Pease read Slow Burn, Stolen Moments, Smoldering Fire then parts 1 and 2 of Smoke Effects then Finding Ellie, Then parts 1 and 2 of Simmering Inferno (in that order) to catch up with their story.
As always, a like and comment would be excellent.
Im still deciding if this is where their story ends or if I will write more.
I didn’t know what starting slow looked like. I didn’t want to be in control of figuring it out either. I was still staring at my phone trying to decide what to type. It vibrated in my hands.
Jody- we can figure it out together El
I leaned my head back into the couch. Even after this long she knew. Once upon a time she knew me better than anyone ever had. I wasn’t that person anymore though. That person deserved Jody, this person I am now, I wasn’t sure this person deserved anything good.
Me- I need to think
Jody- no you need to not overthink
Jody- meet me for coffee
Jody- I can pick you up if you want
There was no way I could get in her Jeep. None.
Jody- I don’t know what would be slower El
I took a deep breath before I typed.
Me- No to you picking me up. yes to coffee. maybe
Jody- Okay Barnes n Noble at 10:00. I hope you come Ellie
I didn’t know if I could actually do this. My mind was racing. I needed to shower. Needed to listen to music and not think.
The hot water poured over me. P!NK was belting out ‘Hurts 2B Human’ and I was singing along loudly and badly. I let my anxious tears flow down the drain, hoping with their release I could find the strength to start slow.
I pulled into the parking lot a little before 10:00. I saw Jody’s Jeep and parked on the other side of the lot. I turned off the engine but left the music going. My head was on the steering wheel while I tried to get myself ready to walk into the bookstore.
Jessie and I used to come here every Sunday when she was younger. We would get coffees, split a piece of cheesecake then window shop around the complex. We would finish each Sunday with a sundae at Friendly’s. I smiled remembering those days. My phone vibrated in the console. It hit me why she picked 10am.
Jody- please come inside El. We don’t know til we try
The emotions filling up my chest were threatening to overwhelm me. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. It was now or never, as much of a cliché as that was. I was more afraid of never than I was of now. I stepped out of my suv and started for the store entrance.
I could see her as soon as I was inside. I wasn’t sure if my feet would unstick from the floor beneath them. She looked up and her eyes caught mine. She smiled. I wanted to turn and leave. Those eyes, that smile, the pain I had inflicted all rushed at me. I looked up again and she was next to me.
“It’s okay. Come sit down El.” She didn’t touch me, like she knew that would send me over the edge I was barely standing on.
Instinctively I followed her. She waited for me to sit, to be sure I wasn’t going to bolt I was certain, before she sat. She was handling me, not unlike what Jessie did. I hated it. She pushed a cup my way. I wrapped my good hand around it. I closed my eyes as the warmth from the cup radiated out.
“It’s a salted caramel latte. If you don’t want it, I’ll get you something else.”
I opened my eyes, brought the hot liquid to my lips and took a sip. I hadn’t had Starbucks in months. It was never my thing; I didn’t need it. Starbucks was Jody’s thing.
“It’s fine.” I said, barely above a whisper.” Thank you.”
We sat in silence as we both sipped our drinks. I had no idea what to say to her. None of the words I knew were enough. Silence was going to have to do for now. I hated how nice she was being. She shouldn’t be.
Time was moving forward as we sat there saying nothing. I glanced around and wondered what we looked like to outsiders. Two women in their mid 40s who were not speaking to each other. Could they feel my guilt? Did they see us and know? I could feel my heartbeat getting louder.
“Are the kids having fun this weekend?” Jody broke the tension in the air. “Madi called last night, said the trails were awesome.”
Her voice pulled me back to the table. To now. It hadn’t registered with me that Madi was with Timmy this weekend. I wondered how many other things I had failed to realize.
“I think so. Timmy has only texted once. Jessie more but she’s.” I paused trying to find the words.
“Making sure you’re okay” Jody finished for me.
“Yeah.” I sighed. I wondered who was making sure she was okay. A year ago, it was me. More memories washed over me, my eyes closed as I tried to push them away.
Like she was inside my head she started talking. “I’m okay Ellie. I’ve been better but I’ve been a lot worse.”
We had both been a lot worse. Unspoken was the fact I was the cause of both of our ‘lot bursa escort worse’ moments. The white-hot poker of guilt jabbed into my gut for good measure. We went back to silence. I drank the last of my latte. I didn’t know what to do with myself when it was gone. I kept sipping like it wasn’t, the cup anchored me to this place. Without it I wasn’t sure if I would be able to stay sitting.
I felt the all too familiar ache of missing her creep up, the weight of it nearly crushed my chest. She was right across from me but a world away. This wasn’t working.
“How’s school going? Your classes? Jessie said you were working on another Masters?”
I sighed. Not because of the question, but because it confirmed for me that Jessie and Jody talked about me. I could feel my leg start bouncing, my anxiety was building.
Just answer her, I told myself. Just talk. “They are fine. Online.” Not sure I could have said any less. I couldn’t even manage eye contact. I needed this to be over.
She looked at my bandaged hand. “How’s that feeling?”
“It’s fine.” It was still hurting but she didn’t need to know that.
I felt her eyes on me but couldn’t look her way. Instead I felt tears pool up in my own. “I can’t, I’m sorry.” I stood up, empty cup in my hand, and I walked away from the table. I headed to the door, to my vehicle. I was half-way there when I felt her behind me. Without turning around I spoke to her, “Stop. Stop trying to fix something that can’t be fixed.”
“Why? Why do you keep trying?”
“I told you why. I care about you.”
I turned around, “I hurt you. I betrayed you. You shouldn’t give a fuck about me.” My voice was louder than I wanted it to be, “You certainly shouldn’t keep trying to fix me, fix us. Move on Jody. Please.” I was shaking as I spoke. She needed to move on, she needed to give up. No one should want the person that destroyed their life in their life. She needed to turn around and walk away once and for all.
“I know that’s not what you want Ellie. I know it by the look in your eyes. You think you’re protecting me by telling me to go. I already did that once, remember? I left and I lived in that pain. I was so engulfed by pain I couldn’t react when you tried to kill yourself. I know guilt too Ellie, it’s not yours alone. I’m ready to not live in it anymore. Aren’t you ready to not carry guilt with you everywhere? You are right, not everything can be healed, but I believe this can be, at least to the point we can exist in the same space, maybe even be friends again.”
I couldn’t listen anymore, wouldn’t. I turned around and walked the rest of the steps between us and my way out. I climbed into the driver’s seat and left the parking lot. I left her standing there.
I found myself at a trailhead instead of home. My boots were in my trunk and I changed, grabbed a water, made certain my bandage was sealed well and went into the woods.
Hours later I came back out. I drove home and took a long shower. My head was a little clearer, the fresh air and sounds of nature always had a way of doing that. I put on my favorite sweats, made a cup of tea, turned on the TV and finally reached for my phone.
Jessie had texted to check in. I replied to her that all was well. I figured I didn’t need to let her know that I was aware her and Jody kept in touch. It’s not that I expected something different. I had just never given it any real thought. Before everything happened, Jody was like her second mom, Jessie even called her that. I guess I should have realized sooner that maybe those bonds hadn’t been severed. I was glad though, despite them talking about me to each other. I would talk to Jessie face to face about that.
Timmy texted me a few pictures from his weekend. They were leaving in a few hours. He was staying the night with his father; I would see him in school.
I saw a few from Jody. I wasn’t sure I had the mental energy to read them. I knew my emotions weren’t ready. But would they ever be? All I could hope for is for her to give up.
Jody- I hope you made it home okay.
Her usual 2pm one. I had hoped those were a thing of the past. I guess not.
Jody- today went okay Ellie. I know you don’t think it did but I do.
I shook my head as I read that one. I had driven away from her. How was that “okay”?
Me- no it didn’t.
Jody- yes it did. You showed up. We talked.
Me- I yelled at you. I drove away
Jody- you did
Me- how is that okay? How can you think it was?
Jody- because of this El. Because you’re talking to me.
I put my phone down. I wished my kids were home. It was too early to go to bed, too many hours to fill and her on my phone. I wished I had friends. Even before Jody I never had many. I have co-workers or parents of students, parents of my kid’s friends. My own real friends though? I was never good at that. Tonight, it would be nice to have one I could call and fill some time with.
Instead escort bursa I decided to read. I hadn’t been able to get into a book in months, but it was worth trying. I picked up book one of my favorite series ‘A Discovery of Witches’ and lost myself in it for a few hours. I was only pulled from the world of Witches, Vampires and Daemons by my phone vibrating in the other room. I glanced at my watch. 6pm on the dot. I sighed as I laid the book down and I went and got my phone.
Jody- Madi got home about 20 minutes ago. She said they had a great time. Is Timmy home?
So, was she done with the simple texts with just my name? Would she want full conversations every 4 hours now? No. So many ways no. I didn’t reply. I put my phone back in the other room and picked my book back up.
I read for a few more hours then made myself something to eat. I grabbed my phone and started my favorite playlist. Rachel Platten filled the kitchen. As I was cooking, I realized it was the first time I had eaten today. With no one home, meals were not something I thought much about. I plated my food, turned off the music, went and sat on the couch to eat. My phone was still in my hand. I checked it. No new messages. I still hadn’t replied to Jody. I figured enough time had gone by that I could now.
Me- he’s with his father until school tomorrow
She texted back almost immediately.
I finished my dinner and went into the kitchen to clean up. I was ready for my bed. I texted Jessie to be sure she was going to make it to school in the morning. She assured me they would be back in town by 12 and she was just gonna crash at her friends and yes, they would be at school. I sent off a good night one to Timmy. I put my phone on the charger and went to bed.
The week had flown by. It was Friday morning and I had taken the day off work. Timmy had a race and the kids and I were going early to go to the beach. I hadn’t talked to Jody all week. The every-4-hour texts had stopped the day we met for coffee. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I wasn’t sure how I felt about anything really.
I was letting the kids sleep in a little before we headed out. It was almost a 3 hour drive to the beach then another 30 mins to the hotel near the venue. I finished packing while drinking my coffee then got them up. An hour later we hit the road. Jessie offered to drive but I told her I had it. My burn was feeling better so driving the long distance shouldn’t be an issue. If it was, I promised I would let her take over.
It was 11am when we parked at Hampton Beach. The kids wanted to walk the boardwalk before we enjoyed the beach itself. We laughed, checked everything out and bought some cheesy souvenirs. It was perfect. We grabbed our stuff from the car and set up on the beach. Jessie was itching to get some color and I had my book with me. Timmy was doing whatever it was nearly 16-year-old boys do.
The change of scenery and the sun were working together to lift my mood. We had a beach umbrella up so I could keep my burned hand out of the sun as much as possible. I was just getting ready to crack open my book when Timmy jumped up and started waving and shouting, “Over here!!.”
I glanced over my shoulder to see who he was calling to, even though I already knew. Jody and Madi were walking our way. Jessie shot a look at me. My left hand came up to my forehead, rubbing it in frustration. Timmy was oblivious.
They put their beach stuff down, Madi laidojj I p a blanket out next to Jessie and Jody putting her chair to my left.
“Hey Jes, hey Ellie! Oh man it’s the perfect beach day!” Madi exclaimed.
The teens all decided to walk the beach and Jody sat down.” Hey El.”
“Hi.” I mumbled as I opened my book. My eyes bounced around the page, unable to stay focused on the words. 10 minutes later I was still on the same page. I closed the book, there was no point in trying to concentrate, it wasn’t happening.
“Was this your idea?” I finally asked her.
“What?” She looked over my way.
“Being here. At the beach. Did you plan this?”
“Madi and Timmy did El. I didn’t know you didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. It will be fine.” I was trying to convince myself, not her.
“It will be, if you let it. We can coexist Ellie. I promise.” I glanced over at her while she spoke, she really believed we could. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and reclined my beach chair. We sat like that for awhile then I heard the kids coming back. From the sound of it it was more than just our 3. I sat up and looked and sure enough a few more kids from the team were in the mix.
“Look who we found! Their moms are on the way over.” Timmy told Jody and me.
Fuck. I spotted the moms with their gear heading our way. Any ideas I had of a peaceful day at the beach were totally shattered now. I played nice and exchanged pleasantries as they set up their chairs.
I looked around, I had zoned out and didn’t know who was calling bursa escort bayan me.
“Ellie over here.” It was Jody.
“You wanna go for a walk? You’re getting anxious.”
I looked at her then realized my leg was bouncing bad. I started to say no.
“El, please. You can’t sit here like this. You need to move.”
I relented and got up. Jody told the other moms we were going for a walk we would be back in awhile.
We walked in silence for awhile. The beach was quiet, the only noise the crashing of the waves and the sound of our breathing. I slowed down and turned to face the waves. I wasn’t a beach person, never had been. I preferred the woods, but something about it right now was hitting me. I sat down and let the last bit of the waves lick at my toes. Jody sat down next to me. She was so close I could feel her warmth. I missed her warmth.
“How’s Kevin?” I asked her. It had been a very long time since I’d seen him. He was a senior too like Jessie, but at a different school.
“He’s good. He’s with Joe this weekend.”
I looked at her when she said that. She must have seen the question in my eyes.
“We split El. About 7 months ago.”
I took that information in. How did I not know that? I searched my memories of the races and couldn’t find a single one where I saw Jody and Joe interact. Then I remembered noticing her in her Jeep alone. I had been so wrapped up in my own shit I didn’t notice. What else hadn’t I noticed?
“I’m sorry. I didn’t.” I sighed and went back to watching the waves.
She put her hand on my arm, “I know you didn’t. It’s okay.”
I didn’t shake it off. We sat that way, her hand unmoving, until my stomach growled loudly.
“We should get back. You need food. I’m sure the kids do too.”
I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want her hand to leave my arm, and I was mad at myself for that. She stood up and my heart sank for a moment. I composed myself and followed her. We got back to our stuff and rounded up our kids, offering food. All the teens wanted to go off to eat so I handed mine money, Jody did the same for Madi. Aiden’s mom said something about all the moms going together and getting a drink with food. I told them to go, I wasn’t hungry. I would watch everyone’s stuff. Candace asked Jody if she was joining them. I didn’t hear her response.
I sat down in my chair.
“Not hungry? I can hear your stomach Ellie.” I guess she didn’t go with them.
“Okay, you’re fine, but you are also hungry.” She sat down in the sand and faced me. “What’s up?”
I avoided eye contact, but her whole self was filling my field of vision. Even before everything, I didn’t always join the team moms, this wasn’t something new. I never quite fit in with them. Jody sensed it was more though, she always knew when it was more.
I took a deep breath. “I don’t drink anymore. I haven’t since…” my voice trailed off.
Understanding registered on her face. “Okay. So, what do you want to eat? I can run and grab it and we can just stay here and eat.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I know. I don’t have to do anything, I want to.” She smiled as she stood up. “Burger? No, I know!. Yeah I’ll be back in a few.” She touched my arm as she walked away, I reached for the spot as she left, I wanted to hold the feeling of her skin in for as long as I could.
Fifteen minutes later she was walking back towards our spot, hands filled with food and drinks. She laughed a little as she got to me, “I may have gotten too much food.” I couldn’t help but smile, her over feeding us was not new. I took some of the load out of her hands as she moved her chair to face me. She looked at me, “Is this okay?” she asked before she sat down.
“Yeah.” She handed me a drink and tossed the snacks on the blanket near us, then handed me a giant lobster roll. She had a burger. “Thank-you,” I said. She remembered I liked my lobster rolls hot-buttered, not cold salad.
It was the first time we had shared a meal in what seemed like an eternity. We both had cherry cokes and there was an array of chips and other snacks within reach.
“Is it good?” She asked when I was about half-way done with the roll.
“Very, thank-you.” I smiled at her slightly as I said it. It was really good; the lobster was fresh, and the roll was grilled just right. It was gone entirely too fast though. I was hungrier than I realized. When it was gone, I reached for some chips, Jody reached at the same time and our hands collided. I pulled mine back.
“What hotel are you guys staying at?” She asked.
I told her and she chuckled, “That’s what I figured. Our kids definitely planned this weekend out El. That’s where Madi and I are too.”
I sighed and leaned back in my chair. I wasn’t sure how to process this. I wanted to believe it was just Madi and Timmy wanting to be together and not more.
“I don’t think its about us, this was all Madi and Timmy.”
“Yeah.” Those two had moved out of the 14-year-old teammates and ‘dating’ and into the we are almost 16 and ‘dating’ stage. It was much more serious than it once was. I hadn’t even noticed it happening, Jessie had to bring me up to speed a few weeks ago.