From This Moment(15)


by Melanie Harlow

My mother dismissed that idea with a wave of her hand and headed for the steps, Abby in tow. “Not at all.”

While Hannah texted her sitter, I started gathering up buckets and shovels and adding them to the big plastic laundry basket my mother used to keep them all corralled. Hannah joined me a couple minutes later, scooping up brightly-colored molds of fish and mermaids and castle walls. If she felt strange about what she’d done a few minutes ago, she didn’t let on. Maybe I was making more of the gesture than was warranted. Maybe I’d even imagined it.

“Are you proud of me?” she asked.

“Yes.”

She sighed dramatically. “I decided today after our chat that I should try harder with Lenore. I know she means well.”

“Good. Get everything settled with your sitter?”

“Yes. All set. She’s probably glad to have the day off. It’s supposed to be beautiful again tomorrow, although it looks like it might rain tonight.” She glanced at the sky.

“If you want to hang out on the beach after work when you come to get Abby, feel free.” But I sort of hoped she wouldn’t.

“Thanks. Maybe I will.”

When the toys were all in the bin, I took a bucket out again and headed for the lake to fill it up. “You can go up if you want. I’m just going to put out the fire.”

But she didn’t go up. She stood and watched as I doused the remains of the fire, her arms crossed over her chest. I wished I’d put my shirt back on. I felt her eyes on me through the smoke. They wandered over my shoulders and chest and stomach, but when they moved lower than that, she caught herself and looked down at her feet, her lower lip caught between her teeth.

Hannah, you’re killing me. Don’t look at me that way. You don’t really mean it. When the smoke clears, I’m not who you want. I’m not him.

Neither of us spoke. The sky above us darkened unexpectedly, and thunder rolled softly in the distance.

You shouldn’t be alone with her like this.

“Sounds like a storm. You should go up,” I told her.

“I’ll wait with you. I don’t mind.”

“Hannah.” My voice was stern. “Go up.”

A pause. “Okay. Goodnight.”

Quickly, she gathered her things—bag, towel, flip flops—and disappeared up the steps.

I exhaled.

Later, as I lay in bed feeling despicable and shitty, listening to a summer rain drum against the roof, I replayed the memory of her hand in my hair a thousand times. The slow drag of her fingers, the warmth in her eyes, the hushed voice. I thought about how she’d looked at me by the fire and the dangerous way it made me feel. I wish I knew what she’d been thinking.

She was thinking about her husband, jerkoff. Remember him? Your brother? Maybe she was even pretending you were him.

That had to be it. I couldn’t even blame her. But God, I wished things were different.

Rolling to my back, I put my hands behind my head and stared at the ceiling for a moment before closing my eyes.

There she was. Smiling and soft and sweet and reaching for me. Me. Finding ease in my kiss. Seeking pleasure in my body. Whispering my name in the dark.

My cock started to stiffen, and I suppressed the urge to take it in my hand.

How many nights had I refused to let that fantasy take root in my mind because it was so wrong? A hundred? A thousand? It’s still wrong. Nothing has changed. She doesn’t belong to you. She never has, and she never will.

I had to get over this. But how? Avoid seeing her? That wouldn’t work. Earlier today I’d campaigned to see each other more often, and now she agreed with me.

Maybe it would go away on its own. Maybe I simply had to get used to being around her again, desensitize myself to her charms. Maybe spending time with her would be sort of like allergy shots. Immunotherapy for the heart.

And other parts of my body that like to come alive around her.

Groaning, I rolled onto my side, punched my pillow a few times, and went to sleep.

Seven

HANNAH

After saying good goodnight to Abby, I left my in-laws’ house and called Tess on my way home.

“How was it?” she asked by way of greeting.

“Fine.” I smiled, even though she couldn’t see it. “It was fine, and I’m not even lying.”

She laughed. “Good.”

“Actually, you know what? It was better than fine. I had the best day I’ve had in months. I felt…happy. I think everyone did.”

“That’s great, Hannah.”

“I won’t say it isn’t hard to deal with the fact that Wes looks exactly like the dead man I’m in love with, and there may have been some covert staring and borderline-inappropriate touching of his hair—”

“What?” She coughed. “You just made me choke on my wine.”

Wincing a little, I tried to explain myself. “I just really loved Drew’s hair. And Wes wears his the same way. I’ve been dying to run my fingers through it. Like a comfort thing, I guess. Finally I just reached out and did it. It was almost involuntary, I swear to God.”

“Did anyone see?”

“No. Only Abby was on the beach with us at that point, and she wasn’t looking.”

“What did he do?”

“Nothing. I think he was kind of stunned, but I also think he gets it. He gets me, you know? It’s almost eerie how well he understands my feelings.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“I’m so happy for you. You’re even giving me hope. Maybe they aren’t all lying when they say, ‘It gets easier.’”

I laughed sympathetically. “Maybe they aren’t. That’s what it felt like today, anyway.”

“That’s all that matters.”

“You look pretty today,” Georgia told me at work the next morning. “I mean, you’re pretty every day, but you look especially glowy this morning.”

“Thanks.” I tied an apron around me and began gathering ingredients for spinach, ricotta, and bacon crepes. “Must be the sun I got yesterday. Or maybe the good night’s sleep.”

“A good night’s sleep.” Margot shook her head wistfully as she poured herself a cup of coffee. Beneath her blue eyes were the puffy bags worn by all new moms. “I remember those. Tell me I’ll have one again someday.”

“You will,” I said. “In about eighteen years. The only reason I managed to grab eight straight hours last night was because Abby slept at her grandparents’ house. Most nights she wakes me up at least once for something or other.”

“Did you guys have fun yesterday?” Georgia asked.

“We did. I’m so glad we went.” In fact, all I could think about was getting back there today. I’d brought my beach bag with me to work, figuring I might as well take Wes up on his invitation to hang out at the beach a little this afternoon.

The morning passed quickly since we were so busy, and the crepes were especially popular. Because I thought Wes might like to try them, I made an extra batch up after the last order from the dining room had been filled and put them in a container for him. Just after two, I said goodbye to Georgia and Margot and hurried out the door.

Despite the rain the night before, the weather today was hot and sunny, only a few puffy white clouds in the sky. I opened the sunroof on my Honda, tuned into a satellite radio station playing old standards and sang along as I drove, windows down, breeze rushing through my hair. It was the closest to happy I’d felt in a long time.

Wes answered my knock, smiling broadly when he saw me. “Hey, you. Come on in. How was work?”

“Good. Busy.” I went inside and held out the container. “I brought you something.”

“You did? What?”

“Spinach, ricotta, and bacon crepes. They were really popular today, and I thought you might like them.”

His eyes lit up. “My mouth is watering. Can I taste them?”

I laughed. “Yes! They’re yours. You don’t have to eat them now, but—”

“I’m eating them now.” He’d grabbed them and was already on his way into the kitchen. “This is perfect. I just came up to get something to eat.”

“Where is everybody?” I followed him, glancing around the quiet house.

“They’re all down on the beach. My mom got Abby a little fishing pole and my dad is showing her how to use it.” He took a fork from a drawer, set the container on the marble-topped island, and pried off the top. “Damn, that looks good. Wait, I should warm it up, right?”

“Here, I’ll do it.” I stuck the container in the microwave and nuked it for twenty seconds before setting it in front of him again. “There you go. Bon appetit.”

He dug in, moaning as he chewed the first bite.

I smiled. “You like them?”

“Are you kidding? God, between your cooking and my mother’s, I’m going to gain ten pounds in a month.”

“I doubt that.”

“Have you eaten? Share this with me.” Without waiting for me to answer, he grabbed another fork from the drawer and stuck it in my hand.