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Installment 24

 

Rick watched the car pull away, cursing and thrusting his hand through his hair. He could try to follow her, but he didn’t think he could catch the cab at that point. The best thing he could do was use his training to find out where she had gone after the cab dropped her off. At that point, he could track her down and talk to her. He wasn’t sure what he would say, but he couldn’t let her go like this. Turning back to the house, he stopped long enough to lock up the front door, then he climbed into his car and started back to the Tamarack house.

 

 

The cab driver left Andrea off in front of a generic motel where she rented a room for a couple of nights. Although she still had no idea what she was going to do, she needed to have a place to sleep and at the moment, this was her only option. Since she hadn’t worked in years, she had very little money in the bank so there was no way she could stay in the hotel forever. She would have to get a job and rent an apartment.

Once inside the neutrally decorated room, she began unpacking her clothes into the dresser. It wasn’t that she had to do it, it was that she had to do something. The mindless work of folding clothes or hanging them in the small closet kept her from going crazy. When she was done putting away everything she had packed, including her toiletries, she sank down onto the edge of the bed. Sitting in the quiet room, she felt her chest tighten up with grief. As a child, she had felt this abandonment and devastation when her brother had died, then again more recently when Jimmy had passed away. Now she was feeling the same thing with Rick and Lee, but they were still alive! What had she done wrong in her life that she would be buffeted again and again?

With a soft hiccup, she picked up the phone and called the cab company again. Not wanting to sit cooped up in her hotel room, she grabbed her purse and went outside to wait for the cab. When it arrived, she gave the driver an address and sat back to stare out the window. The ride was short and before she was really ready, the cab slipped through the gates of the cemetery. She directed him to a section in the back, then paid him his fare. When he asked if she wanted him to wait, she shook her head silently.

It took her just a few minutes to make her way to Jimmy’s grave. It still looked a little bare, the grass not yet filled in, which made her even more sad. Brushing off the new headstone, she traced the inscription: Devoted husband and father, unfailing friend. She knelt next to the gray stone and sniffled. “Why does everyone I love leave? Why am I destined to be hurt, over and over again?”

She didn’t expect an answer, but even so, she was disappointed at the silence that greeted her questions. Before she knew it, tears were pressing at the back of her eyes once again. Could she even cry anymore? Were there even tears left inside her? She was lost in her grief for several minutes before someone spoke her name.

“Andi.”

Whipping her head around, she saw Lee nearby, his body stiff as he stood without any support. Her breath came out in a whoosh before she frowned at him. “What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.”

She made a sound and turned away from him. “I don’t want to see you.”

“I don’t really care what you want at this point, Andi.” he told her, not moving any closer to her, though what he wanted to do was pull her into his arms, tell her he was sorry and beg for her forgiveness. “I know you’re hurt, I know you’re angry... I’m sorry for that. But we did what we did because we love you.”

Figuring that responding would only encourage him, she remained silent, staring down at her father’s final resting place.

There was nothing he could say that would be more appropriate than words Andrea had written from her own heart.

“Have I set myself up for pain?

I've been through this before

All the struggles, the hope

The fearful nights.

More than any person should

have to bear

And here I am again.

Watching someone I love

Battle the pain

While I battle with the heartache.

But I couldn't stop caring

Even if I wanted to

Because to stop caring

Means to stop living

And I'd take the heartache and the pain

Over nothing

Any day.”

She shuddered, recognizing the poem before he even finished the first sentence. Her heart aching with regret, she responded only by shaking her head.

“Andi...”

“Go away, Lee. Just go away.” She wiped at the tears that were running unchecked down her cheeks.

He waited, standing silently as she ran her hands over the sparse grass covering her father’s grave.

“I don’t want to hurt any more.” she finally whispered, partly talking to her father’s spirit and partly speaking to the man still standing behind her.

“I know.” Lee responded. “But you can’t have one without the other. And I know you don’t want to miss out on what the world has yet to offer you.”

Wrapping her arms around her stomach, she held on as if she were trying to keep from exploding. “I’m in love with him, Lee.”

“I know.” he repeated, his heart lurching in his chest. “He’s in love with you, too.”

“And that gives us the power to destroy each other.”

“And it gives you two the power to make each other deliriously happy!” he exclaimed. “You’ve got to stop thinking like this, Andi.”

“I’m afraid.”

He held himself in check even though his instinct was to go to her and pull her into his arms. It was no longer his place to do so. “It’s all right to be afraid. It’s not all right to give up. Besides which, you’re hurting now and there’s no joy to balance it out. Is that how you want to live?”

“No.”

“And I know you... you can’t live without feeling. So give yourself the opportunity to have love in your life, and you’ll deal with whatever else comes along with it. You and Rick, you’ll deal with it together.”

Pushing to her feet, Andrea turned to her best friend and straightened her shoulders. “No more lies, Lee. Not between any of us. Never again.”

He shook his head slowly from side to side, knowing even then that he had to keep the truth of his own feelings from her.

She wiped her face, then reached out and slipped her arm through his. “How did you get here?”

“Cab.” He tilted his head toward the nearby road that wandered through the cemetery. “I told him to wait for us.”

“Then I guess it’s time to put that meter out of it’s misery.” she tried to joke.

Together they made their way slowly to the taxi cab and got in. Lee directed the driver to take them back to the Tamarack house.

 

 

Rick pulled his car into the garage and turned off the engine. He was tired and frustrated but most of all, he was angry with himself for letting Andrea get away from him. Running a hand through his hair, he made his way from the garage into the kitchen where he came to a complete halt. “Andrea?”

She looked up from the table and her heart turned over in her chest. “Hi.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for you.” she answered softly.

He laughed in disbelief. “I’ve been waiting for you!”

“Where?”

“Your hotel. I called the cab company, got the address where they took you and went to your hotel. I’ve been waiting outside your room for three hours!” Shaking his head, he dropped into the chair across from her. “I even bribed a maid to let me into your room.”

“What? Why?”

“Because at first I thought you were ignoring me when I knocked, so I went back to my car to watch the room for a while. After about an hour when there was no movement, I saw a maid walking by the room and I raced over to talk to her. I convinced her, with a twenty, that I had forgotten my key in the room and I asked her to let me in. I did a quick circuit of the room, saw your clothes, but not you, so I left the room and went back to my watching position.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “When you still didn’t return after another couple of hours, I decided to take a break and come back later.”

“So you were there waiting for me all this time while I was here waiting for you?”

He nodded, then searched her face. “Why were you waiting here for me?”

“I’ve been lying to myself, thinking that I could just hide myself away from everyone and everything. Even if I could, it wouldn’t stop the emotions and the feelings that run through me... it’s just not possible.” She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “But I must admit, I am afraid of being hurt again.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you, Andrea, you know that.”

Her head bobbed up and down, but she had to bite her lip to stop herself from crying. “I know, I know. But still, Rick, it hurt. And what I don’t think you realize is how much power you have over me.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I love you.” she whispered, her tear-filled eyes meeting his.

“Why is that bad, Andi?”

“Because it seems like everyone I love leaves me and then I’m alone and devastated.”

Reaching across the table, he grabbed her hands in his. “I won’t leave you. I thought you could tell by now, I won’t be put off or run away.”

The tears spilled over, wetting her cheeks. “I’m sorry I said those things to you. I’m sorry I ran off.”

“I love you, Andrea. An argument or even a screaming match isn’t going to keep me away from you. As for any fears over being hurt, well, we’ll just have to deal with those together, okay?”

“And no more lies, now, right?” she asked hesitantly. “No keeping things from each other, even if we feel like it’s for their own good.”

He pulled her hands to his lips and kissed first one, then the other. “No, not even if you ask me if an outfit makes you look fat.”

“Well, maybe then it would be okay.” she told him with a small smile.

 

The Ring

The ring upon my finger

The ring that's made of gold

Means everything to me

And will until I'm old.

The ring upon my finger

That's grace with a diamond's shine

Tells the world and all who are in it

I'm yours and you are mine.

The ring upon my finger

So polished and so new

Means the world to me

But half as much as you.

The ring upon my finger

I will cherish all my life

Because it means I'm yours

And I will forever be your wife.

The ring upon my finger

Will never tarnish nor fade

Because it represents

The promises we've made.

 

 

Author’s Notes

To all my dedicated readers:

I want to thank you all for being so loyal and understanding as I’ve tried to make my way through my illness these past months. I know that installments have been sparse and for that I apologize. This is the last installment for “My Brother’s Wife” and I would love to hear your thoughts on the story! Email me anytime at redrose@mystang.com.

Announcement! The new serial novel coming next month will be a serialized version of my second book (published in November 2002), “The Legacy Tree”. It is the first in a series of five connected books, so I hope you’ll come back and read it! Just think, by coming back to VenusImaging.com every month, you’ll get to read this previously published book for FREE! And as always, to keep up with my new releases and announcements, go to my website at http://www.ridaallen.com