I did write Stellan that letter like the cab driver suggested. I folded it up, put it in an envelope, and placed it on my kitchen counter.
It’s now two weeks later and it is still sitting on my kitchen counter.
I never knew how long two was exactly until now.
Two weeks is fourteen days.
Two weeks is three hundred and thirty six hours.
Two weeks is twenty thousand, one hundred, and sixty minutes.
Two weeks is exactly a lifetime in my eyes.
Two weeks is when I finally snapped, forced myself to clean my apartment and myself, and decided it was time to join the real world for human contact.
I was over talking to myself. I was over talking to inanimate objects and I was over giving myself horrible advice.
I looked in my rear view window and watched as Maddie sat content in her booster seat. She was clutching the stuff animal that Stellan had chosen for her tightly in her arms. She definitely didn’t lie when she said it was her favorite present. From what Walsh had told me, she didn’t let the toy leave her side except for her bath and when she went to school.
When I saw the toy, it brought a flood of Stellan memories back into my mind and I begged her to leave it at her house but she refused. I even tried bribery and despite her six-year-old mind, candy, money, and any toy in the world wasn’t going to pry that toy from her hands.
“You really do love that toy?” I asked.
A big smile crossed her face. “It’s my favorite.”
“Do you need new batteries for it yet?”
She shook her head. “Did you give it a name?”
“What did you name it?”
“Why Stellan?” I asked, holding back tears.
“Duh, because he’s your prince charming and he gave it to me.”
How could I be so stupid her voice mocked me? Right. Duh. “Stellan’s a nice name,” I sighed.
“Are we there yet?”
“About fifteen more minutes or so. Why?”
“This seat hurts my butt,” she answered. “It’s not like the one in Daddy’s car.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” When I decided to rejoin the real world, it had not been the welcoming I had hoped for. I had immediately been suckered into picking Maddie up and taking her to a doctor’s appointment that Walsh couldn’t make. Of course, while I had her out, I was also tasked with taking her clothes shopping and to lunch. We had successfully done one of the three things on Walsh’s list. The doctor appointment should have been called a doctor suggestion of time. Her nine o’ clock sharp appointment was dilly dally in the lobby for thirty minutes and then a forty-five minute wait in the room for the doctor to even show up. The handsome and very married doctor spent a total of fifteen minutes with Maddie and then left. Of course we weren’t done then. Maddie and I had another thirty minutes of waiting time while they filled her prescription. By the time we left the doctor’s office, I was tired, hungry, and cranky. Maddie on the other hand was just fine.
Why couldn’t I be six and content with a stuffed animal?
Why did I have to be thirty-four, head over heels in love yet broken hearted, and with a book coming out that I was praying didn’t flop?
Yep, being a kid had a lot of perks that I wanted. Mostly it was heartache free and boys were weird cootie infested humans that were only good to catch frogs and kill bugs.
Sighing, I realized that boys were still weird, some were cootie infested, and most were only good for killing bugs and hailing cabs.
“Do you have a prince charming?”
Smiling, Maddie shook her head vigorously.
“Stay young as you can,” I said to her.
“Daddy says that to me too,” she said. “I think he doesn’t want me to grow up.”
“Being a grown up is no fun,” I replied.
“We don’t get to take naps and we don’t get to color,” I answered.
“Do you get to play with toys?”
I shook my head as I pulled into the parking lot of Pizza E Vino. “Are you ready for pizza?”
“Pizza!” Maddie squealed. “Can we get one with pepperonis on it?”
“We sure can.”
“Yay!” She let out another squeal and pumped her arms up and down in celebration.
We got out of the car and walked hand in hand into the restaurant.
“Miss Anna,” Vincent said with a smile. “What a lovely surprise.”
“Hello Vincent,” I said and hugged him. “This is my niece Maddie.”
He knelt down and greeted her.
She giggled when he kissed the back of her hand and then hugged him.
“Will Stellan be joining you?”
“No,” I answered, following him to a table. “It’s just me and Maddie, but her dad will be joining us.”
“Will you tell Stellan hello for me?”
“I’ll try,” I answered as he helped Maddie into her seat. “We’re not exactly speaking right now.”
Vincent eyed me. “Are you okay? Did he do something bad?”
I smiled. I liked that he thought Stellan was the bad guy. “I’ll be fine eventually,” I answered, “and it was all me. I get in my own way.”
“Things will work out between you,” he said, pulling out my chair. “You two had a chemistry. You’re destined to be together.”
“I can only hope,” I replied and sat down.
Vincent took our order and then disappeared into the restaurant.
“I like him,” Maddie said as she leaned onto the table.
“He’s good people,” I replied, eyeing our table. The candle centerpiece had been replaced with a container of crayons and a small vase with a flower in it. It was still as cozy as the first time I had come, but it felt more family friendly during the day than it did at night. “Want to draw on the paper?”
Maddie’s eyes grew big. “Can we?”
Nodding, I slid the box of crayons to her. “This is what the paper is for,” I said, taking a red crayon out and spelling her name on it.
“This is my new favorite place to eat pizza,” she said as she started drawing on the paper.
“It’s mine too,” I answered. Of course her reasoning and mine didn’t have anything to do with each other. She liked that she got to draw on the table. I liked that my first date with Stellan had been here. Glancing over my shoulder, I looked to the spot where we sat and a family of five was at our table, laughing and talking. I sighed and returned my attention to Maddie. I realized I was just going to have to make new memories here, ones that didn’t involve Stellan.
As we waited for our lunch, Maddie kept me occupied by talking about this, that, and the other. I had no idea the child could talk as much as she did. She was only quiet when she took a sip of her drink. When my phone rang, I was quite relieved to see Walsh’s name appear on the screen. “It’s your daddy,” I said, holding the phone up to my ear. “Hello.”
“Where are you?”
“Pizza E Vino.”
“It was close to the doctor’s office.”
“Her appointment could have been in another state and you would have chosen that place as your lunch anyway wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” I sighed. “Are you joining us?”
“I’ll be there in fifteen.”
“See you then.”
“And don’t give her anything with caffeine in it.”
“Too late, but that explains why she’s so chatty.”
Walsh sighed into the phone. “I hate you.”
“Bye,” I said and hung up the phone. I put the phone down and looked at Maddie. She was waving at someone behind me. “Who are you waiving at?” I asked.
“That man,” she said.
I turned in my seat and felt the air in my lungs leave my body. I quickly turned back around and felt tears swelling in my eyes. Of course it was Stellan she was waving at. Life was cruel and hateful like that.
“Why are you crying Anna?” Maddie asked, putting her tiny hand on my shoulder.
I wiped at my face and smiled at her. “That’s Stellan,” I answered.
She jumped out of her seat, grabbed her toy, and ran across the restaurant. Closing my eyes, I couldn’t bring myself to run after her. I made sure I was tear free and glanced over my shoulder as Maddie talked to him and the super beautiful blonde woman sitting at the table with him. I heard Vincent’s words from our first date slip through my ears. He’s never brought a woman in here before you.
My heart crumbled in my chest like a sandcastle touched by the tide.
I guess now he was free to bring any woman he wanted into the restaurant.
Taking a deep breath, I turned my back to them. Why did I leave my apartment again? Why did I decide on this restaurant of all days? What did I do to upset the gods? I wanted to look back again but couldn’t stop the tears from pouring out of my eyes. I figured Maddie would grow bored with them and come back to me or perhaps maybe she would like their company better and just abandon me all together as well.
“He’s nice,” Maddie said as she walked up to the table.
I couldn’t respond. I’m sure if I tried all that would have escaped from my mouth would be one loud, gasping, sob. I picked Maddie up and put her in my lap.
“Don’t cry Anna,” she said and wiped at my tears. “Please don’t cry.”
She threw her arms around me and hugged me as tightly as she could and I held onto her as if she was the only thing I had left in my life.
I was breaking down in public with Stellan sitting twenty feet behind me. If there were anyone above watching over me, they would send a lightning bolt to put me out of my misery right now.
No lightning bolt came though.
Maddie was kind of enough to let me hold onto her until Walsh arrived at to the table.
“Daddy, make her stop crying,” she said, slithering out of my arms. “Please.”
“What’s wrong?” Walsh asked, sitting in the chair next to me.
“Honey, it’s been two weeks,” he said, putting his arm across my shoulders.
“He’s here,” I whispered. “He’s here with another woman.”
“Where?” Walsh asked, sitting on the edge of his seat.
Before Maddie could blurt out where, I grabbed her and held her close to me. “Don’t say anything Maddie.”
“I’m going to go talk to him. Calmly. Man to man.”
“No, you’re not,” I said and glanced at him.
“I’m your big brother. I’ll do whatever the hell I want.”
“Not now Maddie.”
“But that was a bad word.”
“I know sweetie. Daddy’s sorry he said it, but Anna is sad right now and all I want to do is fix it.”
Maddie nodded. “Can I sit down now?”
“I’m sorry,” I said to her. I helped her into her seat and she resumed drawing on the paper as if she didn’t have a crazy aunt sitting next to her crying her eyeballs out.
“Where is he?”
“No,” I snapped. “You are not doing this to me.”
“Because I have very little dignity left right now and I don’t need you throwing the rest of it out into the trash.”
“Walsh, please,” I begged. “Just let me put my coat on and leave.”
“Is that what you want?”
“I’d prefer that lightning strike me dead right now but I’m sure that’s not going to happen.” I slid my jacket on and grabbed my purse off the back of the chair. I dug around for my keys, found them, and threw forty bucks on table. “Please.”
Walsh nodded. “Fine.”
“Thank you,” I sighed, “and pleased don’t say anything to him after I leave.”
“I can’t promise you that.”
“I beg you.”
Walsh shrugged his shoulders. “You better go before I change my mind.”
I nodded and stood. I wasn’t sure how I was going to leave without Stellan seeing me in a teary mess or how I was going leave without seeing him. I just took a deep breath, spun around on my heel, and walked out as fast as I could. As I sprinted to my car, I unlocked the door and still prayed for lightning. I climbed into my car and drove out of the parking lot as fast as my car could carry me. I ran a red light and ran almost head on into a turning freight truck. Sliding by the truck by a hair, I pulled into the next parking garage and drove all the way to the top.
I sat in my car for the next hour crying and cursing everything but Stellan’s existence. Even though he was with another woman, I still couldn’t find the emotion inside of me to hate him.
I was definitely madly in love with him or just definitely mad.
It was a toss up and anyone’s call at this point in the game.
This page copyright © 2009 Shelia Taylor
All rights reserved | This is an excerpt of the rough draft and not the final version