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Born in January

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Summary

Annaliese and Trip are best friends. They were best friends through high school and went to university together. Except, they have a secret that they've never told anyone... until they tell everyone.

Genre:
Romance / Drama
Author:
StephanieVanOrman
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
16
Rating:
5.0 6 reviews
Age Rating:
13+

ONE

It wasn’t the right time to leave a party, nor the right time to tell your hostess you weren’t feeling well and you had to leave immediately. The hostess shook her head like the defection was nothing new and went back to attending to her more worthwhile guests. Annaliese’s friend, Kimberly, offered to drive her back to the house, but Annaliese wouldn’t hear of it.

“How will you get home?” Kimberly asked tartly as she followed Annaliese to the door.

“I’ll get an Uber, call for a taxi, or take the bus. It doesn’t matter. I just have to leave right now.” Annaliese rushed the explanation as she threw her coat over her shoulders.

“Oh, I see,” Kimberly said without turning her head. “You’ve seen someone you’d rather not see and you’re only ‘saying’ that you’re feeling sick.”

“That’s a good girl,” Annaliese praised. “I’ll make it home just fine.”

“If that’s the case, I won’t worry about you.”

“Good. Don’t,” Annaliese said as she hoisted her umbrella over her head and stepped out into the late afternoon rain.

Kimberly let her go down the steps and let out the usual sigh.

Annaliese was a soft sort of woman with light brown hair and light brown eyes. When she was younger, her hair would escape from her elastic and collect in wisps around her face. As an adult, she slicked it back into a no-nonsense French twist and enjoyed a level of sophistication no one would have believed possible of the child she had been.

That was who she had been avoiding at the party. Someone who had known her when she was a child.

His name was Trip. Not really, but everyone called him that. The nickname was so prevalent that hardly anyone knew what was written on his birth certificate. Annaliese knew what his real name was. She knew all about him. Every detail: his dark hair, his green eyes (which were darker than hers and often mistaken for brown), his height, his weight, what he thought about everything… except one thing. How he would feel about running into her at that dinner party on that night.

She couldn’t pretend anymore.

She couldn’t put that damn innocent look on her face one more time.

He’d seen her.

Trip had seen her before she made her escape. She’d felt his eyes follow her as she tumbled out of the house and onto the street.

Her phone blinged.

She couldn’t look at it. Whoever it was, they would have to wait. Whoever wanted her could go to hell… even if it was Trip himself.

She didn’t call for an Uber or a taxi. She walked blindly through the late afternoon rain as the wind bent the branches of the trees. Raindrops rolled down leaves collecting weight until they were blown free and smashed against Annaliese’s umbrella. Her dress was wet. The sky was getting dark. She slipped under a bus shelter and stared at the numbers on the sign. Did one of the buses that came by take her home?

Trip’s car pulled up to the side of the curb. Without hesitating, he got out, came over to the passenger side of his car, and opened the door for her.

She didn’t say a word. She got in.

He gave her a little bow before returning to the driver’s side and getting in.

When he maneuvered the car into the driving lane, she asked him, “Where are you taking me?”

“To my house.”

“I didn’t know you had a house,” she said, amazed at what she didn’t know about him.

“Oh, I do. It’s a new acquisition. If you weren’t playing hide-and-seek with me, I would have shown it to you already. If you’re still playing hide-and-seek, I’ll take you home instead.”

“No. Show it to me. You must know how tired I am of playing games.”

He nodded and drove them through the city rain. He put on music that was soft and melded into the sounds the raindrops made as they splashed against his car.

More than once, Annaliese checked where they were going, confusion all over her face.

Trip noticed, but didn’t comment. He wanted to surprise her.

Finally, they pulled into a U-shaped driveway of a house Annaliese knew very well. The lights were on and the glow on the gray brick made the house look golden.

“This is your uncle’s house,” Annaliese observed. “He’s always been so annoyed with you. Why are you staying here?”

“My uncle passed away last month,” he explained.

“How shocking! You should have told me,” Annaliese fumed.

“What? You would have gone to the funeral with me?”

“Yes. If you’d asked.”

“Hmm,” he sighed. “You’ve been through enough lately. I did think to ask you, but you have to understand, I was not expecting him to leave me this house. He left his money to other people, his extensive properties to other people, but he left this house to me. I was stunned. Like you said, he’s always been so annoyed with me… like my father. In his will, he said he left it to me because I was the only person who made memories here.”

Annaliese went crimson. “Did you ever explain the situation to him?”

“No, but he found out. I don’t know how, but he found out. He explained as much in his will.”

“The lawyer didn’t read that out for everyone to hear, did they?”

“No,” Trip said, eager to quiet her fears. “I was given my portion privately. Actually, everyone was given their portion privately. Maybe it was done that way to keep my secret, but maybe other people have their secrets too.”

“Did he say much about it?” Annaliese asked quietly.

“Yes. That he was wrong. That my father was wrong. That everyone who had dealt with me was wrong and he hoped that this gesture might go a long way in correcting everyone’s terrible advice, incorrect thinking, and stubborn, foolish ways.”

Annaliese relaxed slightly. “Did any of that make you feel better?”

“We’ll see,” he said, as he got out of the car and opened Annaliese’s door for her. He took her hand and lifted her out of the car. He closed it quietly behind her and opened the front door of the house for her.

Annaliese had been in the entryway so many times she could hardly remember the first time she’d been there. It was huge with twin staircases rising like wings. Trip had to walk across miles of tiled flooring to reach the closet where he hung her coat.

She lowered herself onto a cream velvet chair to remove her black high heels. Before she could undo one zipper, Trip was on his knees in front of her, sliding her ankles out of the ankle boots she wore on cold days.

A painful sigh escaped her lips. “Please stop.” She slid off the chair and into his lap with the layers of her black gauze skirt flowing all around them. “You’re always on your knees. I hate it. Stop it.”

Before he could put his arms around her, she stood up, removing her weight and herself from him. The moment the fabric from her skirt slipped between his fingers was always the moment when he felt he had truly lost her. It was not the moment when her skin stopped touching his, but the moment when even her clothes were out of his reach.

She took five steps from him and waited.

He waited too.

They were both waiting for the moment they got the green light from the other, but they hadn’t felt like they’d received it yet.

“Did Uncle Clement leave you all the furniture?” Annaliese asked conversationally.

“Every stick. Even the chess set in the library.” Trip got up from his knees. “Would you play a game with me tonight?”

“Of chess?”

“Yes,” Trip said, his heart in his throat. “We always used to play together. It might help us relax.”

“Is it still set with the old papers we used?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t looked at it since we played with it last, but it’s always set up. Uncle liked it. He thought of it as part of the decorations.”

Annaliese remembered some of the things they’d written on the papers they’d put in that chess set. It would be so much easier if they could have a conversation like normal people, but it felt too late for that. They needed a therapist… or a lawyer.

__________

Author's Notes: Thanks for reading! I've been sitting on this story for some time trying to get the editing just right. I think I've landed on the right combination for this story. It's going to be beautiful!

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