A few leftover Fall leaves crunched under my feet as I walked across the gravel path. It didn't feel like the perfect day to do this, in fact, I really don't know why I decided to do this today. I kept telling myself for the last week or so to get this over with. Deep in the back of my mind I waited, hoping that somehow I would see a sign, one that would make perfect sense to me. One that would tell me to get on out there, that it was time.
Clay chatted nonstop the entire flight to Florida. Between him talking and making sure Henry didn't fuss too much, I had a major headache by the time the plane touched down. All I really wanted to do was go hole myself up in my hotel room and take a nap. I had meetings scheduled all day tomorrow and I really needed the rest. So did Henry. He missed his nap, refused to nap on the plane. It was all new to him, his surroundings had kept him wide awake, so when I unbuckled him from his car seat he began to frown and cry.
"Want me to hold him?" Clay stretched his arms to me.
I shook my head no, "You can help me grab the luggage. I really need the stroller for Henry so he can stretch out."
"Sure, no problem." Clay reached down and grabbed his cell phone. His eyes flew over the screen quickly before he shut it down once more. He had been doing that the entire flight but made no mention as to why.
Henry nestled himself on my shoulder right away and closed his eyes. I really didn't want him to fall asleep here, much rather have him nap at the hotel, but what could I do? I rubbed his back softly with my free hand and turned down the aisle toward the luggage pick up.
Clay busied himself watching the revolving luggage tray for our suitcases while I stood by our carryon's with Henry. A figure brushed past me, his arm bumping into my shoulder. My breath hitched at first glance. The man was tall and lean, he had a head of messy hair with just a touch of bronze in it. I had to do a double take.
"Oh, excuse me Miss, my apologies."
I peered into his eyes, they weren't green but brown, with a hint of blue to them.
"It's okay." I managed to stutter, offering him a smile that said I accepted his apology. He smiled back at me politely and kept walking.
I tried to shake off the image. Tried to shake off the fact that everywhere I looked I would see someone or something that reminded me of Matthew.
Our night in the music room changed everything for me. It changed what I wanted out of the rest of my life. Just to hear Matthew singing to Henry, seeing his eyes sparkle again when he saw his guitar hanging on the wall. The way he picked up his sheet music and studied it ever so carefully. It was the old Matt that I saw again, no, not the old Matt, a new Matt. A Matt that had grown to realize what was truly important in his life and I hoped that he wanted to share that with me.
"Okay, we're all set. Let me grab a cab for us and then we can head out to the hotel." Clay wheeled both suitcases toward me. Now he seemed to be in a big hurry, it annoyed me as I tried to juggle Henry and my carry-on at the same time. He offered me no help, just looked at his freaking phone one more time and turned on his heel, dragging both suitcases behind him.
Taking a deep breath I propped Henry a little higher on my shoulder for leverage and gripped the handle of my carry-on tightly, thanking God I didn't wear my work heels for the flight.
Clay fiddled with his phone during the cab ride, sending emails and text messages. I was actually glad, it gave me a minute of peace and I closed my eyes briefly, leaning my head against the back of the seat.
When I told Matt that Clay was coming with me I really expected him to explode or worse, to storm out in fit of rage. I always had a nagging fear in the back of my mind that anything might push him over the edge and would send him straight to a bar. I was still struggling with that. Knowing that sooner or later I was going to have to trust him to do what was right and believe in him.
I almost saw the anger flash in his eyes, and I braced myself for the storm, but it never came. He stayed in control and instead, much to my surprise, he started flirting with me. It left me flushed and then smitten.
Henry was still asleep when we finally made it to my room. I placed him carefully in the hotel crib while Clay propped my suitcase up near the foot of the bed and then made a beeline for the door. He told me he was just going to toss his things in his room and would bring back some dinner in an hour or so. He did this so quickly I couldn't even tell him that I wasn't hungry and that all I really wanted to do was sleep.
I left everything where it was and laid back in the bed stretching my legs out and resting my head on the pillow. I stared at the ceiling for a few minutes and turned my head to the side checking out the room. There was a large gold framed mirror that went from the floor to at least halfway up the wall. My eyes widened as I saw it and it sent me hurtling back into time.
There were little yellow flowers blooming all over the place as I made my way past a couple of rows. I never been here so I took my time, really looking at everything. There were so many flowers, some stone benches, lots of green grass. There were some tall trees scattered all around and a tiny flowing stream that had tiny pebbles lining it.
I didn't know what direction to head in but based on the flowers and trees I headed toward that patch where the trees were smaller, the ones that could only be a year or two old.
My eye caught a shiny smooth black stone as I followed the path. It was odd, out of place, yet strangely familiar. It stood out because there was not another stone like it. I bent over and scooped it up, it fit perfectly in my palm. The sunlight bounced off of it, making it look almost glittery. I turned it over a couple of times, trying to guess where I seen it before.
"They signed you up for how long?" Dr. Whitewater was clearly excited. I could tell just by the sound of his voice.
"Two years." I sat down on the chair opposite him.
"Hot damn! Two years! Now that's an accomplishment." He smiled proudly and reached out and shook my hand. "Well congratulations Matthew, I can't wait to hear your stuff on the radio."
I grinned at him, this tiny seed of pride making me puff out my chest a little bit.
"So when will we get to hear it? The songs I mean." He was still smiling, leaning against the back of his desk. His body moved slightly and you could hear the small clinking noise as his movements jostled the small glass bowl filled with stones of all shapes and sizes. They were all black, and each and every one of them gleamed and sparkled like a jewel.
He picked up a stone from the bowl absentmindedly and began fiddling with it, turning it over and over in his hands as he waited for me to respond. I stared at the rock a little longer before answering him.
"Well the music is written, now it goes to the recording artist and once they cut the song and release the album that's when you hear it over the airwaves."
"So a couple of months?" Dr. Whitewater placed the stone back into the bowl.
"More like six." I was still fascinated by the stone, it sparkled whenever the sun hit it.
"Well congratulations again, this is something you truly deserve. I hope you will continue to write more wonderful music for all of us to hear. Promise you'll come back and visit me every now and then. That way I can keep telling everyone I am great friends with the famous Matthew Steele." He chuckled.
I frowned, not following him at all, "Come back and visit?"
"Why yes Mr. Steele, didn't you realize?" Dr. Whitewater smiled brightly at me, "Not only have you managed to accomplish writing music again, you've managed to complete your entire therapy requirements. Today is your last session."
"Didn't Cassie look beautiful? I mean once we that dress in the boutique we knew it was the one for her. And the flowers, all those white roses, I imagine they cost a fortune, not to mention the wedding reception."
Matthew wasn't listening to me. He shrugged off his tuxedo jacket and tossed it aimlessly over the back of the small loveseat in our hotel suite. "I'm just glad to be out of this thing, it's torture. Ben picked this one out on purpose."
"But you look so handsome." I walked over to the large floor mirror that seemed to be the crowning glory of the small room. It has this pretty gold frame around it and I touched it lightly just to see if it was actually metal or not. Matthew was leaning against the arm rest of the sofa, his legs crossed in front of him, his hands in his trouser pockets. He was looking at me through the reflection of the glass, he smiled at me.
"I didn't look as hot as you do." There was that crooked smile, the one I knew all too well.
"I'll be the judge of that." I teased, tossing his a sly smile.
He grinned at me, pulling himself away from the sofa and walked up behind me. He wrapped his arms around my waist and nuzzled his head into the back of my neck. I could feel his lips trailing small kisses along my skin.
"Hmmm." I leaned into him, enjoying his embrace.
"Baby," he murmured into my ear, still placing soft kisses around my earlobe, "Can I make love to you?"
"Matthew," my voice was barely a whisper, "You know I want to, but what about what I told you when we got here on Thursday." I was already distracted, his hands had moved up from my waist.
"What did you tell me?" I knew Matthew wasn't paying attention because his words were monotonous. I could feel his hands slide up my back searching for the zipper of the dress.
"I told you I forgot," My breath hitched as my dress hit the floor, his hands had now found their way under the lacy fabric of my panties.
"Forgot?" He was just totally repeating what I was saying. He wasn't processing any of my words, just repeating.
"My pill," I managed to get out. "Remember, on Thursday. The plane." I gasped again feeling his hands move on my body. "I forgot to bring my birth control pills, I haven't taken them since Thursday."
"It's only Saturday night," He murmured as he continued to kiss the back of my neck. His mouth and hands moved over me so skillfully that I suddenly didn't care about anything except this man in front of me. I spun around in his arms pulling him down to me, letting him do whatever he wanted in that moment right in front of that gold mirror.
And that's the night I got pregnant with Henry.
I didn't have to go back to Dr. Whitewater anymore. I stopped keeping track of my scheduled appointments probably two months ago so I was surprised and a little lost when our usual scheduled Monday afternoon rolled around and I had nothing to do.
So that's why I came here. I already accomplished two major things in my life, finishing therapy and making progress with Sarah and my son. It gave me courage to try this, and so far it was working.
I put the black stone in the pocket of my jeans and kept heading toward that large area with the shorter trees. There were lots more flowers around there.
And the closer I got I began to read.
Mr. Ernest Wright.
I wondered about them along my way. If they were young or old. If anyone missed them. If they were someone's friend, father, brother?
Pretty soon all the names seemed to blend into one another and all the headstones looked just like the one next to it. I started to panic that I wouldn't be able to find him. That I wouldn't be able to find Joseph.
It was the sunlight, and the rays bouncing off of her hair that made me realize where Joseph was. No one could miss that perfect blonde hair. It looked like spun gold there amidst the colorful flowers and green grass.
She was sitting on the grass, a single flower in her hand, looking down at the ground. Not moving or saying anything. Maybe just thinking, remembering.
As I got closer my movement must have caught her eye because she looked up then. Her eyes grew very wide and her mouth opened slightly.
I hesitated for a second, the thought of maybe she wanted to be along entered my jumbled mind. But she literally jumped right up from the ground in some gymnastic fashion and flung her arms around me tightly.
"Matthew!" She breathed into my ear. "Is it really you?"
"Hello Roxy." I said.
Clay didn't come back, or if he did I didn't hear him because I fell asleep lying there in the hotel bed. Henry woke me up with his cried a little past seven. I scooped him out of his crib soothing him quietly. I gave him a few goldfish crackers while I freshened up in the bathroom and then with him perched on my hip we headed down the elevator to the lobby.
I remembered seeing a small cafe there in the corner of the lobby as we walked in. Maybe it would still be open and Henry and I could get something to eat.
We had to pass this open bar area to get through to the lobby. I didn't give it a second thought until my eyes caught the sight of Clay sitting there laughing rambunctiously with some other fellow I didn't recognize. I was slightly pissed that was already entertaining clients but I brushed it off quickly at the realization that I didn't really want to hang out with him tonight anyways.
It was odd though. Clay was usually much more reserved with his clients. Maybe this was one of his old school friends instead. Matthew mentioned once or twice that Clay and Joe were pretty popular guys back in their school days.
The cafe was the perfect place for Henry and me to relax and eat. No one seemed to mind that I had a small child with me. Henry spent the time babbling and eating perfectly content.
Full and happy we made our way back through the lobby to reach the elevators back to our room. We had to go through the bar area again. My eyes briefly search out the place where Clay had been seated with his friend but the chairs were empty now. Since it was getting late I figured he would have to guess we already ate given the time. I simply passed his room and got Henry and I ready for bed.
About five minutes after Henry fallen asleep, my cell phone rang. Oh sure, now he's going to check if we had eaten. I thought to myself. But the thought quickly vanished when I realized it was Matthew on the line.
"Hi Sarah, it's Matthew."
"Hi," I was smiling, bouncing a little on my bed.
"Just wanted to make sure you arrived safely. How's Henry?" There was a happy pitch to Matthew's tone. He sounded so warm and comfortable.
"We both made it just fine. Henry had fun on the plane ride and ate a huge dinner complete with ice cream. He's out like a light now." I held the phone closer to my ear, pulling back the covers of the bed with one hand and snuggling in.
"Give him a kiss for me."
"What time is your meeting tomorrow?" I could hear the faint sound of what must be a tv in the back ground as Matthew talked.
"I have to check in at nine. It will probably run until five or so. What about you? Any plans for tomorrow?"
"I'm meeting with Mr. Faxon tomorrow. Do you remember the group Coldplay? They are interested in recording my song. We are all going to meet, they want to hear it from me first." His voice rose excitedly, it was contagious and I am sure my own excitement bubbled over.
"Really! That's so great! I do remember them. They were so nice."
Matthew chuckled, "Yeah. I remember the drummer had a crush on you."
I just laughed, "No he didn't!"
"Yes he did. He even wanted to take you out to eat and he knew you were married."
"He was being nice. And it was not out to eat, he asked if I wanted to go with him to grab some burgers for you and the group since you were all still discussing your music at ten at night and we missed dinner. Everyone was starving."
"He wouldn't have brought you back." Matthew teased, "And I don't blame him."
"Well you didn't need to worry because there was only one man I wanted to be with."
Our conversation was flowing easy and free, just like it once did.
"Do you still?" his voiced lowered a bit.
"Do I still what?" I knew what I was asking, I just wanted to hear him say it.
"Do you still want to be with only one man?" He didn't even hesitate, didn't stutter, his voice was bold and clear. It sent a shiver through me.
"Yes," I answered, hoping I was clear enough, "Yes I do."
He didn't ask me who.
I expected it to hurt. When Roxy was hugging me so tight. I waited for that old familiar ache to fill my heart with pain.
"Matthew! I'm so glad to see you. You look so good! So much better!" Roxy was smiling at me, her eyes all watery. She released her bear hug but still clutched onto my arm.
"Come sit down with me." She pulled me down beside her.
Once I was feeling the soft grass beneath me, I finally found my voice and it surprised me.
"It's great to see you too Roxy, how are you? You come here often?"
She nodded and started chatting. I completely missed the first part of her sentence because I was acutely aware that I was sitting next to my brother's grave, his name etched on his headstone in big letters. I kept waiting for the pain, the terror, but it never came.
The breeze made the flowers around us sway slightly and jerked me back to attention. I focused on Roxy's face and her words.
"For a long time, in the beginning I would sit in my car in the parking lot, not getting down. I was afraid." Her voice didn't break, I could hear just a faint whisper of ache, but it was so faint almost not really there.
I didn't say anything at first. I was really happy to sit in Roxy's presence and hear her voice, listen to her talk. It made me feel close to Joe again and I liked that feeling.
She kept talking for about ten minutes, getting me up to date with her life. She sold the condo, the one she had shared with Joe. She bought a house. Joe would have been so proud of her. She moved up in her job and now owned two of the busiest auto shops in the area. She talked a little about getting older.
Finally she leaned forward and grabbed my hand squeezing it briefly, "Okay, your turn. How are you doing?"
I stayed quiet for a moment, not even sure where to start. She waiting patiently and when I looked up into her eyes and all all the affection, the same affection I used to see in Joe's eyes, I had to tell her.
"It was my fault Roxy." I said.
Five o'clock finally. I was anxious to get back to my room and see Henry. I wanted to call Matthew too, to tell him about my promotion. I heard from my boss at the conference that I was being made senior manager for our branch. The entire conference room burst into applause. It was the position I had been waiting for since I started.
It really felt like Clay couldn't get out of the room fast enough. He almost bumped into me in his hurry to get past me.
"Henry was a complete angel, no problems at all. He ate, played, watched a little tv. I thought about the pool but decided against it."
He grabbed his briefcase and jacket from the lounge chair and headed for the door. "I'll be in my room. Going to do some work tonight. Just business, a client is coming over, probably a late night."
I barely had time to nod before he was out the door. I started thinking that maybe he was pissed at me for letting Matthew back into our lives. I think I needed to sit down with him later and have a little talk. He needed to know the truth anyways, about my feelings and my future.
I sat on the carpet with Henry for a while. He pulled all his wooden blocks out of his bucket so we concentrated on building a tower, and then knocking it down. We pretty much killed about an hour doing this. I watched my son pick up each block carefully, inspecting it before placing it on top of the first one. He did this in such serious fashion, he looked so much like Matthew when Matt was writing his songs, hunched over his desk with his eyes focused.
My mind wandered to what Matthew told me about over the phone and I got excited for him all over again. The music company liked his song, they were going to record it. My husband's songs were going to be all over the radio again and I couldn't wait. I was just as proud of him as I always was, as I always would be.
I glanced at the clock, it was getting closer to six. I wondered what time Matt would call me tonight? I wondered if he would mind if I called him first?
There was only one way to find out.
He answered on the second ring.
"How did you know it was me?" I teased.
"Umm, caller ID?" I could hear the smile in his voice and I chuckled. "How are you doing tonight?" I stretched out on the carpet on my stomach and watched Henry play with his blocks.
"Pretty good today. How are you? How did your conference go?"
"Well guess what." I really wanted to share my promotion with him, but more than that, I wanted him to be proud of me. He never was really keep on me going back to work.
"What? Tell me."
"I got a promotion." I beamed into the phone.
"Really!" His voice held happiness. "A promotion! That's so great Sarah."
"Thank you, you are now talking to the senior manager of my office." I bragged.
"Wow! Senior manager. Congratulations baby, I'm proud of you." My stomach started doing little flip flops just then and I squeezed the phone tighter trying to contain my nervous laughter.
"Thank you, again." I really tried but a small jittery laugh escaped my lips.
Matthew chuckled at the sound but then his voice got very serious. "I really am proud of you Sarah. You are the strongest person I know."
My heart leaped to my throat at that moment so I couldn't say anything, but Matthew didn't seem to mind, he kept on talking.
"You've been through so much, yet you've managed to raise our son and excel in your job as well. I thank God every day that he blessed my son and me too with a woman like you."
"I had a little help." I managed to stutter, "No, a lot of help."
"But none from me." His voice didn't sound sad, just sort of wishful.
"You can still help me." I half whispered.
"I want to. Will you let me?"
And right there, lying on the hotel room carpet, watching my son play with his blocks, my heart overwhelming with emotion, I let the man that I loved back into my life.
"Yes." My voice was firm.
"Your fault? What?" Roxy cocked her head to the side in confusion.
"The accident. Joe. It was, it was my fault." I wanted to look down, away from her eyes as I said this, but something didn't let me. Maybe it was the way her gaze held onto mine.
She let out a soft breath and whispered, "Oh Matt, no."
I knew she would try to comfort me, to convince me that I was wrong, but right now I knew it was time to let her know, even if she would hate me afterwards.
"He wanted to leave. He wanted to go to you. The rehearsal dinner, we were already late but I made him stay. You see, he was going to, he was going to, uh, at your wedding." I was trying, really trying, but the words were so hard to say.
Roxy shut her eyes for a second and placed her hang gently on my knee. "He was going to play a song. At our wedding, the piano. Right Matthew? Joseph was going to play a song to me during the ceremony. Yes, I know all about it."
Her voice was much more emotional now but she still kept going.
"I know it was supposed to be a surprise. But you know me Matthew, you can't keep anything from me, and Joe sure as hell couldn't. I knew from the first day you two started practicing. I caught Joe singing in the shower, some mushy love song." She giggled, looking up at the sky. "I confronted him, he confessed, and pulled me into the shower with him, clothes and all."
I had to smile at that.
"He made me promise not to let you know that I knew about it. He didn't want to let you down. So I knew what you two were doing before the rehearsal dinner. In fact I called him that night to tell him not to worry, to take his time. We would wait for you guys. Told him I loved him and I couldn't wait to marry him..." Her voice trailed off.
I sat there stunned. Hearing what she was saying but not believing my ears at the same time.
"I, it was me, who gave him permission to stay." Her eyes pierced into mine. "So you see Matt, it wasn't your fault. I didn't realize you thought it was your fault."
"No," I cut her off then, "He stayed for me. I made him stay."
She laughed then, her hair falling over her shoulders. "Matthew listen to me. You were Joe's whole world, he would do anything for you. He loved you more than me, your parents, all of us combined. But he was also stubborn. Stubborn as a mule, and if something, some little thought got into his head then there wasn't anyone in this world who could change his mind. Just think abut it. Try and remember, you knew Joe just as well as I did. When did he ever listen to anyone but himself?"
I just kept staring at her motionless, knowing that what she said was true. Every single word.
"And I know what it's like to carry the guilt around. To let it consume you. And the fear, that you won't be able to make it another day. It almost destroyed you Matt, didn't it?" Her eyes washed over me full of concern. "I was so worried."
I frowned at her, more confused than anything else. "Worried?"
"You started drinking. And it got out of control. I know. I saw it. I was there." Her eyes wouldn't waver from my face as she spoke.
In my emotional confused state I think I uttered a few nonsense syllables to her. She gave me a warm smile.
"We were both swallowed up in our own grief and guilt back then. I was there in the bar at night. Just watching you, making sure you were still alive. You never saw me. After you would leave I would go talk to the bartender about you. Try to find out how you really were. It wasn't easy to see. I was there when Sarah would go to you. I know she was hurting, and I saw you push her away. I know about the women that fell all over you there. I chased most of them off, even threatened a few of them. I know you missed your brother."
"I didn't know. I never saw you."
"I didn't want you to see me. I was still deeply in pain myself. But I owed it to Joe to make sure his little brother was okay. To make sure no one took advantage of him." She plucked a few strands of grass from beneath her knee as she talked.
"And then you stopped coming. I figured you were finally getting well, getting back to your life, so I stopped going. And that's when I started making an effort to pull my own life together as well."
"You did all that? For me?" I'm pretty sure I was whispering my words. I don't know how I found my voice.
"Yes, for you. For Joe. And for me too." I could see it again in her eyes, a bit of happiness, and relief.
"Thank you Roxy." There weren't really words to thank her. She made me see so much, so much of what I didn't see before.
"You are welcome Matthew. Now," she sat up straight again and smiled, "Tell me, how are you?"
"You're late, what happened?" Clay was clearly annoyed with me. He didn't even let me pass through the door to see Henry.
"I'm sorry, there were a few questions during the conference that needed to be addressed and we ran a bit late."
"Well now I'm going to be late."
Okay, I had just enough of Clay and his attitude. "I said I was sorry. What's gotten into you lately? I think we need to talk."
"I don't have time for a talk. I am supposed to be downstairs in five minutes and I haven't even changed clothes yet. Henry spilled some chocolate milk on me during our snack so I need to change shirts at least."
"I'm sure Henry didn't do it on purpose." I wanted him to hear the annoyance in my voice. He didn't seem to pick up on it though.
"I know he didn't." Clay stressed, "But I still look like a mess, so I have to go. I'll see you in the morning. The plane leaves at three right?"
"Yes, tomorrow is the last day. The conference wraps up by eleven." I pushed my way past him and headed over to Henry. He was engrossed in one of his Lego sets, the large colorful squares were scattered all around him.
"Okay, have a good night." And with that he was gone.
I frowned to myself. Something weird was going on here and I couldn't put my finger on it.
"How was your day sweetie?" I leaned over and gave Henry a quick squeeze. He rested his head against my chest for a second but then quickly picked up another Lego. I chuckled, "Okay baby, you can keep playing. Let me just change my shoes and we'll go down and get some dinner. You hungry?"
Henry didn't answer, he was to engrossed in his work.
"Just like your father." I whispered, smiling to myself.
We didn't leave the room until about forty minutes later. Henry was starting to get fussy on me and I knew I needed to get him fed and ready for bed soon.
Trying to distract him by pointing out all the paintings on the walls along the hallway I made a beeline for the cafe, hoping it wasn't too busy with the dinner rush.
We once again passed the open bar to get to the cafe. The bar was full of people having drinks before dinner.
What I saw made me stop right in my tracks. I could feel my arms tighten around Henry in disbelief. He squirmed uncomfortably in my grip. I blinked a few times, trying to be sure I was seeing what was in front of me. It didn't waver, it was real.
On the bar stool was Clay, just like I saw him the other night. Next to him was a man, who I think was the same man he was with the first night we got here, the one who I thought was his client. I would probably think it was his client except for one thing. Clay's hand was closed over the other man's hand, not in a friendly gesture or even a sympathetic gesture, but clearly in a romantic gesture. Their fingers were entwined with one another and the man was leaning into Clay with a flirtatious smile. Clay was responding in kind, his own dimples showing as he laughed at what the man was saying.
I wanted to scratch my head, what the hell was this? I thought the hand holding was bad enough but just then the man leaned over closer and kissed Clay on the mouth. I mean right on the mouth. My own mouth dropped open and I am sure I gasped.
My brain kept telling me Clay should punch the guy in the face for doing such a thing, but instead, Clay's head tilted to the side and kissed the man back with gusto.
I turned my head away from the sight quickly. I really didn't need to see that.
Now don't get me wrong. I wasn't jealous or anything. In fact, it began to make some sense now. Clay's behavior, the way he kept brushing me off, his sense of hurry. Even back at home, his so called phone calls to clients in the middle of our dinners. His platonic kisses on the cheek. It puzzled me why he even spent any time with me and Henry at all? This was definitely a mystery to me.
Not wanting to see anymore, I quickly kept walking to the care. Henry and I ate in relative silence as he was tired and I was deep in thought about what I had just seen. I tossed it around and around in my mind, going back and trying to figure out if there were any other signs that I missed.
It totally boggled my mind and was still occupying my thoughts after Henry and I got back to our room. Henry fell asleep in record time so I was left in the quiet dark room, still wondering if I should tell Clay what I saw. When my phone began buzzing next to me it took me by surprise. It was already after nine, the time had flown right by.
"Hi Matthew." I didn't want to sound completely out of it so I tried to lighten my voice as much as I could.
"Hi Sarah, How is your evening going? Is Henry still awake?" Matthew sounded so happy. It made me really smile to hear him that way.
"Henry's asleep. He has such a busy day that he knocked right out after we came up to our room when dinner was through."
"Oh, I'm sorry I missed him. But he's doing okay? And you? Are you doing okay too?"
"We're both fine. I am actually getting a bit homesick." I honestly replied. After today's events I really wanted to get back home now.
"Homesick? Does that mean you miss me?" He was flirting again. I could hear it in his tone and it made me giggle.
"I completely miss you." I wanted to play along with him. Flirt back, but then I wondered what he would say if I was just straightforward?
"Hmm? Really?" I guess my words took him by surprise.
"Yes really. I want to go home now. I think Henry wants to go home too. Both of us can't wait to see you."
Matthew chuckled, "You just made my night. You know that, right?"
I laughed with him, feeling myself relax a little bit. "I'm glad," And suddenly I was that young sexy Bella again, "But you know I want to do more than make your night, right?"
Matthew coughed loudly, making this half snort, half choking sound. I laughed again.
"Sarah, if that's true I wish you were home now." His tone got a little husky. I hoped my words has some kind of effect on him.
"I was I was home now in my own bed. But you know what I wish for more?" I was taking a gamble here, because once I said this, there was no turning back. But I was ready and I truly believed so was Matthew.
"What? What do you wish for more?" He lowered his voice even more, it was beginning to turn me on.
"I wish you would come home too. I wish you were in my bed, our bed, with me." I let the words hang there, giving him a second to process them.
He made some sort of gurgling sound which made me crack a smile. "Baby, if you keep that up there is no way I can sleep tonight."
"Maybe I want you to stay awake." I teased, "Maybe I want you to think of me all night long."
"I already do that."
And I could feel the butterflies start fluttering in my stomach.
"Sarah are you still there?"
"I'm here." I whispered.
"Can I pick you up at the airport tomorrow? You and Henry?"
"Yes, I would like that Matthew." The butterflies turned into anticipation.
"So, tomorrow?" He asked.
Matthew was right about one thing, only on my part. I stayed up nearly all night, in the dark, thinking of him. Our lives were going to change again and this time, I couldn't wait.
She was flirting with me. God, I hope she knew what she was doing to me, over the phone, no less. I even confessed to her that there would be no sleeping for me tonight. And I was right, I wandered through the apartment looking for something imaginary to do. Flipped aimlessly through the television channels, stared at the wall. It was all for naught. She was the only thing on my mind, that, and her words.
"I want you in my, in our, bed with me."
It was driving me crazy. I wanted her so bad.
I closed my eyes. She told me I could pick her up from the airport even when we both knew that Clay would be there with her. It was time I told Clay he needed to back off. I guess I would have to do it in a considerate, gentlemanly manner. I really wanted to tell him to just fuck off.
The hours moved by slowly and still I had my eyes closed. Even though I couldn't wait to share a bed with Sarah again, I really wanted to tell her about my conversation with Roxy. Tell her that I visited my brother's grave and it didn't make me want to drink. Tell her that the last person on earth, who should forgive me for my brother's death, forgave me. And wondrously, that set me free.
I didn't say anything to Clay that morning. There wasn't really time for that. But once I returned from the morning meetings and was all packed up I decided I better let him know what I saw.
"All of Henry's things are right here." Clay was standing in the center of my room surrounded by both my suitcases. He didn't look to excited about going back home.
"I almost forgot his stuffed bunny." I grabbed it from the top of the bed and tossed it across the room to him.
"Thanks, I'll put it in the carry on. Is that the last of it?"
"Yeah that's it."
"Okay we have an hour to kill. Want to grab some lunch?" Clay zipped up the carry on.
"I'd rather not. Henry is napping and I'd hate to wake him." I made my way over to the small sofa and sat down. "Can I talk to you for a minute instead?"
"Sure, what about?" Clay didn't know what he was about to be hit with.
"Um, this is kind of hard to say." I squeezed the sofa cushion tightly for courage, "And kind of embarrassing."
"What? What's wrong? Is this about Matthew?"
Clay saying Matthew's name took me by surprise but once the shock of it wore off I used that as a starting point.
"Well a little bit. You see, Matt's come a long way from who he used to be." I began.
"Yeah well, you should be careful. Once a drunk, always a drunk." Clay looked annoyed again and the tome of his voice irked me.
"I think he's very away of who he is now, and what his limits are. He lost his brother, that was hard for everyone."
"He's not the only one who suffered a loss, we all did." Clearly Clay was not going to be sympathetic.
"You're right, but he is still my husband, and the father of my child. He's trying very hard, he deserves some credit for that. He wants to be with his son."
"He wants you." Clay cut in bluntly. "I know he loves Henry, we all love Henry. But Matthew, he's doing all this because he wants you. And he's made it damn clear to everyone what he wants."
"Maybe so." I didn't want to keep talking about Matthew. "But at least he is finally being honest about what he wants. How about you Clay? Are you being honest?"
Clay's eyes widened immediately at my words, "I, uh, what are you talking about?" He stuttered.
"Honesty." I decided not to beat around the bush any longer. "Be honest Clay, what are you doing here? What were you doing last night? I don't think you were with a client."
At first Clay tried to brush me off. "I don't know what you're talking about." He waved his hand in the air. When he realized I wasn't wavering he began to look sheepish. "What do you mean?"
"I saw you." I tilted my head to the side and lowered my voice, not to sound so accusing. "Last night at the bar, I saw you."
Clay's face fell and his mouth opened, "Wha.."
"I wasn't spying on you. I took Henry down to the cafe and I saw you at the bar area. You were holding hands, with a man."
He started fiddling with the end of his shirt, "Uh, oh that, uh."
"It's okay," I reassured him, "There's nothing wrong with that. If it's who you are."
He gave out this little sigh at my words, and then suddenly, I was hearing the whole story.
"He's not a client. He's what you think he is. I've been seeing him for quite a while. His name is Jared." As Clay went on he seemed to become more comfortable with what he was saying. "I was always this way, since I can remember. I never told anyone, only a handful of people know. When I was young I tried to convince myself that I wasn't, uh, you know, gay."
I kept silent, nodding my head, showing him I wasn't going to judge him.
"So I thought if I pretended I was straight, dated a lot of girls in high school, hang out with the jocks, it would change me. After I got my degree I kept dating women, didn't want to lose my company, my clients. I was afraid I would lose everything if they found out. I am sorry Sarah," He sighed again, "I didn't mean to hurt you or lead you on. I honestly care about you and Henry, but I'm not, not, into you that way."
Forgive me but I wanted to giggle at the man. I bit my lip to keep from smiling. I didn't want him to know just how glad I was that he wasn't into me that way.
"I did feel like I owed it to Joseph to look out for you when Matthew went awol. And my company really liked the idea that I was a family man. But I swear I didn't want to hurt you Sarah. I hope Matthew really is getting his shit together for your sake."
"It's okay Clay." I reached out and patted his hand and stood up form the sofa. I really didn't need to hear anymore. "I completely understand. I don't hold anything against you. I just have some advice for you. You shouldn't hide who you are. You should always be proud of who you are. If there was only one thing that Joseph left behind in this world for Matthew, you, me and Roxy is that it's always be proud of who you are. It's time we all start living up to what he expected of us."
"She said what?" Ben was completely engrossed in what I was telling him, his expression one of chagrin.
"That she wanted me home. To go back home." I couldn't help but brag a little bit about that.
"Whoo." Ben looked like he wanted to start clapping, "It's about fucking time."
"I'm going to pick her up at the airport later. I still need to get it through to Clay that I'm going to be in his face from now on."
Ben's grin got wider, "You're really worried about him, aren't ya?"
"Well hell man, he's practically living there."
Ben snorted, "Yeah I know. But Matt, don't sweat it too much. I have no doubt Sarah still loves you. Clay isn't the threat you think he is."
I frowned at him, "What the hell are you talking about? You know something I don't? Is Clay getting some side action? If he's cheating on Sarah, I'll kick his ass."
This caused Ben to completely roar with laughter. He even threw his head back because he was laughing so hard.
"A little side action." He gasped, "Oh man, Matt, that's hilarious!"
"Fuck. Stop fucking with me Ben." I glared at him.
"Okay, okay," Ben took these quick little breaths, wiping a few tears from his eyes, "I'll stop. Just down't worry about Clay, besides, it's Sarah's choice, not his..."
The airport wasn't crowded when I arrived. There were less than fifteen minutes until Sarah's plane arrived and I was anxious to see her and Henry too.
A few people lingered around the terminal. I guess they were waiting for their loved ones also. Finally I could see the stewardess's unblocking the tunnel and a few people began shuffling through. I didn't see Sarah yet.
I kept trying to think of what I was going to say when I saw her. I wanted to be sweet and funny and that was hell hard for me.
I shouldn't have worried.
The second I saw her smile at me I just walked right up to her and gathered her up into my arms in a big bear hug. She was holding Henry and both of them began giggling as I squeezed them close.
I didn't see Clay at all, nor did I give a fuck.
"Hey baby, how are you?" I pulled her against me once again.
She didn't answer me, instead she giggled again and turned her face up to mine. Those pretty brown eyes just sparkled like jewels, and then with her free hand she reached up and wrapped it around my neck, pulling me down to her, kissing me.
And it felt.
Like I was home.