Warning Signs

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Shiver

Winter was finally starting to kick in here in Prescott. Tiny white snowflakes were drifting all around me as I walked over to Dr. Whitewater's office.

Shivering, I pulled my coat closer around me. I was feeling pretty confident, and happy. After Henry's birthday party I was positive it would only be a matter of time before Sarah would trust me again, before she would let me completely back into her life. At least that's what I hoped.

Dr. Whitewater's secretary gave me a warm smile when she saw me pull open the doors to the lobby. She was cradling her phone on her shoulder and just waved me on into Dr. Whitewaters office without saying anything to me.

I knocked quickly before opening the door. Dr. Whitewater was holding a thick book in his hands. He looked up in surprise at me as I entered.

"Mr. Steele! You're early. Come in and have a seat, I was just catching up on some reading."

I smiled at him in greeting, making my way over to my familiar spot, shaking off my coat and folding it over the chair before I sat down.

"Looks like we're in for a snow storm soon." Dr. Whitewater furrowed his brows, looking out the window watching the snow fall.

"I heard on the news it's suppose to hit hard tonight." I nodded in agreement with his words.

"Well let's hope it's not that bad." Dr. Whitewater pondered. He shuffled some papers around on his dest and then picked up his clipboard. "How are you today?" He smiled.

"Pretty good." I answered honestly, "I've been spending more time with my family, it's going better that I imagined."

"Sounds wonderful. How's your family doing?"

"They're fine, Sarah is talking to me more." I leaned forward in my seat eager to share, "Henry is just incredible, and my parents, they're going to be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary next weekend. They're having a big party over at the Marriott hotel, they rented the hall and everything."

"30 years. That's quite an accomplishment, give them my congratulations when you see them." Dr. Whitewater nodded at me his smile never leaving his face, "Will you be attending?"

"Yes, my mother wouldn't have it any other way." I chuckled.

"And will your wife be accompanying you? Your son?" Dr. Whitewater glanced down, he scribbled something really quick on his clipboard with looking at me.

"Uh, well, I hope so. I haven't asked her yet. I know Sarah is helping my Mom with the party planning so I am sure she is going to be there."

"Well be sure to ask her," He finally looked at me, "Soon."

I tilted my head to the side at his words, it was almost as if he knew something I didn't know.

"I'm going to the park with them later this afternoon, weather permitting." I frowned at him still puzzled, "I was planning on asking her if she would like to go with me then."

Dr. Whitewater gave out this little humming noise, not really saying anything else about Sarah or my parent's party. I was just about to ask him what he was thinking about when he picked up this green folder off of his desk and opened it.

"I was just looking over some of your projects," He pulled a couple of papers out the folder, "Things you were working on before your brother passed."

Now I really frowned at him, where did he get those?

"I understand you were in contract with EMI record label a few years ago and were quite successful there."

I just nodded at him, not sure what he was getting at or why he was bringing this up. I hadn't worked in music for two years and had no intention of ever going back.

"Mr. Steele," Dr. Whitewater put his papers down and looked at me, "I think it's time we revisited the workforce."

I swallowed hard and slowly shook my heat at him. I wasn't ready, nowhere near ready.

"Mr. Steele," Dr. Whitewater spoke slowly as if he were trying not to startle me, "Do you remember when I asked you to try and create music again? How is that going?"

"Uh," I just started looking everywhere but at him. It hit me just then where he was going with this and threw me for a loop because I hadn't even given my job a second thought. Not one fucking thought since Joe had died.

"Yes?" He urged me on.

"It's going," I shrugged, "Okay."

"Well good, have you written anything new?"

Just Sarah's songs, I thought to myself, just those two.

"No," I shook my head, but Dr. Whitewater could see right through me.

"Are you sure? What about that nice tune you were humming the other day? I rather liked it."

I was trying not to freak out, really, but it was getting hot in here, and music, I really couldn't see myself doing that again.

At least not publicly.


"Oh my god Matthew! I'm so proud of you!" Sarah was hanging over my shoulder reading the contract with me clapping and squealing.

I was just grinning, super cocky as always. You see, I was holding in my hands a contract from EMI records. It was a contract to be a songwriter for their recording artists, to be on their songwriting team.

Sarah starting jumping around me, our wedding was just three months away and this was the icing on the cake.

I submitted a few songs to different record labels right after I graduated from college. I wasn't a singer, although I could sing when I had to, it wasn't my first love. My first love was and always had been, songwriting. Writing the lyrics and chords, I always wrote the music for the guitar first, and then added they keyboard and drums after. Of course once the artist had the song in their hands they could do whatever they wanted with it.

Anyways I sent my work out hoping that I would be able to get my foot in the door to one of the record labels. Sell a few songs to get started. I was willing to do anything really, studio work, band work, mopping the floors if I had to.

I never imagined a company would just come right out and offer me a contract to write songs. I never thought it would be this easy.

But it was.

My songs appealed to a few major alternative rock bands, they thought my songs were meditative and romantic, and after the fifth song I had written for them that went number one, Sarah and I bought our first house. I had the spare room remodeled, turned it into a music room.

I still remember the night I came home with that pretty little piece of paper stating that my latest song Shiver had reached number one. Sarah was ecstatic and quite the little vixen in the bedroom later on that evening.

My parents took us out to dinner later that week and made a big fuss over me. Joe sent over a professional picture frame so I could hang my certificate on the wall. I felt like a million bucks and never wanted this high to end.

My life was falling into place.

But right now I sat at my desk at home. The snow was falling harder now. A storm was coming for sure. I watched the large white puffs fill the air and swirl around my window. I was trying to work, do what Dr. Whitewater asked of me, but really I was just looking out the window. I glanced down at the paper in front of me, the words stared up at me for the longest time. I put my pencil down after a while because I really couldn't think of anything to say.

Nothing at all.


"Hi." Sarah's smile lit up her whole face as she opened the door for me, "Come in before you freeze!"

I stepped inside the doorway feeling the warmth of the house surround me, "Thanks, it's pretty chilly out there."

"I didn't realize it was going to snow so hard today. I don't think we should take Henry out in this weather." Sarah closed the door behind her and turned to face me, "He's still napping, I guess the winter air is making him sleep in."

"I was going to suggest that he stay indoors, the park was bare when I walked by it this morning." My eyes traveled from her face and down her neck, she was wearing this love sleeve V neck top that showed her perfect delicate collarbones. I had to force myself to look back up into her eyes. She was watching me with her head tilted, this pretty smile, almost a knowing smile, dancing on her lips.

"Want some hot chocolate?" Those plump pink lips were moving, "Matthew? I was just about to make some hot chocolate, want some?"

"Hmm?" I forced myself to focus, "What? Oh yes, please."

She smiled again and waved me over to one of the stools while she busied herself in the kitchen. I watched her silently, slightly worried about my lack of self control. I swore there was this unspoken sexual tension flowing through the air between us and I wasn't sure if either of us were ready for that yet. Still, my body reacted to hers, her sweet smile, the gestures, the look in her eyes.

I shifted in my stool uncomfortably, trying to adjust myself without her catching me.

"So, what would you like to do instead?" She handed me my cup, her voice bright and cheerful.

I just inwardly groaned, I knew exactly what I would like to do, but that didn't involve hot chocolate, or Henry, or clothing for that matter.

"Whatever you suggest is good by me." I took my cup from hands, making sure I didn't touch her. The way my mind was in the gutter I definitely couldn't handle touching her yet.

"Well why don't we move to the living room until Henry wakes up. There's some home movies of Henry that Cl...uh I mean, I recorded that I haven't watched yet. Would you like to see them?" Her eyes left mine and she walked around the counter wiping her hands awkwardly on her jeans before picking up her mug of chocolate.

If there was one way to instantly get my mind out of the gutter Sarah had certainly found it. I just pretended I didn't hear her almost mention his name and rose to follow her over to the next room.

I knew I shouldn't have, I should have behaved like a proper gentleman and sat down on one of the single chairs that were there, but after almost hearing Clay's name I was pissed, so I purposely sat down next to her.

Right next to her.

She didn't shift away from me, much to my delight, but she didn't seem to acknowledge my nearness either, she just grabbed the remote off the leather ottoman in front of us and began fiddling with the buttons.

"I can never remember which one works the DVD player." She let out this forced laugh, still pushing on the remote, shaking it slightly.

"It's the blue one." I reached over without really thinking about it, my mind still on Owens. "The blue one works the DVD and the red one is the satellite box."

My hand closed over a few of her fingers and she pulled away quickly as if she touched fire.

I let go of the remote in shock myself, we nearly dropped the remote. She began jabbing at it with more force than needed.

"Oh," She fumbled over her words, "Yeah, the blue one, that's right."

I mentally shook my head at her, trying to collect my thoughts, my hand still tingling at touching her.

"Ok, here we go." She finally placed the remote back down and took a careful sip of her drink. Her eyes wouldn't budge from looking down into her cup, not even when I placed my own empty cup down, purposely scooting just a tiny bit closer to her.

Henry's happy grin suddenly appeared on the screen and we both looked up at the same time. I had to smile at that infectious grin looking back at me and so did Sarah. We watched with a few chuckles as different scenes appeared before us. Henry eating squash for the first time and then spitting it all out. Henry crawling across the carpet. Henry taking his first steps with a cheering Cassie and Ben in the background.

I watched it all with great fascination, seeing my son grow before my eyes.

Finally after a while the screen went fuzzy and I thought that the DVD had ended. I turned to Sarah, smiling at her in thanks for allowing me to share this with her, when another scene flashed across the screen.

It was older, Henry was only an infant, a few weeks old. I remembered this one, because I was there, I was the one holding the camera. Sarah was cradling our son in her arms singing softly to him.

My heart leapt to my throat at the sight and I could hear Sarah suck in her breath at the same time. We didn't move, just sat there silently and watched. It felt heavenly to hear her sing again. The scene lasted only minutes, but it felt like hours.

"I forgot that was on there." Her tone was really hushed and strained. It tore at me, I wanted to take away the pain I heard in her voice.

"He's beautiful." I turned my body to face her, my eyes searching her face, "And so are you, you always have been."

She stared at me, and I could see it in her eyes, she wanted to trust me, to believe in me. There was still something missing, something she needed from me first, and I hadn't given it to her yet.

That didn't stop me from reaching up and stroking her cheek softly with the back of my hand. I just wanted to let her know how much she meant to me, tried to show her how important she was.

She closed her eyes for a minute, almost as if she were savoring the moment, and then took in another breath and slowly pulled away, "I better check on Henry." She whispered.

Only I didn't want her to leave, so I let my hand travel down her shoulder and arm until I closed my fingers over her own. She watched me painfully, trying to blink back some tears.

"Don't leave me baby," I pleaded, my voice barely over a whisper. "Stay with me."

"Matthew," Her voice broke, "Don't do this, not here."

But I had to try, my heart wouldn't take no for an answer, and I leaned closer to her, so close I could feel her breath on my lips and see tiny flecks of gold in her eyes. She didn't try to stop me. I could feel her hand tremble as I got closer.

My lips brushed over hers ever so lightly. I didn't want to hurt her or scare her any longer. All I wanted to do was make her feel. I kept my face next to hers, ghosting my lips across her cheek and down the hollow of her neck. Her scent was making me dizzy with want and when she shivered letting out this tiny whimper, tilting her head down as if to get closer to me, it just made me roar with desire.

I slid my hand out of hers and wrapped it around her waist pulling her body so that it was nearly on top of mine, bringing her forward into the circle of my arms, my other hand snaking up her back and into that glorious mane of hair, feeling the silkiness flow through my fingertips.

My lips finally made contact with the sweet skin on her neck and the way she sucked in her breath just reminded me of all those times we had made love. She still responded to my touch, her body was still mine.

But the longer I kept kissing her, the more reality began to seep in my conscious. Her hands weren't on me, neither were her lips. Her entire body was shaking, even though she didn't pull away from me I knew she didn't want to be there.

So slowly, carefully I let her go, gently kissing her cheek for the last time before pulling myself back. It was so hard to do. My heart still throbbed for her, but I knew that when this finally happened for real, it needed to happen for both of us.

"I'm sorry," I began apologizing, "I was out of line. I had no right." My voice faded away as my eyes searched hers for reassurance.

She just choked back another sob and quietly got up, shaking her head at me and walking out of the room. I didn't follow her. I knew she wanted to be alone. She needed to think, hell, I needed to think.

When a few minutes had gone by and she hadn't returned, I allowed myself to get up from the sofa and walk across the living room near the hallway. It was dark in the hallway, she hadn't bothered to turn the light on. You could hear the wind whistling loudly outside the window as I passed it. The storm was finally here. I caught a glimpse of her figure in the shadows, her forehead pressed desolately against the dark wall. Her arms wrapped around herself tightly.

I made my way over to her trying to think of a better way to apologize, a better way to make her understand. Only she didn't give me a chance to say anything.

"I think you better go." Her words were soft and shaky, they stung and took me by surprise. I froze mid step to collect my thoughts. I couldn't leave just yet, leave her like this.

"Please." It was the first thing that came to mind, "Please, I'm sorry, it won't happen again."

"I can't." She said with finality, "Do this again, I just can't."

She hadn't moved from her position against the wall and I found myself standing desperately behind her, trying not to crowd her but too distraught to think straight.

"Baby, " I whispered softly in her ear, "I know I'm not the man you need yet, but I'm trying to get there. I'm trying."

She finally turned her head to look at me. Her eyes were full of sadness, and something else, I wasn't sure.

"You need to leave." She repeated, and then she looked away from me.

I was trying not to panic, took a step back to show her I would go, but I had to do one thing, one more thing.

"Will I see you again?" I was sure she could hear the begging in my voice, "Can I see you again?"

She didn't answer, didn't move.

"Sarah," I didn't know how much longer I could hold back the catch in my throat, "Will you be at my parent's anniversary party? Can I see you and Henry there?"

She took in another breath and suddenly pushed herself away from the wall. She lifted her head to me, her lower lip trembling. "You'll see us there." Her voice went hard and all the emotion that I thought I saw in her eyes faded away. "Henry and I will there." She said with conviction. "With Clay. He already invited us and I accepted, so you'll see us there."

She brushed past me quickly her hair flying over my shoulder and she turned away from me, "Now you need to leave Matthew."

And just like that, everything was gone again.


This was useless I sighed to myself. There was no way I was going to submit this song to the record label anyways. I stared at the paper in front of me, my guitar resting on my lap. I finally finished the first verse but it still wouldn't make that awful choking feeling leave my throat.

Just when I thought I was getting somewhere I had lost it all once more. I didn't know what I was going to do. I suddenly had zero interest in attending my parent's party anymore. Why would I want to go and torture myself watching Sarah and Owens together anyhow? It would just tear me apart to see them together.

But I didn't know how to get out of it. My Mom literally let out this little squeal of delight when I told her I was going to be there, and then she threw her arms around me and hugged me. It felt really good to see her so happy that there was no way I could disappoint her.

I looked back down at the words on my paper. They all blurred together and I shut my eyes trying to escape the sharp pain in my heart. I tossed my pencil down onto the desk and pushed my chair back. I needed to get out of here, clear my head.

Without even grabbing my coat I stepped outside. The bitter, cold air whipped all around me sending a shiver down my back. I ignored it and started walking past the bare trees and banged up metal garbage cans. I didn't know where I was going, I just kept walking, my mind a jumbled mess.

I thought I was going to Ben's house but I really didn't want to talk to anyone. I didn't want to do anything but forget this day ever happened.

There was only one way to forget. One way to take the pain away. So when I found myself standing in front of those familiar old wooden doors I didn't even hesitate. I just pushed them open and went inside.



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