More Than Friends (Kingsley #4) (22 page)

BOOK: More Than Friends (Kingsley #4)
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Chapter Forty


Is it awkward
?
” she asked
.“
It was pretty awkward when your dad and I did it
.

 


Ew, mom
.

 


No! That is not what I meant and you know it, Michael Aaron
!

 

She said the words sternly, but she was laughing and Michael laughed too, slipping the rum bottle behind the cabinet door. He turned away, heading back into the living room and dropping onto the couch
.“
I know, Mom
,
” he said, still laughing
,“
I was teasing. I had
n’
t realized it was like that with you and Dad
.

 


Oh
,
” she scoffed
.“
You knew your dad and I were friends
.

 


I di
d
– but I also knew for a long time that you were
n’
t
.

 


Well tha
t’
s fine, then, do
n’
t tell me
,
” Eva said
.“I’
m just sitting here, stuck on this couch most of the day, wearing this stupid walking boot, wrist still in an ugly splint. And i
t’
s uncomfortable, and I do
n’
t like it. And my son has shut me out of his life, wo
n’
t tell me anything, wo
n’t
–“

 

“I’
m not
not
telling you
,
” Michael laughed
.“
Butyo
u’
re right;
I’
m not telling you everything either. So alright, is it weird to change the dynamic like that? Sure it is. I do
n’
t want to ruin the friendship, Mom. If she decide
s
–“ he swallowed against a sudden lump in his throat, and went on.

If she decides that she thinks w
e’
re better off as friends, then I at least want the friendship to still be there, you know?If that ends up being all she wants from me
.

 

Eva made an agreeable noise on the other end of the line, and cleared her throat
.“
Well, every woman really wants to marry a man tha
t’
s her best friend, Michael. Her best friend
and
her boyfriend. And it is possible to be both
.

 


Is it? It did
n’
t seem so possible tonight. I think she was mad at me
.

 


Mad? She called me a little while ago to check in, on her way to wor
k
– she seemed a little down, but she said she was alright
.

 


Well, she would
,
” Michael said, grinning. He pressed himself back, enjoying the way the couch cushions surrounded him, and propped the heels of his feet on the coffee table in front of the couch
.“
Yo
u’
re my mom. Sh
e’
s not gonna talk shit about me to my mom
.

 


Language, Michael
.

 


Sorry
,
” he answered, chastised.

 


So sh
e’
s mad, then. What for
?

 


I have no idea. She was fine all morning. But I wa
s
– Mom, we were at the mall, and we ran into Nicolette
.

 


What?
!

 

He laughed, listening to her sputtering
.“
Right, tha
t’
s exactly how I felt about it. And with Renee right there, too
.

 

Eva quieted, finally making a small humming noise
.“
And how was that? Is that what sh
e’
s upset over? Because tha
t’
s not very like her t
o
–“

 


No
,
” Michael cut in
.“
No, i
t’
s not that, i
t’
s me. I was kind o
f
… surprised to see her, I guess. I think I did
n’
t do a very good job pretending to shake it off
.

 


Well, Renee is your best friend Michael
,
” Eva answered dryly
.“
Sh
e’
s been your best friend since almost the moment you met her. She knows you ca
n’
t just shake that off. You told her about what happened with Nic, right? About when she left
?

 


I did. She knows
.

 

Eva sighed
.“
Well, then she knows you are
n’
t fine, you dunce. Did you lie and tell her you were? Please tell me you did
n’
t start things out with a lie
.

 

Michael stood up and walked to the window, edging the curtain aside to look out into the night. A young couple were walking together in front of the house, hand in hand, teenagers from down the street. He watched them walk into the field beside his house, watched the girl stand back as the boy spread a blanket amongst the tall grasses. He let the curtain fall away as the two sank to the blanket together, and turned away
.“
No, I did
n’
t tell her I was fine. I told her I would be, though
.

 


You ca
n’
t possibly think she believes that
.

 


She has to
,
” Michael said quietly. It was then, as he said the words, that he realized how much it meant to him to be okay again, not only for his own sake, but for Rene
e’
s,too. But he was
n’
t sure he was okay, and was
n’
t sure he could b
e
– especially if all it took to throw him backward was an unexpected sighting. Would this happen every time? Or would he ever reach a day when he could see her and wish her well without catching himself missing her, wishing things had
n’
t fallen apart
?“
I know why she left me
,
” he said.

 


Oh? How
?
” Ev
a’
s voice was quiet, with a soft tone of sympathy that made him uncomfortable. He did
n’
t want pity; he did
n’
t want to be the guy who could
n’
t get over the past, who could
n’
t move on.

 


She, u
h
… she left me a letter. Here, in the house
,
” he said
.“
She said she had been to the doctor, that she was told she could
n’
t have kids. That she left me because she did
n’
t want
me
to not have kids. Bu
t
… Mom, when I saw her toda
y
… sh
e’s
– sh
e’
s pregnant
.

 


Oh dear
.

 


Yeah
.

 


Do you think she lied
?

 


I do
n’
t even know. I do
n’
t know what to think. But I was walking with Renee, searching for shirtsfor the wedding stuff coming up, and she needed a dress, an
d
… she was just there. Walking out of the maternity shop tha
t’
s over by the carousel. And sh
e’s
… sh
e’
s all big, with the baby
.

 


Was she alright
?

 

Michael smiled, listening to the arc of concern in Ev
a’
s voice. His mother was like a collector of people, the way some people collected tea pitchers or rocks or old toys. She collected people, took them in and made them her ow
n
– and she had done it with Nicolette, too
.“
She was alright
,
” he said quietly
.“
She wa
s
… she was beautiful. Glowing, like she should be
.

 


Married
?

 


I do
n’
t think so
.

 


Hmm
.
” She groaned, and Michael heard her rustling around
.“
Oh, I hate this boot. I want my leg back! But wha
t’
s she doing having babies without a husband? Tha
t’
s not like her
.

 


Apparently I make women behave in ways that are
n’t‘
like them
,
’” Michael said, laughing as he rememberedhis mothe
r’
s earlier comment about Renee. He laughed again as Eva snorted, but said
,“
I know. She seemed alright though, and i
t’
s not my business anymore. She was on my mind though, Mom. All day
.
” He neglected to tell his mother that h
e’
d come home to drown his sorrows in rum, instead heading upstairs to gather his pajamas. It was getting late, and if he was going to have a sexless night, he was going to take advantage of the time and get some sleep.

 


Well, you just need to let it go, Michael. Wha
t’
s in the past is in the past. And do
n’
t you roll your eyes at your mother
,
” she said, just as Michael rolled his eyes heavenward. He smiled, snatching his favorite lounge pants from the edge of his bed as his mother went on
.“
But I think if Renee was angry with you, it had nothing to do with Nicolette, and everything to do with you shutting her out. I know yo
u’
re a private person, Michael, and that you like to keep things to yourself. And sh
e’
s used to that, but sh
e’
s been your friend for so long. And yo
u’
ve been hers. Do
n’
t shut her out and stop being her friend just because yo
u’
ve started being more
.

 

More.
The word echoed in the recesses of Michae
l’
s mind throughout the remainder of his conversation with his mother, echoed through the bathroom as he muttered it in the shower.
More.
It was such a simple word really, but his conversation with Sherry had changed that word forever. When she had rejected the idea of there being something
more
than sex between them, it had made him realize how much he wanted something more, in a way that had
n’
t been clear to him even ashe had made the suggestion. And then to reach out to Renee so soon after that, to touch her in a way that h
e’
d never touched her, to feel her mouth moving against his, to finally see her as
more

BOOK: More Than Friends (Kingsley #4)
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