Warning Signs

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How You See the World


I wasn’t used to the quiet, or the stillness. I sat at my piano carelessly plucking away at a few melancholy chords, reflecting on the way my life had turned out. It never crossed my mind that it would evolve the way it did, I always imagined it differently somehow…

“Hey Matt, come here, I want to show you something.” Joe was standing in the middle of our driveway holding his basketball against one hip. He was waving me over with his free hand, his eyes fixated on the bright pink bicycle coming down the sidewalk.

I purposely took my time, dragging my feet, making them shuffle, an annoyed scowl painted across my face. I knew what he was doing and I didn’t like it.

“What Joe?” I was still scowling, the bike was closer now, I could see it better out of the corner of my eye. Pink glittery ribbons flew in wavy patterns from the handlebars, and the blinding of the sequins that were attached to the back wheels spinning like crazy made my head hurt.

Still, that’s not what caught the most attention. Despite all the bling and glitz attached to the bike, it was the girl riding it that caught everyone’s eye. She was new here, moved in last week, and every boy in the neighborhood was tripping over himself whenever she rode by.

“I’m going to show you how make a three pointer.” Joe was trying to show off of course. He was timing his throw so that the girl would see it as she rode by. “You stand right over there.” He pointed at me and over to the grass, I could see he was half peeking over his shoulder, mentally calculating her distance, and his throw.

I didn’t even pretend to care, or bother watching. I purposely bent down and tied my shoelace, completely ignoring Joe.

He wasn’t paying attention to me either; I could’ve been standing on my head for all he knew. Just when the girl reached the beginning of our property Joe took a deep breath, swung around, shot out his arms, and threw the basketball with all his might.

It was something out of a comedy, the ball shot straight up in the air, maybe four feet high, in a crazed fashion before bouncing off the rim like a bullet, and headed right in my direction. It happened so fast I couldn’t even pick my arm up for protection, that crazy ball ricocheted right off my head and did this spiral loopy thing before it shot off towards the street and right into the girl and her bike…

“Dad? What are you doing in here? Mom says it’s almost time for us to go, and you’re not even ready yet. She’s not going to be happy.”

I glanced up from my piano and into my son’s bright impatient eyes. He stood right by the doorway his arms crossed in a scolding fashion. At thirteen years old, he was wiser beyond his years, and he was right, of course, just like his mother, he was always right. He also inherited her temper.

“I’m half ready.” I gave Henry a sheepish grin, “See, I have my dress pants on, I just need my jacket.”

“And your shirt, and your tie, and your shoes.” Henry started counting off the items on his fingers. “Mom is going to come looking for you in about, three minutes,” he glanced at his watch, “starting right now.”

“All right, all right, we can’t keep your mother waiting.” I chuckled and began pushing myself away from the piano.

“Daddy! Piano!” Both Henry and I could hear the tiny voice coming down the hall, another voice followed behind it.

“Da! Pay!”

“Too late.” Henry threw up his hands in defeat and quickly jumped out of the way as his two sisters came bounding into the room with full force, in a sea of pink and white tulle.

I watched Henry with a half proud, half awe grin, he could jump high and fast at a moment’s notice, he had a natural talent for it, just like his uncle.

I wasn’t even halfway up when both girls flung themselves onto my lap their tiny voices begging me to play.

“Play Itsie Bitsy Spider Daddy!” Rachel kept pushing back these huge wavy curls that hung all around her face in exasperation, the small diamond pins did nothing to stop the curls from falling in her eyes. I knew the hair would drive her crazy, Rachel was my tomboy. My sports loving, adventure seeking, action movie watching tomboy, to beat it all off, she was a stunner. Creamy porcelain skin, bright emotion filled eyes, and incredible hair, perfect hair, model hair, and today, evil hair.

“Pider!” Savannah tried to follow her older sister’s moves, but her short chubby legs didn’t allow her to hitch herself over my thigh, instead she rested her belly against my knee and tried to propel herself upward, her small brightly painted pink fingernails gripping my wrist for balance, her silver sparkly bracelets clinking against each other with the movement.

Savannah was all girl. All things pink. All things bling. All things magical. She loved tiaras, big fluffy dresses, and dangly bracelets and jewelry. The bigger the better, the brighter, the more perfect for her, nothing was too glitzy for this one.

When I felt her fingers slip, I quickly grabbed onto her and shifted just inch or so, so that both of my girls could sit with ease. Although with these dresses they were wearing nothing was easy.

“Mom said for you not to touch your hair.” Henry scolded Rachel as she yanked at her curls one more time.

“I can’t see.” She frowned at him and then turned to me with those big doleful brown eyes, “Mommy says I have to leave it this way.”

“I know sweetheart.” I gently picked up a stray curl hanging down her forehead and tried to tuck it behind her ear. “It’s just for a few hours and then Mommy will put it back in a ponytail for you. Here, listen.”

I began to play a few lively cords of Itsy Bitsy Spider for them, knowing that their mother would make her appearance at the door any second now.

Joe was frozen in shock, his hands halfway up as if he were about to cover his face and hide, only they never made it to his face. His mouth was open to, in horror.

I was pissed, I mean the ball had hit me first, and that didn’t even seem to faze him. I kept rubbing my head, even though it didn’t really hurt anymore, hoping he would look over at me, but he didn’t. I started to glare at him, at least until I glanced over at the girl.

My anger quickly faded to guilt. The poor girl was sprawled all over the floor, the handlebars on her bike were bent, and the streamers that had been attached to them were now scattered all around her, carelessly blowing around with the breeze.

I was pretty sure those were sobs I heard coming from her person, but her hair was all over her face, so I couldn’t really tell.

It was her hair. Remember I told you how all the guys on the block went crazy over her, well it was because of her hair. Despite how glittery and pink her bike was, it was the hair that really blinded you. She had massive amounts of shiny golden hair that fell down her back like a silken waterfall, at least all of the times I had seen her, her hair was down her back, until now, because right now, it was all over her face.

She reached up sharply with her right hand and shoved some of her hair off of her, shaking her head at the same time, trying to get up in the process. When she was upright she whipped her head around and faced us.

That’s when I got really scared.

“What the hell do you think you were doing? You almost got me killed! Crap! Look at what you did to my bike!”

Hearing those words come out of that perfect doll like mouth seemed almost unreal. I had to blink and put my hands on my head, wondering if I had gotten a concussion from that basketball.

The girl was blazing mad, but still, all you could see was beauty. Her eyes were as big as silver dollars even though they were shooting daggers at Joe. Her glossy lips were painted a perfect pink, and I bet if she smiled it would automatically make you smile back, only she was screeching at my brother who was twice as big as her, but that didn’t seem to bother her one bit.

“You’re going to pay for this!” She yelled again, “My bike is ruined!” She placed her hands on her hips and glared at Joe again. When she got no response, she turned to me. At first her eyes flashed angrily back and forth at us, but as the seconds ticked by and nobody moved, I saw annoyance in them. She fixated her gaze back on me.

“What’s wrong with him?” She asked me, pointing to Joe.

I didn’t know what to say, she still looked pretty mad, I just shrugged my shoulders at her.

She gave out this dramatic sigh and flung her hair over her shoulders like something out of a movie. That’s when I saw Joe swallow, at least I think he swallowed, he could have choked too, but I’m not sure.

“Do either one of you know how to talk?” She asked sarcastically, “Because somebody is gonna pay. And if you won’t answer me, then I’m going to start with him.” She was talking to Joe, only now pointing and walking towards me, it made me give out this little gasp and I tried to take a step backwards, tripping over my own feet and landing right on my butt.

“Rachel Josephina and Savannah Roxanne! I already told you not to do anything that will squish those dresses, now get down from there and come on.”

Sarah finally made her appearance at the door. We all looked up over at her together, probably with guilty looks on our faces because once she took in the scene before her a small giggle escaped her lips, just a small one. Her smile put the girls at ease and they both began talking to her at once.

“Daddy wanted us here.” Rachel was trying to explain.

“Pider!” Savannah began to hop up and down in my lap pointing to the piano keys.

I just chuckled, and with one arm around both my daughters, I rose and placed them down on their feet, I even fluffed out their dresses just to see Sarah break out into a full smile.

“Daddy can play “Pider” for you later, right now Daddy is very late and if he doesn’t hurry Uncle Clay is going to be mighty mad at us.” Sarah was still smiling but I could see that warning look in her eyes, I knew that look all too well, in the past thirteen years I had seen that look numerous times, but there was always something else in that look, love.

“Okay,” I picked up both hands in defeat, “Daddy surrenders. I will go finish getting ready now. Henry, can you make sure your sisters don’t get into anything they shouldn’t.”

“Sure Dad.” Henry was already trying to usher the girls out of the music room. “Come on Rach, and you too Roxy, let’s go get the presents out of the hall closet.”

At the mention of presents both girls took off like a shot after their brother in search of the goodies they had picked out for Uncle Clay.

With the kids out of the room, I was finally able to focus on the woman by the doorway and boy was she still a knockout. Thirteen years had done nothing but perfect this beauty in front of me. Her eyes still shone brightly as she watched me, she had put her hair up in this fancy shmancy do, but really, all I wanted to do was run my hands through it and mess it all up. And the dress, she wore a dark navy blue, almost black, but it had these small light blue sparkles all along the plunging neckline that made you blink, yet you couldn’t tear your eyes away. She wore these two dangling diamond earrings that I had bought her for our tenth wedding anniversary, I originally wanted to buy her the larger sized diamonds but she said no, that she loved the smaller ones, that they were more her, and she was right, they gleamed proudly, catching all the small rays of light making her look even more beautiful.

“Hello gorgeous.” I whispered, pausing right as I was about to pass her, I could smell her perfume, and just a faint scent of her shampoo.

“Hello handsome, you better hurry or we are going to be late.” she whispered back, all while flashing me that seductive, sexy smile.

“I bet if there were a kiss or two, it would make me go a whole lot faster.” I teased, just barely letting my thumb brush against the bare skin of her shoulder.

“Just two?” She teased back, raising her eyebrows at me and tilting her head to the side. Her chin just about reached my thumb and she affectionately let her cheek rest against my hand.

That was all I needed to feel the blood coursing through me, that aching familiar need for her. It was still as strong as ever, if not, more so.

“Okay, maybe three, four, ten?” I started to lower my face into hers, feeling her body shake with her giggles, but her soft lips opened for me when they met mine, and she let me kiss her, once, twice.

“Okay baby,” she whispered against my lips, “before you get carried away and ruin my makeup we have to go. Now go get ready, and I promise you it will be worth it when we’re back home tonight.” she used her hands, sliding them up against my chest, gently pushing me away from her.

I stole one more kiss on her cheek before falling back and heading to our bedroom to finish getting ready. It was going to be a big day for all of us; we all had a part to play in it.

I think my falling is what jerked Joe to attention. His hands flew wildly in front of his face and he stuttered a few nonsense syllables making the girl stop her menacing pace towards me. She turned to look at him, narrowing her eyes.

“What did you call me?” she warned.

“Uh…umm…uh…” That’s all Joe would say. I kept watching him, not getting up from the floor, waiting for him to say something, to start protecting me. “Uh…are you…you ok?” he said to her instead.

“What?” her voice was still dangerously angry, “Didn’t you just see me fall? No, I’m not ok, and my bike is not ok.”

“I’m sorry.” It seemed as if Joe’s ability to move returned to him, he started taking a step or two towards her, “I’m so sorry. We…we didn’t see you, the ball, it just flew!” He threw up his hands, trying to explain, and not really doing a good job at it.

“Yeah it flew! Right off your brother’s head! That’s your brother right? I’ve seen him before.” I could tell the girl was still mad, and her voice still dripped with sarcasm, but at least she wasn’t attacking Joe, or me, anymore.

“That’s Matt, my little brother. I was teaching him to play basketball.” Joe seemed to have relaxed somewhat, his words weren’t coming out so hurried, and his hands found their way into his jean pockets.

“Well it looks like the basketball won.” The girl snickered. I wrinkled my nose at her, she better just wait, there was no way Joe was going to let her get away with that.

The sounds of Joe’s stifled laugh totally threw me off guard. Joe was laughing with her, laughing at me. This was completely unacceptable!

Joe tried to cough, “Uh…yeah…he’s still learning…” then he coughed again, trying to hide his laugh, “Looks like Matt was trying to throw a little soccer action in the mix there.”

Now the girl was laughing at me too! I had enough of this! I jumped up from the ground all mad and pouty, not caring that these little strands grass were sticking to my hair and clothes.

“That’s not true!” I glared at Joe, and then at the girl, “I wasn’t really playing!” She just laughed some more and said, “Yup, I could tell.” He words just made Joe laugh harder.

I was really mad now. I wanted to stomp my feet at both of them and demand that they stop laughing, but instead I just turned toward the house yelling behind me, “I’m telling Mom!”

The last things I heard were more snickers and laughter, and then Joe saying, “Hey what’s your name?”

“Roxy,” The girl replied, “My name is Roxy.”

My two girls were nearly the stars of the show…nearly.

While everyone ohhed and ahhed over the girls tiers and tiers of tulle, bouncy curls, and happy smiles, it was the grooms that stole the spotlight.

Sarah and I were not the only ones who grew and matured over the years. Clay had done pretty well for himself too.

He managed to become a full-fledged partner and well respected in his work place. He was so high up that when the rumors began circulating that he was involved with another man from the same department no one said a word about it, and no one dared questioned him to find out if the rumors were true.

Sarah, Ben, Cassie and I included him in all our family functions right from the start. Henry still thought the world of him, and by the time Rachel was born, Clay was considered family, one of us, so it made perfect sense to ask him to be Rachel’s godfather, along with Ben and Cassie. Rachel bragged to anyone who would listen that she had two godfathers, not just one.

The initial awkwardness lasted only days really, and then he pretty much fit in with Ben and me like an old shoe. He had no problem hanging out at my place watching all the football games on TV and helping me heckle Ben whenever the Lions lost. I finally figured out why he was Joe’s best friend.

“I hope Roxy doesn’t trip.” Sarah whispered to me from her seat. Savannah was half skipping down the aisle tossing her rose petals carelessly around her. She was not being careful with the hem of her dress, which was making Sarah nervous.

“She’ll be fine baby, she’s having fun. Besides Rach and Henry are watching her.” I leaned into her ear, trying to reassure her that our youngest could hold her own. I wouldn’t admit that I was secretly praying that she wouldn’t trip either, but I knew it would be useless to have reminded her.

Savannah Roxanne was just like her namesake, a little spitfire who took orders from no one. Not to mention she loved being in the spotlight.

Henry had to steer her in the right direction before she could make a beeline right towards her favorite Uncle Clay and his partner Philip.

“This way Roxy,” Henry bent down slightly, his hand reaching out to guide Savannah by her elbow. She hesitated just a second, torn between jumping into Clay’s arms or listening to her older brother.

Clay wouldn’t have minded, I know. Clay treated my girls as his own, and if my instincts were right, he and Philip would be heading towards being parent’s themselves. Fatherhood was calling their name.

The ceremony was short, which was good, because I didn’t know how long Savannah would be able to contain her excitement and her high pitched toddler voice. There were no more rose petals in her basket so she was already reaching out a hand into her sister’s basket, looking for more. Her sister was doing a slow burn, trying her best to be a good flower girl, but clearly in no mood to give into her little sister’s demands. Even Henry looked relived when the music swelled around the room indicating that the formal part of evening was over.

The hall that had been rented for the party was packed full. People were already dancing and having a good time when Sarah and I walked in with the kids. I was pretty relaxed and looking forward to having some fun with my family myself.

In the beginning, family functions and parties were not always my cup of tea. In fact the first year or two were almost unbearable. Not so much the alcohol or the urge to drink, although that never leaves you, but just the general comfortableness, and the whole damn awkward feeling. Like you felt out of place, didn’t belong. Not to mention that every set of eyeballs were watching my every move, no one could relax, no one could have even a minuscule of a good time since we were all on the edge.

I almost stopped going out to those things, and began to dread the holidays. It was Ben who saved the day, go figure.

It wasn’t a special occasion, or a big party, when Ben let us all have it, it was just the usual group, hanging out at his place. Clay was there with Philip, they just started dating, and we even invited Roxy to join us.

Cassie offered us all punch or soft drinks, even though I know I saw bottles and bottles of beer in the fridge. Ben loved an occasional beer with his meal, that wasn’t new, or unreasonable. I also knew that Cassie didn’t want to bring them out, so it hung over us, invisible, unspoken. There would be no alcohol around Matthew Steele. I didn’t know how to tell them that it was okay. They didn’t have to be so careful, that they could drink around me, I would be fine. I wouldn’t die, I wouldn’t go back to drinking or try to yank a bottle from someone’s hands and chug it down like they all seemed to be afraid of.

I was stronger than that.

I kept quiet, I guess I wasn’t sure that they would believe me, if I tried to say anything, but it was eating at me, and at them too.

Finally, that day, Ben had enough…

“I don’t want Kool Aid Cassie, what is this shit?” He looked down at his glass in disgust. Cassie looked instantly worried and tried to ignore him at first, placing the glass down in front of him and turning away.

It set everyone on edge; I could feel it almost instantly. Sarah sat up straighter, her eyes fixed straight ahead of her, Cassie folded her arms nervously and wouldn’t look at anyone. Clay stayed deadly quiet.

Ben’s eyes met mine, and I knew just by that look, that it was ending that day.

“Matt,” Ben stood up from his chair, making Cassie spin around and start walking back to him, didn’t stop him though, “I’m not going to drink this shit, I’m gonna get a beer. Do you mind?”

His words were simple, straightforward, and to the point. And I fucking loved it.

“Not at all.” I swept my hand out in front of me, making my words sound as casual as I could.

Ben kept his eyes locked on me, I could see that he already believed me; he already knew I could do this; he wanted to help me make everyone understand that. “So, it’s okay if the ladies have a drink too?” He couldn’t help but pick on Clay a bit, it was still too easy.

“It’s all okay.” I nodded.

“Doesn’t offend you? Make you all nervous and shit? Cause if it does, we just won’t drink…ever.” He was trying to show everyone how ridiculous this whole thing was. I finally could breathe this great big sigh of relief, I got exactly what he was trying to do, and I took his lead.

“It’s okay Ben. Seeing people drink does not make me want to drink. Being in a bar does not make me want to drink. Going to a party does not make me want to drink. You know what makes me want to drink?” I paused. My last sentence had captured everyone’s attention. They all were looking at me as if I held that final piece of information to this puzzle they were all struggling with, trying to finish.

“What is it man?” Ben cocked his head to the side, I guess even he wanted to know.

“Being uncomfortable, unhappy, unsure, feeling ugly inside, outside, but I mostly want to drink when I know everyone around me is unhappy. When everyone freaking tip toes around me like I’m gonna break. When everyone is afraid of me.” And that was the truth.

They all stayed quiet for a second, maybe two, but then Clay looked up from his plate right into my eyes. He looked at me almost proudly and then turned to Cassie.

“I’ll take a beer.” that’s all he said, but it made all the difference in the world.

“Matt, you in there? You still mad?” Joe was knocking at my bedroom door. I just pretended I couldn’t hear it. I stayed put at the edge of my bed, a frown on my face.

“Come on Matt, open the door. I’m sorry about what happened outside.” he kept right on knocking through his words; he knew that drove me crazy.

I stalked over to the door and unlocked it, but didn’t bother to open it.

I could see the knob turn slowly and Joe made his way inside. He was smiling, not necessarily at me, just smiling. I had my arms folded in front of me, the frown still on my face. I never liked it when Joe didn’t take my side, I mean, if your own brother went against you, what did you have left?

“Hey Matt, look at me, come on, I said I was sorry.” Joe made his way over next to me and bumped his shoulder with mine.

“You’re just saying that,” I muttered under my breath, “You don’t mean it.”

“I do mean it.” Joe bounced a little on my bed forcing me to unfold my arms so that I could keep my balance. I wasn’t really mad at him anymore, I was really just hurt.

“Why’d you do it Joe?” I finally turned to look him; he eyed me carefully before giving out this tiny sigh.

“I don’t know Matt.” He shrugged his shoulders, “I’m not sure. Ever since Roxy moved down the block, I’ve been acting funny. There’s something about her.”

“She’s not very nice.” I was still muttering.

“No, that’s not true, she is pretty nice. We were just talking outside; she said she hopes you feel ok. She didn’t mean to scare you.”

I turned my head and stared at Joe. There was something different in his voice; I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was just different, but I didn’t know how different.

“I offered to pay for her bike to be fixed. She said she would rather I help her fix it ourselves. Her dad owns a lot of tools, she knows how to use them, she told me I could go over tomorrow.” Joe’s eyes were so round as he talked, I was hardly listening, more fascinated by the way his pupils seemed to be shooting out little sparks whenever he talked.

“You like her?” I don’t know why I said that, but for some reason that was all that I was thinking at the moment.

Joe didn’t say anything to that for a bit, he looked out the window and fixed his stare at the two small birds who were hopping and chirping on the tree branch next to it. Then he finally looked at me.

“You know what Matt.” His eyes were still bright and full of life, “Remember that one time you asked how you would know when you meet the right girl?”

I didn’t remember, but I just nodded in agreement with him so that he would get on with his point.

“Well, Roxy, I think she’s the one.” He took a breath, his next words were more clear, firm.“Yeah, she’s the one, that’s the girl I’m gonna marry one day.”

Roxy stole the show as always. She walked right into that hall and made every head turn in her direction. She was gracious about it, smiling and acknowledging all the people around her that she knew. She headed for Clay and Philip, giving them a warm embrace.

She looked stunning, in this gold beaded dress, her hair all down. For years after I got sober I worried about her, about her future, just as she had done mine. But like the rest of us, she too was able to conquer her demons and continue to live.

She was quite independent, in her business, and in her personal life. At first we all told ourselves to give her time, and then little by little we all tried in our own ways, to get her to date again. There was always a friend of a friend who we thought would be perfect for her. She did go out on dates, sometimes even second dates, but nothing would ever come out of it. Not for lack of the guys trying, her phone was constantly ringing, guys were constantly coming around, and since she owned two separate auto shops, the string of guys was never ending.

But finally one day, when I had taken Sarah’s car in for a few minor repairs, she cornered me.

“Matthew, you got a minute?”

“Sure Roxy, what’s up?” I couldn’t tell from her appearance that something was bothering her, but I could sense it.

“Sarah and Cassie are taking me to lunch today.” she hesitated a little, but only to put her wrench down, “And frankly I’m sick of it.”

“Of what?” I wasn’t too sure what she was getting at, “Of lunch? Or Sarah and Cassie?” It was supposed to be a joke but she didn’t laugh.

“No, not that. Of all those freaking guys they try to set me up with. I know Cassie has someone else that she thinks is just perfect for me, and I just don’t want to do it anymore.”

I stared at her quietly, a little bit thrown that she was telling me this, I was guilty of trying to set her up myself, only once, I learned my lesson then. But right now, she was clearly unhappy about it, and I wondered if she wanted me to talk to Sarah and Cassie for her or something.

“Have you told them that?” I asked her, already knowing the answer.

“Yes, a million times. They say today is just lunch but I already know that Cassie’s “friend” is going to be there. They don’t seem to understand that I have tried, I mean really tried, but, honestly, I hate it. Dating is not for me.” Her voice had a touch of sadness, just a tiny hint of it, but that’s what led to my next question.

“Ever?” I tilted my head to the side.

“I don’t think ever.” now she just sounded wishful, “but not anytime soon. You see I haven’t found anyone even remotely interesting, who seems genuine, who’s swept me off my bike.”

Her laugh was contagious and I had to chuckle at the memory.

“I try not to compare them to Joe, but it’s not easy, so for the time being I’d rather just wait. I know there is someone out there for me, I’m willing to wait until it happens naturally.”

I understood her, I really did. I just squeezed her hand and smiled at her. “I know it will happen. I know there’s someone else out there for you. And I’ll tell Sarah to lay off, and Cassie too. They love you, they’ll understand.”

“Thanks Matthew. You know I’m happy right? I’m really happy with my life, with my job, and my family, you guys. It’s everything I need, it’s all right here.” She spread her arms out around her, that familiar sparkle back in her eyes.

She was right, it was all right here.

I absolutely loved twirling my wife around on the dance floor that night. Seeing her face light up with each spin, her laugh tickling my senses, she looked radiant, happy, and content, the burdens and trials of thirteen years ago no longer showed.

I was still determined to do everything in my power to make up for what I had put her through. I knew she forgiven me, she told me numerous times, but I didn’t care, I would spend the rest of my life doing everything for her, and for my children.

She still stood by me. Watched proudly as my name grew bigger and bigger in the music industry. Hung every single award I received up in our music room. Supported me in every way imaginable, that I often couldn’t believe how lucky I was, had to pinch myself to make sure that it was real.

I tried to do the same for her, and once I really opened my eyes, I was in awe of the fabulous woman she really was.

Sarah was amazing. Every single day I thanked God for letting her in my life. She single handedly was able to survive my alcoholism, raise Henry by herself for two years, create a wonderful career in her workplace, and keep a happy loving home for Henry. So when she allowed me back in her life, I knew I wanted to treat her like the queen she deserved, and I loved that she let me.

The first time I was invited to the Grammy Awards I sent her shopping, with an unlimited budget for a dress, and she didn’t disappoint.

That dress fit her like a glove, was a sparkling sapphire blue, and my favorite part was that from the first glance it looked very glamorous and modest. Nothing thigh high or revealing, just lots of shimmery, sparkly allure, until she turned around, the back of the dress was a whole different ball game, it was cut in a very low V shape that hit just the right spot at the bottom of her back. I mean it was just enough to fuel your imagination, and Sarah caused quite a stir on the red carpet. I was so smitten with her I swear I acted like a teenage boy that night, I couldn’t keep my hands off of her, much to her delight, I hope.

That entire year was a whirlwind of activities, but, of course, none of those things were the best part, it wasn’t when People Magazine voted me Sexiest Man Alive, or when I got interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, or even when I won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album, the best part was always, and probably always will be, the look in Sarah’s eyes whenever she looked at me. I swear I could see the future in her eyes, our future, and the promise, that we would always be together.

When the kids were finally in tucked in their beds sound asleep, I found myself face to face with a very sexy, very provocative, very willing wife.

“You look really good babe.” She smiled at me, and I knew what that smile meant. That was my smile, she only smiled like that at me.

“Not as good as you.” I winked at her, thoroughly enjoying myself, this was always the best part of the evening.

She didn’t say anything else, she didn’t have to. She was already pressing herself against me, her hands sliding up my torso and tugging my suit jacket off. I lowered my face down onto hers, breathing in her scent and letting my lips brush all along her cheek and jawbone before settling into the crook of her neck. It was my favorite place, that lovely hollow that I seemed to fit in perfectly, all that soft supple skin waiting to be explored. It always made her sigh and then moan, and I fucking loved hearing her moan.

She tilted her head just a little more so I could reach even further, my lips finding their way down to her collarbone and then back upwards. Once my jacket and shirt had fallen away, my hands were free to roam wherever they wanted, immediately starting at her waist, stroking down over her bottom before searching for the zipper on her dress.

She had a surprise for me, a jet black plunging bra with matching ruffle panties and these super sexy thigh high stockings held up with this delicate, delicious looking garter. She didn’t always dress this way very much, most of the time we were too busy being parents to enjoy each other this way, but every once in a while, she would do little things like this, that would take my breath away.

Of course seeing her this way just made my head spin. I forgot all about being a daddy, being a musician, being a gentleman, right now I was a man, her man, with a raging hard on.

She just smiled to herself when I let out this groan against her shoulder at seeing her this way. I could feel her lips spread into a smile because they were pressed against my cheek. She was still so sure of herself, and she should be, because she still drove me crazy.

Having her stand next to me nearly naked just sent my blood boiling and my hands got a little rougher, pulling her even closer to me so that I could feel all that skin next to mine.

I started biting at her neck, and up along her earlobe, letting my hands slid into all those sexy curls up around her head, pulling out some of the little pins so that I felt those silken strands tumble down and brush against my shoulders and arms. When she was feeling this way she could last all night, and that's almost what we did. I would never get tired of her.

When the sun came up, and I opened my eyes, I could see her looking at me, still wrapped tightly in my arms, still pressed closely against my body, she would be looking at me, and there in her eyes I could see it, my future, our future, our lives, it was all there.

And it was exactly where I wanted it to be.

“Come on Rach, let’s go!” Rachel looked up from her book; she’d been avoiding Henry’s voice for the last ten minutes. She knew it was time to leave and she was dreading it.

“Coming.” Her voice was a low whisper, almost a mutter under her breath. She snapped her book shut and shoved it in her brand new backpack. She was regretting now that she picked the backpack with the pink flowers for this school year. What if none of the other girls had flowers on their backpacks? What if the other girls called her a baby because she had little girl designs on her backpack?

The thoughts turned and tumbled in her head as she stood, and she reached out and grasped the handrail of the steps for balance. Why was the first day of school always so hard?

Henry finally appeared in front of her, the look in his eyes was one of impatience. Henry was eager to make it to school early, he looked forward to seeing all his friends again and was not too happy to see Rachel dragging her feet and making him late.

“What’s wrong Rach? We’re gonna be late if you don’t hurry up.” He tried to move her along placing his hand on her back, but she just pulled away.

“Nothing.” Rachel’s voice sounded funny to her own ears. She just knew the other girls were going to pick on her. She thought about pretending to feel sick. Maybe Henry would call their mom and she would get to stay home.

“You don’t want to be late on the first day of school. Come on, I promised Mom and Dad I would get you there safe and sound.” Henry could sense something was wrong, he wanted to dismiss it as first day jitters, but Rachel’s next words changed that.

“Henry, I don’t want to go, what if they hate me?” Rachel pushed her hair off of her face. She wanted to run and hide, go find her favorite hair band so she could put her hair back in a ponytail, then snuggle up with her book and read.

“No one is gonna hate you. Why would anyone hate you?” Henry didn’t really want to get into this now, but the look in his little sister’s eyes, all that doubt and fear, it pulled at his heartstrings, something inside him told him this was very real and scary to Rach, and it was his job as her big brother to fix it.

“Hey Rach, you know you’re not gonna be the only new kid there. The school is brand new; remember how we saw it being built in the summer? All the kids from our neighborhood and the neighborhoods close by will be going there. Everyone is going to be new and I bet everyone is going to be nervous. Even the teachers.”

This little piece of information intrigued Rachel and she looked up at her brother, narrowing her eyes. “The teachers?” her voice held a question. “Why would the teachers be nervous? They’re the ones in charge? What if they let everyone pick on me?”

“Not possible.” Henry tried not to laugh at Rachel’s fears, he remembered the time when he was afraid too, he looped his arm through Rachel’s and led her down the block to the school site, trying to ease her fears at the same time.

“It’s the teacher’s job to make sure everyone is nice to each other, and I bet they're nervous because they don’t know you guys either. Besides, did you bring what I told you to bring? Do you have it in your pocket?”

Rachel nodded, she didn’t know why Henry told her to bring that, but she placed it in her pocket anyways.

“Good, you watch and see, when the time is right, that little thing is going to open up a whole lot of doors.”

Rachel stopped listening to her brother. The big double doors of the school building were staring down at her. She pushed her hair back again and gave Henry one more pleading glance. He let out this little sigh and pulled open the doors for her.

“Come on, I’ll go inside with you.”

They walked along the wide hallways towards her first class. Rachel was glad she was placed in first period music. She loved spending time with her dad in their music room at home, and she already knew how to play the guitar and quite a few songs on the piano.

There were some students already sitting on chairs in the music room. Everyone turned to look at her and Henry as they walked in, including the teacher.

“Hello! And welcome to room 22. My name is Ms. Renee, and you are?” Ms. Renee smiled warmly at both her and Henry. She carried a bright metallic clipboard in her hand, and this rainbow pen hung from it with a string. She was pretty too, with her hair all up in this messy bun, her glasses resting on the lower bridge of her nose.

“Rachel.” Rachel said softly, she could see two of the girls quickly turn their heads together and began whispering in earnest.

“Rachel.” Ms Renee began looking through her class list, flipping through the papers that were attached to the clipboard.

“Rachel Steele.” Henry spoke up, he had seen the two girls who begun whispering, he could see that all eyes were on Rach. This was the perfect opportunity, he thought. “Rachel Steele,” he repeated making eye contact with a few students, “We live just a couple blocks from here.”

“Steele…Steele…oh here you are!” Ms. Renee finally looked up pleased, then her eyes widened as if something exciting suddenly dawned on her, “A couple of blocks? You aren’t by any chance related to…”

Henry didn’t let her finish, Ms. Renee walked right into what he was hoping for… “Matthew Steele is our father.” He said proudly.

“Oh!” Ms. Renee practically squealed in delight, her eyes danced merrily over Rachel. “I’ve heard of Matthew Steele. He is a great musician. Do you play music too?”

Rachel nodded shyly, why oh why did Henry have to go blab all of that right there in front of everyone, and the teacher too!

“How wonderful! Why don’t you go sit over there Rachel, you can look over the instruments to see if there are any you would like to try.”

Rachel gave one last look to Henry, all he did was wink at her and wave goodbye. She fingered the small piece of plastic in her pocket as she made her way past a few kids. She tried to find the friendliest looking face to sit next to. This little chubby guy was sitting by the guitars; she picked him, only because he was smiling at her and because a pretty wooden guitar was standing on its base right there next to that empty chair.

Rachel could see Ms. Renee was still all lit up and smiles, her teacher nodded at her when she sat down.

“Hey.” The chubby kid said to her, he was holding a bronze trumpet in his hands.

“Hey.” Rachel gave him a half smile; she placed her backpack behind her chair, and then immediately reached for the wooden guitar. She looked it over carefully, counting the strings and feeling the neck of it.

“You might want to start with something easier.” The chubby kid was watching her as she inspected the guitar. “That’s a tough one to learn.”

Rachel just looked at him, she was still distracted with guitar, what was he talking about? What was tough to learn?

By habit she pulled out the plastic guitar pick from her pocket and began strumming the guitar. Her dad taught her how to play Yellow a couple of months ago, so that was the first thing she started playing. She was concentrating so hard, and so into getting the sounds just right, that she didn’t even notice that the chattering in the room had faded away, and that everyone was looking at her in frozen shock.

She stopped almost immediately, her cheeks turning a bright red. Why was everyone staring at her?

Ms. Renee was almost clapping, and the chubby kid had his mouth wide open. The whispering girls were like statues, with wide eyes full of awe. This made Rachel very uncomfortable.

“Oh Rachel, that was beautiful! Did your father teach you that?” Ms. Renee couldn’t help herself, she just had to know.

Rachel nodded shyly, trying to shove the guitar pick back in her pocket quickly.

“Hey! Is that your dad’s?” the chubby guy finally found his voice. He recognized the faux tortoise shell guitar pick that Matthew Steele was famous for using. “Can I see it?” he held out his hand eagerly.

Rachel was suddenly surrounded by at least ten different students all chattering, trying to get her attention.

“Your dad really uses that?” “Do you know all his songs?” “Your hair looks so pretty!” “Can you play anything else?” “Will you teach us to play that?”

The questions didn’t stop, and within minutes she was the most popular girl in the music room. Ms. Renee picked her to help organize the music room after school, and a few girls asked her to sit with them during lunch break. When the period was over Rachel felt one hundred percent better about herself.

This is going to be a great year, she thought to herself. Henry was right, and I’m glad I brought dad’s guitar pick.

Henry had to laugh when he saw Rachel burst out of the school doors like a speeding bullet, a huge smile spread across her face, her hair flying wildly around her. He suspected just by her smile that she had a great day.

“Guess what Henry!” her voice was bubbling over with excitement.

“What Rach?” Henry couldn’t help but give out another chuckle, he liked seeing Rachel so excited, it was worth spending those extra ten minutes with her this morning and being late meeting up with his friends.

“Ms. Renee let me help her organize the music room, and I made three new friends, Valerie, Melissa, and Erin. They asked me to eat lunch with them, it was so cool. They’re in my music class too!”

“That’s great Rach! I told you the first day would be fun.” Henry began walking his little sister home, he liked the feeling that he had something to do with her having a great day, he liked being the big brother.

“There’s this nice guy in my music class too, he sits next to me, his name is James.”

Rachel was chattering a mile a minute, and Henry kept right on smiling at her, genuinely interested in how her day went.

Rachel kept right on talking until they reached their house, she was beyond excited about going back to school tomorrow and seeing all her new friends. She couldn’t’ wait to go to music class again either, plus she would ask her mom if she could wear her hair down again since everyone liked it. Henry was right, he was always right, but she already knew that, she had the best big brother ever, and that was never going to change.

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