Authors: Laramie Briscoe
“This piece of shit engine is going to be the death of me.” Liam grunted as he fought to get it out of the car he was working on.
Tyler came up behind him and helped him turn the crank that was raising it out of the body of the vehicle.
“Thank you,” Liam heaved, putting his hands on his knees when they had it raised.
“I have a longer arm span than you; it wasn’t as much work for me.”
Liam couldn’t help but laugh. Tyler had never been one to take compliments well, but he was still paid them all the time. “Whatever, man. Thank you.”
The two went to work on the other things on the checklist for this car, and they worked in silence for long minutes before Liam spoke up. “How are things going?”
Tyler quirked an eyebrow as he lifted the edge of his shirt and wiped off his forehead. “It’s hot as fuck, but I’m good. How about you?”
“That’s not what I meant. How are things going with Meredith and Addie?”
The smile transformed his friends face. “Fan-fucking-tastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better kid to come into our lives. She’s amazing, even if I’m never gonna be able to do her hair. Speaking of, how the fuck do you do Tatum’s?”
Liam looked around to make sure nobody heard. “Practiced with one of Mandy’s old dolls.”
“For real? Mer told me she did the same thing, but I didn’t believe her.”
“For real,” Liam confirmed. “It was easier than trying to work on her while she was squirming. Once I got the mechanics of everything down, it was easier. Give it a try and see what happens. You might be surprised.”
“I’ll have to do that.” Tyler nodded. “That’s the only thing I seem to be strugglin’ with when it comes to her. I can’t do her hair for shit, and then she ends up cryin’ ’cause I get frustrated and almost pull her bald.” He shook his head. “Damn.”
“I know what you mean, but it does get easier, and hey, at some point they learn to do their own hair, they learn to use the bathroom on their own, and they learn to clothe themselves. I figure we’re almost there.”
Tyler wasn’t stupid; he could tell Liam had something else he wanted to ask. The two had been friends long enough that there weren’t secrets between them. “Why are you beatin’ around the bush?”
“Okay, I’m bein’ nosey and I’m sorry, but I was just wondering. Have you and Meredith quit trying?”
Tyler was confused. “Trying to do what?”
Liam blushed because he liked to think he wasn’t a gossiper, but this had been such a part of his friend’s life for so long. They’d shared many beers over this; they’d smoked many cigarettes while they contemplated what was going to happen month to month. “Trying to have a biological child.”
The words couldn’t have hit him in the face any harder. That hadn’t even been a thought on his radar. “I don’t know how to answer that.”
“Don’t. Like I said, I’m just bein’ a nosey bastard. I shouldn’t even have brought it up.”
“No, I mean, it was such a huge part of our lives for so long. It’s weird that Mer and I haven’t talked about it in almost a year. It’s like Addie filled a space in our lives that was missing, and once that space was filled, we didn’t discuss it anymore.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I have to say, it was such a relief not to talk about it anymore that I never even thought to bring it up. We were blessed with Addie, and that’s pretty much where we are at this point. Neither of us wants for anything else. We’re happy in our lives.”
“Then that’s all that matters. I just wanted to make sure, and to let you know I’m happy for you. Being a dad looks good on you.”
Those words were high praise coming from Liam, who took fatherhood very seriously. “Thanks. That means a lot.”
They walked around the car and enveloped one another in a bro-hug, the meaning not lost on either of them. Years ago neither one of them would have ever thought they would be at this place in their lives, and here they were, both extremely happy and living life to the fullest.
“Is that the new girl?” Meredith asked as she sat at her desk with one of her managers later in the afternoon.
“Sure is. Why don’t you go introduce yourself? You’re the face of this place.”
Meredith laughed. They liked to tell her she was the face of people who couldn’t or didn’t have their own face; she was the voice for people who didn’t talk.
“Hi, Stephanie?” She remembered seeing that name written on some of the paperwork.
“Yes, I’m Stephanie,” the girl answered.
Impressions were important to Meredith, and her first impression of this girl was undecided. She had bleach-blonde hair, and she wore dark eyeliner. It looked like she’d had a rough night the night before, as the liner was smudged. The face was pretty, but the eyes were haunted.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Meredith.”
“Yeah,” Stephanie answered, flat but abrupt. “I’ve heard a lot about you. Most people around here consider you a saint.”
Meredith wasn’t sure if in the girl was angry at her or her situation. Either way, her tone wasn’t friendly, but Meredith was used to that. If you were at CRISIS, you were as deep down the hole as your life could go. No one made the decision to come to this place lightly. It was used as a last resort for most who stepped foot through the doors.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a saint, but I do love my job. Did you get to meet Wanda?” she asked, trying to engage her in conversation.
“Yeah, I start my job there tonight as a waitress. She said you might have some clothes I can wear, if I asked?”
Taking her off to the side, she directed her to a closet that housed most of the clothes Sparkles had retired. Sparkles felt like it was her civic duty to give her retired outfits to women who needed to feel good in their own skin. It was on the rare occasion someone got a job at
that they were lucky they had the clothing around. “Pick out whatever you want. All we ask is that you leave it here when you move on, and you try to keep it intact—there may be someone after you who needs to wear it. They’re clean, and we do have washing machines here; feel free to get what you need for the next few shifts.”
Stephanie smiled at her, but it didn’t quite meet her eyes. “Will do. Thanks for the welcome, Meredith.”
re you sure you don’t wanna go to the clubhouse and hang with everybody? We’ll probably be pretty late tonight,” Tyler questioned Meredith as he put his leather chaps on over his jeans and shrugged into his leather cut.
She admired the view for a moment before shaking her head. “This isn’t the first run you’ve ever been on at night. You forget we’ve done this a long time.”
There had been times in the past few years where they hadn’t done many runs and she’d not had to worry about him or be alone at night, but these runs had picked up significantly in the last few months. He couldn’t tell her anything and she was okay with that, but she didn’t feel as if she had to be treated any differently now.
“I know that.” He had a seat, slipping his boots on. “I worry now that you’re here with Addie. It seems pointless to me, since there’s a clubhouse full of people who would love to see you.”
The argument she voiced was gentle. “And I want to stay here in my pajamas, going over my budget for the month. Addie’s already asleep in her own bed, I’m not about to wake her up. If you feel like I need someone to hang out with me, you’re welcome to call Mandy or Drew. I’m sure they’d be willing to come over and spend a night away from Tornado Tatum, but I’m a big girl who can take care of herself.”
Tyler knew all of that was true, but he didn’t want to leave her by herself. It wasn’t as if he was scared for her, but he felt better knowing someone was with her. Since Addie had come to be theirs, he’d doubted their decision about living so far from the clubhouse. “I’m gonna call Mandy, ’cause if I call Drew, he’s gonna try to convince you to let Charity come with him, and then they’ll be fucking out back on the porch.”
“What?” He grabbed his phone out of his pocket and pushed a button. “You know I’m right,” he hissed.
Someone picked up, and she assumed it was Denise because of the words he said. Within minutes he’d talked Mandy into coming over and was hanging up. “She’ll be here in about twenty. Her and Drew were fightin’, so she’s excited.”
Meredith shook her head, stretching out on the couch with her paperwork in her lap. “I still tell you I’m a big girl and I don’t need a teenage babysitter.”
He walked over and kneeled down so that they were eye level. “Humor me, okay? The guy we’re doin’ these runs for, I don’t like. Liam swears he’s not trouble, but I’m not sure. I don’t want you and Addie here completely unprotected. Mandy is quiet, but she’s smart and she knows how to take care of herself.”
She softened against the look in his eye. “If that’s what you think is best, Ty, then I won’t argue with you, but you forget, you’re the one who taught me how to shoot.”
The grin he gifted her with transformed his whole face. “I remember that.” He cupped her cheek in his hand. “You wanted me even then,” he bragged.
“I did, but I couldn’t tell you. I was still unsure. I’m glad we’ve moved past that part of our lives.” She leaned in, kissing him sweetly.
“Me too.” He pulled back and pushed her head down towards his, placing a kiss on her forehead. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and there’s nothing about our lives that I would change.” He stood up from where he was, glancing at the clock on his cell. “As happy as I am with ya, I gotta go. Liam will shove my balls down my throat if I’m late.”
“I highly doubt that.” She looked at him with raised eyebrows.
“He might be domesticated like me, but that don’t mean that either one of us can’t still kick some ass.”
She waved at him. “Love you, and be careful. We’ll be here waitin’ on you when you get back.”
He waved back at her, blowing a kiss. “Love you too. Mandy should be here soon.”
Tyler walked outside and took the porch steps two at a time before getting to his bike and climbing on the back of it. Quickly, he put his helmet on and started the bike up, heading down the driveway as fast as was safe. He was running really late, and he knew he’d have to haul ass to make it to the clubhouse in time. There was something that had been niggling at his neck for the last few days, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on it—he didn’t know if it had to do with him, Meredith, or Addie, but he wasn’t comfortable leaving the two of them by themselves. It wasn’t like he had a feeling that something would happen to them tonight, but he could feel something coming—it unnerved him that he wasn’t sure if that something was good or bad.