November 11th 2018
This time round, she didn’t run into Joe after she had finished watching a movie at the hospital.
Seeing as the movie was just under 2 hours, the hospital staff were more than happy to allow her to spend more time with the kids than usual. The kids at the hospital had all put in requests for other movies they wanted to watch, and Audrey made a note on her phone to rent one of them for the next Friday, having already alerted the nurses that movie night on Friday was probably going to be quite common for the next couple of months judging by the long list that she had typed up.
When she got into her car, she placed her purse down on the passenger seat and strapped herself in. Before she could start up the car and drive out of the hospital parking lot, her phone vibrated.
Curiosity got the better of her as she reached into her purse to retrieve it.
I’m still at the diner
I’m probably going to be late so don’t wait up for me
A small smile slipped onto her face as she read the text, and then re-read it, suddenly feeling like a teenage girl all over again, fawning over something her crush had said or done.
You want me to save some dinner for you? She texted back, ignoring how domestic that question sounded.
Seeing as she had indulged in some popcorn and a lot of candy while watching the movie earlier, she wasn’t all that hungry and frankly, Audrey had planned on having a cheese toastie or some sort of sandwich later tonight but didn’t mind cooking dinner for him if he was going to be working late. In fact, him being the owner of a diner, he had cooked for her every night since their friends with benefits agreement had kicked in.
Everyday this past week, Joe and Audrey had been spending all their free time together, getting in as many benefits as they possible could. While she worked at the office, he kept an eye on the construction work at his diner which looked set for its grand opening later this week.
On many occasions, Joe had expressed his desire for her to be there on the night however, she wasn’t completely sure. Audrey made sure to keep those confused thoughts to herself as she didn’t want to alarm him before she came to a proper decision.
While he seemed to fluidly be able to manage the conditions of their new relationship, she found herself struggling. Often, she found herself noting that it felt more like they were dating than two people that were just sleeping together, but he always reassured her that he wasn’t thinking too much into things and advised her to do the same.
However, she didn’t quite believe him yet.
Audrey sincerely doubted that two people who were nothing more bed partners be would spending every night and eating dinner every evening together. She also doubted that fuck buddies cooked for each other on the regular but she enjoyed his cooking too much to complain. While she was alright at cooking, her skills in the kitchen were absolutely unmatched compared to his.
So far, Joe hadn’t once disappointed her with his mad skills, both in the bedroom and the kitchen.
She grinned at the thought.
When her phone chimed in her hands again, she glanced down at it, having been lost in her own thoughts for a while now.
That sounds great but I’m treating the guys to pizza
I’ll see you tonight, pretty lady
Audrey giggled at the text before stashing her phone back in her purse, not needing any more distractions.
The drive home didn’t take long as there was very little traffic. She pulled into the parking lot behind her apartment building and jogged up the steps as the cold nipped at the exposed skin of her face, neck and hands.
She had just walked into her apartment and closed the door behind her when her phone starting ringing. Walking towards the kitchen counter, she placed down her purse and reached in for her phone.
She had expected for it to be Joe, but when she saw her brother’s name as the caller ID, she grinned and accepted immediately.
“Isaac!” She beamed as she greeted him happily. “How thoughtful of you to remember to call your favourite sister.”
He chuckled. “You’re my only sister.”
“Exactly! By default, that makes me your favourite sister.”
“Then that works both ways which means that I’m your favourite brother.”
“I will neither confirm nor deny that.”
Isaac chuckled at his sister’s antics and the sound of it was like music to her ears.
When she was married to Calvin and they lived together in his house, her brother and his wife, Claire, had only been a short drive away yet she only visited him a few times a year, and mostly when she needed a break when her sham of a marriage got too much to handle and she felt like she was way in over her head.
Now that she had moved out of the city to escape him and her old life, she had ended up moving away from her brother which was bittersweet. The drive from her apartment to her brother’s house was a little over two hours yet she considered that to be nothing if she could be with family again however, life just wasn’t that simple.
Before, she hadn’t visited him because she was too busy giving her all to a marriage that only blew up in her face and now, she was too scared and ashamed and to return so close to the place where everything had blown up in her face.
Audrey knew that her brother would never judge her for anything however, that didn’t change anything. She couldn’t but feel the way she felt.
She was scared that if she went to visit her brother, she would run into Calvin since they were only a short drive away from each other and honestly, she wasn’t sure how she would handle a situation as daunting and nightmarish as seeing her ex against for the first time after their painful divorce. Well, painful for her, anyway.
The second reason was that she was ashamed to face her brother. After Audrey had signed the divorce papers, she had spent a week sleeping in her brother’s guest room and only moved out when she managed to get a job at a small town outside of the city. It was close enough where she could visit him if she wanted, but far enough that she didn’t have to fear running into her ex-husband or any other painful memories of her past whenever she left the house.
Honestly, it was pathetic and whenever she heard his voice on the phone, she found herself missing her brother and his little family – his wife, Claire who was now pregnant with their first child – more than ever.
“How are you, Audrey?”
She cleared her throat before speaking. All those thoughts had sparked a few tears to her eyes and she quickly brushed them away, almost as she believed that her brother would be able to see through the phone.
“I’m good. Everything’s good.” She lied, even going as far as to force a smile on her face. “Perfect, even.”
“You don’t sound too good.” She could hear the doubt in his voice and when she sniffled, she only confirmed his thoughts.
“Audrey, what’s wrong?” He asked quickly. When she didn’t answer straight away, he asked again with more urgency in his voice, wanting nothing more than to console his little sister but due to the distance between them, he couldn’t.
“It’s nothing, really.” She sniffled again and wiped some stray tears before taking a seat at the kitchen counter. “It’s just, hearing your voice makes me realise how much I miss you.”
“Why don’t you come down here then? For Christmas.”
Audrey bit her lip. Since she had moved into her apartment nearly a year ago now, her brother and his wife had visited her a few times however, she hadn’t returned the favour. Not even once.
In fact, the last time she had been to see them was just before last Christmas, when she was having second thoughts about the divorce. However, at the last minute, she had decided to change route and decided to go see her brother and his wife instead, and what a smart decision that was.
If she hadn’t done that and actually went through with visiting her ex-husband, Audrey was sure that it would have been the worst thing she could have ever done.
What a close call.
“I’m not sure, Isaac.” She sighed.
“We didn’t even get to spend last Christmas with you.” He pointed out; the disappointment evident in his voice.
“I know.” Audrey sighed again and ran a hand down her face in exasperation directed at herself.
On one hand, she wanted nothing more than to spend the holidays with family but on the other hand, she was just too scared.
“What’s holding you back Audrey?” Isaac asked, his tone very serious. “Claire and I miss you so much.”
“I miss you guys too. You know I do.” She stressed, needing her brother to understand just how much she loved and missed them both, and that, that was not the issue.
“Then why can’t you visit us on Christmas?” He questioned; his tone more pressing now than it had been a few moments ago. “What’s holding you back?”
“I just can’t go back there.”
“I don’t want you to spend Christmas alone again.” Isaac sighed, referring to last year.
“I won’t be alone.” She lied, though even to her own ears her argument sounded unconvincing and feeble. “I’ve got something planned with my friends.”
Isaac hummed but didn’t comment on it, sensing that she didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Last year when she had announced that she wouldn’t be coming down to spend Christmas with them, both him and Claire had been shocked. When they realised that no amount of coaxing could change her mind, they had suggested that they would have Christmas at her apartment instead but his little sister was far too adamant and stubborn for her own good.
Audrey knew that every Christmas, they visited Claire’s family and since the drive to her place was just so long, they wouldn’t be able to make it to both places and the last thing she wanted was to separate Claire and her family on Christmas, just because she wasn’t strong enough to face her demons.
“What’s the real reason you don’t want to come back?” Isaac pressed further, frustrated and upset. All he wanted was to see his sister but she was making it so difficult.
“You know why.” She sighed and closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration at this whole conversation, one which they had discussed many times now.
He knew why and she didn’t want to say it. Saying it would just put a bitter taste in her mouth that no amount of toothpaste or mouth wash could get rid of. It was bad enough that she was constantly thinking such thoughts in her mind, she didn’t want to voice them aloud too as that just made it all the more real.
Audrey had, had such a great day at work, and then thoroughly enjoyed herself watching a movie with the children at the hospital. Even though Joe had told her not to wait up, she had planned to stay awake to greet him when he walked through the door but she hadn’t anticipated how emotionally draining a simple phone call could possibly be.
“I don’t want to run into Calvin, okay?” Audrey rolled her eyes and huffed, wanting nothing more than to change the topic but before she could, her brother bulldozed forward.
“I don’t want you to be scared of him any longer.” She could hear the frown in his voice. “How about you stay in the house at all times and not leave?” He suggested, his voice filled with hope. “That way, there’s absolutely no way that you’ll run into him and we can all enjoy Christmas together.”
Audrey sighed, knowing how much this meant to her brother and that he wasn’t going to let it go, especially not after having missed last Christmas too. She knew that he feared this would turn into a tradition, her missing Christmas and then soon after, every other family event, even if they did only have each other as family.
“I’ll think about it.” Audrey sighed, making no promises.
“Really?” He asked as his voice rose a few octaves and came out more high-pitched than either of them expected. They both laughed at the sound but he suddenly grew very serious. “You’ll really think about it?”
“Yes, I promise I will.”
After that, the conversation took a lighter turn as she spoke to her sister-in-law, Claire, eager to ask about the pregnancy and her first nephew or niece.
The call lasted for over half an hour before they had to go. When she pressed the red button to end the call, Audrey put down the device on the kitchen counter and just stared at the blank screen.
All of her friends would be going home to visit their families for Christmas, yet she would be spending hers alone since she had only promised her brother that she would think about it. She hadn’t spoken to Joe about his plans for the holidays, but she was certain that he would be spending it with his sister and the rest of their family.
As much as she loved her brother and his wife, even more so since they were her only family, she just couldn’t go back there.
It was too painful.
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