Learning to Love

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The first week of work went by quickly and I became familiar with the job and what it entailed. I mostly just made coffees and handed out food. It took very little talking, which I was grateful for.

Friday though something changed. It was ten o’clock in the morning when the bells on the door chimed.

“Good morning. How was your trip kiddo?” Sarah called cheerily.

By now I knew she greeted everyone in this manor. She was the only coworker I had who actually wanted to be here. Her husband was well off with a stable job. However when her twins had started school she had gotten a job. She loved it there.

“Good, thank you.” The man responded, smiling widely.

He had classic tapered black hair brushed up and swept back away from his olive toned face. His strong chiseled jaw looked like it could slice cheese, and was covered in dark stubble. When he glanced at me through his thick black eyelashes, his large dark brown eyes seemed to see right through me. Everything about his appearance screamed Greek.

He stood about six foot two much taller than me. He wore a crisp white v-neck t-shirt with a black leather jacket and a pair of dark wash jeans. His black dress shoes looked simple but nice.

Sarah nodded, turning back to the customer who was mad about getting chocolate in his peppermint mocha. She was trying to explain that all mochas have chocolate flavoring.

The man chuckled, shaking his head. As he walked towards me. My breathing quickened and I fought the urge to run. I clenched my hands into fists to try to steady the shaking.

“Can I get a double espresso and an everything bagel.” He smiled politely at me.

I nodded glad he hadn’t waited for me to ask for his order. I was disappointed however when he didn’t step aside when I started his order. Instead he shifted his weight and watched me curiously.

“I haven’t seen you here before. You new?” He asked, combing his fingers through his hair.

I just nodded nervously as I continued to make his coffee. Normally this is where the guy, realizing I’m not easily accessible, walks away onto an easier target. This guy however wasn’t so easily dissuade it would seem.

“My name is Adrian.” The man smiled offering me his hand tentatively.

I nodded again, quickly occupying my hands as an excuse to not let him touch me.

He slowly let his hand drop and grinned at me. His brown eyes twinkled with interest and I couldn’t help but notice how attractive he was. I quickly looked back down and fit a lid to his cup. I slid his order across the counter.

“Thanks sweetheart.” He smirked.

I frowned and shook my head. “D-Don’t call me th-that?”

I hated how I stuttered when I talked to strangers. My voice seemed to portray how weak and broken I was. That’s why I avoided talking to anyone I wasn’t comfortable with.

“Well I’m going to call you that until you tell me your name.” He smiled, not a mocking smile, more a challenging one.

I turned to the next customer ignoring his laughter. It was a big city, what were the chances I would ever see him again anyway.

This time when I got home Aaliyah wasn’t there. I quickly called around locating her at the daycare Balissa worked at.

After Andrew promised to have her home within the hour I reluctantly agreed to not walk all the way there to get her. Instead I cleaned while I waited, trying not to watch the clock.

“We’re back Jessy.” Andrew called.

I rushed to the door, relaxing as I saw my daughters light brown curls and light blue eyes. She had my eyes and facial structures as well as fair skin. Though her hair came from the other half of her DNA, I loved it. I loved her, she was my perfect girl, my reason to keep striving to be better.

“Mama.” Aaliyah babbled reaching out to me.

She had a speech delay and she had only said ‘mama’ so far. With her second birthday in a matter of months, her doctor was going to give her another year before resorting to speech therapy. Unless she made no progress at all.

I took my child settling her snuggly on my hip.
“Hey baby girl, do you want num-nums?” I asked and she wiggled excitedly.

When I put her on the floor she toddled over to her high chair reaching up.

I chuckled, “Okay baby.”

Andrew followed us into the small kitchen. He sat on a stool and leaned forward onto his elbows.

“How was work?” He asked carefully.

“Fine.” I said calmly.

I frowned, fighting to not think of Adrian, whose face had been flashing in and out of my mind all afternoon. His smile had been so contagious and flawless. The way one corner of his mouth tugged up just slightly higher than the other. The shine in his dark brown eyes had stirred up feelings I had never experienced.

I couldn’t think like that though. I couldn’t ever trust him, or any man, in Aaliyah's life. I wouldn’t risk her getting hurt. Therefore I couldn’t allow myself to ever want a man in mine.

He frowned, not quite believing me. By now he knew that if he pushed me I would shut down so instead he shrugged.

“So Maddy is throwing a Christmas party for the team and family members. She would really like you to come this year.” He asked hopefully as I placed bowl of leftovers Mac and cheese on Aaliyah's tray.

“She says that every year.” I avoided the question not so smoothly.

“And she means it every year.” He rolled his eyes. “Jess you can’t just wrap her in a bubble, or yourself for that matter. And seriously what do you think is going to happen to you guys at a small gathering of mostly FBI agents?”

I didn’t know what to say. I knew he was right, but as I looked at my daughter and thought of exposing her to more people, terror built in my chest. The fear threatened to suffocate me.

Andrew sighed and stood walking over to me and wrapping his arms around me. I buried my face in his chest only then realizing I was hyperventilating.

He spoke after a long minute when my breathing had calmed. “I’m not going to push you sis, but you can't let him win.”

He kissed the top of my head and pulled away. On his way out of the kitchen he grabbed an apple out of the fruit basket. He tossed it in the air once catching it before taking a bite. Then he was gone.

Part of me knew he was right, but part of me was suddenly pissed. He had no idea how hard I was fighting to make sure that bastard didn’t control one more day of my life. How could Andrew say something like that? Could anyone anywhere understand how hard it was to even open my mouth in front of people.

I threw the serving spoon into the sink angrily. He had no clue, yet he understood more than anybody else. How could that be? I sighed, running my hand over my face.

Aalyiah giggled.

I turned to see she had dumped her mac and cheese and managed to get a ton of noodles stuck in her curls and everywhere else.

“Ally,” I groaned.

“Mama” She beamed at me.

I couldn’t help but smile back. I chuckled and shook my head. I could never put into words how much this little girl meant to me.

“Bath time,” I sang to her.

She squealed, clapping her tiny hands.

No, I couldn’t let him win. However I also couldn’t let the fear of him winning get me to make stupid choices. I had four months before Christmas. Maybe I would change my mind, but for now I wasn’t planning on going.

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