Tag Archive | Divia Marx

Glitter – Chapter 3 – Puppy Dog Tails

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Renee opened the door. The interior room was dark. The curtains were drawn giving the room a perpetual gloominess. “Divia” she called. The house seemed to swallow her words. Heart lurching as her feet carried her deeper into the house. Opening their bedroom door. Looking around. Empty. Leaving the door ajar she moved towards the nursery. Heart beating painfully against her chest walls. She knew without a doubt she’d find her wife inside the nursery. The room they had decorated for their little girl. The one they never to got see or hold. The bright pink broke her heart a little more each time she went inside.

The agonizing moment when they received the call. The adoption agency had declined their application. Blinking back the stinging tear as her mind played back the impersonal voice telling them they had been declined upon further investigation. The same voice informing them they were unfit parents and would not be considered for further adoption opportunities. Just like that their hopes and dreams were gone.

Renee’s hand shook a she turned the door knob. The soft muffled sobs of her wife reached her ears the moment she opened the door. “Honey” he called out moving towards the sound. Dropping to her knees she pulled Divia into her arms. “It’s going to be ok” she whispered wondering if she really believed that anymore herself.

“No it wont” Divia cried body shaking.

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“We just started invitro” Renee knew she was treading on thin ice but she had to try something. “We need to be patient.”

“It didn’t work” Divia wailed.

“It’ll work next time” Renee assured her.

“What if it doesn’t” Divia persisted.

Stroking her wifes long blue hair Renee remained silent. There was no good answer to that. They couldn’t adopt not after what happened with their little girl. She’d like to find out who had informed the adoption agency of their so-called issues that made them unfit candidates. She had a few things to say to them. “I don’t know” she admitted softly. “What I do know is we can’t continue to mope around like we have been.”

“But” Divia stirred in her arms.

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“No” Renee brushed her finger tips over Divia’s cheeks. “Hear me out. We can’t go on like this. We need a change. The doctor even suggested we get away for a while. What better place than Isla Paradiso? Charity offered to let us stay at the resort.”

Indecision shone bright in Divia’s amber eyes “I don’t know.” Her hand rested on the pink crib gently caressing it. “It’s time” she sighed. “Do you think” she inhaled a deep breath. Held it a moment before continuing “can we have someone come in while we’re gone and get rid of all this?”

“Are you sure” Renee asked holding Divia’s face between her hands and peering intently into her eyes.

“No” Divia’s voice was small and shaky “but it needs to be done. I can’t hold onto something we never even had.”

“Alright” Renee squeezed her tight “I’ll make arrangements.”

“Thank you” Divia said in a voice barely audible.

***

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Walking along the beach Divia leaned into Renee. “Thank you for being so patient with me.”

Draping an arm around her trim waste Renee smiled down at Divia. “Anything for you darling.”

Smiling up at her Divia giggled “that’s so sappy.” Before Renee knew what she was doing Divia took off running along the sand.

Giving chase Renee caught up to her. Tripping on the loose sand she sent both of them sprawling to the ground. Laughing she glanced down into Divia’s eyes that were shining happily up at her. Trying not to think of the months that the same beautiful eyes had been dull and lifeless orbs Renee murmured “I love you.” She nuzzled Divia’s neck bringing her lips closer to her full soft lips. Their lips locked in a mutual sensual dance brushing lightly across each others melding their souls together.

When their lips lost contact with each other they became aware of the sounds around them. The cat calls from a group of teen boys ogling them. “I think we have an audience” Renee whispered to Divia helping her up from the sand.

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“I don’t care” Divia giggled glancing over her wife’s shoulder at the young boys. “Let them watch” she said situating herself into her wife’s lap. “I’m tired of worrying about what other’s think. I want to be happy.” Leaning back her long hair flowing across her bare back “are you happy” Renee asked holding her breath.

Lifting her hands to Renee’s cheeks she peered deep into her eyes. Her lips twitched “you know I think I am.” Her smile grew encompassing her entire face. “I didn’t think I would be but I am.”

“You have no idea how that makes me feel” Renee sighed pressing her forehead to Divia’s.

“I’m sorry” she murmured “I’ve been so absorbed in how I felt I never stopped to think you were hurting too.”

“Its alright” Renee assured her.

“No it’s not” Divia shook her head “I was selfish feeling I was the only one hurting.”

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“It’s ok” Renee closed her eyes absorbing  the peace of the moment. The raucous call of sea gulls, the roar of the waves crashing onto the shoreline, the gentle hum of subdued conversations of others on the beach. It was a moment she’d treasure. “Don’t go” she protested when Divia moved to get up.

“We have just enough time to change before meeting up with Hannah and Charity” she said holding her hand out to help Renee up.

“I forgot” she groaned “can’t we postpone it.” She wrapped her arms around her wife drawing her close.

“I wish we could” Divia giggled as Renee’s fingers traveled up her spine. Stepping back she took Renee’ hand and started walking towards the resort. “It’s the last chance we have to see Hannah and the kid before they fly back to Brooklyn Heights.”

“But we can see them there” Renee pouted.

“Don’t whine” Divia advised squeezing her hand “we have more time together before we  have to go home. Plenty of time to pursue those naughty little thoughts in your head.”

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“Who said they were naughty” Renee protested.

“I know you” Divia giggled “that look in your pretty blue eyes tells me what you’re thinking.” Stopping just outside the resort door “if you want any of them to come true you’ll quit complaining.”

“I’m not complaining” she raised her hand “scouts honor.”

“You’re not a scout” she laughed pushing the door open. “Hi Mr Hollis” she waved at the pink haired male at the hotel front desk. He waved at her in a somewhat distracted manner. “What’s up with that” she asked perplexed

“Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the hottie” Renee giggled.

Frowning she looked around the lobby “what hottie?”

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Nodding towards an older male in shorts talking to a couple of teenagers. “Him” Renee said keeping her voice low.

“No way” Divia protested “he’s old. He has to be close to my parent’s age.”

“I didn’t say I thought he was hot” Renee laughed “but the way Mr Hollis was looking at him he thought so.”

“Eew gross” Divia scrunched up her face.

“Act your age” Renee rolled her eyes “he’s a single good-looking guy. Why shouldn’t he be interested in someone?”

“I don’t know” Divia frowned “it’s just weird. I’ve known him since I was five years old. I don’t see him as anything but Charity’s dad not some sexual being.”

***

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Renee kept a cautious eye on Divia as she knelt to play with three toddlers at once. “Mama” one of them called launching himself at Hannah’s knees. “There’s my little man” she laughed picking him up. “You know who this is” she asked pointing at Renee.

Shaking his head snuggling her close “no” he whispered in her ear.

“Of course you do” she encouraged.

“Rae” he murmured between his chubby little fingers. “Down” he demanded after a moment trying to wriggle out of his mother’s arms.

“Christopher” she chastised him. “What do you say?”

“Peas” he giggled “down peas.”

Setting him down he made tracks for Charity’s twin boys Loyal and Noble. One of the boys took Divia’s hand tugging with determination to get her to follow them.

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“How is she doing” Hannah asked her voice low.

Dragging her eyes from her wife Renee smiled “better. Much better.”

“That’s good” she put a comforting hand on the woman’s shoulder. “I can’t imagine how difficult this has been for the both of you.”

“It wasn’t so bad until the adoption fell through” Renee sighed.

“What happened with that” Charity asked joining them.

Keeping a wary eye on Divia she said “the agency said there were inconsistencies in our application.”

“That’s kind of vague” Hannah said sitting down on the nearby couch. “Didn’t they say anything else?”

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“Go ahead and tell them” Divia encouraged joining them of the boys in her arms. “Charity deserves to know.”

“What do mean I need to know” Charity asked looking confused.

“The adoption agency Zane gave us as a referral was bogus” Divia explained.

“Evidently they only ever made one adoption before they closed” Renee added “otherwise it was a house where young girls could go to have their babies.”

“My adoption was legal though” Charity insisted.

“It would seem so otherwise you would have run into problems before now. Yours evidently was the only one. Your’s being legal made it easy to use a front for other less legal things.”

“I’m so sorry” Divia moved to sit beside her friend “it’s awful you had to find out this way.”

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Wiping at the tears she sniffed “that doesn’t mean Zane knew anything about the illegal stuff. I doubt he would have offered it as a referral if he had known.”

Hannah moved over to her side “I’m sure you’re right. Zane’s a lot of things but not even he would do something like that. Donnie Hollis on the other hand might. I wonder if he had anything to do with your adoption?”

“I hope not” Charity lifted horrified eyes to her friends “please don’t mention any of this to my dad. He’s been through too much as it is.”

“We promise” they assured her.

“Mama” Loyal said coming up to her putting a small hand on her knee “sad”.

“Yes mama’s sad” she sniffed “but not anymore.” She said tickling the little boy making him squeal with delight. After he toddled off satisfied that his mama was alright she said “thanks. He’s so fragile right now.”

“Is Zane still coming around” Hannah asked.

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“Yeah he doesn’t seem to understand it’s over” she blinked back more tears. “He doesn’t see the damage he’s done. The betrayal.”

“What your dad needs is to find someone new” Renee said filling the silence.

“He’s been hurt enough” Charity protested.

“They do say you need to get back on the horse after you fall off” Hannah said raising an eyebrow at her. “Are there any eligible men we could set him up with?”

“I saw one in the lobby” Renee giggled “Graham could hardly take his eyes off him.”

“Do you mean the new maintenance man” Charity asked.

“So you have noticed  the way your dad looks at him” Renee giggled causing them all to laugh.

***

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Three months later Renee opened the door to her house. It had been a difficult day. Her thoughts kept going back to the fairly recent announcements from Hannah and Charity that they pregnant again. She tried share in their joy. To be happy for them. She just couldn’t. She expected to come home to find the house dark and Divia huddled on the floor crying.

With a sinking heart she knew today was that day. The house was dark. Silent. She could hear the ticking of the kitchen clock. “Divia” she called knowing there’d be no response. For a moment she wanted to turn around and run. Run as far away as she could. She couldn’t go through this again. The crushing depression. The debilitating hour of lying awake for hours wondering why. Why were they destined to be childless? Why them? The questions ever ceased. Neither did the hollow empty feeling in the pit of your stomach. She was tired of pretending to be happy watching your friends families grow while yours stayed the same. Stagnant

Worst of all was the jealousy. It ate you up inside. Se put a hand over her mouth to muffle the anguished cries choking her. She leaned on the wall almost hoping it would topple over and crush her.

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Gulping a lungful of air she held it. Counting to ten closing her eyes and repeating to herself she had to be strong. Divia needed her to be strong. Pushing off the wall she continued through the house. “Divia” she called again fearing the worst.

She opened the old nursery door, empty ow of all remnants of the pink fantasy they had created for their little girl to come home to. It was dark. Sad. Shivering she closed the door on their hopes and dreams. Opening the room she shared with Divia expecting to find the blue haired girl sobbing into her pillow.

A frown creased her forehead as that room too was empty. Where was she? Her heart ached in her chest as her mind imagined a hundred awful scenarios. Had Divia wandered off? Had she down something awful to herself in her depressed state of mind? She knew how easily depression could affect your thoughts and entertain ideas you wouldn’t normally. She hadn’t thought it was that bad? What if he had been wrong? Had she missed the warning signs?

There was one more door to try. If Divia wasn’t in there she’d have to call everyone they knew. She wouldn’t leave a rock unturned until she found her. The door knob clicked as she opened it. Her breath whistled out of her as Divia looked up at her from the floor a stunned expression upon her face. Renee’s eyes focused on a stick the girl held between her fingers. Taking a deep breath she met her wife’s eyes “I thought we agree to wait…”

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“We did …. I ….” a large beautiful radiant smile spread across her face. “I hadn’t felt well for days. I thought it was the flu. I mentioned it to Hannah who laughed at me saying it sounded more like morning sickness.”

“So you took a test” Renee’s voice was flat tinged with fear. “What does it say?”

Holding it out for her to see Divia giggled “positive. It says positive.”

Staring at the positive test result Renee felt the fear, the anxiety drain from her body. “Pregnant” she whispered as she let Divia pull her into a hug. “I can’t believe it” she mumbled crying softly.

“Neither can I” Divia squeezed her tight “I hope it’s a boy.”

“I thought you wanted a girl Renee said looking into her wife’s happy face.

“I want a boy” she said firmly “Dad would love to teach him how to ride. To be a cool dude like him.”

Chapter 2 – Snips and Snails / Chapter 4 – Sugar and Spice

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Hannah – Chapter 36 – Not Afraid

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Divia relaxed into Renee leaning her head back resting on the other woman’s shoulder. “I don’t want to go back” she sighed closing her eyes.

“You don’t have a choice” Renee chuckled entwining her fingers with Divia’s.

“Yes I do” Divia shook her head “I could stay here and work for McDonald’s.”

“No” Liono’s deep baritone caused both girls to jump.

“Dad” Divia sat up straightening clothes that didn’t need straightening. “It’s my choice.”
Liono’s eyes shifted towards his daughter. His chin lifted in challenge “you will not quick school to flip burgers. I won’t allow it.”

“You don’t have a say in what I do” Divia stood up facing her father slapping away her girlfriends hands.

“Divia” Renee’s harsh whisper barely registered on her radar.

“I won’t let you throw your life away” Liono took a step forward eyes glittering dangerously behind his dark lashes.

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“Who says that I’ll be throwing my life away?” Divia challenged swallowing hard to keep her nervous giggle under control. “I want to stay here with Renee.”

Crossing his arms he inclined his head “I can appreciate that. I doubt she wants you to sacrifice your dreams to stay home with her to play house.”

“We love each other Daddy. Not playing house” Divia protested biting her bottom lip “we’re going to be married.”

Liono’s eyes widened at the unexpected proclamation. “How are you going to pay for the ring? The wedding? The house?” He rattled off the list of things she hadn’t thought about. “Do you think you can afford those things on your wages from McDonald’s?”

Blood rushed from her face as she tried and failed to come up with an answer. She hadn’t thought about it. Her eyes turned towards Renee in silent appeal.

“No don’t” Liono barked “she’s not a part of this discussion.”

“I beg to differ” Renee said standing up to face the older man. “I plan on marrying your daughter. I am involved.”

His lips twitched a little. Ignoring her comments “what will you do when you want a child? It’s not going to be as easy as it was for your mother and I. You’ll need special procedures. Procedures that cost money. Where is that money going to come from?”

“We’re in this together” Renee blurted out taking Divia’s hand “it’s not all her responsibility.”

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This time Liono stared at the girl as if challenging her to continue. When she fell silent he nodded. “You’re correct but it makes things more difficult when the division of responsibility is unbalanced. Is this something you’ve discussed? Something you both agreed on?” He could see by the nonverbal exchanges that it wasn’t. “All I’m asking from you is you count the cost before you decide to do something. If you really want to flip burgers at McDonald’s I won’t stop you. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.” He eyed his daughter until she squirmed beneath is scrutiny. It wasn’t like it had been when she was a kid when she’d squirm from fright. This time it was because she was thinking over what he said.

“Renee” she turned to the girl “did you really mean what you said? That you wanted to marry me?”

“Yes” Renee nodded intensely watching the other girl’s eyes “I love you.”

“I love you too. I don’t want to flip burgers not really” Divia chuckled a little “I really do want to get my degree in psychiatry.”

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“I know” she whispered “it’ll only be a few months we’ll be apart.”

“We could call and text” Divia added.

“Plus you can home on the weekends” Liono added smiling at both of them. “So when’s the wedding?”

Both girls glanced at each other “we don’t have a date yet” Renee said.

“It just sort of came out” glancing at her hand “I don’t even have a ring yet.”

“We can help with that” Elyse said moving towards her room. A couple of minutes later she returned with a couple of small boxes. She exchanged a meaningful glance with Liono before saying “these were your grandmother’s rings. My mother gave me her engagement ring to give to my daughter and your father inherited his grandmother’s ring when his mother passed away.”

Clearing his throat Liono continued his husky as he held back his emotions “It would be an honor if you would take wear these rings as a symbol of your love for each other.”
He handed each of them a box his eyes unusually moist. Elyse kissed his cheek “my husband the old softy.”

 

“Dad I” Divia’s voice choked up as she glanced at the rings then at her parents. “I don’t know what to say” tears rolled down her cheeks and this time she didn’t feel the need to hide them. “Thank you.”

Slipping the ring on her finger Renee held her hand up admiring it. “It’s beautiful” her voice hushed as if she were afraid to break the mood.

“Your family now” Elyse beamed at the girl “you’ve made our little girl happy. Happier then we’ve ever seen.” She pulled the speechless girl into her warm embrace.

“Daddy” Divia cried throwing her arms around him. An action she never thought she’d ever feel comfortable doing a mere year ago. Now it seemed natural “I love you so so much.”

He grunted with the intensity of her hug. Somewhat awkwardly he wrapped his arms around her “I love you too. Even when I’m challenging you.”

“I know daddy” she pulled away to wipe at the tears flowing from her eyes. She no longer felt the fear she once had to show her emotions around the stoic man she no longer felt was hard as stone.

***

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Vincent glanced at the downcast face of the girl sitting across from him in the passenger seat. “Trinity is something wrong?” his gentle voice broke the silence between them. “We can do something else. We don’t have to go to the beach.”

“No it’s fine,” she murmured lifting her face up to watch the scenery pass by her window. “I want to go to the beach.”

Vincent glanced towards her. Her lackluster voice only emphasizing that there was indeed something wrong. He gripped the steering wheel tight enough to turn his knuckles white. She hadn’t been the same since he mother called a week or so ago. “Is everything alright at home? With your mother?” He asked hoping that she would open up and talk to him.

“Hmm what?” she asked turning to look at him a distracted look in her dark expressive eyes.

“Your mom, is she ok?” he asked watching the traffic ahead of him afraid to glance over and see confirmation in her lovely face of what he feared was happening. The last few weeks had been like a dream to him. More than anything he wanted this dream to last.

“She’s fine” she said turning to look out the window again “she’s always fine.”

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The lack of emotion in her voice only added to the ominous feeling he had twisting his insides into knots. If he wasn’t driving he’d pull her close to him. Something about the way she held herself had him thinking she was about to shatter into a million pieces like a fragile glass ornament would falling to the floor. He reached across the console dividing them. Took her hand “you know you can tell me anything right?” He squeezed her hand before she had a chance to tug her hand free. His hand felt empty afterwards matching the hallow feeling in his heart. He was losing her. He didn’t know how or why but he was losing her. “Trinity please tell me what’s wrong?”

Her head jerked at the entreaty in his voice. She could hear the hurt in his voice. She hadn’t meant to hurt him. She felt like she was caught in a riptide she couldn’t swim out of no matter how hard she tried. She kept getting further and further away from what she wanted most.

Moisture build up behind her eyes and a single tear rolled down the side of her nose. She hastily wiped it away before it had a chance to betray her true feelings. As perceptive as Vincent was to her moods he no doubt was aware of her melancholy state of mind.

With false cheer she forced a dazzling smile on her face. Turning towards her companion she said “what are we doing today?”

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Vincent shivered at the fake cheer in her voice so reminiscent to the way things had been before. Mentally he shook himself. He wouldn’t go down that road. He wouldn’t start looking for similarities to the past. “Um” he mumbled thinking he had already told her “we’re having a picnic at the beach…”

“Sounds romantic” she batted her eyes at him falling into the habit of flirting when she didn’t want to think about what she was feeling. The concerned rise of Vincent’s eyebrows had her murmuring “sorry I…” she groped for words “I’m just really excited. I really like picnics.”

“Try to contain yourself a little while longer” he said trying to sound as cheery as she was “we’re almost there.” He had looked forward to this picnic for weeks. Picnics had always been a favorite of his since he was a little kid. His parents would take him to the park. Spread a blanket on the ground and cuddle together while he ran off to play. The weekend picnics had become some of his favorite memories of his childhood. He’d been hesitant to share that with Trinity. Afraid it’d be too provincial for her tastes. To his surprise and delight she had suggested a picnic as one of their first dates. Now he wondered if she had been trying to hard to please him. Pretending to like the same things he did. She could have learned of his love of picnics from his parents. They hadn’t exactly been shy about telling her about his embarrassing childhood antics.

Prompted by his sudden fear she was toying with him he said “we can do something else if you’d like. I know you wanted to try out that new roller coaster at Simmerica.” His heart raced at the thought of standing in a long line to ride what looked like a death trap. The long slow chug up to the first drop. The hesitation at the top before the first car toppled over the edge. The thought of it left him breathless.

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“Why would I want to do that?” she asked evasively.

He could hear the irritation in her voice to match his own growing frustration. He felt trapped onto a course he couldn’t change like the Titanic going ever closer to the iceberg that was its eventual doom. Sighing he turned into a parking lot. Getting out he proceeded to unload the trunk handing her the blanket and beach umbrella while he took the rest. “Why don’t you choose the spot to set up our picnic,” he suggested. She simply nodded and walked towards the sandy beach. Two weeks ago she’d have insisted they walk together. Disappointment and fear made his chest feel heavy as he followed in her wake.

His mind distracted he didn’t notice where Trinity had spread their blanket until he almost walked past a couple flirting. Stopping his gaze riveted on the girl as she smiled up at the buff surfer dude as he wrote his number on her hand. “Give me a call sometime” the guy said flashing her his impossibly white teeth. He nodded towards Vincent as he walked off stopping briefly to pick up his surf board.

“Trinity” Vincent choked as if he were being strangled and his heart was being cut from his chest.

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The smile she worn moments before faded and disappeared. “Vincent I didn’t see you standing there.” She hurried over to him to help with cooler.

“Are you breaking up with me?” he asked his Adam’s apple bobbing up and done in distress.

“Yes…no” she fell to her knees beside the cooler she dropped.. The contents spilling over the blanket. “I don’t know” she cried “I’m so confused.” She covered her face with her hands sobbing.

Her distress broke through his own daze of misery. “Talk to me. Give me a chance to help. Don’t just walk away from me.” He pulled her close. He could feel her shoulders heaving against him as she sobbed on his shoulder. Her hands twisting into his shirt.
“My mom she called” she gulped trying to calm herself.

Vince remained silent letting her talk. He had known something was up ever since her mom called a little over a week ago. Trinity had started to act strange soon afterwards, pushing him away in the process.

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“I was so happy” Trinity pushed away from him sniffing, wiping at her eyes. “I wanted to share my happiness with her. I told her how you made me laugh. How special I felt around you.” Her eyes filled with confusion and hurt “she laughed at me. Said I was being naive and gullible if I thought you were different from any other guy.” Fresh tears erupted “she said I was a fool to believe in love. That I needed to keep moving on to the next fun interesting prospect and not settle for an ideal that would only leave me hurt in the end.”

“You believed her” it wasn’t statement of fact. He could see from her actions that she had. He wanted to pull her close, tell her she was wrong that she didn’t have to be like her mom. Then the image of the surfer and the way she leaned in close smiling up at him and he wondered.

“Don’t you?” she demanded “you saw what I was doing. Flirting. I promised I wouldn’t. I did. I didn’t even want to. I kept hearing me mother saying when the fun is over move on. I wanted to make it stop.” She looked up with troubled eyes “maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m not capable of love and relationships. Maybe I need to be with a different guy every week.”

“Trinity” he said her name hoping to catch her attention “were you happy before?”

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“Before what?” she asked confused.

“Before with us. When it was just you and me.” He moved closer, his fingers gently drying the tears on her cheeks “did you enjoy being with me? Did you miss being with someone else?”

“Don’t be silly” she took a deep breath “when I was with you it was like no one else existed. That’s why I…” she looked up eyes wide “that’s why I was so excited to tell her I had found the one and if I could she could too.”

“Am I the one?” he asked ears buzzing stunned.

“I think so” her voice was small like she was almost afraid to admit it. Her lips twitched as she repeated “yes, yes you are” her voice full of certainty “you’re the one. The one I’d be willing to give up all others for.”

“Are you sure?” he asked pulling her close against his chest.

“I’m sure” she lifted hand to run through his short blond hair “you’re mine and I don’t want to give you up.”

“Good” he smiled brushing his lips over her’s “I think I’ve fallen in love with you.”

“I know I’ve fallen in love with you and it scared me” she pressed her lips firmly against his showing him how she felt. Pulling away a moment later to gaze into his eyes. She smiled up at him “I’m not scared anymore.”

Chapter 35 – Reunion / Chapter 37 – Letting Go

Hannah – Chapter 34 – Second Chances

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Divia sat alone on the park bench gazing up into the sky. She couldn’t believe how much had changed in the last couple of months. She never thought her dad would be so accepting of her being gay. She looked up as Renee came to join her. The other woman sat down next to her nudging her arm. Looking over she smiled taking the rainbow-colored snow cone “thank you.”

Renee gave her an appraising look “is something the matter?” she taking a small bite from her own blue raspberry snow cone.

Shaking her head Divia gave her a small smile. “I was thinking about my dad. I never gave him enough credit when I was growing up. I just assumed he wouldn’t understand.”

“Yet we have him to owe for getting us together” Renee put an arm around her “your dad’s pretty great if you ask me except when he’s yelling.” She chuckled a little “he only wants what’s best for you.”

“I’m beginning to see that” Divia snuggled closer to Renee listening to the distant sounds of children playing, birds chirping in the nearby trees and a couple of dogs barking a block or two away. “I guess I’ve always known it” she rested her head on Renee’s shoulder “I had it backwards. I was the one who was trying to change him. I always wished I had a kinder more sensitive dad like Hannah’s dad Eddie. Someone who wasn’t loud and scary. I thought my dad wanted a different daughter. One who wasn’t scared of him.”

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Renee’s laughter was soft and reassuring. “I think Liono likes you just the way you are. He told me how much he worried about you while you were away. He never wanted to send you away to that boarding school. He thought at the time you needed to find out who you were without your friends always around. Then you left for University and met that girl.” She paused a moment to press a gentle kiss on Divia’s forehead “your mom didn’t paint a very nice picture of her to your dad.”

“I never said anything negative about her” Divia lifted her head protesting.

“I think that’s what made Liono suspicious” Renee shook her head her shoulders rising in a shrug “everyone has faults and you seemed to be blind about hers.”

Nodding Divia stood up crossing he arms in front of her. “I know. I practically worshiped the ground Marzia walked on. Which left me feeling I wasn’t worthy to be in her presence.”

Coming up beside her Renee slipped her hands into the younger girls. “I think Marzia didn’t know what a treasure she had.” She gazed steadily into Divia’s eyes “I won’t make that mistake.”

“Really” Divia asked eyes trying to see the answer in the blue depths of the woman in front of her. “What makes you so confident that you won’t? Maybe I’m not worth it.”

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“I don’t want to change you” she murmured placing a soft kiss on the girls cheek before tugging on her hand to get her to follow her. She walked towards the almost deserted beach. “I think you’re enough just the way you are.” She was silent until they reached the water’s edge “I started off wanting to be your friend. I never once wanted to make you idolize me or to be special like I deserved to be placed on a pedestal. We’re equals. We’re both human which means, I’ll make mistakes and so will you.”

Divia stared up at her in wonder. It was true Renee had never once tried to change her. She hadn’t insisted she wear a certain style of clothes or wear her hair a certain way. Didn’t promise to wait than pressure her for more. Didn’t always need her to make herself feel better. “For the first time I….” she hesitated uncertain exactly what she wanted to say.

“Yes” Renee asked lifting an eyebrow in need of waxing.

Giggling a little Divia smiled holding the young woman’s gaze. She took a step forward cupping her hands around Renee’s face. “I think for the first time I know what love is.”

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Renee breathed in deeply of the salty air from the ocean, the sand, the faint Lilly scent from Divia’s shampoo. Turning slightly she kissed the girls palm of one of the hand’s framing her face. “Does that mean what I think it does?”

Divia smiled moving closer until their bodies molded together. Dropping her hands to around the girls waist holding her close. “I love you.”

“I thought that’s what you meant” Renee smirked leaning her forehead on Divia’s.

“Shush” Divia instructed as she took control of the moment and brought her lips to Renee’s in a tentative kiss. It felt like the first time, her stomach somersaulted inside her making her knees weak. It was the way she imagined feeling but never did until this moment.

***

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Breaking the kiss Renee let a sigh escape, “it’s getting late.”

Nodding Divia took her hand to escort her back to the parking lot where they had left their car. “We’re going to be late and Vince hates when people are late.”

“Yeah” Renee giggled remembering the one time they told the uptight blonde they’d meet him at the movies and he was about to explode when they arrived five minutes before the movie started. “We won’t have time to change before we need to be at the restaurant.”

“What time is it?” Divia asked sliding into the passenger seat careful not to drag in half the beach with her.

“Six o’clock” Renee said backing out of their parking spot.

“What” she exclaimed “we’re supposed to be there now.”

“Relax” Renee laughed “it’s not the end of the world if we’re a few minutes late.”

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Divia nodded as she began to rummage in her bag for her lip gloss and brush. “I wish I had a hair tie or something” she mumbled surveying her touch up job in the mirror.

“You look fine” Renee assured her.

“That’s not saying much” Divia complained “you’d say I looked fine even if I were wearing a burlap sack.”

“Well it’s true” Renee laughed at the murderous glare Divia shot at her from across the car. “I doubt the restaurant would let you in though.”

“Haha very funny” Divia grumbled.

A few minutes later they pulled into the restaurant parking lot. “Aren’t you going to comb your hair?” Divia asked before the girl got out of the car.

“Why?” Renee asked “my hair isn’t going to look any less messy if I comb it.” Silently she held her hand out for the brush Divia was holding out to her. She ran it through her long hair a few times. “Better?” she asked tossing the brush at Divia before getting out of the car.

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“Not really” Divia shook her head when Renee gave her an I told you so look. Coming around the car Divia wound her arm through Renee’s. “Thanks for trying anyway. I appreciate the effort.”

Giving her a quick peck on the cheek Renee said “for you I’d do anything.” Divia immediately tried to hide behind her long blue hair. “Why do you do that?” Renee demanded stopping to tuck the long strands behind Divia’s ears.

“Do what?” Divia asked pretending she didn’t know what Renee was referring too.

“Hide” Renee said gently holding the girls face so she’d have to look at her “you always hide when I try to compliment you.”

“I don’t” she objected shaking her head in denial.

She raised an eyebrow “does it embarrass you to be told someone thinks the world of you?” She persisted knowing she was making Divia uncomfortable “did something happen to make you doubt yourself so much?”

“Well” Divia glanced towards the ground “I guess it all started when I was about thirteen. I was all legs and elbows. I was the awkward ugly duckling next to all my friends. Hannah and Teasha were so much prettier than me.”

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Renee snorted at the picture that entered her head of Olive Oil. “I’m sorry” she covered her mouth with her hand “please continue.”

“Well we were at the beach and a bunch of boys from school came over to us. You know flirting and showing off. I felt left out. Invisible.”

“Oh honey I’m so sorry” Renee pulled her close “kids can be so cruel sometimes.”

Swiping at her eyes Divia nodded “whenever someone compliments me I feel like that awkward little girl again.”

“There’s nothing awkward about you now” Renee squeezed her tight in front of the glass restaurant door. Before releasing her she have the girl a soft kiss on the cheek “you’re beautiful to me.”

“Thank you” Divia murmured feeling her cheeks flush with heat as she walked through the open door Renee was holding for her.

***

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Vincent had arrived early to take advantage of the time to check his emails and his social media sites. He hadn’t had the chance to check with all the baby prep his parents were having him help with. His dad was hopeless when it came to putting anything together. Vincent had taken it upon himself to dismantle and reassemble the crib that his dad had half assembled in his room one night when he couldn’t sleep. For the safety of his unborn sibling he had volunteered to assemble any other accessory his mother purchased that the baby absolutely needed.

Before he left for the restaurant that evening his dad had taken him aside saying “thanks son.”

“For what?” he asked confused to what his dad was referring to.

“You fixed the wobble in the crib” his cheeks were a deep crimson “you may have noticed I’m completely inept when it comes to assembling anything. When we were expecting you, Liono put everything together for me.”

“I’m glad I can help” Vincent smiled at his dad “it’s not a big deal. Are you and mom going to find out what it is?”

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Milo shook his head “your mom and I want it to be a surprise. Boy or girl we’ll be happy with either.”

Sitting in his car Vincent wondered if his parents lack of curiosity of the baby’s gender was because he had been so sickly and they just wanted a healthy baby. In a way he could understand that. He had cost his parents dearly with all the medical expenses he put them through for his eyesight. At times he felt guilty for all the money they had put into him. If it weren’t for his medical expenses his parents would have been able to have the large family they had always wanted.

Restlessly he got out of the car. He walked aimlessly around the plaza knowing it was too early to get a table. He didn’t relish the idea of sitting at a table for three alone until Divia decided to show up. Turning his phone off he decided he didn’t want to read anymore messages. None of them were from the one person he wanted most to hear from. Following his parent’s advice he had sent Trinity a text telling her how much he liked her. He hadn’t received a reply. He had to accept she didn’t want the same things he did.

“Vincent….” a familiar voice called his name.

***

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At the sound of her voice his heart jumped into his throat choking him. “Trinity” he whispered half afraid he had imagined her voice. “What are you doing here?”

“I…” she bit her bottom lip looking down and away appearing uncomfortable in his presence. “I got your message.” She clasped her hands behind her back. “I” she repeated breathing rapidly “there’s something I need to tell you.” She looked up a frightened expression on her normally confident exterior.

“Me?” he cried “what do you need to tell me that you haven’t already said? I know you’re not interested in relationships. I’ve accepted that.” Had she come all this way just to reiterate what she had already told him? He wanted nothing more than to sink into the ground and disappear right where he stood. He didn’t want to hear what she had to say. It hurt too much the first time.

“That’s what I thought too” she took a hesitant step forward putting a hand out touching his arm. “I thought I didn’t want commitments.” She stared at her hand on his harm before moving her gaze to his eyes “I think I’m ready to try…”

He blinked. Was something wrong with his ears? Did she just say what he thought she said? Did she really say she wanted to try? With him? Her hand suddenly felt hot and heavy sending shock waves through his entire body “What does…um….I mean….yes I’d like that” he stammered.

 

 

She smiled up at him. The corners of her eyes crinkling. “Good” she let a giddy laugh escape “I was afraid that you had um…” she took a deep breath “I was afraid you had given up on me.”

Shaking his head in denial he took her hand in his as he began to walk towards the restaurant. “I’ve liked you from the moment I saw you at that Halloween party last fall. I’ve done everything I could think of to purge you from my mind.”

Walking beside him her shoulders rubbing against his. “I spent most of my summer in Monte Vista hoping my mom would convince me that my old way of doing things was the best way. She’d go out on one date after another and I began to wonder if she were happy. She smiled but her eyes seemed dull and lifeless.” She looked up at him “I knew then I didn’t want to be like her. Going from one man to the next. I want something more. Something I’ve been afraid of since my Dad walked out on us. I don’t want to be afraid anymore.”

“Afraid of what?” Vincent asked gently stroking her cheek.

“Commitment. Of having someone I love walk out of my life again.” She reached a hand up to his pressing it firmly to her face. “I never meant to hurt you. I know I did and I’m sorry.” A single tear rolled down the contours of her face “I’ll understand if you don’t want to give me another chance.”

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“Of course I’d give you another chance” he gasped “I haven’t been able to get you off my mind. I owe you so much. Who knows what might have happened to me if you hadn’t helped me.”

“Did you ever get your wallet back?” she asked as they resumed walking.

“Nope” he shrugged “the girls have community service though. The cops found my credit cards in their dorm room. Thankfully they hadn’t used them yet. Just spent all my cash.”

“They’ll do it again” Trinity foretold “community service is just a slap on the wrist.”

“Maybe” Vincent said feeling more charitable now that he had what he wanted most. Glancing at his watch he said “I’m supposed to meet Divia and her girlfriend at this restaurant” he pointed towards the building they had been walking towards. “Want to join us?”

Trinity shook her head hanging back. She could see Vince looking at her “I don’t want to intrude….”

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“Nonsense” he shrugged off her protests “you’ll be with me.” He smiled at her “if it makes you uncomfortable you don’t have to.”

She looked at him then at the restaurant. A thousand thoughts racing through her head at once. She had never been with anyone long enough to meet family or friends. There was a first time for everything she thought smiling up at him. “I’ll come if you promise not to flirt with any blondes.”

He chuckled a little “deal no blondes but red heads and brunettes are fair game.”

“Hey” she protested slapping his arm “I never said that.”

“Alright no flirting” he said holding the door for her “unless it’s you doing the flirting.”

She gave him a worried glance then smiled “I only want to flirt with you.”

Chapter 33 – Where is He? / Chapter 35 – Reunion

Hannah – Chapter 30 – Therapy

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Divia sat alone absorbing the early morning sun. She had been home for over a month now. It had been touch and go with her dad for the first week. When he opened his eyes and stared without recognition at her and her mom it almost broke her heart. Divia thought she’d lose it. Where the strength came from to hold her mom as she wept on her shoulder she had no clue. Inside all she wanted to do was run away and never come back.

That was three weeks ago. His memory had improved since then. It was still fuzzy. Certain events he still didn’t remember like the accident itself. Divia thought that was a blessing. Who would want to remember something that traumatic?

She leaned back her eyes closed. Her face tilted towards the sun. A slight smile upon her face. Today was the first day of his physical therapy. She hoped her dad wouldn’t be difficult and argue with the therapist. She knew how temperamental he could be especially when he was in pain or embarrassed. When he was both who knew what he was capable of? Liono hated to appear weak in front of anyone. It was worse when it was his family and friends. For weeks his visitors had been tip toeing around his room afraid of saying or doing something wrong. Not an easy task Divia knew from experience. Depending on his mood anything might spark an argument.

“Excuse me” a soft exotic voice said above her head “is someone sitting here?”

“Oh” Divia murmured opening her eyes “sorry.” She scooted over making room for the someone else to sit.

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“Thank you” the voice said sounding grateful “sorry for disturbing you. I just really needed to get off my feet.”

“No problem” Divia was quick to say. She took a glance over at the person she was sharing a bench with. Her acquaintance was the exact opposite of what she imagined she’d look like based off her voice. The young woman had dark wavy hair tumbling past her shoulders. There were streaks of an unspecified color that may have been the result of a failed highlight job. It was the woman’s eyes that were remarkable. They were hidden behind thick dark frames but their soft mahogany glow shone through. Divia found herself staring longer than seemed polite.

The woman laughed breaking the spell Divia was under. “Do I have a booger coming out my nose or something?” the woman asked. Her smile was genuine as she self-consciously wiped a hand over and around her nose.

“No no I’m sorry” Divia mumbled as her cheeks grew hot.

“I’d prefer it if someone told me if there were” she flashed her a toothy grin “I’d hate to find out later I was walking around with a big old booger hanging from my nose. People may think its impolite to say something but it’s so much worse to let someone walk around like that.”

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Divia found herself relaxing around her and laughing along with her. Glancing at the time she sighed “I should be going. My dad’s about to start physical therapy and I have to be there.”

Frowning the woman stood up as well. “From my experience patients usually don’t want their family around.”

“I know” Divia shrugged glancing away. Her eyes moving around the serene garden like park wishing she could bottle the peace she felt there. “My dad isn’t very….cooperative. He may need me there to keep him somewhat civil.” Turning back to her companion she said “he wouldn’t want to appear weak in front of me.”

“Ok” the woman nodded seeming to have filed what she said away “I guess I’ll be seeing you later than.”

“You might” Divia agreed thinking the woman was there visiting another patient.

***

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Twenty minutes later Divia sat unobtrusively to the side while her dad went through the paces. He grunted in pain. Never once complaining. Maybe it was her presence or maybe the fact his therapist was young and pretty. Divia knew her eyes almost popped from their eye sockets when her acquaintance from outside came into the room in a lab coat introducing herself as Renee Hauske, physical therapist.

As the interns helped her dad into his wheelchair. Renee smiled brightly at her “I knew we’d meet again” she said with a twinkle in her eye.

Divia swallowed as her hands suddenly felt clammy. She could feel the woman’s eyes watching her in a way that made her pulse race. Her mouth felt dry as she croaked out her own name in response.

“It’s nice to meet you Divia” the calm self-assured woman smiled again before turning her full attention to her father.

Divia’s ears perked up when she heard her dad’s deep voice ask “are you married?” Inwardly she groaned. Why did older people feel the need to ask personal information about someone’s relationship status upon meeting them?

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“I was engaged” Renee’s soft exotic voice replied “it didn’t work out obviously.” she laughed waving her empty finger around.

“His loss” Liono chuckled with her.

“We wanted different things” Renee sighed “she lives in Sunset Valley with her new girlfriend now.”

Divia held her breath leaning forward listening for her dad’s response. Would he be repulsed by having a lesbian therapist? She knew he had gay friends but for whatever reason he never struck her as being very accepting of them.

“Give it time” he advised her “you’ll find the girl eventually.”

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“It’s been almost three years” she objected “all I seem to attract are jerks.”

“Maybe you like jerks” Liono said with a grin and a sparkle in his eyes.

Laughing Renee shook her head “you might be right.” She helped him back into his chair.

“That’s all for today Mr Marx. You did excellent today.”

Liono smirked as he caught sight of his daughter watching them. “My daughter’s single. Maybe you could ask her out,” he suggested.

“Dad” Divia protested walking towards them cheeks blazing with heat.

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“What” he demanded innocently eyes shifting “did you think I didn’t know?”

“I” her eyes darted towards Renee “I never told you. How did you….”

“I’m not blind or an idiot” he grumbled but his eyes never lost their twinkle “did you think I wouldn’t approve?” Her silence spoke for her as he nodded in acceptance. “I want you to be happy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

Stepping back Renee suggested “maybe you’d like to take your dad to the garden where you can talk.”

Nodding Divia took her place behind her dad’s wheelchair. She didn’t knew what to say or even what she should be feeling. She felt somehow lighter like a heavy burden had been removed from her shoulders. Her dad loved her. He wasn’t mad like she expected him to be. To her astonishment he had tried to set her up with his therapist. Tears stung her eyes blurring her vision.

“Are you crying?” Liono asked his voice betraying his irritation he felt around anyone crying.

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“Sorry” she mumbled slowly pushing him towards the bench she had shared with Renee earlier that day.

“Divia I’m not upset I wish…” he sighed “I wish you’d own your feelings. If you feel angry be angry. If you feel like crying than cry. Don’t let me or anyone else dictate how you feel.” He fell silent while Divia sat down on the bench facing him. He reached over took her hand “I know I’ve been hard on you. I’m sorry. I thought if I pushed you enough you’d stand up for yourself.” He squeezed her hand “I guess that’s not what you needed and I’m sorry.”

Something broke inside her. Like a chunk of ice had fallen away from her heart. “Daddy” she cried throwing her arms around “I love you so so much and I’m sorry I doubted you.”

Hesitantly at first he raised his arms to hold her. “Does this mean I have a green light to set things up with Renee?”

“Oh daddy you’re impossible” she cried into his shoulder feeling she’d let him do whatever he wanted as long as she knew he loved her.

***

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Zach stared out the window. The busy sidewalk showed people going about their everyday lives. Some wore dresses, some were in business suits, others in t-shirts and jeans. Mothers with babies in strollers. Others were carrying multiple bags from their shopping excursions. All normal. Zach couldn’t help but wonder what was behind the smiles. What monsters lurked within? Who went home and hurt the ones they loved?

Shivering he turned away from the window. He found his therapist watching him. Her eyes following his every movement making feel conspicuous. He crossed his arms in front of himself wishing he were a turtle so he could hide within his shell. He watched her lips twitch as she jotted down something inside her notebook.

He watched the pen she wrote with. For a moment he wondered how she could write with her arm curled up like that. It seemed very awkward but a lot of left-handed writers appeared to write like that. It was something that he’d always noticed, had tried to copy but couldn’t.

When she was done she twirled the pin around, appearing to be in deep thought. “What were you thinking about when you gazed out the window?” she asked after several minutes of silence.

The sound of her voice caught Zach off guard. The intake of his breath was loud in the silent room. He shook his head slowly his hair flying around his face “nnothing” he stammered. He could feel her gaze on him making him squirm.

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“Zach if you want my help you need to talk to me” the woman’s voice was gentle to Zach’s ears.

“Are you really as nice as you appear?” he asked his voice low, cautious.

She raised her chin to acknowledge she heard his question. “What makes you think I might not be?” she countered his question with one of her own.

He pressed his spine into the hard backed chair he sat in. He glanced furtively around the room stopping on the exit door. His dad was sitting just on the other side of that door. All he had to do was get up and walk through it and this would all be over.

“Zach” her voice was low barely loud enough to catch his attention. “Do you think about what people are hiding behind their smiles?”

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Shocked he nodded “there’s a lot of evil hidden behind pleasant smiles.”

“It’s exhausting trying to figure out what someone’s hiding isn’t it?” she asked.

He nodded wondering how she knew. “You can’t tell” he mumbled. His eyes were vacant as he retreated further into himself.

He watched as she checked the time. She gave him a thin-lipped smile before placing her hands flat on top of her desk. “That’s it for today. We’ll see you on Friday” she said like a question giving him the option to say no.

He never did. He simply nodded as he moved towards the door wondering what if anything she learned about him and whether it was helping him or not.

***

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Later that night Teasha slipped into his room. “How did it go?” she asked sitting on the edge of his bed her light blue eyes watching him.

Sitting up he shrugged “I don’t like her.”

“Tell daddy and he’ll find someone else” she suggested.

“It’s not that easy” he drew his knees up wrapping his arms around them. “She makes me say things I don’t want to think about.”

She gave him a quizzical look “that’s kind of what she’s supposed to do. It’s the only way she can help you.”

“I guess” he mumbled “are you home for good now?”

Teasha nodded “at least for the summer. I wish you’d change your mind and come back to school with me in the fall.” She saw the terrified look in his eyes “it’s not the same without you.”

“Waylon won’t be there” he sighed resting his chin on his hands a shudder shaking his shoulders.

“Have you heard from him lately?” she asked ruffling his soft blonde hair with her fingers.

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“No” he almost wailed.

“He hasn’t called?” her voice sounded shocked.

“He has” Zach mumbled “I haven’t answered.”

“Why the hell not?” she demanded indignant on Waylon’s behalf.

Shrugging his shoulders he talked into his hands making his words hard to understand. “What’s the point? I’m here. He’s there. It’s over….”

She had to admit he did have a point. “You can still be friends” she said quietly.

“I don’t want to be friends” he closed his eyes images of their last night together replaying in his mind. A low moan escaped his lips as his body remembered the way Waylon’s hands ignited a fire within him.

“Zach you and he … you didn’t….” she gave him a piercing gaze “you did.” She was shocked. She wouldn’t have thought her brother would ever. Not after….”You didn’t just do it with Waylon because of Dex…”

He lifted his head up. Eyes blazing with hate “Dexter never touched me. He tried but I…” His throat constricted cutting off his voice.

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“Alright” she replied calmly wondering what actually did happen between him and Dexter. No one had seen Dexter after that night. No she mentally chided herself. Her brother would never hurt anyone. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. “At least tell me you and Waylon were safe.”

“Safe?” he looked at her eyes wide his tone confused.

“Yeah safe as in careful” she rolled her eyes at him “you know protection. Geez Zach do I have to spell it out for you.”

“Of course we…” his voice faltered he didn’t exactly remember. Had they used anything? “I don’t know” he admitted aloud “it’s not like we planned for it to happen. It just did.”

“Zach” she cried in exasperation “you’re an idiot.”

The magnitude of what he said started to sink in he asked “what am I going to do now?” His anxiety causing his voice to come out squeaky.

“The first thing you’re going to do is take a pregnancy test” she told him.

“Why?” he asked recoiling at the idea.

“Zach use your head” she bit her lip to keep from saying more. He was already in shock at the idea of being pregnant she had to be gentle if she wanted him to cooperate with her. “You know as well as I do you could be pregnant.”

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“I know” he cried as the enormity of it pressed in around him choking off his air “All I wanted was to feel better. To feel loved. I didn’t think…”

“It’s going to be alright” she soothed pulling him close rocking him in her arms like she did when they were kids and he’d had a bad dream “we’ll figure this out together. I promise it’s going to be ok.”

“I’m sorry that you always have to take care of me” he muttered into her shoulder “everyone would be better off if I had jumped off the bridge that night.”

“What? What did you say?” she demanded pushing him from her shoulder. Holding his face between her hands “don’t you dare think that’s an option. I’d be lost without you. Our dads would be devastated. How do you think Waylon would feel? He loves you.”

Tears streamed down his face “I’m sorry. I try not to think about how awful everything is. How people hide who they are behind smiles. I wonder what evil lurks behind those smiles. I just want peace. I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to die either. It’s just sometimes the dark thoughts surround me and I wonder if it’d be better to not have to think at all ever again.”

Shaking him she demanded “when these feelings come up call me. Call dad or daddy. Waylon or anyone else. We’ll drop everything and come to you. You’re not alone. You have people who care about you. Who want to help you.”

“I…” he turned away from her intense gaze “I don’t want to be a burden. You have lives to live. You don’t need me hanging around like a dead weight around your necks.”

“Then talk to that therapist. Tell her everything you just told me.” She pulled him close “you don’t have to suffer through this alone.”

“I’ll try” he said “I promise I’ll try.”

Chapter 29 – Don’t Need You / Chapter 31 – Harsh Realities

Hannah – Chapter 27 – Homeward Bound

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Wiping tears from her cheeks, Divia took a deep breath. He had to be alright she thought as she took off across campus. She made a list of the things she needed to do before she left. The professors she needed to contact regarding the papers that were due. It hardly mattered since she changed her major. Most of her classes she took this past year wouldn’t help her towards her goal.

Her feet seemed to have a mind of their own as she hurried towards her dorm. The peace she had found earlier was gone. A growing dread threatened to engulf her. What if her dad died? What if she was never able to tell him how much she love him?

She regretted all the years she had spent being in awe of him. Too afraid to displease him. She should have been more outgoing, more of the daughter he wanted instead of the one he didn’t understand. She had the uncomfortable feeling that she hadn’t been fair to him. She had been too ready to point the blame at him. To tell everyone how he didn’t understand her. She hadn’t tried to understand either. She may never get a chance to show him how much she cared about him.

She burst into her room. The door banging loudly into the wall behind her. Teasha jumped up eyes puffy and red. Identical to how Divia was sure she looked like. “What happened?” they cried together.

“You first” Divia said closing the door. Concern for her friend overriding her fears about her father.

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Teasha took a deep breath before opening her mouth to respond. Only sobs came out. Divia moved across the room wrapping her arms around the girl. “It’ll be ok. Whatever it is it’ll be ok.”

Shaking her head Teasha gulped “no no it won’t.” She clung to Divia. Her fingers digging into her back “he’s dead….”

“No he’s in surgery” Divia protested “mom would have told me if he had died.”

“I heard it” Teasha gulped “on the radio.”

Stuffing the panic rising inside her Divia frowned. “Why would my dad’s accident be on the radio?”

“What accident?” Teasha sniffed hearing Divia for the first time since she came home.

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“My dad” Divia repeated “was in a bike accident. He’s in surgery. He might not make it. I have to go home.”

“I’m so sorry” Teasha stammered “I didn’t know.”

“Who were you talking about?” Divia asked as dread filled her as Teasha pulled away from her. She could see the distress written all over her friends face. Holding her hand around the girls face “it’s not Zach is it? He wasn’t in an accident was he?” Panic filled her voice as a hundred different scenarios played out in her head.

“No not Zach” Teasha shook her head . “Phoenix his….” she gulped or air “his plane went down over the ocean.”

“Oh honey” Divia pulled her close letting Teasha cry on her shoulder “I’m so sorry.”

***

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An hour later Teasha raised herself from her bed. Sniffling she wiped her nose on her sleeve. “I’m coming with you.”

“What about class?” Divia asked from her side of the room “don’t you have a test next week?”

“I wont be able to concentrate” the girl complained.

“Honey don’t throw your education away” Divia said coming to sit beside the upset girl. Handing her a Kleenex she continued “going home won’t make you feel any better.”

“I know” she blew her nose “I wish there was something I could do.”

“The best thing you can do is to stay in school,” Divia said “I have to home. Mom needs me.”

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“You’re right but what if he’s…” she stopped shuddering. “I never got to tell him how much I loved him.”

“I know honey” Divia rubbed her friends back. “You have to accept this is why he broke up with you before he left. He didn’t want to put you through this pain.”

“It didn’t work” she sniffed. “I’m still hurting. Still waiting to know if he’s alright. I can’t just turn my feelings off.”

“Then prove to him that you can be a good military wife.” She spoke with a firmness she seldom showed. “Pull yourself together. Do what needs to be done.”

Teasha looked up through her tears “you’ve changed.”

Shrugging Divia glanced away, “not really. I’ve been to unsure of myself and what I wanted to be myself. It’s time I took control of my life. I can’t wait for someone else to hang the moon for me.”

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“You can’t give up on love either” Teasha protested letting concern for her friend rise above her own misery.

“Oh I won’t” looked at her hands “it’s just not a priority anymore. I have to find happiness within myself first before looking for it in someone else.”

“I’m sorry” Teasha mumbled getting up to help Divia pack. “I’ve been a terrible friend. So wrapped up in my own problems. I didn’t even ask you about Marzia.”

“There’s not much to tell” Divia said softly. “She left and I don’t know why.”

“I’m sorry” Teasha squeezed her tight. “I should have been a better friend.”

“Don’t worry about it” Divia sniffed “it’s not the end of the world.”

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“If you need to talk” Teasha offered “I’m here.” Looking at the boxes “how are you going to get home?”

“Rent a car I guess” Divia shrugged “I haven’t given it much thought.”

“I’ll drive you” Teasha said “no objections. Tomorrow is Friday. I don’t have class until Monday. I’ll go for the weekend. Visit my parents. Hopefully stay busy so I don’t think too much.”

“I accept” Divia said relieved that detail was taken care of. “You should tell Zach you’re leaving.”

“Maybe he’ll want to come with us” Teasha smiled “I doubt it though.”

“At least offer” Divia sighed wishing she had siblings to share in this crisis.

***

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Teasha knocked on her brother’s door. “Zach you in there?” she put an ear to the door listening for movement. Frowning she lifted her hand to knock again. It sounded like someone was crying or moaning. “Zach” she shouted pummeling the door “let me in.”

She fell forward when the door was jerked open. Waylon stood in front of her, hair topsy turvey, shirt untucked and ripped. “Is that blood?” Teasha demanded staring wide-eyed at his appearances.

“It’s not mine” he mumbled.

“Zach” she cried pushing past him “where’s Zach?”

Waylon slapped the door following her. “He doesn’t want a lot of fuss.”

“He’s hurt” she pointed at the blood stains on Waylon’s shirt “where is he?”

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“I’m taking care of him” Waylon glared at her.

“He’s my brother” she shouted whirling around confronting the man. “I want to know what happened.” She stared at the young man standing in front of her. The grazed bruised knuckles on his hands. The blood stains on his shirt. His insistence that Zach was ok made her wonder. What if this seemingly nice guy had hurt him. “I’m not leaving until I see him.”

“I didn’t…you think…” Waylon seemed to wilt in front of her. “I would never hurt him.”

“Why won’t you let me see him?” she demanded “he’s been hurt before by someone he thought loved him.”

“He’s in the closet,” Waylon waved towards the door “he won’t come out. He crawled in there as soon as I got him home.”

“What happened?” she demanded walking towards the door. She choked back a sob upon what she saw. The last time Zach had crawled into a closet and refused to come out was right after he came home from the hospital. She had found him in his bedroom closet crying. The closet had become his safe place. The place he retreated to when the world became too much to handle.

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“Dexter Gage happened” Waylon shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m gonna kill him.” He strode towards the door slamming it shut behind him sending a few pictures crashing to the floor.

Teasha stared at the door stunned by the raw anger that washed over her. Turning back to the closet she knelt beside her brother who was curled up into tight ball on the floor. “Zachie” her voice squeaked as she pulled him to her.

“I want to go home” he mumbled “please take me home.”

“If that’s what you want,” she rubbed her hands along his back feeling the sobs rocking his body. “I’ll help you pack.” There was no point in arguing or demanding he talk to her. He would tell her what happened eventually in his way in his own time.

“Thank you” he mumbled following her out of the closet.

She gasped upon seeing his battered face in the light. Blood dried cake on one side of his face. His bottom lip was swollen. When he talked she could tell he hand some broken or loose teeth. “Did he do that to you?” her hands shook. She wanted to follow Waylon and make sure he gave Dexter exactly what he had coming to him.

Tracing a hand across his face Zach winced. “I’m ok,” his voice flat emotionless.

“No you’re not” she walked towards him “I’m taking you to the hospital.”

“No” he jerked away from her. His words slurred from the swollen lip “home. I want to go home.”

“We’ll go home after you see a doctor” she took his arm “I promise we’ll go home tomorrow.” She steered him towards the door.

Shaking his head he started to back away “no. No I won’t go. It’s not safe.”

“Zach please” she pleaded as he retreated towards the closet. At least let me clean you up a bit.”

***

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Twenty minutes later she had gotten most of the dirt and blood removed from his face. In the back of her mind she hoped that Waylon had found Dexter and given him a beating within and inch of his life.

“I’m sorry” Zach said speaking for the first since she began.

“It’s not your fault” she assured him

He shuddered “if I had done was I was told.” He stopped glancing away.

Teasha wanted to shout at him to tell him to talk to her. She knew that would have the opposite effect on him. She willed herself to be patient. She had to let him tell her in his own way in his own time.

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“He he dragged me with the bushes” Zach began again shivering “he he….kkkkissed me.” He lifted his eyes. “I told him to stop.” Tears rolled down his cheeks “I begged him to stop.”

“I’m going to kill him” Teasha cried repeating the same words Waylon had as he ran from the room earlier. How could someone like that exist? How could he claim to love someone then terrorize them? It didn’t make sense. Her brother wouldn’t hurt a fly. He didn’t deserve this. No one did.

“I…I hit him” his voice broke through her dark thoughts “I wanted him to stop.” He stared at his hands. “I just kept hitting him and hitting him.” He took a gulp of air “I hurt him. I couldn’t stop hitting him.”

“Zach honey” Teasha took a mirror from her bag. “Look” she demanded holding the mirror out to him “it was self-defense. Dexter hurt you too. He would have done worse if you hadn’t stood up for yourself.” She watched him as he explored the bruises on his face. “It’s not your fault,” she repeated.

“I just” he swallowed “I didn’t think…”

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She could see the tears building behind his eyes again “it’s alright. It’s a terrible thing what he did to you. I’m so proud of you.”

His light blue eyes moved towards her “proud of me?”

Nodding she squeezed him tight “you fought back. You refused to be a helpless victim. You are so much more than you believe.”

He gave her a lopsided grin. He had never seen himself like that before. “Waylon…where is he?”

“I don’t know” she said.

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“He’s looking for Dexter isn’t he?” He staggered to his feet “we have to find him. He’s going to do something stupid.”

“Alright I’ll look for him” she assured him. She followed him towards the door.

“I’m with you” he asserted when she tried to stop him.

“Absolutely not,” she protested pushing him lightly towards the bed. “I’ll find you. You stay and pack.”

***

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Zach sat on the bed staring at the closed door. Mustering all his strength he staggered from the room. He had to find Waylon before it was too late. He couldn’t let him do something he’d regret for the rest of his life. Teasha meant well but she didn’t know Waylon the way he did. Didn’t know that Waylon would do anything to protect him.

Heart pounding Zach stopped on the edge of the dormitory grounds. He stared across the road towards the bridge. He took several deep breaths before venturing towards the dark unlit field across the street. He was following his instinct that Waylon would be out there looking for traces of Dexter. He wouldn’t find any. He was sure of that.

The long grass rubbed against his pants legs leaving them damp with dew. Closing his eyes he listened for sounds that he wasn’t alone. A rustling to his left had him jumping backwards until he realized it was a small rodent moving in the long grass. Taking several deep breaths he continued towards the river’s edge. The last place he had seen Dexter.

A loud splash almost had him running for cover. A familiar voice demanded “what the hell are you doing here?”

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“Looking for you” Zach squeaked as he felt Waylon’s arms wrap around him. Soon he felt Waylon’s lips softly caressing the nape of his neck. His breath caught in his throat as he choked out “I love you.”

Waylon gently turned so he could bring his lips to the blond’s mouth. Careful not to move too fast or to hurt him. A soft moan escaped from Zach when Waylon pulled back to gaze into his eyes. “I was afraid I had lost you,” he ran his fingers through Zach’s hair.

“I’m here” Zach whispered resting his cheek against Waylon’s chest.

“Don’t ever leave me,” Waylon pleaded.

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“I wish I didn’t have to” Zach closed his eyes regretting his poor choice of words. Waylon’s arms dropped from around him. Zach walked towards the river’s edge sighing. How cold was the water he wondered? It was still early spring. Would it be cold enough to give someone hypothermia before they drowned? “I’m going home. I can’t stay here….”

“I’m going home too” Waylon put his arms around the blond again. He moved slowly knowing how easily Zach was startled. “My Uncle needs my help on the ranch.”

“This doesn’t have to be the end” Zach said turning in Waylon’s embrace. “We still have tonight and I could come to visit.”

Waylon chuckled a little the sound a little sad in the cool crisp air. “You’d never survive on a ranch.”

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“I could try” Zach murmured “I’d try anything for you.”

“No” Waylon shook his head firmly. “It wouldn’t do for either of us making drastic changes for the other.” As much as they both didn’t want to say it. It felt like goodbye.

“I know” Zach sighed tentatively putting his arms around Waylon’s waist. I placed soft kisses along Waylon’s neck and jaw line. “I want you to love me.”

With a low moan of assent Waylon gently guided them to the dew drenched ground. He hovered over the blond seeing the desire and acceptance in his light blue eyes before he lowered his mouth to Zach’s lips.

Chapter 26 – Goodbye / Chapter 28 – Almost

Hannah – Chapter 26 – Goodbye

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Divia stared up at the windows of Marzia’s art studio. Since the exhibit Divia had hardly seen the blonde. Marzia had been too busy with filling orders and preparing for her next show in six months. Five now, Divia thought staring up at the window. The past four weeks had been long and lonely. The initial excitement of having helped Marzia realize her dreams had worn off, leaving Divia feeling lost and alone.

Biting her lip she hesitated. Was it a good idea to just show up unannounced at her girlfriends studio? It had never been an issue before the show. Afterwards though it had become a source of contention between them. Marzia had told her to call first. After a week and half of the blonde not returning her calls. She didn’t feel she had much of a choice but to come here.

Why hadn’t Marzia returned her calls? Divia had thought they had something special. Now she was beginning to come to the reluctant conclusion that Marzia may have been using her to make herself feel better. Shaking her head she refused to believe that until she had proof. She wouldn’t get that until she made Marzia talk to her.

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Rubbing her hands along the sides of her arms. She moved to the stairs she knew would take her to the studio. She needed to know. Anything was better than this uncertainty. It was dark and eerie as she made her way up the old rickety metal stairs. What had Marzia liked about this place? Divia had always found it dark and foreboding. Why choose this place to inspire your painting?

Her knock sounded hollow like the space beyond the closed door was empty. She tried the knob. It was unlocked as usual. The door creaked loudly as she pushed it open. “Marzia” she called her voice echoing from the cement walls. Shivering she walked towards the cozy sitting area hoping to find the object of her quest. She had many fond memories of being held tight as Marzia’s sensual full lips moved across hers. Making her feel things she hadn’t felt before.

She stopped, shivering in the cold dark space. The cozy inviting sitting area was gone. Empty. Nothing was there but marks on the floor marking where things used to be. A wail built up inside her as she brought her hands up to cover her face. A sobbing wail filled the emptiness. What had she done wrong? Unbidden her mind went to the last night they had spent together in this spot. The night of the exhibit. Marzia had been glowing with happiness. Eyes sparkling with excitement. They had come here to celebrate the evening, making out on the small love seat…

***

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Marzia’s deft fingers released the zipper in the back of Divia’s dress. She placed kisses down her throat, across her shoulders as her hands drew circles across her back. Her hands slipped inside the open zipper caressing her hips sliding further down.

“I’m not….” Divia protested attempting to pull away. Clutching her dress to her chest as it slid forward.

“Just let it happen” Marzia cooed “let me love you the way I know you want me to.”

For a moment she relaxed letting Marzia’s touch lull her. She wanted this. She wanted to be loved. Cherished. Marzia’s kisses left a trail down her shoulders, burying her face in the clefts of her breasts leaving Divia breathless. She felt Marzia’s hands slide up her sides seeking to unclasp her bra. Divia knew they were fast reaching the point of no return. She needed to stop before things went any further. “No please” she tried to pull away. She fought against Marzia’s arms pulling her down.

“What’s wrong?” the blonde asked anger her voice.

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“It’s too fast. Too soon” Divia mumbled stumbling to express herself.

“Too fast. Too soon” Marzia mimicked “we’ve been dating for months.”

The moment Divia felt Marzia’s hands drop from around her, Divia zipped her dress up and stood. “You said you’d wait” she cried voice trembling “you’d wait until I was ready. You promised me no pressure to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with.”

“How long do you expect me to wait?” the blonde demanded “I have needs too you know.”

There it was. Out in the open. All the little kernels of doubt that had been floating around in Divia’s mind all coalesced at once. That uneasy feeling that this was more about Marzia’s carnal needs than any true feelings for her. “I wanted my” she stopped at seeing the loathing in the blonde’s eyes. “I’m sorry.” She gathered her things and walked towards the door. What a dismal ending to an otherwise glorious evening. It had been everything she had hoped for.

“That’s it then” Marzia’s voice startled her “you’re just to going to leave.”

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“I think that’s for the best don’t you?” Divia asked attempting to keep her voice from betraying how upset she was.

“You’re such a baby” Marzia’s voice dripped in disdain “it’s just sex. It could have been fun. I could have shown you how pleasurable it could be.”

“That’s the difference between you and me” Divia shook her head. A part of her wished she could see sex in that light and easy way. “I want my first time to be special not like this.”

“It would have been special” Marzia persisted “it still could. Let me take you down this journey.”

It was tempting. Divia knew she wanted it as much as Marzia did. She couldn’t explain the feeling that had come over her. The one that left her feeling cold and sick like she was some sort of prize for a job well done. Shaking her head she walked through the door towards the metal staircase. “Not tonight. I’m tired and need to get up early for class.”

The door slammed behind her. She resisted the urge to go to the blonde and apologize. She simply couldn’t comply with the girls demands. No matter how she felt it was the right decision she thought as she got into her car and drove a way.

***

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It was hard to believe that was four weeks ago. The beginning of the end she thought without humor. Marzia had become preoccupied with her painting. Spending less and less time with Divia until she had stopped all correspondence. Divia wiped a stray tear away as she turned to leave the empty studio.

Divia knew this was for the best. She couldn’t fill Marzia’s needs. Was she upset? Yes of course. Was she devastated? No. That realization alone was keeping her from falling apart. Once upon a time she thought the blonde hung the moon. Now she knew that was just an illusion. She had been so desperate to be loved and accepted she had willingly fallen under Marzia’s spell.

There was one thing she’d take from this experience. Divia had a new focus in life. She wanted to help people. Help them through their emotional crisis. Something she could sympathize with. As awful as this had been it wasn’t the end of life as she knew it. Marzia wasn’t the one. She’d be sad, maybe a little depressed but it wasn’t the end of the world.

***

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The following morning she smiled over at Teasha who was just waking up. “Have you heard from Phoenix yet?”

“No” the girl sighed. “I don’t think I will either. He came by and spoke to Zach before he left.”

“Oh?” She was curious what that was all about but unsure whether or not to ask.

Teasha smiled understanding her friends dilemma. “He wanted me to know he hadn’t meant to break up with me.” She sighed, “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that information.” Giving her best friend a half pleading look. “Am I supposed to feel better that it wasn’t planned? I don’t. I don’t even know what I feel anymore.”

“To be honest I don’t know either.” Divia said moving from her unmade bed. “I do know that neither one of us are going to wallow in self-pity.”

“Did something happen between you and Marzia?” Teasha asked turning towards Divia in concern.

“She left” Divia announced. It didn’t hurt as bad as she thought it would to say out loud. “She didn’t even have the decency to tell me. To say goodbye. She just left.”

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“Oh honey. I’m so sorry.” Teasha moved to hug the girl. She was sure Divia would be devastated. Pulling her close Teasha was the first one to burst into tears.

Stroking the girl’s long dark reddish hair Divia let the girl cry. She murmured a few inane things like it’s his loss. She’ll meet someone else. Mr right was out there somewhere. She just had to keep looking. It was all meaningless words meant to soothe, to comfort. It offered little help. She wanted to understand what made someone say they loved someone one moment, and turn around and leave the next, without so much as a goodbye.

Pulling away Teasha wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry” she mumbled.

“It’s alright” Divia said. “I owed you for all the times you let me cry on your shoulder.”

“Yeah you did,” she sniffed. “We should do something today.”

“I have to check into changing my major first” Divia explained. “Afterward I’ll be free.” She grabbed some clothes moving towards the door. She could read the curiosity in her friends light blue eyes. “I’ll tell you about it later, ok?”

***

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Divia sat on a bench listening to the early morning birds singing in the trees around her. She gazed up into the deep blue sky a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. She felt at peace for the first time since coming to university. For the first time since she arrived she knew what she wanted and how to accomplish it. It was a relief not to have to worry about how her decisions might affect someone else. She no longer had to worry about anyone becoming upset if she stayed over to ask the professor a question or to get help on a project. She didn’t have to consult with anyone for a simple schedule change.

Her parents had been rigid and strict. A contrast to their rebel like appearance. She had become reclusive as a result. Afraid to rock the boat. She had never been afraid of them. They were her parents. They just didn’t understand each other. In a weird sort of way Divia felt they probably would have understood each other more if she had been more outgoing, more the type to push the boundaries.

Reflecting back she wondered if the rules they had made were meant to protect her more than restrict her. As uncommunicative and undemonstrative as her Dad had been she didn’t doubt it. It was his way of showing how much he loved her. Her Mom had been more approachable even when she backed her Dad up on his rules. They loved her. Divia had no doubts about that.

With Marzia it had felt good to be adored. Most of the time though Divia had to cater to Marzia’s feelings. Divia found herself caving to the girls whims and wishes more and more even when she didn’t want to. It had begun to feel restrictive like a millstone around her neck. Now that she was once again on her own it wasn’t as frightening as it once was. Even as awful as it was to know Marzia left her without so much as an explanation she was happy. In a strange way she was thankful for Marzia for helping her figure out who she was and what she wanted. How could she be upset about that?

***

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While she sat observing the comings and goings of the various students, she released a contented sigh. The tone of her phone disturbed her reflections. Frowning she glanced at the display. Heart pounding she answered it “hello?”

“Divia?” her mother’s voice asked loudly in her ear.

“Mom” she cried sensing something was wrong. As long as she could remember she had never heard her mother cry and yet that’s what it sounded like she had been doing before she called. “What’s wrong?” She felt her inner calm slipping away.

“Your Dad,” her mother gasped. “He had an accident.”

“Oh no” Divia cried. Her mind formed images of her Dad on his motorcycle, hair flowing free. “He wasn’t wearing his helmet,” it was a statement more than a question.

“You know how he is” her mom cried. “He hated wearing it. He liked the wind in his hair.”

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Divia could hear the panic in her mom’s voice. “How bad is he?” She forced herself to ask the question. All the while pleading with whoever was listening ‘please let him be alright. Please don’t let him be dead.’

“He’s in surgery.” The near whisper was worse than the near hysterical shouting her mom had been using moments before.

“Mom he’s going to be alright” Divia assured her. If she said it enough it would come true. It just had to.

“I hope so” her mom sounded defeated. “You didn’t see him.”

Divia took in a deep breath held it before responding. “You were with him when it happened?”

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“Yes” her mother’s wailing answer was unnerving. “He had been so carefree and daring today.” She gulped audibly “a car swerved into his lane. He …. he tried to keep from hitting them. His front tire hit a rough patch in the pavement….”

Divia could imagine her mom clutching her phone in one hand pressing it to her ear. Eyes closed. Breathing hard. “Mom he’ll be alright” Divia pitched her voice loud and firm.

“His head hit the pavement” she continued as if Divia hadn’t said anything. “He could have brain damage or even brain dead.”

“Mom” Divia shouted to get her attention. “I’m coming home.”

Chapter 25 – Accomplice / Chapter 27 – Homeward Bound

Hannah – 20 – Falling In and Out Of Place

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Donovan put an arm around Hannah as they watched Ryan walk Charity from the coffee shop. “That was harsh” he mumbled thankful his dad had never treated him like that. His dad was pretty ok even though he chose his life as an adventurer over his family.

“Charity is one of the sweetest girls I know,” Hannah sniffed “she deserves better than that old con.”

“She does have better” Donovan pointed out “she has her dads.”

Turning Hannah smiled “you know something, you’re right.”

“Of course I am” he gave her a quick peck on the cheek “I’m always right.”

Shoving him aside she walked towards their abandoned drinks “you’re never right” she tossed back at him.

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Smiling he followed her straddling the chair he took a swallow of his lukewarm coffee “yuck” he grumbled “I was right about you.”

Arching an eyebrow she shook her head. Taking a sip she said “I wouldn’t say that.”

“Why not?” he demanded tossing his coffee away mostly unfinished “you like me.”

Crossing her arms she tossed her cappuccino away “I never said that…”

“You did” he pulled her close “I distinctly remember you telling me you did.”

Donovan’s face was dangerously close to hers. She could feel his warm breath tickling her skin. She leaned in close expecting to feel his lips on hers at any moment. She gasped when he abruptly released her. She fell forward catching herself on the back of a chair before she could fall. “What the?” she cried blinking.

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“I think my feelings have been hurt” he announced walking towards the exit.

Blushing as she found herself the center of the barista’s undivided attention she took a deep breath and followed him outside. She watched him get in his car and start the engine. Was he really going to leave her here? Stunned she stopped and stared. What was it about this guy that kept her coming back for more?

A car door opened “well are you coming?” Donovan demanded “or are you going to stand there and pout?”

Walking towards the car scowling “maybe I was waiting for someone?”

“Hah” he grinned “I’m the only guy you think about. All I’ve got to do is get you to admit it.”

***

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“What movie are we watching?” Trinity asked as everyone gathered outside the theater.

“Don’t know” Zach said “we decided as the only girl you could decide.”

“Oh cool” Trinity grinned “there’s this zombie apocalypse movie….”

“Safe Harbor?” Vincent asked “I’ve been wanting to see that movie since I saw the previews.”

“Yeah I heard it was supposed to be good,” Waylon smiled turning towards Zach “what do you think?”

“I um…yeah ok sure” Zach swallowed “I don’t usually watch that kind of movie.”

“We don’t have to see this one” Waylon suggested looking towards the others for back up.

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Zach shook his head “no it’s ok. I’ll watch it.”

“Are you sure?” Waylon asked “I want you to have fun too.”

“I’m sure” Zach nodded with resignation “it’s what everyone else wants to see.”

“Yay” Trinity cheered “I’ve been wanting to see this movie since Vincent suggested it.” Glancing at Waylon she winked at Zach “besides if you get scared you have a big strong guy to hold onto.”

Zach nodded looking towards Waylon fear and uncertainty bright in his crystal blue eyes. Taking a deep breath he closed his eyes willing his racing heart beat to slow down. He almost jumped when a deep voice spoke close to his ear.

“Are you going to be alright?” Waylon asked concerned.

Nodding Zach followed Vincent and Trinity into the theater.

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Trinity headed towards the front of the theater hips swaying as she went collecting appreciative stares and whistles as she went. She turned and winked at a few of them. The glower on Vincent’s face didn’t go unnoticed either however it did go without acknowledgment. Sitting down in the middle of the row a couple of girlish giggles caught her attention. Turning she frowned upon finding Vincent talking to a couple of cute girls.

When the previews began Vincent found his way to his seat reserved for him between Trinity and Waylon. He sat down without comment grabbing a handful of popcorn from the combo he went halfsies on with Trinity. He munched loudly. From the corner of his eye he found Trinity glaring at him. Smiling he asked “what?”

“You were flirting” she hissed under her breath.

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“So?” his grin growing bigger “you’re the one who said to keep things casual.” Munching on another handful of popcorn he said “it’s different when your on the other foot.”

She averted her gaze from his piercing eyes. She didn’t like this feeling she had watching him flirting with those girls. It was confusing. No one had ever made her feel hurt when they moved on to someone else. She’s the one who made the rules. Insisted on keeping things on a casual basis. She hadn’t expected to feel anything when Vincent moved on.

Here she was with the resident nerd and she wanted to gauge out the eyes of the perky young girls who had diverted his attention to them instead of her. He sat beside her like nothing had happened. Throwing her words back at her. Of course she wanted to keep things casual between them. There’s no way way she wanted anything serious. Once it got serious the fun was gone.

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Vincent smirked munching on the buttery popcorn. What did she expect? That he’d seethe with jealousy watching her flaunt herself. Two can play that game. He had felt low seeing her wink at all those guys appreciating her curves leading them on. She was supposed to be there with him. Instead it was just an opportunity for her to catch the next willing fish.

His over active brain took over. Smiling at the cute girls near his own age eighteen years old. Blonde slender with dimples. Cute. He hadn’t talked to the girls with the intent to hurt Trinity. It suddenly hit him that he was following her around like a lost little puppy.

He was better than that. It reminded him too much of how he used to follow Hannah around not too long ago on the off chance she’d notice him. He finally got what he thought he always wanted and he dumped her on the dance floor when he caught sight of Trinity laughing up at Ryan.

He had been hung up on Trinity for the past several months. She kept ignoring him. Flirting with everyone not him. Was it so surprising he’d had enough? He had the girls numbers in his phone. It was time he explored his options. The girls at least were interested in him not the other way around.

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As the movie progressed Zach cringed against Waylon’s shoulder squeezing his eyes shut. He knew he was going to have nightmares for weeks after this. He felt like he was in a constant state of agitation and fright. He wanted to scream at the screen when Dallas ran off. Couldn’t he see Harbor only wanted to help? Too late the zombies had him. Even the sweet moments were clouded by the sure knowledge that someone was going to die.

That Hollis character started off as such a cold insensitive jerk. How could he not want to help someone who was bleeding to death right in front of him? The next scene had Zach jumping in his seat clutching at Waylon’s arm. That poor defenseless little girl. Who could think of doing such a thing?

Tearing his eyes from the screen Waylon found Zach attempting to burrow into the back of his seat clinging to his arm. It felt like Zach was trying to squeeze his arm off. “Hey are you alright?” he asked growing concerned at the glossy look in Zach’s eyes and rapid breathing.

“I don’t…I don’t” Zach shook his head “I’m sorry…”

Standing Waylon pulled Zach to his feet “come on.”

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Shaking his head Zach attempted to sit back down “no. You were enjoying the movie. I…” He looked down realizing people were watching them instead of the show “I don’t want you to miss it.”

Pulling on Zach’s arm Waylon half dragged him up the aisle. Once they were outside the theater Waylon cradled Zach’s face in his hands “I could care less about a dumb old movie. I care about you. Why didn’t you tell me?”

Taking a deep breath “I wanted…I hoped” shaking his head he shrugged “I don’t know.”

“Come on” Waylon smiled “lets wait for the others over there.” He directed Zach towards a nearby bench “I don’t ever want you going through something like that again. Not for me. Not for anyone.”

“I’m sorry” Zach mumbled “you must think I’m an idiot.”

Laughing softly Waylon put an arm around the blond “not at all. Besides” he kissed Zach’s cheek “I wanted to spend time with you. I’m getting to do just that. I think it’s a win win situation.”

***

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After meeting with the art dealers and receiving commission pieces to work on Marzia turned to Divia face beaming. “You did this for me?” she asked pulling the girl close.

“I couldn’t let you throw your talent away,” Divia said quietly. She could feel several people staring at them. She tried to blot out their stares and veiled whispers behind their hands. She wanted to enjoy this moment with the girl of her dreams.

“You really think I’m talented?” Marzia asked voice full of wonder.

“Of course I do or I wouldn’t have done all of this” Divia smiled up at her “if I didn’t believe in you.”

“Thank you” Marzia whispered leaning her head on Divia’s shoulder “no one has ever believed in me the way you do.”

***

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“Look over there” Phoenix nodded with his chin toward the couple embracing each other.

“Aw how sweet” Teasha smiled genuinely happy for her best friend “I’m so glad this worked out for them.”

“Let’s dance” Phoenix suggested escorting her towards the dance floor. Once they had been dancing for a while Phoenix asked “do you regret letting Divia go when you had the chance to have her?”

“What? No” she shook her head causing her curls to dance around her face and shoulders “I’m happy with what I have.”

“Even though I’m hardly around?” he asked. His eyes were worried as he looked deep in her crystal blue eyes. “I know how difficult it is on the family of military guys. I grew up with a mostly absent father. I watched my mom pretend to be happy a lot.”

“Pretend?” she asked this time there was a catch in her throat “that sounds awful.”

Nodding he looked down at his feet “it was. There were times she’d stay up late waiting for him to come home only to fall asleep alone on the couch. I’d find her the next morning. The dinner she prepared cold on the table. The candles burned down to nothing.” He blinked back tears “yet she’d smile saying he had important things to do to protect Sim Nation.”

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“It’s not always like that” she said squeezing his hand “there has to be some happy moments.”

Shrugging he mumbled “I guess.” He lifted his eyes “my brother hates anything to do with the military. He said it ruined his life.”

“Did it?” she asked pulling away from him and walking off the dance floor.

“Mom loved my dad. I’m sure of it” he sighed “I don’t think she was cut out for the life style of a military wife.”

“Meaning she wasn’t prepared for the late nights. The missions where he’d be gone for days if not weeks. The constant moves. The injuries. The….” she stopped looking deep into his eyes “I know what I’m getting into. I’m not blind to what you do. I know there will be times when I won’t know where you are or when you’ll come back.”

He gave her a small sad smile “you say that now. What about tomorrow when I call to break our date? Or when I don’t call at all because there’s no time. What happens when you cry yourself asleep at night.” He reached up to caress her cheek “I don’t want that kind of life for you. You deserve someone who will always be here for you not off fighting some enemy overseas.”

“Are you breaking up with me?” she asked her voice barely more than a whisper “you are aren’t you?” her eyes shimmered with tears.

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“No” he cried taking a deep breath “Yes. Maybe.” he dropped his arms to his side as if he didn’t know what else to do with them “I don’t know.” He turned away unable to look at the hurt bewildered look in her eyes “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You don’t get to make that choice” she shoved her hands against his chest “it’s my decision. If I want to take a chance on you that’s my choice.”

Grabbing her wrists “not if I won’t let you” he said “I have a choice in this too.”

“I was taught that anything good is worth fighting for” she struggled in his grip “I think your worth fighting for.”

“I don’t want you to” Phoenix said releasing her hands “I’m sorry. I’m being shipped out tomorrow.”

She stared at him blinking several times as tears threatened to fall and her heart raced “you’re dumping me. You think I can’t handle it. Instead of giving me a chance to prove myself you’re dumping me.”

“It’s not like that” he pleaded “I don’t want you putting your life on hold for me.”

“That’s my choice” she snapped at him “not yours.” She turned and swiftly walked away from him shoulders shaking.

***

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Ryan pulled the car over and stopped. Turning towards Charity who was crying in the seat beside him. “I’m sorry” he said wishing there was something more he could do or say to help her.

“It’s not your fault” she gulped wiping at her eyes sniffling. “I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this. I should have met her alone like she wanted.”

“Charity” there was a pleading note in his voice as he said her name. He was afraid that she wouldn’t tell him the next time her mother tried contacting her “please don’t let her get to you.”

“You don’t get it do you” she cried “after all these years I finally have the chance to get to know her. Don’t ruin this for me.”

“I didn’t think I was” he sighed “what about how your dad’s will feel about this?”

“What do they have to do with this?” she snapped “they shouldn’t have kept her from me.”

“They must have had their reasons” he pointed out “don’t let this woman throw a wedge between you and your parents. They’ve been there for you…”

“Don’t you think I know that?” she demanded “why did they keep her from me? She obviously met them before. Why didn’t they tell me?”

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“Call them and find out?” he suggested “don’t just take her word for it.”

She turned her face away from him “I’ll consider your suggestion. First I need to know more.”

“Meaning what?” he demanded “you’re not planning on seeing her again are you?”

Shrugging she said dismissively “what if I am? You can’t stop me.”

“No I can’t” he muttered turning the car carefully into traffic “I’m your friend. I’m worried about you.”

“I can take care of myself” she grumbled “I don’t need you holding my hand.”

Her words stung like a thousand wasps stinging him at once. “Fine have it your way” he said as the silence deepened between them. He pulled into the dorm parking lot “when this all falls apart don’t come crying to me. I’m done.” He walked swiftly away after slamming the car door shut.

She watched him go. He’d never done that before. He had always stuck by her side picking up the pieces. A reassuring presence like her dads. Was it really that wrong to want to get to know her mom? Deep down she knew the answer to that. She knew her dad’s would be upset knowing she wanted to meet her mom. If she was honest with herself she felt guilty for not telling them about her. She had taken that guilt out on Ryan. What he said made sense. But she couldn’t just pass up this opportunity could she? She never wanted to find her mother. Now that her mother had found her she wanted to know everything she could about her.

Author’s Note: the movie Safe Harbor was based off of a story written by Legendofsim. I would highly recommend it if you’re interested in zombie apocalypse stories. You can read it here.

Chapter 19 – Not As It Appears / Chapter 21 – How Much?