She smiles softly. “Hi, Matthew.”
I don’t beat around the bush. “Does she . . . does she ever talk about me?”
Kate looks down at the conference table. “Not a word.”
But I don’t surrender all hope just yet. “Does she think about me?”
Kate’s eyes meet mine and they’re sympathetic—a little sad. I’m not sure if the sadness is for me or for Delores. She whispers, “Every day. All the time. She hasn’t gone out she just . . . mopes, and watches movies. She won’t admit it, but I know it’s because of you.”
Well . . . that’s something at least. Misery loves company—and Delores’s gives me a sick jolt of comfort. Reassurance. That at least I’m not alone.
“Matthew, why don’t you just call her? People in relationships have arguments sometimes; it doesn’t mean it has to be over.”
I’m already shaking my head. “I can’t do that. Delores likes to be chased—I get it. But, at some point, she needs to stop running and let me catch her. I’ve put myself out there for her—to show her how important she is to me. That I’m in this for the long haul—if she wants it. But now it’s her turn. She has to show me she wants it too.”
Pride isn’t always a sin. Sometimes it’s a savior that keeps you from making an ass**le of yourself. Of not just looking like a fool—but being one too.
“I’ve been with someone who . . . wanted something else. Someone else. I’m not going there again.”
Kate nods her head, with a small smile. “Okay. For what it’s worth, I hope Dee wises up soon.”
I take a few steps toward the door. But then I stop. Because even though I haven’t actually seen Drew, every instinct I have tells me he’s hurting. Licking his wounds.
The fatal kind.
And my hunch is, Kate’s nursing the same kind of injury—she’s just better at hiding it.
“Listen, Kate . . . about what happened between you and Drew . . .”
All signs of friendliness drop from her face. Her eyes go hard, her lips pinch, and she cuts me off in a sharp voice. “Don’t, Matthew. Just . . . don’t.”
I guess Drew’s not the only one who’s hell-bent on keeping radio silence.
“Okay.” I squeeze her shoulder. “Have a good day.”
She smiles tightly and I head to my office.
Later that evening I swing by Steven and Alexandra’s to keep an eye on Mackenzie while they go out to the movies. Lexi opens the door for me, looks at my expression for longer than necessary, then glances behind me. Seeing only the empty space there, her face softens with pity.
She pulls me into a tight hug and says, “You know, Matthew, there is such a thing as too different.”
I swallow hard. “Yeah, I know, Lex.”
There’s no time for a pity party because a blond blur comes tearing down the hall, wearing a blue princess nightgown, with a floppy teddy bear grasped in one hand. She crashes into my legs and wraps her arms around my knees. “You’re here!”
I reach under her arms and pick Mackenzie up. “Hey, princess.”
“You wanna play tea party, Uncle Matthew? You can be Buzz Lightyear and I’ll be Miz Nezbit.”
“Sounds like the most fun I’ll have all week.”
I’m rewarded with a gorgeous baby-teethed smile. And for the first time in days, the weight sitting on my heart feels a little lighter.
Steven helps Alexandra into her coat, and they each kiss Mackenzie good-bye.
“Bedtime at eight,” Alexandra informs me. “Don’t let her try and negotiate more time.”
“I’m not sure if I can hold up against the big, blue, puppy-dog eyes.”
She grins. “Be strong.”
They leave and I lock the door behind them. For the next hour and a half, I play tea party with Mackenzie. And Barbie dolls. Then we build a block wall and take it out with her remote-control Humvee. Just before bed, we shoot some hoops with the Fisher-Price adjustable basketball net I bought her for her birthday.
Once she’s all tucked in, she asks me to read her a story and pulls a thin Disney book out from under her pillow.
Mackenzie hugs her bear and regards me with long-blinking, sleepy eyes. When we get to the part about Prince Charming’s proclamation, she asks, “Uncle Matthew?”
“Why didn’t Cinderella go to the prince with her glass slipper? Why didn’t she say ‘It’s me’? How come she waited for him?”
I think about her question and can’t help but make the comparisons to Delores and me.
“Maybe . . . maybe Cinderella wasn’t sure how the prince felt about her. Maybe she needed him to be the one to come to her—so she would know he loved her.”
This is just f**king sad. Talking about my love life with a four-year-old?
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Mackenzie nods her understanding and I read on. Until . . .
“How come da prince didn’t know it was Cinderella? If he loved her, he woulda bemembered what she looked like, right?”
I think of Dee’s teasing smile, her perfect lips, the warm tenderness in her eyes when she wakes up beside me, how it feels to caress her cheek with my fingertips—like touching a rose petal.