Watching his backside as he retreats should be second nature for me. This isn’t the first time he’s walked away from me and likely won’t be the last. If I’m lucky he’ll be gone for another ten years and I won’t have to deal with him anymore.
He frustrates me to no end with his cocky ass I don’t give a shit attitude. Doesn’t he know he’s messing with my kid? He knows he has no intentions on staying and playing make-up daddy, so why is he even trying now? Why can’t he just go back to wherever it is that he came from and leave us the hell alone?
“You’re going to break your fingernails if you clutch your hands any tighter.” Katelyn smirks at me as she walks by. Peyton turns and gives me a dirty look. Lovely, so she heard me tell Liam to get out of town. I know she asked him to watch football with her, but seriously Katelyn should want her as far away from Liam as possible.
“Stop taking his side,” I say as I stalk behind Katelyn. I’m a coward and say it to her back because I don’t want to see her disappointed look. Noah is already in the backseat when I climb into my car. He stares at the window, avoiding eye contact. His arms are crossed over his chest as he sighs repeatedly. I’m not changing my mind. I don’t care how long he ignores me for.
We have to sit and wait for Nick to get done talking with parents. I seethe when I see Candy Appleton touch Nick's arm. She’s always wanted what’s mine; first Liam and now Nick. I press the horn, alerting him that I’m waiting. I’m in no mood to sit in this parking lot while they make goo-goo eyes at each other.
“What’s your problem?” Nick asks when he finally gets into the car. I should’ve walked home. I thought about it. I could’ve used the time to cool off and get my thoughts together.
“She’s mad because I was talking to Liam,” Noah blurts out causing Nick to look at me.
“Noah, be quiet,” I say through clenched teeth. I’m trying not to cry over this bullshit with Liam and Noah, I am. I’m trying to be strong and hold my ground. He’s been gone for ten years and he can’t just show up here and act like nothing is wrong.
“What’s going on?” Nick asks in his quiet and calming doctor tone. It’s driving me nuts. I want him to tell Noah that he can’t talk to Liam. I need him to back me up on this, but he doesn’t. He just starts the car and backs out of the parking lot.
“You going to talk to me?” he asks. I shake my head, staring out the window at the passing store fronts. Merchants are out decorating for the fall and I realize I haven’t. I need to. I can’t be lacking when my store is prominent on Main Street.
“Drop me off at the shop please,” I ask without looking at Nick. He reaches for my hand. I let him hold it, but don’t hold his. I’m too pissed and the last thing I want is to be coddled.
“Don’t Josie me. I need to go to work. I should’ve never taken the day off.” Nick doesn’t respond, he just nods and drives toward my shop. When he pulls up to the curb I jump out without saying goodbye. I know I’ll regret my attitude later, but right now I’m pissed that no one is on my side.
The fragrant smell of flowers over-powers me when I open the door. I forgot to leave the fan on when I left the other night and wonder how many flowers are ruined as a result. Ruined by everything that is Liam because he showed up here, in my shop, my one place that has nothing to do with him and now it’s tainted.
I turn on only the back light, hoping to avoid people coming in. Regardless of the sign saying Closed, locals will still come in and visit. They like to talk, drink coffee and tell me their life stories while I trim and prepare bouquets.
The crunching of glass reminds me of Liam again. It seems that no matter where I turn, he’s there interrupting my life, creating havoc in his path. Who knew his return would cause me so much turmoil.
Even Katelyn has opened her arms to him like the last ten years haven’t mattered. Nick only wants him to sign away his rights and Noah… Noah wants Liam to be his best friend. And I want… I don’t know what I want except for everything to go back to the way it was two weeks ago when Mason was walking in here on Monday morning ordering flowers for his wife.
Once the glass is cleaned, I turn on my iPod and get to work starting on my window displays, to create the perfect fall image, lining my window with mums and corn stalk. I’ll have to remember to ask Noah, if he’s talking to me, if he can make me a scarecrow. I add bushels of dried lavender to give the window just a bit more color. Not everything has to be red and gold.
Propping the door open for fresh air, I decide the steps need mums and cornstalks too. I need to keep busy or I’m going to start thinking about Liam and Noah and Nick. I stop dead in my tracks. How can Liam come to my mind over Nick when he’s been there since Noah was three? How does he become third in my thought process?
It’s simple, he shouldn’t. He’s so much more of a man than Liam. He’s smart and educated, accelerating through college to open his small practice to give back to the community. He's the type of man someone thinks about first, not last.
“Need some help?” I don’t turn around because I know that voice. I’ll never forget that voice whether he’s yelling or whispering into my ear. It’s the same one that haunts my dreams, turning them into nightmares lately.
“I don’t need anything from you, Liam.” I tie the last of the stalks into the metal hooks on the façade. They’ll hold as long as we don’t have some freak wind storm.
But then again, Liam did blow into town without any warning.
“I just want to talk, Josie. We can be adults about this.”
The moment I turn around I wish I hadn’t. For the first time, I’m really looking at him, all of him. His arms are bare and I can finally see his tattoos – not that I was trying to earlier but I’ve been curious. I focus on them before granting my eyes permission to take in the rest of him. His arms are still defined, just like in high school, but probably more now. His jeans, distressed and likely expensive, not the Levi’s he wore when we dated, hang loose on his waist. Even with a belt they look as if they might fall down if he isn’t careful.
He looks at me when my eyes reach his and smirks, but not with the smug intent from before. He knows I’m checking him out and he’s allowing me to do so without calling me out on my bullshit.
I’ve never thought tattoos were sexy, but staring at Liam now I wonder if he has any that I can’t see and I want to ask him what they all mean.
“Do you have…?” I trail off. That question is crossing a line that I’m not willing to step over.
“Do I what?”
“Nothing, never mind,” I say shaking my head. I walk up the stairs and leave him standing on the sidewalk. I kick the door shut, effectively shutting him out.
“Josie,” he says so softly I almost allow my heart to break. I miss that voice and now its here, banging in my head. I just want to scream and tell it to move out.
“I’m sorry for earlier and I wanted to ask you about something you said.”
I push my hands into my hair while he speaks to my back. When he touches me, I want to melt and crawl into his arms, but that is the old me. This me turns and looks at him with nothing but anger and hatred in my eyes and he knows it because he steps back and shakes his head.
I raise my eyebrow indicating he can continue.
He takes a deep breath and looks at me before staring at the ground. He plays with his lip and I fight every urge I have to take his hand away from this mouth and lock his fingers with mine, just like I used to.
“You said you tried to tell me about Noah. I know I changed my number and that was a shit thing to do, but you said you tried and I’d like to know how.”
“Why should I tell you?” I cross my arms over my chest defiantly.
“I’m asking you to give me a chance here, Jojo. I know I screwed up, but you weren’t fucking there so you don’t have a clue what I was going through.” Liam starts pacing and pulling at what little hair he has. “The stress and being alone, I just—”
“Cheated?” I interrupt.
His head snaps up in my direction and I know the answer before he even has to say the words. “Never,” he whispers. “I would’ve never disrespected you like that. When we were together I never even looked at another girl the way I looked at you.”
“You left me. I obviously wasn’t enough for you.”
“My God, are even you listening to yourself? It wasn’t about you. It was about me and this change I went through.”
“I would have thought you could have come up with something better than that, given that you are such a genius with words. Why didn’t you just tell me you weren’t happy?”
“Because it wasn’t like that, I felt like… like I was suffocating.”
I didn’t want to tell her like this because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the picture in front of me. Her eyes drop, she steps back and her chest starts moving in and out as she tries to catch her breath. My heart breaks at this sight, worse than the night when I broke up with her. That night I took the coward route.
“I’m glad you’re here, you must be tired.” Her hand finds mine, she tries to pull me into her dorm room but I’m not budging.
“You don’t want to come in?”
I do, but I can’t. If I go in I’ll never leave and nothing will change. My life will be the same pattern over and over again and if I don’t change it I’m going to go nuts.
I shake my head just slightly but it’s enough to peak her attention. “Something wrong, Liam?”
My throat starts to close, my heart… it feels like it’s about to burst out of my chest. I know I’m doing the right thing, but why does it feel so horrible.
“I dropped out of school.”
The first look of what is about to be a hissy fit spreads across her face. I deviated from the plan. The all-American plan where I become an NFL football player and we live in a quiet neighborhood raising our two children, a boy and a girl, and she travels to my games and never misses one because she’s my personal cheerleader.
“I… um… I can’t—”
“Can’t what? You’re scaring me, baby. Come in and we’ll talk about it. We’ll call your coach and fix this.”
I feel a sense of relief wash over me when she says we’ll call my coach. That is exactly what I don’t want and I know I’ve made the right decision. I don’t want to play football anymore.
“I can’t be with you anymore, Josephine.” I don’t look at her when I say these words. I turn and walk away, ignoring her voice as she calls my name. I run down the hall, zigzagging through the people that just witnessed my girl and I break up.
I want to step forward and wrap her in my arms and tell her that night I made the biggest mistake of my life when I left her there. I should’ve busted in and packed her bags and taken her with me. The two day drive to Los Angeles would’ve been so much better with her curled up in my arms at night while we slept in the bed of the truck. My breakfast of Doritos and Coke would’ve been the best one I ever had because she would’ve shared it with me.
But instead I spent two days driving with tears streaking down my face because I did the most horrible thing I had ever done. I broke my own heart when I told her I was done.
She puts her hand up and I stop talking. When she looks up, it’s that night all over again. Her make-up is running down her face, black and heavy, leaving a path of pain ruining her beauty.
“What was so important that you just left me?”
I sigh. I’m not sure how to explain Betty and the day that changed my life.
“I told you, I needed something different.”
“It wasn’t me?”
“No.” I shake my head to emphasis my point. “It wasn’t you. It was never you. I hate myself for not taking you with me. I should’ve, but I didn’t think you’d go and I didn’t want you to tell me no.”
“So, you just break my heart and leave me to raise a baby by myself?”
“God damn it, Jojo. If I knew about the baby I would’ve stayed and figured something out. I would’ve married you and gone back to school.”
“But you wouldn’t have been happy?”
I can’t answer her and she knows that. My silence is enough.
Josie takes a deep breath and nods. “So you went to California and became this big-time musician. You know what the funny thing is? I didn’t think you liked the guitar that much. I know you would play while singing to me, but I thought you were always kidding. That sort of makes me a shitty girlfriend.”
“You didn’t think I was good?”
She shakes her head. “No, it’s not that. I just thought it was a joke to you, something you did to irritate your dad.”
“I always played. It made me calm and helped me express what I was feeling. When I went off to college, I played more and more. I went to an open mic night on campus and played. I loved it, loved every damn second of it and I tried to tell you, but you weren’t listening. You just wanted to talk about football and your classes and how Mason and Katelyn were doing. You wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to tell you my head was going to explode and that I woke up each night with my heart racing because I was so freaking lonely and hated school. My three best friends were at a different school and I was states away with no one.”
Josie leans against the counter, watching me. It’s the first time that she’s actually looked at me and not had a scowl on her face. Her tear-streaked face is beautiful. I want to wipe away her tears. I want to take the last ten years and erase them.
I want to start over.
“Look I just came here to discuss Noah, but we got a little off track and I hate to see you cry.”
“You do?” she looks up as if this is some joke for me.
I can’t help but smile at how innocent she looks. “Just because I left that night doesn’t mean things changed for me.”
Surprise rolls over her face. She stares at me, probably wondering if I’m telling the truth. I am, but that is as close as I’m going to get to admitting it.
“I have a gig down at Ralph’s, so I better get going. I’ll see ya later, Jojo.” I hesitate before turning away. I’d give anything to feel her arms around me, to hear her tell me to kick ass just one more time. To have her lips touch mine, even if it’s only for a moment. It would be enough to last me another ten years.
The parking lot is full when I arrive at Ralph’s. We ran into each other the night at the store and he asked me to do him a favor. I couldn’t really say no since he used buy our beer for us. Besides, what’s a little pub time gig amongst friends?
With my guitar strapped on my back, I throw open the door. The crowd is small and perfect. Ralph sees me and comes around the bar to encase me in his large arms.
“Thank you so much, Liam.” He pats me on the back. His grin is thanks enough.
“Anything for you, but uh, didn’t you advertise?”
“Yeah, I did,” he says scratching his head. “But everyone thought I was jerking their chains.”
I start laughing. That’s the funniest shit I’ve heard in a long time. “It’s good. We’ll have a good time.”
I follow Ralph to the bar and enjoy a few legal beers with him for the first time ever. People mill around, ignoring me and I like it. A few stop by and say hi, but they're talking to Liam Westbury, not Page.
Ralph tells me that he found himself a missus and that he’s all domesticated now. I find that hard to believe but congratulate him. He invites me over for dinner and it hits me that my time here is almost over. I tell him maybe some other time because I’ve got to head back on Monday. His face is pensive, but he tells me he understands with me being a big time musician and all.
I wish I understood.
I finally take to the small stage. Me, my guitar, a stool and a bottle of Bud. There aren’t lights shining in my face. No screaming girls throwing their underwear at me. My band is not behind me complaining about the sound and when I look off to the left of the stage there is no one standing waiting for me to put on the perfect show.
It’s just me, in a pub with a hundred people or so.
Ralph dims the lights and I see a few cameras come out. The flash blinds me, but I’m used to it.
“So, I’m Liam Page.” The crowd was quiet until I spoke. A few of the patrons cat call, others whistle and this reminds me why I get up on stage night after night. I love this feeling. I love the moment when my finger strums my guitar for the first chord on a song that I wrote and the crowd goes wild. I love looking out and seeing people sing my songs as if they were their own.
As I play, people pair off and dance. This is the first time in years that I’ve done a solo set in a pub and I remember why I like it so much. The fans are involved; they're part of the show. The longer my set, the more show up. Ralph is doing a great business tonight and is keeping me supplied with a steady amount of beer even though he’s taking away half-empty bottles.
Someone yells that she loves me; I say ‘thanks’. Never will I or have I told fans that I love them, even with something as innocent as this. I’ve only loved one person in my life and those words are saved for my girl and now my son.
Sitting up here I realize I want to be a dad to Noah. I want him to see me like this and know there's more to life than just football. He can be an artist, a musician or even live under a bridge and I’d still support his decision, if he’ll let me.
When I look up, Ralph is hugging someone and standing next to them is the red head I saw Josie with at her shop the other day. When Ralph moves back, it’s Josie that he’s hugging. She stays in the back, I can barely make her out in the darkness, but I can feel her. She lives in my skin.
“This song, I just wrote it so you guys are the first ones to hear it. I apologize if it’s a little rough.”
I look out, hoping she’ll show her face to me. I sing the first verse in her direction, my eyes trained on the last location that I saw her. My second verse rips through me, opening so many wounds.
“Arms of a stranger, a warm blooded kiss, trying to fill the void, of the one that I miss.
Perfume whispers, lashes and lace, but I can only hear your voice, I’m so out of place.
All these painkillers, that’s all they are.
I finish the last riff, unable to look at the back of the room to see if she’s still standing there. This song was for her, a way for me to tell her without having to say the words what I am without her.
I went to see Liam sing at the pub two nights ago. Two nights, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him. Listening to him sing, even if the words were telling me about his life, made me want to rush the stage and pull him tight in my arms, but the song wasn’t for me. He was performing for his fans, giving them the Liam Page that they love. On that stage, that wasn’t my Liam. He was someone I don’t know.
I did the unthinkable after seeing him play; I downloaded his albums and listened to them straight through. Some songs made my cry, some made me laugh, a few of them made me so angry. Listening to him sing about lost love, the love that he threw away like it meant nothing. He had no right telling the world about us. It’s like he was telling me he’s sorry without having to look me in the face.
I’ll see him today and I don’t know what to say or how to act. Do I pretend that I wasn’t at his show on Friday, act like I don’t care or will he know? Did Ralph tell him? I’m confident that he didn’t see me since I stayed in the back with Jenna. We listened to two songs before I had had enough and needed to leave.
I couldn’t watch him up there. I couldn’t pretend that he didn’t affect me. And worst of all, Jenna knew. She looked at me with such sad eyes and held my hand as we walked out of the pub. She didn’t ask, all she said was Noah’s name and I broke down.
I miss Liam and I don’t want to. I’m with Nick. He loves me. We're going to get married and maybe have a baby together. That’s the plan. We live together, even though I never asked him to move in. He sort of stopped staying at his own place. We didn’t discuss it. I was afraid if I said something he’d leave me like Liam did.
So why is my heart telling me to give Liam a chance?
I rest my head on the window as we drive to Katelyn’s. She asked that we all come over and treat this Sunday the same as we always have. Last week we didn’t watch football, we mourned. Honestly I’m in no mood to celebrate with stupid touchdown dances and cocktail weenies.
Nick drives with one hand and slips his other into mine, his thumb caressing mine. For a fleeting moment I remember what it was like when Liam held my hand.
Yesterday, Liam Westbury, asked me to Homecoming. He said he’d call me last night, but he didn’t. I’m prepared for him to tell me he’s joking or that he decided to go with Candy Appleton because she’ll put out. I mean that's what boys want, right? They're looking for something easy so they can say they did it.
Well, I’m not going to do it with Liam Westbury so if that’s why he asked me, he’s got another thing coming.
I take deep, calming breaths. I’m going to be late for homeroom but I don’t care. Liam is in there and I don’t really want to see him right now. My mom was right; a boy like Liam Westbury wants nothing to do with a girl like me. I’m from the wrong side of Beaumont.
I slam my locker shut and turn, smashing right into a wall of body. I step back and look up. Liam's peering down at me, his eyes full of life. He pulls my hand into his and leads us to the double doors. I’m no longer going to be late. I’m officially skipping my first class so Liam can break my heart. At least I technically only had half a day to get used to the idea of dancing with him.
Liam pushes the heavy metal doors open, his grip on my hand tightening. He takes us to the football field. Oh god, he wants to make out under the bleachers. Do I want this? If I don’t, maybe he’ll tell me he can’t go to the dance with me. I wish I had talked to Katelyn about this before she ran off with Mason. I know they are close to doing it. She talks about it all the time, but I don’t think I want to do it just yet.
We bypass the football field and head toward the baseball field. He wants to do it in the dugout. I guess that’s better than behind the bleachers because at least there's a bench I can lay on.
He pulls us around the back of the dugout, away from view of the school. I know what he wants now. I look down and wonder if I’ll get grass stains on my knees.
His free hand cups my face and I guess I should be happy he wants to at least kiss me first, or maybe this is some type of tongue test. Oh, how I wish I could call Katelyn right now.
“Why are you hiding?”
I shake my head, pushing my face into his hand more. He’s still holding my other hand, probably trying to prevent me from leaving.
“You’re too beautiful to hide, Josie.”
“I’m not ready,” I blurt out. I cover my mouth as my eyes go wide. He’s confused by my outburst and shakes his head.
“I just want to talk,” he says. “I’m sorry for not calling last night, my father was on my case and by the time he was done and I finished my homework it was after nine and I didn’t want to disturb your parents if they were sleeping.”
I think I’m in love.
“If I knew all I had to do was hold your hand to make you smile, I would’ve done this yesterday.” I didn’t mean to smile but thinking about how awkward I was with Liam, I can’t help it. He was so understanding and caring.
I sit up straight and give Nick my best reassuring smile. I’m not going to be able to blame my mood on Mason for much longer. Sooner or later he’s going to start asking questions.
Questions that lead to answers that I’m not ready to hear or accept.
When we pull into Katelyn’s driveway, Liam’s motorcycle sits in the carport. I close my eyes and wonder what it would be like to get on the back, to lean forward and press my chest against him and wrap my arms around his waist.
A knock on the window startles me. “You comin’ in?” Nick asks before I can open the door. When I step out, he pulls my hand into his. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I say as I lead us into the house.
I’m not prepared for what I find inside. Noah runs past me, my son who hasn’t spoken to me since Friday, right up to Liam and shows him his Sports Illustrated. The sight of Liam sitting there on the couch, dressed in a football jersey with Peyton next him, and my son standing there eager to show him something in a magazine is nothing compared to Liam leaning forward and forgetting about the game just so he can talk to Noah.
I run off to the bathroom before Nick can see my tears. I’m not being fair to him. Never have I complained about Liam not being in Noah’s life and now that he’s here, I want it. I want to see Noah happy and be able to say he has a dad, but I also know Nick wants that title. He might deserve the role, but maybe I owe Liam the opportunity to let Noah make that choice.
When I come back to the living room, the scene is comical. Liam has all the kids around him and Nick is sitting by himself. I try not to laugh as I take a seat next to Nick. Liam watches me out of the corner of his eye and smirks when Nick puts his arm around me. He full out smiles when he sees Nick pulling me close and I know Nick is wondering why I’m rigid and didn’t just fall into the crook of his arm.
“Well, I hate to break up this party, but I promised Miss Peyton we’d watch at least one game downstairs,” Liam says causing Peyton to jump and Noah’s face to fall. Liam leans over and whispers something into Noah’s ear and he smiles.
Seeing Noah’s face light-up, I realize that I need to put my anger aside and do what’s right for my son and give Liam a chance. My decision will hurt Nick, but it’s something that I need to do for Noah.
Peyton and I watch an action-packed game that goes into overtime. I still can’t get over the fact she knows the calls better than half of the officials. She has me cracking up; she’s extremely vocal and holds her position well.
“Are you going to play football?” I ask her, curious whether this is something she and Mason discussed.
“Well, I’m not going to be a cheerleader like my mama was.”
Her response effectively shuts my mouth. Mason loved having Katelyn on the sidelines for his games and I admit it was sweet pleasure having my girl cheer for me. The best part was the away games. The cheerleaders would ride back with us. Josie and I always sat in back where it was darkest. My lips never left a part of her body until we pulled into the school parking lot.
Elle comes down, dressed the exact opposite of her sister. These girls are a spitting image of their parents.
“Mommy says it’s time for lunch.” She turns and runs up the stairs, not waiting for an answer.
“What do you think? Should we head up for some grub?”
Peyton climbs onto my back. I hoist her up and run around their basement like a crazed man just so I can listen to her laugh.
“Can we do this again next Sunday?”
I stop running and pull her around to rest on my hip. “I gotta head back to work, but maybe we can watch the game together on the computer.”
“I don’t have a computer.” I’m not going to let that stop me. I kiss her cheek and tell her not to worry about it.
When we get upstairs, everyone has congregated in the living room for lunch. Katelyn made just about every football food known to man. Peyton and I fix our plates and join everyone for the next game.
Noah’s sitting on the floor so I sit down next to him. I notice that he smiles, but I’m not going to call attention to it. I told him after I watched the game with Peyton we’d go out back and work on his pass route timing. I’d like to find a way to prolong my day with him, but I know Josie isn’t going to let me. I still need to sit down and talk to her about Noah and some type of visitation. Maybe we start with phone calls every few nights and I can come back to see him every month.
More importantly we need to tell him that I’m his dad, whether Josie wants too or not. I can imagine he’s going to be hurt and probably hate my guts, but I’ll do whatever I can to make it up to him. Not being a part of his life is not an option for me.
Noah’s plate is empty, so I take mine and his into the kitchen to throw them away. Josie comes in behind me, her perfume weaving its way into my senses. I hate that she can smell so fucking good at Sunday football and I can’t touch her.
“Hey,” she says, shocking me. I thought for sure we were playing the avoidance game.
“Hi,” I reply, barely looking at her. I pretend to clean, the ultimate chick move in avoiding an awkward conversation.
She just stares at me, her hands pulling desperately at her belt loops. I can’t stand here and look at her so I call for Noah and ask if he’s ready to go outside. He runs up to me, football in hand and races me to the door. I take one last look at her, her head down, teeth pushing a deep dent in her bottom lip, before heading outside.
I teach Noah everything I know. I’m surprised I even remember half of this shit, but it all comes back to me with each question he asks. I realize how lucky Nick is, living the life that should’ve been mine. He’s got my girl and my boy and there isn’t jack shit I can do about it except watch from the sidelines.
“Can you come to my game on Friday?” Noah asks with such hope in his voice. Just looking at him tears my heart into pieces.
“Let’s go sit down,” I say as I set my hand on his shoulder and bring him over to the picnic bench. “You know that I live in Los Angeles, right?” Noah nods. “Well I have to go back to work, I have deadlines and people are depending on me. I was supposed to just be here for the funeral and leave the next day, but then I met you and I really like hanging out with you and Peyton asked me to watch football so I stayed. I tell myself I’m leaving tomorrow and I need to do something first, but then I gotta head back to my cat, ya know, because he misses me.”
“But he hates you.”
“Yeah, buddy he does.” I start to laugh, Noah joins in. When his blue eyes look up at me, I know I need to make this right. “I’m kinda hoping I can talk to your mom and maybe we can talk on the phone or something.”
“She’ll say no. She hates you or something, says I’m not supposed to talk to you. I did today because she won’t yell in front of Katelyn.”
Listening to my son tell me that my girl – his mother – hates me really doesn’t sit well with me.
I need to fix it.
“I’ll talk to your mom okay? Just don’t be hard on her. She lost her friend and sometimes memories are hard to deal with.”
He nods and when he looks at me, a piece of me dies. I don’t want to leave him even if he never knows I’m his dad. I want to be his friend.
We both look up when the sliding glass door opens. Josie steps out with her arms wrapped around her body. Her eyes are red, she’s been crying. I want to ask her why, but I also don’t want to care. I should, but I can’t. She has Nick and I need to accept that.
“I guess it’s time for you to go,” I say to Noah who looks like he’s about to throw the football at his mom.
“Actually,” she says as she steps closer. “I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner with me and Noah tomorrow at our house.”
I look past her, into the living room where Nick is talking animatedly with Katelyn. “No thanks,” I say much to Noah’s chagrin. I hold my hand up for him to stop. “I’m not a fan of Nick’s. I’m not sure I can make it through dinner with him.”
Josie turns and looks into the house and when she turns around she’s shaking her head. “Nick is going away tomorrow for a conference. It will just be me and Noah.”
No Nick. My girl, my son and me? Sign me up.
“How about five-thirty? I close the shop at five and walk home—”
“I’ll pick you up,” I say before really thinking about it. I only have the Ducati and one helmet. Guess I’m shopping for that tomorrow. Josie tries to hide her elation but her face tells me everything I need to know; she’s fantasized about being on the bike with me and I’m about to make her fantasy come true.
“So I guess I’ll see you,” I say to Noah. This makes him smile.
I get up and walk the few steps to Josie. I’m closer than I should be, especially with Nick inside the house. I lean in, my lips grazing her cheek. “You’ll love the ride, I promise,” I whisper into her ear. As much as I want to see her expression, touching her has killed me. I move away as quickly as I can and back into the house.
I fire up my bike, revving the engine so she gets an idea of what she’s in for tomorrow and take off. Her scent lingers on my skin, filling my helmet. I’m not sure how I’ll handle Josie on the back of my bike tomorrow, but it will be my five minutes of paradise.
My palms are sweating.
I’m watching the clock.
The minute hand is moving ungodly slow. Every tick echo’s throughout the shop. I sent Jenna home early because she kept laughing at me and none of this is funny. I would’ve called and told him that I’d walk home but I don’t have his number and it’s not like I can call directory assistance for Liam Page’s freaking number.
They’d laugh at me just like Jenna has all day. Except they would probably cackle because directory service is usually old women who have nothing better to do except give people like me a hard time when you ask for something totally and completely stupid.
Oh god. This is like high school all over again.
Every time I heard a motorcycle outside I ran to the window and when Jenna snickered I pretended to straighten something out. I hate her today.
I wipe my hands on my jeans for the millionth time. He should be here any moment and I’ll tell him I can’t ride with him because I have no helmet and those are required and even if they weren’t I wouldn’t get on that death trap. He might kill me for keeping Noah from him. I mean that seems logical, right?
The door chimes and before I can turn and greet the customer, I smell his cologne. I take a deep breath before turning around. I don’t know why but this feels like a date when it’s so not a date. I mean I’m engaged to another man and we’re going to get married and I can’t date Liam regardless of our history. I need to turn off my brain.
When I finally lay my eyes on him, he’s delicious, all six feet of him. He’s not wearing the black leather jacket I’ve grown accustomed to and once again I find myself staring at his arms. My mind wanders up his left arm and then his right. My fingers want to reach out and trace the ink. My heart wants to know if they hurt, if he wants more.
He’s allowing me to stare at him, drink him in and I think I realize that this might be the last time I see him. He may not want to tell Noah that he’s his dad. Hell, he may not want to even know Noah past this trip. I’m not sure I want that.
“Are you ready, Jojo?” My heart soars and it shouldn’t. I should tell him not to call me that, but I don’t. He’s watching my every move, waiting for me to freak out on him.
“I can walk,” I mumble.
Liam rolls his eyes and shakes his head. When he reaches for my hand I let him take it. As soon as he touches me, it’s like a thousand butterflies fluttering over my skin. I haven’t felt this way in years. I take two steps toward him, leaving just a small space between us. In a few short minutes I’ll be touching him and I may not want to stop.
My mind is foggy, but I need to keep my senses clear. I remind myself that I’m an engaged woman. The man before me, this sexy beautiful man who is taking my hand in his like he’s done so many times before, is the same man that broke my heart.
He lets go of my hand as soon as we're outside. I want to reach for him, but I know it’s not the right thing to do. He holds a helmet in his hand and smiles when he shows it to me.
“I got this for you,” he says before slipping it over my head. He’s still smiling when he fixes my hair on the outside. I’m smiling too, but he can’t see me. “Where do you live?”
I give him my address and watch as he swings his leg over and straddles his bike. “Put your hand on my shoulder and bring your leg over.” I do as he says. Once I’m situated he puts on his helmet and starts his bike. The vibration sends chills up my spine and I know now why women love a man with a motorcycle.
He reaches behind and pulls my hands forward, wrapping them around his torso. My front is pressed up against his back and this is just like I imagined it would be. I rest my chin, as much as I can, on his shoulder and I can feel his body relax before putting his bike into gear.
He drives down Main Street, maintaining the speed limit, taking each turn to my house with ease. I never thought I’d feel so safe on a motorcycle.
He pulls into the driveway and turns off the bike. He removes his helmet and helps me get off first. When I pull off my helmet he starts laughing and shaking his head.
“What the hell is your problem?” I ask as I start patting down my hair. This just proves why I should never wear a helmet.
“Nothing, I’ve just imagined you a million times sitting behind me, but never did I imagine you’d flip your hair back and forth when you took off the helmet.”
“You’ve imagined me on your bike?” I ask my voice barely above a whisper. He nods and puts the kickstand down so he can get off.
“You’re the first girl I’ve ever let ride with me.” He steps closer, his fingers move a strand of hair way from my face, curling it behind my ear. “The only one, Jojo.” He steps away, giving me some much needed space. I need to understand what just happened.
He follows me into the house, through the door leading to the kitchen and dining room. He looks around, taking in my small home. Nick says we can move after we’re married, but Noah and I have lived here since I left school. Not sure I want to move just yet.
Noah comes running out of his room and hugs Liam. I leave them to have their moment and move into the kitchen and start preparing dinner. I made most of it last night so Liam could spend as much time as possible with Noah.
“Noah, did you finish your homework?”
“No, can I finish it after Liam leaves?”
“Can I see your homework? Maybe I can help.” Noah runs up to his room, his footsteps heavy and solid.
“Hey, Noah?” I yell.
“Why don’t you play a game or something for a few minutes, I need to talk to Liam.”
“Okay,” he yells back. The TV turns on instantly, loud with some auto racing game.
“Thank you for this, Josie.”
I smile and nod, not sure how to respond.
“I’m supposed to leave tomorrow, but Noah says he has a game on Friday and I really don’t want to miss it.”
I turn on the oven and place dinner inside to heat up. I motion for Liam to sit at the table. He pulls out my chair for me, something Nick has never done. I sit down, clasping my hands in front of me.
“Did you really not know?” I ask. I hate asking, but I need to know. Liam shakes his head, his eyes focusing on something… anything but me. When he meets my eyes, I can see the pain, he’s telling the truth.
“I found your agent or whatever and called,” I start, hating that I have to relive this time of my life. A time when I felt so desperate to reach him, when I needed him the most and he wasn’t there. “I left message after message until someone finally called back and said that you told them that you didn’t know me.”
Liam reaches for my hand. He pulls it to his forehead. “I didn’t know. I would’ve come home and done things the right way.”
“Noah doesn’t know. He knows that Nick isn’t his dad, but sometimes it’s just easier for him to tell people that he is. I don’t want him hurt, Liam and I’m afraid that if I let this happen you’ll disappear tomorrow.”
“I won’t. I know my word is shit to you, but I’ll do anything to prove it. I want to be his dad. He’s supposed to be ours, Jojo, and I fucked that up.”
I can’t keep the tears at bay when he says things like this. No wonder he’s a freaking song writer and makes millions of women fall in love with his music.
“We can tell him tonight, if you want—”
“I want to, but—”
“No, Liam, no buts. I just told you I don’t want him hurt.”
“It’s not like that. I have to go back to L.A. and I was going to leave tomorrow, but he asked me to come to his game so I cleared my schedule for the week so I can stay and see him play. I'll have to go back for work, but once he knows, I can come back once a month to see him. We can figure out the rest from there.”
I knew his lifestyle would dictate how much of a dad he was going to be. I’m not sure if I thought he’d move back here or not.
“I know,” I say softly. I want to say what about me, but I have Nick and he’s been really great to me and Noah. “I’ll go get Noah so he can start hating me.” Liam reaches for my hand, pulling me back down.
“He won’t hate you; I won’t allow it.” I nod and release his hand. I take a moment to compose myself before calling for Noah. He comes thundering down with a smile on his face. He looks just like Liam when he smiles.
Liam looks up when we walk into the room. If I didn’t know better I’d think that he’d been crying. We sit down, Noah in between us. He looks at Liam, then me, smiling.
“We’ve got something to tell you.”
“Okay,” Noah says. I can feel his leg start to swing under the table. Reaching down, I set my hand on his knee, calming his jitters. Josie shifts in the chair, leaning closer to Noah. I do the same thing, although I’m not sure why. I look at her and raise my eyebrow. We didn’t discuss who was going to tell him. I think it should be her. I can’t see myself blurting out that I’m his dad. My luck it would come out like Darth Vader – minus the respiratory issues.
Josie clears her throat and smiles at Noah. “Remember when you asked me if Liam was my boyfriend?” Noah nods, his leg starts up again. I realize I’m not going to be able to keep him calm. Hell, I’m not even calm. I just have years of practice in stoicism.
“Well, Liam and I dated for a long time in high school and then he went away to college and things didn’t work out for us, but…” Josie stops and clears her throat. I know this must be hard for her, remembering how good we had things until I screwed everything up. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, sweetie.”
“Tell me what?” Noah breaks in. His eyes are drawn in. I can tell he doesn’t like to see his mom cry. He puts his hand on her shoulder and rubs it.
“Liam is your dad, baby.” Josie sobs. My leg slams into the table as I get up, rushing to her side. I fall to my knees, pulling her into my arms. Her tears wet my neck, her cries muffled. I know I shouldn’t, but I have to. I kiss below her ear, her cheek.
“Everything will be all right. I won’t leave. I promise,” I whisper with each kiss. She brings her face up, her eyes wet, red and puffy. My hands cup her face, pulling her closer. I kiss her full on lips. Lips I’ve missed for so long. When she starts to pull away, I want to hang on, but she’s not mine and I shouldn’t have kissed her, not like that.
“I’m sorry,” I say. She nods and wipes her face with the back of her hands. I move back to my seat without looking at Noah. He just saw a man kiss his mom.
A man she’s not engaged to.
I risk a look at Noah, he’s smiling. I’m not sure why, but he looks like a kid in a candy store.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you when you asked before,” Josie says. Her fingers thread through his hair which seems to relax his jittery leg.
Noah shrugs. “I already knew.”
Josie and I look at each other, stone faced. Our heads both turn slightly as we look at Noah. “What do you mean you knew?” I ask.
“Remember that day in the museum?” I nod. “Well I was looking at a picture of you and Mason and a teacher said I looked just like you and then I saw you in the bathroom and when I said my mom’s name you looked at me kinda funny. So I just guessed it.”
“You didn’t want to say something?” I ask.
“I didn’t know if you liked me or if you wanted to be my dad.”
Looking at my son with tears in my eyes I see me at this age. I reach out, cupping his face with my hand. “Hell yes I want to be your dad. My god, Noah, since the day I saw you, I’ve been bugging your mom about meeting you.”
“Was I an accident like Junior Appleton?”
“No,” I answer before Josie can say anything. Her eyes go wide. “Your mom and I talked about having kids all the time. I was going to marry her, buy her a nice fancy house and we were going to have a family.”
Noah looks at Josie who nods in agreement. When he looks back at me, his eyes are like daggers. “What happened?”
“I went to college and some things changed. Instead of taking your mom with me, I left everyone I knew behind and went to California to try something different. I didn’t know about you until I met you the other day. Your mom,” I look up at Josie and smile. “She loves you and she tried to find me, so don’t be angry at her okay?”
“Remember when I said I had to go back to work. I’m going to stay for this week’s game, then head back. But I’ll be back and you can call me anytime you want to talk or have a question about football.”
“Can I tell people you’re my dad?”
I look to Josie for approval. She shrugs her shoulders. I think that Beaumont is far enough off the beaten path that paparazzi won’t bug him, but I’m not sure. I also don’t want him to feel like he has to hide me.
“You can, but listen, buddy. There are people who like to take my picture and think they can get close to me through my friends. If anyone gives you a hard time or starts following you around, you just call me and I’ll take care of everything, okay?”
“And we need to tell Nick,” Josie says as she runs her hand through Noah’s hair. I thought she had which would explain why he was so angry yesterday. I know I shouldn’t care, but he’s been raising my son. I should respect his feelings.
“Listen to me, Noah. I want you to listen to Nick and treat him the same because he’s your dad too. You are going to be one of those special boys that have an amazing set of parents.”
The timer on the stove goes off and Noah breathes a sigh of relief before announcing that he’s starving to death. Josie jumps up and hurries into the kitchen, leaving Noah and I sitting at the table.
“Do you love my mom?”
“Yes,” I reply without hesitation.
“Like really, really looooove her?”
“Where do you learn this stuff?” I don’t remember knowing what love was at nine years old. My only focus was football and how far I could throw the ball. Girls weren’t even on my radar at this age.
“What else do they teach you in school these days?”
Noah shrugs. “Do you love her like you did before?”
“Yes,” I say again because it’s the truth. I never stopped loving her and absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. I’ve been in love with Josephine Preston since I can remember and now I’m too late. “But it doesn’t change things. Your mom has moved on and is going to marry Nick. You and I, though, you’re going to be my sidekick.”
“Can I go on tour with you?”
Josie enters just as Noah asks. I’m not sure how to answer but I’m sure as hell not telling him no. Josie is watching me out of the corner of her eye, waiting for me to screw this up. She sets plates in front of us and takes a seat across from Noah.
“Maybe,” I say as I pick up my fork. “It will depend on where I’m going and if it’s during the summer. You can’t miss school and you don’t want to miss football. Do you play any other sports?” I dig into my dinner and hum when the savory chicken hits my taste buds. I haven’t had a home cooked meal in a long time. Even the food at Katelyn’s was just party food. This is a real dinner.
“I play baseball because Nick likes it, but I want to learn the guitar.”
“I’ll teach you.”
“You will? Awesome!”
Dinner conversation flows fairly well. We talk about his teacher and his homework. He tells us that he has a crush on a girl at school but doesn’t want to give us her name. Josie and Noah ask about Los Angeles and what it’s like. I tell them there are a lot of people, the traffic is horrible so I hate leaving my place and that it can be really hot. But we have Disneyland and nice beaches and the Hollywood sign.
Noah asks what my cat’s name is and I’m ashamed to admit I never named it. Noah says that’s why it hates me and he’s probably right.
Noah drills me about music and MTV asking me if I like being on there and I tell him no, but that I don’t have a choice. He says he listened to some of my music and tells me I’m really good. I wasn’t prepared when he asked who my songs were about. I shrugged and went back to eating. There were some things I just wasn’t going to answer.
Being a school night, our time is cut short. Noah complains, but I ask him if I can come watch his practice tomorrow. I remind him that I’ll also be at his game this week. Josie invites me over for dinner again and I eagerly agree. I want to spend time with her simply because being in the same room as her calms me. It also spurs my creative side and I can’t wait to get back in the studio, even though I’ll be leaving them both behind.
Josie and I sit down for coffee once Noah is in bed and she sets some rules. I don’t exactly agree, but understand where she's coming from. No elaborate gifts or fancy toys. I ask about a phone and she says yes, as long as I’m the one paying. I laugh and then quickly realize that maybe she and Nick aren’t sharing expenses. The more I think about it the more pissed off I get. If he’s living here and playing dad, why is she worrying about money? I put a note in my phone to write her a check for ten years of back child support.
Leaving Josie’s house is hard. I hate the idea of them alone in the house by themselves, but she assured me she’s used to it. I still don’t like it.
Instead of going back to my hotel, I head for the cemetery. I haven’t been back since we buried Mason, and I could really use him right now. Even if just means he’s listening. I’m surprised I can find his plot in the dark, but I do. All his standing sprays are still in bloom and I wonder if Josie has been out here taking care of the flowers each day.
“So I have a son,” I say while rearranging the flowers covering his plot. “I have a nine year old son who looks just like me and plays football. Quarterback no less. I’m guessing it’s pretty cool being a dad. I don’t know yet because I only found out by accident and Josie just told Noah today. He seems cool with it until he realizes I’m not around all time like Nick. God, how could you let her hook up with Nick Ashford? Man, when I saw him at your funeral I thought I was in the twilight zone. But I guess you guys became buddies or something, huh?”
I sit down in the dirt, pulling my knees to my chest. “I’m sorry, Mason. You’ll never know how sorry I am for leaving like I did. I should’ve called or something, come home after a year. All I can say is that I’m sorry and I’ll make it up to Katelyn and make sure she’s taken care of. I can do that for her and you and your girls, especially Peyton. Someone is going to have to teach her a five step drop. Might as well be me.”
I set my hand over his dirt pile and say a silent prayer before leaving. The ride back to my hotel is long and lonely. Now that I have Noah and he knows the truth, I want to spend all my time with him. I just need to figure out how.
I never thought I’d feel anything for Liam again. Those feelings had been long dead and then he started coming around. First it was dinner he brought over for Noah and me. He was already in the house and cooking when I came home from work. The next night I cooked again. He stayed late and when he pulled out my favorite movie and a bottle of wine, I knew I was I starting to lose it. I wanted more than anything to cuddle up next him on the couch, but he wouldn’t sit next to me. He sat in the chair, looking uncomfortable while I sat on the couch as close to him as I could get.
The night Nick came home I half expected Liam to be in my kitchen, but he wasn’t. I tried not to watch or listen for him to pull into my driveway, and knew deep down that he wasn’t coming over. It didn’t matter that I wanted to see him. He wasn’t coming to see me anyway, just Noah, and I needed to accept that. Besides, I have Nick.
And Nick is who I want.
Nick is who I’m going marry.
Nick is the one who I’ve been with for the past six years. We share a house and have been raising my son together.
So why am I sitting in the living room with the lights off, while he sleeps upstairs, going through my box full of Liam? I should be upstairs in bed with him, but since he’s come home I’ve slept on the couch feigning a stomach ache. When Nick asked if I thought whether or not I was pregnant I wanted to cry. Not because I don’t want another baby, but because if we have one, it won’t look like Noah. It wouldn’t look like me and Liam.
My finger trails over his football picture, his helmet tucked up underneath his arm. His eye black patches not showing his number, but Jo. His friends gave him such shit for that, but he didn’t care.
“Hey beautiful.” Liam picks me up. I can’t help but squeal. I’ve officially turned into one of the girls I said I’d never be. Oh my god, I’m a cliché.
Liam puts me down, spinning me to face him. His eye black is different. His number is missing.
“You know you’re wearing the name ‘Jo’ on your face?”
“Of course I know. It says Jojo.”
“Yes it does,” I laugh at how silly he is.
He pulls me closer, kissing me deeply. He’s not afraid if we get caught by a teacher. I am, but he promises nothing bad will happen and I trust him.
“I love Jojo more than anything.”
“You do, huh? Should I be worried?”
Liam shakes his head, a smirk breaking through his tough guy act. “You’re my Jojo. Just mine,” he says. He kisses me again before running off. He’s halfway out to the field and I’m still watching his back side. He’s got such a nice ass.
“Hey, Jojo?” he yells.
“Yeah,” I yell back.
“I’m going to marry you someday.”
I thought for sure we’d spend forever together. I thought our love was one of a kind. I would almost be okay if he had met someone else and fallen in love, but he didn’t. He just left. He said he was suffocating.
I had this dream, the All-American dream, and we were living it, the head cheerleader dating the quarterback and captain of the football team. We were the poster kids for romance throughout the town. Everyone knew we were together and nothing was going to break us up. Other girls tried but Liam brushed them off so quick I felt sorry for them… sometimes.
We used to have dinner with his parents every Sunday night at the Beaumont Country Club. Mrs. Westbury was cold as ice and Mr. Westbury just looked down at me. I went to them when I couldn’t get a hold of Liam, asking if they knew where he was, but his dad said he was happy that Liam finally put out the trash. I was so hurt that I blurted out that this trash is carrying his grandchild. “Well, the whore finally did it,” he said before slamming the door in my face.
Liam hasn’t asked about his parents and whether they know Noah. I don’t know what he’ll say if I tell him about his dad. I know deep in my heart Liam never thought I was trash.
Maybe he won’t ask and I won’t have to tell him.
Pressure on my shoulder wakes me. Squinting through one eye, I see Nick hovering over me. An immediate sense of dread washes over me when I open my eyes and see his expression. I sit up, pulling my afghan around me. Nick hands me a cup of coffee and sits down next to me.
“Aren’t you going to be late for work?” I ask. I know I am, but Jenna can open the shop by herself.
“I called Barbara and told her I was going to be late. I thought we might need to talk.” He points to the Liam box. The one I’ve been hiding for years. “It looks like you were taking a trip down memory lane.”
I sip my coffee carefully while I think of what to say. I don’t want to lie to him, but no matter what I say it will seem like a lie. Can you be in love with two different people? What if my feelings for Liam are only there because of Noah, because I’m finally getting to see my boy with his father? Is that the love I’m feeling for Liam?
“It’s not Mason that you were looking at, Josie. Please don’t patronize me by lying.” Nick won’t look at me. We’ve never truly fought before. There've been many awkward moments especially after I told him 'no' each time he’d ask me to marry him.
I set my cup down on the coffee table, careful not to use any of the pictures as a coaster. I try not to look at them as I pick them up, but one of Liam and I catches my eye. Nick’s heavy sigh snaps me out of my reverie. I put the pile of pictures back in their safety box and shut the lid.
“Do you really need to keep those? You’ll see most of those people at our reunion.”
“Yes, I need to keep them,” I snap.
“Really, why? So you can remember all the good times? Is that it?
“What do you want me to say, huh? That I’m sorry I kept those photos? I’m not sorry. He’s my son’s father, Nick, and whether you like it or not he’s going to be around a lot more.” I can’t sit next to him anymore, I get up and start to pace. My hands are shaking I’m so angry.
“What the hell do you mean he’ll be around more? Over my dead body!” He stands, spilling his coffee. I’m so thankful I moved those pictures because they would’ve been ruined now.
“Why are we fighting about this? We knew this was going to happen one day. If Liam didn’t come back, Noah was going to ask.”
“Yeah, but I thought my fiancée would’ve at least talked to me first so we could make the right decision for our son.”
I try not to roll my eyes at his usage of ‘our son’. I know I’m being a bitch, but I did what’s best for Noah. I go and retrieve a dish towel and start cleaning up the coffee.
“I made a decision. I invited Liam over for dinner and we told Noah the other night. I’m sorry I didn’t consult you. I didn’t do it to cause a fight. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“Right for who? You and Liam?”
“Right for Noah.”
Nick paces in front of the living room window, his hands clenched together at the back of his neck. I walk over to him, placing my hand on his shoulder. He flinches and moves away from me.
“Did you sleep with him?”
“What? How can you ask me that?” I ask him incredulously. “I’m just… Really, Nick, after everything we’ve been through, how can you ask me that?”
“Simple,” he says turning to face me. “I ask you over and over again to marry me and it’s always ‘no’. I asked after Mason passed away because I don’t want to live like this anymore. Then Liam shows up. So maybe I’m thinking he’s been in contact with you and you knew he was coming and you had this whole thing planned out.”
“That’s not fair.”
“No, Josie, what’s not fair is me coming home and spending these past few nights in our bed alone only to wake and find you asleep on the couch with photos of your ex everywhere. Then you drop the bomb that you decided, by yourself, to tell a boy I’ve been raising, who his father is because you wanted too.
“This is not the Josephine I fell in love with. I don’t know what happened while I was gone or what he’s done to make you act like this, but I don’t like it.” Nick storms out of the house, slamming the door not only on me, but on our conversation.
After Nick comes home from work, we head to the field. Liam is leaving tonight after the game, so this is the last time he and Noah will see each other for a while. Liam bought him an iPhone and thought he’d be sneaky when he handed me a check for an obscene amount of money. I was told to keep it, if I didn’t need it, use it for a rainy day or spend it on Noah however I wanted.
Nick’s mood didn’t improve once he saw Liam at the field. Noah ran up to him and jumped into his arms. I heard Nick mutter something unintelligible. I ignored him. I didn’t go talk to Liam, but Peyton did. They stood together, she on his shoulders, and watched Noah play.
When it was over, Noah left the field and headed straight to Liam, infuriating Nick. I want Nick to be understanding. I get why he’s not, but what’s done is done. There’s no going back. Noah’s father is leaving and won’t be back for who knows how long. Nick could at least give him a chance to say good-bye.
“Noah, let’s go,” Nick huffs as he throws the gear into the back of his truck. Liam shakes his head and walks over toward us, Noah right beside him. I can’t believe how much they look alike.
“So, I’ll be back next month for a week. As soon as I know which week I’ll call and let you know, okay?” I nod, unable to find my voice. I don’t want this reunion to end.
“You be good, okay? And listen to Nick just like we discussed.” He bends down and hugs his son. The son he just met and is now leaving.
“Bye, dad,” Noah says before running off to the truck. The look on Liam’s face must match mine.
“Don’t worry, Jojo,” he whispers to me. He places a kiss on my cheek before walking way.
“Take care of my family, Nick,” Liam says as he slips his helmet on muffling out Nick’s tirade.
I watch Liam’s bike as it flies down the road. When my eyes meet Nick’s, he’s glaring at me. He shakes his head, punching his truck in the process.
I think I just lost my fiancé.