“Thanks for doing that.”
“It’s no problem.”
Our eyes locked, and I felt like I needed to break the ice. “Justin, about last night…”
He got up suddenly from the couch. “Don’t worry about it. I was out of line. I went a little crazy, got jealous.”
I was surprised that he’d changed his tune so fast. “Really?”
“Yeah. I wasn’t thinking with the right head.”
“Okay…then I’m glad we both agree.”
“Well, I have a lot of work to get done. So…” He picked up Bea off the floor, lifting her up over his head briefly. “I’ll see you later, Bumblebee.”
He then retreated to his room and didn’t come out for the rest of the afternoon.
More confused than ever, I went about my day, cleaning the house and doing Bea’s laundry.
It was the beginning of September, and the weather was starting to get chilly on the island. A few weeks back, I’d officially notified the school department back in Providence that I wouldn’t be returning to my job this year. It was a tough decision but one that was best for my daughter. My savings would carry me through about twelve months. In a year’s time, I would reassess my situation, either return to teaching or maybe try to find a work-from-home job.
A knock on the door prompted me to place my broom in the corner.
Upon opening the door, my heart nearly skipped a beat at the sight of a familiar leggy blonde with a pixie cut. “Jade. Oh my goodness. This is unexpected.”
“Surprise!” She leaned in to hug me before stepping back. “Gosh, you look great, Amelia. Did you lose weight? Don’t people normally gain weight after having a baby?”
“I guess I got lucky my daughter didn’t let me eat or sleep for the first few months.” Trying to mask my discomfort, I asked, “Is Justin expecting you?”
“No. Not at all. Is he upstairs? I saw his car outside.”
“Yeah. He’s in his office working.”
She took notice of Bea playing in the Exersaucer. “She is so beautiful. She looks just like you. Can I take her out of this thing?”
An uneasy feeling developed as I watched Jade crouch down to see my daughter.
What was she doing here?
Had he invited her?
Was that the reason for his sudden change of tune?
What felt like blinding jealousy bombarded me.
Jade lifted Bea up to hold her. “She smells so good. What is that?”
“It’s Dreft, the baby detergent I use on her clothes.”
“Maybe I should give you some of my clothes to wash. She smells so fresh and clean.”
I was totally over the small talk. “What brings you here, Jade?”
Sitting down on the couch and placing Bea on her lap, she said matter-of-factly, “I screwed up.”
“What do you mean?”
“I fucked everything up with Justin. This past year, I’d given everything I had to my job and nothing to him. I took him for granted. Did he say anything to you about why we broke up?”
“He just told me that he ended things when he went back to New York earlier this summer. He didn’t really go into the details.”
“It was a misunderstanding.”
“He’d come to surprise me and found me having dinner at the apartment with my co-star, Greg Nivens. Justin jumped to conclusions. Nothing was going on with Greg. It was a business meeting. Things had been rough between Justin and me for a while before that, but I would have never cheated on him.”
“So, you’re here to—”
“Get my man back. Yes. I never fought for him. I never pleaded with him. I was in such shock with the way things ended that I never truly reflected on my responsibility in all of it. It was basically all my fault. I still love him so much.”
This unexpected and imminent threat was putting my true feelings to the test. I was terrified to lose him, terrified he’d go back to New York with her. My body stiffened in defense, somehow preparing to go to war in a battle it was destined to lose.
“Wow. I don’t know what to say. I—”
Justin’s deep voice startled me. “Jade. What are you doing here?”
She stood up, still carrying Bea. “Hi.”
His eyes shifted over to me briefly then back to her.
“How long have you been here?” he asked.
“Just a few minutes. I came all the way here because we need to talk. Can we go somewhere? Maybe take a walk on the beach?”
My chest felt heavy, and I was sweating from nerves.
Justin looked over at me again in a fleeting glance before saying, “Let me get my jacket.”
When the door shut behind them, all of the fear I’d been holding in released from me in one swift breath only to start building up again in my gut.
I looked over at Bea and spoke to her like she could understand. “I don’t want him to leave.”
She cooed and babbled while she smacked her hand down on one of the squeaky toys attached to her playset.
“I’m afraid to be with him and afraid to be without him.”
She blew a couple of raspberries, drool dripping down her chin.
“You really adore him, don’t you?”
“Ba…Ba,” she answered.
My heart hammered against my chest. “I know. Me, too.”
Justin was gone for almost six hours. I was sure he wasn’t coming home.
When the key turned in the door around ten-thirty that night, I straightened up on the sofa, trying to look casual so that it didn’t appear like I’d been anxiously awaiting his return.
Justin rubbed his eyes and threw his coat on a chair. He went to the kitchen to grab a drink before taking a seat next to me.
I swallowed, afraid to ask, “Where is Jade?”
He took a sip of his beer then stared blankly down at the bottle as he twirled it around mindlessly in his hands. “She’s on her way back to New York. I drove her to the train.”
“I wasn’t sure if you’d be coming back tonight.”
He was silent for a long time then looked into my eyes. “Nothing happened, Amelia.”
“You don’t owe me an explanation.”
He spoke louder, “I don’t? Are you kidding yourself?”
“What do you mean?”
“You seem to think that I can’t see right through you. I saw your face when she showed up. You were scared. Why can’t you admit that? Why can’t you admit that you’re just as fucking scared of what’s been happening between us as I am?”
I don’t know.
When I didn’t respond, he simply said, “We took a walk on the beach…talked. Then, I drove her to the train.”
“You were gone so long. I just assumed…”
“That we were somewhere fucking? No. I drove around for a while alone just to think.”
“I see. What did you and Jade decide?”
“She thinks the real reason I ended it was because I’d found her hanging out with that guy, but that’s not the truth. I’d gone to New York with the full intention of breaking things off before I even saw her having dinner with him.”
“You explained that to her?”
“I couldn’t be completely upfront about everything.”
“Because I’d have to admit stuff to her that I haven’t even admitted to you…and I didn’t want to hurt her even more.”