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Reclaiming the Heart Conclusion

Giovanna flipped through the pages of her mother’s diary looking for answers.

“Mom never mentioned anyone named Kaden. At least not to me, anyway.” Amorette looked at her two sisters in hopes they may know something she didn’t.

They both looked at her and shook their heads. “She never mentioned him to me.” Delaney said.   “What about you, Giovanna? You’re eight years older than me. “Do you remember a guy named Kaden? Or living in Montana?”

“No.” Giovanna looked down at her mother’s squiggly handwriting. “No. It wouldn’t fit the timeline anyway. Plus, she says that we were at the wedding.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” Amorette said. “Why would she write this story in her diary, if none of it even happened?”

“I have no idea.” Giovanna said, her blonde hair now down over her face, covering her blue eyes.   She flipped through the diary looking for more, but there was nothing there.

“Do you think we should ask her?” Delaney asked her sisters. “I mean, she may not appreciate us reading through her diaries.”

“True.” Amorette said, as she pulled a cherry sucker from her mouth and gave it to her son, Dominic to finish.

“Maybe if we ask her the right way, she won’t mind.” Delaney said.

“Let’s just see how the surgery goes.” Giovanna said. “Right now, we need to finish packing up all this stuff. Story time is over.”

“Wait.” Amorette interjected. “What if….what if the surgery doesn’t go well.? I mean, I don’t want to sound morbid or negative, but mom’s not doing so hot. If we wait until after the surgery, and something goes wrong; we will never know who this guy was.”

Delany and Giovanna nodded, not wanting to think about that prospect. “Let’s just get this finished.” Delaney said. “We can worry about that later.

The three girls finished packing up their mother’s room. They had already finished all the other rooms, leaving her bedroom for last.   Their mother had a bad heart, and needed a valve replacement. She had been deteriorating for a while now, and they had all decided to move her in with Giovanna, since her house was the biggest and she had the room.

But their mother had been admitted into the hospital now, and was not doing well. They had found problems with internal bleeding and her blood work was way out of whack. She was scheduled for open heart surgery in just two days. It was the soonest they could do it, or they would have done it sooner. The girls were afraid for their mother, but were trying not to let it show.

 

 

That evening, Lacey laid in her hospital bed and looked out the window. The TV hung on the wall in front of her, but she had the sound turned down and wasn’t interested in it. There were monitors of all sorts around her blinking and blipping silently, and she looked down at the IV in her arm, thinking about how she never liked them and the idea of how the whole thing worked just seemed weird to her.

Then, she heard a light tapping on the door, as her three girls came it. She smiled at them, and was happy to see them.

“My beautiful girls!” She said. Then, “Did you bring me some French fries and a Big Mac?”

The girls chuckled. “No ma!” Giovanna said. “You know you’re not supposed to be eating that stuff.”

“I know, and usually I don’t. It just sounds so good right now.” Lacey looked sad. “This hospital food is just awful.   It’s bland, and just like cardboard.” She said, tossing a piece of chicken fried steak back on her plate. “No gravy! Can you believe that nonsense? What’s the point of chicken fried steak with no gravy?!” She crossed her arms over her chest and started to pout.

“Maybe tomorrow we’ll bring you something.” Delany offered, feeling sorry for her mom.

Lacey mustered a smile. “Promise?” She said.

“Yes, we promise.” The girls said and nodded in unison.

“Ok.” Lacey smiled bigger then.   “I’m sorry. I just want to go home.” She said looking down at her Jello, and deciding if she wanted to eat it. She ripped the tin foil off the top of it, and grabbed a spoon. “I just want all of this to be over, and to go home.”

The girls looked at each other, daring the other to say it. “Mom…you’re not going to go home after this.” Giovanna said hesitantly. “Remember? You’re going to come stay with me and Sam.”

Lacey sucked the Jello from the spoon and swallowed. “Oh honey, you don’t have to do that.” She said. “I’m fine.”

“I know mom, but we want you to be close to us. We want you there. It will be great. I promise.”

Lacey looked at each of her girls and studied them a moment. Then said, “You are all so lovely. How did I get so lucky? Giovanna, so tiny and sweet, with your big blue eyes that see the world around you so innocently.” She looked to her left now. “Amorette. Did I tell you that your name means little love? You have always been so full of love, showing it in the most unusual ways at times; but always so creative and artistic and full of life.” She looked to the left again. “And Delany. The child I dreamed of, with dark hair and big brown eyes, but never thought I would have. Then God surprised me with you, and what a wonderful gift you were. Always happy to see me and running up to me and giving me hugs. Always wearing holes in the knees of your pants. I never understood how you managed that.” They all chuckled. “You have each grown into beautiful, wonderful ladies. Smart, funny, full of goodness. Blessing me beyond measure in so many amazing ways. I couldn’t have asked for any other children. I am so glad God blessed me with you.”   The girls stepped closer to their mother now, grabbing her hands and arms.

“We love you too mom.” Delany said. The others nodding in agreement.

“I’m tired now. You guys have families to tend to. Go home and let me try to rest.” Lacey said. “Though this place is the furthest place anyone can get from resting.” She added. “Waltzing in here every hour of the day and night, prodding and poking you with something.”   The girls chuckled.   “It will all be over soon, ma.” Amorette said. “Come on guys. Mom needs her rest.”

As the three began to line out the door, Lacey spoke up once more. “Don’t forget! Tomorrow! Big Mac and fries! And an orange soda!”

The girls returned at lunch time the following day and brought their mother what she had asked for. They watched her eat, smiling at her delight in the contraband they had brought her.

While she ate, they sat with their mother and visited. They told her about their mornings, and talked about things in the news.

“Who’s Kaden, mom?” Amorette blurted out.

Delaney and Giovanna looked at her and retorted, “Amorette!” Giving her a look of warning.

“What?” Amorette said, defensively. “I want to know.”

“It’s fine. It’s fine.” Lacey said, interrupting their daughters before a full-blown argument broke out. “I take it you found my diary.”   She said, giving them a knowing look. “And read it.”

The three girls looked down, showing shame and embarrassment.

Lacey went on. “I take it you have a lot of questions.”

The three girls nodded.

“Well, Kaden wasn’t real.” She said. The girls looked at each other, surprised.

“But you made everything sound so real. Like all of that really happened.” Delaney broke in.

“Well, yes. There was a man. His name wasn’t Kaden though.   A lot of the things I wrote about did happen. We met when we were very young, I asked him to take me back, he said no. We reconnected later in life, he was in the Army, had been divorced from a woman named Kerry, and even seemed to have a thing for women with that name. Yes, a lot of it is true.   Even the parts I’m too embarrassed to speak about. They happened.   But the truth is, we never spoke again, and I never saw him again. Haven’t seen him since I was about 20 years old.”

The girls looked at their mother confused. “Then what happened?” Giovanna asked.

“Well, we did stay friends on Facebook for many years. He chose to marry that Jan woman, or whatever her name was.   I would see pictures of them taking trips to Germany, Hawaii, Greece, and all the things I wished I had been able to do with him. I think she had money. I’m not sure. But she bought him nice things, like designer chairs, and a brand-new fancy motorcycle for his birthday…things like that. Maybe she paid for the trips too. Who knows. Not that it really matters. She was beautiful and seemed very sweet. I couldn’t blame him for loving her. But it was also hard for me to watch. Parts of me just always felt so sad about how so many things were left unanswered. But the bottom line was, he chose her. I had to accept that.”

Lacey stopped and took a drink of her orange soda.

“Then what happened?” Giovanna asked.

“Well, you know all that, really.” Lacey shrugged and waved her hand. I married Luke the Loser; lived in virtual hell for a couple of years with him til I couldn’t take anymore and got rid of him. Then I sold all my stuff, quit my job and went to live in the mountains.”

Lacey paused again, reflecting. “You know, I think I only married that loser to try and prove something. To the man you know of as Kaden, to myself…that I was loveable, that someone out there did want to marry me.” She paused again. “But since he was such a magnificent asshole and a loser, I proved nothing but how fantastically I could fail at yet one more relationship. It doesn’t count when you try to compare horse shit to diamonds. It just doesn’t work that way.”   Lacey looked down at her meal, and picked up another French fry; taking a tiny bite.

The girls all looked at their mother sympathetically.

“No ma.” Delaney said. “It just means that you have been a woman who has always had hope. You have always kept the faith when others have lost it. You hoped Luke loved you and that he would be good to you. It’s not your fault that he wasn’t.”

“Well, thank you sweetie. Maybe that’s a little true. But I had no business being with that man, and I think deep down I knew; and I did it anyway.   It was a very bad decision on my part.”

“You’re allowed to make mistakes mom. We know who you really are, and we love you for who you are.” Delany said.

“Well, it’s done and over with, thank God. I was never so glad to see a relationship end in my life!” Lacey laughed, and then stopped herself, because it hurt her chest.

Amorette reached out to her. “Are you okay, mom?”

“Yes, honey. I’m fine. I promise.” Lacey said.

“So, you never went to Montana and reconnected with him, or any of that stuff you wrote about?” Amorette asked.

“No.” Lacey replied.

“Then why did you write in your diary that they did? I don’t get it.” Delany said.

“Yes, that.” Lacey said, as if being brought back from somewhere else. “Well, it’s quite simple really.   I was talking to a friend, and she was telling me that she thought I was a wonderful writer, and that I should write about it. Of course, I thought she was just trying to encourage me at the time. I didn’t think I was such a great writer at all. I just knew I loved doing it.   I even started a blog for a short time, and wrote about various things, including my life experiences. My friend thought this was great, and said that if I wrote the book, she’d help me get it published.

I didn’t do anything with what she said for months. She would call and ask if I had written anything, but she stopped asking when I always told her I had not. But then, one day, I found myself looking at the pictures of this man you know of as Kaden again on Facebook. I realized I was still having trouble getting over him. I wondered if I ever would; and I was struggling with not having closure. So, I decided it was time to write my story.”

Lacey took another drink of her soda and ate another French fry. The girls waited silently for her to finished.

“Then, it was like a voice inside my head that said, ‘Lacey, it’s your story. You can write it however you want. You can still have your happy ending. So, I made it up.”

Lacey smiled and looked at her girls. “It’s really just that simple. I made it up.”

The girls looked at their mother and smiled back at her.

“I took experiences I had had, and created Amber and Bill from a real friend I had and her husband-and they actually lived by a lake, and they were really great people. Just like I wrote them in the book. I just changed their names, and you know,”

“Made it up!” The girls exclaimed in unison. They all laughed.

“I had forgotten all about that.” Lacey said, shaking her head. I wrote it, and I put it on my blog and sent my friend a copy. Nothing ever really came of it, though. No one really read my blog, and…I just lost interest and forgot all about it.”

“What was his real name?” Delaney asked.

Lacey was silent for a moment. “Honey, there are some things a woman gets to keep to herself. Even from her children.” She looked at them and smiled.

The girls looked at their mother with sympathy.

“Oh, stop that now, you three!” Lacey scolded them.   “I had a full life. I lived, I loved, and I had three girls who grew up to be amazing people. I truly could not ask for more. I lived up there in those mountains, where I could focus on me and be closer to nature. I hung up hummingbird feeders right outside my windows, and watched them. I saw deer run through the property all the time. I saw birds and butterflies of every color; most, I had never seen before.   I found peace like I had never had before. And once I wrote that story….it really was healing for me in a lot of ways. I noticed I did feel better. Writing the story was my way of reclaiming my heart.”

Lacey picked up her mostly empty cup of soda and made a long slurping sound and shook the ice. “I learned to be content.” She said. “I read the Bible like I had always wanted to do and never done, and other books I had always wanted to read, too. I got books on CD from the library to listen to on my long commutes for work. I played with Jack, I did a lot of things I had always wanted to do, but never had. I lived my life on my own terms. Well, I have always lived my life on my own terms, but this was on another level. I will never regret that in a million years, my beautiful babies, and you never should either!” She smiled at them.

“Now go home to your families. I am tired of all this nonsense!” She shooed at them.   “But give me hugs and kisses first. I have this damn surgery in the morning. I need them for strength!”

Each of the girls hugged their mothers a little tighter that night and kissed her good-bye.   “We’ll see you in the morning.” They all said in unison again as they all left Lacey’s room.

That would be the last story their mother would ever tell them.

 

 

The funeral had been simple with not many people. Lacey’s childhood friend that lived near Lake Michigan, the girls had now discovered, was named Ann; and she had been there. She brought her husband Steve, and just as Lacey had described them in her book, they were a great support and comfort to the girls. They had asked her at one point later on if she knew who the mysterious man named Kaden might be, but Ann said she didn’t know.

Most of the family members were there, of course, though several couldn’t make it.   Some people from Lacey’s church had come, and a few others they didn’t know. The girls were devastated to have lost their mother that way, and Jack was visibly depressed without her. He was old, at about twenty years old now, and Giovanna was very worried about him.

Giovanna did everything she could to coax him to eat, and sometimes he would take a little from her hand. “I miss her too boy, I miss her too.” She said to him.

It had been a week since they had buried their mother, and the girls decided they would all get together and go see their mom without all the people around.   As they drove in Giovanna’s car together, they said very little.

Finally, Delaney spoke. “You know, mom really did die of a broken heart. I believe it. I think she did. I mean, her physical heart was broken, and needed a new valve, and I think emotionally, her heart was broken too. I think she literally died of a broken heart.” She looked out the window as they drove along.

It was a cloudy day, and a light rain had been coming down all morning. “You were always the wise one.” Amorette said towards the back where Delaney was sitting. “Mom just didn’t want us to worry or feel sorry for her.” She added. “You think that’s it?”

“I think that’s exactly it.” Giovanna said. “Always the mother. Always trying to protect her children.”

Delaney and Amorette nodded and they made the rest of the drive in silence.

When they reached the cemetery, the rain had let up and they walked across the grass towards their mother’s burial plot. The temperature was cool and they pulled their jackets around them as they walked. When they reached their mother’s headstone, they thought for a second maybe they had come to the wrong one. There were bunches of wild flowers strewn over her grave, and on the top of her head stone sat a single, purple rose. Delaney walked up to get a better look. There was something else. Seven tiny, light colored stones sat atop a little card. She gentle shook the stones off of the card and let them fall slide back upon the head stones. She looked down at the card and tears filled her eyes.

“What does it say?” Amorette asked.

Delaney couldn’t speak for a moment. Then, when she found her voice she spoke.

“It says, ‘Next life. I’ll be waiting.’”

The girls immediately looked around them to see who may have left the note for their mother. Off in the distance, they saw an older looking man in a uniform walking away from them. He had his down and his hands in his pockets as he walked. Despite his obvious age, he was still muscular, and walked with purposed. They watched him for a moment, and he disappeared into the trees.

“Did you see that?” Delaney asked her sisters. They both nodded. “Do you think that was him?” She asked them.

Amorette shrugged. “I’m not sure he was even real. Are you?” She looked at Giovanna. “I’m not sure either.” She said. But these things here, they are real. So, he must be real too; if that’s who left them.

“I wonder if that was him.” Delaney said.

“Who knows. But how did he know about the pebbles and the purple rose, and telling her that he would wait?”   Giovanna said. “How did he know?”

The three of them stood there staring at the flowers, and the rose and the tiny pebbles before them, and could find no answers.

Amorette looked at them and smiled. “Maybe next life, we’ll find out.”

“I hope mom can see all this.” Delaney said. “Wherever she is, I hope she knows that even though this man didn’t feel like he could do anything about it, he did love her.”

“The Bible says when we get to heaven, all will be made known.” Giovanna said. “I think now, she knows.”  Giovanna stood there quietly a moment.  Then she whispered, “She knows; and she’s finally home.”

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Reclaiming the Heart Part V

A fictional love story with a little bit of truth in it.

“I think you should join us for dinner.” Lacey said to Kaden. “That way I can make sure you haven’t tainted those fish in some way.” She said, teasingly. Kaden made a face and said, “Who, Me? Never!” Teasing her back. “But seriously, I doubt Amber and Bill would mind. You ARE neighbors, after all. What better way to get to know your neighbors?”

“You really think they won’t mind?” Kaden asked.

“Of course not! They are very kind, outgoing people. I seriously doubt Amber has ever met a stranger. Besides, it’s not like you’re a complete stranger, Amber went to school with us too! They will love it, I’m sure! Plus, I’m sure they’ve been wondering what’s going on between us. I bet the curiosity has been killin’ em!”   Lacey giggled.

Kaden thought about this a moment, and then agreed.   He held out his hand and began to walk her back to Amber and Bill’s house.

When they got there, they began preparing dinner for Bill and Amber. Kaden insisted on cleaning up the fish and put them all on a sheet of tin foil; stuffed slabs of butter and lemon slices inside of them, and then dashed some spices on top. Amber watched him as he did so, pleased that he seemed to know his way around a kitchen. None of the men she had been involved with before seemed to want to be bothered with cooking, and it always fell upon her. This was a nice surprise, she thought. Once Kaden had the fish seasoned to his satisfaction, he folded the top of the tin foil over them like a bubble, and set it aside. Then he began preparing some asparagus and then took it all out back to grill it. Lacey grabbed a few potatoes, cut them up put them all in a frying pan with lots of butter and garlic. She busied herself with keeping them from burning and seasoning them while Kaden was outside grilling the fish and asparagus. When the potato chunks were nice and brown on the outside and tender on the outside, she threw in some parmesan and shredded cheddar cheese for good measure. Placed them in a bowl and covered them; then stuck them in the microwave to keep warm.

Lacey set the table, and had just finished when Amber and Bill came home. They were all smiles when they saw that Lacey had made dinner, but even more so when Kaden came in the house, carrying a platter of grilled asparagus and fresh caught fish.

The four of them sat down to eat and talked about days gone by, when they were young. Each of them telling funny stories to Bill about all the stupid things they had done when they were kids. When they finished, they all went out on the back deck and Bill and Kaden built a fire in the pit, while the ladies prepared smores.   Bill made everyone some mix drinks and they visited well into the night.

When Kaden decided it was time to take his leave, he pulled Lacy aside to tell her goodnight.

“I am really grateful, Lacey, that you have allowed me to spend this time with you.”   He said. “I sincerely am. This means a lot to me.”

“You’re welcome.” Lacey said. It was all she could say. She felt happy inside, and also a little sad that the night had to end.

Kaden kissed her sweetly on the lips. “Remember what I said. I will be waiting for you every day, down at the lake. If you want to see me, I’ll be there.”

Lacey nodded.

When she went back into the house, Amber and Bill teased her, but she knew they were happy for her too.

“So, what now?” Amber asked.

“I’m not sure.” Lacey said. “I mean, I’m only here for about another week, and then I’ll have to go back home.   He said he wants to see me as much as he can while I am here. But…I came to see you guys.” Lacey looked down at her empty glass in a far-off manner, trying to decide if she wanted one more before bed.

“About that.” Amber chimed in. “We were trying to figure out how to tell you this, because we were feeling a little bad about it; but they are starting the work on the new guest house on Monday. We obviously want to get it started and finished as soon as possible, but didn’t want you to feel like we were ignoring you either, or like you were in the way.   You are more than welcome to stay on for as long as you want here; and spend all the time you want with Kaden. Then we don’t have to feel so bad about being preoccupied with the building project.”

Lacey smiled at her childhood friend. “You really are the best, you know?”

Amber waved her off. “It’s nothing! That’s what friends do!”

Lacey went up to the spare room and found peaceful slumber.

When Lacey woke the next morning, she could tell that even though it wasn’t Monday yet, the project was already needing much attention. She heard Bill tell Amber how they needed to front load the project by getting things ordered and delivered as soon as possible and there was much preparing to do.

Amber made breakfast for them all, and they sat down and talked about the project. Amber was very excited about it, and Lacey liked seeing her friend so happy. They told Lacey they were sorry, but they needed to go into town to pick up some lumber, tools, and other supplies. Lacey smiled and told them it was perfectly fine.

Lacey went upstairs to shower and put on a green button up cotton shirt and a pair of jeans. She already knew where she was going as she grabbed her hiking shoes and tied them. She wondered if Kaden would really be there, like he said.

When she went down to the lake, she did not see him.   She then headed up the trail to “their rock.” Kaden was there. This time, he was the one asleep. She bent down and picked up some tiny pebbles and crept quietly towards the rock.   She crouched behind it so Kaden could not see her and started tossing them up in his direction. Not sure if any of them were making contact. Then she heard him stirring above her, and tried to stifle a giggle as Kaden whispered to himself, “What the?”

Then she looked up, and Kaden was standing there, towering over her. “Oh, that’s real funny, Lace! I guess I deserved that. You got me!”

“Yep. Turnabout is fair play!” She giggled again.

Kaden extended his hand to her and helped her upon the rock. He had a blanket spread out on top of it, and the two of them lounged there watching the clouds together. They would point out different formations they saw, and asked if the other could see it too.

They talked about their lives and how things had unfolded for each of them. Kaden told Lacey about Kerry, and Kerry number two, and three. How he had lived with Kerry number one for a few years, and then they parted ways. Then he married Kerry number two; but he had gone home for lunch one day to surprise her and take her out to lunch, and caught her cheating on him. Kerry number three he had been with a couple years, but it just didn’t seem to be jelling. He broke things off with her when he found out he was going to be deployed to Afghanistan.

“Not to bring up a sore subject, but I have to ask. Was your last involvement with a gal named Kerry too? You know, the gal you were seeing when we…did what we did?” She grinned in a teasing manner, but she really wanted to know.

“Actually no.” He chuckled. “Her name was Jan.   Which is probably why it didn’t work out!” He nudged Lacey.

“Well, when you think about it, I think it’s the opposite. It would seem to me that since it never worked out with any of the women named Kerry, you should probably stay away from women with that name!” She winked at Kaden.

“You may have a point.” He said, smiling back at her.

Kaden had brought another lunch for them of fried chicken, wine and potato salad and they visited all day long. That evening, he asked Lacey to come to his place for dinner.

She got out her cell phone, and was thankful she had service. She checked in with Amber to make sure they had not made big plans in expectation of her being there and Amber had told her they were delayed in town and it would work out great. She and Bill would grab supper in town.

He grabbed her hand and they walked around the lake into a heavily wooded area, until they came to a clearing. There sat Kaden’s log house.   Lacey smiled. It was small, but perfect for someone on their own. There was a garden off to the side, and a garage that was bigger than the house.   On the front porch hung a two-seated wooden swing.

“Oh! I love these!” Lacey ran up to it and quickly sat down. “Come swing with me, Kade!” She patted the seat next to her. Kaden smiled and walked over to her, then took the seat next to her.

“You like it, huh?” He grinned.

“Yes, I love it!” She said. “The house, the porch, the swing, the garden; everything is…perfect!” She beamed.

“Well thank you.” Kaden said. “I built it all myself.” He added.

“No way?” Lacey looked both astounded and very pleased.

“Yep.” Kaden smiled. “I even made this swing.”

“I knew you were amazing.” Lacey smiled and squeezed his hand. “I knew it.”

They went inside and Lacey was greeted by a big grey dog wagging her tail. “Her name is Ahnah.” Kaden told her. “She’s a mutt, but we’re pretty sure she’s mostly a shepherd breed.” He added.

“She’s gorgeous!” Lacey replied, as she knelt down and rubbed Ahnah’s neck.

“And you’re a good girl, too. Aren’t you Ahnah?” Lacey said to the dog, as the dog continued to wiggle and squirm at the excitement of making a new friend.

Once Lacey and Ahnah were done getting acquainted, Lacey stood up and looked around the home. She was even more amazed. Inside was a huge living room with wooden floors made of pine and sealed with a clear coat. Everything was light, bright, and airy. The ceiling was high, and as she looked up, she saw a loft with small wooden steps coming back down to the living room along the side wall.

“That’s the Master bedroom.” He said. He grabbed her hand and took her up the stairs. The room was large, but there were places she had to watch her head. She laughed as she nearly bumped it.   Off to the side was a small bathroom and a good-sized closet. The windows were big and let in a lot of light. The views are simply amazing, she thought.

Kaden took her hand once more and they went back down the stairs. The kitchen and the living room were separated by a breakfast bar and four wooden stools. She looked at Kaden.

“Yep. Made those too.” He said grinning, because he knew what she was thinking.

Lacey smiled back and looked around in amazement. They walked beyond the open kitchen area and off to the left was another bathroom, and then next to that, the entry way to another small bedroom. Kaden had a bed, a desk, and shelves of books lined the wall. In the corner sat a Gun safe, and boxes of ammo and a couple of pistols sat on top of it. Above it hung an antelope head. “The first thing I ever shot.” Kaden said, looking up at it.

“Anyway, this is the uh, spare room, slash office.” He said. “I don’t need a lot of space.” He shrugged.

They exited the room and continued on towards the back of the house, where there was a small laundry room and a mud room by the back door.

“It’s perfect.” Lacey said. “It’s you.”   She said beaming. She thought that she herself could not have picked a more perfect home to live in if it were her.

They walked out the back door, where Kaden had built a small deck. Off to her left was a barbeque grill, a table and some chairs. The land was groomed and looked like a meadow to her, and the place was surrounded by dense trees.

“This is practically heaven on earth!” She exclaimed. “So amazing!”

“I think so.” Kaden shoved his hands in his pockets and looked at Lacey. “I’m glad you like it. I’m glad…that you would…maybe…one day…be happy here too.”

Lacey blushed and moved over towards one of the chairs to sit.

“Why don’t you sit there and rest a minute while I get us something to drink?” He started towards the door. “Do you want wine? Something stronger? I don’t have a full bar, but I have a decent selection.” He stopped and waited for Lacey to answer.

“I would really love a glass of wine.” Lacey beamed up at him.

Lacey sat in the chair and looked around. Off in the distance, she saw a doe and her fawn leap through the tall grass and then back into the safety of the trees again.   She smiled in her heart.

A few moments later, Kaden returned and handed her a glass of wine.

“I just saw some deer!” Lacey exclaimed.

“See them all the time out here.” Kaden smiled. Taking pleasure in her obvious delight. “They drive Ahnah nuts!” He chuckled.

“I bet they do!” Lacey said. “Does she chase them?” She asked.

“Yep. Hasn’t caught one yet.” He shook his head. “Don’t think she would know what to do if she caught one anyway, the silly girl.” It was obvious to Lacey he loved that dog.

Almost as if on cue, Ahnah appeared with a big purple ball in her teeth. She brought it to Lacey as if asking her to throw it, and Lacey did. Ahnah was fast and nearly caught the ball before it even landed. Lacey clapped her hands with glee. “Good girl, Ahnah! Good girl!   Bring it back! Bring it here.” Ahnah was all too happy to oblige her. She came running and brought the ball back, dropping it at Lacey’s feet.

“You relax and I’ll make us something to eat.” He said.

“What are you going to make?” Lacey asked.

“I was thinking Mac and Cheese.” He chuckled and Lacey laughed too.

Lacey sat and enjoyed her surroundings as Kaden came out with some steaks and put them on the grill. They chatted about how long he had been there, and how long it took him to build everything, while Lacey simultaneously played fetch with Ahnah. Lacey was more enamored by him than ever.

“You sure you don’t want some help with anything?” She asked; feeling a bit guilty.

“I got it.” He said. “Just relax.” He smiled. “Besides, Ahnah needs her exercise. She’s been feeling a bit neglected lately.”

He went back into the house and a few moments later, returned with two spears full of vegetables; peppers, small onions, and tiny potatoes. He placed them on the grill with the steak.

“All four food groups!” He chuckled.

“It looks and smells amazing.” Lacey told him.

Kaden had built a beautiful fire pit on the edge of the deck made out of stone and masonry. After they had eaten, he lit a fire and they pulled their chairs closer to it, and it took the chill out of the night air. They continued to tell each other stories and about how their lives had played out over the years.

Lacey told Kaden how she had married right out of high school and her husband had taken to her California where he was stationed at Camp Pendleton as a Marine. How he had problems with alcohol and drugs and was dishonorably discharged for having a hot UA. She was pregnant when this happened, and it was horrible timing. She told Kaden how the child, a girl, was born prematurely and sent to a newborn ICU a state away; and how since they had no money, she had slept in hospital lounges and waiting rooms for four months so she could be with her baby. She explained how she and her husband had gone back to Lander, so he could look for work and was doing odd jobs here and there before the baby was born. Then, while she stayed at the hospital, he would be in Lander during the week, hopefully working, and would drive out to see her and the baby on the weekends.

“Then, one weekend he showed up with a huge hickey on his neck.” Lacey said looking down at her drink. “That was the last straw for me. I just couldn’t do it anymore. We had so many struggles and issues surrounding his addictions…and his temper. I just knew I didn’t want my daughter growing up around that. Especially when she was fighting so hard for her very life while he was off doing what he was….she deserved better.”

“You deserved better.” Kaden interjected. “You had enough on your plate without him adding to it like that. That’s just unacceptable. I didn’t really know him in high school, but I knew who he was, and I knew of him; and not to be mean, but I always thought he was a jerk.”

“Not mean at all.” Lacey said. “It’s true.”

Lacey sighed and looked up at the stars. “It’s so beautiful here. You are so lucky you get to live here, and live this way.”

“Yes, I guess I am.” Kaden shrugged. “Maybe one day you will live here too.”

“That’s a big step.” Lacey said, shaking her head.

“Take all the time you need, Lace.” Kaden squeezed her hand. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Well, I hate to say it; but I better get back.” Lacey said, yawning. “Do you have a flashlight I could borrow?”

“Don’t be silly!” Kaden started.

“I can’t stay here, Kade! It’s inappropriate!” Lacey interrupted.

Kaden laughed. “What I was going to say was that there was no way I was going to let you walk back there by yourself in the dark!”

“Oh.” Lacey blushed. “Ok.”

Kaden went into the house and came back a moment later with a flashlight. “If it makes you feel better, you can hold the flashlight, though.” He nudged her.

“Give me that!” Lacey laughed, and grabbed it out of his hand.

Kaden walked Lacey back to Amber and Bill’s house and kissed her goodnight.   “Remember what I said.” He told her again. “I will be waiting for you.”

Lacey walked up to the house and let herself in as quietly as she could. It was dark and motionless, except for a small lamp in the living room they had obviously left on for her. She walked over and turned the lamp off, and then walked softly up the stairs to her room. Once again, Lacey slept a peaceful sleep.

The next day, and for the next 8 days, Lacey spent her mornings with Amber and Bill, discussing how things were coming along with the project, and then parting ways. Amber and Bill were constantly running to town to pick up something they needed, or were heading over to the new building to work and supervise the hired help. Lacey would walk down to the lake and spend her days and evenings with Kaden.

The two of them spent as much time together as they could, stealing kisses, and being as close to each other as possible. Kaden told Lacey about how he had joined the Army and all the different places he had been, and what they were like. Lacey loved hearing his stories. She genuinely loved his company.

They told each other about old wounds and Lacey told him how it seemed like she could never seem to find a lasting love, and how she had moved around her whole life. Never feeling like she quite belonged anywhere. Never feeling like she was home.

Kaden opened up more about his marriage and how it had fallen apart and other struggles he had in his life too.

They were having to get to know each other again in many ways. Yet, Lacey could still see that boy she loved long ago with long dark hair and blue eyes-his left eye was still half blue and half green.

Every night, Kaden walked her home and kissed her; telling her to remember what he had said. And every day Lacey met him. He was always there, upon the rock, waiting for her.

The day Lacey had to return to Colorado, she was all but devastated. She felt like she was in a world not quite like her own any longer. She wondered if she had been in an alternate universe the whole time. The void inside her was like a black hole, eating away at her. She missed Kaden in her very bones.

They spoke on the phone every day, sometimes three or four times a day. He always had time for her, and if he was busy, he always called her right back. He never made her wait. Never made her wonder. Just as he said, he was always there; waiting for her.

Kaden would come to see her, and after a few visits, she gave him a key to her place. When his flights came in late, or traffic tied him up in Denver, he didn’t want her waiting up for him. She loved nothing more than feeling him lie on the bed beside her on top of the covers, and pulling her tightly to him, as she drifted back to sleep. She took him to all her favorite places in Colorado. To Beulah, where she loved to go for lunch by herself before taking a mountain drive; to her favorite coffee shop and her favorite bakery, and restaurants.

They shared their lives with each other, and let each other in on all their favorite things, their hopes, desires, fears, and secrets.

When they were in Montana, they would spend a lot of time on the lake in Kaden’s little boat. They would fish, or Lacey would read a book while Kaden fished. She didn’t really care what they were doing, as long as they were together.

Of course, they would always stop in to see Amber and Bill. The new guest house was finally complete, and Amber looked as happy as ever. Lacey loved that she did.

Lacey’s job as a social worker was very demanding, so the days were not as hard for her. The nights were always the worst. She’d come home and play with her German Shepherd, Jack; fix something to eat, and do whatever she could to keep busy until time to call Kaden. Her focus was now about not becoming consumed with missing Kaden all the time. Many, many nights she would lie in her bed with tears falling onto her pillow, because she missed him. Many times, as much as she hated it, she couldn’t control her tears as she spoke to him on the phone. Kaden would always console her and remind her that he was there for her; waiting for her; and he wasn’t going anywhere.

One Friday she came home from work after a long week, exhausted. She had nothing on her mind but getting something to eat, hearing Kaden’s voice, and going to sleep.

As she neared the house, she saw a moving van parked outside her house, and wondered if the neighbors were moving. But as she got closer, she saw strange men coming out of her house carrying boxes. She was immediately alarmed. She pulled into the driveway and then she saw Kaden in the doorway. He was smiling and looking proud of himself. He walked over to her car and greeted her with a kiss.

“What’s going on here?” Lacey asked. Still not sure what was happening.

“Don’t worry, babe.” Kaden said. “I have taken care of everything. Even this.”

Kaden knelt down in the driveway in front of the moving men and cleaning ladies he had hired, holding a small box with a ring.

“Lacey, I believe God gave me a second chance with you, and that it was indeed divine providence. There’s no doubt in my mind he blessed me with you, and that you are the greatest blessing I have ever received. I meant it when I said I would always be waiting for you, and I intend to do that for the rest of my life; and yours too. I will wait for you to come home when you leave, wait for you to get ready to go out, to decide what you want to eat, or where you want to go. I will wait for you to come to bed, to wake up, and every moment you are willing to grace me with your presence. I just need one thing from you. Be my wife.”

Lacey looked down at him in shock.   This wasn’t what she had imagined as the most romantic proposal ever, but now it was. Tears rolled down her face.

“But…how…how am I just supposed to up and leave?” She asked. “I have a job and a life here.”

“I’ve taken care of the hard part.” Kaden motioned to the movers and the cleaning ladies. “You can get another job there, or don’t even work, if you don’t want to. It’s up to you. All you have to do is say yes.”

Lacey stood there a moment and tried to make sense of it all. The movers walked by, trying not to show that they were listening, but they were. The cleaning ladies were peeking out the windows. Even Jack sat at Kaden’s feet looking up at her, as if telling her she needed to say yes.

“And I’m waiting right now….for you to say yes.” Kaden winked at her.

Lacey’s attention snapped back to Kaden. “Looks like I don’t really have a choice.” She smiled. “Yes!”

She knelt down too, in front of Kaden, and looked at him. “Kaden, when we met again, I didn’t trust you. I didn’t want anything to do with you. But you showed me that trust can be rebuilt. You showed me that there are people I can depend on. You showed me that I can love again. Yes, I will be your wife.”

Kaden kissed her and pulled her close to him, wincing a bit from being on his knees. Lacey laughed and he put the ring upon her finger. It was a ring made of white gold, and in it was set a dark blue sapphire. She smiled at how he had not been so cliché with a huge diamond, and thinking the bigger the better. She knew he knew her. “Thank you.” Lacey said. “It’s perfect.”

Kaden smiled back at her. “Almost as perfect as you.” He said.

Lacey blushed.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her over to the passenger seat of her car, and she looked at him confused.   “Where are we going?” She asked.

“I’m taking you home!” Kaden exclaimed.

“Now?” Lacey asked incredulously.

“Well, I was going to feed you first. But yes, now! Don’t worry. I took care of everything.”  He smiled and turned on the engine. Lacey looked in the back seat, and Jack was sitting on top of one of her suitcases. He had even packed her bags for her.

When they arrived back at the lake in Montana, it was evening. Kaden didn’t take her to his house though. Instead he took her to Amber and Bill’s guest house. Lacey was confused, but didn’t say anything.   Amber and Bill were outside waiting for them, and welcomed her with open arms and smiles. Amber took Lacey inside the guest house and pulled her towards the small bedroom.

“I have something to show you!” She said excitedly.

“What?” Lacey asked. Trying to imagine what it could be that would have her so excited.

“You’ll see.” She said.

When Lacey rounded the corner into the small room, she saw a beautiful white dress laying on the bed. It was made of satin and lace and elegant. It had bead work on the bodice, and the skirt was long and full of lace. It reminded her of an antique wedding dress, and she loved it. Beside it lay a small bouquet of wild flowers that Amber had obviously picked and made.

Lacey took in her breath, and looked at Amber. “Does this mean what I think it means?” She asked her.

“Sure does.” Amber beamed. “He took care of everything!” Amber said. “I am so glad you found someone so wonderful, Lacey! I am so happy for you!” The two women hugged and cried as Lacey continued to wrap her head around it all.

Amber pulled away. “Now get dressed!” She said. “You have an hour.”

Lacey looked at her and wrinkled her forehead. “Now?” She said, once again astonished.

“Yes, now!” Amber answered and headed back for the door. “I’ve got to get ready too. Now hurry! This is going to be so great!”

Lacey turned around and looked at the dress, the flowers for her hair, and the little white slippers. He really has thought of everything. She whispered. She took a quick shower to freshen up and put on her dress and slippers. Everything fit perfectly.   This had to be Amber’s doing. No doubt. She smiled as she looked in the mirror.

Amber came in the door wearing a dark purple satin dress.   She had her hair up and looked elegant. “I thought you might want some help with your hair.” She said.

“Yes, please.” Lacey said. She walked over to a chair and Amber picked up the flowers and pinned up Lacey’s hair for her. Placing the purple and yellow wildflowers perfectly in her hair.

“You look so beautiful.” Amber said. Tears welling up in her eyes.

“You do too!” Lacey said back, and trying to blink away the moisture in her eyes as well. “Enough of that!” Lacey said, shaking it off. “It will ruin my makeup, and I’m getting married to the man I love tonight!” She said beaming at the vision of herself in the mirror.

“We better get going.” Amber grabbed her hand.

“Going? Where are we going?” Lacey was yet again confused.

“You’ll see!” Amber said, in a bubbly voice.

Bill was outside waiting for them, and carrying a huge flashlight. Kaden was nowhere to be found. Bill offered Lacey one arm, and offered his other arm to Amber; handing her the flashlight. They began heading for the lake. It was not quite dark yet, but the sun was going down in a brilliant vision of purple, orange, and yellow, just like Lacey’s flowers.   When they reached the lake, they turned onto the path that led to the big rock. When they came around the bend, Lacey caught her breath.

The whole area had been cleared and was surrounded by torches that lit the path and all around the rock. There were lights hung in the trees and strings of flowers hung everywhere. Several people turned around and watched as Lacey and Bill and Amber came near. Lacey couldn’t believe it. Two of her best friends were there with their husbands, and a few acquaintances as well.   There were only a few people she didn’t know.

In front of her and to the right, there stood Lacey’s three girls, Giovanna, Amorette, and Delaney. In front of them sat Jack, who was wearing a little pillow strapped to his back. He was obviously the ring bearer. Lacey giggled. The girls were wearing dresses made of satin in shades of purple, pale yellow, and light orange.  Giovanna wore purple, Amorette wore Orange, and Delaney wore yellow. Together, they reminded Lacey of the sunset. They were each holding small bouquets of wildflowers and smiling back at their mother.

Next to Jack, sat Ahnah, who was wearing a string of flowers around her neck and on her tail. Lacey thought she looked so sweet, and was glad that she and Jack would now have a friend to play with.

Directly in front of her, Lacey’s eyes then went to Kaden. There he was standing in front of the huge rock, waiting for her, like he had done so many times before. He was wearing a black suit and had his hands in his pockets as he watched her intently with a smile. To his left, stood whom Lacey could only assume were Kaden’s son and daughter. Each were also wearing a dark suit, but his daughter’s suit was cut beautifully for a woman, and she worse a lavender shirt beneath the jacket.

As they walked up closer to Kaden, it was all Lacey could do to hold back the tears. She was so completely overwhelmed with so many emotions. He had planned this, and many of these people had put it all together for her. She knew that her girls had probably been there a day or two before, and had helped Amber and Bill with all of this. More than likely Kaden’s kids had helped too. Amorette winked at her as she walked by.

When they reached the rock, Bill handed Lacey over to Kaden, who was now offering her his arm. Then he took his place next to Kaden’s children as the best man, and Amber took her place with Lacey’s girls as Maid of Honor.

When it came time to say their vows, Kaden made Lacey cry.

“It took us over thirty years to get here.” He said. “But I would like to think that like wine, with age, we have only gotten better. You are more beautiful to me now than you ever were when we were young. …But don’t get me wrong!” He interjected. “You were a hottie!” Everyone chuckled. “I believe this is our time.   That what has gone before us has only made us stronger, and better able to love and appreciate each other now. I believe you are my gift from God, and I thank him for you every day.” Kaden paused. “I promise you Lacey, that I choose you above all others, and I will continue to choose you every day, for the rest of my life.”

Amber handed Lacey a tissue before it was her turn to speak. She was so unprepared for this, that she had not had time to prepare anything. She wasn’t sure what to say.

“Kaden, you once said that you would wait for me every day, and then you did it. At first, it was right here on this rock. This rock has been a significant memorial to you, to me, and for us. Now this rock also signifies something else. Now YOU have become my rock. My refuge from life. My safe place. I am finally home, because YOU are my home. I waited for you in my heart for years, and then you waited for me. My heart chose you long ago, and it has chosen you again. I will always choose you, my rock, the rest of my life.”

Then, without thinking, Lacey began to sing to Kaden; even though she didn’t remember all of the words. She was, in that moment, unaware of the people around her, the flowers, or the dogs. It was a song she had heard by Steven Curtis Chapman, and cried over many times, because she never had anyone who made her feel like they loved her that much. Nor had she ever had anyone she knew she loved that much.

Tomorrow morning if you wake up, And the sun does not appear; I, I will be here. If in the dark we lose sight of love, Hold my hand, and have no fear Cause I, I will be here.

I will be here when you feel like being quiet When you need to speak you mind I will listen and I will be here when the laughter turns to cryin’ through the winning, losing and tryin’ We’ll be together ‘cause I will be here.

Lacey began to cry again and could not finish the song. She didn’t remember the next verse anyway. She heard sniffles all around her, and Kaden’s eyes were moist.

After the little ceremony, everyone headed back to the shore of the lake. All the men carried the torches and brought back small tables and chairs from Amber and Bills house on a small hand pulled cart. Amber had even made small bouquets for each of the little tables, and the men built a fire pit for everyone to make smores. Toasts were made, and people laughed. Those who did not know each other got to know each other better and good times were had by all.

The people began to dwindle down and said their good-byes and congratulations to Kaden and Lacey. Lacey’s girls and Kaden’s daughter were staying in Amber’s guest house, and Kaden’s son, being and outdoor type, had pitched a tent near the lake.

Amber and Bill returned home, and Kaden and Lacey sat and watched the fire slowly turn into embers and fade away into darkness. Kaden held out his hand to Lacey. “May I escort you home, my lady?” He smiled.

Lacey smiled back and took hold. “Why thank you, my Lord.” She curtsied in front of him.

When they reached what would now be Lacey’s new home, Kaden picked her up and carried her into the house. “I have to carry you over the threshold.” He told her.

“Why do they do that?” Lacey asked giggling.

“I have no idea.” Kaden said. “Maybe it’s so they can’t change their minds at the last minute and run away.” He teased.

Once inside, Lacey reached behind him and shut the door. Kaden did not put her down, but instead carried her up the stairs and to what would now be their bed. He had decorated the room with vases of flowers everywhere and strewn rose petals all over the bed. Lacey looked up at him and smiled; then he kissed her.

That night, Kaden had reclaimed her completely. He had reclaimed her heart, her body, and she gave every fiber of her being to him. What had started out as a trip for Lacey to reclaim her own heart and heal, was now something more magnificent and far more healing. She had reclaimed him, and he had reclaimed her.

The next morning, Lacey woke to Kaden coming up the stairs carrying a tray of food for her with a single purple rose laying on it. She smiled at how he knew it was her favorite. She ate hungrily as he watched her.

“Quit watching me eat!” She said, blushing. “Why aren’t you eating, anyway? Aren’t you hungry?” She said with a mouthful of food.

“Oh, I’m hungry all right; but not for food.” Kaden looked down at her. “And I’m not watching you so much as waiting for you to finish.” He grinned.

Lacey blushed even more as she stifled a laugh and almost choked on her food.

“Well, in that case.” She said wiping her mouth with a napkin. “I’m finished.” She put the tray aside on the nightstand. Kaden leaned over to her and kissed her. Then he took her, and reclaimed her once again.

A while later, they heard engines outside, and Kaden jumped out of the bed. “That must be the movers. Guess we have to get up and get dressed now.” He said, throwing on a T shirt and jeans. Lacey got up too, and threw on a pair of jeans and a pink T shirt. They both went down stairs and opened the door just as the man driving the moving van got out. He came up to Kaden and handed him the keys and then got into a car that had followed him in, and they drove away.

“The kids will all be down here later to help us unload and unpack everything.” He said.

“Where in the world are we going to put it all?!” Lacey said, shaking her head at the huge truck. “We don’t have room for all of it, and a lot of it we have no need for either.” She continued.

Kaden quieted her with a kiss. “It doesn’t matter.” He said, then kissing her again. “I have everything I need right here.”

Lacey kissed Kaden back, and then he picked her up and took her back to her new bed again; tossing her down upon it with a laugh. “I changed my mind.” He said, pulling his shirt off over his head. “We don’t need to get up and get dressed right now at all.”

Lacey pulled him to her and unzipped his jeans, and then took off her shirt as well. “I married a very wise man.” She said, and she gave herself to him again.

Kaden kept his promises to Lacey and she kept her promises to him as they grew old together. They spent the remainder of their days exploring each other, discovering new things together, and reclaiming each other over and over again.

*******************************************************************

Delaney closed the leather-bound book in her hands and ran her fingers along the embossing. Her long dark hair falling over her face as she looked down at it.

“Is that the end?” Amorette asked, her big green eyes full of wonder.

Delaney looked back at her sister with her almond shape eyes, dark and full of tears.

“Yeah.” She said. Still looking down.

Giovanna walked over to Delaney on the other side of their mother’s room, where Delaney was sitting in a used, beat up easy chair their mother had found at a second-hand store. It was green and had dog hair all over it, and even a few stains, but Lacey loved it all the same.

“Can I see it?” Giovanna asked, reaching her hand out to Delaney.

“Sure.” Delaney said, handing their mother’s diary to her.

Amorette lounged on their mother’s bed and rested on her elbows. “So, who was this guy?” She asked.  “Who do you think he was?”

To be continued. 😊

Reclaiming the Heart Part IV

A fictional love story with a bit of truth in it

Lacey looked up at Kaden, and he actually looked hurt. “Why don’t you know if you want to sort things out anymore, Lace?”   He asked.

Lacey sighed deep and long. “I don’t know Kaden. There’s just so much it’s overwhelming to me, you know? I have been trying to figure things out, and sort things out for a few years now, all on my own. You have been no help-in fact in a lot of ways you made it worse. Now I’m tired and weary of it.”

Kaden paused before saying, “There’s really not that much to sort out, Lace. Not like you think there is. Please, let’s sort this out?”

“Why now, Kaden? I mean, I have wanted answers for years, and now because it’s convenient for you, all the sudden everything’s supposed to be fine?” Lacey said.

For the first time, Kaden could tell she was actually weary of it all. It was in her voice, and he could see it in her body and on her face.  The girl he knew held herself tall, gave her smile freely, and had a sparkle in her eyes.  The woman before him did not do that as much.  He wanted to bring that out in her again.  To give that back to her.

“Not fine.  Certainly not convenient.  Just better.   A place to start over.” He said. “Please, just talk to me.   I will tell you whatever you want to know.”

Lacey looked down at the water and out towards the shore. She sat there and said nothing for a very long time. The clouds were rolling in darker now, and the breeze was picking up. She wondered if even the weather was commiserating with how she felt now.

Kaden watched her, and said nothing. Waiting.

Finally, Lacey broke the silence. “I just…that whole thing. It left me feeling cheap, and used and….I don’t even know what else. I know a lot of girls and guys do that kind of thing all the time and think nothing of it. I’m just not….I’m not made that way, I guess. I have never really had it in me to act like that.  It hurt me that you seemed to think so little of me in that way.  Not really knowing who I was…that there is more to me than that.  That I don’t just do that kind of stuff…” Lacey’s voice trailed off.  Then, “It’s like you didn’t know me at all…then I realized. You didn’t. You don’t.”

She glanced up at Kaden as he looked at her intently. She could tell he was considering what to say next.

“You’re right, Lace. I shouldn’t have done that. And you’re also right that there are a lot of things I don’t know about you. But there are also a lot of things I do know about you. Things I want to explore deeper. Things I hold dear to my heart. You are a kind, giving, and loving woman.   You sent me letters when most people were too busy.  They were great, by the way.  I read them more than once. You sent me care packages-not just for me, but for my buddies too. You have always been thoughtful, and a spark within me Lace.  I was just….a chickenshit. I don’t know any other way to put it.  I was stupid, and I was afraid. I never wanted to hurt you. Never at all, and when I realized I had done that, I felt awful, Lace. I truly did. I started to call you a million times, but I was afraid you wouldn’t talk to me, and I had no idea what to say. And….I thought it would be easier….you know….to try and forget about you. But I couldn’t.”

Kaden looked at Lacey, hopeful now. He studied her face and her eyes intently, hoping to be able to tell if he was getting through to her. Lacey remained stoic and held fast to looking as neutral as she could muster. Untrusting. Uncertain.

“Go on.” She finally said.

Kaden nodded. “Right. Ok. Well, so, after what happened…happened; I tried to basically pretend it didn’t. After a few days though, it was eating at me quite a bit. I realized I couldn’t get you out of my head. Out of my heart.   So, I went to her and I told her what happened and yes, she dropped me like a hot potato, but there was more to it than that. She didn’t just leave me because of what I did, but because of what I confessed to her. I told her that I thought maybe I was in love with you. So, you know….I didn’t really think less of you…in fact, I chose you….I just did it…all wrong.”

Kaden’s voice now dropped off and he shook his head.   “I just didn’t know how to make things up to you, though.  You were so far away and so angry with me.  And, believe it or not, I was a bit ashamed of myself, and embarrassed too.  I also wasn’t really sure if you cared, and even if you did, if you did any more.  I just didn’t know what to do.”

He glanced at Lacey and continued. “I broke it off with her and just poured myself into my work.  Tried to forget, and prayed to God to forgive me, and help me forgive myself for letting you get away like that. To help you forgive me too… Then all of the sudden, I run into Amber out here, and found out you were less than a mile away from me.  It was like God heard my prayers and had given me a second chance.  I knew I couldn’t blow it this time.  No matter what.”

He looked at Lacey and waited for her reply.  He didn’t know what else to say.

“You had a second chance a long time ago, Kaden. This would be like your third or fourth now.”

Kaden looked at her confused.

“Remember? Back in high school? I asked you if we could get back together?   You said no.”

“Well, technically, that was you asking for a second chance.” Kaden smiled at her trying to break the thickness in the air.

“It was a second chance for both of us, Kaden.” Lacey paused.   “I never understood why you said no, either.  I mean, was it me?  Was there someone else?  I have always wanted to know why.”

Kaden looked surprised. “It bothered you that much?” He asked.

“Yes.  I have always wondered why, Kaden.”

“Kaden made an attempt to lighten the mood. So, was it that you were hurt because you cared for me?  Or just that I was the first guy to ever tell you no?”   He smiled in a teasing manner.

Lacey shot him a look. “That’s ridiculous!” She retorted. “I had heard the word no plenty!”

“But not from me!” He chuckled.

“Oh, you’re hilarious, Kaden.” Lacey rolled her eyes at him. “You thought you were too good for me.  That’s what is was, wasn’t it, Kade?  Come on. Stop avoiding. Answer the question.   You said you would tell me whatever I wanted to know.”

“You thought that?”  Kaden looked surprised.  “That I thought I was too good for you?”

“Well, yeah. Actually.  For a lot of years, I thought that.”  Lacey answered.

“No, Lace. It wasn’t that at all. I’m so sorry you felt that way.” He said.

“Then what was it?  I don’t understand.” Lacey asked again.

Kaden sighed and paused a moment.

“Well, it wasn’t so much that there was someone else, but there was someone else.” He shot Lacey a sideways glance, afraid that she would pounce on him again. “I mean, you know. We stopped talking, and so I had started seeing her.  Then we spent that day together, and I really did realize I missed you, and wanted to be with you….wanted you…but…it just seemed wrong to dump her for another girl.  You know?   She hadn’t done anything wrong.  It was…hard for me to figure out what to do.  I didn’t want to hurt anybody, but either way, someone might get hurt.”

“So you have a history with this kind of behavior.” Lacey interjected.

“Only when it came to you Lace.  Only when it came to you.  You had a way of making me do things I knew I shouldn’t do, and doing everything backwards. Literally always doing things I shouldn’t do. Ya know?”

“Why did we stop talking, anyway?” Lacey asked.

“That was on you, my dear.” He smiled.

“Huh?” Lacey looked at him bewildered.

“Well, I heard you were chasing after Garrett Pratt.  I was pretty hurt by that.”

“Chasing after Garrett Pratt?!” Lacey looked at Kaden incredulously now. “Why in the world did you think that?!  I wasn’t chasing after Garrett Pratt!”

Kaden gave Lacey a knowing look and a frown. “Lace, Garrett lived next door to me. Remember?”

Lacey was still confused. “Yeah, but…I was never chasing after him!” She shot back.

“But you ended up going out with him, though, didn’t you?”

Lacey stammered. “Yeah…but, but that was a lot later. Not when I was with you! I was crazy about you! I only wanted you!”

Kaden chuckled.  “Seems the shoe is on the other foot now, huh?!”

“No!  Lacey insisted.  “It’s not true!  Why would you believe that?!  Why didn’t you ask me?!  You should have at least asked me!”

“And how would I have known if you were telling me the truth?” He asked, seriously.

“You really have to ask me that?”  Lacey snorted.  “I get in trouble all the time for being too honest, and this guy thinks I’m a pathological liar!”  She tells the wind and the clouds, as though Kaden isn’t there.

“Did you or did you not get into his car and go riding around with him while you were with me?”  Kaden crossed his arms over his chest now, after setting his pole down inside the boat.

Lacey tried to think back.  “No. I wouldn’t have done that Kaden.  Lander was a small town. I wasn’t dumb enough to think someone wouldn’t see me and go run and tell you.  I wasn’t the kind of girl who would do something like that, especially if I knew it could hurt someone.  Especially you.  I never would have done that.”

“But you did. People saw you and your friend Sabrina with him.”

Lacey shot him a confused look, and then a light flashed across her eyes. “Oh my Gosh!  Sabrina was CRAZY about him!  It had to be that day she and I were walking to town and he offered us a ride!  She insisted that we take the ride with him so she could talk to him!  She was convinced that he had winked at her.”   She looked at Kaden imploring him to believe her.  He chuckled.

“We are really something aren’t we?” He said uncrossing his arms, and picking his pole back up.

“Yeah.” Lacey said. “Sound like we are met with a lot of bad luck…and the fact that we don’t really talk about things, didn’t help a bit.”  Lacey said.  Then, “Eh, we were just kids.  I guess a lot of that was to be expected.”  Lacey shrugged.

“True.”  Kaden said, nodding his head and looking toward the sky.   “Looks like rain. I better get you back.”  He started reeling his line back in and Lacey did the same.

Kaden grabbed the oars and started rowing back towards the shore.

“Lace?  Can I see you again?  Can we please keep talking?  I really don’t want to lose this chance again.  You don’t have to do anything, or make any decisions right away. Just…can we just spend some time together and talk and…will you give me that much?  Would you please be willing to do at least that much for me?”

Lacey looked towards the sky as a few sprinkles began to fall.  She really didn’t know what to say to him, or what she wanted.  Part of what he had said had gotten to her. Had made sense.  Yet, she didn’t know how to trust him again.  “I will think about it.” She said, finally.

“I will be out here every day waiting for you, just like I have been. I hope you come.” Kaden said.   Lacey nodded back at him in acknowledgement.

When they reached the shore, the rain started to pour down upon them.  Lacey took her jacket and tried to pull the back of it up over her head.

“Come on.”  Kaden said.  Grabbing the boat out of the water and dragging it up on the shore between some trees.   He found some branches positioned just right, and turned the boat over and leaned it up against them, creating a make-shift lean-to for them.  They both got under the boat and huddled together.  Kaden pulled Lacey beside him and rubbed her arm trying to help her stay warm as they watched the rain pour down making tiny streams of water between all of the pine needles.  Lacey watched tiny particles float upon the water down the hill towards the lake.

Lacey broke the silence first.  “You know.  It’s one thing for us to have behaved that way when we were kids.  But, as adults, we should have behaved better.”  She kept her eyes towards the lake and the crashing waves upon the beach.

“You’re right.” Kaden said.   “I should have been more communicative with you.  I should have kept the lines open.  Shared more.   I didn’t realize that I was making things so hard for you.  I am sorry for that, Lace.”

Lacey didn’t answer and continued watching the rain.

“Lacey.  I really am sorry.  Look at me.”  He pulled her arm towards him so that she was facing him.  “I am sorry.”  He said.  He pulled her closer to him and he kissed her.

Lacey’s head began to spin.  She was no longer cold, but burning inside, as his lips meshed with hers.  She felt drunk again, and almost like she had become addicted to him.  She couldn’t stop herself from kissing him back.  Kaden pulled tighter, and their breathing became heavy.  Lacey realized things were getting heated, and made herself pull away, even though she didn’t want to.  She knew she must not let things get to out of hand; even though she wanted them to, in some ways. “Looks like the rain is finally letting up.”  She said, nearly out of breath.

Kaden only nodded.  She could tell he was disappointed that she had pulled away from him, but wasn’t going to force the issue.  “Let’s give it another minute or two, and then I’ll walk you back.” He said.

“You really don’t have to do that.” Lacey told him.

“I know that.  But I am going to.” He smiled.

They stood in silence another moment and watched the rain some to a stop.  The water running down the hill disappeared and left nothing but little striations of pine needles and debris upon the ground.  Kaden kept his arm around Lacy, and she sidled up closer to him; taking advantage of his warmth.

When Kaden decided it was all clear, he grabbed Lacey’s hand and they walked up the muddy path towards Amber’s house.  Lacey’s feet would slip and slide in the mud at times, and she was glad he was holding her hand and helping her keep balance.  When they reached the house, Kaden gave her a quick peck on the lips.

“It was great to see you today, Lacy.” He told her. “Remember what I said.”

Lacey nodded and turned to go into the house.

Amber and Bill were at the kitchen table with empty breakfast plates in front of them and sharing the newspaper.  Amber gave Lacey a knowing look and tried to stifle a smile.  “There’s a plate for you in the microwave.”  She said.  “You may have to warm it up a bit though.  I don’t know if it’s gotten cold or not.”

“Thanks.”  Lacey said.  She looked down at her wet shoes and clothes.  “I think I should change first.  I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll make a fresh pot of coffee.”  Amber said, and rose from the table towards the coffee maker.

Lacey looked at herself in the mirror after she had dried off and put on a clean T-shirt and jeans. Her face was red again, but this time, it was from Kaden’s beard. She felt embarrassed and touched her face. Her eyes were blackened all around from where her mascara had run. She grimaced at the sight, and what Kaden must have thought. Well, at least he didn’t laugh at me. She said quietly to herself, grabbing a wash cloth from the rack beside her. She ran it under cool water and placed it on her face. She let the coolness of it ease the chaffing of her face from Kaden’s beard. She didn’t want to go back downstairs and let Bill and Amber see her like that, but she decided they already knew anyway.

Lacey, Amber and Bill spent the day inside, as the rains came off and on, most of the day. They read the newspaper, magazines, books, played cards, and board games. They drank coffee well into the afternoon, then switched to wine and mixed drinks that Bill concocted. Lacey had a wonderful day and really enjoyed their company.

That night, when Lacey went to bed, she slept hard, and like she had not slept in a long time. The next morning, she awoke, and wondered if she had even moved at all during the night.

She went downstairs and found Amber and Bill leaning upon the breakfast bar in the kitchen. They were hovering over some diagrams that Bill had dug up somewhere, and he was showing Amber what all the different signs and symbols meant.

“We are building a little guest house!” Amber said to Lacey excitedly. “I feel terrible about this, but I have to go with Bill to the architect’s office in Bozeman. Will you be okay on your own for a while?” She asked.

“Yeah. Sure. It’s fine.” Lacey said.

“We would invite you to come with us, but I know you would be bored.” Amber added.

“No, no. Really. It’s fine.” Lacey smiled. “You two go do what you need to do.”

“You’re sure it’s okay?” Amber asked.

“Yeah, totally.” Lacey said. “Hey, do you mind if I do some laundry?” She asked Amber.

“Oh no! Not at all!” Amber said. “I should have told you before to help yourself to the machines and all if you needed to.”

“It’s perfectly fine.” Lacey said. “So see? I have something to do while you’re gone, anyway!”

Lacey went upstairs and grabbed her dirty clothes and carried them back downstairs and into the laundry room. She placed the clothes inside, added the soap and turned it on. Then she sat down and read her book a while. As she sat there, she wondered if Kaden was down at the lake again, waiting for her. She pushed the thought out of her head. When the washing machine was finished, she put the clothes in the dryer and went back upstairs to shower.   When she got out, she wrapped a towel around herself and went downstairs to the laundry room to find something to put on out of the dryer. She grabbed a shirt and a pair of sweats, and turned the dryer back on to finish drying; and headed back upstairs with them. As she passed through the living room, she stopped short. There was Kaden looking at her through the windows of the sliding glass doors in the back of the house. He knocked, and then opened it, letting himself in.

Lacey stood frozen in her towel, holding her clothes close to her. “What are you doing here?” She asked in a whisper, as if she was afraid Amber and Bill would hear, but knew that they were gone.

“I brought you all some fish!” Kaden said, flopping a wadded-up bunch of newspaper on the kitchen counter.  Lacey could only assume that there were about 6 or 7 fish wrapped up in the newspapers, by the size of it. Pretty big ones too. “I’ve been doing a lot of fishing the past few days, and I just can’t eat all of them.  So, I thought, since it was your fault anyway, you could eat some of them too!” Kaden smiled at her, eyeing her in her towel.

“You’ve come at kind of a bad time.” Lacey said.  Pulling her towel tighter around herself.  Her hair still dripping water down her back, and onto the floor now.

“I’d say I came at the perfect time!” Kaden said, winking at her.

“You can just get your mind right out of that gutter, Kaden.”  Lacey said in a scolding manner, and pointing her finger at him.

Kaden held his hands up in an innocent manner. “Fine. Fine. I’m sorry. I’ll go.” He said turning back towards the door. He stopped and turned around again. “Thanks for the visual, though.” He winked again, smiled, and then he was gone.

Lacey stood there a moment and shivered. She was unable to move, but she wasn’t sure why. After a moment, she ran back up the stairs and put on her clothes. They were still warm from the dryer and they made her feel good. Lacey wandered around the house and looked at all the photos of Amber and her family on the walls, and did the dishes for her. When the dryer was done, she grabbed her clothes out, took them back upstairs and folded them neatly, and put them away. She looked around the room, trying to figure out what she could do next.

She wondered if Kaden would still be down at the lake. Maybe he was already done fishing for the day. She suddenly felt sad at the prospect of that. She put on her sneakers and decided that she wanted to see for herself if he was truly waiting for her, like he said he would be.

Lacey walked around the lake slowly and saw no signs of Kaden. She felt her heart sink and realized she was disappointed. She knew then, that she wanted to see him, and maybe even to sort things out.

She kept walking around the lake, but didn’t see him. She didn’t want to go too far around it though. She didn’t want to end up at his house somehow-for him to know that she had been looking for him. She turned around and headed back.

When she reached the trail that she had been on before, the one that headed up to the big rock; she turned and went up it.  She knew Amber and Bill wouldn’t be back for a while longer yet, and she had nothing better to do.

Lacey walked slowly, watching the birds and the squirrels look down at her. She took in the fresh air and found herself peaceful and smiling. As she rounded the bend, the big rock came into sight.  And something else.  There upon it, was Kaden.

He was lying on his side, resting on his elbow. In his hand he held a few sunflower seeds, and a chipmunk was trying to decide if he wanted to take them from him or not. He looked up and smiled at Lacey, but said nothing. Not wanting to scare the little fellow off.

Lacey stood motionless and silent as she watched. The chipmunk inched closer and closer to Kaden’s hand until he was just upon it. Then he grabbed a seed in a flash and ran away.

Kaden waved his hand at Lacey, and she started to walk over. He now had a smug smile that gave the air of knowing what Lacey was thinking. That she thought he wasn’t waiting for her like he said he would, and he had proved her wrong.

“Here I am.” He said, now smiling hugely.

“I wasn’t looking for you!” Lacey said as innocently as she could, but she knew he saw right through her.

“Sure you weren’t!” He rolled his eyes at her this time. “I have some more sunflower seeds if you want some. All you have to do, is come over here and take them out of my hand.”   He looked down at his hand with a few more seeds in it, then back at her.  He was taunting her.

Lacey took a few more steps towards him and made a “Pft” sound. “I’m good.” She waved him off.

“You sure?” Kaden kept taunting her. “Salted in the shell!”

“Yes, I am sure Kaden.” She was now at the edge of the rock.

“Oh, fine then.” He tossed them in his mouth, then rose to offer her a hand up.

They both sat down again and wrapped their arms around their knees, watching the chipmunk eat the seeds he had taken; who was also watching them.

“Shh! He’s coming back for more!” Kaden said. He gingerly placed a small pile of them towards the edge of the rock. Lacey sat and watched amazed, as he came and sat there, and ate away at the small pile until he decided he had enough.

Then, “You didn’t think I’d be here, did ya?” Kaden said, smiling at Lacey.

“I, I, don’t know that I thought anything at all.” Lacey said, her face flushing.   “I just came out for a walk.”

“Mmm hmm.” Kaden nudged her with his elbow.

“Oh stop it!” Lacey said, blushing, and unable to control her laughter.

The two of them sat there quietly, taking in the peaceful serenity around them. Neither of them feeling like they needed to say anything. Lacey was glad to just be near him, and for the first time, needed no answers. She leaned up next to him and took in the rays of the sun.

After a little time had passed, Kaden got up and jumped down behind the rock. “You hungry?” He asked. “Uh…yeah. I guess.” Lacy was confused.

“Good. I made us a lunch.”   Kaden sounded proud of himself again.

From behind the rock, he pulled up a small cooler. He sat it down, jumped back up and sat back down again. “Nothing fancy, but it’s food, nonetheless.”

Lacey reached over and opened the cooler to peer inside. There was a table cloth on top, so she pulled it out and set it before them. She looked back inside and found a nice bottle of wine, two or three types of cheese, a couple of types of crackers, and some strawberries that had been dipped in chocolate. Lacey snuck a peek in Kaden’s direction. She was impressed. He looked at her with satisfaction. “It’s more of a snack, really.” He shrugged and grinned.

“Great snack!” Lacey said enthusiastically. “Thank you! I can’t believe you did this!”

“You’re welcome.” He said back.

“But, how did you know I would come. Especially here, to this rock?” Lacey was a bit amazed.

“I didn’t. But I told you I would be waiting. Every day. I thought I might get hungry. And well, I thought it would be rude to eat in front of you if you showed up.” He nudged Lacey again, and she smiled.

The two of them sat and ate, feeding each other pieces of cheese and strawberries until they were full. They laughed and joked with each other and Lacey found she was having a wonderful time.

Then, Kaden caught her off guard. “When are you leaving, Lacey?” He asked.

“Just over a week.” Lacey said. Feeling a little sad.

Kaden nodded, but he wouldn’t look at her. She wondered if he was thinking the same thing she was.

Lacey couldn’t help but ask. “Kaden, what happens when I leave here? Is this just some kind of vacation fling type thing? Or…I don’t know. I mean, I just don’t know what to expect…if anything at all, you know?”

Kaden turned towards her, and took her hand. “I will be here waiting for you every day, in hopes that you will come back to me.   And, even when you go home again, I will still be waiting for you.  Every day.  To come back to me.”

Lacey was silent for a moment and bit her lip. What he said sounded so romantic and wonderful. Things they only say in movies, she thought. Yet, she very much wanted them to be true.

“How will this even work?” She said. “I mean, when I have to go back home.”

“Don’t go home.” Kaden said, and shrugged.

“Oh how simple that is to you!” Lacey said, smiling. “I have a job, and a house, and a life back in Colorado.”

“You have a life here now, too.” Kaden shrugged again and looked at her in a way so as to let her know he wasn’t joking.

Lacey didn’t know how to respond to that. She felt it in her heart. But she was too afraid to admit it.

“Let’s just see how things go for now.” She decided.

Kaden smiled at her and nodded. “Doesn’t change what I said though.” He said. “Just so ya know.”

Lacey looked at him, and said a silent prayer that this time, things wouldn’t get so messed up.

“Well, it’s getting close to dinner time.” Lacey changed the subject. “Amber and Bill went into Bozeman to meet with an architect. They’ll be back soon, and I thought I’d have dinner ready for them when they got back.

Kaden raised an eyebrow. “Can you cook?” He grinned.

“Well, yeah.” Lacey said. “I’m no fancy chef or anything. I’m probably not even what some would call a great cook. But, you know. No one starves.  I kept three kids alive on Mac and Cheese for years.” She grinned back at Kaden, and he chuckled.

“That’s quite an accomplishment there, missy!” Kaden gave her a pat on the back.  Then, “What are you making for dinner?”

“Apparently fish!” Lacey said, and nudged him. They both laughed.

To be continued. 😊

Reclaiming the Heart Part III

A fictional love story with a little bit of truth in it.

Lacey turned back towards the house and walked towards Amber’s door. She couldn’t help but turn back on more time to get a glance at Kaden. This time he was standing there with his hands in his pocket, looking back at her.   She gave a slight smile, and waved at him. He waved back. She turned back towards the house again, and stole another backwards glance. Kaden watched her walk all the way to the door, and into the house.

When Lacey rounded the corner heading into the kitchen, Amber was at the small table, pouring two glasses of wine. She didn’t look up, and burst out, “I saw you two kissing out there! This is cause for…” Then she saw Lacey’s face; her eyes still red and puffy from crying. “Oh my gosh! What HAPPENED out there! You look TERRIBLE!”

“Thank you very little!” Lacey said, trying to not to sound too angry. “Did you two set this up?” She wanted to slap Amber too, but thought better of it.

“Set what up?” Amber asked.

“Kaden running into me at the lake!” Lacey said emphatically. “I mean, you said you didn’t think he lived that far from you, but you didn’t say he just lived on the other side of the lake! Did you two plan this whole thing?”

“NO!” Amber rebutted. “I swear, Lacey! I wasn’t sure just where he lived, and yes, I knew it was on the other side of the lake somewhere, but no specifics. I never thought in a million years we would run into him, or I wouldn’t have taken you down there! I have never seen him down there before today!”

Lacey sat down in the black iron chair and grabbed the glass of wine. She took a few big gulps and then put it back upon the table.

So, we get to blame fate for this?” Lacey looked at Amber and smiled, taking another gulp from her glass of wine.

“I guess.” Amber replied. “What happened out there? I mean, you’ve obviously been crying, but then I just saw you two kissing. So…is everything okay now?”

Lacey stared at her wine glass, almost looking through it. “I don’t know Amber. I just don’t know.”

“But…I just saw you two kissing! Surely that means something?” Amber asked.

“I didn’t mean for that to happen.” Lacey said with a sigh. “It just…kinda…did. I have no idea what I am feeling right now, or what to think of this whole situation. I don’t even want to think about it anymore, either. Can we just change the subject?”

“That’s completely understandable.” Amber said. She grabbed the wine bottle and topped off Lacey’s wine. “Here, have some more wine, and I’ll get dinner.”

Amber got up and pulled the steaks out of the refrigerator she had been marinating, and stepped outside to put them on the grill. She then began to make a salad and cutting up vegetables, and checked the potatoes she had already put in the oven. Soon, Amber’s husband Bill, came home and when everything was ready, the three of them ate out on the back deck, next to the fire pit. When it was dark, Amber grabbed the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers from inside the house and they ate smores. Lacey made small talk with them about the kids such, and managed to joke around about other topics. But Kaden was still there in the back of her mind.

That night, Lacey had a fitful sleep, and slept in again. When she made her way downstairs and into the kitchen, Amber had just finished pouring her a cup of coffee. “I thought I heard little footsteps up there!” She said with a smile and placing the coffee carafe back onto the hot plate. “How’d ya sleep?”

“Oh, okay I guess.” Lacey said with a half-smile. “Coulda been better though.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. We can take it easy today if you want; and you are certainly welcome to take a nap later, too.  What would you like to do today?”   Amber asked.

“No lake!” Lacey interjected.

Amber held up her hands. “I wasn’t even going to suggest it.” She said, and they both giggled.

“Good.” Lacey said.

“How ‘bout we go to the museum, or check out an art show?” Amber suggested.

“Umm….art show.” Lacey decided.

“Art show it is!” Amber said.

After they had eaten some scrambled eggs and toast, Lacey went upstairs and showered and put on a pair of jeans and a purple blouse.   Went she went back down stairs, she saw that Amber was also wearing a purple top. “This is just too much!” Lacey said; and they both laughed.

They spent a few hours walking around the art gallery and Lacey was glad to have some time reflecting on different works and not really having to talk. Around 3:00 she told Amber she was tired, and they drove back to the house. She helped Amber cook dinner and the three of them ate out on the deck by the fire again. Lacey excused herself about 7:30 telling them she was super tired. She said she just wanted to read a while and then turn in. Amber and Bill said they understood. Lacey went up to the spare room and laid on the bed with her book, and started to read. About two pages into it, she fell asleep.

Lacey woke up at about 4:30 the following morning. She was still wearing her clothes from the day before. She tried to remember when she had fallen asleep, but couldn’t. She tip-toed down the stairs and the house was still dark. No one else was up. Lacey made some coffee and sat out on the back deck towards the lake, but she couldn’t actually see it. She decided that since it was so early, most likely no one would be out there. She got up started to take a walk towards the lake.

By the time she reached the shoreline, the sun was just coming up over the top of the pine trees. The lake was clear like glass, and the reflection was a burst of blurry orange, and yellow, and lavender. Lacey stood there several minutes just watching it.

When she tired of that, she turned and looked at the paths before her, and tried to decide what to do. Hmmm…What do I want to do? Walk further around the lake, or go back to the house, or take the hiking trail that I took yesterday?   She opted for the hiking trail.

Lacey took her time walking the dimly lit path, being careful not to catch her silk blouse on any of the tree branches. When she reached the rock where she and Kaden had argued just two days before, she stopped. She climbed back upon the rock and looked down at the top of it. There were seven tiny, smooth, light colored stones laying near where Kaden had once sat, and had obviously dropped them. The stones he had picked up to throw at her and wake her up. Lacey looked at them and smiled, remembering the stone that had gotten caught between her breasts in her bra. It WAS kind of funny. She mused. Lacey looked around to make sure no one would see her, picked them up, and put them in her pocket. She jumped down from the rock and made her way back to the house.

When she returned, Amber and Bill were up, and visiting about their plans for the day. He was going to go to the lumber store and start a new project making something, but Lacey wasn’t sure what. Amber looked at her and asked, “What does the little adventurer want to do today?”

Lacey thought a moment. “Antique shops and garage sales!” She exclaimed.

“Done!” Amber said excitedly.

The two of them spent the day together wandering around from shop to shop and following signs to several garage sales. They grabbed lunch at a local burger joint and then hit some more again. Lacey was beginning to feel more like herself again, and even found herself smiling.

When Lacey and Amber arrived back at Amber’s house, Bill had come into the house from the back, and told them he had just put some fish on the grill outside. Amber handed Lacey a bottle of wine to open and got out some tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese to make a Caprese salad. Once she had them layered nicely on a platter, she drizzled them with olive oil. Lacey realized just how hungry she was.

The three of them sat at the table, and Lacey ate every bite on her plate. The fish Bill had grilled was delicious, as was the salad. They joked about the wine that Amber had gotten at Trader Joe’s. It was called Mad Housewife. Bill was a master at making various drinks, and after dinner, he made himself and Amber some Bloody Mary’s stacked with different veggies. He made Lacey a Vodka tonic.

The three of them went outside and Bill lit a fire in the fire pit. They stayed out late, and Amber and Bill told stories about how the two of them met, dated, and had gotten married.   They were happy and in love. Lacey envied them.

Lacey woke early again the next morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. She made herself some coffee and found a travel mug in one of the cabinets and poured the coffee into it. She had on a pair of jeans, her Merrell hiking shoes, and a thin black jacket that zipped up the front over a pink T-shirt. She had decided since it was early, she’d hike about the lake again before people started showing up.

This morning was cool and cloudy, and there was no sunrise to enjoy when she reached the lake. The breeze sent gentle waves lapping upon the shore. Lacey contemplated taking her shoes and socks off and wading in the water, but decided it was too cold. She decided to hike around the lake a little way, but not too far, as she didn’t want to stumble upon Kaden’s house and then be accused of looking for him or something. But, as she rounded a bend in the trail that was surrounded by pussy willows and brush, she stopped short. There next to the shore, was a man with his back to her. He was hunched down and had his hands in the water, or was doing something; but Lacey couldn’t be sure of what. There was a small fishing boat with two oars hanging over the edges of it. She recognized the figure right away. It was Kaden. She started to back up as quietly as she could, hoping he would not see her. But then, he turned around, and it was too late.

“Oh, there you are!” Kaden said, as if he had been expecting her.

“Uhh….here I am….” Lacey said back, but looked at him with confusion. “You act like you were expecting me or something.” She said.

“Nope. Just been waiting.” Kaden said in a matter of fact way. He took the fish he had been cleaning and rinsing in the water and put it on a stringer.

“Waiting?” Lacey asked, still looking confused. “How…how did you know I would be down here this morning?” She asked.

“I didn’t he said.”  Rising and taking a step towards her, but not coming any closer.

“I don’t get it.” Lacey said. “Why did you say you’ve been waiting for me then?”

“Because I have been.” Kaden shrugged. “Every day since I last saw you.”   He added, and then looked down.

Lacey stood there a moment not knowing what to say.

“Oh, you have not!” She laughed, assuming he was teasing her. “You have to work, don’t you?”

“Nope. Took some time off so I could spend it with you.” He said, putting his hand on his hip, and looking at her steadfast. “Only you haven’t been coming around.” He added.

Lacey looked at him bewildered. “Why would you do that? I told you I was here to see Amber. I told you I didn’t know if I wanted to see you again or not.”   She shifted her weight from side to side nervously.

“Yep.” Kaden nodded. “You did. But I wanted to see you. So, I’ve been doing a lot of fishing the past couple of days, and waiting to see if you’d come down or not.”

Lacey looked at him and said nothing. “Well, you’ve seen me.” She said and started to continue on the path.

“Oh, come on, Lacey!” Kaden said to her irritated. “You’re not going to do this again, are ya?”

Lacey stopped and flung her arms down to her sides. “Oh come on Kaden!” She retorted. “You’re not going to do this again, are ya?” She was annoyed, and didn’t care if he knew it.

Kaden laughed. “Why ya gotta be so difficult?” He asked.

“Why do YOU?” Lacey replied. “I told you, I came to see Amber.”

“And yet, she’s not here.” Kaden shot back looking smug. Gesturing with his arms for her to look around and that there would be no Amber.

“That’s because she’s still asleep!” Lacey shot back.

“Good. Then we can go fishing.” Kaden said, turning to grab the rope and untie the boat from a small stake he had placed in the mud. “Get in.”

Lacey looked at him and opened her mouth a bit. “Uh! What makes you think I want to go fishing with you?” She said back.

“What’s the matter? You too prissy to fish? Afraid you’ll break a nail or get your hands dirty?” He shot back. “I can show ya how, if that’s the problem.” He said, not wanting to make her too defensive.

“Why are you doing this Kaden? I mean, really. Why?”   Lacey asked.

“Oh come on, Lace, it’ll be fun. B’sides, like I said the other day. I wanna to talk to you.”

Lacey looked around and saw no way out of it. “Fine. But only for a little while. Amber will be up soon, and I don’t want her to worry about me.”

“Agreed.” Kaden said, sounding a little relieved.

Lacey walked over to where the boat was, and Kaden held out his hand to her and helped her in. She took a seat at the other end of the boat and held on to both sides as Kaden got in, grabbed the oars and began to row them out onto the lake.

“Ok, so what did you want to talk about?” Lacey asked Kaden as she wrapped her jacket around her from the cool morning air.

“Always straight to the point.” Kaden smiled. “Are you timing me here?” He winked at her.

“Well, since you have me out here on this boat, it’s a little harder for me to run away now, isn’t it?” Lacey tossed back, trying to make light of it. “Besides, I think we have spent enough time NOT saying things that needed to be said, don’t you?”

“Fair enough.” Kaden said.

Kaden grabbed and small anchor and tossed it in the water.  He was silent as he baited up the line on his spare rod for Lacey. It was obvious he was trying to figure something out.

He cast the line into the water, and handed Lacey the pole.

“I could have done all that myself.” She snipped as she took the pole from him.

Kaden flashed her a smile and grabbed his own pole. “Well, you are a Wyoming girl. I figured you could, but I thought you might be a little rusty.”

Lacey tried not to let on that he was right, and rolled her eyes at him. It had been many years since she had been fishing, and she began to consider if she could still tie those funky knots in the fishing line. She always struggled with those, they were supposed to be done backwards in her mind.

“So, what is it you needed to say to me?” Lacey asked again.

“I’m not sure where to start.” Kaden said.

“How ‘bout you start with how you reduced me to the equivalent of a blow-up doll, or some kind of telephone sex operator about two months ago?” Lacey gave him a half-hazard glare.

Kaden looked at her and nodded. He bit his lip, and a knowing look flashed upon his face. He was expecting this. “It wasn’t like that, Lacey.”

“Oh, really, because that’s exactly what it looked like to me!”   She retorted.   “You decided you wanted to sext, I agreed, and the next day, you dropped a bomb on me and told me that it meant nothing, because you were seeing someone else.” Lacey wanted to cross her arms over her chest, but couldn’t while she was holding the fishing pole. She fidgeted.

Kaden looked up from baiting his line at her. “I told you, it wasn’t like that.” He said again. “I never thought any less of you because of what happened.”

“Oh, really?!” She said incredulously. “You didn’t think less of me? Ha!   You thought less of me than HER!   You certainly didn’t think MORE of me, that’s for sure!” Lacey looked out across the Lake.

“No, I didn’t.” Kaden said. “I mean, I didn’t think less of you than her.”

“Oh, come on, Kaden! Tell the truth. The truth is, you didn’t think of me AT ALL!”   Lacey raised her voice a bit.

“Of course I thought of you!” Kaden said defensively. “I just didn’t know…I didn’t know…” His voice trailed off.

“You didn’t know what?” Lacey snipped.

“Anything!” Kaden said back, loudly now. “All I knew was that I wanted you, and that was as close to having you as I would probably ever come.” He said, almost as if he was ashamed.

“Oh! I get it! You wanted me, and because you always get what you want, when you saw an opportunity to get what you wanted from me, you took it!”   Lacey glared at Kaden as she yelled at him.

“It wasn’t about getting what I wanted from you at all!” Kaden yelled back. “I mean I wanted you, of course I wanted you, or I wouldn’t have done it But I, I, didn’t think you…cared…about me. I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal.”

Lacey stood up and the boat began to wobble in the water. “You didn’t think it was going to be a big deal?!?! A big DEAL?!?!? Of COURSE, it was a big deal!” She flung her arms around as she yelled, and tried to keep her balance as the boat rocked while holding on to the fishing pole.

“Well, a lot of girls….it’s just not a big deal.” Kaden said hesitantly.

Lacey was clearly agitated now.  “So, you just lumped me right in the category of girls who aren’t a big deal.   Thanks a lot Kaden. Nice to know you think so much of me!”

“No! I didn’t mean it that way.” Kaden said defensively again. “I just meant, I didn’t know you cared.”

“How could you NOT know?” Lacey said, her face and chest crimson and splotchy.  “You had to know I cared!”

“Well, I thought maybe, but I wasn’t sure….I hoped.”   He put his head down again and busied himself with his line again.

Lacey stood at the end of the boat with her feet spread wide apart trying to steady it, and glared at Kaden a long moment. One of her feet slipped and she fell forward a bit, and she caught herself with her free hand. Kaden looked up at her when he heard the commotion and felt the boat wake. Despite it all, Lacey looked resolved. He could almost see the wheels turning in her head.

“You hoped.  You hoped what, exactly, Kaden? That you wouldn’t get caught? That I’d just go away?” “That I wouldn’t want answers?!” Lacey was flinging her arms, and her pole again, in demonstration as she talked.  Kaden ducked a couple of times when she got the pole too close to him.

‘No! I hoped that you cared! Kaden interjected. “But I had no way of knowing if you did for sure.” He finished tying a knot in his line and bit it off with his teeth.

“Oh how could you NOT know, Kaden? I did everything but throw myself at you, and you couldn’t tell?   The fact that I was mad the next day should have tipped you off!”

“Well, lots of girls probably would have been mad…” Kaden stopped and gave his head a slight shake. He knew the minute he said it, he should not have.

“So there I am lumped in with a lot of girls again!” Lacey snapped. “But more importantly, you just got through telling me that you knew there was a high probability that I’d be mad, and you did it anyway!   You make no sense Kaden!”

Kaden stood now too, and the boat swayed even more. “Stop it Lacey! It wasn’t like that! Quit making it into something cheap and ugly and shameful.” He shouted.

Lacey plopped her butt back down on the wooden seat and put her hands between her knees, with the rod sticking out between them. “But it WAS cheap, and ugly and shameful to me!   And, I didn’t make it like that, Kaden. You did.” She put her head down, trying not to cry.

Lacey went on, “You had a girlfriend, for Chrissake! You should have TOLD me!” She looked up at him defiantly, her jaw set.

“I honestly thought you knew.” He said. “And I did tell you! He added. I wanted you to hear it from me, and I told you!”

Lacey looked incredulous again. “How the hell would I know you had a girlfriend, Kaden?! You’re Facebook said you were single. There was never any mention of one, or her. There were never of any pictures of you with ANY girl, except your daughter; you gave no indication at all that you were with somebody! And yes, you did tell me, but only after the fact, and I had pretty much already figured it out myself! You should have told me BEFORE you took advantage of me, not after! I should have had a choice in the matter of whether or not was I going to be participating in the act of CHEATING!”

“Danggit Lacey! I didn’t take advantage of you!” Kaden put his hands on his hips a moment, and then sat back down again, rested his elbows on his knees and put his head down in his hands. “Damn it, Lace….I just didn’t know what to do.”   He dropped his hands and looked at her remorsefully.   “I just didn’t know what to do.”

“Do you have any idea the amount of respect I lost for you, to realize that you’re a cheater, Kade?” Lacey said urgently. “I was SOOO disappointed.”   She put her head down.

“Cheater?” Kaden stood up again, the boat almost tipping over.

“Yes! A cheater!” Lacey stood up again too, and shot daggers at him with her eyes.

“I am NOT a cheater!” Kaden yelled back. “I was not married, and she and I had made no commitment to be exclusive! Technically, she wasn’t my girlfriend.”

“Well, I guess your definition of cheating and mine are different then, because I bet if she found out what happened, she would have dropped you like a hot potato!” Lacey shot back.

Kaden looked down at his boots, and shook his head.   “I did tell her. I felt bad about it, and I told her. And she did drop me like a hot potato.”

Lacey looked at him, surprised, and no words came.

Kaden, took in a deep breath and let it out. “Now, I guess we have a lot to sort out here, then.”

Lacey paused a moment and looked down at her dirty fingernails before answering. Then said, “I don’t know if I want to anymore, Kaden.”

To be continued. 😊

Reclaiming the Heart. Part II

A fictional love story with a bit of truth to it.

Lacey continued to stare at Kaden in disbelief. All at once, everything about him was familiar; and yet nothing was. What is he doing here? How did he find me? WHAT is he DOING here? This isn’t possible. I must have hit my head harder than I thought.

Lacey stared at him a moment longer, as he continued to smile, saying nothing. Then, she knew it was him in her being; and everything she had ever felt for him came rushing in at once as well.   The love, the anger, the confusion and doubt, the longing for him, and the rejection.

She uncovered her other eye, to make sure she could still see out of it. She righted herself on the rock so that she was sturdy, and then began to swing at Kaden. The first hand slapped him on the left side of his face, and made a sound Lacey did not expect.  She was shocked with herself for doing it, and was actually afraid she had hurt him; but she could not stop. Kaden blinked, but showed no real anger or shock in it. Lacey had both arms swinging at him now, trying to slap him, but he was too quick for her.

Kaden grabbed her arms and held them in the air. Her heart was pounding in her chest, and it heaved with every breath.

“I must say, this is not what I expected.” He said, smiling again.

Lacey jerked her arms away from him and crossed her body with them.

“Well what did you expect?” She snapped at him. “How dare you sneak up on me like that!”

Kaden chuckled again and looked down at his worn hiking boots.

“I’m honestly not sure what I expected.” He said softly. “Just…not that!”   He smiled again.   “I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised though.” He said, thoughtfully. “You were always a little spitfire.” He looked at her and grinned.

“What makes you think that!” She snapped again.

“Are you denying it?” He asked.

Lacey looked down at her chest. There between her breasts, sat a tiny pebble.

She looked back at Kaden, and at his feet, where a few more similar pebbles had apparently fallen on the rock, when he dropped them to grab her arms. He had been throwing them at her to wake her.

She wanted to grab the tiny stone from between her breasts, but she was too embarrassed.

Kaden looked at her as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. He looked at her chest with amusement.

“You want me to grab that for you?” He said, trying not to laugh.

“I most certainly do not!” Lacy retorted. “And it isn’t funny!”

“Oh, but it is!” He said.   “If you could see your face right now!”

Lacey did her best to keep looking indignant, but she knew it was a little funny.

I will not give him the satisfaction. She thought to herself. She pushed herself up with her arm and jumped off the rock.

“Well, you had your laugh. One of many at my expense, I’m sure.” She turned to walk away. “See ya, Kaden.”

“Oh, come back here!” He yelled towards her. “I was just having a little fun.”

Lacey kept walking.

“Come on! I just want to talk to you.” He said.

Lacey kept walking.

“Amber is gone.”  He said, drawing the word gone out.

Lacey stopped short at the words, and turned around to look at him.

“What do you mean Amber is gone?” She asked in a huff.  Crossing her arms again.

Kaden stood up from the rock, and as he did, lifted the lunch basket from behind him. He held it up for Lacey to see, and at once she recognized it.

“I was out for a hike and ran into Amber down by the beach. She mentioned you were here to visit and I asked her if she minded if I spent some time with you. She gave me the basket and told me which direction you had gone. She said to tell you she would see you later back at the house. “

Lacey looked at him incredulously. “Why would she do that? Why would YOU do that?!” She snapped.

Kaden looked at her and shrugged. He smiled back at her again the way he used to. He said nothing and waited for Lacey to think it over.

Lacy looked down at the ground, not knowing what to do. This is unreal. She thought to herself. How dare he! He has got a lot of nerve.

Lacey looked down at her chest again, and the little white rock was still there lodged between her breasts. She turned her back to Kaden and removed it. She turned back around to face him, and he looked both amused and pleased with himself.

Kaden held out his hand to her. “Come on. You’ve already found a great place for a picnic. Let’s take advantage of it.”

Lacey let her arms down and took a few steps towards him. Her heart was still beating quickly in her chest. She felt so many things at once, she couldn’t even figure them out. She grabbed his hand as he helped her back upon the rock again, and they both copped a squat facing each other.

“Are you hungry?” He asked her. “We don’t have to eat this moment.” He offered.

Lacey thought about how she had no idea what to say to him. She decided that if they were eating, maybe she wouldn’t have to talk so much.

“Actually, I think I am a little hungry.” She said softly. Too afraid now to look at him.

Kaden opened up the basket and reached inside.

“Let’s see what’s for lunch then!” He said, as though he were speaking to a kindergarten class and getting them ready for a surprise.

“I already know what’s for lunch.” Lacey retorted. I was there when Amber made it.

“That may be.” Kaden said. “But I don’t know.” He smiled.

He reached in and pulled out the table cloth and spread it neatly between them. As he did, he leaned in close to Lacey and looked her in the eyes. Lacey looked down and away. She was at once very aware of his presence when he did this.

He sat back down at the other edge of the table cloth and pulled out the bottle of wine and two glasses. He found the cork screw inside and opened the bottle with ease. He poured a glass and handed it to Lacey and then poured the other for himself.

“Let’s see. What should we toast to?” He asked. Holding up his glass.

“I’m really not very good at that kind of thing.” Lacey answered.

“Ok. How ‘bout if we drink to second chances, then?” He said half asking if it would be a good toast.

More like third or fourth chances, you bonehead. Besides, what makes you think I’d give you one? Why would you even want to toast to such a thing? Are you mocking me?  Lacey looked at him as blankly as she could muster, and shrugged.

“Ok, then. To old friends. May they become new again.” Kaden smiled and held his glass closer to her.

Lacey offered him a slight smile of acquiescence, and then clinked her glass against his, and put it to her lips. She was so nervous she wanted to guzzle it all right then and there, but took a sip and set the glass down again.

“What are you doing here?” Lacy said, almost accusatorily, and with suspicion.

Kaden held the glass up against his lips a moment longer, though he wasn’t actually drinking it.

“What do you mean, what am I doing here?” He finally said, putting his glass down next to his knee.

“Just what I said.” Lacy retorted. “What are you doing here?”

Kaden looked at her a moment and then reached in the basket and started pulling out the items for making the sandwiches.

“Well, I live here.” He said, not looking at her and busying himself with the lunch. “So, the real question, I would have to think, is what are YOU doing here?”   He paused with what he was doing and looked her in the eyes. He grinned from ear to ear.

Lacey began to turn red.

“I’m here visiting my friend. You know that!” Lacey said with exasperation. “I mean what are you doing here! Right here, right now! Here!” She pointed and tapped her finger on the huge rock so hard she almost hurt herself.

Kaden smiled at Lacey again. He knew she was flustered and seemed to be enjoying it.  Which flustered Lacey all the more.

“Well, I am trying to have lunch with a beautiful lady.” He said as he spread the mustard on one of the pieces of bread.

“Oh, you’re impossible!” Lacey hissed. “What are you doing here Kaden?!”   She asked again, commanding him to answer her.

Kaden looked at her and smiled again. She was getting mad at him for smiling at her like that. He was making her feel things she didn’t want to feel and she resented him for it.

“Straight to the point, I see.” He put the butter knife down, put the bread on top of the sandwich and handed it to Lacey.

“Yeah, well this is going to be a real short lunch, so there’s not a lot of time.” Lacey glared at him.

“Why all the hostility?” Kaden asked, feigning insult, but still smiling at her.

“I wanted to see you.” He said, shrugging. “I thought we could catch up.” He added. “Is that so wrong?”

Fire shot across Lacey’s eyes and she tossed the sandwich down in front of her upon the plastic plate. It landed with a thud and fell open as it did. “Either you just don’t get it, in which case you never will; or you know EXACTLY what the problem is, and you think it’s fun to toy with me.  Either way, I’m over it, and I’m done here.”

Lacey stood up quickly from where she was sitting and then jumped down from the rock.

“You can get Amber’s things back to her later, since you’re apparently good buddies.” She yelled back to him.

She stomped down the path and heard nothing from Kaden.

The tears were falling down her face again and she hated herself for it. She wanted to get as far away from him as possible before he saw her crying. She wiped the tears away, and still moving forward, glanced back over her shoulder in hopes that he could not see her.   He was gone.  She turned back around, still moving forward, and just as she looked up, he was there in front of her. She had no time to stop, and ran right into him. She lost her balance and began to fall backwards. He reached out and caught her.

“I’ve got ya.” He said, pulling her back up to him.

He started to pull her closer, and she fought to push him away.  She didn’t want him to see her like this. It isn’t fair, she thought.

“I’m not letting you go this time.” He said with determination, as he pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her back.

She realized she couldn’t break lose, and covered her face with her hands so he couldn’t see her crying.

“I don’t want you to see me this way.” Lacey said between sobs. “Please let me go.” She pleaded.

“It’s okay if you cry, Lacey.” Kaden said softly. Now trying to pull her hands away from her face so she would look at him. “Look at me. It’s okay” He said.

“No. I can’t look at you; and you can’t look at me!” Lacey sobbed.

“Okay. Shh, shh, it’s okay.” Kaden said soothingly. “Cry as much as you want. I understand, and I’m not leaving you.” “I look ugly when I cry.” Lacey said between sobs. Still insisting on holding her hands up to cover her face.

“Come here.” Kaden said. Pulling her to him again. “Put your head on my shoulder, and I can’t see your face.”

Lacey had no more strength in her to fight him anymore. She let him pull her to him, and wrapped her arms around him. The tears began to flow freely now and she let herself be far more vulnerable to him in that moment than she wanted to. Her face was in his neck and she could smell cedar wood and spices.   His body was warm and strong and she wanted nothing more than to stay there. She silently took in every sensation as she cried. How it felt to be in his arms, and the sound of his soft voice as he tried to soothe her.

She knew she could die right there and die a happy woman. It was if she had finally come back home. As if that place she had searched for all her life had been found and she could now rest from her long journey.

Kaden held her tightly and kept whispering soothing words in her ear. He did not try to pull away from her and he stood there holding her for as long as she wanted.   Even several minutes after Lacey had stopped crying.

Lacey felt drunk in his arms as he held her. Warm, and dizzy and happy. Even though she was crying.

When she finished crying, she still stood there, letting him hold her. She didn’t want to pull away just yet. She had wanted this for so long, and it may never happen again. She was going to hold onto him as long as she could. Besides, she knew her face had to be red and splotchy and she looked a mess. Her eyes had to be puffy and almost swollen shut from crying so hard; she could feel it. She didn’t want him to see her that way.

As the strength in her body faded and she grew weary of standing, Kaden seemed to sense it. In one smooth motion, he had lifted her up and swung her legs into his arm, and carried her back to the rock, as she buried her face in his chest.   She felt like she must weigh a ton, but he didn’t seem to think so, nor be struggling under her weight. She was so embarrassed, but didn’t want him to let go of her either. So, she let him carry her the few feet back to the rock. He set her back down upon it, and looked in the picnic basket for some napkins, and handed them to her. Lacey took them from him, not looking up, and wiped her eyes and blew her nose.   Kaden sensed that she did not want him to watch her, so he sat down on the rock and waited for her to compose herself.   He tapped her from behind and handed her the wine glass she had left sitting next to the table cloth. Lacey reached up and took it, not looking back at him.

“Thanks.” She said almost inaudibly.

She took a drink, lowered it, and then lifted it up again quickly, and guzzled it. She didn’t care what he thought. This was not normal for her, but these were not normal circumstances, either. She had a feeling he knew she needed it anyway, and that was why he had handed it to her.

Lacey sat there staring at the empty glass not know what to say. Not fully comprehending what had just happened. She was embarrassed, she knew that much. But she was also confused, and many other things she couldn’t put words to, even if she could speak.

A short while later, Kaden gently tapped her on her shoulder again. Lacey startled, not realizing he was still so close. “Shhh. You’re safe. It’s ok.” He whispered.  “Here.”

The wine bottle came down over her shoulder and she knew Kaden was offering her more. She held the glass up to where he could safely pour more into it. She took another long drink, and then let the half full glass back down to rest upon her knee.

“Take as long as you need.” She heard Kaden say behind her. “I’m right here. See?” Then she felt his back against hers and she let herself lean into him. It was warm and strong and she was overcome with all she felt again. She feared the tears would come once more, but she did not let them.

They sat there for a long time, it seemed. As Lacey slowly finished the second glass of wine and her body calmed down. She could feel the heat and redness leave her face, but knew her eyes were still swollen and puffy.   She still did not want him to see her. She wondered how many times she had cried over him before, but had always cried alone. She wondered if he even knew she had cried. She tried to figure out what to do or say next, but was too afraid to do anything. What just happened? What does all this mean? What did he mean by what he said? Lacey struggled in her heart and in her mind with what to do. They both sat there a very long time, not speaking, and neither of them moved.

“I’m ready to go back to the house now.” Lacy said softly.

Kaden was silent for a moment. Then, “Whatever you need.”

She heard Kaden packing up the things for lunch back into the basket and then jumped down beside her. He stood there for a moment saying nothing, but she could feel his eyes upon her. Finally, Lacey looked up at him.

“What are you looking at?” She asked.

“The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” He said looking into her eyes.

Lacey looked down again, unable to reply. She knew she still had puffy red eyes and looked a mess. Either the man was on drugs, needed glasses, or was just trying to make her feel better. There was no way she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, especially in that moment.

He held out his hand to her once more. “I’ll walk you back.”   He said.

Lacey didn’t even think of refusing him this time, and took his hand. They walked back in silence, and he never let go of her hand.

When they reached the driveway to Amber’s house, they stopped to say good-bye.

“Can I see you again?” Kaden asked hopefully.

“I really don’t know.” Lacey said. “I’m here to visit Amber. I came to spend time with her. And I don’t know how I feel about all this.”

Kaden nodded and looked away. He handed the lunch basket back to Lacey and stuck his hands back in his pockets again. “I really hope you let me see you.   I have…things I need to say.”   YOU have things you need to say!  Lacey thought.

Lacey looked up at him, and he was very serious. “I’ll have to think about it.” She replied.

Kaden nodded again and glanced at her. “Fair enough.” He said. “Can I at least have a hug?” He asked. “I mean, if I may never see you again, I don’t think that’s much to ask.”

Lacey looked down at his worn hiking boots again and finally took a step closer to him. It was still hard to look at him, and she kept her head down. She took her one free arm and threw it around his back and gave him a pat and started to pull away again. He grabbed her around her back and pulled her close to him.

“A hug.” He said. “Please.”   He was at once asking and telling her he needed this, so she dropped the basket in her other hand, and let him pull her close. She wrapped both her arms around him this time, like she had before up by the rock, and took him in. She began to feel drunk again and get lost in the feeling of him. She turned her head towards his neck and he smelled so good. Before she knew it, he had turned his head down towards her, and his lips were there upon hers. They were warm, and moist, and tender; and then he pulled away again. Lacey at once felt breathless, and she did not move.  She felt her face move ever so slightly towards him as he started to pull away, asking him for more against her will.  His lips were upon hers again, and he held her in that kiss just like she had wanted him to. He pulled her closer and she held him tighter. She was hungry for the taste of him. His mouth was warm and full of passion. She felt her heart race and her breathing became heavy. Her body tingled all over and she felt weak again.  She never wanted it to end.

Finally, he pulled away from her, his breath heavy also. Lacy put her hand to her mouth, barely aware she was even doing it. Kaden looked at her and tried to slow his breathing.

“I’m not sorry for that.” He said in a husky voice. “And thank you.”

Lacey didn’t know what to say. She could feel herself blush. She nodded at him, and turned to go back to Amber’s house.   She could see the sun going down now in the distance. It had grown smaller, and was yet resplendent, just the way she felt. She stopped and looked back at Kaden walking away. He had his head down and his hands in his pocket as he went. She smiled to herself as she watched him. Some things never changed.

To be continued.  🙂