Breathe with Me / Page 5

Page 5

She lets him call her cupcake?

“So, she has someone,” I whisper to Luke.

“He might just be a friend.”

I smirk and shake my head. What was I expecting anyway? Some kind of fucking reunion? If that’s what I expected to happen, I would have rushed to her side the minute I found out she was back in Seattle early last year.

Not gonna happen.

The service begins with music and then the pastor talks about Addie and her contributions to the community, her family, and prayers. After a few more words, he asks for volunteers to share stories about Addie. There are photos set up next to the casket. Photos of Addie and Meredith, and family photos from when Meredith was very young.

Meredith stands and walks to the podium, white tissues clutched in her small hand. I wish I were up there with her, to hold her hand while she struggles through this.

“Hi, everyone,” she begins and clears her throat. “Thank you all so much for coming today. Mom would be proud and happy that you all thought so highly of her. She sure loved all of you.”

I clench my hands in my lap and watch, my eyes trained on her face.

I’m so sorry, M.

“You all know that Mom and I lost Dad and Tiffany fifteen years ago,” she begins, referring to the car accident that took her father and sister from them when she was only thirteen. “I guess I just keep reminding myself that Mom’s with them now, and they’re so happy to see each other.”

She has to pause and take a deep breath, and as she does so, her eyes find mine in the crowd. She seems to straighten her shoulders and continue.

“My mom taught me to be a fighter. She always said, ‘No one is going to chase your dreams for you, my love.’ And she was right. She showed me what it is to be a good woman, and to fight for what you believe is the right thing.”

She nods slowly, still watching me. “I will miss her. Every day. But I’m so happy that she’s not sick anymore. She was always so strong, such a strong, strong woman, that being sick this past year just pissed her off.”

We all chuckle and nod, knowing she’s right.

“So, although it’s so hard to say goodbye, I know in my heart that she’s so much happier now. I love you, Mama.”

She returns to her seat and several other friends stand to tell stories of Addie. Some are funny, others just nice.

Finally, I stand, button my jacket, and walk to the podium. When I glance down at Mer in the front row, the fucker Jax has his arm around her shoulders again, rubbing her arm soothingly.

I’ve never wanted to punch someone so badly in my whole life.

“I’m Mark Williams,” I begin and smile wide, looking over at Addie’s coffin. “I couldn’t be here today and not share a story about my Addie.”

Jesus, which story do I tell?

“I’ve known this amazing woman since I was a young man. She used to scare the hell out of me, mostly because I was dating her daughter.”

Everyone chuckles with me, setting me more at ease. “But I quickly learned that Addie was a no-nonsense woman who never met a stranger. She was generous and loyal. And although my relationship with her family changed with time,” I glance down to see fresh tears rolling down Mer’s face and it makes me pause. I clear my throat and continue, “Addie never treated me any differently. I visited with her many times over the years. Cut her grass, or helped her out around the house. And every time I showed up at her house it was as if she hadn’t seen me in years, and she always had a warm hug and a cold glass of lemonade waiting for me.”

I bite my lip and glance to the back of the room, lost in my own thoughts of this special woman.

“Thanks, Addie, for making me feel like your family. You were one awesome lady.”

I smile and return to my seat. Several more people stand to talk and soon another song is played as the pastor gives the benediction.

“Do you boys want to go with us to the reception?” Mom asks and takes my hand in hers when we stand.

“I don’t think so,” I reply. I can’t bear the thought of watching Meredith with that man for the next few hours.

No way.

“I need to get back to Nat and the kids,” Luke says and kisses our Mom’s cheek.

“What you said was really nice, son,” Dad says and claps his hand on my shoulder. “Addie would have liked that.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

I glance around the room one last time and see Mer wiping her eyes and hugging one of her former neighbors.

“Let’s go, man,” I murmur to Luke.

“You don’t want to say goodbye?”

I shake my head and glance over at the most beautiful woman in the room. “I already have.”

We say our goodbyes to our parents and make a hasty exit back to my Jeep.

“Well, that went better than I expected,” Luke comments and sighs.

“It was a funeral, dude. What did you expect to happen?”

“Don’t be an ass. Mer looks great. And she hugged you. That surprised me.”

“She’s grieving.” I shrug like it’s no big deal, but my stomach is still in knots. “I’m familiar. Had I seen her on the street two months ago, it wouldn’t have gone like that.”

“If you say so.”

“What are you trying to do? Set me up with her? She has a man. Cupcake man.”

“Who the fuck calls his woman ‘cupcake’?” Luke asks with a laugh.

“My thoughts exactly. And how in the hell can she stand that?”

“It’s pretty cheesy,” he agrees with a nod. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Come inside,” Luke says when we pull up to his house. “Looks like Jules and Nate are here.”

“I haven’t seen the baby since she was born.” We climb out of the Jeep and when we step inside, we hear Jules and Nat laughing. Nate is lying on the floor on his belly and Livie is climbing all over him.

“We buy her a state-of-the-art jungle gym out back, and all she wants to climb on is Nate,” Luke mutters in disgust.

“I like climbing on Nate myself,” Jules replies and wiggles her brows. “Hey, handsome.” She stands and wraps her arms around me. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you, beautiful.” I hug her hard and kiss her forehead before she pulls away then I make a beeline for the gorgeous baby girl in Nat’s arms. “My turn.”

“Who knew you’d be such a sucker for the babies?” Nate says and pushes himself up off the floor.

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