUGHT OF IT MAKES ME SICK TO MY STOMACH. NOW OPEN THE GODDAMN DOOR. BECAUSE I DO GIVE A FUCKING SHIT.”
Thump. Thump. Thump.
I thought my heart might actually burst, I found myself grinning.
I fumbled with the lock throwing it open, seeing her face glare at me, seeing her chest heave as she breathed gulps of air. God she looked sexy. We stood looking at each other, and she started to calm down.
I grinned. “So I’m yours am I?”
A slow tinge of embarrassment crept up her face. “I said that didn’t me?”
My heart jerked. Oh gods please don’t take it back.
“Yea you did.”
She stepped forward. “Lee please understand why I said I can’t hold a claim on you… it isn’t fair expecting you to do something that I can’t return.”
My heart fell, so did my gaze from her.
Her hand slowly came up and laid against my cheek forcing my eyes to hers. “But the part inside me that knows that still can’t compete with the part that says your mine and no one else’s. I should have told you that first. I’m sorry.”
The kiss she laid on my lips was a claiming one, not just of my mouth but of my heart and soul. She stepped back, leaving me breathless.
“So can we now go inside and get me warm and dry because I can’t feel my arse from sitting on that stone for two hours and I’m freezing.”
I opened my mouth but nothing came out. She chuckled, grabbing my hand.
“Can we go inside now?” I saw the fear in her eyes.
I squeezed her hand, leading her inside, closing the door, letting her hand fall free as she stepped in to look around. I took her coat, realising how soaked to the skin she really was, I placed it over the heater. I watched her as she examined my house for the first time. Walking around the room, running her hand over the back of the leather couch. Her eyes falling onto the paintings on the walls, then over to the kitchen then finally to the fire place.
She grinned nervously over to me. “I like it. It suits you, the style I mean. It’s different to the apartment.”
I moved away from the wall I was leaning against. “Yes it is, this is my home.”
She smiled. “I know, that’s why I waited here and not the apartment.” She shifted, looking down at her feet. “I am sorry for hurting you.”
I moved quickly only stopping when I was in front of her, lifting her hands. “Shhh, it’s ok, it makes sense now I can see it without….” I broke off.
She caressed my cheek. “Now that you aren’t mad at me.”
I grinned. “Yea.”
“I don’t like that much.” She kissed the back of my hand.
“Let’s not do that again.” her tone was half-joking.
“No, let’s not.” I pulled her into a hug and felt her wet clothes soak into mine. “Ugh” I drew back.
She laughed. “Yea ugh.”
I nodded to the stairs. “The bathrooms first on the right, there’s towels in the cupboard just as you go in. there’s a robe on the back of the door… Ok?”
She nodded. Moving towards the stairs then pausing turning back, her voice timid again. “We ok?”
I smiled nodding. “Go get changed. I’ll order Italian ok? I mean if you’re staying?”
“If you want me too.” The unsure tone came back into her voice.
I grinned. “Ohhhhhhh, I want you too.”
Grinning she ran back giving me a brief kiss before heading upstairs. I resisted the urge the whole time I heard the shower running to go up and ask her if she needed her back scrubbed.
By the time I heard the shower shut off, the Italian was ordered and I had dried my hair, the fire was lit and now I was nervous. What was tonight to suppose to be like? Kept rising in my head.
The sound of her clearing her throat made me look up. My mouth went dry. She wasn’t wearing the robe I offered, instead she was dressed in a red silk one, a very sexy red silk one.
Her eyes shifted nervously. “Do you like it?”
I stood. “How? Where?” I slammed my mouth shut, cursing my brain for picking now to forget how to talk.
Her smile grew, “I’ll take that as a yes, and in answer to your question it was in my bag.”
“Oh.” I wondered what she kept in that thing.
As she walked forward the side of the robe became tiny gapping slits along the length of her thigh, revealing something black underneath. I realised I was staring and my eyes jumped up to amused green eyes.
“Can I have a drink?”
“Drink yes. Good.” Oh great now I was reverting to cave woman status.
“Could I have some wine if you have it?”
I looked at her stared at her wondering who this woman was in front of me, gone was the nervousness, and gone were the blushes. In fact the woman in front of me had on every single guise of a seductress who knew exactly what she wanted. I suddenly felt very uneasy. In fact I felt damn right panicked. Minutes ago we had been at each other throats and now this. What was this?
“Lee? Do you have wine?”
Her voice startled me and I stepped back wards almost tripping over the edge of the rug. I knew she was resisting the urge to laugh at me by the sparkling in my eyes, she moved closer and held out her hand. My eyes dropped to it then back up to her in question.
“Hi my name is Kaitlan… I’m your girl friend. You seem to be having some trouble recognising me.”
My mouth fell open, I snorted, bursting into laughter. I took her hand grabbing her too me. “Smartass.”
She laughed against me, then her tone gentled. “It’s just me Lee honest.”
I nodded my head not trusting my voice, I just held her.
“Did I freak you out?” her head tipped back so she could look at my face. When I didn’t answer she continued. “I did do me?”
This time I nodded.
“Because I don’t know what this means.” It was hard to say, it was hard to admit to her I still had no expectation.
I felt a shiver go through her so I held her tighter.
“What would you like it to mean?” her voice was low.
I inhaled sharply, not ready to answer that yet, not ready to let her know how much I needed that from her. “Kaitlan?”
“Hmmm.” Her fingers played with the button on my shirt.
The hum in her answer vibrated though me. “Am I really your girlfriend?”
Her head pulled back. “Out of everything I just asked you, you want to know that.” She laughed. “Yes I am. I thought I made that quite clear when I yelled you belonged to me into the street.”
I grinned, feeling my tension drift away. “I liked the way you claimed me.”
“I bet you did.”
We grinned at each other. Her head went back to my chest. “So what freaked you so much, I mean if it’s the red colour or something?”
I chuckled. “No it isn’t the red, in fact I love it.”
I knew she was deliberately bringing humour into this to make me feel better and I loved her for it.
“I… I just didn’t expect it… And when I don’t expect things and they happen I get freaked.”
She looked up again her brow frowning. “You didn’t expect this at all?” surprise sparked in her eyes.
I sighed heavily. “To have expectations Kaitlan means disappointment… I’ve learnt in life not to have them or set them, that way I don’t get hurt.”
“Oh Lee that’s so sad. That isn’t any way to live life.”
I moved to pull away but she held onto me in the hug. “Oh no you don’t. Not this time.”
I blinked. “Kaitlan…”
“Nu uh…” she held on hard.
I looked down at the two of us, her smaller frame tucked around me, and I found it funny.
“Kaitlan do you really think if I wanted to get away from you, you could stop me.”
She looked up at me, her eyes going slightly wide, I raised an eyebrow. Realising what I meant she looked down at herself then over my taller frame.
“Well no, not really.”
“Ahuh, so would you mind letting go.”
“No.” she held on.
“Kaitlan come on.” I was now finding it hard pressed not to laugh.
“Nope.” Her arms tightened.
“Well I warned you. “ With one quick motion I swept my arm under her legs lifting her.
“Eeeeeeek.” Her arms moved up holding on around my neck.
I stood there cradling her, grinning. “I could just dump you back outside in the rain you know.”
Her face was right in front of mine now.
She grinned. “Please don’t.”
“Ahuh give me one good reason why I shouldn’t?” I was ignoring the fact I could feel the silk under my hands, ignoring the caress of skin beneath it.
Her bottom lip disappeared as her teeth chewed on it. The green of her eyes twinkled with merriment. “It’s a bitch to get water out of silk.”
“Ohhhhhhh wrong answer.” I started to walk towards the door.
“No no Lee wait… wait…. Lee.” Her laughter was cutting into her words.
I stopped, rising an eyebrow to her. “Well?”
“Because…” I knew she was resisting the urge to stick her tongue out.
I narrowed my eyes moving to step forward again.
“No any wait.” She laughed harder. “Ok I can’t think of reason for you not to other than I prefer it here.” She tightened her arms around my neck giving me a bigger smile.
I thought for a second then looked at her. “Nah think I’d rather throw you out there.”
Her eyes went wide and she grabbed onto me. “Lee!”
This time I couldn’t hold it, I lost it laughing now with her. I walked back sitting both of us on the couch. She snuggled up next to me.
“How can you do that Kaitlan?”
I swallowed as I felt her hand move rubbing against my stomach.
“Make me laugh like that?”
She tilted her face up, her cheek still resting on my chest. “I don’t make you laugh like that silly. That’s always inside you.”
I thought. Was it? “Then how can you bring it out so easily, I’ve never laughed like that before I met you.”
Her palm moved slower, its touch warming my stomach.
She smiled sadly at me. “I know and I guess it comes out now because it wants too, it feels safe too. That you trust me enough to let it show.”
“I do trust you.” I let my own hand wander across her back, feeling her relax and hold her breath for a moment.
“I know.” She smiled turning her head to gaze at the fire, her fingers tracing patterns on my stomach.
“Why’d you pack the silk thing? And please don’t say why do you think?”
Her hand stilled, she drew back off me. “Because I thought you’d like it.”
“Oh.” I tried to hide my disappointment. Damn I should remember my own rules, no bloody expectations.
“And because I wanted you to take it off.”
My eyes jumped to her. “Oh.”
She inhaled. “Lee I’m nervous enough here could you manage something else rather than oh.”
“But you said.” I shut up.
“Hey, I said what?” her brow creased then it dawned on her. “Oh Lee, is this what is freaking you out… I’m sorry I should have told you, but I thought this was a more romantic way.”
She moved to get off me, this time it was me who held on. “Hey hold on ok.”
“I’m sorry I said I wanted tonight to be different, I spoilt the whole thing.” Her eyes started to mist.
“Kaitlan please look at me.”
She shook her head. “ I wanted it to be special I wanted to surprise you, I wanted you to know I’ve been thinking about you the whole time, wanting you so badly, I can’t fight it anymore Lee I want you… and I know what I said. Please let me go I feel so embarrassed.”
“Shhhhhh baby shhhhhh,” I pulled her against me.
“This isn’t how I wanted our first time to be. I did it all wrong Lee.”
I felt her tears against my neck. I pulled her closer, there wasn’t really a lot I could say to her to make her feel better. She was right, it wasn’t exactly how I thought our first time should be either. Being mad at each other, going off on my own, nearly sleeping with someone over spite, coming back and more arguments. Suddenly putting into those tight thoughts it made me see how absolutely absurd it all was.
I kissed the top of her head.
“Well we all can’t have rolling waves on a moonlight beach, or a perfect sunrise or sunset, or even a waterfall cascading into a gleaming pool… or let’s see…. a cruise ship romance. Or our eyes meet across a crowded room and we both come together oblivious to the world.”
I felt the sniffled chuckle.
“I’m sure I can come up with more clichés if you wanted me too.”
She sniffed again as she looked up at me. “No I think those are enough. Thank you. But I really wanted this to be special.”
“Kaitlan everything you do for me is special.”
Her grin widened. “Can we start again?”
I looked at the door then at her. “All of it?”
She laughed. “No… from when I come downstairs.”
I nodded, as she moved away, I caught her arm, she looked back in question.
“Kaitlan are you sure about this, I mean really sure? Because, if we go further I don’t know if I can…. If I can take you asking me to stop because you’ve changed your mind. I’d rather we didn’t go that far, then have it taken away from me.”
Her face fell. “Oh baby.” She came back over and drew my face up to hers laying a kiss so sweet on my lips it made me want to cry. She drew back enough only to see my eyes. “I’m sure… I promise I’m sure. I want you.”
I didn’t need telling twice, it unlocked everything inside me. I pulled her down covering her mouth, pushing my fingers into her hair, tasting all that was her. I wanted to go slow, wanted to take my time, but I had wanted this for so long. My kiss grew urgent, my senses going into overload, her smell, her taste, and her sounds. My hands needed to know what my imagination had only dreamed of. I drew open her robe letting my hands finally caress her skin, feeling her body jolt against me as she straddled my hips. Her hands pushing at my shirt, fighting to get the buttons undone. I groaned as her thumb flashed a touch across my breast, our mouths never leaving each other. My body hummed. I felt her shudder as I cupped her breast letting my thumb trace through the silk of her negligee. My breathing cut as I felt the nipple grow hard under my palm.
She tore her mouth away gulping air letting out a slow groan, finally having enough with patience she pulled my shirt open buttons flying. Her mouth latching onto my neck.
“God.” I jerked as I felt her other hand move and take my nipple in her fingers.
Then it changed, our kisses slowed, our mouths exploring each other, touches of our bodies became caresses, floating touches of fingertips and skin. She held my face, laying tender kisses over my lips, my cheek, my jaw, my hands moved up under her robe laying there against her back, I felt her heat. The kisses continued, tongues touching and flicking, until the point my whole body burned for her. Her mouth moved to my ear, taking it briefly in her teeth before tracing the tip of her tongue around every ridge.
“I want you so much… I’ve wanted to touch you like this from the first time I saw you.”
Her voice so husky now it made me tremble as she spoke, making every hair on my skin prickle. I moaned as her lips crushed to mine again and the passion in both of us resurfaced. My fingers dug into her back as I felt her rocking against me, pressing herself against my stomach and through my last inhale I discovered what her true scent was. It made my mouth water and my stomach flip, driving flowing lava down between my thighs.
Her mouth came back up to my ear, her hand moving around to my back, her fingers kneading each muscle.
“I’ve dreamt of you…”
I groaned. Her voice was driving me crazy.
Her fingers dug into my back as she pushed against me I could feel our breasts touching through fabric, but the barrier wasn’t enough to hide hardened points to each of us. She exhaled a long breath into my ear, which made my heart stutter.
“Leeeeeeee. Do you know what you…” she shuddered. “You do to me?”
God I loved my name said that way. I growled.
I felt the grin on her lips as the tip of her tongue grazed my neck. She nipped. “ Do you?”
I latched onto her mouth moving my hand down to the curve of her back pulling her fast against me, catching her groan in my mouth. Her head tilting back her hips moving, I licked upwards along the arch of her neck.
Her voice came out in breathless whispers. Her eyes closed her hands in my hair guiding me. “I’ve ached for you so much.”
I growled again moving my hand down over the curve of her hips, across the rise of her thighs. As I touched her skin, the caress of silk caressed the back of my hands. I moved lower and around, feeling her widens her knelt stance. I continued my exploration up the inside of her thighs. Her head moved back down fast, smoking eyes of green met mine as her hands twisted my hair, as she claimed my lips. My fingers travelled higher, gasping as I felt the damp fabric. She jerked, her mouth opening wider, my tongue dipping.
She mumbled into my mouth. “Baby I need you.”
My brain finally managed to fight through the passion haze, reminding me where we were, I didn’t want it like this. I stood up wrapping my arms tightly around her, moving towards the stairs.
Her eyes opened her own mind coming back. “Lee?”
“Bedroom.” I managed to gasp out as I took the stairs two at time.
She giggled. “Ok.”
Then her mouth latched onto my neck again and I only just managed to stop both of us falling down the stairs. I kicked the bedroom door open. Moving to the bed laying her down. Standing back kicking off my shoes and losing my jeans, and tossing the shirt, pausing in my rush as I felt her watching me. I stood there, feeling the travel of her eyes on my skin like trailing talons. Slowly her eyes found mine and she blushed, her eyes lowering briefly.
I smiled. “I love the way you look at me Kaitlan.”
The nervousness in her eyes vanished and she held out her hand.
I took it, letting her pull me down on top of her.
Our first touch of skin on skin make me close my eyes to the burn. I opened them seeing hers flutter open, I pushed against her slowly, easing my thigh between her legs, groaning as I felt how wet she was. Her eyes slammed shut again as I pushed up, a low moan escape her. I paused, waiting, her eyes fluttered open, her hands coming up caressing butterflies on my shoulders.
We stilled. All I could hear was our ragged breathing. The noise of the storm outside was forgotten with everything else. I smiled at her, tracing a finger down across her jaw line, her neck down between her breasts, back up to the pulse point at the arch of her shoulder, watching it jump under my touch. My eyes fixed on hers again.
“You are beautiful.”
She grinned, her hand coming up to trace my face. “So are you… Kiss me.”
I lowered my lips to hers and willingly obeyed the command.
The dream had left me aching, both in heart and soul. I awoke drenched in sweat, the memory to real in all things and my body had responded as if it had been there. When I got into the shower I scrubbed away the reminder I had once been loved by her, cursing my skin as the ghostly touch still made it burn.
By the time I was dressed Candice had gone leaving me a note, telling me she couldn’t cancel the appointment she had but she would be back by three. I made myself breakfast, but just sat there looking at it, the mere thought of eating causing my stomach to clench. The emotions inside me were so raw that I felt like a punching bag as each memory from the previous night washed over me. I couldn’t go on like this, so I went back to how I had handled it through the year. I pushed it all away, the ache inside, and the pain in my heart. I began to argue with logic.
By ten I was pacing, trying to sort my mine out. It all came down to three things. Why did Kaitlan try to contact me six months ago? What had happened to the baby and was I responsible? But no matter how many times I went over it I didn’t have the answer. The only person who did was her.
Could I see her again? Could I face whatever she told me? Would she see me again? Could I keep my feelings that were still there under control? Could I really walk into the lion’s den again? Insane didn’t come close to how I was feeling. In the end I grabbed my coat and headed out of the apartment. I had a choice to either leave or go back to the life I had made for myself and let the demons lie, or face them.
I wasn’t surprised really at my choice, but it still scared the crap out of me as I stood outside the gallery. I pulled open the glass doors hearing them close and cut off the street noise, I tapped into the calm that never failed. As I walked through the lobby and main rooms, each step became more confident as all my emotions clicked into the place where they were hidden. I knew the layout of the gallery, making my way to the office area was easy. The security door marked ‘private’ stopped me going any further, looking around I saw the camera pointed down to me, seeing the wall mounted speaker at my face level, I pushed the button under it.
“Hello welcome to the Anchor gallery. How can I help you?”
I turned my face to the small camera. “I’d like to see Kaitlan Roberts.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No.” shit, I didn’t think of that.
“Can I ask what it is concerning?”
“It’s a private matter.”
The woman was beginning to get on my nerves, her voice was one of those that grates on your ears, and the emotion in it told me her attention was elsewhere, not really caring who I was and what I wanted. She began to annoy me.
“I’m sorry Mrs Roberts is in a meeting at the moment and her day is fully booked. Can I take your name and phone number and we can arrange an appointment for next week.”
I flashed a look up at the camera, now talking to that. “I don’t want to see her next week, just tell her Lee is here.”
The voice paused. “I’m sorry. I have explicit instructions not to interrupt her today. If you would leave your name and number I’m sure she will call when she’s available.”
Now she was pissing me off. “Listen…. Just tell her Lee is here she will want to see me?”
“Can I have your full name?”
Thank god . I took a breath. “Ms Lee Harrison.”
“Thank you. I will give her the information when she is free, have a good day.”
What the fuck. I tried the door handle. The fucking bitch . This was ridiculous, after everything I had gone through to be stopped by a wooden door and voice in a box. I drew my hand back and punched it. Looking up at the camera.
“Hey. Open the door. Just tell her Lee is here god damn it.” I drew my arm back again.
The shout stopped me, I turned. Candice was just coming out of one of the rooms, her face filling with total surprise. “What are you doing here?”
I slammed a palm against the door. “Trying to see Kaitlan but that power crazed secretary won’t even give her the message I’m here.” I levelled my mouth at the mike by the camera. “AND WON’T LET ME IN.”
My elbow was grabbed and I was pulled away from the door.
“For gods’ sake, getting yourself arrested isn’t going to help.”
I pulled my elbow free. “I want to see her?”
“Why the hell do you think?”
“Well the way you look right now I’d say to beat the shit out of her.”
It stopped me cold. I realised two guards had stepped forward and were standing just off to my right, I was also suddenly aware of people looking at me rather than the art.
“I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t do that again.” I swallowed, feeling how angry I had become.
“Just now you did.”
Candice turned her head to the guards waving them away. They looked at each other then back at us. She glared at one of them, I realised it must have been Marcus. He spoke briefly to the other one and they slow moved back, but watched from the lobby.
“Why come here Lee, you said you couldn’t do this? When I left… I mean after last night?” her voice had dropped so only I could hear her.
I inhaled. “It’s because of last night, I need to know, I really need to know.”
Looking up I caught Candice’s gaze change from mine to over my shoulder, her eyes widening
I turned expecting to see Kaitlan, instead I was soon to be face to face with her mother.
It was like looking at Kaitlan in twenty years time. The only difference was this woman’s eyes were ice of emotion.
She drew level with us. Briefly looking me up and down then a forced smile came to her lips as she turned to Candice.
“Good morning again ms Taylor, do we have a problem?”
Her gaze went to me briefly then back to Candice. I resisted the urge to make a comment.
“No. None at all Mrs Morgan. Just a misunderstanding with the receptionist, my friend was trying to make an appointment to see Kaitlan.”
Her mouth smiled a little more and full attention came to me.
“You know my daughter?” Her eyes travelled over me again.
“Yes.” I gave her a forced smile of my own.
She waited, when I didn’t say anything she turned back to Candice.
“I’m sorry Kaitlan is very busy today maybe your friend could come back.”
That made me bristle, not only because of the fact she talked as if I wasn’t there but also because she made damn sure I knew she was doing it deliberately. As I moved to speak, Candice shot me a look. I shut up.
“I’m sure if your daughter knew she was here Mrs Morgan she would take five minutes to talk to her.”
Morgan looked as if she was considering it then her attention came back to me.
“Is it something I could help you with? Are you an artist?”
“No, I’m not.”
She waited for me to go on, this time it was Candice who broke her gaze from me, but not before giving me another glare.
“I’m sorry I haven’t introduced you, this is a very good friend Lee Harrison.”
For one brief second I saw surprise and recognition spark in the green eyes. Then just as suddenly it was replaced by the neutral stare.
“What is your business with my daughter?”
I didn’t miss the fact her voice now had lost any warmth. “I’d rather discuss that with your daughter.”
I saw Candice out the corner of my vision raise her eyes to god.
The curve of Morgan’s mouth twitched. “I see.”
I kept her gaze.
Finally she broke it turning again to Candice.
“I’ll see what I can do. I do own the place so I should be able to use my power to interrupt my own daughter.”
Candice echoed her false laugh.
Morgan looked at me again. “Please come with me. Let’s see if I can’t get you past the security door, without so much drama.” With a finally smile to Candice she headed away.
I felt Candice’s hand catch my shoulder, I turned to her in question.
“You sure you want to do this?”
I swallowed. “No, but I have too.”
She sighed. “I’m here till three, down in the basement find Marcus he will get me ok?”
“Oh and Lee.”
I turned back.
“Don’t trust Mrs Morgan, she’s very protective of Kaitlan.”
I nodded again. Like I didn’t know that already . I headed towards the entrance of the lion’s den. Where was Daniel when I needed him ?
A security guard held open the door, watching me closely as I passed through, finding the secretaries position as soon as I stepped through, her hazel eyes boring into me.
I moved left to the sound of my name, to find Morgan holding a door open.
“You can wait in here.” Her smile didn’t change.
I walked through, turning my head seeing her close the door. The only problem, she was on the same side as me. She walked like a woman with confidence and power. Flashing me another forced smile as she moved behind the desk in front of me and sat.
I looked around. “Does Kaitlan even know I’m here?”
She motioned to the chair. “Please sit.”
I thought it over, laying out my choices; if I left I knew the guard was in the hallway. If I waited I could maybe bide my time. I sat.
“How do you know my daughter?”
“I think you’d better ask her that.”
She leant into the chair, crossing her legs with one smooth motion. “I’m asking you?”
This woman didn’t even come close to how Kaitlan described, she was worse.
“Do you interrogate every visitor to your gallery?” I kept my voice just as calm as hers.
“Just those that cause a scene…. when they can’t see my daughter.” A smile quirked, but it didn’t come anywhere near emotion in her eyes.
“For that I apologise.”
Her head tilted as she studied me, it made me nervous because now I knew where Kaitlan had gotten it.
“Well no harm done.”
For some reason that comment made me even more nervous.
She watched me for a moment then lent forward to the desk. “Mary Anne could you bring us in some coffee.” Her eyes went up. “Is coffee ok for you?”
No coffee isn’t ok, I want Kaitlan. “Yes fine.”
“Coffee for two. Thank you.” She clicked off the button, sitting back again.
“Does your daughter know I’m here Mrs Morgan?”
I resisted the urge to get up and go and find her myself.
“Can I ask why you haven’t told her?” it was getting harder to control my frustration.
Both our attentions went to the door after a brief knock.
“Come in, ah just set the tray here.”
After giving me a glare as she walked past the secretary placed the tray down and left. Morgan rose and started to pour.
“Crème…. no sugar.”
She smiled up at me, then handed over the cup.
“Thank you.” I took it. I can be as civilised as the next ice queen. Years of talking down clients had taught me that.
Taking hers she returned to her seat. Sipping the coffee she smiled over the rim at me.
“In answer to your question, the reason I haven’t told my daughter you are here is that she is in a private meeting, but I have left a message with her assistant to come here when she is finished.”
“Thank you, I could just wait in the lobby.” I took a sip.
“No, no need this is fine.” She paused. “Besides I’m curious?”
“At?” I placed the cup down on the small table.
I looked up at her, slowly sitting straight back up in the chair. “ Me?”
“ Yes… you see you don’t seem the sort of person that my daughter would normally call a friend.”
Whatever respect I had for the woman in front of me just went out the window.
She plastered one of her fake smiles one. “Of course no offence.”
“None taken.” I gritted my teeth. Ok she wants to play. “Is it the leather?”
Both eyebrows raised just enough for me to see I had gotten a reaction.
I looked down at myself. “The leather coat, jeans, T-shirt, gives out the impression I’m a biker…. Or trouble?”
Her eyes narrowed. “No it’s not your attire Ms Harrison, although at first that did go a long way in enforcing my initial reaction of having you arrested.”
How in the hell did Kaitlan survive a life with this woman and who the hell used the word attire anymore.
“Glad you changed your mind.” I met her gaze again. “So if it’s not my attire as you put it, what makes you think Kaitlan wouldn’t have me as a friend?” I lifted my cup, reaching across to add more crème.
“Because I have never met you before.” she sipped her coffee again.
“And you’ve met all her friends.”
She smiled. “Of course. We are a very close family.”
Jesus baby, no wonder you couldn’t just walk away. They wouldn’t let you breath.
“I haven’t seen her in a while.” I sipped.
“Really?” she placed her cup down.
“I moved away.”
“Ah. Well maybe that’s why she has never talked about you.”
For some reason that hurt. But it was stupid kind of hurt. The old hurt of never being part of her family.
“So now you have come back to renew old friendships.”
The hairs on the back of neck stood up, it was something in the way she said friendship, it was bitter. I looked over to her. Swallowing the coffee I had in my mouth with a gulp… she knew, somehow she knew. I finished the swallow letting the coffee go down.
“Something like that.” Now I was wearier.
“How did you meet my daughter?”
“At a charity function.”
“Really, which one?”
I was wondering when she was going to pull out the six foot Russian and the sun lamp so the interrogation could really begin.
“The foundation for children.”
Genuine interest came into her eyes. “Ah then you must also know my son in law?”
I made myself smile. “Of course Dr Roberts. I heard him speak on various occasions at the events.”
“You’ve never met him? That surprises me considering you’re a friend of my daughters.”
“I didn’t say I hadn’t met him, I have.”
“Oh I see.”
The anger and frustration was making me shift in my seat. “How much longer is she going to be?”
She glanced down at her watch. “About another fifteen minutes I should think, you could always come back later if you have another appointment?”
I looked right at her. “No I’m fine I’ll wait, but I can wait in the lobby if I’m keeping you.”
Her jaw clamped. “Don’t be silly, whatever would Kaitlan think of me if I left her old friend sitting out there.”
Once again I thought of how someone so honest and loving as Kaitlan could come from the woman in front of me. I just smiled at her. I was finding it hard to control my temper. But Kaitlan didn’t deserve me making a scene or saying what was on my mind. She’d spent three years protecting her family, the least I owned her was to endure the pompous ass in front of me.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking you all these questions?”
“Not at all.” I relaxed back in the chair.
“You see I’m very protective of my daughter, I tend to come across as over bearing.” She added a small laugh, which when I didn’t acknowledge, vanished just as quickly as it came. She stared at me, a slight twitch jerked in her cheek.
“Can I be honest with you Ms Harrison?”
I tensed but I kept my face neutral, all I thought was, here we go. “Of course.”
“I’m afraid I lied, I do know who you are.” She stood coming around and refilling her coffee before returning to her chair.
“Yes I’m afraid I do, Kaitlan told me all about your little… well shall we call it an affair?” She sipped the coffee slowly, her eyes never leaving me.
Shit . “She did?”
She nodded. “Oh yes. You see she may keep secrets from me at first, but she always ends up telling me.”
I wanted to crawl right out the door. “It would seem so.”
She laughed, and it surprised me because it was the first genuine thing that I’d seen or heard from her.
“Doesn’t be so defensive Lee,” she paused. “May I call you Lee?”
I wanted to tell her no, but what was the point. “Go ahead.”
“Thank you, as I said doesn’t be so defensive… I’m not trying to lead you into a trap for information…. Quite frankly I don’t need any. I already know enough. For instance, I know that you met her at the charity event…. I know you two starting seeing each other about two months later… I know that she would come to your apartment at first then later your house. You became lovers about four months after your first meeting. Then began seeing each other regularly for three years… how am I doing?”
I swallowed. “Go on?”
Her eyes sparkled. “ At the end of that time my daughter decided she wanted out of the marriage and was going to leave John and live in your house. “ She sipped her coffee, this time with a smug look on her face. “Need I go on?”
“No.” I felt sick
“So let’s not play anymore games… let’s be honest. What do you want with my daughter?”
“I’ll discuss that with her, and if she chooses she can then inform you.” I felt betrayed again.
Her eyes lost the humour. “If you think you can come back into her life and confuse her again into thinking she is one of you… You are going to be disappointed. She realises you were just an episode in her life she would rather forget.”
This time I couldn’t keep the anger in. “One of me, I thought we were being honest why don’t you say lesbian.”
She blinked, I watched as she tried to control her own coming outburst, she blinked again and the impassive look returned.
“Alright a lesbian.” She hissed the word. “Kaitlan has come to realise she isn’t… that you were a sexual need in her that nearly cost her husband and family. You were a mistake that never should have happened.”
This time I rose. Every single thing she said hurt, because part of my old paranoia was always that Kaitlan would realise exactly what her mother was saying.
“I won’t believe that until I hear it from Kaitlan, now if you will excuse me I’ll wait in the lobby.”
I pushed away from the chair and moved to the door.
“You weren’t the first woman you know.”
The words stopped me in my tracks. I knew she was baiting me, but I still turned to her.
“I know, she told me things too.” Even as I said it I could hear the doubt in me raising its head.
She calmly sipped her coffee. “Oh I expect she told you of all the crushes she had at collage, on various women that it never came to anything and how she fought it away…”
She smiled, the kind of smile that a lion gives just before it devours it cub.
“Hmmm, yes those she always tells to special friends.”
Jesus if this woman could wheel a sword like she could slash with words, I’d be a walking piece of bloodied meat.
“There’s nothing you could tell me Ms Morgan that she hasn’t, believe me you’re on the wrong track.”
“You still have that much faith in her?” the curiosity came back into her voice.
“Yes.” I met her gaze.
“Even though she went back to her husband and left you.”
Fuck, that hurt and I knew she knew it did. “Yes.”
“Interesting.” She sat back holding her cup with both hands, slightly swaying her leather chair. “Then of course I saying the name Victoria wouldn’t surprise you at all.”
I closed my eyes, feeling some of the hope come back in the trust I placed in Kaitlan. Opening them to level on the she cat in front of me.
“Victoria was her friend when she was seventeen…. she lost her virginity to her on the holiday you took them on to Australia. When you all returned home, they moved and she never saw her again. She believes you made sure of that.”
This time I wore the smug look as her eyes jumped wide briefly before she could control the fact I had just surprised the hell out of her. She placed the coffee cup down.
“Well, it seems my daughter did share her secrets.” Her words were spoken through clenched teeth.
I felt some of my strength return, it gave me back some sense of what Kaitlan and I had, making me stop running from the woman in front of me.
“Ms Morgan you seem to think you can intimidate me. I’m sure that works for people who you have some sort of control over. “I folded my arms, waiting.
She smiled at me again and this one made me uneasier then the rest.
“Are you so sure I don’t?”
“Don’t what?” I watched her.
“Have something I could use over you, if I wanted too.”
I let out a long snort, this woman was unbelievable. “God, are you for real?”
“As I said I’m very protective of my daughter… And if sometimes that means I have to fall to a certain level to do that I will.”
As I stared at her I realised she was serious. “Jesus. Look I’ll stop wasting your time, there’s nothing you could say or do that would keep me from talking to Kaitlan, so thank you for the coffee and Ba bye now.”
I got as far as opening the door before she spoke.
“Ms Taylor has two exhibitions booked at my gallery over the next year I believe.”
I froze, turning around, steel coming into my gaze. “Yes she has.”
She ignored my look.
“She is a very talented artist, in fact I foresee within the next four years her work becoming quite valuable.”
“Your point?” the urge to strangle this woman was becoming over bearing.
“Oh I’m just talking, but the thing is about artists, especially new artists a sad part of the art world is reputation.”
She lifted her coffee again.
“ Let me give you an example, about five years ago a young artist came here, we showed his work for an exhibition, it turns out unfortunately for him a previous roommate made a claim that the artist didn’t do the original sketches. It destroyed all credibility in the young man’s work, no gallery would back him… the even sadder part is that later it was indeed proven that his roommate had lied…. But unfortunately by then the artists name was sullied. Once the shadow of doubt is raised it’s very hard to trust the truth of the artist. We tried doing another exhibition for him, he didn’t sell a thing, no one is going to buy something that later may be proven as a fake… and a gallery is in it to some degree to make money. The last I heard, he was doing sidewalk sketches… so sad he did have an amazing talent.”
She smiled sipping the last of her coffee.
I knew what she was saying, I just couldn’t believe it.
“Candice has nothing to do with this.”
She laughed. “Oh my dear, I wasn’t talking about Candice I was just giving you an example.” Her eyes grew colder. “Her work is a breath of fresh air to the art world and I truly can see her growing even bigger.”
She was threatening me, I was standing here in the twenty first century, with a woman who was trying to use blackmail with the reputation of my friend. The problem was everything she said was true. The gallery-cancelling showing her work would cause rumours and if the woman sitting gloating before me fuelled those rumours, Candice’s carer would be over before it had truly begun. As I looked at her I realised she would do it.
“You want me out of your daughter’s life that much?”
She leant forward onto the desk. “Yes.” True emotion came into her eyes.
“Why? We’re over, what we had is in the past. She went back to him.”
“Because you confused her once enough to think about leaving her family, I don’t want that option to happen again. Go back to Boston Ms Harrison. Get on with your life.”
My eyes jumped to her. “You knew where I went?”
“I made it my business to know all about you once she had told me.”
“But you never told her that did you.” I’d never really hated anyone in my life before, even my mother had been a different kind of hate.
“She’s weak, she’s always been weak, she gives in too easily to emotion, she would have tried to contact you. Her soft heart would have wanted to know that you were ok. I made sure she didn’t have that option either.”
“I bet you did.”
Her eyes mocked me. “So do we have an understanding?”
“You’re so sure I am a problem to you, aren’t you?” I could feel the anger leaving me, there was nothing I could do.
“I don’t take chances.”
“Even though she told you I was mistake in her life?” I couldn’t destroy Candice, there were too many things I’d already done that too.
“She thinks you were the worst mistake in her life Ms Harrison, the worst . She told me that the night you hit her.”
I’d walked right into that one and it still hurt like hell to hear.
I jumped turning to the shout. Kaitlan stood at the door her eyes flaring anger, she walked in fast, aiming for the desk. But as she passed me her eyes softened for just an instant, then her gaze returned to the woman who had the same surprised look I did.
“Why Kaitlan. I thought you had a meeting?”
I watched as the woman who moments ago looked like she would eat her first born, shifted faces into a smiling sickly sweet mother.
“Don’t.” Her voice snapped at her mother.
My eyes never left Kaitlan face, I had never seen her this angry with anyone or anything, I wasn’t even sure she was capable of it, until now.
The smile on her mother’s face didn’t faultier. “Don’t what?”
“I heard you.”
I could see the strain it took Kaitlan to keep her temper under control, her fists clenched by her sides, her face white.
Her mother’s face flinched just before she turned away to sit. “Really? What do you think you heard?”
My eyes looked to Kaitlan then to her mother, seeing the calm posture return to her.
Kaitlan eyes sprung up. “I heard you threaten Lee using Candice.”
My eyes went to her mother again. Wondering how she was going to get out of this one.
“I did no such thing, I merely mentioned another artist who had his reputation sullied.”
Kaitlan eyes narrowed. “I’m not stupid mother.”
“Of course not dear, just some of the decisions you made in the past were.” Her eyes shifted to me.
Ouch. I was beginning to wish I hadn’t gotten over my fear of going out and I was still safely locked away in Candice’s apartment.
“Mother be very careful.”
My eyes snapped to Kaitlan, it confused me hearing that tone from her, it confused me because for the last fifteen minutes it was exactly the one I’d been listening too. Both locked eyes, two pools of exact green stared at each other. I felt myself repress a giggle when her mother dropped her gaze first. Oh this was interesting very interesting.
“I don’t know why you’re so angry at me dear I was only doing what you asked me too.”
My insides cringed, my eyes went to both of them then settled on Kaitlan. “Asked her too?”
Her mother gave me a smug look. “Yes she asked me to make sure you didn’t try to contact her, isn’t that right dear?”
“Mother please.” Her guilty eyes came round to me.
I stepped forward. “You asked her to do this?” I took a long breath.
Kaitlan turned to me the anger disappearing. “Not threaten you with Candice no. I wouldn’t do that.”
“Of course not dear that isn’t in you that’s why you left the task up to me to persuade Ms Harrison to stay away from you, and I did my part and didn’t let her know it was you, like you asked dear.”
“Fine handle it your way.” She waved Kaitlan away.
I wasn’t looking at her mother, my eyes were firmly fixed on Kaitlan, trying to read her, all I saw was pain in her eyes as she looked at me, then I saw it, it was true. I took a step back. Inhaling sharply. “What she said was all true?”
Kaitlan eyes went to her mother’s then back to me. “I… I don’t know what she said Lee, I only heard the part about Candice…” her eyes went suspiciously to her mother’s again. “What did you tell her?”
“Only the truth.”
It was lies everything in our past, her love. Lies.
She took a step towards me, I took one back, she stopped. I just stared at her, every wound inside of me began to bleed again, but this time there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it.
Kaitlan eyes went wide as she saw the transformation watched it happen in my eyes as I broke into a million pieces.
Her face shot around to her mother. “What did you tell her?” this time she wasn’t angry I could hear the desperation in her voice.
“I told her what you told me Kaitlan, that she was a sexual need and nothing more… you couldn’t control it and once you sorted your mind out you realised that you weren’t one of those people and she was a mistake.”
“No.” her word came out as an exhale of pain. “Oh no.” Her eyes shifted back to me.
Her mother’s voice sounded in my head repeating it over and over again.
“Well Kaitlan that is what you said dear.”
Kaitlan spun again. “MOTHER SHUT UP.”
My eyes focused just enough to actually see her mother flinch, her eyes jumping in alarm. For the first time I saw fear enter them. She wisely kept silent.
Kaitlan voice was low, my eyes moved to her.
“I did say that…”
She continued fast. “But I said that at the beginning, can you understand when you left me. I was angry, I was… I was so hurting inside. “She drew in a long breath. “ I had nowhere to go Lee… nowhere. “
I just stared at her, my insides were numb, I wasn’t even sure I was hearing her.
“All I wanted was you, I was so scared Lee…” she took along breath. “ I couldn’t find you, I tried, but I couldn’t.”
“Kaitlan please … thi.”
Kaitlan head shot around stopping her mother from continuing with a glare. Then her head came back to face me.
“I went to my mother, I knew she would take care of things, take care of me. she kept John away, she took care of the boys… everything in my life Lee she has taken care of, I knew she sort this out, I told her about us, everything, It seemed I couldn’t stop talking, I felt that if I did by the time I got to the end…. You… you would be back… “
“I was sex.” I managed to find my voice.
She gasped. “No. God no. Never just that.”
“But you told her that.” I threw a dirty look at her mother, she just tilted her chin and gave me a smug look.
“Yes I did.”
I looked at Kaitlan again. My voice was hoarse. “Why?”
“Because that is what she wanted to hear.”
I heard her mother inhale and begin to rise. “Kaitlan.”
Kaitlan ignored her, her eyes never leaving mine.
“ If she turned me out Lee, I had nowhere to go, she wouldn’t have let me leave with the boys, she would have told John everything about us, I’d lose Lee, I’d already lost you … I couldn’t lose them.”
“Kaitlan stop this.”
She still ignored her mother.
“ I told her what she wanted to hear, I told her like I told her in the past, it protected me Lee… but god, god you were never ever just about sex… you know that baby, you know deep down you know the truth… don’t let her destroy that.”
Her mother stood up. “For god’s sake Kaitlan think of your family.”
Still she ignored her, her focus was on me, seeing how deeply I was disappearing, seeing the hurt in front of her. She didn’t drop her gaze once.
“Lee, you were never about sex, what I had with you was so wonderful, so amazing, I lost it because of my own fear… I didn’t realise that until too late… I asked her to keep you away, because I couldn’t face you. See what I’d done to you again. I saw it in the hospital, I saw the pain in your eyes and I see it now.” Her voice cut off as she swallowed back a sob. “I’m so sorry.”
“Oh I have had enough of this.”
My eyes briefly left the pain filled ones and followed her mother as she went to the door and closed it.
“For gods’ sake Kaitlan have you forgotten what she did to you?”
I flinched again, backing away from Kaitlan as I remembered.
Kaitlan stood tall her eyes still not leaving mine. “No mother I haven’t forgotten.”
“Good, I was beginning to wonder.” Her mother’s eyes locked on me. “Did you know you fractured her jaw?”
My mouth fell open, looking at Kaitlan, watching as her eyes filled with even more pain. I was going to throw up.
Her mother continued beasts usual do when they smell blood.
“I see you didn’t. And I suppose you call that love.” she gave a disgusted laughed. “It took her weeks to recover from it, lucky she did come to me and she’s right I do sort out her mistakes… I had her seen privately and we told her husband.”
She spat that word at me. And the whole time Kaitlan never flinched or dropped her gaze from mine.
“That she had been in a car accident. I have a few friends in the police department who back that up… you see Lee, I know how to take care of my daughter.”
I suddenly needed to know the reason why I came here the reason for my insanity. I somehow found my voice again. “The baby?”
Her mother spun to me. Kaitlan eyes filled with tears and she silently kept my gaze.
It was true, god it was true, I killed it, and I did that. I started crying.
Kaitlan eyes widened and she rushed across the room not giving me time to move, her hand grabbing mine. It was too much feeling her again was too much, I slipped back, coming to rest on the floor. She pushed my hands out of the way as I tried to back away. How could she want to touch me after I did that?
“No god, listen Lee. Baby listen,” she grabbed my face forcing it up. “ No, you didn’t… oh baby, no you didn’t, I lost her three months later, it wasn’t you… it wasn’t anything you did, it wasn’t when you hit me. Lee please… “
I tried to push her off. Needing to get away, needing to hide.
“Kaitlan please get away from her before she hits you again.”
Her hands still held my face, as her head turned to her mother.
“You don’t understand just for once in your life shut up… she wouldn’t do that again, can’t you even see that? Don’t you get it, I destroyed her I left her with nothing. I kept giving her promises I never kept, she trusted me and I betrayed her… she never trusted anyone, she never had anyone she could do that with… everyone let her down mother, everyone she loved left her in the end. I did that I destroyed much more than trust. She never asked for anything except love and truth… I lied to her, and worst of all she was ready to forgive me and still want me and I still chose him.”
“How on earth can you say that, after what she did and what makes you think she wouldn’t do it again?”
“Because I trust her, now shut the fuck up mother. Or so help me god I’m taking her and walking out of this room and you’re not going to see me again.”
Her mother shut up.
I stilled, how could she trust me?
Her attention came back to me, pushing my fallen hair from my face.
The harshness and anger was completely gone, she stared into my eyes, tracing a hand across my face, her voice tender.
“It wasn’t you Lee, there were complication later, everything was fine for months.” She swallowed. “She just… she just died… they found out her heart wasn’t formed, it wasn’t you. I swear it.”
I looked into her eyes, seeing the pain of the memory, but also seeing the honesty. The relief inside choked me to the point I couldn’t breathe, it came out as a long sob that raked through my vocal cords.
“Oh baby.” She grabbed me to her.
“At least get off the floor.” I heard the disgust in her mother’s voice as she stood there witnessing the two of us.
“Have you no compassion at all? “ Sadness laced Kaitlan’s words.
“Compassion,” Her mother’s voice spat the word like venom. “You expect me to have compassion for that thing, she nearly destroyed you, I was there remember, I saw how much she affected you. “ She threw her arms up. “And the thought that you were going to take my grand children into her house and let them be around that perverted whore.”
Kaitlan was by her mother so fast I couldn’t react, the slap echoed in the room.
“ Don’t you ever call her that again, you’ve pushed me all my life, every single thing I bowed down too, even with Victoria I knew you made her family leave, you pushed me towards John even though I knew then it wasn’t who I wanted or who I was. I was younger then. So I made myself into a perfect daughter, a perfect wife, a perfect mother and I wouldn’t give up those years for anything and as much as I love them, it isn’t who I am, can’t you understand that?”
Her mother just stood there, her hand covering her cheek. “Oh my god. Look what she’s done to you. You’re no better than she is.”
I saw the moment of regret flash in Kaitlan eyes but she hid it, standing tall in front of her mother, her voice clear of emotion.
“Be quiet…I’ve let you use the family and guilt to push me into making decision I knew weren’t right. But I let you so I’m not putting all the blame on you… I let you do it again when I came to you, let you talk me into believing that if I left John I would lose my children, made it clear to me that you would help it happen. But you forget mother I’m your daughter and through the last year I’ve learnt to understand what that means… “
Her mother still stood shock still.
“I’ve given up everything to be who you wanted. My sexuality, my own life and I let everything that you branded into me through the years to build into fear inside me so I would never take what I wanted… and that’s what cost me Lee and for that I will never forgive you or myself. “
Her mother finally blinked. “Kaitlan please.”
I stood, wiping the tears off my face, feeling all my inner pain turning to anger, anger that was aimed right at the cause of all of Kaitlan’s pain.
“So this time I’m standing up to you. You will not in any way shape or form harm Candice. If I find out that a rumour has started disclaiming her work I will release a statement from this gallery saying who started it and why.”
Her mother’s eyes went wide. “You couldn’t that would ruin us.”
“I will. Do you understand me?”
Her mother was about to say something then stopped, instead she simply nodded.
“Lee is my business, I shouldn’t have asked you to handle it, that was me being a coward. You are to leave her alone.”
Her mother’s eyes went to mine then she flinched when she saw me staring at her.
“Mother is that understood?”
“You will stay out of my private affairs from now on. I will make my own decision. You may still see your grand children whenever you like, but …” Kaitlan voice took on an icy tone. “But, if I find out that you are trying to manipulate them in any way I will stop you seeing them.”
I swear as I watched her mother seemed to shrink and age.
“Kaitlan please I would never do that, I love… I love them.”
“You said you loved me mother.” Kaitlan voice dropped.
For a moment I saw life and regret come into the older woman’s eyes, but just as suddenly she steeled herself again.
“I did love you Kaitlan, but how am I supposed to love what you are now, it disgusts me. No wonder god saw fit to remove a child from you as punishment.”
I watched Kaitlan flinch and gasp, then witnessed her face crumple into tears. That was it the last barrier, I walked over reaching out for her mother.
“You fucking bitch.”
Her mother backed away so fast she knocked the chair over.
Kaitlan grabbed my arm pulling me away. “Lee. no Lee it’s ok. Come on please. She isn’t worth it.”
Coming to her sense enough at my distraction, her mother slammed her hand down on the intercom. “I want security in here NOW.”
I growled moving forward again until I felt Kaitlan hand on my face.
I stopped turning to face her, hearing the door open.
“We need to talk… Please.” Her eyes begged me. I felt her hand travel down my arm, wrapping her fingers around my clenched fist.
“Please.” Her fingers entwined with mine.
“Security please sees this… this woman off the premises.”
They moved forward, Kaitlan whipped her head around. “She’s just leaving I’ll escort her out.”
They paused unsure, their eyes going to Kaitlan then to her mother.
“Please.” Her hand squeezed mine.
I looked over once to her mother giving her a look I knew was the reason she turned pale. Then felt the warmth in my hand. I nodded to Kaitlan. I saw the relief flood over her. Giving a stare to the guards I kept Kaitlan’s hand in mine pulling her with me as I left the room and didn’t look back.
Candice was waiting outside the security doors, both her eyebrows went up as she saw us approach. I kept moving. She ran up to us as I cleared the doors.
“What the hell happened?”
I felt Kaitlan tremble next to me, I slowed my pace, looking down to her. “Kaitlan?”
Her arm came up and round my neck as she buried her face there. “Oh god.” She started to sob.
Candice worried gaze dipped to her then back up to me. “What the fuck happened?”
“Cherie we need to go to the apartment can you drive us.”
She looked back at the doors seeing the guards come through, then briefly back to us. “Go to the car I’ll get my coat and keys.” Then she ran off.
I felt Kaitlan legs give out and I wrapped my arm around her waist pulling her even closer. I didn’t care that everyone was staring, but I knew Kaitlan would.
“Kaitlan, people are watching.”
“I don’t care…. just take me out of here. please.”
I pulled her closer and headed out of the gallery.
The car journey was in silence, I sat in the back with Kaitlan wrapped around me, I felt like I had come home, but I knew it wasn’t that easy. I looked up occasional to see Candice’s concerned eyes flick up to me in her rear view mirror.
When we arrived at the apartment, Kaitlan still wouldn’t loosen her grip on me, so I picked her up and carried her. By the time we reached the apartment, Kaitlan sobs had subsided. Now she was deadly quiet.
Candice stood nervously at the door, I knew she want to ask what happened. I carried Kaitlan to the couch laying her down, trying to unlock her arms from my neck. She wouldn’t let go, or look at me. I looked over to Candice for help. I wasn’t sure what to do. Candice moved fast, she shot into the bedroom returning with a blanket, wrapping it around Kaitlan’s shoulders. I was half bowed over the couch trying to straighten but still Kaitlan held on, burying her face deeper into my neck. I could feel her breathe, feel her tears, feel her shaking in my arms. I looked to Candice again knowing my eyes portrayed my panic and sadness.
“Hey Kaitlan, shhh, it’s me Candice you need to let go of Lee for a while.”
The only response was her shaking body.
“Kaitlan, she’s not going anywhere, but you’re kind of freaking her.”
I looked down, feeling Kaitlan head moving to look up at me. Slowly she inhaled, then broke her grip, sitting back.
I twitched a smile, straightening up.
Candice smiled sitting herself down next to her. “It’s ok. Lee why don’t you get us some hot tea.”
My eyes never left Kaitlan.
I looked over to Candice.
“Tea.” She smiled.
I looked at Kaitlan again.
“Lee, she’ll be ok with me. She’s safe.”
Taking a breath I nodded heading to the kitchen. As I prepared it, my eyes went every chance I got to the both of them. I could still hear them.
“Kaitlan, what happened?”
“My… my mother happened.”
I glanced up watching as Candice placed her arm around Kaitlan. Only breaking my gaze, as I felt the kettle overflow with water.
“It’s ok you don’t need to tell me, I’m just glad you two are talking.”
I placed the kettle on the hob, lighting the gas, then I felt it, the tingle across my skin, I inhaled before I looked up, I already knew Kaitlan was watching me. I met her eyes. Only breaking the gaze as the match I held burnt down to my skin.
“Shit.” I sucked the damaged digit.
Candice came up behind me, pushing me towards the living room. “Shoo, shoo, god out. I’ll do it. Go and sit with her.”
I kept my eyes locked with Kaitlan as I approached, the whole situation felt awkward. She gave me a nervous smile, which I answered pulling off my coat to hang on the hook, coming back I chose the chair opposite.
“How are you feeling?” god even that sounded lame to me.
She wiped the tissue across her eyes. “Pretty much how I look.”
“Oh. That bad.” I felt myself fall back into the easy banter we used to have.
Her eyes flashed up to me, and I watched them soften. “At least you don’t look like a panda anymore.”
I grinned. “No, I decided that look wasn’t me.”
“Candice told me you were ok. Are you really?”
Her eyes briefly travelled over my body, it made my skin hum. “Yea. Just a few headaches sometimes. But I’m ok.”
She nodded. “I’m glad.”
A nervous silence descended around us. Candice broke it, coming in setting the tray down and pouring the tea, giving each of us a mug. “So can I ask what the fuck happened again?”
I paused on my blow on the tea to cool it. Looking over to Kaitlan, she sat both her hands holding the cup as if the only warmth in the world were there. When I saw she wasn’t going to speak I changed my gaze to Candice.
“I’d rather you didn’t ask right now. I’ll fill you in later ok?”
I caught out of the corner of my eye Kaitlan relax.
Candice sat back, looking at each of us. “Well I don’t like not knowing, but ok, I’ll leave it for now.”
I relaxed a little.
“Can I use the phone?” Kaitlan placed her cup down as she rose.
“Sure there’s one in my bedroom if you want some privacy.” Candice pointed to the door.
Kaitlan nodded and left.
Candice made sure she was gone then grabbed my arm “Lee, what happened?”
I sighed. “Candice.”
“No … tell me because you both look like death paid you a visit and kicked the shit out of you… did you find out about the baby?”
“Yes… it. Wasn’t… I didn’t.” I inhaled. “It wasn’t because of hitting her… she lost it later.”
“Oh god…poor Kaitlan.” Her sad gaze went to the door, then returned to me. “And thank god it wasn’t you.”
The only thought still there was it could have still been me.
I smiled weakly at her. “I know.”
She squeezed my arm. “Her mother really did a deal on ya do her.”
I made myself swallow the tea. “Yea.”
Candice sat back. “Bitch. When she heard your name I kinda figured she knew who you were… how she find out?”
My eyes went briefly to the closed door. “Kaitlan told her.”
“No way.” Her eyes jumped. “Really?”
“Candice it really is a long story and right now I don’t think I can go over it again…”
She nodded. “Sure it’s ok. I’ll put my curiosity in check…” her eyes went to the door again. “So what she doing here?”
I paused. “Honestly I don’t know… she wanted me to get her out of there, this was the only place I could think of.”
“So you two haven’t?” her voice trailed off.
We both fell silent as the door opened Kaitlan came back into the room, giving each of us a brief smile before sitting again and lifting her tea.
I glared at Candice, knowing what Kaitlan was going to say.
“I had to arrange school pick up for the boys.” Kaitlan eyes went nervously to me.
I tried to let the feelings go when she said it, but they still caught up with all those times in the past when she said the same to me before having to leave. I could tell by her face she knew what I was thinking. Candice gave me a sorry look.
The unease silence fell again. I was finding interesting things to look at in my mug.
“Are you two going to talk or what?”
I shot Candice another glare.
She ignored it. “Because I really think you need too, so I am going go back to my studio and finish some work.” She turned her attention to a startled Kaitlan. “Kaitlan you are welcome to stay here as long as you need… and if want my advice don’t let her do the tall dark and silent thing on you…”
“Candice.” I growled a warning.
She lifted her coat off the edge of the couch. Pulling it on as she talked to me. “As for you, stop being stubborn, Kaitlan came here because she trusts you and obviously needs to talk and I’m just getting in the way of that. You my friend have to take it from there… whatever happens I’m be back by ten tonight.”
With that she placed a kiss on my forehead and left.
I still looked in my mug.
“Tall dark and silent eh?”
I looked up surprised to hear the fact she was trying not to laugh, but my look made it disappear, along with the light in her eyes.
“She thinks it’s funny too. “ I gave her a genuine smile.
The light came back a little along with a small smile. “It kinda suits you.”
I rolled my eyes, which was rewarded with a laugh. I’d missed her laugh. I slapped myself mentally to not even go there.
The atmosphere got uneasy again. This was hard, this was so hard. But it was also easy in a strange way, to fall back into the way we were, joking, talking. That part was easy because it didn’t contain the past, it was the right now, and that was the problem. We were the past, both of us sitting here, everything we had was back then, laced with love and sex and lies and betrayal and that was the real problem, because at the end of it we weren’t together and were never going to be.
“Can I ask you a question?”
I looked up nodding.
“Why did you come back?”
I was going to tell her because of book deal. But now I knew that wasn’t true. “Because I needed too.”
She looked up from her cup at me in question.
“To be honest I don’t know. I just knew I had to come back… it was time.”
“Oh.” Her eyes fell.
Her question sparked a question in me, one I had forgotten. “Why did you go to the house six months ago?”
Her body tensed. “You knew I did that?”
“Only when I went to the house last week. So why did you?”
She relaxed, and I realised she thought I had ignored her six months ago.
She sat back. “I wanted to talk to you.”
I frowned. “Why then?”
She took a sip of her tea. “Lee I always wanted to talk to you…but you made it clear you didn’t.”
I dropped my gaze. “I thought it would be easier that way.”
“And was it?”
I heard her sigh heavily. “In answer to your question, I tried to contact you because I wanted to tell you something… “
I looked up again, waiting.
She took a long breath, her eyes coming up to fix on mine. “Not that it matters to you now, but I wanted to tell you I made a mistake.”
I flinched about to get up.
“Not with you… with him.”
I stopped, letting my body sink back into the chair. “Why then?”
Her hand ran back through her hair. “I think mainly because of being around my mother believe or not.”
My eyes snapped wider. “Your mother?”
“Yea… working at the gallery, being in charge there, sorting things out, dealing with businessmen… Watching my mother do her power thing around other people, seeing how it all worked. I mean really seeing how she worked. I watched her manipulate people, walk all over people… control every situation that came into her path.”
Her eyes found mine again.
“I don’t think you really understood what I meant when I told you about her did you?”
“No not really. I do now though.” I gritted my teeth as I felt the anger at the woman surface.
“Yes, well in the time I was working with her, I started to see it… see it without the rose tinted glasses of a daughter… and when I did, I thought of every single thing she did in my life that was just plain manipulation… There were so many Lee, so many.”
I just nodded.
“After we…” her voice shook, her eyes went to me uncertain.
She took a breath. “After we finished. I really did have nowhere to go… I couldn’t find you I tried, god I tried. I phoned everyone I knew, but nothing… I knew I couldn’t go back to John looking like I did and the emotional state I was in…”
My eyes fell. I knew I’d never get over the feeling of shame at that.
“The only option was my mother, and god did she take over.” She rose. “….She was made for situations that are out of control. It actually made my head spin at how fast she sorted things out. Within a week it was like I’d never even known you, she had erased every single connection to you in my life.”
I swallowed, that hurt to hear, that I was that easy to erase.
“She sorted the medical, the police, even John… everything was taken care of. I thought she did it out of love…” She paced. “I realised it wasn’t love, it was out of fear of anyone finding out her precious daughter was a queer.”
My eyes jumped to her.
“She would never survive her old money friends knowing that… can you believe that a stupid prejudice like that can still be in this world… that a group of people will literally cut you dead in all things because your daughter is gay… my mother is terrified of that Lee. Absolutely terrified…. And when she’s scared of something she either makes it go away or destroys it.”
She came back and sat the anger leaving her, tiredness taking over.
“I didn’t see it back then, or through my life. Because I had my own fear, one of being alone at first when I was younger that my mother would throw me out onto the street… later it was fear of losing my children, but you know that…”
She gave me a sad smile.
“Working with my mother, I realised so many things, what I was, and who I am… I came to realise I can be who I wanted too. I can survive out in the world on my own, and six months ago is when that happened.”
“That what’s you needed to tell me?”
“Yes, and as I said that I made a mistake.”
“I’m glad you now know who you are Kaitlan.” I got up making my way to the kitchen, keeping the voice inside silent that wanted to scream. Why didn’t you see that before it was too late?
“That wasn’t all I wanted to tell you Lee.”
I turned. “It wasn’t?”
“No… I wanted to tell you I was leaving John.”
I exhaled air as if she had just gut punched me. I managed to get my body under control “And did you?”
“Yes. Three months ago.”
I wanted to cry. “And the boys?”
“Kyle stays with his father two nights of the week, that’s why I was at the hospital dropping him off. David, well David is living with John at the moment….” I could see the hurt flare in her eyes. “I see him every weekend.”
I really needed to sit down. I walked back to the chair and sat. “Where?”
“Am I living?”
“I have an apartment. I’m the one who left it didn’t seem fair to ask John to leave the house.”
“Oh…” I was beginning to see now how much she had truly lost. It saddened me knowing she did it on her own. Or was she?
I looked over at her again. “But the day at the hospital you didn’t…. I mean when I asked about John.”
She sighed. “Lee. He still doesn’t know anything about what happened with us, and I want it to stay that way. He knows I left because I was gay, I told him, and I told him the truth when I said I was leaving because of things changing not because I had someone else… I …” she paused, her eyes misting… “I hurt him enough by leaving, I didn’t’ need to hurt him by telling him I had an affair for three years and I was going to leave him for another woman… he deserves better than that.”
“And David stayed with him?”
She nodded. “Yes, we talked to both the boys. David only sees that I hurt his father at by leaving. He’s angry at me and hurt… but it’s gotten a little better, he’s the one that asked to come at weekends, I think he thought at first he was betraying his dad if he asked, but they talked and as I said he visits.”
Her eyes locked with mine, knowing I’d understand those feelings all too well.
I turned my gaze from her, when I could face her again I did. “And John was ok with you being gay?”
“God…. Lee what do you think. Jesus.”
I swallowed. “Sorry stupid question.”
“No he wasn’t. He’s been married to me for sixteen years and finds out his wife has gone gay on him. What do you think that did to him?”
I could hear the veil of anger slipping past her control.
My eyes went to her again. “I said I was sorry.”
She nodded snapping her mouth shut.
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him the truth, that I was always gay, that when I met him it didn’t matter because I grew to love him, I wouldn’t change any of our life with the children.”
I wondered if that was as lame as it sounded to John when he heard it. “And he believed that.” I snapped my mouth shut as her eyes glared at me.
“Why wouldn’t he?”
“Because, well if someone said that to me, I’d doubt everything in my life and find it hard to believe.”
She sighed, her eyes losing their anger. “I know. But he believed it enough to let me go. He could have made it difficult but he didn’t and hasn’t. “
“And now?” Did I really want to know this, any of it? What should I care, what did it matter? The problem was I still cared.
“Now what?” She wiped at her eyes.
“Is he still part of your life?”
“Not really and that’s my choice. At first I let him come around for meals and I went there a few times, but I realised to him I was just giving him false hope that I’d come back… I talked to him about it.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. The tiredness getting to her. She took a breath, continuing. “….It was what he was doing, trying to stay close in hope I’d suddenly see the light and go back to him… Now we see each other when it’s to do with the children. I lead my own life and he has his.”
I didn’t know how much I need to hear that until she said it. Even as my thoughts calmed on the fact that John really wasn’t part of her life anymore, another question was forming, one I didn’t like very much. But one I suddenly needed to know.
“So have you found someone?”
Surprised eyes jumped up and locked on me. “What!? You can’t be seriously asking me that?”
I dropped my gaze, suddenly feeling ashamed at asking.
“Jesus you are serious.” She stood, emotion crackling her voice. “I don’t know what I’m doing here. Look Lee I’m sorry for everything that happened and I’m sorry for betraying your trust and love, and most of all I’m sorry for letting my fear keep me from keeping my promise to you. My mother won’t interfere with Candice and she’ll leave you alone.”
Slamming the mug down on the table, she headed for the door.
“Wait. Wait, god damn it.” I was up, following.
She didn’t stop, her hand was already reaching for the handle. “Why what’s the point?”
This was ridiculous I should just let her leave. I had my answers, there was nothing now that was going to drive me insane. For some reason that didn’t seem to matter, right now all that mattered was I was going to let her walk out on me again. That made me angry. “So now you’re angry at me?”
She lifted her hand from the knob, turning. Her eyes flashing. “Damn right I am. How could you ask that? Hell, how could you even think it? Weren’t you listening to anything I said?”
I had to stop myself laughing. “Everything you said. You’ve said nothing about us, all I’ve heard is how bad it was when I left and it was a mistake to go back to him. How you got on with your life within six months, and how you asked your mother to make sure I stayed away from you…. What the hell am I supposed to think…?”
“I told you why I did that.”
I knew she was controlling her anger as much as I was. “Yea.”
“Now you don’t believe me.” Beneath the anger I saw the hurt.
“Well it’s not as if you have a good track record telling me the truth, now is It.”
It was one of those times like in anyone’s life, where you wished for time back. Time to not say what the hurt is feeling and letting it out.
She stiffened. “Well I guess that says it all doesn’t it… Candice was wrong we don’t have anything to talk about.” She turned pulling the door open.
“Stop.” Part of me was yelling at me to let her go. “Please.”
She paused, her back still to me, I saw her shoulders dip. “What’s the point?”
Her voice sounded so tired now. I knew how she felt.
“Don’t go like this… it’s….” I fought with the hurt side of myself that was telling me to not show how much this was killing me. “….It’s just I can’t do this… I can’t do this again Kaitlan.”
She slowly turned around, her eyes meeting mine. “And you think I can?”
“I don’t know. All I know is you have gotten on with your life, you found yourself, you’ve gotten so damn strong. I haven’t.”
Her eyes sparked with frustration. “Damn it Lee. What was I supposed to do, wait for you to come back?”
She walked past me back into the apartment, slamming the door.
“What do you want me to say? You made it clear you didn’t want me, you changed our bank accounts, you cancelled the house lease, and even if I wanted to go there I couldn’t… I tried damn it, I tried to reach you, every single option to you, you closed on me. I left messages in hope they would get to you. Was I supposed to sit and wait till you deemed to answer them?”
I knew it was true, but this was the first time I saw it from her view I stayed quiet, even though I wanted to yell at her that she chose her husband.
Her eyes locked on me. “Unlike you I couldn’t just disappear, run away. I had to face my life, face my mother, and face my children. I had to sort everything out in my head to what I wanted. But I still looked for you. I couldn’t just drop everything and chase the fucking globe for shadows. I had responsibilities. You never have.” She clamped her mouth shut.
I took a long breath, knowing everything was true. I had run, but I had run for my life. “You’re right, everything you said is right…”
She closed her eyes, breathing for a moment, when she opened them she had her anger under control. “And?”
That was it, something inside me snapped around the control I had.
“You chose him… you fucking chose him. After everything you promised me, everything you pledged. You lied Kaitlin you lied……. all of it was lies.” I stormed past her.
“No it wasn’t.” She was on my heels following.
Her voice was calm and that seemed to make me angrier. “How can you say that? You told me you weren’t having sex with him.”
She stopped, stiffening. “I told you what happened.”
I snorted a laugh. “Yea right, a mistake at Christmas. Couldn’t you find him a present?”
Her eyes dulled of emotion. “Lee, I know you’re hurting. But I’m not going to stand here and let you rip me to pieces.”
I swallowed, for one brief moment I didn’t see Kaitlan in front of me, I saw her mother. I remembered this rage. I blanched, backing away from her. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
She just nodded. “I told myself not telling you was for the best, because I didn’t want to hurt you. But I know now I was making excuses, because you’re right I did betray you that night.”
I had to breathe deeply to stop the pain in my chest letting out the emotion that sprung from her saying that. Knowing it and hearing it are two totally different things.
The emotion slowly came back into her eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“I know.” And I did, I could see it, hear it. “I’m sorry…sorry I hit you. I never meant….”
My voice trailed off as her eyes fixed on me, giving me the intense honest stare that she used too. Her whole face softening back to the one I remembered and knew.
“I know.” Her mouth smiled, her eyes smiled. “I forgave you that night Lee.”
As easy as that I felt the forgiveness.
Healing a wound is a strange thing; it can be done with stitches, medication, or simply left alone the body will either heal it or let it fester. Healing a deeper wound an emotional wound of the heart or soul is very much the same, except if left alone unattended it festers until it dies. I felt it right then as she looked at me with those green eyes that held the emotions of her heart and soul before me. Felt it deep inside me the first tiny stitch to healing. But the most amazing thing was, as I looked back at her I realised she was feeling the same thing.
The anger left me, over the past, over the lies, over the fact she chose him, all of it. What was the point of it anymore, all it got us was more hurting, more anger. A circle that wouldn’t couldn’t be broken. I was tired of feeling broken.
“You’re thinking again, I can see smoke.”
Hearing those words again caught me by surprise, I coughed, cried, laughed all in one. All the emotion flooding to the surface. When I finally looked over to her I could see her smiling and see the tears just being held back.
I returned the smile. My eyes were already mimicking her tears. “Isn’t this the part we fall into each other’s arms like in the romance novels?”
This time she coughed, cried, laughed. Only speaking when she had control enough. “More clichés?”
I grinned again, feeling warmth return to a place where it had been cold inside for over a year. Glad that she remembered our first night together as well as I did.
Her eyes grew uncertain. “I’m scared.”
“So am I.” I took a step towards her.
She took a step towards me. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
I took another step. “Neither do I.”
She took another, then she stopped. “But I do know I don’t want to lose you again.”
I took another, bringing myself up close to her. “You never lost me Kaitlan.”
Her eyes closed.
I cupped her face with my palm, loving the feeling of her leaning into it. “I left you, but you didn’t lose me.”
One tear drifted from her eye, down her cheek and over the back of my hand, I brushed the following one away with my thumb.
Her eyes opened her hand coming up to cover mine. Pressing my palm more into her face, turning her head she lifted my hand and kissed the palm. “I’ve missed you.”
I smiled. “I’ve missed you too.” My voice almost broke at the sweetness of feeling her touch again.
This time her hand came up and brushed the tear running down my cheek.
“Can we really do it Lee, can we try this again?”
I grabbed the hand on my face and kissed the back of it. “We can try.”
“Do… do you want too?”
“Yes.” I gave no hesitation.
Her eyes closed sending tears free. “I do too.” Her voice was a whisper.
I gulped the sob in my throat and grabbed her too me, feeling her arms come around me as if they had never been away. We stood there just holding each other. I breathed her in, refilling my senses with her. Felt her inhaling me too. We fitted, we always did, but right then we fitted completely.
“Could you be clichéd and kiss me.”
I laughed the deep kind of laugh that only she could bring out of me. Pulling away from her enough to place both hands either side of her face I lowered my lips to hers.
We were finally home.
…But not quite the End…
Kaitlan has asked me to write this, mainly because if anyone is reading our story, you will probably have questions as to what happened next.
Well simply put we have a life. It wasn’t easy for us at the beginning of getting back together. We had a lot of hurt and pain between us. And as well as our demons I had deeper ones of my own. Kaitlan helped me deal with the attack. I’d put it on hold because of everything going on with her and I. The trauma of it seemed to hit me as soon as Kaitlan and I were sorting things out, but as I said Kaitlan helped.
It was strange starting again with her, we were tentative around each other and watching what we said. To the point it drove us mad. So we started dating, yea really. We had never gotten the chance to do that before. We got to know each other again. We took it slow, one day at a time and it helped heal us.
It’s now over a year since finding each other again, and we’ve been living together for five months now in my house, or should I say our house.
Kyle lives with us full time, he sees his father every weekend. He’s the one that has accepted me without any problems, I think he just sees me as a bigger kid to play with.
David finds it hard being around his mother and me but he has come to terms with the fact that we love each other. He’s dealing better than I did with the feeling of betrayal on his father. He stays over most weekends.
So you see I do have my family now.
John has been a better person then I ever could, I could never just give Kaitlan over to someone else without a fight again, even if it was a losing one. John and I were at first pleasant to each because of the children, but now we have relaxed into something more. Now I couldn’t tell you exactly what that something is, but it’s ok. He is letting the divorce go through without question and I’m glad that on some level he and Kaitlan are friends. He really is a nice guy.
Kaitlan mother… Well where I start with that one. She has virtually cut off Kaitlan from everything in her life. The only last connection is her grand children, which she sees on birthdays and after Christmas. I don’t go anywhere near her. Kaitlan thought it would be safer that way. Kaitlan had to confront her one last time, this time to protect John. Again she had to fall to her mother’s level to make sure John never knew of our affair before. So far her mother has kept her word, neither Candice or John has been hurt. It’s hurt Kaitlan a lot the way her mother is treating her, but she is working through it, with me by her side this time.
Candice… ah my beloved Cherie she is still as wonderful as ever… she visits almost every other day and Kyle is in love with her. She has of course told him she will wait until he is a little older. Her life is her work, and for entertainment she visits Marcus. They seem to be a good balance as a couple, but I know it will take a lot more time for Candice to trust enough to take it further. At the moment she is living her dream, her work now is in almost every known gallery. The storm painting she did for me, hangs pride of place above my fireplace.
Kaitlan… Well Kaitlan works at the school opposite. She started out as a supply teacher there a few months ago, she absolutely adores it and it fits her so well. She is writing again too and I’m slowly seeing the old Kaitlan coming back. It was a hard time for her when the anniversary of the baby dying came around. She really does amaze me how strong she has gotten. But she tells me she needs me now more than ever, and I believe her.
I see the sad look sometimes come in to her eyes, when she thinks I’m not looking, and at first I tried to talk to her about it, but she just shook her head and smiled, telling me it was old memories and pain. So I soon learnt that whenever I saw it again, I would just go and hold her no matter where we were.
Me… Well I still sell my books and occasionally I leave and go jet setting, but I’m never away for long, why would I be? My family is here.
I sometimes get scared when I see Kaitlan and John and the children together, feeling all those memories and doubts raise their heads. But it’s as if she can sense it and read my thoughts, she’ll look over to me and flash me a smile that says: ‘ I’m only yours Lee.’
I started having nightmares, it was strange because they didn’t start until we moved into together and once again became lovers. Dreams of the past so vivid that I’d wake in panic and she would have to hold me and talk to me through the night.
I don’t get those now. Now I only get the odd one about the attack, but those too are leaving me alone. I have both my guardian angels back. I’m happy.
Us… We are happy, we still have moments where everything becomes too much, out past, our now, our future gets tangled and we both end up scared and sometimes doubt raises its head. But they’re slowly fading with each day and it helps that we don’t have to face it alone. I’m in love with her and she’s in love with me. What else matters now? We have a life together neither of us thought we would have a chance at. It’s been a long hard road for both of us. But even through everything we think it was worth it.
Time… Well I have to mention time here, because time was and is part of us. Well time is doing fine. It’s our companion now, and a steady beat that leads us into our future together, because now we have nothing but time.
Saying that, it’s time for me to go. Kyle is at his father’s today and we have the place to ourselves. I could keep writing but I have an impatient blonde reading over my shoulder, who is wearing a certain red silk robe, I think you know the one I mean.
You know I really do love hearing her laughter. She’s asked me to tell you I’m still annoying as ever. And I’m gonna add she is still a smartass.
Now I am getting pulled away… So I hope that clears up any lose ends… I will just say just one more thing, if you get a chance to step into the sun, it may burn like an inferno for a while, but it’s worth the scars.
Because at the end of it all, there is nothing better than to feel the warmth and light of a new beginning.
Farewell from the both of us.
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Thank you all for taking this journey with me. Thank you D for taking the time and reminding the bard, that “Shadows.” wasn’t quite the ending for Lee and Kaitlan. Thank you all for waiting, I hope it was worth it.
If you feel moved to, drop me a mail. I really do care what you think.
Copyright k. savage.