I know if whoever it is stops at the coffee table where my phone is, he won’t be able to see into the galley kitchen, but that won’t stop him from moving on once he picks up my cell. Even more, he’ll know for certain I’m here. I wouldn’t leave without my phone, so they’ll know. Fuck!

Thump, thump, thump. I wish I could quiet the pulse that’s banging in my ears faster by the second.

Forcing myself to calm down and think as I hear a murmur from only ten… maybe twelve feet away in the other room, I focus on anywhere I could conceal myself. The pantry is the obvious solution, but it’s so full, there’s no way. Plus the shelves come out too far.

With numb fingers, I pry open the cabinet door for the recycling. The bin is still outside where I left it for pickup yesterday. It’ll be cramped, but I think I can squeeze myself into the small space. I don’t know the chances they’d open every cabinet of the kitchen, but I don’t have anywhere else to hide.

My feet are heavy and my limbs rigid. I’m not as quiet as I wish I was. But I’m quick. I’m damn quick as I cram myself inside of the cabinet, the faint scent of spilled wine that’s leaked from empty bottles hitting me at full force, along with other less than desirable odors.

I couldn’t give two shits about what it smells like. All I care about is if they heard. Please, please. The telltale sound of shoes on the tile lets me know someone’s here.

The weight of the steps is heavy; they have to be from a man. Both hands cover my mouth out of an instinct to be quiet, just as my eyes slam shut tight and refuse to look. I pray he didn’t hear. If he heard the sound of a cabinet… fuck. Please, no.

I swear whoever it is can hear my ragged breaths and the ringing in my ears that’s so fucking loud I can barely hear them walk into the kitchen. Them. Multiple footsteps.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

I can’t think about it. I can’t be here right now. Not my mind. The stress and fear wrap around my body like barbed wire, tightening by the second and forcing me to fight it, to move, to react. I can’t be here. This can’t be happening.

Go somewhere else. My own words, words I’ve told patients many times slip into my consciousness. Go somewhere else.

“Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be pregnant?” my mother asks me with a devious grin. Her knee rocks back and forth as she sits in the chair, playing with her long hair that’s draped over one shoulder. “Like, to be Talia right now? Could you imagine?”

I was hoping she’d remember today, but at least she’s talking. That’s good, I tell myself. It’s good that she’s happy today, in whatever time she’s living in, it was a happy one for her.

“Who’s Talia?” I ask her, feigning the curiosity I think she’d expect from whoever it is she thinks she’s talking to. It’s never me. She never knows it’s me.

“You know, the blonde in Mr. Spears’s class. She’s almost six months along now,” my mother says, enjoying the gossip.

“Mr. Spears?”

“Tenth grade English. The really tall one and kind of young? I think he’s hot.”

My mother’s comment makes me smile. I wish I were back in high school. She didn’t have Alzheimer’s then.

“So have you thought about it?” she questions again and I shake my head honestly.

“I can’t imagine having kids right now.”

“I can. I want a boy. A boy with James Peters’s eyes and smile.”

“James Peters.” I repeat the boy’s name and set two cups of water down on the end table.

“One day I’m going to ask him out.”

“What if you have a girl?” I ask her.

“Oh no,” she says and shakes her head. “Girls are too much trouble.” I have to remind myself that she’s only a teenager today. I’m sure all teenagers think that. They have perceptions before having kids.

I remind myself of it but still, I have to get up and get away. Just for a minute.

“Where are you going? Is class starting soon? I thought we had another half hour of lunch?”

“We do,” I answer her, forcing a smile. “I just have to do something.”

“You forgot your books, didn’t you, Maggie?” She taunts me. “You’re so forgetful.”

I can feel it when I hit my breaking point. It’s not getting easier like I thought it would.

Resting against the wall in the kitchen, all I can do is breathe. All I can do is hide from my mother and hide from the truth.

“Does Mom remember?” Jenny’s question comes from the threshold of the kitchen. She leans against it with a mug in her hand although I can smell the whiskey from here. I’m not sure if it’s in her mug or just a leftover stench from wherever she was last night.

W. Winters Books | Romance Books | Irresistible Attraction Series Books
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