Authors: Michelle Brewer
Playing at Forever
Playing at Forever
By Michelle Brewer
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013 by Michelle Brewer
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No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by electronic means, including retrieval systems and information storage, without the explicit consent, in writing, of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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It wouldn’t have happened without you.
Penelope Lang lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling as she waited for the alarm to go off. She dreaded the day ahead of her, as she always did, and so she prolonged the start for as long as she could manage.
Eventually, though, the alarm sounded and she rolled over, pressing the button to silence the incessant, raucous beeping.
She remained there for several moments,
on her side, her eyes roaming around the room. Boxes were still stacked neatly along the wall, waiting for their fate to be decided. Unfortunately, Penny was no closer to knowing what lay ahead for her belongings than she was in regard to her own future. Not that there was any hurry—no, Penny was well aware that she had time to ponder.
Sounds stirred below. She heard the high pitched voices of two young girls, and then the responding voice that of her best friend Amy
. Penny sighed, rising to a sitting position and swinging her feet over the edge of the bed. It was difficult to even drag herself to her feet, let alone walk out and begin readying herself for the day.
But she did, knowing she had responsibilities to tend to.
Downstairs, Penny found the pale-haired Amy and her two young daughters sitting at the dining table, finishing off their breakfast. Abruptly, the older of the two girls turned to face Penny. “Aunt Penny, will you tell Mommy that ice cream is okay for dinner?” Penny laughed then, shaking her head even as she felt a slight blush color her cheeks. She immediately understood why the little girl might make such a request.
Darla pouted in response. “But you did it!”
Amy stepped in, the guilt clearly displayed on Penny’s face. “Well, Darla, Aunt Penny is old enough to do what she wants. When you get old enough to move out and live on your own, you’ll be more than welcome to eat all the ice cream you like.” Her tone was that which only a mother could possess and Penny was taken back to her own childhood, hearing the voice of her mother providing almost the same exact lecture.
“Aunt Penny doesn’t live by herself.” Amy’s eyes darted in the direction of her best friend and Penny looked down for a moment before shrugging indifferently. The blush livened once more, but Penny ignored it.
“That’s because Mommy asked her to stay here with us while Daddy’s away.” It was at least partially the truth, Penny mused as she took the mug of coffee being offered to her.
Of course, Amy had more demanded that Penny move in.
And not because her husband was away on business.
No, it had nothing at all to do with Amy, and everything to do with Penny.
An image of a man conjured in her mind—attractive, well-maintained. The image brought with it a familiar dull ache which possessed her chest only momentarily. She had grown accustomed to the pain now.
“Well you can stay as long as you want, Aunt Penny.” It was the younger girl who spoke now, reaching up and taking Penny’s hand. “You make me happy.” A different ache now swelled within her as she set her mug aside and lowered herself to her knee so that she was at eye-level with the young blonde-haired girl.
“You make me happy too, Amber,”
whispered, leaning forward and pressing her lips to the little girl’s forehead, the ache swelling ever-so-subtly. “Now you better hurry, you don’t want to miss your bus.” Amber touched her lips to Penny’s cheek before turning and grabbing her backpack. Darla blew her mom a kiss before turning to Penny and doing the same.
“You girls have a good day,”
called as they hurried toward the door. The house suddenly grew quiet as the heavy thudding of the door signaled their departure. Penny raised herself to her feet with a deep sigh, reaching out for the mug of coffee.
“Sorry about the ice cream,”
apologized, taking a sip of the bitter liquid and perching herself on a stool at the bar.
“You’ve earned as much ice cream as you want, Pen.” Penny shrugged, not really agreeing. She shouldn’t be setting bad examples for the girls. They were, after all, still young and impressionable. “Especially when you have to spend all day, every day—”
“Don’t remind me,”
held up a hand to silence her friend, the image of the same attractive man fluttering before her eyes.
“Well, I’m just saying…it can’t be easy.” Penny couldn’t agree more, but what choice did she have?
She was the one who’d chosen to put everything she had on the line in order to open up her own restaurant—along with her husband, of course.
Her lying, cheating husband, that was. The one who had only months ago revealed to her that he had been having an affair with the woman Penny had hired to lighten her workload so that
would have more time to be a wife. More time to start a family. More time to make
She suddenly longed for some sort of heavy liquor rather than the hot bitter liquid she was sipping. It would much better prepare her for the day ahead of her, to be spent in the very presence of her soon-to-be
husband and his new lover.
With a heavy sigh, she placed her mug on the countertop and pulled the oversized sweater she wore tighter around her. “You don’t have to do this, Pen,”
friend whispered, pulling Penny from her thoughts. “I mean—I know you don’t
to even consider it, but you can always sell the restaurant—”
said with a firm shake of her head. She had worked hard to get her hands on The Seaside and she wasn’t going to let anything take it away from her. Ever since she had been a little girl, she had dreamed of owning her own restaurant. Her parents had been small business owners, running and operating their own movie rental store and she had taken her cue from them. She’d saved every penny she had, and borrowed as much as she could, in order to achieve her dream.
“Out of the question.”
“I hate to see you so unhappy.”
“Well, take comfort in the fact that
are probably just as unhappy as I am.” Penny smiled mischievously, though smiling was the last thing she felt like doing.
said with a crooked smile. “Come on, I’ll walk with you. I need to pick up a few things anyway.” Penny slid from the stool and made her way toward the door, slipping on her shoes and stepping out into the cool morning air. The smell of the ocean lingered faintly in the air and Penny closed her eyes, breathing it in.
She had lived in the same small North Carolina town ever since she was born. She had envisioned herself raising her own family here, but now—she wasn’t so sure.
Her mind traveled back to her previous thoughts. She had been with Kevin since high school—they had married just after college and had been together for nearly ten years, all considered.
His affair had come as such a shock, not just to her—but to everyone. They had seemed like the perfect couple—they’d had a comfortable life, a nice home, a popular business. All of which he was now sharing with
while Penny stayed in her best friend’s guest room.
the popular business. She didn’t care about the house, the cars, any of it—except the restaurant. The Seaside was
. It was her dream. She had put so much of herself into it—dedicated hours upon hours not just at the restaurant, but dreaming it up and putting it into effect. It was celebrating
fifth year running and business was only growing.
If nothing else, she would at least have
of her dreams.
The two women were walking now, making their way toward the coast of their small town. Amy chattered on at Penny’s side, talking about the weather. Penny hardly noticed—she dressed the same regardless of the weather. Neutral clothing—lots of blacks and whites and grays, nothing too close fitting. She wasn’t looking to be noticed.
She didn’t need any more heartache than she’d already been through.
As if on cue, Amy paused at one of the street-side vendors—magazines and newspapers filling the racks.
Penny stopped, not minding the delay—whatever kept her from the tension-filled hours that would soon follow. “Wow, Pen. Look at him.”
It was then that Penny realized what Amy was looking at.
The rack was full of various tabloids and celebrity gossip magazines, but it only took a moment for Penny to find the one that had caught Amy’s attention.
The cover was almost entirely composed of an angry looking man. He was sitting at a bar, all alone, with several empty glasses in front of him. Penny stepped forward, scrutinizing the image a bit more closely. His eyes were darkened, heavy with pain and resentment.
An image of this man, much younger than he was in the photo, flooded her mind. She remembered the sound of his voice, the touch of his lips,
warmth of his arms. Even then, he’d had the brooding look perfected. It had seemingly only gotten better with time.
The headline read,
Troubled in paradise?
She knew if she reached forward and flipped open the magazine, she would find some long story about the troubled behavior of a Hollywood star—one of the elite. Thomson Davis, they would call him.
Of course, to her, he would always be Tommy Davidson. “You know they probably just sat there snapping pictures for hours, waiting for the worst one.” Penny spoke, though she didn’t believe it was as coincidental as she made it out to be. The darkness in his eyes—it called out to her, begging for solace, just as it always had.
“Even so…” Amy shrugged, letting go of her thoughts of little Tommy all grown up and turning around to continue on. Penny lingered for just a moment longer though, staring at the photo, searching his eyes.
She’d always been able to read Tommy better than anyone else.
The memory of the last time she’d seen him crossed her mind. It had been the night he left for Los Angeles.
The last night of their high school performance of
Romeo and Juliet
After the show had finished, the two had hopped on his motorcycle and driven to a secluded little beach. They’d been the best of friends—never anything more, never anything less. He was a year her senior, but that had never made a difference.
That night, though, she crossed the line. She remembered rising to her tiptoes and pressing her lips to his—briefly, but it was enough to make the memory almost tangible even ten years later.
They had kissed before—after all, he had played Romeo and she had played his Juliet. And if she was being completely honest, she always thought there might be something more there—something buried deep down that neither was willing to recognize for fear of losing whatever it was they had.
Because their friendship was what had mattered most—to both of them.
The knowledge that, no matter what, they had each other to turn to, had guided them through high school without so much as once allowing a hint of romance to stir.
But that night, knowing it would probably be their last—Penny hadn’t been able to stop herself. She remembered the way his eyes held hers for a moment, as if anticipating what was to come. She’d convinced herself it had been nothing more than curiosity on both parts—after three years together, how much could one kiss hurt?