Authors: Portia Moore
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Family Saga, #Romance, #New Adult & College, #Romantic Suspense, #Sagas, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
Copyright © 2014 by Porsche Moore
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ow the fuck did I end up here? It’s the same question I’ve asked myself a thousand times. For two years, I imagined what this would be like. Now, I’m terrified of it. My heart’s beating like a drum. I’m confused, I’m angry, and a sense of guilt is creeping over me. I thought I’d grown, that he couldn’t make me feel like this anymore. Now I feel like I’ve been transported back through time, and it’s all a game again. I’m at the beginning of a match that I haven’t trained for or expected.
“I can do this,” I mutter to myself.
Now, if only I believed it…
2 months earlier…
“I can do this.” I tell myself for the millionth time, exhaling a cleansing breath. My nerves are completely shot. Forget shot—blown to smithereens.
“This is for Caylen,” I tell myself again as I scrutinize my reflection in the mirror, of the Scott’s bathroom. It’s still the same me. I look the same, I sound the same, but standing here, I feel like someone else. I splash cold water on my face, and sigh at the girl looking back me. She’s smiling, but it isn’t real. It’s practiced, close to perfect, and completely artificial. If I can just look happy and content, I might actually start to
happy and content. I look fine—great, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, I feel like I’m being smothered. The bathroom is quite large, but I swear it feels like the walls are closing in around me.
I’ve been trying to convince myself that I can make it through today. I’ve been in this bathroom for 10 minutes, and I feel like I’m drowning.
I glance at my phone and notice how much time has passed. I can’t just hide in here like a big
scaredy cat. My daughter is out there. With them. Well not
—her dad and her grandparents. Grandparents who have been coddling her since the moment Mrs. Scott burst out of the house and swept her up and into her arms before we could make it up the steps. The icy glare that Mr. Scott gave me completely melted the moment he laid eyes on Caylen. The Scotts’ living room has been filled with so many toys and stuffed animals you would think it was Toys R Us. They love her.
I should be thrilled.
I really should.
I am thrilled.
In a way…
I expected this to be awkward. I prepared myself for the fact that they might not take to Cal’s daughter. There is no awkwardness. They adore her. I’m happy, so happy for her, but I have to admit I feel isolated.
She fits perfectly.
“Everything is great,” I tell myself aloud, running my hands through my hair, moistening my lips, and practicing my fake smile once more.
Everything is great, except I’m in love with a man who really has no idea who I am, and he’s engaged to be married to another woman. Other than that, things are just dandy. When I finally emerge from the bathroom, I find that half the toys have been opened. Mr. Scott and Chris are attempting to set up a gigantic dollhouse while Mrs. Scott is playing with Caylen and the stuffed animal Chris bought her. This looks like something that should be on a Hallmark card.
Still, I want to bail. I want to tell them that they can spend a few hours with Caylen while I go back to my hotel room and cry. Maybe even have a drink. Who am I kidding? This would be a whole-bottle kind of night.
No, NO! Stop it!
I’m too old for this now. I’m a mom. Just grin and bear it. My eyes drift over to Chris. I’ve been trying to avoid looking at him.
I haven’t been here that long, but I told myself that I shouldn’t look at him for more than five seconds. My eyes didn’t agree with me earlier. They still don’t seem to now. They follow his every move, waiting for another glimpse of who I saw earlier.
It was him. It had to be. Or maybe I imagined it. Me and my damn imagination. I’m losing it. It was only a matter of time before Cal drove me nuts, and now it’s finally happening.
“Is everything okay, Lauren?” Mrs. Scott’s voice reminds me that I’m not sitting alone in my own head and that I need to interact with the other people in the room and not act like a freaking zombie.
Your home is beautiful,” I say eagerly. A little too eagerly. I haven’t seen any other room in the house besides the living room and bathroom. Ugh, now they probably think I’ve been snooping around the house instead of in the bathroom which is where I said I was going. Oh well, I settle down into the brown comfy chair and fold my hands together. Caylen has made her way over to Chris and Mr. Scott, about to be Godzilla to the dollhouse they’re building.
“Caylen let them finish.” I laugh.
“So you like to break things, huh?” Chris teases as he picks her up and holds her in the air. She giggles as he lifts her up and down.
He’s not Cal. He’s not Cal. He is not Cal…
“This is harder than fixing an engine,” Mr. Scott mutters, looking at the instructions for the dollhouse like they’re written in a different language.
“Lauren, would you mind helping me in the kitchen?” Mrs. Scott’s voice interrupts my mantra.
“Sure,” I say, getting up to follow her. I feel like my body is moving in slow motion. Chris gives me a reassuring smile, and my heart practically jumps out of my chest. I look over my shoulder and see him and his dad playing with Caylen as I head into the kitchen.
Their kitchen is large, separated from the dining room but still big enough that it fits a round table and four chairs easily. There’s tons of counter space, at least a dozen cabinets, a huge white refrigerator, and a double stove. This is definitely a kitchen that gets used. I hope to God she’s not going to ask me to help her cook anything.
I make my way over to the sink and wash my hands after she does. Glancing out of the window, I see a horse in the distance. Two horses actually.
“You have horses?” I ask surprised.
“Horses, cows, just a few pigs,” she says with a smile.
Well, duh! It is a farm.
My daughter’s grandparents have an actual farm.
“Do you ride?” she asks, pulling out three plastic containers from the refrigerator. She takes the tops off them, revealing ham, turkey, cheese, and lettuce.
“Not really. Well, not professionally or anything. Just here and there when I was in high school,” I say nervously.
“Chris rides. Well, he used to. I’m sure he could teach you or help you brush up on your skills,” she says, and I almost laugh at the thought of Cal on a horse with a big cowboy hat on.
“Is meat okay?” she interrupts my thoughts.
“Oh yeah, it’s fine.”
She’s asked me to help, but she’s cranking these sandwiches out like she’s worked at a Subway before.
“The food at the zoo is so expensive, and I’ve been told my sandwiches are pretty good,” she says with a wink, and I laugh, peeling the lettuce she’s assigned to me. It’s weird but being in here with her makes me feel calmer. Not so odd, nervous or anxious.
“Caylen loves the zoo. She’s obsessed with animals,” I tell her, taking a slice of tomato and putting one on each piece of bread she’s put out on the counter.
“Chris does too. You’d think since we had a farm that would have been enough for his animal obsession, but he’d beg us to take him all the time.” She hands me Zip-Lock bags to put the sandwiches into.
“I want to thank you for bringing her here,” she says, leaning on the counter and turning her attention towards me. I smile nervously and fidget.
“After everything, I know that it could have been… You would have had every right to make this difficult, and I just want to thank you for... Thank you, Lauren.” Her smile is sincere and a tiny part of me wants to hug her. She gives off this motherly aurora that just makes you just want to be embraced by her. Tell her exactly how you feel. If I
to tell her how I feel now, I’d say, “I’m desperately in love with your son, and I’d give almost anything to make him remember that he was in love with me.” I’d ask her, “How do I stop feeling this way?!”
I don’t, of course, but I could see myself hugging her one day, maybe. If I don’t completely screw things up. After the sandwiches are made juices, chips, and fruit packed up, we make our way back into the living room where it doesn’t look as if the dollhouse has made any progress at all.
“You guys are all packed up,” his mom announces as we enter the living room.
“Are you ready for to the zoo with the best animals in the world?” he asks excitedly, lifting Caylen up with him. I can’t help but smile. Chris genuinely looks excited.
“Hopefully by the time you get back, I’ll have this done.” His dad chuckles, and he and Mrs. Scott walk us to the door.
“Have lots of fun little one,” she says, kissing Caylen on the cheek.
“I’m going to get that doll house together if it’s the last thing I do,” Mr. Scott promises, rubbing her cheeks.
“I’ll call you guys once we’re on the way back,” Chris says as we make our way down the stairs.
“Have a great time,” Ms. Scott calls.
“So whose car are we taking?” He adjusts Caylen in his arms. It’s still surreal to see him holding her. They fit, and it’s almost like he’s never missed a day of her life.
“The carseat is in mine, but we could switch it if you want.”
“Do you want to drive?” he asks. I hate driving especially when I’m not familiar with where I’m going.
“Not really. You want to drive my car?” I offer. He glances over at it and I see a smile spread across his face.
“Sure,” he says. When we make our way to the car, I swap the lunch bag for Caylen with him, pop the lock on the doors and start to put Caylen in her seat
“Can I try?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I step back, and it takes him a few times to get the straps adjusted and snapped in, but Caylen cooperates, her hand in her mouth and a smile on her face.
“I’m a quick learner,” he tells her, then grins back at me. I laugh and ignore the butterfly flying around in my stomach. We both get in the car, and he adjusts his seat, a lot. It’s been awhile since anyone his height has sat in the driver’s seat.
short,” he says with a chuckle, and I’m caught off guard. He’s not only called me short but
short. I think back to Jenna she was at least 5”7.
“Uhm, yeah,” I say, buckling my seat belt. If things weren’t awkward before, they sure are now. The playful smile on his face has disappeared.
“Says gigantor,” I joke to ease the tension. He starts to laugh, and I join in.
“Good one,” he jokes. I glance at him through the review mirror. I quietly let out a breath. When the radio comes on, one of my Italian operas begin to play. I never listened to them while Cal and I were together, but after Caylen was born, Angela introduced me to a few, and they were surprisingly calming. It was as if only a mourning singer could express the pain I was in, and Caylen
always slept really well to them. From the look on Chris’ face, I can see that he’s anything but comforted.
“I can turn to something else if you don’t like it,” I say, a little embarrassed.
“It’s sort of depressing,” he responds with a nervous chuckle as he turns onto the road from his driveway. I suppose when you are actually depressed it’s soothing.
“Kind of,” I admit as it continues to play.
“Top 40 okay?” I ask, turning to the radio.
“A little better,” he says playfully.
The ride to the zoo was smooth. He drives like a regular person and not like a Nascar driver on speed, the way Cal did. But if we had Caylen
when Cal and I were together I’m sure he wouldn’t have driven like a maniac—possibly. The zoo is actually pretty impressive to be near such a small town. We only made it two hours before
Caylen drifted off to sleep. These two are really entertaining together.