We’re still making progress! What fun! If you’ve missed out on any of the installments, you can find them here.
Can We Start Over?
That face. The cocky smile. The dancing blue eyes. These are things that have haunted me through the years. No one else could compete, but I had been more than willing to let them try. Let them help me forget about Russ Callum. It never happened although I guess for him, I was a little easier to forget, and get over.
As the last notes of the song fade away, we stare at each other. A part of me, the very large part that’s still a horny teenager wants to jump into his arms and kiss away the years. The other part, the part that remembers he just said he’s been over me, looks away.
“I appreciate your bringing me back and making me laugh, but I’m tired. It’s been too much of a day. And I’m sure you want to get home . . .” I say.
He nods. “That’s not a problem.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I mean your house home.”
“This is my house home.”
I’m aware that my jaw has dropped as I stare at him, trying to tell whether he’s joking or not. He looks sincere. “What do you mean?”
“Do you ever look at paperwork, Maddie?”
Well, ouch, again.
“You’re 50 percent owner and I’m the other 50.”
“You took advantage of an old lady.”
He frowns, his eyes expressing hurt. The glance he sends me suggests that we no longer know each other or how else could I accuse him of such a thing? “No. I was one of the few people here who looked out for her.”
And, a bigger ouch again. The guilt is piling up. At this rate, I might never dig myself out. “Okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I know better.”
We stand there, me with my arms folded across my chest, eyes staring down at the new linoleum floor while I feel his eyes on me, ones I don’t want to meet. He lives here. He lives here! I can’t avoid him even if I tried. Maybe I should try. Or not. Seeing him daily? It’s wonderful and bad and sad all at the same time.
“So, how do we do this?” I ask.
“What? Stand in the kitchen and continue to confront each other?”
Now I do glance at him. I swallow hard. “I have no where else to go. I have literally lost everything except what’s sitting in that old broken down car of mine.” Admitting this takes its toll but I refuse to cry or breakdown, not like I have innumerable times over the past, very dark month when I realized that everything I had worked so hard for had been taken away from me by someone who was a friend, a good friend. Or so I thought.
“I’m not forcing you out. This house is half yours.”
“No need to thank me. Your Great Aunt wanted to make sure you always had somewhere. She saw herself in you.”
“I let her down.”
“Will you stop? She controlled how much you knew about her health. She wanted you to succeed,” he says. “We all did.”
I groan, stomp my feet, and then yell a little. “I *F’elled* up so spectacularly. I trusted—”
“It’s life. You’ve got to.” He smiles at me, holds out his hand for me to take. I stare at it then do. He leads me to the living room, my favorite room in the house after the kitchen where he plugs in lights for Christmas tree. It’s fake, but I love it. Immediately I see an ornament we’d made together when we were about five or six. A paper plate with rotini, glitter, and paint. From the time we were tiny until late teens we did everything together.
“Do you remember making this?” I ask.
The rotini is in the shape of a very crooked Christmas tree. We added BBs to the boughs later to mimic ornaments.
“How could I forget? You got upset about—”
“Colleen—” I immediately stop. Colleen, my nemesis from kindergarten. His beloved late wife.
“She got to be Mary in the pageant when you wanted to be,” he says.
Funny now how I see how appropriate it was that she was cast as Mary and not me.
“No wonder you fell in love with her,” I say. Today has been too much. Too many memories, regrets, wishes. “You know, I’m so tired. Going to jail did it. Which bedroom is mine?”
“Your Aunt said the attic was your space. She redid it just for you. I think you’ll like it,” Russ says.
I nod, start moving to the front hall, before turning and looking at him. “I’m sorry for everything.”
“Everything’s a whole helluva lot of stuff to be sorry for.”
“Well, you know, I’ve always tried to excel.”
We smile at each other. Maybe it’s time to start over.
end of part 6? Wow, 6 parts!
And now for the sound of starting over with the inimitable Nina!