Lynnette, Michael’s nurse, wasn’t upset at my lateness. I explained to her that I had run into an old friend and lost track of the time. She understood. Besides, she was paid well by both our insurance company and me. I paid her in cash, so the insurance wouldn’t know how much I paid her. She looked after Allison for me on the days I ran late, so I felt I owed her the extra income.
On this day, I was running so late that she had made dinner for everyone, including me. All I had to do when I got home was heat up my dinner and relax with Allison and Michael before we all went to bed. Lynnette’s generous gesture in making dinner and helping Allison with her homework had me thinking, and not for the first time, that I should maybe ask her to be our live-in nurse. Michael would enjoy it since he absolutely adored Lynnette. He was also her only patient.
She was twenty-seven years old and lived in an apartment in Summerville which she shared with a couple. The apartment was theirs, she just lived in the extra bedroom and helped pay the bills. She had mentioned that she wanted to get out of there, and I had been thinking it would be nice to have her around more. For a small decrease in pay, I would offer her room and board. The only bills she would pay would be her cell phone and car payments. And she would, of course, get a couple days off week as usual.
I had run the idea by Cassie a couple times. She seemed to approve the notion, saying it would give me more freedom to do things with Allison and by myself. That fact couldn’t be denied. With Lynnette living with us, life would be so much easier—for me and for Allison. I decided then that I would ask Lynnette in the morning.
The phone rang, interrupting my thoughts. The caller ID displayed Cassie’s name, and I picked up the handset. “Hey,” I said with a bright tone.
“Hey, yourself. What’s up?” Cassie’s young voice bounced back over the line.
“Not much. I’m just relaxing with everyone before bedtimes start.”
“Oh…” There was something to the way she drew out the sound. Like she was up to something, or thought I was. “So, what did you get into on your afternoon off?” She definitely thought I was up to something.
“Nothing much. I went shopping on Summit Street. Had some coffee at the café.” I went into the next room to avoid talking over the TV and bothering Michael and Allison. “I got home a little late, but Lynnette made dinner for Michael and Allison. Even had some for me to warm up when I got home.”
“You had to warm up your dinner? Geez, Ella, how late were you?” Again her tone held something that sounded like she was trying to get something out of me without prying too hard.
“Late enough. You know, it made me think about asking Lynnette to move in.”
“You’ve been toying with that idea for a while, Ella.”
“Yeah, but this time I think I’ve decided to do it. She’s so good with Michael and Allison. And Michael loves her. I just think it would work out for the best for all of us.”
There was a pause on Cassie’s end.
“What?” I asked.
“I talked to Sissy this evening.” Another pause
“She thought she saw you today. At the café. With some gorgeous guy she didn’t recognize.”
“I was at the café with someone. His name happens to be Dominic. We were good friends a long time ago.” I thought about how it might look to someone who didn’t know the situation. It certainly wasn’t good. “You know that new book store that’s opening just outside of Summerville?”
“Yeah. What does that have to do with the café?”
“Dominic is the GM for that store. I guess maybe he’s the owner of the branch, too. Regardless, that’s why he’s here. Between the Lines transferred him here for the store.”
“OK. But that doesn’t explain how you know him. So spill, Ella. And I want all the juicy details.”
I sat quietly for a bit, thinking about what to tell her. How much should I divulge here? Cassie was my best friend, but there were aspects of my past that I never wanted to relive. I wasn’t proud of the person I had been. That was why I had become the responsible mother and wife. Cassie knew nothing of who I had once been. How would she react if she found out?
“I’m waiting, Ella.” Her sweet voice brought me back. I decided to tell her just enough to get the idea of who Dominic was.
“Dominic and I dated a long time ago. A very long time ago. I met him while I was still in high school. He was four years older than me, but we hung out with the same crowd. We got really close, really fast. And we stayed that way until I was twenty-three. Then we went our separate ways. I graduated college and moved up here. I never saw him again. Until today.” There. That should be enough to satisfy her hunger.
Silence drifted over the line. I heard her take a breath and let it out. Then the interrogation began. “Well that certainly is the long and short of it, isn’t it? Ella, you told me nothing. So you used to be an item. So what? I have lots of those. I want details, Ella. Details.”
“Like what?” I sighed. I should have known better than to think a vague history like that would quench her thirst. The woman thrived on the lives of others. Not so much gossip, just sort of living vicariously through her friends in certain ways. Her adolescence had been terribly bland, and so she was fishing for information from mine.
“For one, why did you break up?”
“We just went our separate ways is all.”
“Oh, come on. Tell me.” There was an excited undertone in her voice that compelled me to give her at least the basic truth.
“I was graduating. He went to jail.”
I could hear her jaw drop over the phone. “He went to jail? For what?”
“It doesn’t matter, Cassie. He got locked up, and I moved away. It was best for both of us.”
“OK, OK. So you won’t give me the details. Tell me about today. Is he the reason you were so late getting home? What happened?” The anticipation was killing her. That was quite obvious.
“Nothing happened. We ran into each other in a book store, had some coffee, and went for a ride. That’s it.” That was the gist of it, but the mere thought of the day’s events had my pulse racing and my head reeling.
“Did he kiss you?” My God, she was like a school girl.
“No, Cassie! I can’t believe you would even think that!” My fingertips brushed against my lips unconsciously as I felt the brief heat of his mouth flash and fizzle. I fiddled with the business card in my pocket. I pulled it out and studied the phone number and address he had scrolled on the back in his smooth, masculine print. “He lives here in Church Hill. Two blocks away, in fact.” My vision became fuzzy as my eyes relaxed their focus on the card I held in my hand, and my mind drifted back to that afternoon. Unconsciously, I rubbed my thumb over the black ink.
“Two blocks away? Wow, Ella. What’s up with that?” She had gone from excited school girl to suspicious friend in the blink of an eye.
“Nothing.” I found myself defensive when her tone broke the trance I had been falling into. Suddenly I felt the need to end the conversation. “Cassie, I gotta go. I need to get Allison and Michael to bed. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, OK?”
“What’s up, Ella?”
“Nothing. I just have to go. It’s late. Allison needs to get to bed, and so does Michael.”
“OK. Call me if you need anything, alright?” She sounded concerned.
“Yeah. OK. See ya tomorrow. ‘Night, Cassie.”
“Good night.” The phone went silent. I turned off my handset and sat in the quiet of the room trying to gather my thoughts.
I had to call Dominic.