Authors: Whitney Boyd
He reaches out and smacks my hand and I pick up my purse from the sidewalk where I had dropped it. Carlos looks behind me and calls out “Hi! What’s your name?”
I look over my shoulder and see David standing there. The expression of pleasure on his face leaves no doubt in my mind that he saw the entire thing.
“If you need jewelry that badly, Kennedy, I can take you to the mall or something.” He focuses on Carlos and waves. “I’m David. And you must be Carlos.”
Carlos beams. “Yes! How did you know?”
David points at me and Carlos shades his eyes with his hand and looks at me. “You told? What’d you say?”
David laughs and gives me a hug to say hello. “She told me you’re the best bug catcher in the entire apartment building. Thanks for helping her out last night with the cockroaches.”
The little boy’s eyes grow wide and he squares his tiny shoulders. “I
the best bug catcher, you know. I can catch any bug. And some of the bugs in Kennedy’s apartment yesterday I caught and they were still alive! They didn’t even squish when I picked them up. I’m really careful.”
I shudder at the memory of the nasty cockroaches and turn to David. Change the subject, I command him with my eyes. No more bugs.
Apparently David doesn’t get my mental pleas. He crouches down in front of Carlos. “I owe you, little man. You saved Kennedy, and I’m really grateful. You know what I have?” He points to his truck parked on the street. “In my truck I have an official police cap, one you can wear. Would you like it?”
Carlos nods his head four times, his eyes even wider. “Really? Are you a policeman?”
“I am. Here, let me go grab it for you.” He jogs to the truck and reaches inside. I watch him with a measure of amusement. No wonder David’s into the whole social-work detective thing with his job. He really has a way with kids.
David returns and gives it to Carlos. The little boy’s face is glowing and flushed and his eyes are enormous. “Wow,” he breathes, putting it reverently on his head. “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome, deputy. Now think you can go off and find more of those lizards?” Carlos bobs his head at David’s words and dashes off toward the bushes.
“Ready to go?” David asks me.
“Definitely.” I turn to look for Carlos, but he is distracted now, lunging stealthily toward a new lizard playmate. “See you, Carlos,” I call and the corner of my mouth lifts as he grabs it and shoves it into his ever-present glass jar.
“He’s a cute kid,” David comments, taking my hand and leading me down the sidewalk.
“He was one of the first people to speak to me here,” I remember fondly. “He told me he thought that high heels were only for rich people to wear.”
“Observant kid.” David opens my door and helps me step in to the truck. “Very few working women outside of office buildings ever wear heels. He should become a cop when he grows up.”
David walks around and climbs in the other side, which gives me enough time to refocus on the email I just sent. I wonder if Todd’s read it already. He should have. I mean, if he’s so concerned about me and wanting me back, I’m sure he’s checking his email every two minutes to see if I’ve written.
The image of a worried Todd, his eyebrows drawn together in concentration, his eyes narrowed as he reads the words of my email, makes me smile inwardly. He’ll read it a couple times, probably, and then try to rationalize everything away.
I hope he cries. I hope—
I jump and look over at David. We’re still in the truck, still in front of the apartment building. I would have sworn we’d started driving already.
“Yeah?” I realize that he’s been talking . . . but I don’t remember a thing. I blush and try to remember anything he’s said in the last couple minutes. Other than the conversation with Carlos, I draw a blank.
“What do you think?”
Crap. Think? Think about what?
Dancing With The Stars
results? His undying love for me? My view on capital punishment? I have no clue what he was talking about.
“Uh,” I stutter, “I think that, well, I agree with your opinion on the subject.” Does that make sense? I assume he’s expressed his opinion already.
“You agree with my opinion?” His words are matter of fact.
“Yes.” I’m sure I do. David is a sweet guy; he’s funny, sincere, kind. I’m absolutely positive that we share similar views on the world. I hope.
“Even the part about goat sacrifices?”
“Goat sacrifices?” Crapitty crap! What have I agreed to? I swallow hard and shoot him a winsome smile. Making my voice as sincere as ever, I add “Of course, if you refresh me on that part, I’m sure I’ll have a better opinion on the, uh, goats.”
Something about the way he’s looking at me makes me stop. “Wait a minute . . . you didn’t say anything about goat sacrifices, did you?”
His answering chuckle tells me I’m right. “You weren’t listening to a word I said, were you.” It’s not a question.
I sigh. Moment of truth and all that. “Not really,” I confess, biting a fingernail out of habit. David’s face is unreadable.
“Is everything okay? You seem preoccupied. Is there anything I can help you with?”
His kindness almost does me in. I feel a tear trickle down my cheek and I lean my forehead against the window. “I don’t think so,” I mutter. I don’t need a friend. I need therapy.
David puts the truck into drive and pulls away from the curb. His fingers clench the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turn white.
“I’m sorry,” I say, wiping my eyes.
“Is it a past relationship? Was it abusive? Are you hiding from something? Seriously, Kennedy, I like you. I’ve liked you since the moment I met you, and it is killing me that you keep putting up these walls and shutting me out. Why won’t you tell me what’s going on?”
I have a sudden flashback to an old movie I watched years ago,
Gone With The Wind
. You know the part when Rhett Butler is so angry that Scarlett can’t get over Ashley. He’s given Scarlett everything, and she keeps pushing him away. And then when he finally confronts her, his tone in the movie is harsh. And that’s exactly what David sounds like.
But I don’t want this to become an Ashley-Scarlett-Rhett love triangle. I don’t want Todd to become part of this.
I reach over and put my hand on David’s leg. “I’m sorry if I seem distracted. I really like you too. Please give me another chance. I just have some things I’m working through, and it’s taking a while.”
That sounds plausible. And it’s all true.
David rubs a hand over his forehead and then merges onto John Young Parkway. “Okay. But when you want to talk about it, I’m here for you, you know that, right?”
“I do.” Oddly enough, I do know that. This guy I’ve only known for a couple weeks is someone I can see myself confiding in. Eventually.
The rest of the night I force myself to not think about Todd at all. We go to Cala Bella in Orlando, an amazing Italian bistro with relaxing music, delicious wine, and gourmet food. Once I force myself to focus on David, things flow.
He must understand that I don’t want to talk much about myself, and he dominates the conversation. I learn all about his job, how much he loves working with the kids and how difficult it is dealing with government restrictions all the time. His dream, he tells me, is to eventually run for politics, to somehow get into a position where he can make changes to the system.
A couple times people at nearby tables look curiously at me and I see a few whispered exchanges between diners. I catch them saying Todd’s name a couple times, but thankfully nobody approaches and as the evening goes on, I manage to forget.
My white wine pescatore is incredible and as David tells me about a child he had to take into custody earlier that day while the parents threw pans and knives and sicced a dog on him, I can’t help but feel that this is what life should be.
As our waiter clears the table, through the above speakers I hear the opening notes to one of my favorite songs. “Before He Cheats”
by Carrie Underwood really resonates with me right now, and I tap my fingers along with the music.
David smiles at me. “You like country music?”
“Some songs. I love this one especially.” I laugh and lean across the table toward David. “Have you seen the music video? Carrie Underwood trashes her boyfriend’s car when she finds out he’s cheating.”
The chorus comes on as I am speaking and the familiar words pour over me. How she keys his truck and carves her name into it. Then she smashes it up with a baseball bat, all to make him think twice about cheating.
David’s head is cocked to one side as he listens to the words. I grin at him. “Perfect, huh? Cheaters deserve to have their cars trashed.” And their collector’s edition hockey jerseys, I add silently.
David frowns slightly, some wrinkles appearing in his forehead. “Do you really believe that violence is the answer?”
Something about his tone makes me hesitate. “I, uh, well, sometimes you have to do drastic things. Men shouldn’t cheat,” I finally say.
David shakes his head. “I’ve seen so many women ruin their lives in my line of work, all over a boyfriend or husband who they found was cheating. My first year on the job, I had to arrest a lady who killed her boyfriend with a baseball bat after she found out about his mistress. She ruined his life and she ruined her own life, when she should have just moved on.”
David takes a sip of his ice water. “A person’s desire for revenge outlasts every other rational emotion, but it doesn’t actually fix anything. Sure, this Carrie Underwood song is cute, but it definitely sends the wrong message.”
Unbidden, a wave of guilt engulfs me as I picture the expression on David’s face if he knew that at home, zipped into my suitcase pocket, is the destroyed jersey of my ex-fiancé. It’s the same thick remorse I felt after I first shredded the darn thing and my throat constricts with shame.
I’m a bad person.
I can hardly form a coherent sentence, I’m so overwhelmed with regret. I should never have taken Todd’s jersey. I should have left and been done with it. In fact, I shouldn’t have done those crank calls either.
Dinner ends and David drives me home. I am still talking, still laughing, but I don’t know exactly what we’re talking about. I’m going through the motions. I feel so bad about what I’ve done.
When we pull up in front of the house, I force myself to focus on David. I’ll figure out what to do about my guilt and the jersey later. For now? The moment is just beautiful and I lose myself in it. David walks me to the door. The air is thick and sweet with the smell of orange blossoms nearby. The moon is peeking through a few clouds and crickets are chirping. It’s a fairy tale scene.
“I had a really nice time,” I say, holding both of David’s hands and beaming up at him. I can’t make out his facial features, but his eyes glint in the light from a passing car.
“Me too.” David leans down and his lips brush my own lightly. He starts to pull back, so I put my arms around his neck and pull him in for a second kiss.
“Do you want to come in for a coffee or anything?”
David kisses me a third time, this one with more longing. “I can’t. I have to be up early tomorrow for some meetings. But when is your next day off? I’d love to get together with you soon.”
I want to keep holding him, keep kissing him. I fight to keep my voice from displaying too much emotion. “I’m free on Saturday.” Ugh. That’s so long from now!
“Saturday? That works for me too.” His mouth twists humorously and he adds, “We wanted to go swimming, didn’t we? The whole ‘alligator jumping thing.’ Why don’t you come over to my place? We’ll make a day of it.”
He bends down and kisses me a final time. I feel an aching inside my entire body as I warm in response to this kiss. I want him, I want all of him. My breath is coming shorter and his hand is massaging my back, my sides.
Then he steps back and gazes at me. “I’ll see you Saturday, then.”
I don’t know if I can go a whole four days without seeing him, but somehow I nod and agree. And then he’s walking away.
“I’ll call you later,” I say. Maybe if we talk on the phone during the week, it won’t drag as badly.
“Absolutely.” David disappears around the side of his truck.
I step inside and rest against the door. My mind replays the whole night.
I am definitely falling for David.
I just wish I could figure out if I’m doing it to spite Todd, to make myself forget, or if it’s the real thing.
I check my email but see that Todd hasn’t responded. Good, I guess. That’s what I asked for. I feel another twinge of regret. I reach into my suitcase and pull out the rest of the jersey pieces. I stare at them. I wish I knew how to sew. Maybe I could put it back together and Todd wouldn’t know. Although, truthfully, I’m sure he’s received the first few pieces in the mail already.
I sigh. I’ll talk to Jesica tomorrow night after work. Maybe she can help me come up with some way to atone.
Then, with a spinning head, I wash my face, take off my clothes, and fall into bed. A collage of images assail me, muted in color and detail. Random pictures, random faces. Todd. The jersey. David. Our last goodnight kiss. Somehow, I eventually drift off to sleep.
1 Unread Message!
Darling girl, you must tell me where you are immediately!!!! You probably don’t realize how upsetting your disappearance has been for the entire Avalanche team (and their wives!!!!) Nobody can concentrate and if you don’t shape up soon and come back, I will be holding you 100% responsible if we lose a game!!!
I’ve appeared on several daytime talk shows and have discussed your disappearance in great length. Dr. Phil believes you might be seeking attention. Is this true? If it truly is attention you crave, if you come home now, we can appear on other talk shows and talk about why you left. You will have plenty of photo ops, I promise!!!!!!!!!
Be sure and tell me where you are soon so I can send our private jet and come find you. You may be frightened by all the paparazzi that will, no doubt, gather round, but don’t worry, I’ll be by your side every step of the way!
Talk to you soon (hopefully!!!!!!)