Page 23


Damn, I am exhausted. I feel like the stress of keeping something from the girl I love is slowly eating at me. I know this talk isn’t going to be easy, but it needs to be done. I just have to have enough faith in us and our love to know that she will be able to forgive me for keeping it from her.

Pulling myself off the couch and stretching my sore muscles from sleep, I take off in search for my girl. Maybe I didn’t do such a good job letting her know that everything is okay. She knows something is off, but I don’t think she could be so mad that she wouldn’t come home. Sure, we have had our share of fights, but they have been over little things like leaving the lid off the toothpaste.

Ten minutes later, I am officially starting to worry. She isn’t here. Not only is she not here, but it doesn’t look like she’s been here since before I got home. All of her stuff is still here, but she isn’t.

I spend another ten minutes searching for my cell phone only to come up lacking. Jesus, I am losing my mind. I start to panic slightly when I realize if I don’t have my phone, there is no way she would have been able to get a hold of me if something bad had happened. What if she was in an accident? Fuck! She could be in the hospital right now and I’ve been sleeping. I finally locate the little bastard under my seat in the truck, and almost fall to the ground when I see the amount of missed calls. One from Axel, one from Emmy, two from Dee, but it is the sixteen from Izzy that stops my heart.

When I finish going through all the messages, I still don’t completely understand what is happening. Emmy seems confused and clueless. She lets me know that she didn’t go out with the girls, but she did talk to Izzy and I need to call her as soon as possible. Dee’s first message is just as confusing as Emmy’s. Her second message, however, turns my blood to ice.

“G, I don’t know what happened. Meli went to the bathroom and came out looking like she had just seen a ghost. She’s gone but I do know Mandy did something. That little bitch isn’t speaking though. You need to find her, G. Something’s wrong but I don’t know what. Call Izzy. She left with her a little while ago. Love you.”

Mandy. What a motherfucking cunt. Who knows what she could have told Melissa but whatever it is, it couldn’t be good. Why did I think she is done and over her obsession with my dick? The last chat I had with her had ended well enough. She apologized over and over and promised she wished me nothing but the best. I guess my first clue should have been when she mentioned getting back on her medication. Fuck.

When I listen to Izzy’s messages that start out worried and end defeated, I know my bad luck has just turned to worse. She gives me nothing more than Dee did; apparently, my girl is locked up tight and not letting anyone in.

I am pacing the living room when Axel’s message finally comes through the line.

“She’s here and you need to stay away brother. I know this is going to be impossible for you, but trust me when I say she is safe, and I will make sure she stays that way. She knows, and when I say that, you know what I mean. Iz didn’t say much, just that Mandy told her about Simon. Would love to know how that bitch knew enough to put your woman in this state. Let her cool and be here in the morning. And, G… if you tell Izzy I let you know she’s here, I’ll personally cut your dick off.”

Thank Christ she is safe but that does nothing to ease the tension in my heart. I need to protect my girl; I need to be there. With not one care to the fact that it is way too late to be calling, I call Axel right back.

“What, motherfucker?” He grumbles in the phone.

“Is she okay?”

“What the fuck do you think? I have my woman in there with your woman because she hasn’t stopped crying since she got here. I am not a chick and I like my dick so I didn’t listen in for long but there was a lot of her saying shit I know she will regret and even more of her saying shit I know she won’t.”

“Not following, Axel. What are you saying?”

“What I’m saying is if you come over here right now, I don’t think you will like what you get from her. She’s hurt and I told you this would blow up, so I have to say I agree with her pain. But, she is also in shock. She’s saying shit that I don’t think she would be saying if she had a clear head. You love her, then you need to sit your fucking ass at home and let Izzy be the strength she needs.”

“I don’t know how to do that, Ax.” I sigh and pull my hand through my hair. Every instinct I have is telling me to run, run to her, and pick up the pieces.

“I know you don’t, but it’s time to learn. You can’t always be the one that makes it better. You can’t protect everyone from everything. That’s what got you in this mess.” There is some shuffling in the background and I can hear him walking through his house, shutting some doors. “Let me look in on them. Will that help you a little?”

“Please,” I whisper.

“Hold on.” He sets the phone down, and after what seems like an eternity, I hear him pick back up and just sigh. “She’s asleep. Curled up like a fucking baby in Izzy’s arms. She’s okay, G, but you have to give her this time. I’ll call in the morning, yeah?”

“Ax, I don’t know if I can do this. I feel like part of my soul is being ripped from my body.”

“I know, trust me I do. I lived that for twelve years my man. The only thing I can give you is hope. Izzy and I went through our share of bumps, but in the end, if it’s meant to be, nothing can keep your woman from your arms.”

He disconnects and I sit there for hours, until the early rays of sunlight start filling the room. I sit there and think about what I’m going to do if I can’t fix this, because right now I know I won’t be able to recover if she doesn’t want to be in my life anymore. It will be like losing Grace all over again.

I have been staring at one of the romance books Melissa left on the coffee table the night before, just zoning when the phone finally rings. Seeing that it is Axel, I have the phone connected and to my ear in seconds.

“Yeah?” Even to my own ears, I can hear the raw desperation that hangs from that single word.

“She left, Greg. I was changing Nate, and she and Izzy were downstairs. Gone for five minutes but when I got back down, she was already gone. Izzy won’t tell me where she went because she said she just needs this time. Fuck, I’m sorry.”

“She’s gone?” I question.

“She’s gone.” With each word, the hope I have been hanging on to is slowly dying. “She didn’t have her car here, so I think it would be a safe bet that one of the other girls has her. Didn’t hear that from me though. I have to live with one of them and I would prefer to be whole. Check in, yeah?”

I don’t know if I answered him. I might have, but when the dial tone’s beep meets my ears, I wake up and disconnect the line. I sit there even longer wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do now.

I look back at the book sitting on the coffee table and wish that love was as easy as it is in romance books. Sure as shit would make what I am feeling right now a little bit easier if I know there is a happy ending right around the corner. Even the dude on the cover seemed to be mocking me. Looking at me like I should have known better than to even try to keep something from the woman I love. Fuck me, but I should have. I am getting ready to get up when I notice the title, Withstanding Me by Crystal Spears. Oh, irony… you really are a douchebag.

I make it about thirty minutes before I am in the truck and heading to Lilly’s house. I’m not even expecting Melissa to be there but I need to speak with someone that’s not attached to me as a friend. I need someone on her side that will understand her.

Since it is Tuesday and Cohen spends his mornings at a daycare center for some interaction with other children, I know it will be easier to have a chat with Lilly. I just hope like hell that she doesn’t hate me when I finish laying it all out there.

“Greg? What are you doing here, honey?” Her smile is bright when she answers my knock, but as soon as she sees my face her smile drops and she wavers slightly before grabbing her chest. “Meli-Kate? Oh Lord, is my baby okay?”

“What? Oh God, Lilly… I’m sorry. I didn’t even think what it would look like just showing up. She’s okay. I just needed to talk.”

“Oh, thank God. Sure thing, darling. Just come on in and let me get the laundry switched over.”

I follow her down the short hallway and have a seat at the kitchen table. She brings in a load of towels and sits with a smile. “Alright, lay it out honey. Tell me what’s on your mind.”

“I don’t even know where to start.”

“In my experience, the best place is always the beginning,” she says softly and pats my leg.

So, I do. I start from the beginning and tell her about Grace, how I dealt with Grace’s death, starting the business, Izzy and her issues, and finally Melissa. Never once does she look at me with disgust. She sits there patiently listening to me lay it all out and just folds her towels. I expect her to kick me out when I tell her about how I knew Simon, but she just nods her head and continues folding. Finally, when I finish, I sit back and wait for it. Surely, she wouldn’t want a piece of shit like me around her daughter.

“You have a good heart, Greg. I knew that the second you walked in the door with Cohen on your shoulders and a big smile on your face. Never once in the last month have I worried about Meli-Kate. Seems like all I’ve done since I lost my Sofia was worry about that girl. She wasn’t happy and she didn’t live. I saw her happiness come back when she met you. So I might not understand completely why you didn’t just tell her in the beginning, but I know you didn’t mean to hurt my baby.”

“No ma’am, I would rather cut off my own arm than ever hurt her, but that’s what I did anyway. Trying not to hurt her, I did and now I have no idea if it can be fixed.”

“Sweet child, true love can always be fixed. When you love someone as much as you and my Meli-Kate love each other, there isn’t a single mountain in the world too high to climb when things need to be fixed.”

I take a deep breath and try to control the turbulence that is wreaking havoc on my body. “I can’t lose her.” And it is as simple as that. Losing her would be unimaginable.

“And you won’t, dear. She needs time to process this. I know my girl, she is hurting, but she is staying away because she needs to figure out her head. Her heart will fix her quick and she’ll be ready to talk.”

For the first time since Axel’s call this morning, I have a small feeling that maybe there is some hope and it will be okay. At this point, I have to believe that, because if Lilly isn’t right, I don’t know what I’ll do.

“How do you not blame me, Lilly?” I whisper the words into my hand and almost hope that she misses them.

“Blame you for what exactly? Blame you for suffering a terrible loss? Oh, honey, you are just as big a victim here as we are. You lost someone you loved dearly, and no one would ever fault you for how you chose to deal with that. Everyone grieves differently. You did what you could to protect my Sofia even when you didn’t know her, and honey, the only thing that does is make me love you a little more. None of this, what’s happening with you and Meli-Kate, or what happened to your Grace or my Sofia should ever be on your shoulders to bear. Your heart has been in the right place all along; you just didn’t realize it.”

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