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EDITOR'S NOTE:
Denise Little

ESSAY:
MY NOT-SO-SECRET IDENTITIES

Kristine Kathryn Rusch
aka Kristine Grayson

STORIES:
Kristine Grayson: The Charming Way
Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
Helmie
Debbie Mumford: Reality Bites
Jean Rabe:
Merry Maid
Stephanie Writt:
Before She Left
& After She Returned

Dayle A. Dermatis: The Best Catch
Kate Pavelle
: The River Pearl
Laura Ware
: To Live a Life
Petronella Glover
: A Sight for Sore Eyes
 

SERIALIZATION:
Laura Resnick: Galatea: A Modern Myth
(Part 3)

RECOMMENDED BOOKS:
C.S. DeAvilla

WRITER'S CORNER:
Denise Little:
Electronic Publishing:
A Brave New World
Julie Pitzel: Tell, Don't Show

Laura Ware’s column, “Laura’s Look,” appears weekly in the Highlands News-Sun. She recently published a collection of her earliest columns in Laura’s Look: 1998-2000.While this is her first appearance in Heart’s Kiss, she has appeared in several publications and anthologies, most recently in Fiction River: Last Stand. She writes in a number of genres and her short fiction is available online as ebooks. Her novels include Dead Hypocrites, The Silent Witness and Redemption. Laura lives in Central Florida. Sign up for her free newsletter at www.laurahware.com. You can contact her at laura@laurahware.com.

 

TO LIVE A LIFE

by Laura Ware

Sheila gripped her smartphone in a sweaty hand while she wiped the dampness off the back of her neck and pled with the woman on the other end of the conversation. “You don’t understand. My air conditioning isn’t working. I need someone to come out today.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman said, not sounding very sorry at all, “but all our techs are occupied with other customers. It has to be tomorrow.”

“My grandmother isn’t well. She can’t stay here—do you realize the forecast calls for temperatures in the nineties today?” Sheila snapped. At her feet her black and white terrier Gerry whined a bit at her tone.

“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do,” the woman said. “If you want to schedule an appointment for tomorrow—”

Sheila jerked the phone from her ear and hit the red round button on her phone’s screen, ending the call. It was the third call she’d made to repair places in the area, and they all said the same thing—no one could come today.

She picked up the sweating glass of lemonade that sat on the dark green granite counter and took a sip. There were dishes from last night’s dinner piled next to the steel sink—two plates with smears of spaghetti sauce on them, a cereal bowl stained with chocolate sauce resting on top of them. Silverware lay in a random pattern in the sink.

Next to her on the counter the compact baby monitor crackled. “Sheila? Sheila?”

Glancing at the microwave clock, Sheila picked up monitor. 10:45 in the morning and the house was already unpleasantly warm. August in Lake Placid, Florida was not a good time to lose air conditioning, that was for sure. She pressed the send button on the monitor. “Yes, Grandma?”

“I’m out of water.”

“Okay. Be right there.” She straightened up from where she had been leaning against the counter. Gerry took that as a cue to begin sniffing around her feet, searching for goodies on the dirty pale green floor.

“Move, Gerry,” she told him as she stepped to the white refrigerator. Opening the door, she stood for a moment, closing her eyes and letting the cool air flow over her. Her pink t-shirt clung to her and the sudden change in temperature made her shiver a little. It felt wonderful.

A soft ping from the appliance told her she’d held the door open long enough. She grabbed a glass carafe half filled with lemonade, thankful that they still had electricity. Shutting the door, she headed for her grandmother’s room, leaving the kitchen and crossing the dusty living room. Bright sunshine glared through the windows, mocking her discomfort. She heard her little dog panting as he followed after her.

She came to the short hallway past the living room and opened the first door to the right. The large room was dim, the only light coming from the small flat screen television that was attached to one of the walls and tuned to a cable news channel.

Sheila’s grandmother was sitting in a pink stuffed chair next to the unmade bed. Light from the television glinted off her silver eyeglasses. She fanned herself with an old church bulletin, her wine red Bible in her lap. “It’s so hot, Sheila. Can you turn the air up?”

Sheila sighed as she turned the bedside light on. “The air’s broken, Grandma. I’m sorry.” Picking up a plastic blue mug from the small folding table next to the chair, she filled it with lemonade. “Here.”

“Oh, thank you,” her grandmother said, putting down the bulletin and accepting the mug. Jerry sniffed eagerly at her feet. “He seems hungry.”

“He’s always hungry,” Sheila said. Sitting on the bed, she wiped her face and then patted her lap. Jerry jumped up and she stroked his fur. “I can’t get anyone in today to repair the air conditioning. We may have to go to a hotel.”

“Oh, dear,” her grandmother said. “Don’t I have some fans around here? Maybe we could set those up.”

“That might work tonight, but it’s going to be too hot this afternoon,” Sheila said. “I need to get you someplace.”

She continued to pet her dog while she thought. It was Thursday. The few people she’d gotten to know since moving into her grandmother’s home six months ago were all working. No one else worked from home like she did. Her mother lived in Tampa, over two hours away. No help there.

Her grandmother’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “Why don’t we go to A Cup of Joe’s? Maybe we’ll even see Eric there, that would be nice.”

Sheila bit back a sharp reply. At this point, Eric was the last person she wanted to see. She hadn’t spoken to him since their fight three days ago. He’d texted her and left voicemails that she deleted without listening to them.

Her grandmother’s gaze sharpened. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing, Grandma,” Sheila said.

“Don’t tell me that. I may be old but I’m not stupid.”

“I didn’t say you were,” Sheila said. She searched for an answer that would satisfy her grandmother without telling her anything.

“Well,” her grandmother said, putting her mug down with a thump. “I want to go to A Cup of Joe. We can take Jerry with us—it’s too hot for him to stay here.”

“Grandma….”

“Take me there, Sheila. Please,” her grandmother said. “Unless you have a good reason we shouldn’t go?”

Sheila groaned inwardly. She didn’t dare tell her grandmother about the fight—she’d want to know what it was about and if she found out….

Gerry whined softly. Sheila looked down at him. Her grandmother had a point—dogs were welcome at A Cup of Joe’s as long as they behaved. She’d taken Gerry there before.

And she couldn’t avoid Eric forever. There were things that still had to be said between them. Even if a life together was off the table.

“All right, Grandma,” she said, letting Jerry scramble to the floor as she stood. “We’ll go to the coffee shop.”

 

The glass door to A Cup of Joe jingled as Sheila pulled it open. She held the door as her grandmother slowly walked inside, pushing her red four-wheeled walker in front of her.

Sheila entered and took a moment to relish the cool air, welcome after the relentless heat outside. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the comparative dimness of the shop after being out in the bright sunshine.

At the moment, it looked like she and her grandmother had the place to themselves. The half-dozen round tables were empty, as was the low counter to her right. The smell of roasting coffee beans filled her nostrils.

“Be right there!” a cheerful and familiar voice called out. Sheila felt her heart skip a little. She frowned, not liking that he could still do that to her.

At the sound of Eric’s voice, Jerry yipped and wriggled in Sheila’s arms. She put him down and he headed across the brown concrete floor towards the counter, the place filling with his cute little barks.

Eric came from a room behind the counter, wiping his hands on a white towel. His green eyes widened when he saw Sheila and her grandmother. “Mrs. Martin, hi! Hi Sheila.”

Her grandmother shuffled forward. “Hello, Eric. It’s good to see you.”

Jerry ran around to behind the counter, still barking. “Jer-bear,” Eric said, bending down to pet the dog. “Good to see you too, buddy.”

Sheila pulled a chair out for her grandmother at a table as far away from the counter as she could manage. “Sit here, Grandma. I’ll get you something to drink.”

“A frozen mocha,” her grandmother said. She dug into her large white purse and pulled out a red wallet. “Here, use my credit card.”

Knowing better than to argue about who would pay for the drinks. Sheila accepted the wallet. “Okay, Grandma. A regular or a large?”

“A large.”

Sheila nodded and them, mentally bracing herself, approached the counter where Eric was still talking to Jerry. “Eric?”

He looked at her. The smile faded from his face. “It’s good to see you, Sheila. I was afraid…I thought you’d never speak to me again.”

She swallowed. Putting the wallet down on the counter, she said, “Two large frozen mochas, please. And some water for Jerry?”

“We need to talk,” he said, reaching for her hand.

She pulled back, glancing at her grandmother, who appeared to be studying the large coffee bean roaster in the corner of the shop. “The drinks, please.”

He looked over to where her grandmother sat and then lowered his voice. “If you don’t want to talk, why are you here?”

“The air conditioning at the house is broken,” she told him. “Grandma insisted we come here.”

He gave her a hurt look. “Well, I’m glad for that, anyway.” Looking down at Gerry, he said, “Let’s get you some water, kiddo.”

Sheila pulled out her grandmother’s Visa but Eric waved it away. “Drinks are on me.”

“You don’t have to—”

“Please,” he cut in, “let me at least do this.”

She wanted to argue but her grandmother’s presence restrained her. “Fine.” Snatching up the wallet, she turned on her heel and marched to where her grandmother sat, sliding the older woman’s wallet into her purse. “Eric said he wants to treat us.”

“Well, that’s nice of him,” her grandmother said. “But you sound as if he’s doing something terrible.”

Sheila realized she’d snapped out the words. “I’m sorry, Grandma. I’ll feel better once I’ve cooled off.”

Her grandmother cocked her head. “Tell me, what did the two of you quarrel about?”

“What?” Sheila felt the blood rush to her face. “We…I…what makes you think we had a fight?”

“Sweetheart, I have eyes. And ears. Just seeing your behavior around each other speaks volumes,” her grandmother said. Folding her wrinkled hands on the table, she stared at Sheila, acting as if she was prepared to wait for hours.
Sheila shifted in the hard wooden chair, her gaze darting away from her grandmother’s face. She found herself watching Eric as he poured espresso, milk, and ice into a large blender. He looked calm on the surface, but Sheila knew by the slight tremble in his hands he was upset.

You can’t keep using your grandmother as an excuse not to live your life!

She winced, the words hurting all over again. She remembered the night so clearly. They’d driven to Sebring to eat lasagna and tiramisu at The Olive Garden and afterwards browsed the nearby Books-a-Million. It had been a lovely evening, interrupted only twice by phone calls from her grandmother, whom she’d left under the watchful eye of the church secretary Molly Green.

Then they had strolled back to Eric’s Ford Explorer and stopped by the passenger side door. His eyes shining under the parking lot’s lights, he told her he had to ask her something.

With that he pulled a small black velvet box from his jeans pocket and dropped to one knee. “Sheila, I love you. Marry me?”

Her breath froze in her chest. She stared at his face, his smile slowly fading as he realized something was wrong. Shaking her head, she stammered out her answer. “I can’t.”

He scrambled to his feet. “Why not? You love me, right?”

“Yes, but—”

“But what?”

Her thoughts whirling, she shook her head. “Marriage…it’s not something I can do. You know that. I have responsibilities….”

“I understand that,” he broke in. “I’ve already figured it out. We can still live at your grandmother’s place. I’m sure if we talk to her it would be okay.”

“No,” Sheila said. “I won’t do that to her.”

“Do what to her?” He sounded mystified. “She likes me, I know she does.”

“I won’t disrupt her life like this,” Sheila protested. “I can’t marry you, Eric. I’m sorry.”

That was when he’d thrown out his hurtful comment about her not living her life. She’d gotten angry in turn, and their voices rose until Sheila realized they were getting looks from people heading for their cars.

At that point she insisted Eric take her home. Once there, she’d slammed out of the car and barely managed to hold off the tears until Molly left.

“Dear,” her grandmother laid a hand on her arm. “Please tell me what’s going on.”

Sheila jumped, brought back to the present by the older woman’s touch. To her horror she realized she was near tears again. “Grandma, it’s nothing to concern yourself about,” she choked out.

Eric chose that moment to bring their drinks to them. He gave her a worried look as he put the tall glasses topped with whipped cream on the table. “Can I get you all anything else?”

“You can have a seat while I go powder my nose,” her grandmother announced, rising to her feet with some difficulty. “Sheila needs the company.”

Sheila’s mouth dropped open. “Grandma….”

Eric appeared equally surprised. “Mrs. Martin….”

“Sit,” the older woman commanded, pointing to an empty chair across from her. She didn’t lower her hand until Eric meekly slid into it. “Now, I will be just fine. But don’t you go sipping my drink, Eric.”

“Um, no ma’am,” Eric said.

“Good.” With that Sheila’s grandmother leaned on her walker and made her way to the back of the shop, towards the restrooms.

Sheila watched her go, wondering if she should run after her. If she tripped….

“She’s okay, hon.”

Turning to Eric, she said, “Don’t call me that.”

He sighed. “Look, before anything else, I need to apologize. I…I kind of went crazy when you told me no. Said some things I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.”

It was hard to generate anger when he looked so earnest. “Fine,” she said. “Apology accepted.” She put her straw in her mouth and sucked up some of the frozen mocha. It was excellent, as always.

“The thing is—” Eric kept unfolding and folding his hands and every time their eyes met his gaze skittered away, “—I get what the problem is.”

“You should. I told you.”

He shook his head. “No, your grandmother isn’t the problem. She’s the excuse.”

“Not this again.” She let out an exasperated sigh. “I told you I will not disrupt her life. That’s all there is to it.”

“And your mom being on her third marriage doesn’t have anything to do with it?” he asked in a soft voice.

She hadn’t expected that from him. “What do you mean?”

“I mean your mom isn’t exactly a poster child for a successful marriage,” Eric said. “Or are you just down on marrying me and not marriage in general?”

She stared at the white mound of whipped cream that topped her drink, unwilling to answer him. But he deserved some kind of an answer. “It’s not you, Eric. You’re a great guy. I just…she’s always so devastated when the inevitable happens….”

“It doesn’t have to be inevitable,” he said.

The door jingled as a young man with a brown curly mop of hair entered the shop. Despite the heat of the day, he wore a denim jacket over a dirty white t-shirt. His gaze scanned the room, stopping at the table where Sheila and Eric sat.

Eric let out a soft groan. “Hold that thought,” he told her. Getting up, he waved the stranger to the counter. “I’ll be right with you.”

The young man pulled a small pistol out of a jacket pocket. “Just give me all your money.”

Sheila gasped. The gunman looked over at her. “You too. Any cash you have, I want it.” He noticed the second drink on the table. “Anyone else in here?”

“Hey,” Eric said, stepping behind the counter, “It’s okay. No one has to get hurt. I’ll give you the money, just leave my customers alone.”

“Where are they?” the young man demanded in a shaking voice. “I need to know.”

“My grandmother is in the bathroom,” Sheila stammered. Slowly she got to her feet, freezing as the young man pointed the gun at her. “Please don’t shoot. I’ll go get her.”

The robber considered that, then gave her a curt nod. “Okay. Bring her out here. No funny stuff, or I’ll shoot this guy.”

Gerry chose that moment to come around the counter. He paused when he saw the young man and then began barking and growling, as if he could sense something was wrong.

“Shut up you little turd,” the robber snapped. He stepped towards the dog, a foot poised to kick the small animal.

“Oh, don’t! Please!” Sheila cried. “He doesn’t understand, let me get him, please don’t hurt him!”

The man staggered slightly, his kick interrupted. He narrowed his eyes at Sheila. “Shut him up. If he bites me….”

“He won’t,” Sheila said. She hurried over to Gerry and scooped up her pet. Gerry struggled to get back down but she kept a firm grip on him. “I’ll get my grandmother.”

She glanced at Eric, who silently tilted his head towards the back. As if he’d spoken the words out loud, she knew what he meant: Go out the back. Save yourself.

There was a door leading to the rear of the strip mall by the restrooms. It would be possible for her to get her grandmother out that way, and then find help.

But then what would happen to Eric while she did that?

She wished she’d kept her mouth shut about her grandmother. But this nervous man with a gun frightened her. Her heart pounding in her chest, she headed for the woman’s restroom.

The door was locked. Sheila glanced at another shut door leading to the outside while she knocked. “Grandma?”

“Just a minute, dear.” She heard water running. Gerry was still growling softly in her arms and she tried to calm the dog. It was nearly impossible, given that calm was the last thing she was feeling.

The door opened and her grandmother started out. She stopped in the doorway when she saw Sheila’s face. “What’s wrong?”

The thief’s raised voice carried to them. “What’s taking so long, lady?”

Sheila looked at the door leading to freedom again. “Grandma,” she whispered, “go out the back and call the police. There’s a robber here, and if I don’t go back he’ll hurt Eric.”

Her grandmother’s eyes widened. “I am not leaving you here.”

“Grandma, please!”

The young man appeared at the end of the hallway. “Get over here, now!”

Sheila began to shake. “Please, let my grandmother go. She isn’t well.”

He raised the gun. “Move!”

“It’s all right, Sheila,” her grandmother said. The older woman slowly began walking towards the gunman, giving Sheila no choice but to follow.

“Come on, come on,” the young man said. His pockmarked face shone with sweat. “Move it, grandma! Can’t you go any faster?”

Sheila’s grandmother lifted her head and glared at him. “Respect your elders, young man. I’m moving as fast as I can.”

Sheila groaned inwardly. Her grandmother could be difficult sometimes, and this appeared to be one of those times. She hurried to her and eased the older woman past their captor.

When they got into the shop’s main room Sheila noticed that the blinds in the front windows were shut. Eric was locking the front door as they came in. He turned and Sheila saw his concern and frustration that they hadn’t fled.

The gunman pointed to a table near the counter. “Sit there.” Turning to Eric, he said, “Bring their pocketbooks. Then clean out the register.”

“And my drink,” Sheila’s grandmother said. At the look of irritation the robber gave her, she shrugged. “I’m thirsty.”

“Grandma, please,” Sheila said. She wished she was some kind of superhero who could do karate or something equally impressive. But no, she was simply a freelance consultant who could stand to lose five pounds and could barely contain the dog in her arms, much less take down the bad guy.

The man kept shifting his weight from foot to foot. Eric brought both their drinks and their purses to the table. He then stepped behind the counter and opened up the register.

The robber watched as Eric piled bills on the counter. “How much do you have?” he asked.

Eric glanced at it. “Around $100, more or less.”

The gunman sucked in a breath. “That ain’t enough.” He turned to Sheila and her grandmother. “What’ve you got?”

Sheila cringed at his attention. She figured she had $15 in her purse at the most. Her grandmother might have as much as $50. Would that satisfy him?

After securing Gerry with one arm she reached for her purse. As she did her grandmother spoke sharply. “Are you aware of Florida’s 10-20-Life law, young man?”

The robber knit his brows. “What?”

“It’s quite simple,” Sheila’s grandmother continued. “If you pull a gun, you serve ten years in prison at a minimum. Fire it, twenty years. And if you shoot someone, that’s life in prison.”

The young man stared at her, the color draining from his face. “Seriously?”

Sheila opened her wallet and pulled out a wrinkled ten and three ones. “Here,” she said quickly, hoping to distract him from her grandmother before he lost his temper and shot someone.

The gunman looked at her, then at Eric. “Is she right?” he demanded. “About the jail thing?”

Eric nodded. “It’s advertised on television. Look, man, put the gun down and walk away. Like I said, no one has to get hurt.”

The young man shook his head. “I can’t. I need the money. My girlfriend and our baby…we got no place to stay tonight. No food for the baby. I lost my job last week. I gotta have the money.”

“What’s your name?” Sheila asked. “I’m Sheila.”

The gunman swallowed. “Bobby.”

“Well, Bobby,” Sheila’s grandmother said, “Surely you know there are better ways to support your family than stealing.”

“I been trying,” Bobby protested. “I’m looking for a job. I been to all the churches here, they say they can’t help us. I got no choice. My baby is hungry.”

“Where did you get the gun?” Eric asked.

Bobby bit his lip. “It’s my daddy’s gun. He don’t know I have it.”

“Take it back to him,” Sheila suggested. “He won’t help?”

Bobby rolled his eyes. “Please. He can barely help himself.” He stared at the money on the counter.

“If you don’t take it, you haven’t stolen it yet,” Sheila’s grandmother said softly. “So far, you’ve just frightened us. We can work something out.”

“What?” Bobby asked her.

“Things can always be worked out,” the older woman said. “But you must do something about that gun. As long as it’s out, I’m afraid you might use it.”

He grimaced and stuck the gun in a pocket. “Stupid thing ain’t loaded anyways.” He trudged to a table next to the women and slumped into a chair.

“Where are your girlfriend and baby?” Sheila asked.

He bit his lip. “They outside in our car. I told her I was looking for a job here. She don’t know about the gun. She’ll like to kill me when she finds out.”

“Go get them,” Eric said. “I’ll fix you guys something to drink. And we’ll talk.”

Bobby fidgeted. “You gonna call the police?”

“I don’t want to,” Eric said. “But I’m worried about what you’re going to do. I don’t want to see someone get hurt.”

“I swear, I didn’t do this to no one else. Just you all. And I screwed it up big time,” Bobby said.

“You have indeed,” Sheila’s grandmother agreed. “But you are fortunate. You’ve been given the chance to start again. Not everyone has that opportunity.”

To start again…. The words resonated with Sheila. She looked at Eric. Could they do that? Reverse time to three days ago, and do it over?

She needed time to think.

 

Rain lashed at the window in her grandmother’s room as Sheila set up the large box fan. Her grandmother, in her lightest nightgown and covered by a sheet in her bed, watched with interest. “Eric hasn’t called yet?”

“He said he would,” Sheila told her. Eric had shooed them out of the shop when Bobby’s girlfriend and baby had come in. Sheila had wanted to stay, but Eric insisted they let him handle things. For the sake of Gerry and her grandmother, she agreed.

She thought about how he’d placed a warm hand on her arm before she left. “I’ve got this,” he told her.

“Be careful,” she told him. The gun still made her nervous.

“I got a feeling about this. It’ll be okay.” He kissed her cheek.

She placed her fingers on the spot his lips had touched. Turning on the fan, she frowned at the loud hum and wondered if her grandmother would be able to sleep through it.

“You know, we could use a man in the house.”

Startled, Sheila looked over to her grandmother. “What?”

Her grandmother nodded as she spoke. “We could use a man in the house. Someone like Eric. That would be a good thing, don’t you think?”

“Grandma….” Sheila adjusted the sheet. “I’m busy with my job and taking care of you. I don’t have time to be married.”

“Oh, nonsense,” her grandmother waved a dismissive hand. “Your mother has found time. I found time. You always find time for what’s important.”

Sheila gazed at the floor. It needed vacuuming, badly. “I can’t keep up the house. And what if Eric leaves me?”

“Eric can help with the house—I’m sure he won’t mind. And he’s not your father, Sheila. Or your stepfather. Eric is a good man. You have better taste than your mother.”

Sheila raised a startled glance at her grandmother. The older woman smiled. “You won’t tell her I said that, will you?”

“No, of course not,” Sheila said. She leaned over and kissed her grandmother’s cheek. “I love you, Grandma.”

“I love you too, but please don’t hide from life behind me,” her grandmother said, returning the kiss. “Promise me.”

“I’ll try,” Sheila said.

“That’s all I ask,” her grandmother said, laying back and closing her eyes. “Good night, sweetheart.”

“Night,” Sheila said. She checked to make sure her grandmother’s mug was filled with water and then left the room, quietly shutting the door behind her.

The rain would help cool things, she hoped. As she headed to the kitchen to get something cold to drink, the doorbell rang. Gerry, who had been drowsing on his round brown pillow in the living room, immediately began barking.

Wondering who was on her doorstep at 9:45 P.M., Sheila paused before opening the door. “Yes?”

“It’s Eric.”

She pulled the door open to reveal Eric standing dripping on the front porch. Lightning flashed in the sky behind him, followed a few seconds later by a roll of thunder. Gerry, who’d come to the door as she opened it, whined in protest at the sound.

“Wait there,” she told him. She hurried to the small laundry room just off the kitchen and pulled two green towels from the dryer. She brought them back to the front door and handed them to Eric, who was busy petting Gerry. “I thought you were going to call.”

He shrugged as he rubbed his hair vigorously with the towel. “I happened to be nearby, thought I’d stop in. I knew you’d be up.”

She frowned. “Is everything okay?”

He nodded. “Bobby turned himself in after I called a friend of mine who’s a lawyer. I gave his girlfriend some cash to tide her over until tomorrow. She’ll probably get a hotel room and check back with me. Meantime, I’m making some calls, seeing what I can come up with.”

“What will happen to him?” Sheila said. “Eric, he pulled a gun on us. Doesn’t that mean ten years minimum?”

“I know,” he said as he toed off his sneakers. Gerry sniffed at the wet footwear and sneezed once before trotting back into the house.

Stripping his wet socks off Eric began to dry his feet. “But he was desperate, Sheila. He loves his girlfriend and baby, and he’d do anything for them.”

“So what now?” Sheila asked. “You might as well come in. I’ll get you something to drink if you like.”

Eric followed her into the kitchen. “Man, it’s warm in here. I’ll take ice water.”

Sheila poured some water in a glass and added ice. Eric took it and drank half of it down at once.

“As to what now,” Eric continued, “My lawyer friend says the prosecution has some discretion. He might get off pretty lightly.”

Sheila sighed. “He made such a bad choice.” Looking over at Eric, she took a deep breath and said, “So did I.”

Eric froze, the glass halfway to his mouth. “Meaning?”

“You’re right,” she told him. “I have been using Grandma as an excuse. I’ve been afraid, and, like Bobby, it caused me to make a stupid decision.”

Eric shook his head. “You didn’t pull a gun on anyone.”

“But I hurt you,” Sheila said. “Don’t say I didn’t.”

He put the glass on the counter and held his arms out to her. She stepped into them, resting her head against his chest, hearing his soothing heartbeat.

She felt his voice rumble in his chest. “So what does that mean for us?”

She pulled back and looked deep into his green eyes. No, he was not her father. And she was not her mother. She didn’t have to keep hiding from life.

“It means,” she told him, planting a swift kiss on his lips, “that yes, I will marry you.”

It was time for her to take a chance. For her.

Copyright © 2017 by Laura Ware.

Heart's Kiss Magazine

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