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This part of Jody’s version covers the missing months between Stolen Moments and Smoldering Fire. If this is received well then next I am writing the missing year next…
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Our girls’ weekend hadn’t gone exactly as I planned, but it was still as close to perfect as we were going to get. Thanksgiving was tomorrow. Joe, the kids and I were going to my parents. My brother and his family would be there too. I wanted so badly to invite Ellie. She was cooking for the 4 of them. She told me that’s what they always did for holidays, just the 4 of them. She still hadn’t told me much about her past, about her family, or lack of.
She had today off, a perk of working for the school department. I wished I was with her and not here. She had been very quiet over the last few days, I hated that. I should have taken a half day and made her go to lunch with me.
“Do you have the paperwork for the 2pm closing?” Amy popped her head in. I saw her eyes go to the newest picture of Ellie and I on my desk, from our weekend away. It was next to the latest school ones of my kids and the one I had of Joe and I from years ago. I worried that others could see right through us, to what we really felt for each other, when they looked at it. Her face was completely lit up, her eyes pierced me every time I looked at it. I looked at it a lot.
I wondered if anyone thought it was weird I had a picture of her and I on my desk. I hoped our ‘best friends’ thing was enough to make it normal. I didn’t worry enough about it to ever think to not have her right there with me every day though.
Amy, who knew Ellie long before I did. They were in the same class in high school and worked together briefly in college. I didn’t get the idea they were ever close friends though. In that moment I wasn’t even sure if I had told Ellie that I worked with Amy. I probably should.
I still hadn’t pressed her for information on who Ellie used to be. I was tempted, more than once and especially right now. Maybe if I knew what she had been through I would have a better understanding of her. I stopped the thought before my mouth asked a question it shouldn’t. Ellie would tell me her story when she was ready.
“Yep.” I handed her the stack of papers. She left and I reached for my phone.
Me- I miss you
It stayed on delivered.
I slowly put the phone down and went back to work. I wanted to leave early, I had pies to bake for tomorrow. The next few hours went by in a blur and I was in my Jeep, ready to head home by 3:30. I looked at my phone. Nothing. I checked and she had read the message hours ago. Crap. I wanted to show up at her house but knew I couldn’t right now. I texted her again.
It delivered; I drove home. Still nothing from her. As much as I knew she couldn’t control her anxiety, I hated when she did this. When she shut me out. I changed and went to work on making pies.
“Hi Mom.” Madi came walking in the kitchen.
“Hey kiddo. Wanna help?” I had been working hard to forge a stronger connection with Madi. I watched the way Ellie was with her kids, both of them, and with mine and wanted to be more like that. It was easier now that I was happier. I owed that to Ellie too. I smiled just thinking about her, even if I was irked at her current lack of communication with me.
“Sure!” Madi said enthusiastically.
We spent the next few hours listening to music, laughing and making pies. She loved 80’s music like I did, something I didn’t used to know. We talked about school; she was a freshman like Timmy.
I reminisced about my own high school days. I was your typical ‘good girl’ in high school. Didn’t play sports, was on quiz team, a total nerd. Madi was a mix of Joe and I in this respect. She was quiet, did very well in school, but loves racing her bike.
Often, I still tried to locate Ellie in my memories from school. She was over a year younger than me, but I had graduated two years before her. I could never find her there. I knew she hung with a different crowd than I had, she told me that much. I also knew she had an older sister, who had gone to college in Boston, but I didn’t know her name or how much older she was. That was about all I knew. It often felt like I knew everything about who Ellie was right now, but nothing about what made her who she is. I love who she is.
“We should have Timmy and his family over for dessert tomorrow night.” Madi was looking at me with hope filled eyed as she said it.
So far, we had kept the amount of time we spent together, with our families also there, to a minimum. It was just easier for us both that way. I was craving seeing her though, even if it would be with all 8 of us. “That’s a great idea Madi.” We were eating early, my brother’s kids were on the younger side, so it was easier for them. I knew Ellie was eating at 3. It could work out, if she agreed.
“I’ll text Timmy and ask!” She bounded out of the canlı bahis kitchen. Maybe she would have better luck getting an answer than I would.
I took the down time to get my phone and see if she was talking yet. Nothing.
Me- Ellie. Please just respond to me. I don’t deserve you shutting me out for this long
I tried to never call her out, on shutting me out. Usually it wasn’t for long. She needed time to process and I didn’t mind giving it to her, but it had been too long, and it wasn’t fair. She tends to forget I love her and when she hurts, I hurt.
“Timmy is going to ask his mom when she gets home. He said she was hiking.”
“Okay. Sounds good.” Hiking. She usually let me know, told me where she would be. It was already dark out, I wished she wasn’t out in the woods alone.
I turned the music back up and started to clean the kitchen, I needed the distraction. Joe came inside with Kevin. “Those pies smell great Jo.” I fake smiled at him. I hate being called Jo. I’ve told him that 1000 times.
“Mom, are we watching a movie tonight?”
“Yeah buddy, once I’m done in here.”
“Okay, just don’t take too long.” He walked out of the kitchen as he spoke.
“Madi said she invited Timmy and family over tomorrow. You miss your bestie that much she has to come over on a holiday?”
I couldn’t stand the way his voice dripped with disdain. Usually he was fine with us hanging out, and he didn’t care that much about the holiday except the food, so I wasn’t sure what his issue was. “It wasn’t my idea Joe. It was your daughter’s and they haven’t even accepted yet.” I turned the volume up on the music and continued cleaning, trying to block him out. He took the hint and left.
All the pies were out of the oven and cooling, and the kitchen was cleaned. I checked my phone one last time before I went to watch the movie with Kev.
Ellie- I know… I’m sorry.
Me- okay. Are you okay? Do you need me?
I would leave right now, skip the movie, if she would let me help her.
Ellie- I’m fine. I always need you, but I’m fine just needed to clear my head. Timmy said Madi invited us for dessert tomorrow. I don’t know…
Me- Don’t know why?
She read it and didn’t reply. I needed her to feel better, to want to see me.
Another read message but no reply.
Me- Ellie, you 4 can come over. We’ve done this stuff before. We’ve always made it work
Ellie- Can I let you know in a few hours…please
Me- Yes… I love you
Nothing back. I knew she wouldn’t tell me what was going on, she rarely did. She kept everything so close to herself. So close it burned.
I went out and settled in to watch a movie with Kevin. Madi and Joe both joined us. My mind wasn’t in the living-room though. It was with her. I didn’t notice when the movie ended. “Mom. Mom I want some ice cream.”
I got up and got Kevin ice cream, brought it out to him and sat back down.
“Timmy says they are going to come tomorrow, what time?” Madi was walking back into the living-room with a giant smile on her face. That smile was mine. The older she got the more she looked like me. She used to look so much like Joe, or maybe they just spent so much time together I couldn’t see her for her.
Ellie told me that one time, when I was trying to figure out how to have a better relationship with Madi. That I couldn’t always see her for who she was, but for who Joe wanted her to be. He got her into mountain biking, and racing, because Kevin wasn’t ever going to be a racer like he was.
“Mom! What time?” She had an impatient look on her face.
“Um, tell him I’ll talk to his mom and we will figure it out.” If she would talk to me.
“I can talk to Evan, maybe they will want to ride for a bit.” Joe apparently was over his issue with them coming over. He got up and left the room, went down to the basement.
Kevin pushed his bowl of ice cream aside. I got up to clean it up. I needed to figure out how to make him more self-sufficient. I had babied him for so long. Did nearly everything for him, to avoid a meltdown, that now I feared it was too late to get him more independent. I rinsed it and put it in the dishwasher then grabbed my phone.
I smiled. Even though Madi had already told us, having Ellie tell me made me happy.
Me- Good. I miss the crap out of you I want to see you
She didn’t respond. That’s it, I was done. I got up, yelled down to Joe that I was going out for a few and got in my Jeep. I drove across town, Ellie lived almost in the next town. I pulled into her driveway and checked my phone. She had read it but said nothing. Only her van was in the driveway. I got out, knocked, then let myself in.
I went into the living-room, she wasn’t there, but Jessie was. She looked at me like she wasn’t the least bit surprised I was there. “She’s in the sunroom.”
I nodded and went through the kitchen into the sunroom. She bahis siteleri was sitting on the couch, cross legged, her phone next to her, starring into space. Her eyes were so dull. My heart broke seeing her like that. I went and sat next to her. She didn’t react at all. I wanted to wrap her in my arms, kiss her, but her kids were here. If anyone saw us right now it would just look like one friend being there for another, which it was.
She just sat there for the longest time. I stayed super close. She leaned and put her head on my shoulder, finally reacting to me being there. “I’m sorry.” Her voice was…empty.
“No sorry. I’m here El.” She stayed with her head on my shoulder for a few more minutes. I heard Jessie tell Timmy to leave us alone. She was a good human. “Is there anything I can do hun?” I kept my voice low, just in case.
“No.” She picked her head up, her hand was rubbing the back of her neck, then down her cheeks. She stood up, I followed her into the kitchen and put water on for tea. She was just standing there, still disengaged. I ached to hold her, to know what had happened.
The water boiled and I made us each a cup, asked Jessie if she wanted any. She didn’t, didn’t look like she wanted anything to do with coming in the kitchen. I sighed. I put Ellie’s cup next to her, she didn’t touch it. I put it in her hands, “Drink.” And she did.
Slowly I watched her come back to me. Her eyes started to look like her eyes again. She still wasn’t talking, but that was okay. She turned to me and gave me a hug. It didn’t last nearly long enough but I was glad to feel her again. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to be sorry.” We were standing next to each other, our shoulders touching. I could feel her energy coming back. “What happened?”
I turned to look at her, “Bullshit Ellie.”
“Jody, don’t. Nothing new nothing different. I’m fine now.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Leave it be. Please.”
I knew pushing her would not help. I took a deep breath. “Timmy said you guys are coming over tomorrow.”
She just looked at me. She had texted me yes…
“Oh. I think they are going to ride with Joe.”
“And you and Jessie are going to come too Ellie.” I was telling her now, not asking. “We can play games while they ride.” She loved playing board games.
“Okay.” The look on her face did not convince me she would come willingly.
Jessie came into the kitchen, looked at her mom then me. “Yeah?”
“After you guys eat you’re coming over to play games and have dessert okay? 5pm.”
“Okay. Can we play Skip-Bo?”
“Of course.” She gave me a big smile, I smiled back. She went back into the living-room.
Ellie looked at me, I smiled at her too. I knew she was about to tell me she was sorry again. I couldn’t let her. “Are you going to be okay here tonight?”
“Yes. I’m fine Jody.” She looked mostly like herself again. I knew she wasn’t totally fine, but she was back to as much of herself as she could be.
“Walk me out?”
She walked over to me, whispered, ” I wish I could kiss you right now.”
I grinned at her, “me too.”
She walked me out and at the very least we got a longer-than-inside hug before we parted ways.
I got home and texted her.
Me- I love you. More than I can ever convey. I will see you tomorrow.
She replied nearly right away.
Ellie- I love you more. I will see you tomorrow. Enjoy your family.
Her last words, enjoy your family, hit me. I knew the next month was going to be hard for her, hard for us. I hoped I could weather the storm with her.
Thanksgiving had come and gone. Ellie and her family came over for dessert and it was good. The riders rode, Jessie, El and I played games then we had dessert and laughs. She wasn’t the shell of a person she had been the night before and for that I was glad.
It was a week later, and we hadn’t been alone in what seemed like forever. She had a half day of work and was meeting me at my work, and we were going to lunch. I remembered too late that I hadn’t told her yet that I worked with Amy or told Amy she didn’t know. She was walking through reception towards me. She had never been here, so I was going to give her a small tour. I showed her around, introduced her to a few co-workers and residents. Then we went back to my office.
We rounded the corner and Amy was right there. Ellie dead stopped for a second. “Amy?”
Amy looked up, “Ellie!”
Ellie smiled, her big giant genuine smile that made her whole face light up. Then she walked over to Amy and gave her a hug. “Wow, long time no see!” I watched them for a minute, trying to figure out what I was seeing. I must have been reading Amy wrong when she mentioned Ellie before. They seemed totally fine with each other. They started talking and I walked over.
“I didn’t know you two worked together. Amy and I went to high school together and then waited tables bahis şirketleri together in college.”
I had to quickly decide if I was going to pretend I didn’t know that or admit I did. I didn’t lie to Ellie, ever. “Yeah, Amy told me that when she saw a picture of us from one of our camping trips. I just totally forgot to mention it to you.” Okay so I guess I white lied. I had a pit in my stomach.
They chatted for a few more moments, then I showed Ellie my office, shut the door. I had already shut the blinds in my windows before I met her in the lobby. I quietly turned the lock as it shut. I just wanted a few minutes to kiss her without worrying about anyone seeing us.
I met her in the middle of my office floor. I had my hands on either side of her face, I missed touching her. I pulled her down to meet my lips, she had boots with heels on and I had flats. Her hands went right to my ass, as always. I had made sure to wear something that wouldn’t wrinkle. Our tongues danced for not even close to long enough, but it was more than we had had in over a week. “I wanna really feel you Jody. You are so fucking hot dressed up for work.”
I sighed. “Language El. I miss touching you too. You look rather hot yourself.”
She buried her head in my neck and sighed. Put a kiss under my ear, which drove me wild and she knew it. I hated doing it, but I pulled away from her. I went and opened the blinds then made sure no marks had been left, no lipstick out of place. I grabbed my bag, made sure my work cell was in it and we left for lunch.
We sat down, ordered drinks and just looked at each other for a while. “So, you work with Amy. That’s crazy.”
I instantly felt that pit in my stomach. “Yeah. I kept meaning to tell you, but it always slipped my mind until the next time she mentioned you.” I wasn’t even white lying this time. I had always forgotten. I just didn’t say that I sometimes worried Amy would tell me things about her that would change the way I saw her.
She got a look on her face I didn’t know. “Does she mention me often?” Oh. That was old worry on her face.
“No. Just whenever I put up a new picture. She didn’t know we knew each other until she saw the first picture I brought in. She didn’t realize I didn’t know you in high school.”
“Oh.” Our drinks came. I really shouldn’t be drinking when I had to go back to work, but I was. “Has she said anything else about me?”
“No.” That look hasn’t left her face. She took a long pull from her drink. “Ellie, we don’t talk about you. Mention in passing a few times, but I don’t tell other people’s stories and I don’t ask other people to either.” The pit was leaving my stomach as I told her the full truth.
She smiled. The waitress came over and we ordered food. She didn’t mention Amy again. We had a great lunch. It was just nice having her to myself, even if we couldn’t truly be alone. Winter was proving to be tough for us and it really hadn’t begun. There were no races, it was too cold for many outdoor activities. Our moments together were rarely alone.
Our food arrived and we ate in silence for a while. “I wish we could go away again.”
She sighed. “Me too.”
“After Christmas? I have the 25th-29th off. We have a party the 26th and Kevin’s birthday the 29th. Can you do the 27-28th?” I needed her to say yes.
“I think so. I’ll have to check with Evan, but I think so.” The instant she said his name she bit the inside of her mouth.
That was still weeks away. I wasn’t sure either of us would make it through the next few weeks. We were almost done eating. “Can you do a movie and dinner Saturday?” She looked at me with hopeful eyes.
“Yes, I believe I can.”
Her face lit up.
It was dark in the theater. We picked seats in the very back, off in the corner. Our usual spot if we didn’t have Kevin or anyone else with us. I lifted up the center arm rest and sat down. She had the popcorn and handed it to me then sat down and put her recliner up. I couldn’t imagine eating much of it, dinner had been delicious and filling.
The aching I had to touch her wouldn’t go away. I needed the lights to go down so we could at least get closer, hold hands. I prayed no one would sit in the seats near us. She hadn’t been fully herself since before Thanksgiving. She was better than that day, but I could feel the difference in her energy. I hated it, hated it for her.
The previews started and the theater was still only about a quarter filled. The lights went down fully, and the movie started. There were empty seats around us, which at least meant we could get closer to each other without prying eyes. She did just that. Her head was on my shoulder, her hand laced in mine, our legs fully touching. The hole in my chest that always reopened when we hadn’t spent much time together, started to fill in.
I whispered into her wild hair, “I love you more than anything Eleanor.” She grumbled slightly, but I knew I was the only person allowed to call her by her full name. We sat that way for the entire movie. I didn’t even touch the popcorn.
Before the lights came up we put space between us. I hated every inch of that space. It reminded me of all the space between the life I have and the life I want.
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