Authors: Kathryn Perez
THE FAINT BUZZING OF MY cell tempts me out of my sleep. I roll over and groan at the light peering through the blinds. My eyes focus on the clock. It’s almost noon. I can’t believe I slept this late. I fumble around for my phone. It’s a number I don’t recognize but I answer anyway.
“Candace? I’ve been calling all morning. Are you okay?”
I sit up in bed. “James?” I look at the number on the screen again.
“Yes, it’s me. Please don’t hang up.”
I breathe into the phone and drop my head. “What do you want James? I’ve had a long night and I don’t feel like going back and forth with you right now, okay?”
“I just called to tell you I saw your boyfriend here at the precinct last night. He was with his
. Do you even know who you are sleeping with?”
. Is this really what you called to tell me? You really are crazy, you know that? A simple bit of digging would’ve told you he’s not married anymore. What kind of police officer are you anyway?”
“I did dig and I assure you he’s very married.”
He’s trying to pull one over on me and I’m not buying it.
“I don’t believe you.”
Nervous energy slaps me into a fully awake state of mind.
“Check your email. It’s all there. I sent it all over to you this morning.”
“Do not call me anymore, for any reason. Do you understand? If you do I’m filing harassment charges against you and I don’t give a damn if you’re the police or not!”
I hang up and slam my phone down on the bed before getting up to grab my laptop. As soon as I open my email account James’ email is the first one I see. I click on it and open the attachment.
I read it, and re-read it, over and over again. Dawn and Brisban are still married. How can that be? Unexpectedly, I feel sick to my stomach. I rush into the bathroom and fall to my knees. Bile rises in my throat and my gut twists into knots. I throw up and cry at the same time. As soon as I know I’m not going to be sick anymore I brush my teeth and wash my face. I feel like I’m living a real life nightmare. My doorbell rings and I nearly jump out of my skin. I’m so emotional and on edge I almost feel like calling Janette and asking for a Xanax. Hopefully, that’s her here now. I shuffle across the floor in my baggy pajamas and open door without thinking to look to see who it is. That’s how out of it I am.
Air in. Air out.
And I nearly falter, forgetting everything that’s transpired in the last 12 hours. To say I’m rendered speechless would be the understatement of the year.
“I’m sorry for showing up like this but you never responded to my texts. Dawn gave me your address. I hope that’s okay.”
Am I Alice and is this a dark rabbit hole where ex-wives—who are really wives—give booty call girl's addresses to their not so ex-husband?
“Can you please say something? Anything, please.”
The words fall out of my mouth before I can even register them with my ears. “You’re not divorced.”
He doesn’t look surprised or worried. “No, not technically.” His composure doesn’t waiver and the confusion grows.
“What does that mean?”
He motions inside my house. “Can I come in? I’ll tell you what it means. I knew when James saw me with Dawn last night he would do this. I came straight to you when I couldn’t get you on the phone. Just let me explain.”
My stomach flip flops, but not in a good way. I turn and run toward the bathroom. “I’m going to be sick…again. Don’t follow me.” I grip my stomach with one hand and hold the other over my mouth as I try to get to the toilet. I make it just in time. Again, I get up and wash my face and brush my teeth. My reflection in the mirror makes me wince. I look awful. He’s never seen me like this before and I’m mortified.
“Are you okay back there?” He yells. Padding down the hallway I find him still standing in the doorway. I never told him he could come in so he hadn’t. My heart melts a little and I motion for him to come in.
“You can come in.”
He shuts the door behind him. He looks exhausted, wearing the same jeans and shirt he had on last night. It looks like he never went to bed.
“You need to get some rest, Brisban. You didn’t need to come and explain yourself to me.”
His presence in my home feels oddly comforting despite the circumstances.
“I do have to explain. I
to explain.” His words are laced with desperation and all I want to do is hug him.
“Okay. Would you like something to drink? Coffee?”
He shakes his head. “No, I’m good.”
“Those circles under your eyes say otherwise.”
A light shrug of his broad shoulders and he says, “I’m tired but coffee can’t help this kind of tired.”
I sit down on the sofa and he sits in the wingback chair across from me.
“Dawn and I never finalized our divorce because there was no death certificate for our daughter and insurance issues got tied up in court. Dawn and I never could agree on things, therefore it was never final. I wouldn’t accept Willow’s death so I refused to finalize anything in regards to assets that would ultimately go to her. Dawn wanted everything over and done. Even though I always knew deep down she was gone, I wouldn’t let it be said out loud and, if I agreed to her terms, it was me saying my daughter was never coming back.”
Guilt parades through my head and tears prick my eyes. “I’m sorry for your loss.” I don’t know what else to say. What do you say in a moment like this anyway?
“Thank you. We are waiting for DNA results but I’ve accepted what I’ve always refused to accept. My little girl isn’t coming home. Not in the way I had hoped for, anyway.”
“You should be with Dawn right now, not me.” I feel so guilty that he’s here with me during a time like this.
“I care for Dawn. I always will but we have to deal with this separately, in our own ways. Things have been pretty rocky between us recently and right now it’s best to have some distance. I don’t know if you recall the night at the hotel when I seemed off. The night I didn’t want to talk? It wasn’t work bothering me. I met with Dawn that day to try and come to some kind of agreement with the divorce. It was an unpleasant meeting. We don’t communicate well at all anymore. She’s become bitter toward me because I didn’t reconcile our marriage.”
He drops his head and rubs both of his legs with his hands. “I’m sure you already know all of this if you’ve read her book.”
“Most of it, yes. The divorce stuff, no.”
He stands up and walks over toward the sofa. My eyes flit up and meet his gaze. “Can I sit here beside you? It’s hard being so close yet so far from you.”
I nod and as soon as he sits down I feel the warmth radiating off his body. We aren’t touching but our energy is mingling in the air, doing a seductive dance with one another.
“It feels wrong to have you here; like I’m betraying Dawn.”
He turns his body in to me slightly, his knee brushing against mine. “You’re not betraying anyone. She agreed to the divorce last night. We’re meeting with our attorney’s tomorrow. We have came to a mutual decision regarding everything.”
His hand is resting on the sofa just between his leg and mine. The cotton fabric of my old boxer shorts is peeking out from under my t-shirt. His pinky finger extends and begins tracing my thigh back and forth subtly. Chills dance across my skin instantly. I look up at him and he’s staring right at me.
“I know things are crazy. I know we’ve had a lot thrown our way in a rather short time.” His finger continues its slow torture. “But none of it changes a thing. I’ve denied myself of a lot over the past two years and I’ve made tons of mistakes. I’m not denying this. I’m in love with you, Candace. I know it with certainty. When I look at you, touch you, get near you, or even when we’re apart and I think of you, love is the only thing I feel. Last night I didn’t want to put a label on it and scare you but as soon as I got home and I read your letter, I just knew. The very thought of never seeing you again shook me.”
His hand moves and each finger glides up onto my leg one by one. The skin of his hand on my skin ignites the flame that always burns when I’m with him. The slow, torturous burn grows hotter with every second that passes. Methodically he moves his hand over and across my lap. Our hands meet and intertwine. My chest is moving up and down rapidly. I’m chewing the hell out of the inside of my cheek and huge butterfly wings are fluttering in my stomach. The sick feeling is gone, replaced with something else; nervous and amazing energy.
He reaches up and cradles my face. “I know we don’t know a lot about each other. But I want to know everything. I want you in my life.” His thumb rubs back and forth across my cheek bone. “Please tell me everything’s not lost for us.” My eyes search his for the right response. Janette’s words surface and I choose to speak what I
“I want you, too. Nothing’s lost.”
After staying up half the night talking about our lives like where we grew up, went to school, and a few other basic things people usually learn through a normal dating process, we fell asleep arm in arm on my sofa. He’s in the shower now and I can’t help but feel weird knowing there’s a man in my shower. It’s all so strange, yet I feel comforted having him here. Coffee is brewing and I’m attempting to make a small breakfast for us. Making coffee for him feels oddly natural and I smile remembering our first night together and how nervous I was. Lost in my thoughts of how bizarre everything has been since the day I made the crazy decision to do something so unlike myself and go on a sex hook up website, I can’t remove the smile from my face. Even with the twists and turns things have taken I feel happy having him here with me. Is that love? What does falling in love really feel like? I loved James. I’m certain I did. Maybe love can never be duplicated. Maybe love can reincarnate itself in a person’s life more than once. What if one love never resembles another but still contains the one ingredient that tells us all we love someone; the desire to put them first and make them happy, in turn giving you your own sense of happiness. When James cheated on me it was the first time I felt a hole being punched through my happiness with him. It was a betrayal to my love for him. Once the hole was there, happiness continued to seep out of me and I couldn’t continue loving him in the same way. He left me and I don’t know if we could’ve made it if he had wanted to stay. I’ve asked myself so many times how I could’ve fixed it. The fact is one person can never fix a broken relationship. It takes both.
For Brisban and Dawn, and their tragedy, Brisban was trying to fix it in his way while Dawn was on an entirely different path in her grieving process. They weren’t able to jointly work on their pain and ultimately that’s why it couldn’t work. Allowing another man into my life on more than a physical level is daunting and scares me half to death after my divorce but I also know how he makes me feel and being alone isn’t something I want. I don’t know if I’m in love with Brisban. What I
know is when we’re together I feel more alive, like my authentic self. When I realized I wanted more from him than just sex I knew things had shifted, even though I don’t know what the more is I want.
I pour the coffee into two cups and mull over all of the continuous thoughts running through my mind. Suddenly two large hands blanket my shoulders. I startle.
He presses his lips gently to curve of my neck. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. What are you doing over here so deep in thought that you didn’t even hear me come into the room?”
Turning around with my back now to the counter I take in the sight of him. Of course he’s not dressed—that would make talking easy. My eyes scan his tall masculine body. A solid white towel is secured around his waist at the lowest point possible, a scattered trail of hair disappearing just beneath it. The pronounced V of his physique is on grand display and every word I planned on saying is apparently busy looking too because they aren’t coming out of my mouth at the moment. Tiny rivulets of water drops are moving down his chest. His hair is disheveled and wet. He has a little more scruff than usual and in this very moment Brisban Calloway is truly a vision to behold. All of this hotness is in my kitchen and it’s all mine to have if I want it. When and how did this become my life?