Page 3 of Tripping on a Halo

It was an opinion shared by Dr. Eaton, though I wasn’t going to give Roger that victory. I huffed out a breath, uninterested in either psychologist’s opinion. “This isn’t about Mom. And I don’t expect you to understand.”

Ansley continued staring me down as if I was torturing small puppies in my spare time.

“I’m not doing anything wrong.” I folded the napkin in front of me in half, then thirds. “I’m keeping him safe. That’s it.”

“Find a different hobby,” she urged. “Something that isn’t going to get you thrown in jail.”

My watch chimed, the timer going off. I pushed to my feet and silenced it. “Got to go.”

She stayed in place, watching as I collected our trash. “Really? Where are you heading?”

I ignored the question, downing the rest of my milk in one loud suck of the straw.

“Autumn,” she said loudly. “Where are you going?”

I balled up the napkin and tossed it in the trash, my steps quickening. If I was going to get to Declan’s office before he left for work, I needed to hurry.

The traffic wasn’t cooperating. I tapped my fingers against the steering wheel and forced myself to go through my daily meditations, concentrating on anything BUT the traffic which, according to the law of attraction, would magically cause the traffic to clear up, since I wasn’t thinking about it. Only, given my course of mental acrobatics, I was thinking about it. I sternly schooled my thoughts back to my list of affirmations.

I will find a ‘real’ job.

I repeated the phrase several times, envisioning the perfect job—one full of happy, friendly co-workers, doing something … my mind always faltered on the what that was occurring. There was a reason I had two degrees and a resume filled with entry-level jobs. Nothing seemed to stick.

At the moment, my days were being filled with scrapbooking. I had one exceedingly happy client who paid me in slightly burnt apple crisps and information. Granted, scrapbooking was a complete waste of my education, but it was infinitely more enjoyable then any of my ‘real jobs’ had been.

I eyed the right-hand lane and put on my blinker, creeping up a little in hopes that the pick-up truck to my right would let me in. He didn’t. I sighed and returned to my list.

I am grateful for my current position in life.

I took a moment, sending rays of thankfulness into the universe. It was the easiest of all of my mantras. I had so much to be thankful for. Money. After twenty-eight years of scraping loose change out of the couch cushions, and struggling under the staggering weight of my student debt, I was now rich. Well… I would be rich. As soon as the dates turned over on my thirtieth birthday and my trust was released. Assuming, of course, I could maintain my sanity in Dr. E’s and the Leon County Court’s eyes. In the meantime, I had a generous allowance that my cupcake and scrapbooking addictions barely touched.

I am grateful that I am healthy.

Oh, my freaking popsicle stick, if this traffic didn’t MOVE I was going to miss him altogether. I shouldn’t have met Ansley for lunch. I was playing with fire that my sister would be able to have a succinct conversation that didn’t involve a detour down Lectureville. And Roger wasn’t any help. Go figure she married a psychologist. If she’d married the hot guy from the appliance store? I’d have a new washing machine and a lot less ‘helpful’ advice.

I eyed the navigation system in my car and debated about cutting across on Orange Ave. Declan was probably packing up right now. Rolling up plans and stuffing them under his elbow, though apparently that was a movie architect thing and not a real architect thing, because the most I’d seen him carry into his office was a giant bag of subs from the Capital Deli.

My phone rang, Ansley’s face filling up the screen. I hit the ignore button and enjoyed a moment of peace, then a second call came through. I sighed and answered it. “What?”

“Tell me you aren’t going to his office.”

“I’m not going to his office.”

“Bullshit. I’m behind you. You’ve got no other reason to be heading up Blairstone right now.”

I cursed and craned my neck, looking into my rearview mirror and seeing my sister’s minivan a half dozen cars back. “How did you get out of the restaurant so quickly?”

“He’s going to file a restraining order against you.”

I pulled open the center console and rooted around, moving tampons, Altoids, a dog-eared paperback and nail clippers out of the way, sighing with relief when I saw the bottle of Excedrin at the bottom of the pile. “He can’t file a restraining order against me. I’ve never even talked to the man.”

That wasn’t exactly true. Six months ago, when all of this started, I tapped his shoulder in line at Publix and asked if he had a piece of gum. He’d glanced around slowly, shook his head, and pointed to an enormous display of brightly covered wrappers to our right. Then he’d taken a large step forward, crowding the woman ahead of him, who’d sniffed a little but then smiled.

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