Page 16


There’s a long silence, and I can almost hear the wheels turning over the line, “I know. I just need to deal with this, okay?”

I might not like it, but for now, I can give her that. “Yeah, Beauty… for now.”

“You’re so frustrating, Greg Cage.” At least the laughter and lightness I left her with has returned.

“I want to see you soon, and I won’t take no for an answer. Finish your family business but call me tomorrow. I don’t hear from you tomorrow then I will come to you. Lunch, dinner, or fucking brunch.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what’s going on. Does that work for you?” Smartass temptress.

The next day isn’t much better on my sanity. Walking into work on a golden sidewalk is almost comical enough that I might have started the day positively. But entering the office to find Emmy in tears, Coop frustrated with his not knowing shit about women or how to fix them, Beck worrying and consoling Emmy, and Maddox punching holes in his office, doesn’t bode for a good beginning.

I feel torn between my need to protect Emmy and her innocent, pure love for a man who can’t accept it, and a man who has been a brother to me for many years. I know the background and I know that it isn’t going to get better anytime soon.

With Axel finally gone for the week, all the heavy shit falls straight on my shoulders. The best anyone can get out of Emmy is that she is okay. She calms down when I pull her aside and remind her of our previous conversation. I get her, I really do. Some of us are put on this earth to heal, to make others’ lives brighter, and when those people don’t want our help, our love? We feel it deep. No matter what I say, that isn’t going to change with her but this discord in the office needs to fucking stop.

After that, it seems like fire after fire. We have cases with issues, computers crashing, and Maddox still banging shit around in his office. If I know I am going to see Melissa today, I can almost take this shit, but already knowing that isn’t going to be happening is just increasing my foul mood.

By mid-afternoon, I can’t take it anymore and finally call her. I get her voicemail and leave a quick message to call. Her return text is short and to the point, ‘Can’t do today, too much family stuff.’, and has my gut rolling. No reason, but my gut never lets me down. Something is going on and I can’t help her without knowing what is happening.

This feeling of not helping is new to me. For the last almost five years, I have been the rock, the go to, the strength to help, and it almost makes me feel like I am doing something that would make Grace proud of me. Something better than all those years that I spent wasting away, living off booze, and whores on the road.

I want to be that person for Melissa, and it is killing me that she won’t let me in. My mind keeps telling me to be patient, it’s new, and who trusts someone that much after a week? But my heart, fuck me, my heart is telling me to drive over to her now and demand she let me in.

Crazy, I know this… but when you know, you know. She is a woman worth the trouble and if my gut is right, she could be the one to heal the wounds I have been carrying around for far too long.

When my phone rings right before closing time and I see Melissa’s name across the screen, my heart leaps. Like a little bitch, it leaps right into my throat. One week and I am already this deep, shit.

“Miss me?” Expecting to get some kind of sass back or at the very least a hello, the soft sob that catches over the line has my heart dropping right back down. “Melissa? What is it?” Grabbing my keys without even knowing where I am needed is a knee-jerk reaction. I am out the door with a few jerks of my chin to the others, and leaving the lot. “Baby, where are you?”

She takes a few minutes to control herself and when she speaks, the tone isn’t sadness. It’s pure fury. “I will kill that little tramp, Greg. My car might be shit to someone but it is mine and it is important to me. Sure it’s a piece of shit but it is MY piece of shit!”

At this point, I have to pull over. Despite the driving need to reach her and fix whatever the hell just went down, I can’t for the life of me figure out what the hell she is talking about.

‘Babe, I’m trying to figure out what exactly you’re talking about here, so can you give me some more details?” I lean forward and try to rub some of the stress out of my neck.

“Okay. Let me spell this out in a way you might get. Your little stalker? I’m thinking maybe you weren’t clear enough with her when you ended things. I would like to think I know you well enough that you wouldn’t be messing with me and trying this hard to get me to open up. So imagine my shock when she shows up at my job throwing her shit!”

Jesus Christ. “Tell me you’re kidding right now, Melissa.”

“Do you think I would be calling you right now to come get this trash if I wasn’t serious?!” Her screams through the line almost cause me to drop the phone.

“Where are you?”

“At the office, you know, my job where there are children and families and all these happy family vibes? Yeah, those vibes just blew the fuck up when ‘Stalker Sue’ came into my work screaming about how much of a whore I am for breaking up her relationship! THEN when we finally get her out of the office and I have some time to calm down, I walk outside and find her SLICING MY TIRES with a goddamn knife! So, being that I can’t drive with FOUR flat tires, I am still at work.”

How did I not see this coming? Well, maybe not this, but damn Mandy and her fucked up shit.

“Call the police baby; I’ll be there in fifteen. And, Melissa?”

“What?” she spits out.

“Might not be the best time to mention this, but all this fire and attitude you’re throwing at me? Baby, you got me so worked up that it will be a miracle not to take you the second I lock eyes with yours.”

“You’re a beast, Greg Cage.”

Might have been inappropriate, but when I hear her laughter before disconnecting, I know I did something right today.

Chapter 16

No need in denying it. Since leaving Greg’s house Sunday night, I have been on cloud nine. Not even the crap Cohen’s paternal grandmother is throwing our way is messing with my high. I am stressed but only because my mother is making me that way.

Susan has started with her letters again, and has followed those quickly with her calls. And then we get to experience the pleasure of her knocking my mother’s door down around three this morning.

A little history of Susan Wagner is helpful. Susan Wagner is a pill poppin’, body using, drunk, white trash bitch. She has enough DUIs that she is no longer ‘allowed’ to drive, but that doesn’t stop her. I’m sure at this point that even she has a few venereal diseases. And when she throws her creepy-as-hell wicked witch grin out, all that you see is gums. The only thing Simon Wagner did right in his life was to make sure that Cohen would go to my mother if anything ever happened to them. As fucked up as he was, she is a million times worse.

So, not only is my much needed sleep interrupted by a frantic phone call, AND having to drag myself over to my mother’s house to deal with Susan in her drunken rage, but now I have to deal with another crayon not bright enough for the box.

When I find myself pulled, literally pulled, out of the exam room by a furious Dr. Shannon, the last thing I expect to find is the chick that has become my shadow ever since Greg has started showing interest in me. Except this time, she has lost all of her carefully crafted ‘perfection’. She looks unkempt. That perfectly put together look I have seen every other time is gone. Poof, and in its place is a complete stranger. She reminds me of one of those stray dogs you see in city alleyways. The ones that have fought over the last scrap of meat for so long that they don’t even know a crumb from a pebble. Apparently, Greg is the piece of meat in this equation.

“You fucking bitch!” She screams at the top of her lungs in a waiting room full of patients. Not just patients, but also parents and children of all ages. With her burst of crazy, the small children start getting scared, the older ones get curious, and the parents get pissed. I can already tell that this isn’t going to end well.

I lose track of the things she spews across the waiting room. I catch ‘bitch’ a few more times, ‘home wrecker’ (which throws me for a loop) but ‘whore’ is the one that made me snap. I do what I have to do, and that is round the desk, grab her by her bony arm, and lead her to the door. Not a single word passes from my lips, but at this point, I am boiling with anger, and I know the second my lips part, I will enter Crazytown with her.

I open the lobby door and push her out as hard as I can, taking great pleasure in watching her wobble on her heels before falling flat on her ass. She opens her mouth to start another attack of her verbal vomit, but with deadly calm, I force out a firm ‘don’t’, and close the door.

I make the walk of shame past the patients and apologize profusely for the incident. The kids seem to have already forgotten the mad woman and quickly turn their attention back to the Disney movie playing, but the parents look at me with an expression that can’t be described as anything other than hate.

When I enter the back office, Dr. Shannon is waiting. I get a box thrust into my arms, and a ‘get out, you’re fired’ before he turns on his old as dirt legs and walks away.

“You can’t fire me for someone else’s actions! This is ridiculous!” I call after him.

“That’s where you are wrong, Melissa. You brought that disturbance into my office and caused a nice big scene that I now have to clean up. Pack your locker up. We will mail your last check.”

It takes me a few minutes to really understand that I just lost not only my job, but also the only source of income keeping my mother, my nephew, and my own head above the turbulent waters. I am fucked. I can’t even let myself dwell on all the ways of screwed I am right now, because that bitch is going down.

I make quick work of cleaning out my locker, grabbing my stuff, and telling Brenda, the manager, that I will call her to discuss Dr. Shannon’s behavior. She feels terrible, but we both know it would be pointless to continue to fight with him.

When I push through the lobby doors into the parking lot and see Mandy frantically stabbing my tires with a knife, I lose it. In hindsight, it might not have been the smartest move to charge a woman with a large knife, but fucking hell, I am done with this.

“You crazy little shit!” I yell, watching her eyes go all wonky. Throwing my box on the ground, I make quick work of the distance between us, bend at the waist, and knock her ass to the ground. My mind doesn’t register the sharp pain in my arm long enough for me to even give it a thought. Taking her hand with the knife, I slam it into the ground and watch her eyes widen and water with the pain. She lets her grip slacken, and I quickly throw the knife away with my other hand.

“You stupid, pathetic, little shit! Not sure what you think you had with Greg, but he is done. You want me to think you’re someone special to him, but sweetheart, you forget that he has already made it clear he is done with you.”

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