Mine pt 3

Victoria hurried to the door, glancing back up towards the stairs mindful of Johnny and Katie sleeping upstairs.  “Just a second,” she hissed, her hair still damp from the shower.  She glanced out of the side window, sighing as she saw Billy standing there anxiously shifting from foot to foot.

“Billy,” she breathed, opening the door and blocking his entrance with her slight frame.  “Look, it’s late and I’m really not up for any more confessions tonight.”

He shook his head. “Neither am I.  I’m actually looking for Phyllis.  I thought maybe she might have come over to talk to you.”  He hesitated, “but I’m guessing she’s not here.”

“Phyllis? No I haven’t seen her. Why would she come here anyway?”

“I told her that I’d talked to you tonight about the wedding and then she suddenly had things to take care of.  I thought maybe she was going to come over here and try to get you to change your mind, but I guess not.  She should have been back by now and I’m probably just being paranoid.”  He stopped talking for a moment, realizing Victoria wouldn’t be the least bit sympathetic to his plight.

“Anyway,” he sighed, “Guess I’ll check the house.  She was going to take some measurements for window treatments.  Maybe that’s where she is.” He turned but stopped when he felt her hand on his arm.

“Th..The house?” She forced the words from her lips, trying not to look as terrified as she felt.  “She wouldn’t be there this late would she?” Her heart pounded inside her chest, so loud she was afraid he could surely hear it.

Billy smiled slightly.  “We’ve had some guys working on the front porch and doing some landscaping and she doesn’t like being there when they’re all there.  Apparently one of them keeps asking her to lunch.  I don’t know.  Anyway, she likes to go after hours so she can get a few things done without all the noise and interruptions.”

“Did you try calling her?” She couldn’t have been there.  There was no way.  She would have seen a light or something, wouldn’t she?  Did she even look?  Did she even bother to check?

“I didn’t get an answer.  That’s why I came over here.  I thought maybe you two were…”

Victoria shook her head quickly.  “Well you should try her again,” she snapped, pointing to the phone that was in always in his pocket.  “Try her again!”

Billy narrowed his eyes.  “Why are you so worried about…”  His hand reached for his phone, holding it just as it started to ring.  “Ah,” he said with a smile, looking down at the screen as he saw her number.  He placed the phone to his ear.  “I was starting to get worried,” he said softly, turning his back towards Victoria.

She watched as his shoulders tensed.  “What?  Yes.  Yes.  Oh my God.  Is she alright?  Of course.  Of course I can.  Yes.  Yes.  I’m on my way.  Please tell her I’m on my way.”

He whirled around.  “I have to go,” he said quickly.

“Billy, what happened?”  She had to ask—had to hear the words even if she already knew.

“There was a fire at the house,” he said quickly, “Phyllis is being rushed to the hospital.  I have to go.”

She watched him as he threw himself into the car and careened down the dark street.  Her stomach lurched as she forced a breath into her body, and sank down onto the cushion of the couch, the smell of gasoline still strong on the jacket that lay across the sofa’s back.  “My God,” she whispered, “What have I done?”

~

“Hey Billy,” Stitch nodded, scribbling a note on a clipboard before handing it back to a nurse and walking over beside him.

“Stitch,” Billy sighed in relief, “Where is she?  Where’s Phyllis?  Have you seen here?  Is she alright?”

“Hold on. One question at a time—they’ve got in the exam room right now.  She’s not conscious,  but that’s very common with smoke inhalation.  The fire was reported very quickly by the neighbors so the hope is she wasn’t inside long enough to sustain any serious damage to her lungs or any serious burns.”

“When can I see her?”

“They just need to finish up the exam,” Stitch said softly.  “Give them a few minutes and I’ll let you know the minute you can go in.”

Billy nodded gratefully.  “Thanks.”

“No problem.  There’s some cops over there that need to speak with you information if you’re up for it.”

“Sure.”

Stitch motioned the cops over and Billy took a seat in the small waiting room chairs.

“I don’t know how much help I can really be,” he said quietly, “I wasn’t there when anything happened.  I don’t know anything about the circumstances, really.”

He watched as the cops looked at one another.  “What?”

“Mr. Abbott, We aren’t here to ask you questions about the fire.  We’re here to get information to help with the case.  We’ve already got a pretty good idea of the circumstances that led to the fire at your house tonight.”

“Really?”  Billy sat up straighter, his eyes widening.  “Was it faulty wiring because we had the inspection and…”

“No.  No sir, nothing like that.  I’m afraid there are all the indicators that this fire was intentionally set.”

There was silence for a moment as the information set in.  “Wait a minute.”  Billy blinked a few times, his mind reeling.  “You’re telling me somebody intentionally set my house on fire.  Someone wanted my house to burn down?  Someone wanted to kill my fiancé?  Who would do something like that?”

“That’s what we were hoping you could tell us.”

His breath caught in his throat.  “I…I have no idea, but whatever you need….if it’s money or resources or experts—you let me know.  Money is no object.  I want this person found.  I want them caught and I want them punished as harshly as possible and I want it done fast.  Just tell me what to do.”

The officer nodded.  “Really sir, the only thing we need you to do right now is to think of anyone who might want to do hurt you or your fiancé.  Think of anyone who had a reason to want to see the two of you unhappy.  Think of people that may feel wronged by something you’ve done.  It could be a jealous ex or a disgruntled co-worker.  Just think about it and if you come up with anything—even something that seems like nothing…”  He handed Billy a business card, “just call me.”

Billy took the card, slowly turning it over in his hand.  “I will,” he said slowly, “I’ll do that.”

He watched as they slowly walked out the revolving door.

“Billy?”

He stilled, turning towards the familiar soft voice.

“What are you doing here?”

She took a shaky breath.  “I just wanted to see what was going on.  Is Phyllis alright?”

“They don’t know anything yet.  They’re still examining her.”  He stared at her, his mind spinning with possibilities.  “You know, Vic.  I can appreciate the fact that you’re trying here, but you really shouldn’t be here.  It’s clear the way you feel about Phyllis and I really can’t handle you pretending to be all broken up…”

“Billy.”  Her hand brushed his arm.  “I never wanted anything like this to happen.  I didn’t.  I mean just because I don’t like her doesn’t mean I ever wished anything like this would happen.”

“Right,” he huffed sarcastically, “You just never wanted me to be with her.  You just never wanted us to be happy.  It killed you that we were getting married, that we might be living a life, having a family, moving into that house…”  The words floated through the air for a moment.  His eyes flashed with the idea, as if hearing the words out loud suddenly made the concept a living, breathing possibility.

He looked at her, his eyes staring into hers.  The shining orbs that stared back him were already full of guilt and fear and he knew.

“Vic?”

She heard it in his voice.  It was a mix of disbelief, disgust, anger, shame, and disappointment.  “I never meant for this to happen,” she said softly.  “I swear, Billy.  I never meant.”

“I don’t.”  He ran his hands over his face, swallowing hard to quell the overwhelming urge to scream.  “I don’t even know what to say to you right now.  Phyllis could…”

“No.  No. No. No….” She stammered, desperate to make him understand.  “Listen, please listen.  I need you to hear this.  If you don’t hear anything else.  If you don’t’ believe anything else, please believe this.  I had no idea she was in that house.  I had no idea she was inside.  I swear it, Billy.  I would never ever do that.”

“Because that’s your limit?  You’ll burn down dreams but not people?”

“Billy?”

Billy turned around to see Stitch standing in front of him.

“Stitch?”  His heart pounded, the sick feeling in his stomach now becoming worse.  “Is she?  She’s not…”

He smiled.  “You can see her now,” he said softly.  “She’s awake.  She’s asking for you.”

All the air seemed to leave his body in a giant sigh.  “Thank God,” he smiled.  “Oh, Thank God.”

“That’s wonderful.”  Victoria said, closing her eyes in gratitude.

Billy whirled around, his eyes flashing in rage as he looked at her.  “Get out of here,” he snarled.  “I don’t want to talk to you.  I don’t want to hear you.  I don’t want to look at you.”

“Billy, I swear…I’m so sorry.  I’ll make this right somehow.  I promise.  I will.”

“Oh you will.  You will make this right.  You will pay for this.  I promise you that.  Right now though, you aren’t my concern.  Phyllis is.  I’m going to see her and make sure she’s alright and I’ll deal with you later.”

~

Billy pushed open the door, tears immediately filling his eyes when he saw her.  “Hi,” he whispered, rushing over to the bedside and taking her hand in his.  His lips quickly found  her forehead, brushing against the cool skin.  “It’s so good to see you.”

“You too,” she sighed.  She took a breath, coughing a bit and sighing as he quickly produced water for her.  “You always take such good care of me,” she smiled.

“I always will.  That’s a promise.”

She snuggled closer to him.  “I almost hate to ask,” she said hesitantly, her eyes searching his, “the house?”

He shook his head, running his fingers through her hair when he saw her face fall.  “Hey, it’s just a house.”

“You loved that house,” she said quietly.

Billy leaned in closer to her, his fingertips slowly tracing her jawline.  He stopped just below her chin, raising her face up to look into her eyes.  “That house was nothing but bricks and wood and nails without you and my kids in it.  We can find another house.  We can find ten other houses.  We can live in a cardboard box on the street….as long as I have you and my kids, it’ll be a castle.”

~

6 Weeks Later

“Here you go, Mrs. Abbott.”  Billy handed Phyllis another cup of coffee, smiling at the rings that shimmered on her finger as the sun played upon them.

“Thank you, Mr. Abbott,” she grinned.  She leaned in, kissing him quickly as she glanced over at the small table in the corner.  “You two good over there?”

“Yep,” Johnny replied.  Katie nodded happily as she bit down on another jelly smeared piece of toast.

Johnny rushed over to her.  “Are we gonna go on another boat today?” he asked cheerfully.

Phyllis grinned, looking over at Billy.

“That wasn’t a boat, that was a gondola,” Billy said with a smile.  “Did you like that?”

“Uh huh—It was fun.  I want to do it again.”

“I think we can probably fit that in.  I mean we do have five more days here,” she sighed.

Johnny rushed back over to the breakfast table to share the good news with Katie.

Phyllis leaned in towards Billy who wrapped his arms around her.  She looked up at him with a smile.  “What’s the matter?” she asked, noting a small touch of concern in his eyes.

“I just wonder if she got off too easy,” Billy said quietly.  “I mean you could have been really hurt and…”

“But I wasn’t,” Phyllis said softly, “And you and I both know we would have spent months upon months in court and she probably wouldn’t have served any time anyway.  Newmans can  buy their way out of anything.  At least this way, we don’t waste any of our time being bitter and vindictive.  Besides Victoria may not be serving a jail sentence but I still think 30 days of observation in Fairview will give her some much needed quiet time.”

Why do I feel like there’s a part of you that just enjoys knowing she’s spending time in Fairview?” he smirked.

“Maybe just a little,” she whispered.  “Is that so wrong?”

Billy grinned, pulling her closer to him and sneaking another kiss.  He pulled her hand up, staring at the ring on her finger.  “No.  I don’t guess so.  I guess this way everyone got what they wanted.  I know I certainly got what I wanted,” he whispered.

“So did I,” she smiled.

The End

 

Mine pt 2

Phyllis tossed the magazine to the side of the bed quickly closing the distance between them as she rushed into his arms.  “Hey,” she breathed, feeling his chest rise and fall with a deep sigh.  She pulled back a bit, looking up into his eyes.  “I was beginning to get a little worried. I’m guessing by the sound of that sigh things didn’t go very well.”

Billy shook his head, taking off his jacket and tossing it over the back of the chair before slumping down on to the edge of the bed and loosening his tie.  He pulled her onto his lap, kissing the top of her head gently as she allowed it to fall against his shoulder.  “You could say that.”

Her lips brushed softly against the side of his face.  “Tell me,” she whispered.

“Ugh,” he groaned, closing his eyes and leaning back to lay flat on the bed, pulling her beside him and wrapping his arm around her waist.  He turned to face her.  “You were right,” he said softly.  “It was exactly how you said it would be.”

“Being right isn’t nearly as much fun when it makes you this miserable.”  Her fingers ran lightly against his face as she looked deep into his eyes.  “I really wish I’d been wrong this time.”

“Well you weren’t.  She was angry or hurt or something…I’m not even sure if she knows what she is, but she definitely was not wishing us well.”

Phyllis narrowed her eyes at him.  “You didn’t actually think she was going to wish us well?”

“Well no, but I thought maybe I’d get civility.”

She huffed.  “Optimism reigns, huh?”

He sighed again, smiling as he pulled her a bit closer.  “Well, I’ve seen firsthand that what seems impossible can happen—look at us.”  He brushed his lips against hers, relishing in their happiness even if only for a moment.

“I take it she didn’t go for the idea about the kids?”

“No.  In fact she adamantly refused and I’m still not finished with that.  I don’t think she can do that…you know, legally—I don’t think she has the right to refuse to allow me to take my children.  I’m not doing it without her permission.  She has full knowledge of where they’ll be.  We have joint custody for God’s sakes.”

“Billy.” Phyllis hesitated, sensing his frustration already growing.  The last thing she wanted was to cause problems for him and his children.  “Maybe we should just..”

“No,”  His hand grabbed hers and his eyes grew serious, “Don’t even think about it.  She does not get to do this to us.  She’s not going to get her way…not this time.  Her whole life…her whole damn family has lived in a world that they think they control everything.  They just think they can snap their fingers and the rest of society will bend to their every whim.  Well, it’s not going to happen this time.  I’m going to call a lawyer and find out what I need to do to make this happen.”

“You really think that’s the best way to handle this?  I mean we could have a ceremony here with the kids and we could still go away and have our honeymoon.  It’s not that big of a deal.  I don’t want to cause any kind of…”

“You’re not.”  He cupped her face in his hands as he softened his voice.  “That’s just it…you’re not the one that’s causing the friction—Victoria is—and the sooner she realizes that, the better off we’ll all be.”  He sighed again, noting the worried expression on her face.  “Listen.  I don’t want you to be worrying about this.  Everything is going to work out. I promise.”

She nodded.  “Well…considering the wedding announcement went so well, I’m assuming you decided to hold off on telling her about the house.”

A puff of air escaped his lips and he saw her eyes widen.  “I was going to, but she insisted on knowing what else I was going to tell her.”

“I’m sure she loved that.”

“Actually, that’s the really strange part,” Billy said quietly.  “After the way she reacted to the wedding, I was expecting some serious fall out too, but she really didn’t react at all.”

“Maybe she didn’t remember the house?” Phyllis suggested, shrugging a bit.

“No, she remembered it.  As soon as I showed her the photos, she said it was the house that we looked at before Katie was born.  She knew exactly what it was—even asked if it was back on the market.”

“That’s weird,” Phyllis said slowly, lacing her fingers through his as she lay beside him, “And then she just dropped it when you told her we bought it.”

“Yeah,” he breathed.  “She kind of did.  It was like she didn’t care…like the house didn’t matter to her anymore and maybe it doesn’t.  Maybe now that she knows it’s not going to be ours, she really doesn’t care.  Who knows, maybe once she has some time to think about the wedding, she’ll feel the same way about that and she’ll get over the anger there too.  Maybe I won’t have to do any of the legal stuff and she’ll come to the realization all on her own.”

Phyllis propped herself up on her elbow, her hair tickling his face as she loomed over him.  “You’re cute when you’re delusional,” she giggled, as she pushed herself up to sit.

Billy stared at her slack jawed, “What are you doing?” he whined.

“I’ve got things to do, sir,” she smiled.  “I don’t time to lay around and cavort with you.”

“Awww…come on, you can make time, can’t you?”  He moved forward on the bed, toying with the hem of her shirt.

She giggled again, pulling away.  “Nope,” she teased, “I’ve got a couple things I want to do tonight, but I’ll make you a deal.  You stay here and order us some dinner and I’ll make these errands as quick as I can so I can get back here to you, okay?”

Billy nodded as he watched her quickly dash out the door.

 

~

She turned the lights off just before pulling into the long winding driveway.  Though she was fairly certain they weren’t living there yet, she certainly didn’t want to take any chances.  There would be no easy answers to explain why she’d decided to drive here tonight.  In truth she had no answers at all, easy or otherwise.  Luckily for her, college students typically didn’t care why you needed a sitter as long as they got paid.

All she knew was she needed to see it.  She needed to look at the possibility of the life she could have had and know that it was all over.  It didn’t seem that long ago that she’d sat in this very same driveway with Billy and talked about that porch where their children would play.  And now….he was probably making all sorts of plans with Phyllis.  Soon they’d be moving in, making the house their own, making their own memories.  It was supposed to be her house, her family, her dream.

Victoria felt the tear slide down her face.  “It was supposed to be mine,” she whispered.  The idea of him being here with her made her sick.  What’s worse is they’d be here now with her children, masquerading as this wholesome depiction of what a family should be.  It was wrong.  It was a lie.  It wasn’t fair.  She had to protect her children.  She had to hold onto her dignity, her self respect, the last shreds of pride she had left.

With trembling hands, she reached down into the floorboard, her hand quickly finding the handle of the gas jug.  It had seemed serendipitous almost—how her eyes fell on the jug as she walked to her car.  She’d forgotten about it being there.  Ironically, it had been Billy that had purchased it, keeping it around for the landscapers to use to fuel their equipment.  Now it would be used to fuel something entirely different.

She climbed out of the car, walking around the side of the house, through the small gap in the trees where she’d imagined Johnny would play.  Her eyes fell on the swingset in the back and small screened in back porch that she and Billy had both loved.  Her feet felt heavy as she walked slowly up the bricked steps.  The smell of gasoline was strong in the air, but strangely enough, she’d always the found the smell to be pleasant—another idiosyncrasy many didn’t know.

There was something almost calming about the way the gasoline settled into the nooks and crannies of the bricks—as if it belonged there.  She watched as it dripped down into the brush that surrounded the windows and doors on the first floor. In her mind, she wondered how long it would take for the entire house to engulf and she was almost disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to stay and watch.  It would be on the news, she thought to herself.  That would have to do.

She took a breath, reaching into her pocket for the matches.  She struck one and stepped back before tossing it towards the brush.  The flame was impressive, immediately catching a tall branch above the eave, and beginning to rain down fiery leaves on the roof.  She threw another match towards the porch, watching with interest as the screen’s wooden frame began to almost melt under the flame’s heat.  She sighed before moving quickly back towards the car.  Placing the matches and jug back in the passenger seat, she backed down the driveway quickly—waiting until she was far down the road before turning back on the lights.

 

 

 

Mine pt 1

She stood in the silence of the kitchen, brushing the jagged pieces of glass into the wastebasket.  She couldn’t go back into that room—not yet.  Her pride was all she left to salvage of this and even that was hanging on by a thin thread.  The words echoed in her head.  It wasn’t a surprise—not really.  It was what Billy wanted.  It was what he’d wanted for a while now and he’d never denied that, so hearing him admit it wasn’t a shock.  It was the ease in which he said the words to her. It was the compassion in his eyes, the pity.  It made her sick, broke her heart, and infuriated her..all at once.  Before she knew it, she’d been standing there in front of him, the glass of wine in her hand now shattered on the floor.  He had tried to help her clean it, but she’d shoved him away, moving quickly into the kitchen.  She needed space.  She needed a moment.  She needed to breathe.

And she did.  Victoria took a long, deep breath before wiping her face with her hands and heading back into the living room.

Billy stood from the couch, his eyes full of concern as he looked back at her.  “Everything okay?”

“It’s fine,” she said quickly, returning to the couch and taking a seat beside him.  “So…”  She swallowed hard, forcing her lips to curve into a terse smile.  “I take it Phyllis said yes when you asked her to marry you.”

He nodded awkwardly.  “Yeah, yes she did.”

“Well, that’s good for you.”  She stood, walking across the room and turning her back to him.  He would not see her cry.  He didn’t deserve her tears.

“Come on, Vic.  I don’t know what else you want me to do here. I’m trying to do everything right.  I thought it was the right thing to do to come over here and tell you this in person.  I didn’t want you to hear it from someone else.  I wanted to come and talk to you about it.  I thought you deserved that.”

She whirled around, the condescension in his voice proving too much to ignore.  “Oh, really? You thought I deserved that?  Well, thank you, Billy.  Thank you so much for doing me that courtesy.”

“What was I supposed to do? Huh?  Just never be happy?  Just stay miserable my whole life because you’re miserable.”  He ran his hands over his face.  “Sorry,” he whispered through clenched teeth.  “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“I’m not miserable.”  She bit down hard on the inside of her cheek, finding it easier to quell the tears with the rage burning inside of her.  “You’re going to be the one that’s miserable if you marry that…”

“Stop.”  Billy held up hand in front of him.  “Don’t talk about her.  I didn’t come here tonight to ask for your blessing or to get your approval.  I simply came here to give you the courtesy of telling you to your face.”  He paused.  “And there’s one more thing.”

Her stomach churned.  “Don’t tell me she’s pregnant.”

“Vic.” Billy warned.  “No, she’s not pregnant.  It’s about the wedding.  We don’t want to do a big wedding in town.”

“Afraid no one will show up or afraid hecklers will,” she spat, smiling a genuine smile for the first time since she opened the door to him.

Billy sighed in utter exasperation.  “Are you enjoying this?  Making this difficult for me because right about now I can’t remember why I didn’t just let you see this on GC Buzz or read it online like everyone else will.”

“What did you expect me to do, Billy?  You want me to throw you a party?”

“Of course not…it’s just…you could be decent about it.”  He shook his head with a sigh.  “Forget it.  That’s not the point, anyway.  I just wanted to tell you that we’re not doing a wedding here.  Phyllis and I have talked about it and we’re just going to combine the honeymoon and the wedding and fly off to Italy and get married.”

“I don’t know why you’re telling me this,” Victoria sighed.

He took a breath.  “Because I want to take the kids.  We’d like to have them there and…”

“Hell no.”

“Vic..”

“You’re wasting your breath, Billy.  There’s no way I’m letting you and Phyllis take my children to Europe on your little love fest.”

“They are our kids, and it’s our wedding, Victoria.  I have a right to have my children at my wedding.”

“If you want them there, you’ll have a wedding here like everyone else.”  She stared at him for a moment before continuing.  “Don’t act like you wouldn’t be saying the very same thing if I was asking something like this of you.”

“Uh, does the name Travis mean anything to you?”

“Don’t bring Travis into this.”  Victoria pushed past him, knowing all too well where the conversation was going.

“Oh, I’m damn well going to bring him into it.  I seem to recall a time when he asked you to go with him on his boat to go God knows where and to take the kids with you and I told you to go if you wanted.  I wouldn’t have fought you.  I wanted you to be happy, Vic.  So tell me again how I would be doing the same thing you are?”

“That was a completely different situation, Billy.  Travis and I were….”

“You were what?  Meant to be?  That’s why he’s here right now?  Where is he, Vic?  Is he upstairs?  Outside? No?  He’s gone isn’t he….and maybe that’s what this is really about, isn’t it?  Maybe it’s about the fact that Travis left you and instead of running back to you to pick up the pieces like you always expected me to do, I found someone else.  Maybe when you decided that you were ready to take me back, I wasn’t waiting on the doorstep this time.  Maybe that’s why you’re so damn angry.  What do you think?  Am I getting close?”

She stared at him, her eyes wide, the truth in his words cutting deeply.  Her eyes fluttered closed as she tasted blood trickling from the cuts on her inner cheek and she opened her mouth a bit, running her tongue over the tender skin.  A tear slowly escaped her eye, running slowly down her cheek.

“Vic.”  Billy stepped closer to her, his head hanging in shame.  “I’m sorry.  I…I kind of lost it there and I shouldn’t have…I’m really sorry.  I should go.  We can talk about the rest later.”

Her hand rushed to her face, brushing away the tears that continued to fall.  “There’s more?”  Her voice shook as the words flew out.  “No, Billy.  If there’s more, just tell me now.  What other wonderful news could you possibly have to share with me?”  She walked over to the couch, falling down onto it, her entire body exhausted.  She was too tired to fight, to yell, to do anything—she just wanted this over.

“You probably won’t even care about this.”  He sat down, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a few folded pieces of paper.  “In fact you may not even remember.”  He handed her the pages and watched as her eyes roamed the images and words.

“The house,” she said quietly, looking up at him.

“You remember?”

“Of course I do,” she said, smiling a bit in spite of herself, “It’s the one we looked at a few years ago, before Katie was born.  You loved it but the owners decided not to sell.  Is it back on the market?”  She looked up at him with a smile.

“Not anymore,” he said softly.  “I bought it.  Phyllis and I are going to live there.  It’s going to be our new home.”

Lady In Red

Billy closed the door with a sigh.  There was no sign of her in the living room, which probably meant she was upstairs…packing.  He ran his hands over his face as he glanced towards the stairs.

“Billy?” Her voice rang out through the empty house.  “Is that you?”

He smiled, half-heartedly, hating what he was about to do.  Slowly, he trudged up the steps.  The smile spread across his face when she met him in the doorway, her hands pressed to his chest.  Her lips lightly pressed against hers before she quickly turned away, reaching back towards the bed and picking up two swimsuits.

“Which one?” she grinned?

He groaned, flopping down on the bed and pulling her down onto his lap.

“What?” Her voice was soft as her hand softly caressed his face.

“The trip,” he whispered.  “We can’t go…I’m really sorry.”

“Oh.  Why? What happened?”

He could see the disappointment in her eyes and he hated knowing he was the one that caused it.  All he wanted, all he’d ever wanted was to make her happy.  “This stupid thing with work…This big campaign to break into the Canadian market..”  He paused, looking into her eyes.  “If there was anyone else I could send, I swear, I would.  I was really looking forward to this little getaway with you.”

Phyllis smiled sadly at him.  “Hey, you know what, it’s okay.  We’ll go away later—when you get back.  It’ll just be our six month and then some anniversary, right?  Tonight, we can just go have a nice dinner or something.”  She studied his face as his eyes closed again.

“What?”

“Actually.  I’m gonna have to take a rain check on dinner, too.  My flight leaves in an hour and a half.  I’ve got to grab a bag and head to the airport.”

She nodded.  “Alright,” she sighed.  “That’s alright.  We can celebrate when you get back.  It’s not a big deal.”

“No, see it is a big deal.”  His fingertips ran through her hair quickly before he rested his palm against the side of her face.  She felt his chest rise and fall as he took a deep breath and pulled her tight against him.  “I don’t want you to think I don’t think it’s a big deal, because it is…this is a very big deal to me.  It took us a long time to get to a place where we could celebrate our relationship and now…we’re here.  We’re together.  We’re getting married.  I just…I want you to know that it’s not a small thing for me to miss this.”

Phyllis felt her throat tighten as she heard the words.  Her head rested against his chest as she took a slow, deep breath of her own.  She’d never been the overly emotional type.  She was never the one to cry at the drop of the hat, but Billy somehow always knew exactly what to say to get to her heart.  “It’s not about the dates,” she said softly, raising her head to look at him, “it’s about the memories.  We’ll make it even more special when you get back, okay?”

He nodded, leaning in and kissing her quickly before standing up off the bed.  “I better get some things together.”

She smiled.  “It’s just three days,” she said quietly.  “Three days and you’ll be back here with me…where you belong.”

“You want me to put your suitcase back up on the top shelf?” Billy called out just before she left the room.

“No,” she smiled to herself, her mind already spinning, “I’ll take care of it later.”

~

Billy swiped the key card through the reader, pushing the door open.  He sighed heavily as his eyes roamed the empty hotel room.  This wasn’t at all the way he wanted to spend his six month anniversary with Phyllis.  He’d envisioned a much different type of celebration.  Instead he was here—in a very nice hotel with a bunch of stuffed shirts and an expense account.  He missed her and, even though there was plenty to do in Toronto, the only thing he really wanted to do was lie on the couch and think about her.

He glanced at his watch.  It wasn’t that late and the time zones weren’t so different.  Maybe she’d still be up.  A sly smile played upon his face as he pondered talking with her all night.  Walking over the desk, he reached for the phone, stopping only when he saw the note bearing his name.  He opened it and began to read

Billy,

I want you to know that even though you aren’t here with me, I’m always thinking of you.  We’ll celebrate when you get back.  Until then, don’t sit in that hotel room alone and mope.  I’ve booked you a table at the restaurant downstairs.  Dinner and drinks are already paid for. 

Love always,

Phyllis

A soft laugh escaped his lips as he placed the note back down on the table.  It was frightening how well she knew him.  He grabbed his suit coat and slid it on over his shirt before heading out the door again.

~

“And you’re sure he got the note?” Phyllis asked again, her eyes scanning the crowded room.

“I left it in his room—right by the phone.  I felt sure he’d probably come in and try to call you….unless…ugh..what if he used his cell and didn’t go anywhere near the phone.”  Ben covered his face with his hand.  “I’m really sorry.  I hope I haven’t messed this whole thing up.”

Phyllis shook her head.  “I’m sure he’ll see it,” she sighed, trying not to worry.  “You said your conference just ended a little bit ago though, right—so it makes sense that he’s just now getting back to his room and he might wait a bit before coming down.”  She paused, watching as a smile spread across Ben’s face.  “What?” she asked.

“Don’t uh…Don’t take this the wrong way, Phyllis, but I can’t imagine anyone keeping you waiting.”  He smiled at her.  “There’s my team,” he said with a grin, gesturing over to a large group of men in suits, “I better get over there before the rumor mill starts.”

She nodded.  “Thanks again for your help.”

Ben nodded and walked away.

~

Phyllis walked down to the end of the bar, adjusting her dress as she perched on the bar stool.  Dresses like this weren’t made for sitting, she thought to herself.  Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted him.  He’d obviously come straight from his room—not even bothering to change from the clothes he’d worn to the conference.  He looked tired and almost sad.  She smiled to herself.  She’d fix that.

He took a seat, a few stools down, not even glancing in her direction.  The bartender approached and she heard him give him his name.  The bartender nodded, reaching back and pulling a bottle of the top shelf scotch she’d requested.  She saw the smile on his face as he took a drink.

“You’ve got yourself a keeper there,” the bartender said quietly.  “Any woman that can pick a scotch like that…”

Billy just smiled.

This was serious she thought—the funk had set in long enough.  She untangled her limbs from the bar stool, sashaying across the length between them and slowly slinking up behind him.  Her hands crept around his shoulders, one hand covering each of his eyes.  He flinched, momentarily confused.

“Wait..What?”

“Sorry to disturb you,” she whispered, her breath warm as she leaned closer to his ear, “but it’s a real shame to see a man as handsome as you sitting here alone.”

She felt the tension leave his body almost immediately and she smiled as she watched a grin slowly slide across his lips.

“Phyllis,” he whispered, turning towards her.

Her fingertips covered his lips.  “I’m sorry,” she smirked, “You must have me confused with someone else.”

Billy paused for a moment, watching the mischievous glint in her eyes. Realization slowly hit him.  “Oh,” she sighed, reaching out to softly touch her hair.  “Who are you then?”

“Whoever you want me to be,” she said quietly, “But I do need to ask one thing…, that guy over there,” She gestured towards Ben who sat at the head the table of men. “He told me you left a fiancé at home.  Is that true?”

He cleared his throat.  “It is true and, uh…no offense, but if she were here right now,” He leaned in closer to her, “She’d kick your ass.”

Phyllis smiled, leaning in closer still, her lips now softly brushing his.  “I guess it’s a good thing she’s not here then, isn’t it?”  She smiled, her hands rubbing against his chest as she tilted her head.  “I love this song,” she whispered, “Dance with me.”

Billy hesitated.  “We shouldn’t.”

“Come on…I want to dance.”  She took his hand in hers, pulling him to stand.

“Seriously,” he laughed, “I told everyone my fiancé was at home and there’s a whole group from the conference right over there.  How’s it going to look if I’m out on the dance floor with some..” He stopped, taking a moment, to allow his hands to travel the length of her body, “incredibly sexy woman.”

“Awww…you think I’m sexy?” She smiled, leaning in and kissing him again, pulling him a little harder and finally bringing him to his feet.

He couldn’t help but smile as he felt her body pressed against his.

“It’s easy, see,” she said softly, “You just put your hands here, and move like this.” She swayed slowly to the beat of the music, stretching up just enough to allow her lips to meet his.

As she pulled away, she saw the smile on his face.  “What’s that for?”

“You keep doing stuff like that,” he said, swallowing hard, “makes me want to do an entirely different dance.”

“Maybe we should get dinner to go,” she suggested, giggling as Billy grabbed her hand and made a mad dash back towards the bar.

~

“So…I guess if those numbers check out then…” He looked up, turning his head towards what every other man seemed to be staring out.  “Guys,” he said.  “Guys!”

“Yeah,” a few answered in stunned unison.

“What’s the problem?”

“It’s just that guy…that Abbott guy.  We thought he had a fiancé at home and he uh…Well, he seems pretty damn cozy with that hot little number over there.” He pointed towards Phyllis who stood beside him, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist.

Ben smiled.  “That is his fiancé and uh…I’m pretty sure Billy won’t be joining the meeting tonight.”

“Think that’s a pretty safe bet,” Billy said as he passed by, his arms still wrapped around Phyllis, “And you might want to bump that meeting a few hours in the morning.  I’m anticipating a late checkout.”

 

Love Lost pt 25 The End

“Hey.”  His voice was soft as he pulled the door open and waited for her to step inside.  Grace turned into her chest, clutching her body and pulling away from him.

Phyllis glanced up with apologetic eyes.  “She just woke up from a nap,” she sighed, “She’ll warm up a bit.”

Billy nodded, trying to at least pretend to believe that was the reason.  In truth, Grace wasn’t becoming the least bit comfortable with him.  Maybe it was because she could sense how tense it was between them, how much he felt like he let Phyllis down every time he couldn’t remember the memories and the moments she described.  It had been weeks now and each time she visited, he felt like he hurt her even more.

“I brought you more albums,” she said cheerfully.  “Your sister sent some from when you were younger and then I found the first professional pictures I had taken of Grace…I don’t think you’ve seen those yet.”  She glanced up, smiling at him, her eyes full of hope—just as they always were, until he ruined it. “And then there’s these…”

He walked over towards the couch, glancing down at Grace who was now happily settled on her play mat.  “What are they?”  Billy let his eyes glance over to the stack that still remained in her hands.  By the look on her face, he could tell it meant something—this was a moment she desperately wanted him to remember.

“I uh…we…before we really started seeing each other publically, we were together a few times at the Abbott cabin, but that really wasn’t a place that we could call ours and you wanted us to have a place like that…somewhere that would be special for us.”  Her hand trembled a bit as she held the pictures out towards him.

It was like literal pressure surrounded him as he slowly flipped through the pictures.  He saw their faces and he could tell, without a doubt, that he’d been happy there.  That they’d been happy in that place and in that moment, but nothing about it seemed familiar.  He looked up at her, the hope shining in her eyes.  “I…”

“Do you remember?”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I…”

She stood quickly, turning her back.  She’d done everything she knew to do and nothing had worked.  Ashley had asked her not to give up, but more and more this felt like torture both for her and for him.  Maybe she had lost him—not in the way she’d thought, but in every way that really mattered.  The Billy she loved had died that night in that accident.  Maybe it was time to accept that.

“You know what?,” her breath nearly caught in her throat, but she forced herself to continue, “I really should go.”

Billy rose quickly, meeting her where she stood across the room.  “So soon?  You just got here.”

“I can’t….I just can’t…”  Her voice betrayed her and she glanced up at him one last time.  She rushed over to Grace, gathering her quickly in her arms and rushing for the door.  “I’ll call you later,” she breathed as she disappeared into the foyer.

He stood frozen in place until the heard the heavy wooden door close.  His eyes followed her as she walked to the car, wiping what he thought were tears off her cheeks as she strapped Grace into the carseat.  It seemed strange, watching her from the window like this…as if she was talking everything in his world with him…even if he didn’t know how much it meant to him.

~

“I know, baby.”  Phyllis lifted Grace out of the car seat.  “You don’t like being strapped in there, do you?”  Her daughter’s sweet smile made her laugh softly.  She was the only thing that could possibly bring any joy to her right now.

She stepped into the coffeehouse, happy to see it was busy enough not to allow her to be the center of attention.

“Phyllis?”

Her head turned towards the sound of her name and she breathed in relief.

“Ronan.”  It was strange that her first instinct was to smile.  Somehow her anger had dissipated over the weeks and, after talking to him a few times, she’d really started to see the reasons behind what he’d done.  It wasn’t exactly that she agreed, and she’d probably never completely understand, but she knew it wasn’t his intention to hurt her and right now, that was enough.

“It’s good to see you,” he whispered, walking over to her hesitantly.  He smiled broadly as Grace stretched her arms out towards him.  “Hey you,” he smiled, reaching for her and easily taking her into his arms.

“Well, someone certainly missed you,” Phyllis grinned.

“Just her?”

They walked over to the table, and took a seat.  Phyllis watched as Grace smiled up, her hand slowly touching the stubble on his face as she usually did.  “No,” she said softly, “I missed you too.  It’s really good to see you.”

“You too.  I’ve been thinking about you.  I wanted to call, but…”

“Why didn’t you?”

Ronan shook his head.  “It wasn’t my place to interfere.  I know you and Billy are trying to work things out.  I know that’s what you want and I think in time, he’ll realize it’s what he wants too.”  He studied her face as he said the words.  The pain in her eyes was palpable.  “Hey,” he said softly, “What’s up?  What happened?”

“It’s just…I’m not sure Billy and I are gonna happen.  He doesn’t remember anything, Ronan and I don’t know if I can keep pretending that everything is just going to work out.  It just hurts too damn much.” Tears filled her eyes almost instantly, the realization setting in as the words left her lips.  It was hard enough to entertain the thoughts in her mind, but saying them out loud, especially to another person…it made it real.

This was what he wanted, wasn’t it?  Didn’t he want her to give up on Billy—so that she’d be free to be with him?  Maybe so, but her tears weren’t supposed to be part of the equation.  “Maybe you just need to give it some time.”

“How much time?” she asked, the desperation screaming in her voice.  “It’s been almost a month, Ronan and nothing…just a stupid perfume…I can’t….”

He was quiet for a moment, considering his words.  “How about if you just got away for a bit…maybe just took Grace away for a few days..a long weekend.  Do something fun…something to just get your mind off all this craziness.  It would take the pressure off all of you.”

Phyllis nodded.  “It sounds like a good idea, but traveling with a baby isn’t as relaxing as you might think,” she smiled.

“What if I came along?”  He saw the look of shock in her eyes, and quickly added… “Just to help with Grace..no pressure.”

A part of her felt as if she should turn him down, but the other part of her felt this would be a break…a chance for her to let herself heal and maybe a moment for her to accept what her life might be like with Billy in it, but without him as a part of it.

“I’d like that,” she said quietly.

~

She sat in the car, her heart pounding.  She was thankful the sitter had been available at the last minute.  This wasn’t exactly what she wanted Grace to witness—even though she had no reason to believe this would be ugly.  Billy didn’t remember what they had, why would he fight not trying to get it back.

The walk to the front door seemed like an impossible feat and when she finally made it there, her hand felt impossibly heavy as she lifted it to knock on the door.  The sight of his face standing there almost sent her running back towards the car.

“I was wondering how long you were gonna sit out there,” he said, the smile she loved so much playing across his face.

“Oh,” she said, her cheeks reddening with embarrassment.  “I didn’t realize you saw me.  I was just thinking..”

“It’s okay.  You need to go back out there or have you thought enough?”

She smiled, her nerves getting the better of her as she fidgeted with her hands.  “I’m good now,” she breathed.  “Can I come in?”

He stepped aside, waiting for her walk in.

She’d barely passed him and heard the door close when she turned around, surprised to see him facing her.  “Look, Billy, I don’t want to drag this out, so I’m just gonna say what I came here to say.”

“Okay.”

‘It’s not really him.’ She said the words silently to herself as she looked into those eyes—the eyes she’d stared into so many times.  “You know you’ll always be Grace’s father and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that the two of you have an opportunity to build your relationship, but us…what we had it was once in a lifetime and I don’t think we can recreate that.”

He stared at her.  “What are you trying to say, Phyllis?”

“I just…I can’t keep doing this.  I can’t keep trying to make you remember because it hurts too damn much, Billy and it’s not fair.  It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to you.  Grace doesn’t deserve to feel this tension between us and it’s just got to stop.” She could feel the weight of his eyes on her and she looked away.  “Anyway,” she managed, “that’s what I wanted to say.  I’m actually going to be going out of town for a few days, but I’ll be in touch and I’m…”  Her composure was slipping and the last thing she wanted was for him to see her fall apart.  “I’m just gonna go now.”  She headed towards the door, pushing past him but immediately feeling his arm grip her wrist.

“Phyllis, Wait.”

She jerked away.  “Let me go,” she breathed, looking up at him, tears glistening in her eyes.  She stopped for a moment as she caught a look in his eye.  He stood completely still, his arm wrapped around her wrist.

For a moment, she’d swear neither of them breathed until she felt him pull her close to him.  “Before,” he whispered, “We’ve been here before.”  Her slight gasp was the only answer he needed.  His hand shook as he reached up, brushing her hair from her face.

“You were wearing a blue shirt with buttons…and a black skirt.”  He paused, letting the moment play in his mind like a movie, the images slowly coming into focus—“You were leaving and I stopped you and then….”

“What?”  The one word was the best she could muster.  Her heart beat furiously inside her chest, but the rational side of her tried to keep her expectations in check.  She swallowed hard, forcing herself to breathe.  “Then what?”

She felt him push her backwards and she followed his lead, already feeling the tears in her eyes as she knew where he was heading.  Her back rested against the wall as his hand gently cupped her face.

“And then I did this,” he whispered, pressing his lips to hers.

~

She sighed, laying her head on his bare chest as he pulled the chenille throw up over them.

“You okay?” he asked softly.

Lifting her head a bit, her eyes met his.  “Okay?” She shook her head.  “Okay isn’t the word for what I am.  I don’t even know a word to describe what I am right now.”

Billy smiled as he pressed his lips to her forehead.  “I don’t know how I could forget this,” he said softly.

“But you remember now?” she whispered, “Right? You remember?”

He nodded, “It’s like a switch was flipped.  I remember this and the cabin, and our non-trip to Montreal, and everything else.  I remember all the plans we made, and the dreams we had, how much we loved each other…”  His fingertips ran through her hair and he smiled as her eyes fluttered closed.  “But those memories aren’t nearly enough,” he whispered, his lips brushing against her cheek.

Phyllis’ eyes opened.  “What?  What do you mean?”

“I don’t just want to remember,” he smiled.  “I want to create some new memories and since you said Grace is with the sitter tonight.”  He smiled as he stood, wrapping the throw around her and lifting her in his arms.  “That means you and I have all night.”

She giggled as they headed up the stairs.

~

Ronan walked slowly beside the window.  It was ironic.  He’d only stopped by to see if Billy was really okay with him dating Phyllis.  He wanted to make sure he was honest and upfront, but that wouldn’t matter now.  Phyllis wasn’t available—maybe she never really had been.

He reached into his pocket, pulling out the three plane tickets to Florida.  He’d wanted this to be their chance to see what it would be like—to “test drive” being a family, but Phyllis already had that.  He pulled the pen and pad from his pocket and quickly scribbled out a note.  He needed to do this before his heart got the better of him.

Dear Phyllis,

Use these tickets to go on that trip with your family.  With all my  heart, I wish you all the love and happiness in the world. 

Love always,

Ronan

Ronan held the tickets for a moment, his heart breaking a bit as he bent down to slide them under the door.  She wouldn’t find them until the morning—no doubt they wouldn’t be returning downstairs tonight, but that was alright.  They were making up for lost time.

He trudged back to his car, slumping into the seat.  It was something he’d told grieving families many times.  This broken heart was his own fault for not heeding his own advice.

You can lose time.  You can lose people, but you never have to lose the love.

Love Lost pt 24

“I know, ok? I know.”  She sighed when she saw him look up at her, confusion in his dark eyes.  “I know I should just be grateful that you’re here, that you’re back, that you’re here with me and Grace, but I can’t help it…this anger it just creeps up inside of me and I have nowhere for it to go and I just…”  She took a shaky breath.  “So there, I said it.  Go ahead…”

Billy took a seat beside her on the couch.  “You know you have a right to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling.  I’m certainly not going to tell you any differently if that’s what you’re thinking.”  He heard a burst of air leave her lips and he smiled.  “Is that how it used to be?”

“No.”  The word left her mouth quickly.  She looked up at him, her eyes softening as she saw his face, his eyes hesitant.  “No, you were never like that.  I just feel like it’s what everyone’s thinking.  I’m not happy enough.  I’m not joyful enough, but this isn’t easy.”

“That’s my fault,” he said quietly, hanging his hand.

She placed her hand on his arm.  “It’s not your fault,” she whispered.  “It’s just the situation.  This whole damn situation and it was just made even more complicated by Ronan and his stupid plan to…”  Her voice trailed off as she saw Billy’s head shaking solely.  “What?”

He reached into his pocket, pulling out his square photo.  “Hear me out, okay?”  He could see the fire already flashing in his eyes and he held up a hand to placate her for a moment.  “Look at this.”  He handed her the photo and he watched in silence as her eyes widened a bit.

“Where do you get this?”

“Where do you think?”

She swallowed hard as she stared at the image.  Her eyes closed, her head dropped over her sleeping daughter.  “Ronan,” she whispered, emotion and questions floating in her voice.

Billy nodded.  “I get that you’re angry he didn’t tell you the second he knew and I know I’ve had a bit longer to come to terms with that than you have, but I’ve got to say, I get where the guy was coming from.  He didn’t do this to hurt you.  He wasn’t trying to keep me away from you.  He was trying to keep you from getting hurt.  He gave me this picture.  He promised to keep in touch.  He just wanted to keep you safe…to be there.  That’s all.  He went about it the wrong way, but he had the right things in his mind.  I just think you ought to know that.”

~

Phyllis jumped slightly at the sound of the knock on the door.  Billy had left nearly an hour ago and she’d been frozen in virtually the same spot ever since.  She couldn’t get his words out of her mind.  Ronan had the right things in his mind.  Did that mean he wanted her to give Ronan a chance?  Did he not want to try and make things work between the two of them?

Her heart beat faster as she walked quickly to the door, glancing towards Grace’s room and hoping the knocking wouldn’t wake her yet.  She pulled up the door.  “Ashley,” she breathed, her voice betraying her surprise.  “I didn’t expect to see you today. I’m sorry, but Grace is actually napping.”

Ashley smiled.  “I didn’t come here to see Grace, actually.  I was wondering if we might be able to talk.  I brought lunch.”  She held up two bags and forced a smile.  Though she and Phyllis had called a truce after Grace’s birth, their interactions were still civil at best.  Friendly lunch visits were still quite the stretch.

“Uh, sure..okay.”  Phyllis stepped aside, watching with interest as Ashley walked past her.  “Don’t take this the wrong way, Ashley, but we don’t eat lunch together and you never stop by to talk to me unless it’s to berate me about something and I’ve got to be honest…I’m really not up for it today.”

“Phyllis, I promise.  I’m not here to give you a hard time.  I honestly came here to try and make things better.  I swear.”  She laughed a bit at Phyllis’ narrowed eyes.  “Oh, come on!  Would you stop being so suspicious and just get us some plates.”

~

The sound of the fork hitting the plate startled her and Ashley’s eyes widened.

“Alright,” Phyllis sighed, “You’ve critiqued every food item here.  We’ve talked about Grace and Fenmore’s and Jabot.  You’ve complimented my outfit and even made a few frivolous comments on the weather.  At any point are you actually going to get to the point and tell me what you’re actually doing here?”

Ashley sighed, but smiled slightly.  “Honestly?”

Phyllis nodded.

“I wanted to talk about Billy.”

“Ashley…I thought we’d gotten past this..”

“No..not like that,” she interrupted, “I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help.  It’s just..”  She paused, shaking her head as she thought back on how everything had happened between them.  “The two of you went through so much to be together and then you  had what—a few months of happiness and now…”

“I know,” Phyllis took a sip from her glass. “I wanted to believe it would work out.  I really did, but he was just here a bit ago and I don’t know if that’s what he wants anymore.”  The sound of the words leaving her mouth made them even more real and she felt her eyes burn with the tears.

Ashley shook her head.  “Oh, I don’t believe that for a second.  What did he say?”

“He was defending Ronan..trying to get me to understand why he kept the news from me.  It was almost like he wanted me to be with him and not…”  She couldn’t say it again—couldn’t make herself say the words aloud once more.

“Phyllis,” Ashley breathed, “He’s just…he’s trying to help you get through this the only way he knows how right now.  You two loved each other.  It took me a long time to realize it but once I accepted it, I have to say you were good for my brother.  I never saw him as happy as he was when he was with you and when he was gone…Well, it broke my heart to see you like that.  I have to believe the two of you can get through this.”

“I want that Ashley, I do, but this is like losing him all over again…but it happens every day…in every moment.  Every time I look at him and I think I see a flash in him and then it’s not.  I don’t know how much longer I can take it.”

Ashley reached across the table, lightly touching her hand.  “Listen,” she whispered, “Just promise you won’t give up on him yet.  He needs you and you need him.  You have a beautiful daughter and I have to believe that all this didn’t happen so that it ends like this.”

Phyllis nodded, her mind going back to years ago when Billy had promised her their story didn’t end badly.  She looked up at Ashley and smiled.  “Yeah,” she whispered,  “that’s not the way this story ends.”

Love Lost pt 23

Billy looked up.  “Sorry,” he said quickly, “I hope I didn’t wake you.”

Phyllis smiled, feeling oddly awkward in the moment with him.  She stepped further into the kitchen.  “No,” she said softly, “not at all—the sitter is gonna be bringing Grace by in a bit, so I was already getting up. I hope you were able to find everything okay.”

“Yeah-I was.  I just wanted to make some coffee.”

“Did you sleep alright?”  She smiled weakly as she looked at him.  He was wearing the t-shirt and lounge pants she’d given him.  A few weeks after the accident, she’d gone through most of his clothing, donating what she could to a local homeless shelter, but she’d kept a few things—things that reminded her of him.  A white t-shirt and lounge pants were his staples for a lazy Sunday or any day really if he could convince her to stay home with him.

“It was great.  I told you I’ve been in a hospital bed…the twin bed in Grace’s room was like the Hilton.”

“Good..Good,” she sighed.  “It’s not great, but it’s the only place I had to stick a guest bed in a hotel suite.”

“Trust me, I was perfectly comfortable,” he smiled, “And now I’ve gone and made myself perfectly comfortable in your kitchen.”

“It’s fine.”  She shifted a bit, drawing in a breath.  “You don’t have to ask for permission to do anything here…these are as much your things as they are mine…I mean they would be if…”  She looked away, feeling uneasy.

“Here,” he said quickly, desperate to break the tension in the room.

“Thanks,” she smiled, stepping into the living room and feeling him following close behind her.  Her eyes fell on the photo albums scattered across the couch.

“I uh..I was just looking.”  He reached over, stacking them back on the shelf.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to overstep.” He heard her shaky sigh and turned to face her, seeing her sitting on the bed, her head in her hands.  “Are you alright?”

She shook her head, looking up at him and he could see by the sheen in her eyes that tears were coming.  “I just hate that it’s like this,” she whispered.  “We were never like this.”

“Like what?” he asked, honestly confused.

“Awkward, apologetic…like we’re walking on eggshells with each other.  We could talk about anything.  There was no judgment.  There was nothing off limits and now….it’s like we can’t even be in the same room together without it feeling like someone has sucked all the air out.”

“That’s my fault.”  Billy took a seat beside her.  “I’m sorry.”

“Please stop apologizing.  It’s not anyone’s fault.  I just wish…”  Her eyes stared into his for a moment.  It still took her breath away and it seemed unbelievable to her that he didn’t feel the same.  “I just wish you still felt something for me.”

He leaned a bit closer.  Her eyes were so earnest, and there was something almost intoxicating about being next to her.  He could feel the warmth of her body beside his.

Phyllis jumped as the knock on the door echoed through the silent room.

“That’ll be the sitter with Grace,” she said, already feeling the lump in her throat.  She looked over at Billy.  “You ready for this?”

~

He paced back and forth in front of the couch, wringing his hands in an effort to expel some nervous energy.  Hearing the door shut, he felt a wave of nausea come over him.  How was he supposed to do this?  How was he supposed to step back into the life of his nearly-five month old daughter?

“How’s Mommy’s sweet girl?”

Phyllis stepped into the room, holding Grace close to her as she looked up at Billy.  Tears stung her eyes as she struggled for words.  “Grace,” she whispered, smiling as she looked down at her, “We have a visitor.”

Billy closed the distance between them, staring down at the baby girl for the first time.  “She’s even more beautiful in person,” he whispered, reaching out and barely touching her.

“You can hold her,” Phyllis said quietly.

“No..she doesn’t want me to hold her.  She doesn’t even know me.”  Billy stepped back.

“She’ll get to know you.  Here…take her.”  Phyllis eased Grace into his arms and stepped back, taking a deep breath as she took in the moment.

Billy took a deep breath, struggling to relax as he stared into the wide eyes of the baby girl.  “I know you don’t know me,” he whispered, “It’s okay…”

Her tiny face was still for a moment before scrunching up and letting out an ear piercing wail.

“You should take her.”  His eyes looked up at Phyllis’ desperately.  “She’s afraid of me.  Please…”

Phyllis shook her head, reaching out and taking the baby girl back into her arms.  A few whispered words and a practiced shuffle and the baby quieted, burying her face into her mother’s chest.  “Billy,” Phyllis whispered, “she’ll learn to love you.  It’s just new right now…that’s all.”

“I know.” He smiled.  “She doesn’t remember anything either.  We’re both meeting each other for the first time.”

Phyllis nodded, gesturing over to the swing.  “She loves the swing,” she said smiling, “If we’re lucky, you’ll get to hear that sweet little laugh.”

Billy held the swing still as he watched Phyllis settle Grace into the harness.  He’d missed so much time with his daughter.  He didn’t want to miss anymore.

~

Phyllis walked back into the living room, removing the burp cloth from her shoulder.  She smiled at Billy as he looked up at her with wide eyes.  “Well, you’ve had about four hours of Grace—you ready to take over for me?”

“What?” He stood, his breath catching in his throat.

“I’m kidding,” she giggled.  “I just meant you seem a bit overwhelmed by all this.”  She paused, studying his face.  “You don’t have to stay, you know.  I know this must be kind of crazy for you.  We don’t have to do everything at once.  You can see her whenever you want and I’m not going anywhere.”

“Actually,” he said quietly, “If it’s okay, I’d kind of like to see that video now.”

“Oh, the uh…the video of her birth?”

“Yeah…”  He saw the look on her face, the way her eyes shifted slightly as he’d said the words, “Unless you’ve changed your mind.  I don’t have to watch it..”

“No..No.  You’re welcome to see it.  I just…It’s…” She swallowed, trying to force herself not to feel what she did.  She wanted to be strong, to be content with what they had in the moment, but she couldn’t help but wondering what might have been different….

“Phyllis?” Billy said quizzically.

“I’ll get the video,” she said quickly, moving to walk towards the shelf.  She stopped when she felt his hand on her arm.

“Forget the video for a minute.”  His words were serious as he pulled her back in front of him.  “What’s going on?  What aren’t you saying?  You said we could talk about anything, so why are you holding out on me now?”

“Damn,” she hissed under her breath as the tear crept down her cheek.  “I just…Watching the videos and looking the pictures and telling the stories…It just reminds me of everything that we lost and when I think about the fact that even one day could have been given back to us because of….” She took another breath… “Because of Ronan.  I’m just angry.  That’s all.  I’m really angry.”

 

 

Love Lost pt 22

“You didn’t have to follow me back,” she said softly as she walked up to the door, “And you certainly didn’t have to walk me to the door.”  She turned to face him.  It was so strange to be in this position with him.  To her, nothing had changed.  Time had passed, but the feelings were still there perhaps even stronger than they’d been before.  It would seem so natural to reach up and touch his face, to lean in and softly kiss him…

“It’s no problem, really.  I just wanted to make sure you got home okay.”  He looked at her, her eyes shining up at him.  Looking down at her, he couldn’t help but smile.

“What is it?” she asked softly, her words floating through the air like music.

He sighed.  “I may not remember, but I can tell by the way you look at me…we were good…we were real?”

Tears stung her eyes as she heard him say the words, words it had taken her far too long to admit and even longer to finally say.  “Yes,” she whispered, “we were very real…you were everything to me and I like to think I was everything to you too.  If you hadn’t had the accident, we were going to get married.  We’d talked about it, but you insisted that we couldn’t yet because I would be expecting the proposal and you had to find a way to surprise me.  You were always romantic like that.”

It was amazing to him to watch her as she talked about him this way.  It was as if she was recounting some beautiful movie, but the scenes were actual moments from his life.  “Look,” he said softly, hesitating a little, “If uh..if you’re not doing anything…I know you said Grace is gonna stay with the sitter tonight…maybe you could tell me a little more about the things we did or show me some pictures.”  He stopped, the surprise on her face startling him.  “Unless you think it’s too soon…I can come back another day…”

“No..No..not at all.  I’d love it if you’d come in.  Um..unless you think it’s too soon.”

Billy shook his head, following her inside.

“I didn’t really get a chance to say it earlier, but please excuse the mess,” she said with a smile.  “It’s a little crazy with a baby in such tight quarters.”

“I’m sure,” he nodded.  “Why uh…why are you in a hotel…Did we not have a house?”

She stopped, turning to face him.  “No, we did…I just…I couldn’t stay there after you…well, after the accident.  Actually, I left town for a while.  I took a job in Chicago and I moved there to try and put some distance between me and the memories.”

“Did it work?” There was something about her, something that drew him.  Though she was still very new to him in a way, there was a part of her that felt familiar and comfortable.

“No,” she whispered.  “Because you were in here.”  She placed her hand over her heart.  “And everywhere I went, I just took you with me.” She took a breath, sensing the awkwardness of the moment, “And then of course there was Grace, who was in here…” She placed her hand on her now-flat stomach.

She stooped down to grab a cloth album.  “There’s not a ton of pictures in here, but I do have some videos if you’d like to see them.  This is the baby book I’ve been putting together for her.”

Billy opened the cover, flipping page by page slowly, his eyes roaming over footprints and hospital photos. “She’s how old now?”

Phyllis smiled.  “A little over five months…it goes by so fast.  It’s like you blink and she’s doing all these things that she couldn’t do yesterday.”  She stopped herself, realizing how it must feel to him, realizing he’s missed so much. “She’s gonna be crazy about you,” she whispered, touching his arm softly.  “I can’t wait for you to meet her.”

“Me too,” he managed, his voice raspy with emotion.

“The video,” she said quickly, standing up and moving to the shelf.  “I almost forgot.”

“Actually,” he said softly, reaching out and grabbing her arm, “Would it be alright if we waited on that.  I’m not sure I can handle that right now.”

“Sure,” she nodded, sitting down on the end of the bed beside him.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.  “I’ve been so busy thinking about how hard this must be for me that I really haven’t considered how it must feel to you.”

“Don’t feel sorry for me,” he said looking up at her.  “I survive an accident that, by all rights, should have killed me.  I come home and find out I have a beautiful girlfriend and a healthy baby girl.  I’ve won the lottery.  I just feel like you and Grace—you’ve drawn the short straw.”

“Don’t you say that!”  her words came out quickly as her eyes flashed in anger.  The shock on his face jolted her back to reality and she pulled back, calming herself before she spoke again.  “Sorry,” she whispered.  “I just…I don’t ever want you to feel that I’m anything but grateful to have you back.  Yes, it’s been difficult to know that you don’t remember, but I have to believe that the memories will come back.”

“And if they don’t?”  It was the question he’d wanted to ask since the moment he’d laid eyes on her, but he’d been afraid to.  Taking advantage of his certain burst of courage seemed to be the only sensible thing to do.

“I don’t know,” she admitted.  “We’ll figure something out.”  She looked at him.  “Is there anything else you remember?  Anything at all?”

“I don’t even know if this will make sense to you,” he sighed. “You know that show…I think it’s called something Abbey..”

Phyllis nodded.  “You mean Downton Abbey?”

“That’s the one,” he nodded.  “Well, I have this weird, fuzzy memory of being in a room in a house kind of like the ones they have in that show.  I can’t see anything..it’s dark..and there’s the sound like rain pouring down, but I can’t see the rain.”

Phyllis stared at him, her breath catching in her throat.  “Anything else?”  She tried not to jump to conclusions, trying desperately not to get her hopes up too high.

“A smell,” he said quietly, closing his eyes to try and remember more, “like a burning…and heat…like the smell of burning..”

He opened his eyes to see tears streaming down her cheeks.  “What?” he breathed.  “What’s the matter?”

She smiled through her tears and brushed them away from her face.  “That smell was a fire in the fireplace.  There was a thunderstorm that knocked out all the power and it was cold so we found an old rocking chair that we used for firewood.”  She looked into his eyes as she continued to talk.  “It was raining and thundering and the wind was blowing so hard that it blew a tree down that blocked the driveway so we couldn’t leave and that house you’re describing….that’s the Chancellor mansion…that’s where we lived.  That was our home.”

Billy nodded slowly.  “Wow,” he breathed.  “That’s a weird night to remember..I guess I was hoping for something more meaningful than that.”  He stopped speaking as he saw her eyes flash.

“That’s not how the story ends,” she whispered.

“How did it end?”

She leaned in close to him, questioning her choices all the way, but throwing all caution to the wind as she softly pressed her lips to his.  “Like that,” she said softly, as she pulled away.  “That was the first night you kissed me.”

She half expected him to run, but instead she leaned into his hand as it lightly stroked her cheek.  “Oh,” he breathed, his eyes never once leaving hers, “It’s got to be damn hard to forget something like that.”

 

 

Love Lost pt 21

She jumped up quickly as she heard movement behind her.

“Sorry.”  Billy held up his hands as he approached her slowly.  “I didn’t mean to scare you.  I just wanted to see if you were okay…the way you ran out of there…”

Phyllis shook her head.  “The truth?” She sighed, “No.  I’m not okay and I don’t know why I came here, but it’s where I’ve come the last year when I needed clarity or support or to feel closer to him.”  She glanced up at him.. “or you.”

Billy nodded, kneeling down on the ground beside her.  “This is weird.”

There was silence for a moment and she laughed a bit, laughing harder as he looked over at her, his eyes widening a bit.  “I’m sorry,” she muttered, “that’s just the most honest thing I’ve heard in a while.  Yeah, this is definitely weird…I can’t imagine how it would feel to look at your own headstone.  Not many people get a chance to do that.”

“No.” He smiled as he glanced over at her.  “I guess you’re right about that.  It’s a small club.  Is there video of the funeral?  I’d like to see that?” He stopped, hesitating as her face grew serious.  “Hey,” he whispered, “I’m sorry…that was too far.  I was just trying to lighten things up.  I didn’t mean to..”

“It’s not that,” she said softly, “It’s just…videos..there are some you’d probably like to see.  Grace’s birth and her christening..I think there’s even some videos of the baby showers…”

“Yeah.  I’d like to see all of that.”  Silence settled over them again.  He looked at the stone, marveling at the strangeness of seeing his name above a date of death.  When he looked back at her, he saw her eyes fixed on his.  “What is it?” he asked softly.

“It’s just strange.  The past year whenever I wanted to talk to you, I’d come here and now I’m here and I’m actually talking to you, but you…you’re….”  She couldn’t continue, the words too painful to even say.  She turned her head, not wanting him to see her cry.  He’d seen enough of that already.

Billy sat helplessly, not sure of what to do.  He extended his hand, placing it gently on her shoulder, feeling her body tense immediately.  Her head turned slowly towards him, her eyes staring into his.  “You don’t have to do that,” he said softly.  “I’m sorry that this is hurting you.  I don’t know how to make it better.  I wish I did, but you don’t have to pretend it’s not difficult for you.  I know it is.”

She nodded.  “I guess it’s just…after you died…” She shook her head, “After we thought you died, I would dream at night about someone coming to me and telling me that it had all been a mistake.  I would imagine what it would be like when I would see you again and I held onto that for a long time.  I never felt you leave me and then, when I found out I was pregnant, I thought maybe that was why.  At first I was terrified.  I was afraid that every time I looked at our baby I would be devastated all over again, but then I realized that baby was the only part of you I had left and that as long as that baby was here, a little part of you would always be with me.  That’s what kept me going.  Grace was the only reason I survived most days.  And even though she filled a huge hole inside of me, I still had that dream that you would come back and I could wrap my arms around you and hold you and remember what it felt like to be close to you.  And now, the dream has come true, but it isn’t at all like it’s supposed to be….”

He shook his head, a little in awe of how she could put her feelings into words so easily.  “I don’t what to say except I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I really am.  I wish I remembered.  It sounds like we were happy and I wish I could remember everything you’re talking about.  I wish I could be the person you’ve been waiting for. I can’t make myself remember, but I can do one thing…”

He stood, taking her hands in his and pulling her up to stand next to him.  He could see the confusion and hesitation in her eyes as she watched him.  “Come here,” he said softly as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to him.  He could feel her hesitation, her stress, her almost trepidation as she stood tense in his arms, but as he gently coaxed her head to rest against his shoulder, he felt the release.  “It’s alright,” he whispered, as he felt her back shake with a sob.  “It’s alright.”

There were no memories of their life together, but some things simply felt natural and this was one of them.  He allowed his head to rest against hers as he drew in a breath, the smell of her shampoo and….

“That smell…”  He pulled away quickly, one hand on each of her shoulders.

“What?” she breathed, tears still soaking her cheeks.

“Scarlett Mist,” he said excitedly, a smile forming on his face.  “Scarlett Mist, right?  That’s what you’re wearing?”

Her eyes sparkled as she looked at him.  “Yes, that’s right.  Do you remember that?  You remember that’s the perfume I wear?”

“Not exactly.”  He stopped, taking a breath and calming himself.  It was one thing to get ahead of himself and get overly excited.  It was quite another to get her hopes up and then send them crashing down again.  She’d been through enough.  “When I was in the hospital, one of the nurses had this perfume and when I smelled it, I remembered it.  I knew I’d smelled it before.  I remembered it and I knew it was important. Do you wear it a lot?”

She smiled up at him, her eyes now brighter than he’d ever seen them.  “Yeah. Actually, it’s a scent that Jack, your brother, developed for me.  I wear it all the time..every day.  You used to love it.  You remembered it?” Tears formed in her eyes again and she began to raise her hand to brush them away.”

His hand touched her face first, his fingertips slowly brushing away the tear.  “I did,” he said softly.  “I remembered the perfume and I remembered that I missed it.”

 

 

Love Lost pt 20

“Phyllis?” Ronan stood at the door, thankful it still remained partially open, but not stupid enough to step inside.  “Phyllis, please—can you just give me a minute to try and explain?”

He heard movement inside and stepped back.  She stood at the door, tears still streaming down her face.  “I don’t know how the hell you think you could possible explain something like this.”

“You have every right to be angry with me,” Ronan said softly.

“Really?  You’re going to stand here and try to justify my anger now?  As if I needed your approval?”

“No,” he sighed, “that’s not what I meant…I just.. God,” he slammed his hand into the wall, and looked back at her, tears now filling his own eyes.  “It was a horrible thing that I did but I want you to understand that I felt terrible about it.  Why do you think I kept pulling away from you?”

She paused for a moment.  “So what?  You want me to give you a pass because you had the decency to not sleep with me.”

“That’s not what I’m saying.  I just mean…it’s not like I didn’t have guilt over this.  It was eating me up knowing how much pain you were in, but I just kept thinking about how much pain you’d be in if he were back here.  He doesn’t remember you, Phyllis.  He doesn’t remember your life, your relationship, all the memories that you have—the ones that have gotten you through your loss—they don’t exist to him.”  He watched as the words hit her and her face crumbled.  “I’m sorry.  I don’t want to hurt you, but you aren’t to him what he is to you.  I just wanted to spare you that.  I didn’t want to watch you lose him again.”

Phyllis reached up, wiping her tears from her face.  “That isn’t your call.  You don’t know how I would feel about this.  And what about Grace?”  She gripped her chest as she thought of her daughter.  “Ronan, she’s his daughter.  Were you really okay with never telling her that her father was alive?”

“No..No of course not, but this is new to me too, Phyllis…and if you want me to be honest with you, it felt so good to be close to you again and Grace is amazing.  I thought maybe you and I could have something real and then I…”

Her eyes widened, “So you’d just step right in and then who needs Billy, right?”

“No.  Damn it.  None of this is right.  You don’t understand.”

Phyllis took a step towards him, her eyes now shining with tears.  “I’ll tell you what I’m absolutely sure of,” she said, her voice shaking in anger, “I’m sure that you know where Billy is right now, or at the very least, you have a pretty good idea of how to contact him, so every moment I’m spending here screaming at you is a minute I could be spending with the man I love.”

Ronan shook his head.  “Alright,” he whispered.  “I’ll find him.  I swear to you.  I’ll find him and I’ll bring him back to you and then I’m going to fix this…I don’t know how, but I’m going to fix this.”

~

Ronan drove slowly, his eyes roaming the streets.  This was insane.  He couldn’t imagine Billy would be walking down the street in the middle of the night, but he had to do something.  He had to try and find him.  He owed Phyllis that much.  The sound of his phone ringing brought instant relief and he glanced down to see a number he didn’t recognize.  Quickly, he brought the phone to his ear.  “Hello,” he said anxiously.

“Ronan?”  Billy struggled to stay calm.  He’d all but verbally accosted Ashley on the phone even though she’d sworn Ronan hadn’t given her any more details—only that it was an emergency and that he needed him to call him at this number as soon as possible.  “It’s Billy.  I got your message.  Ashley said it was important.  Is something wrong?”  It felt weird to be worried about people you didn’t know, but somehow he felt he should know her and then there was his daughter.  Memories or not, he needed to know that she was alright.

The familiar pang of guilt welled up inside him again.  He hadn’t considered how the message would sound to Billy. “Yeah, Yeah.  I’m sorry about that, man.  I didn’t mean to worry you.  Everyone’s fine.  It’s just…”  He paused.  “Look, I know you’re probably gonna be a bit pissed at me and it sure as  hell wasn’t my place to do it but, Phyllis knows you’re alive.  She knows you’re in town.”

Billy let out a long breath.  “Yeah,” he sighed.  “I uh…I saw her in the park this afternoon.  I was afraid she might have figured it out.”

“Well, to be honest.  She was pretty sure she was hallucinating.  In fact, she called me over to her place insisting that she was going crazy and I almost managed to convince her she was just grieving, but I just couldn’t do it.  She misses you too much.  I can’t watch her suffer like this and even if you don’t know her—even if you don’t remember anything about her or your life together, it will mean something to her to just see you, to know you’re alive, to know you’re alright.”

“She wants to see me?”  Billy took a seat on the edge of the small bed.  In his mind, he’d expected this would come eventually, but never this soon.

“Yeah, she does.  I’d like to come pick you up from wherever you are and bring you to her place.  Can we do that?”  Ronan waited, hearing nothing on the end of the line.  “Billy?” he repeated.

“Yeah,” Billy finally whispered.  “Yeah, we can do that.”

~

Ronan stepped up to the door, looking back over his shoulder and waiting for Billy to join him.  “You okay?” he asked as he clasped his hand on his shoulder.

“I don’t know,” Billy admitted.  “There’s not exactly a game plan for this.  I don’t know what to say to her.”  He looked up at Ronan.  “I don’t want to hurt her.”

Ronan shook his head.  “I wish I knew what to tell you..but I don’t…”

Suddenly the door swung open and Phyllis stood in the doorway.  “Ronan,” she whispered, “I thought I heard your voice.  Listen, I was thinking about this…maybe it’s too soon..maybe Billy would rather come in his own time.  Maybe he doesn’t want to see me or…”  She stopped talking, realizing for the first time that Ronan hadn’t said and word and instead simply stared at her.  “What’s wrong?” she said quietly.

He stepped to the side, saying nothing as he watched her eyes widen and almost immediately fill with tears.  Her hand flew to her mouth to silence the scream that threatened to alert the entire building.

“Why don’t we step inside,” Ronan said quietly, taking her shoulders and gently easing her inside the room.  He looked back at Billy and gestured for him to follow.

~

“Here you go.”  She took the glass of water and struggled to hold it in her trembling hands.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered, forcing herself to look away.  “I know you must think I’m insane.  I’m just staring at you, but…”  Her voice broke.  “God, Billy, you have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”  She stepped closer to him, her hand reaching up to touch his face but, after catching the look in his eye, drawing back.  “I’m sorry,” she said again, tears again streaking down her cheeks.  “Ronan told me that you don’t remember.  I don’t mean to push.”

“It’s okay.”  Billy forced a smile as he looked at her.  “I’d really like to remember.  I want to remember.  I just…”

Phyllis looked down at her dress, smoothing the front of it before looking back up at him.  “This was your favorite,” she said quietly.  “You said it brought out the color of my eyes.”  Her voice shook as she said the words, desperate to see some flicker of recognition on his face but instead seeing a blank stare intertwined with basic compassion.  He felt sorry for her, just as he’d feel for anyone else.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I really am.  It’s a beautiful dress.  You have beautiful eyes.  You’re beautiful.  I just….I don’t…..”  He stopped talking, his eyes falling on a picture that sat behind her.  “Is that?”  He walked over, pointing to a framed photo.  He picked it up, holding it close to him.  “Grace, right?”

She closed her eyes, trying uselessly not to cry.  “Yes,” she managed, sighing in frustration as she felt fresh tears escape.  “That’s your daughter.  That’s Grace.”

“Is she here?”

“No.  She’s…she’s actually with the sitter tonight.  You can meet her tomorrow.  You’ll love her.  She looks so much like you.  Remember how you used to say that you hoped…”  She stopped, realizing that he remembered noting of their time together.  Every memory, every touch, every word he’d ever said to her was now a completely one-sided story that he might never again share with her.  Her heart broke as she looked up at him.  To her, he was the man she loved with all her heart.  To him, she was a stranger.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t…I can’t stay here,” she whispered.  She grabbed her coat, throwing it on as she headed towards the door.  Gripping her purse in her hands she headed out the door.

Ronan looked up, his eyes falling on Billy.

“I don’t know what to do,” Billy said quietly.  “I hate doing this to her.  She wants me to remember so badly and I just don’t.  I can’t.”

“I know one thing,” Ronan said sternly.  “You need to go after her.  You might not remember her, but I’ll tell you from experience…that’s not a woman you let walk out of your life.”