Going Under Page 27

“Where are they? I want mine now,” Harley informed me.

“Harley, I know you’re excited, but what do we say about patience?” I reminded him.

“A man who masters patience can master anything,” he sang in a knowingly voice.

The Stevens seemed like a nice family and I was grateful for them providing Harley and Ozzy with a stable home, but I admit it irritated me to have to ask permission to spend time with my own brothers since I was the one that had parented them since their births four and five years ago.

“I need to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Stevens first, and if it’s alright with them, I want to take you out for a little while.”

The boys pulled on my arms, dragging me toward the house. “Ask them now cause I know they’ll say yes.”

I went in the house and spent a little time with Mr. and Mrs. Stevens and they were very complimentary about the boys’ behavior. When I asked permission to take the boys out for the afternoon, they agreed to allow me three hours with them and I thought the park sounded like a good idea.

I didn’t know if Mr. and Mrs. Stevens would have a birthday cake for Harley and Ozzy, so I bought them a small cake and put four candles on one side and five on the other. We sat at a picnic table and I sang happy birthday to them and let them blow out their candles and make a wish.

“I wished for you to come live with us at Brian and Heather’s house,” Harley informed me.

“Harley, you’re not supposed to tell anyone what you wished for or it won’t come true,” I told him.

He shrugged his shoulders. “It ain’t gonna come true anyway, so it don’t matter no way.”

“You never know,” I encouraged.

Ozzy piped in and said, “I’m not telling what my wish was cause I want it to come true.”

I put a piece of cake in front of Harley and he looked at Ozzy. “Don’t get your hopes up.”

“Sometimes hope is all you have, so you shouldn’t take that away from him, Harley.”

I passed some cake to Ozzy and his face broke into a huge grin. “Chocolate. My favorite.”

They finished their cake then opened the gifts I bought for them. I didn’t have much money to spend, so it was a good thing it didn’t take expensive gifts to please them.

My time with the boys was too short, but I returned them to Brian and Heather when the three hours were up and then the worst part came. They cried and begged me to not leave them, so I made promises to see them again soon. As I pulled away, I promised myself that we would be together as a family again one day. I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off, but I would find a way to make it happen.

25 Kiss and Tell


I opened my front door and Payton shouted, “Start from the beginning because I want to know everything.”

I stepped back from the door. “Would you like to get through the door first?”

She barged through the door. “I want to hear about some heat, so don’t you dare give me the spicy edit version. I want the full Monty.”

We plopped down on the couch together. “I’m so crazy about him, Payton. The feelings I have for him are so different from the way I felt about Forbes. They are so intense and I know what people are going to think and say about us, but I don’t care. I honestly don’t care.”

She pointed her finger at me. “That’s called love-the real and authentic kind. I know I said some harsh things about him and I’m sorry for judging, but I want you to be happy and if it’s him that does that, then I say go for it.”

“Thank you for understanding. I don’t know what I’d do if you didn’t.” Then it dawned on me she didn’t approve of Forbes, so this really was a step up.

She raised up to sit on her leg, making herself comfortable on the sofa. “Tell me all about last night.”

“He spent the night,” I squealed loudly.

Payton covered her hand with her mouth while bugging her eyes at me. “No friggin’ way. Did you play carpenter and let him nail you?”

She had such a way with words. “How romantic, but the answer is no. We did not play carpenter.”

She looked at me suspiciously and asked, “Did you plan that without telling me?”

“No, it didn’t go down the way you’re thinking. I’m still having a little trouble believing what happened,” I explained.

She screeched in frustration. “What happened? You’re killing me here.”

I reiterated every detail about the previous night and she sat in disbelief.

“Claire, you’ll need to thank Forbes for that stupid move later because you couldn’t have planned it better if you tried. What’s killing me is that I can’t believe you slept with him in your bed and didn’t let him hit it. Who’s urge meter was on the fritz-his or yours?”

There was nothing wrong with my urge department. “No, both of our meters were 100% intact and he had to make me cool my jets.”

She lifted her eyebrows and nodded at me. “You are so going to do him. I can tell.”

I slapped her on the leg. “Payton! You know I’m not like that.”

She laughed at me and said, “Maybe you weren’t like that with Forbes, but things are different between you and Jessie. He does something to you that Forbes never could. I saw it the first day of school. He’s your wonderwall.”

“My wonderwall?”

“Yeah. You know, the person you’re in love with and think about all the time,” she explained.

I began nodding. “Yeah, I guess he is my wonderwall because I love him. I really, truly, madly love him. Now, I have to tell my parents about him. He’s coming next weekend to meet them and I’m nervous about what they’ll think of him. He’ so different from what they’re use to with Forbes.”

“It could a little culture shock for them, but it will be good for them and I think they’ll eventually be okay with the relationship once they get to know him and get past the whole sexy convict appearance.”

I hated it when she called him that. “You’ve got to stop saying that about him. He’s not a convict. He is a law abiding citizen. In fact, he wants to be a lawyer.”

When she recovered from her brief moment of shock, she said,“Whoa, wasn’t expecting that.”

“Me either,” I admitted.

“Surely, that will score some points with your parents,” she encouraged.

I didn’t want to consider the outcome of their disapproval. “I hope so because I don’t know what I’d do if they don’t approve of him. I’m not willing to give him up because they think he’s not good enough or not the right kind of guy for me.”

We heard the door from the garage open and my mom called out, “We’re home.”

“In here,” I announced from the living room.

My mom came into the living room and sat in the chair across from me and Payton.

“Have a good time?” I asked my mom.

She sat up so properly with perfect posture even after driving for hours in the car. “Yes. It was wonderful to get away from the hospital and the constant beeping of the pager. We should do it more often because I feel so refreshed.”

I was definitely fine with them getting away more often because that potentially meant more sleepovers with Jessie. “You should do it more often because you and Dad deserve a break from all the chaos.”

She told us about their short weekend trip to the mountains while Dad unloaded the car. When she finished, she asked about my weekend and I wondered if it was the right time to bring up Jessie and my break up with Forbes.

Dad had not questioned me about seeing me kissing Jessie at the hospital, but I was positive he would have told my mom. I decided Payton’s presence could be the ideal buffer for this conversation, so I decided to go for it.

I told her, “Mom, I have some news for you and Dad. I broke up with Forbes this weekend.”

She relaxed her pasture and leaned back into the chair, positioning herself as she did when she was in the counseling mode.“Would your break up have anything to do with a certain young man you were seen kissing in the emergency room earlier this week?”

I knew my dad wouldn’t have kept it from her. “Yes and no. I say no because I don’t think I’ve ever had girlfriend type feelings for Forbes, but I say yes because I didn’t see that until I met Jessie.”

She seemed pleased with what I was sharing with her. “So, the mystery boy’s name is Jessie?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’ve been feeling a little left out since I was the only one that hadn’t met this Jessie,” she confessed.

“I’ve asked him to come over next weekend if you and Dad are free. I want you to meet him because I know you’ll both think he’s as wonderful as I do,” I reassured her.

“We’re both off next weekend, so I think that will work, but I’ll need to check with your dad first,” she agreed, then asked, “Is he cute?”

Was he ever! I think I wanted to have babies with him just so my kids might have a chance of getting his eyes.

I giggled at my silly thought and said, “Mom, he is so gorgeous. He has the most captivating blue eyes I’ve ever seen.”

My mom smiled as though she was happy for me. “You look so giddy. You’re beaming just talking about him. I’m glad you’ve moved on from Forbes even if it might be a little awkward with the Hendersons. I’ve known for a long time that he didn’t have the it factor for you and I can tell by the look on your face that this new guy in your life certainly isn’t lacking it.”

I decided to get it all off my chest and put it out in the open. “I’ve been so scared that you and Dad would be upset with me for breaking up with Forbes.”

“We love the Hendersons, but we would never want you to date their son if you didn’t want to. We knew it was only a matter of time before someone else would come along to strike your fancy and it looks like the time is here.”

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