by Amber Nation
Tessa made it just seconds before Brock and she put it into park and started revving the engine as she pulled off her helmet and yelled at Brock, “Ha! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"
Mike and I looked to each other and just smiled, she was pretty quirky, but she was hard not to like.
“How about we go in for some iced tea while you men finish cleaning the mud off of everything?"
Tessa was speaking to me, but I automatically looked to Mike to see him nodding encouraging me to go on.
I followed Tessa in through the backdoor which was the laundry room that led straight into the kitchen. The kitchen was picturesque but extremely outdated. I would explain it as a country kitchen that opened to the dining room but was separated by a bar.
Tessa went to the white fridge and pulled out a glass pitcher filled with tea and filled four glasses near the rim that she had retrieved from the cupboard.
“You’re good for him." She meagerly stated.
“Oh, we aren’t together," I felt the need to correct her. I didn’t want her to think that we were something that we weren’t.
“Sure you aren’t. And I’m not Tessa Monroe, I’m Marilyn. Just keep telling yourself that."
Just then a little boy came toddling into the kitchen from the other room, he caught a glimpse of Tessa and with a big toothy grin said, “Momma!" while he had his arms outstretched towards her. She immediately scooped him up and gave him a big kiss on his head.
Seeing the affection between mother and child made me feel devastated.
I had my hand on my chest, the pounding of my racing heart beat against it, and I could feel my breath begin to accelerate; I knew I was close to having a panic attack. I had to brace myself against the bar as I could feel my legs weakening. They had been pretty scarce as of late, but sometimes certain things triggered them. I didn’t want to appear rude, but I really needed to get out of here.
“Sheridan this is my son, Blake."
She had yet to look at me, so I thought I could mask my unease and sneak on out of here.
“Hi, Blake," I said but my voice cracked. I was busted.
Tessa looked up at me and instantly had the look of concern on her face, “Sheridan are you alright?"
I tried to wave it off as best as I could, but still had tremors in my voice, “I’ll be fine, just not feeling very well."
I pushed myself off the counter and prayed to God that I could make my way back outside at least to where I could sit in the truck.
I came upon the truck and Mike and Brock were carrying on laughing until they saw my face. Mike’s face fell as he rushed up to me, putting his hands on my forearms to steady me.
“Sheridan are you alright?" He had a worried tremor in his voice. “Take slow deep breaths."
“I’m fine, I just don’t feel well."
He looked past me and must’ve seen Tessa because his eyes hardened.
He escorted me towards The Beast so we could leave.
“I’m sorry guys, Sheridan isn’t feeling well. Put my truck back in the garage will ya?"
“Sure," Brock said while waving a hand at us, “feel better soon Sheridan. We had fun today, we’ll have to do it again!"
Mike hoisted me up into the truck and helped me clasp my seatbelt. I leaned against the glass window and tried to take deep breaths.
Who knew that seeing a little boy would send me into such a tailspin?
During the ride home, Sheridan really didn’t make a peep. I thought things were going well then she came out looking like she was terrorized.
“Tessa didn’t say anything to you, did she?" Tessa was normally an easy person to get along with and I really couldn’t imagine her saying anything hurtful towards Sheridan unless she was provoked. And Sheridan wasn’t the one to do that.
“No, it was nothing like that." And that was all she had to say the remainder of the ride home.
I had to turn on the radio to cut through the deafening silence.
Low and behold the radio knew exactly what song we needed right now. “I Want You To Want Me" by Cheap Trick was currently playing on the classic rock station. I definitely wanted her to want me and I think in her own way she did. Perhaps she thought that we were such good friends that taking it further would hurt things, just as I did, but I was almost past the point of worrying about it. I needed her more. We were amazing together as friends, I honestly thought we would be phenomenal as lovers.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what started playing next, because it did absolutely nothing to drown out the onslaught of my thoughts.
We had an amazing day, I didn’t think I had ever heard Sheridan giggle and laugh so much. I could feel my heart expanding at every little smile she gave me. I thought that if things kept up the way that they were I could see my heart being almost fully restored. Of course, there would always be that broken piece that would never quite fit back with the rest of it. But Sheridan made me happy, she made my heart happy.
I really needed to get to working on her car, especially since she was so excited to find a job. I couldn’t keep her here forever, but it sure as hell wouldn’t be for my lack of trying.
My accidentally almost calling her sweetheart, she looked both relieved and perturbed. My attraction to her was growing not waning in the least bit, I was going to end up acting on my attractions and it would be sooner rather than later. I just hope it didn’t ruin things when my resolve would eventually fade. I had to have her, make her mine.
When I saw Tessa come out with Blake perched upon her hip, I instantly wanted to leave. Maybe Sheridan felt awkward around children too.
“Sheridan?" I waited a beat to see if she would turn her head and look at me and I was rewarded with her eyes, but it was almost a punch to the gut at the miserable look on her face.
“Sheridan, do you want children?" I wanted to know if this would be a deal breaker for us. I didn’t think I could submit myself to that ever again and well, if she did, then I could easily tell that this attraction between us wasn’t going to go any further than that.
Her eyes darkened and she looked almost ferocious, as she spoke up saying more than just a few words the entire time we’ve been on the road. “Remember when I said that I escaped for eleven months a little over three years ago?" I nodded following along in her explanation. “Well, I never knew if Pate would come find me, so I took measures to where I couldn’t have any more children, Mike."
The way she put the emphasis on my name with such finality, I knew that she was finished conversing, so I just let her stew in her own thoughts the rest of the way home.
Once I pulled onto my concrete covered driveway, she didn’t wait for me to put my truck into park, she had already thrown open the passenger side door, slammed it shut, and was halfway to the front door before I was even able to get out of the truck. I raced up so I could open the door for her only for her to storm past me and then halt in her tracks. She whirled around to face me, still not even a little sign of her mood changing, “I’m going to go call my mom, and I’d really like to be left alone." And that was the last I saw of her that night.
Waking up at the first sight of the sun wasn’t the way I wanted this day to start, but with my constant restless tossing and turning, I didn’t see any additional sleep in sight. So I threw my sheet off of my legs and sat up in bed using the palms of my hands to wipe away any remaining sleep from my eyes.
I didn’t know how the day would go since Sheridan disappeared to her room once we got home from mudding yesterday. The only peep I heard coming out of her room last night was the sound of her keyboard. She kept playing different lullabies, and it reminded me so much of the nursery rhymes that Hannah would enjoy.
Sheridan may not show it or talk about it much, but losing her baby affected her more than she thought. At least I got to spend three wonderful years with my princess, she wasn’t even able to hold her precious miracle. What a double-edged sword, I’m thankful that I had time with my Hannah
but then again, maybe it hurt more for me because I had time with Hannah. Grief is grief I supposed.
Sadie perked her head up at the end of the bed and started wagging her tail because my attention was focused on her. She hadn’t been receiving as much attention from me lately because I’ve been focusing mine on Sheridan, but she had really taken to Sheridan. Even to the point of whining at her door last night because Sheridan walked past her without giving her any lovin’.
I decided that I was going to take Sadie on a walk first thing before I accomplished anything else for the day, which would include trying to get Sheridan out of her funk.
I slipped on a pair of jersey basketball shorts, an old gray t-shirt, and then slipped my old baseball cap over my unmanaged hair and went out into the hall where I was promptly greeted by Sheridan. She immediately smiled brightly and greeted me with, “Good morning!" Wow, talk about a complete one-eighty from yesterday, someone had a sunny disposition this morning. I just wish I was up to her level of cheery and alertness.
She looked down and bent over grabbing Sadie’s head in both of her hands and leaned over and gave her a big kiss atop of her head. “Good morning, Sadie Belle! Who is a good girl?" She cooed as she rubbed behind her ears. I have never in my life been jealous of an animal, especially my dog, but in that moment I wanted to be the one getting kissed on my head. It wouldn’t have been my ideal location, but any kiss from Sheridan couldn’t have been bad. It sucked that I was actually green with envy because of Sadie getting the attention, wow I had personally stooped to a new low.
“Ahem," I cleared my throat and announced that I was taking Sadie for a walk, so I would be the good guy again, the favorite in Sadie’s eyes. “After we get back would you like to go to The Diner for breakfast? I’ve never taken you there and it has an amazing atmosphere and equally amazing grease, I mean food."
My intentional slip of the tongue earned me a smile from Sheridan which made my heart beat double time. I was officially in trouble, I supposed I had been since the first time I caught sight of her sitting in her wrecked car, but I never fully realized the extent until now.
I was in big trouble.
“Sure, greasy food sounds amazing right now. Um," she looked down at her hands which were tangled together as she fidgeted with them, “I wanted to apologize for last night. I didn’t act the way that I should have. It just brought back a lot of harbored feelings last night seeing Tessa and her son together, happy."
I quickly brought up my hand halting her apology, “Absolutely no worries, I felt quite awkward myself whenever she came outside with him. No matter how cute Blake is, and I know that he isn’t Hannah, I just can’t bring myself to be around him. It hurts too much and makes me remember things that I try to bury."
She moved closer to me placing her hand on my shoulder, her illuminating eyes focused on mine, “Mike you shouldn’t try to bury your memories. Those are the good things that remain between you and Hannah. I know you aren’t trying to forget her, but you shouldn’t bury her memory as well. Embrace the time that you two shared together. Try talking about different things from when she was a child, it may help. And remember, I’ll always be here for you."
I stood there long after Sheridan went into the bathroom just thinking about what she had said to me. Since that day, I had talked to a few people about how amazing and precious Hannah was, but I never really went into detail about what made her so special. Perhaps if I started speaking about different instances my heart wouldn’t hurt as much whenever I thought of her. I didn’t have to think of her as being gone all the time, I could think of the fond memories we shared.
I felt as if my steps were getting lighter as I walked down the hallway to retrieve Sadie’s leash. She was excited to go and was currently showing me how excited as she chased her tail around the living room. Silly dog.
Arriving in front of The Diner, I could tell that Sheridan was excited as her eyes lit up at the appearance of the building. It made me mentally chide myself for not bringing her here sooner.
Think retro 50s diner and you had The Diner. It was truly authentic retro complete with the old-fashioned aluminum siding. It sat a little off of the beaten path but was literally right around the corner from Ray’s Auto.
When first walking inside Sheridan stopped right in front of an aqua gas pump gumball machine. She turned around, a beaming smile on her face, “I love this place! I had no idea it even existed."
She began wandering aimlessly around taking in all of the tin signs that hung on the walls even tracing her fingertips along the outside semi-circle frame of the old vintage jukebox. It has been completely restored, but was in full working condition, belting out the 50s classics that I grew up listening to with my dad.
“Can we sit anywhere?" Sheridan asked eyeing the seating arrangements.
I nodded my head and I thought that she would sit at the bar on one of the red leather topped barstools but I was completely surprised when she took a seat in one of the red and black leather covered booth bench seats.
I slid myself in opposite her and she already had her laminated menu out perusing through the breakfast dining choices.
“So what’s good here?" she asked, not even taking her eyes off of the menu.
“Everything is phenomenal. I haven’t ever had anything here that I didn’t like. The ambiance is what sets the entire restaurant. Archie and Wanda have done an amazing job at keeping this place up and going."
She made a little giggle noise from the back of her throat and arched a brow at me.
“What?" I asked.
“Their names are Archie and Wanda? That sounds just like someone who would own a diner like this, totally cute."
“Yeah, you won’t think that it’s cute after having being married to him for over thirty years," Wanda came up to the booth and said.
A faint blush swept through Sheridan’s cheeks at the thought of being caught talking about Archie and Wanda, but they were seriously the nicest couple. Bickered relentlessly back and forth between each other, but it was done out of nothing but love for the other person.
Wanda wore her normal uniform of a button down white oxford shirt and a black skirt, she now claims that she was too old to wear the other waitress uniform. But, on the other hand, Sheridan would be a complete knockout in it. All she would need to do was wear her crimson lipstick, the one I love so much, and have her hair pulled up in a retro way and she would be a fucking bombshell.
I could feel the occupying free space in my jeans quickly fill up due to my imaginative thoughts of Sheridan, but God she would look edible.
I needed to quickly think of something else, food. Food was always a good distraction. I began looking at my own menu trying to decide what I wanted to eat.
After chatting with Wanda for just a few minutes, she took our orders as The Diner began filling up.
Wanda worked every single day and only had a handful of people to work with her. There was no question that she needed more help.
I was getting ready to make small talk when Charlie Hennings came up to the table. I had to quickly do a double take because he was wearing a Sheriff’s uniform. I hadn’t seen him since the altercation that occurred and Maggie’s kidnapping.
I knew Sheriff Mitchell would be resigning and moving out of state, but I had no idea that Charlie was the replacement. I wondered why Brock hadn’t told me.
“Hey guys," he said looking at each of us. Sheridan had a brief wondering look in her eye, until she nonchalantly nodded her head, she must have just remembered who he was.
“Hey, Charlie, you remember Sheridan," I waved my hand in her direction.
“Yeah, I was with Maggie when you had your accident." He didn’t look very happy about mentioning Maggie’s name. I’m guessing that things didn’t work out between the two of them, but it wasn’t like I could blame Maggie. Charlie directly lied to her about who he was and what his job pertained to.
“I remember, how are you?" Sheridan replied politely
. “Although, I don’t recall you being the Sheriff."
“This actually didn’t happen until a few weeks ago, and it was official this morning. Well, I don’t want to interrupt you two, I was just getting breakfast to go."
We said our mutual goodbyes and Sheridan was still casually looking around, just taking in the scenery.
I wondered if she knew how beautiful she was. When and if the opportunity arose, I would tell her every chance that I could.
I had heard Archie ring the bell a few times now, indicating that an order was ready. But Wanda was still with customers. Sheridan noticed the same thing as well and the counter which held the ready to be served food was quickly filling up.
Sheridan looked one last time back at Wanda, “I’ll be right back." She said to me as she rose up from the booth and walked over right to the serving counter. She exchanged a few words with Archie, who pointed to a table and then handed her two plates.
I really couldn’t believe that Sheridan was helping Wanda out. If it were Erin, she would’ve been here bitching because we had to wait on our food. This just proved that they were two entirely different people. And what I felt for Erin wasn’t even half as strong as I felt for Sheridan and I wasn’t even full blown in love with her yet.
Love was a funny thing, here I never thought I would love another living thing, but Sheridan finagled her way into my life and into my heart.
She looked over to me and smiled brightly before placing the dishes down in front of their respective owners.
After serving a few more plates, she stood in front of our table, sitting down her plate and then making a grand gesture by placing mine in front of me, “Your order, kind sir," she said in a silly manor and immediately giggled afterwards.
“Why thank you, madam," I had to keep up the charade. “I really can’t believe you just helped out, you are a really good person Sheridan."
She faintly smiled and sheepishly shrugged her shoulders before grabbing her fork and digging into her stuffed French toast.