Frayed Page 76

I push up from the table.

’’Where are you going?’’

I look down at her. ’’I don\ think I can sit here and talk to you about this. It doesn\ feel right.’’

She stands up and grabs my elbow. ’’Ben, sit down. Please. I\m not finished.’’

I inhale a huge breath and glance around and then at her. The look in her eyes is stern but also full of concern and I decide to lower myself back down. When I do the steel toe of my boot starts tapping the floor so fast my thigh hits the table and I can see the black liquid inside my coffee cup swirl.

’’This isn\ easy for me either, but I\m here because I know you. I know how much learning about the baby must have bothered you.’’ Her voice trembles.

I suddenly feel a swell of emotion for her. The fact that she lost a baby just a few months ago must weigh heavy on her mind with the conversation we\ e having. ’’Dahlia,’’ I say, pausing. I reach across the table and give her hand a soft squeeze and quickly retreat. ’’I\m sorry.’’

She shakes her head and her hair tumbles around her face. Her lips form a smile that isn\ the least bit reflected in her eyes. I don\ have to finish. She knows what I mean.

’’I want to ask you something,’’ she says, her voice gaining strength and clarity.

I cut my gaze to hers and nod.

She stares at me, holding my attention. ’’What would you have done if she\d told you? Back then, I mean.’’

It\s a question I\ve asked myself. I put my elbows on the table and cradle my head in my hands. Then lifting my eyes toward her, I answer with all I have inside me, ’’I honestly don\ know.’’

•••

The summer heat wave is over, but the brush fires seem even more stoked by the Santa Anas. Hot and dry, the winds wrap themselves around the Southern California coastline as I ride along knowing where I\ll end up but not quite ready to seek the answers to the questions I\ve asked myself over and over. The sweeping air picks up speed as I push through the narrow canyon passes, and the unusually warm temperature reminds me of a short story I read in college. Raymond Chandler described the ’’devil winds’’ in ’’Red Wind’’ in the most eerie way. He wrote:

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot, dry Santa Anas that would come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands\ necks. Anything can happen.

I furrow my brow thinking, Anything could have happened. Anything can happen. Despite the warm temperatures, a chill chases up my spine and then back down as I try to determine what I would have done if S\elle had told me she was pregnant. Would I have been a kon***? I\d like to think I wouldn\ have. Would I even have believed her? I\d like to think so, that I would have done the right thing, but the more I think about it, the more I know it\s a question I will never be able to answer with any absolute certainty but I do know with absolute certainty that I still want her.

CHAPTER 24

Say Something

Bell

Even though it\s only eight in the evening, I feel completely drained. I just want to tuck my thoughts away deep down where I had them stored for so long. I cradle my arms around myself as the clouds gather in the sky and the temperature begins to drop, and I think tomorrow has to be a better day. However, as soon as my foot hits the top step of my building and I look toward my door, I want to run back to my car. He\s sitting on the ground with his forehead resting on his knees. The hood of his sweatshirt beneath his leather jacket is pulled up over his head, but I know it\s him. Once I\m practically standing in front of him, his head pops up. He looks worn, tired, and the glow in his blue eyes seems diminished.

I know that I\m to blame for that. I cast this spell of pain over the both of us and I know we\ll be chained to it forever. For us the only answer is to go our separate ways I figured that out the minute he left me standing outside Pebbles and ran to some other woman.

He rises and shoves his hands in his pockets.

The pull he has over me is still stronger than ever. All I want to do is throw my arms around him and cry with him for the child we made together but will never know.

’’Hi,’’ he says, his voice low and cautious.

I try to speak but can\ . Emotion is so thick in my throat that I don\ even look at him, because the threat of my turmoil spilling out in a waterfall of emotions is too great. I slide my key in the lock and walk inside, leaving him standing there. But I don\ close the door. I leave it open, silently inviting him in.

He enters and shuts the door behind him. ’’I think we should talk.’’

My heart pounds loudly in my chest as fear rips through me. I\m not even completely sure what I\m afraid of maybe that he\ll tell me what he thinks or maybe that he won\ . I pat my wild mass of curls that I know looks like a mess and drop my purse to the floor. I keep my eyes trained to the floor and my back to him.

’’What exactly do we have left to . . .’’ I don\ finish the sentence. I can\ . I know what he wants to talk about the baby, of course.

He steps behind me. His breath blows in my hair. ’’Look. I\m sorry I acted like an ass**le the other night.’’

I sigh heavily. ’’It was a week ago,’’ I say, the tears leaking from my eyes.

’’Time is all convoluted right now. I\m sorry. But I\m here now and I want to know everything you wanted to tell me last week.’’ His hands grip my hips.


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