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Kristina M. Bailey

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What It Takes
By Kristina M. Bailey
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

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What It Takes

The warm morning sun showed its bright, yellow beam through sheer, white panels that hung elegantly over the slightly opened, bedroom window. I could feel the light breeze that blew through the screen onto my face and the smell of honeysuckle and freshly cut grass sweetened my senses. I woke slowly and yawned as I gazed out the window at the pond occupied by our milking cows splashing to cool off from the summer heat. That sound always made me want to close my eyes and wish for my mother and the times we spent together rocking on the front porch. While I sat there, watching our cattle, my thoughts drifted afar to my most blissful childhood memories. We would listen to the sounds of God’s creatures and even then, I remember the splashing from the pond and the nearby evening frogs would gather around it and call for company as the night fell dark and the stars winked at us both from over head.

I was raised on this farm. I have memories of chasing butterflies in the meadow that was over populated with white and yellow daisies.

Despite owning and operating Myers’ Publishing firm, my parents nourished this
prosperous and respectable farm. Our horses were well known, in local and traveling shows, as best bred.
I hoped, one day, for the same happiness and loyalty.

I had been living in Chicago with Jack Kerrington, a man that I had met and fell in love with in college. We clashed in every way but I loved him. Sometimes, when we were apart, my heart ached just to be near him. My tolerance, and the fact that he had been my only serious relationship since high school, kept us together.

The count down to our wedding day was growing closer and I wanted to spend that day at home, with my family, in Pennington Gap, Virginia.

I hoped for a very adventurous day. Weddings are always a headache as well as the most important day in a girl’s life. There are always so many things to do and so many people you tell yourself to count on. When that person is you, you don’t need to marry. I learned this lesson the hardest way and the only way for a twenty-six-year-old girl, who was usually accused of living in the past and wishing she was still in high school and was still the center of attention.

As I laid there thinking these things to myself, I heard my father call for me from the kitchen. “Lyssa, pumpkin, are you awake?” And he also added, “Darling, come and have some juice with me.”

“I’m coming, daddy!” I answered.

He always called for me by that name. It was never Alyssa. My mother always called me Lyssie. After my mother died, he changed my nickname. I guess that helps him to forget some of the habits that reminded him of her.

I made my way to the kitchen while rubbing my eyes and yawning. “Daddy, I’m twenty-six now. You don’t have to give me a wake up call every morning.”

“You are never too old to eat an early morning breakfast with your father. You’ll always be my little girl no matter how old you may be.” He smiled and pretended to be so interested in his Saturday morning paper.

“I’ve been here for one day and already, you’re giving me that speech!” I teased him.

I sipped my juice and stared at him. He seemed so strong to me. The strongest man I have ever known. My father was always neatly dressed and his work seldom left his mind. Sometimes, I think he liked to bury himself in his work so he wouldn’t think of troublesome things lurking around him. Jack reminded me a lot of my father. His work was his life and nothing else came before it.

I stared at him and noticed a tiny grin from the corner of his mouth that seemed to grow larger with every glance he made at me. “Daddy, is there something you want to tell me?”

“Lyssa, I have a very important question to ask you. I want you to think about coming to work with me. I will retire next year and I don’t want to turn the publishing company over to just anyone. I want it to stay in the family and I know you can do it.” He knew, the last time he asked me this question, I turned him down.

I pulled my long, blonde hair back into a neat ponytail and rolled my eyes. “You know that I’m getting married next month. I want to settle down and start a family. Jack makes enough money for both of us. I can stay home with the babies and have more time to do the things that I’ve always wanted.”

“Babies?” He raised his eyebrow.

“I will have some children one day. You just wait and watch me!” I joked.

“This will give you a year to learn the ropes.” Daddy crumpled his paper into his lap and folded his hands underneath his chin. “It would mean the world to me if you just say that you will.”

“Jack and I have talked about this before.” I paused and noticed the disappointment spread across his face. “Look, I’ll speak with him again and then, I’ll let you know. But no promises!” I eased from my seat and kissed his fore head. “I’m taking a shower. Jack is suppose to call soon to let me know how early that he will arrive from Chicago. I’m hoping that he’ll be here in time for me to show him what I’ve planned with our wedding so far. I plan on finishing the shopping today.”

“So, you are going shopping this morning?” Daddy asked as he followed me into my bedroom and leaned against the facing of the door.

“Yes, Megan is going with me.” I answered.

“Megan Malloy? The one that works for me?” He rubbed his head.

“Yes, daddy. Are you going to give me a curfew? Do you want to know which mall we are going to?” I wanted to be funny but my father never was one for sarcasm.

He stared at me as if he was lost in time. He took a deep breath and turned to leave. Just as he moved away from the doorway, he looked over his shoulder. “I love you, pumpkin. Don’t let Jack tell you how to live your life. Just promise me that this is what you want and if you want to take over the company, you won’t let him stop you. This is a great opportunity.”

“Daddy, trust me. This is what I have always wanted.” I replied.

I thought a lot about what my father had said to me that day. He was never a man of many words but, in some strange way, he did seem to get his point across. He just wanted me to be happy and that was what I would finally be.

I turned on the shower and felt the warm, wet drops saturate my skin. I closed my eyes and pretended Jack’s efficacious hands were caressing the most sensitive areas of my body. I could feel the warmth from his skin against mine and the essence of my imagination made me want him that much more. I didn’t have these episodes very often but I had been away from him for two days and I was already missing him like crazy. I wanted to reach out and he would be there. But he was not. I turned the knob to cease the waterfall above me and grabbed for a towel to wrap around my soaked body.

Suddenly, the phone blared across the room. I rushed to answer, hoping to hear Jack’s voice on the other end. “Hello, Jack?”

“No! It’s just your best friend in the world!” Megan exclaimed. “Are you ready yet?”

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Are we meeting at the Mall?” I wanted to be sure.

Megan laughed and said, “Of course, they not only have a Victoria’s Secrets outlet; they also have a great place to eat too. Have you ever been to Garfield’s restaurant?”

“I don’t think so. We’ll meet there. Jack hasn’t called me yet this morning but I’m pretty sure that daddy will take the message for me.” I answered.

Megan giggled, “Ok, I know you’ll love it! See you then.”

I stood still in front of a mirror speaking to the person staring back into my emerald eyes. “You are getting married next month. You are going to live happily ever after and live a fairy tale life that will be the envy of every girl in Pennington Gap.”

The day was beginning to slip away quickly and by now, I knew Jack wasn’t going to call until late. I slipped on my light blue, denim jeans and tucked into them a white, pocket T-shirt.

“Daddy!” I called as I was rushing out the door. “I’ll be at the Mall if you need me! Please take a message when Jack calls!”

“I will, pumpkin! I love you!” He replied.

“You, too!” I called as I hopped out the front door.

On my way to meet Megan, I thought to myself about how great it would be to finally be married and take care of someone. I wanted my own furniture, I wanted to wash my own dishes, clean my own laundry, and shop for groceries all by myself. I wanted to do something on my own and something that I knew I would be good at. I wanted everything that came along with being married. My idea of marriage was actually that of a fairy tale.

I met Megan standing in front of a restaurant, with a flashing, green sign that read Garfield’s.

We were seated in a dark corner filled with old, antique figurines and tarnished musical instruments. Around us, people sat and carried on conversations and drank their beverages from the mason jars the waiters had provided them.

“This place is amazing. I can’t believe I have never been in here.” I looked at Megan and noticed her reading a menu that I hadn’t yet felt under my elbows, resting on the table.

“So, how long have you been back from Chicago?” Megan asked.

I studied for a moment and answered, “I arrived last night. I wanted to have the wedding in my home town.”

“What does Jack think of that? When am I going to get to meet him anyway?” Megan laid the menu down and noticed our waiter moving toward our table.

“Tonight, I hope. He says that he doesn’t care where we have it. He really wants to elope.”

The waiter took our menus and wrote down our orders. I noticed Megan staring at me so I asked, “What?”

“He wants to elope?” She answered.

“Don’t all men just want to elope? I mean, we all really don’t want to go through with ordering the flowers and money spending and then, family members telling you how grown up you are. And how, it seemed like, just yesterday you were being bounced on their knee. I understand his point. It would be a lot cheaper and less hassle.” I explained.

“Well, if you say so.” Megan grinned and whispered across the table, “How did he propose?”

“Well,” I sighed and watched my feet swing in a small circle underneath me. “It was Valentine’s day, last year, and I had been waiting all day for him to come home so we could exchange gifts. We had been dating for three years and I had been hinting for quite a while about what I was expecting. He came in and handed me a box and said, ‘isn’t this what you wanted?’”

“You have got to be kidding me! He didn’t get down on one knee or nothing?” Megan asked surprised.

“Nope. But I was tickled to get the ring after begging him for so long.” I answered.

Megan shook her head and said, “You shouldn’t have to beg, honey. I can’t believe he didn’t do anything special.”

“Well, he had been working all day and probably just didn’t have time to plan anything.” I knew how I was sounding. I wanted to tell her that he took me to watch the sunset somewhere and we ended up making love until dawn. And then, when he took me to breakfast the next morning, he slipped the ring into my juice.

“Girl, I don’t know much about Jack but I would keep a real close eye on him. I’m not jumping to conclusions, I’m just saying that you need to keep your eyes open and not be blinded by what you think you want.” Megan knew I was leery about this whole wedding deal and didn’t know how to not trust anyone.

“Why don’t you think about coming to work with me at the company. Clarence would love for his daughter to follow in his footsteps.” Megan smiled. “We could go to lunch together everyday and I can talk you out of getting married! You need to live a little! Go to the club with me tonight! It will be fun! I’ll introduce you to some people I work with. You’ll love it, trust me!”

“I don’t think so.” I answered her. I wanted to go with Megan so badly but I knew that Jack would be home later on and I wanted to surprise him with something romantic.

“I’ll be there to get you around six o’clock.” Megan grinned.

I snarled my nose and said, “I’m not going. There is nothing for me at a club. I just want to see Jack. In five years, I haven’t been away from him this long.”

“You’re going.” Megan said as we both rummaged around in our pockets for loose change to tip the waiter.

The afternoon fell swift into evening and the cool night air made me shiver. Our shopping was finished and I had everything I needed for a perfect wedding day. I arrived home and checked my messages on my answering machine.

“Daddy! Did Jack call?” I yelled through the house.

He answered, “No, pumpkin. He must be caught in traffic.”

I fussed to myself as I stomped through the hallway to my bedroom. “I can’t believe he hasn’t called! I can only imagine what he’s doing. It looks like, he would want to come home to see his fiancé that he hasn’t seen in two days. I can’t believe he’s not here! He’d better be here when I get home tonight! I’ll let him have it!”

I waited for him for hours and became angrier by the minute. I picked up the telephone and called Megan. Before she could say a word, I said, “Come and get me. I’m going to that club with you.” I slammed the phone onto its receiver and rushed to the bathroom to adjust my hair. I slipped into a clingy, red dress and slipped my dainty feet into high-heeled pumps. The night was young and I intended on making the most of it. Maybe Jack would beat me home, this time, and wonder where I was for a change.

Chapter 2

Megan pulled into the driveway and met me at the door. I felt my blonde hair bounce against my shoulders in the light breeze blowing from the trees.

“Wow, Alyssa, you look fantastic.” Megan noticed the dress that she had let me borrow about two years ago. I still think she was jealous that I could still fit into it.

I smiled as she turned to get back into her little, green cavalier and said, “You look really good, too. Where are we going?”

“To Tennessee. It’s a place called The Planet. There’s a couple of friends there that I want you to meet.”

The night seemed empty without Jack beside me. I felt so guilty riding in that car with Megan. I wondered where Jack could be and why he didn’t call. My heart was pounding so I took a deep breath, to try to ease the tension, and adjusted my dress. The car was silent. Other than the music playing on the radio, neither of us made a sound.

Megan finally broke the silence by saying, “You need to forget him, sweetie. Just have some fun. We aren’t doing anything wrong and as far as you know, neither is he.”

“I know, but it seems like I’ve spent the last five years waiting on him. It’s me! Why didn’t I think of it before?” I felt tears begin to puddle in my eyes and I tried not to cry.

Megan looked at me as if I had said a four-letter word and asked, “What? You? How can it be you? You are so pretty and you’re funny as hell. Why do you think it’s you?”

“Maybe I’m rushing him. Maybe I’m too young to get married.” I sobbed.

“Look, just let me introduce you to some friends. Trust me, you’ll be fine. Just mingle and have a good time. And for once, let go.” Megan assured me.

I knew she was up to something. When Megan said she wanted me to meet some friends, what she really meant was, she would introduce me to one guy and then she would leave me standing there with him. It’s funny how girlfriends are like that. More than likely, this person is a guy she’s been trying to get rid of for the past few months. The kind that keeps calling and meeting you after work even after you’ve put it to him bluntly that you don’t want anything else to do with him. I didn’t need that. All I wanted was Jack’s attention on me and nothing else. Not his buddies, not his hobbies, and not his job. I wondered if a lot if it was just me or if every couple goes through the phase that you don’t feel that important any more. Like he thinks more of being with his friends and playing than being snuggled up with you all night. After all of these thoughts ran through my head, I realized that Megan was right. I had never taken risks in my life. I was always the good girl who got invited to the wild, high school parties but never went in fear that my parents would take away my license or my privileges of doing the things, that I thought then, were cool.

I switched the station, on the radio, and heard the lyrics of a song that played over and over in my head. The first time that I ever heard this tune; I knew it would be special. I couldn’t recall the name of it, at that time, but I did refer to it as the ‘kiss me’ song.

We arrived at a building surrounded with flashing, neon lights. The inside was filled with drunken people dancing and laughing. I noticed Megan looking around the dance floor and laughing at strange outfits.

“I don’t think I should be here!” My voice seemed faint over the loud music and noise of the crowd.

“Come on! I see Carmen!” She spoke into my ear.

“Who’s Carmen?” I asked. “You can actually see in here?”

We pushed our way through the crowd and sat down at a table occupied by friends that I hadn’t seen in years. Everyone stared at me as if I had something growing out of my head.

“Alyssa? Is that you?” Carmen stood up and threw her arms around my neck. “I could hardly recognize you! How have you been?”

“I’m great. Just wanted a night out of the house! You look absolutely perfect! I don’t think I’ve seen you since high school!” I acted as if I was happy to see her, but to be totally honest; I hated her the whole time. And, to me, it did look as if she had gained a little weight.

“Megan tells us that you are getting married soon.” Carmen asked loudly.

“Uh, yes. I am planning on staying in Pennington Gap with my father until the wedding is over.” I was trying to avoid going into great detail.

“I had better get an invitation! After all, we have been friends since the first grade!” Carmen giggled and straightened her perfect, black hair and her clingy black dress with the V neck line leaving nothing at all to the imagination.

“Oh! Of course you’ll get an invitation.” I said to her while in the back of my mind I was thinking how I’d love to give her a good beating. My fist between her eyeballs would like quite nice with that bright red lip stick. Hideous!

“Let’s walk over to the corner. I see someone that will cheer you up!” Megan took my arm and guided me to the stage. She must have sensed the thoughts running through my mind at the time. Then again, it could’ve been that look I had on my face. You know, the “you’d better not touch me” look.

The music was blaring loudly in my ear and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. As we approached the stage, I noticed a familiar figure standing in the dark light of the neon bulb burning above him and surrounded by the smoke. Even with his back turned toward me, he still seemed very familiar. Suddenly, he turned around. My heart felt as if it had plummeted to my feet and my pulse began to race. I couldn’t stand up straight and any movement of my body seemed impossible. I knew who this person was!

“Lance! I can’t believe it is you!” I dropped my purse and threw my arms around his neck. His embrace felt so comfortable and a long time needed.

He smiled and kissed my cheek. “Where have you been all my life?”

“What? I can’t hear you over the music!” I spoke into his ear.

“Let’s move toward the bar!” Lance rested his hand on the small of my back and guided me to the bar.

He smiled and sat on a tall stool beside of me. “I said, where have you been all of my life?”

“Cheap line. I’ve been in Chicago.” I smiled flirtatiously and batted my eyes at the man I remembered from my teenage years as my best friend.

“What were you doing in Chicago?” He asked.

“Well, I’m getting married next month and I moved there with Jack when he took a job as junior vice president of Carson Contractors.” I answered as I bent down to retrieve the purse that I had dropped again.

“Wow. Sounds like you’re doing great. Jack? Is that what you said his name is?” Lance handed me a drink from the bar behind him.

“Yes, Jack Kerrington is his name.” I answered.

Lance shook his head in disbelief and smiled from the corner of his beautiful lips. His eyes were so brown and it felt as if they were magnetically pulling me toward him. He looked so good to me, standing there, with his blue Henley shirt tucked into baggy jeans and a baseball cap turned around backwards. I didn’t realize how much I had missed him until he turned toward me and smiled. I didn’t want that moment to end for it had been so long since we had spoken.

Lance brushed my hair from my shoulder and said, “You look great. You haven’t changed at all. I can’t believe you are getting married. Hickey-fied country girl meets city pretty boy.”

“Well, I’ll be an old maid soon. And besides, I couldn’t wait on you forever!” I laughed and watched every move he made.

Lance hugged me. I could smell his cologne lightly from his neck and closed my eyes to savor the moment with my old friend. He looked into my eyes and said, “It’s good to see you. Are you coming to work with us? Your father, Clarence, mentioned that you may be taking over in the next year.”

“I don’t think so. Jack doesn’t really want me to work and I don’t think I can run a company. Megan never mentioned to me that you work with her.” I watched him run his finger over the rim of his mug.

“All I do is run errands and keep the books in order.” Lance set his mug onto the counter and asked, “Do you want to dance?”

“I would love to.” I replied. In the back of my mind I was thinking, Yes! Oh yes! He wants to dance!

He took my hand and led me to the crowded dance floor. I couldn’t really see anyone and the band played so loudly. All we could do was speak into each other’s ear. At this moment, I forgot all about Jack. I had never felt so lost. I had never felt so pretty and light on my feet. He held me so close and I closed my eyes to wish it would never end. But a good song always ends.

“Hey, guys!” Megan came toward us with Carmen following close behind. “Alyssa, are you ready to go?”

“Uh, sure, I suppose.” But in the back of my mind, I could here my voice straining, no! Look at this man! Would you be ready to leave? “Lance, thank you for the dance, I really enjoyed-.” My mind took over the rest here. I was wanting to say that I really enjoyed your arms around me and staring at those sexy jaws! And those arms! Oh, those arms held me so tightly and the way his butt looked in those jeans! Oh my goodness, let me die now! But, I didn’t say what I was thinking at all. Instead, after my thoughts interrupted, I started over. “I really enjoyed the talk and I hope I see you again.”

He smiled. I know he knew what was going through my mind. My facial expression always gives it away. “You’re welcome. Maybe we’ll bump into eachother again soon.”

Lance kissed my cheek and I glanced over my shoulder at him when I turned my back. I didn’t want to leave but I did. An image stood out in my mind of Lance standing in front of me. His dark hair and big, brown eyes gave me shivers and wanting to touch his broad shoulders and feel his arms placed on my back just so. He had a beard that shadowed his chin and jaws. I wanted to go back and look into his eyes just one more time.

Megan glanced at me from the corner of her eye as we pulled out of the parking lot. “Well.” She uttered sarcastically.

“Well what?” I knew what she was going to say.

“You and Lance sure seemed to have a lot to talk about.” Megan grinned.

I sat there twiddling my fingers and answered, “He was one of my best friends in high school. I was just glad to see him, that’s all.”

“Uh-huh.” Megan smiled and said, “You know he works with me now, don’t you?”

“He told me. Why didn’t you ever say anything?” I slapped her shoulder.

“I knew you guys were good friends but it really didn’t enter my mind. You were in Chicago!” Megan drove on and smiled when she glanced over at me. “And besides, you’re getting married, remember?”

“I can’t wait to get home. I know Jack will be there.” I could feel a knot pitted in my stomach. I didn’t want Jack to know that I went to a club and if he did find out, I would never hear the end of it.

We pulled onto the port and I noticed Jack’s blazer parked in the driveway. The air smelt sweet and the wind blew just right through my golden hair. I opened the door and turned to say goodbye to Megan.

“Call me tomorrow.” I said to her.

She smiled and said, “I’ll think about it! Thanks for going with me.”

The front door opened and a familiar shadow walked onto the porch. When he stepped into the light, I could see a smile spread on Jack’s face. He moved toward me and kissed my lips.

“I’ve missed you.” He whispered.

Jack’s hands cupped my cheeks into his palms and he kissed me again. I could feel a light touch of his tongue on my lips. His hands moved over the curve of my hips and around to my back. He sat down on the dew kissed grass and pulled my hands toward him.

“What are you doing?” I whispered.

“I want you.” Jack answered softly.

I pulled my sleeve back up onto my shoulder and said, “Daddy is right in the house! We can’t do this out here.”

“Shh-.” He said and then unzipped the back of my red dress and slipped his hand onto my bare body.

I lay on my back and looked up at the stars spread in millions across the sky. Jack had never acted this way and as I felt his warm body against me, I also felt ashamed of the feelings that had come over me while dancing with Lance.

Suddenly, a bright light showed in the dark from a room above our heads. The door opened and my father stepped out onto the porch. Jack leaped up and pulled on his jeans. My dress was completely soaked from the dew resting on the blades of grass below me.

“Lyssa? Is that you, pumpkin?” Daddy called from the porch in a rob that wrapped around his plump body.

“Yes, daddy, it’s me.” I answered.

He called back to me as he started back into the house. “Jack is home!”

“Ok, daddy. I’m coming.” I snickered and pulled my sleeves up over my shoulders. “I don’t think he is completely awake.”

“Let’s go in and we’ll finish what we’ve started.” Jack picked me up and carried me to our bedroom.

I felt so thirsty and decided to go into the kitchen for some water. “Do you want any?” I asked Jack.

“No, thank you.” He answered and laid his head on the pillow.

I filled my glass and just stared at the clear, cool liquid sweating through the glass into my hand. I smiled to myself and felt absolute joy because Jack was finally here with me. All that I had looked forward to, all weekend, were his arms around me. I made my way back to the bedroom and lay down on the bed beside of him.

“Ok, I’m ready.” I announced, but there was no answer. “Jack?”

I heard a faint snore and sighed to myself. He slept so peaceful and I watched him lying there most of the night. His cheeks were flushed and rosy and the crinkles at the outer corner of his eyes were what I paid the most attention to. He was so handsome and he was mine.

Chapter 3

Sunday morning came and brought with it the hardest and coldest rain. I opened my eyes and noticed that Jack was no longer resting by my side. After pulling my housecoat over my shivering body, I wondered to the kitchen toward the voices that seemed to become louder and louder with every step. There, at the round, oak table, sat my father, Jack and a strange young woman with fiery, red hair and bright green eyes. Her long, tan legs crossed each other underneath the table and I noticed her flirtatious smile toward my father and my fiancé.

“Lyssa!” My father announced to the souls in the room that hadn’t yet noticed my presence. “This is my daughter, Alyssa.”

“Hello.” I extended my arm across the table and shook the young woman’s hand.

My father spoke back to me, “This is the lady that I have been spending most of my time with for the last couple of weeks. Her name is Cynthia McCowen. You two should have a lot in common.”

I noticed the conversation pertaining to Jack and his real-estate business and his hobbies. So, I sat down in the chair next to him and scooted myself as close as I could possibly get and said, “We’re planning on getting married next month. I’m placing my mother’s wedding ring into my bouquet so she can be there with us also.”

“That’s sweet.” She turned her attention toward my father and said, “Spirited little thing, isn’t she, Clarence?”

“She’s my pumpkin.” My father replied. He gritted his teeth and glanced over at me with a look that said I was going to get a talking to when the coast was clear.

“She’s very beautiful, Jack. You are very lucky.” She laid her long, skinny fingers onto Jack’s and smiled at me from the corner of her fleshy, red lips.

I watched as she flirted with my father and giggled like a schoolgirl at everything that was said. She smoothed wrinkles from her lime green skirt and jacket that fit snug against her slim body. After a morning of giggling and nibbling on French toast, I watched my father from the window as he walked her to her pearl, white Dodge Avenger. I cringed when he kissed her goodbye and retired to my bedroom to think. My mother would have rolled over in her grave if she knew about this. He didn’t seem to be my father anymore and the sight of that girl made me want to shake him to realize what he was thinking. She seemed so coquette and not a match for my father though she did seem to pay more attention to Jack and his future.

I looked up and noticed my father standing in the doorway staring at me. I sat on the edge of my bed and asked, “Who was that?”

“I met her at the office. She’s a client. Isn’t she beautiful?” He seemed so excited.

“I’m not too thrilled about this idea, daddy. She just looks so young.” I dropped my head knowing I would get some answers if I pouted a bit.

He smiled and sat down at my side, “She’s really a great person. You’ll see.”

“How old is she, daddy?” I demanded.

He paused for a moment and answered, “She’s twenty-nine.”

“Twenty-nine? Are you mad? She’s only three years ahead of me! What is wrong with you?” I was furious.

“Pumpkin, I know that seems young but I’m really interested in her. Cynthia is very intelligent and thoughtful. And I like her.” He laid his hand on my shoulder and pulled me near him.

I wrapped my arms around my father and said, “Daddy, a woman that young is after nothing except money and you know it.”

“Don’t be silly. Just spend a couple of days with her and then, let me know what you think.” He assured me and turned to go.

Jack bounced into the room soon after and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

“Don’t you think that a twenty-nine year old woman is a little too young for my father?” I followed him into the bathroom.

“Not really. She seems to be a sweet person and intelligent. How old is your father?” Jack turned on his beard trimmer.

“He’s forty-seven.” I raised my voice over the noise of the trimmer. “Will you listen to me! She’s too young! This really bothers me!”

“Alyssa!” Jack snapped back at me. “It’s just a phase.”

“What if it’s not. What if he moves her in and she only wants his money?” I exclaimed.

“Look, that’s not going to happen. I like her and I don’t think she sounded that way!” Jack turned his trimmer on again.

I jerked the beard trimmer from his hands and said, “You’re nuts! You think with the bulge in your pants and I’m telling you, she’ll be the death of him!”

Jack gripped my wrist and demanded, “Don’t you ever snatch anything from my hands. And don’t scream at me either, this is your father’s life. If you have an opinion to voice, then tell him about it.”

I could hardly believe the reaction from Jack. I guessed that I was so furious about this young woman seeing my father, that I didn’t notice that I was badgering my own boyfriend. I wanted to tell him how sorry that I was but I couldn’t help but be jealous of the flirting and the contact between Cynthia and Jack. No matter, I knew he loved me.

The telephone rang throughout the room and I raced to retrieve it. “Hello?”

“Alyssa, how did it go last night?” A voice blared into my ear.

“Megan! It was great!” I answered.

Megan paused first and then said, “You mean, you didn’t kill Jack for not calling to tell you he’d be late?”

“I really didn’t mention it to him. Before I got into the house, he met me on the front lawn and started making love to me. I figured, if he missed me that much, he couldn’t have been doing anything wrong. He was just running late.” I explained.

Megan finally asked, “So, what did you and Lance talk about?”

I smiled immediately, “Nothin’. We spoke about how good it was to see each other again. He looks so great and he smelled so delicious. I had forgotten how good it felt to be with him.”

“Have you thought anymore about coming to work with us? You’d get to see him everyday, then.” She giggled.

At first I thought, hmm, that’s right, I would get to see him. But, then I came to my senses and answered, “I told you, I am going back to Chicago with Jack! Did I tell you about my dad’s girlfriend?” I tried to keep my voice down.

Megan snickered, “I’ve seen the little vixen. Red-head, right?”

“Of course. Men are all the same no matter how old they are. Even Jack is under her spell!” I told her.

Megan took a deep breath and said, “You’d better watch that girl.”

“I know, she has to be after money.” I answered.

“No! I mean that, if your dad marries her, in a year, the publishing company is hers! That is, if you don’t beat her to it.”

“Oh my gosh, you’re right! I’ll call you later.”

I hung up the telephone and raced to the den where Jack and my father were talking. I stood in front of them both and announced, “I’m taking over the company and I want to start as soon as possible, daddy.”

“Great! We’ll start tomorrow! I’ll show you everything! You’ll be ready to go by fall!” Daddy cheered.

I walked away from the two, knowing that Jack would follow me and he did.

“What are you doing?” He whispered from behind me.

“I’m beginning my dream. All I have ever really wanted was to take this company and make it great. I have what it takes and I will do it.” I stared into his eyes without a blink.

“You are coming back to Chicago with me after the wedding! I don’t want to hear anything else about it.” Jack said, sternly.

I raised my finger to his nose and said, “I am not your child! Don’t speak to me as if I am! You will not live my life for me! I agreed to marry you because I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life loving you. Don’t make me regret it.”

I walked away leaving him standing there and decided to go for a drive. My path led me toward Carmen’s home and I proceeded to her front door. I noticed the door was open so I strolled in saying, “Carmen! Are you in here? Carmen!”

“Who’s there? Alyssa!” She hugged me.

I know what I had thought about her before but I could never hold a grudge. Her hair was all knotted into a bun and an apron hugged her waist, which contained a small bulge.

“You really look good. You don’t look like I remember you.” I said this, but I really shouldn’t have worded it that way.

“I know. I am three months pregnant but I really didn’t want anyone to notice yet. At the club last night, did you notice that I was wearing black?” Carmen asked.

“Well, it was dark in there in the first place.” I smiled and sat down on the sofa behind me.

“You sure did do something to Lance last night.” Carmen grinned.

I had no idea how but I asked anyway, “How so?”

“He talked about you all night long. Too bad that you’re getting married. He’d be a good one!” She straightened the coffee table between us.

“Jack is a good one. When he wants to be. Financially, we’re set.” I noticed her watching me. “What?”

Carmen smiled and said, “You aren’t sure, are you?”

“I am ashamed of myself. So many things are bothering me and I’m not sure how to fix them. I’m so in love with Jack when we’re together but sometimes, part of me wants to be free.” I wanted to get some things off of my chest.

“You don’t need to get married, my friend.” She patted my knee and added, “That is called doubt. There shouldn’t be any doubt. Why don’t you just put it on hold for a while? When you feel like you can get married with no interruptions, then go back to him. Until those feelings are gone, there’s no hope.”

“You’re right.”

Chapter 4

The morning brought a deep breath and a positive attitude. I entered the office at my father’s side and he introduced me to all the employees on the upper floor, where I would be spending most of my time. When we finally came to Megan’s desk, she seemed jumpy and uneasy.

“Meg, are you alright?” I asked.

She snickered and assured me, “I’m fine.”

She shook her head but for some reason, I didn’t believe her. “Come on, Megan. I know better that.”

“Ok, my psychic told me that I am going to die soon and not to make any sudden changes to myself.”

I rolled my eyes, “I can’t believe that you actually believe that stuff! You aren’t going to die until I tell you that you can! Now, get to work, I’m your boss now!”

“Really? You took the job?” She snatched my hand and smiled.

“Did you think that I was going to let that little hussy take over my company? I think not!” I sarcastically announced.

At that moment, I looked up and saw Lance moving toward me. His white, button-front shirt was tucked neatly into black jeans that hugged every move he made. His smile gave me chills and my feet began to numb. I had no idea what to say to him, most of the time, but I knew I had to be myself. I had never felt this way before.

“Clarence says that you have finally decided to take over.” Lance smiled and lightly tapped my shoulder with his fist.

“Well, I hope that I can do it.” I answered.

“You can do it.” He winked at me with those big brown eyes. “What are you going to tell Jack?”

“I just told him that regardless of what he thought, I’m taking this company.” I grinned and felt so brave in telling him that.

I left him standing there and glanced at him over my shoulder with a half grin from the corner of my mouth. I was so excited to get started and get to know everyone.

A week passed and my job was all that I thought about. The memory of Lance moving toward me on that first day, seeped through my mind and interrupted my concentration. I had hoped that he had noticed me and Carmen was right about his feelings toward me. I felt that I had no reason to feel this way and I felt guilty spending my nights beside of Jack knowing that I felt so strongly for Lance.

After the first week, I felt that I knew enough to work on my own for at least two weeks. Daddy agreed with me and abided my wishes. A long day had come and almost gone. Only a few people stayed to finish their work for the weekend, including myself. The copy room was cold and empty. I couldn’t get the copy machine to work so I kicked it loudly and in result, twisted my ankle. I leaned against the desk and massaged my ankle and moaned in relief. Suddenly, I heard a crack from the floor outside. I looked up to see Lance smiling above me.

“Do you need help?” Lance asked. He bent down and adjusted the wire to the machine and it soon lit up to copy my paper.

“Thank you.” I said while still out of breath.

Surprised to see him, I said, “I thought you went home with the others.”

“I still had some work to be done.” Lance answered. “Did you hurt your ankle?” He knelt down onto the floor and spread his fingers around my leg to massage away the pain.

“It’s not that bad, really.” I assured him.

I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what Jack must be doing at home but my heart told me to relax. I let my head lean back and felt his strong hands move in circles and the pain slowly faded away. I finally gazed down into his eyes and noticed the expression of concentration upon his face. He kissed my knee and the top of my thigh. I couldn’t think; I couldn’t move. He gently laid me back onto the desk and savored my neck. I could feel my skirt rise in inches and suddenly pushed myself up.

“I’m sorry.” I announced and dropped my head to the floor.

“Me two. I just missed-.”

“I know.” I interrupted him.

Suddenly, the door shut behind us and the latch snapped loudly. I shook the handle and yelled, “Hey! Let us out of here! This isn’t funny, you guys!”

“I don’t think anyone shut it.” Lance jiggled the doorknob and plummeted back onto the desk. “We’re stuck.”

“You don’t sound worried at all!” I shouted.

“I’m not.” He explained. “Someone has to come in here sooner or later.”

“Yeah, like, in the morning! We’ll freeze in here!” I sat on the floor and rested my head into my hands.

“Talk to me for a minute.” He asked.

“Ok, what do you want to talk about.” I mumbled.

Lance pulled my hands from my face and held them inside his own. “Why do you want to get married anyway?”

“You want the truth?”
I stared at him through tear filled eyes.

“No, I want you to lie to me! Yes, I want the truth!”

I hesitated for a moment but then answered, “I don’t want to be alone. I have been with him for five years and I don’t want to know what it’s like without someone there for waiting me at the end of the day. I don’t want to sleep alone and I’m afraid by myself.”

Lance thought to himself for a moment. “That’s a pretty dumb reason to want to get married. There could always be someone else, ya know.”

“I know how that sounds. I’ve already bought all of the things that I need and sent out invitations to both our families and friends. I just wouldn’t want everyone to be disappointed in me.” I knew that I was sounding more and more like a child. “I know you don’t understand.”

“Isn’t there anything you want to do before you get married?” Lance smiled.

I glanced up at him out of the corner of my eye and answered, “There is one thing.”

“What’s that?” He asked as he glared at me.

I grinned and could feel my cheeks blushing. “I can’t tell you that.”

“Then show me.”

Lance dimmed the light over head and settled himself on the floor behind me. His arms felt so strong and they held me with such desire and a longing for satisfaction. He brushed my hair from my shoulders and kissed my neck. I could feel my temperature rising and the flaming, redness of my face increased by the second. I wanted to turn toward him and taste his lips yet once more but he refused. He held my arms in each of his hands and I could feel his frequent breath against my moistened neck and ear. My pulse raced and I thought of nothing. My blouse was slowly unbuttoned as his lips gently touched my cheek from behind. I felt his warm hands caress my bare bosom. I turned toward him and kissed his lips. As his tongue touched mine, our bodies emerged and were soon one. That one night felt like forever, for time meant nothing, and we made love like never before. He was a great kisser and his hands felt strong against my back and kept me in balance with every thrust. I could never love like this again. I could never love like this with anyone else.

Morning had come like a thief and we woke in each other’s arms. My head lay content on his tan, broad chest. I smiled when I had remembered what I had done and guilt wasn’t welcome in my mind. I wanted to stay there forever but the hours in a perfect night always run short. Lance was staring at me as I looked up at him but he had a troubled expression on his face.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Lance moved from under me and pulled on his jeans. “Nothing. We had better be decent when someone comes to open that door. I wouldn’t want anyone to think anything.”

“You’re right. Someone should show up soon.”

Suddenly, the doorknob twisted and pushed in. Carmen peaked inside and said, “Hey, guys. Have a good night?”

“If this was a joke, it wasn’t funny, Carmen! Jack is going to kill me!” I shouted.

Lance glanced at me and winked. “And, yeah!” He shouted, teasingly, at Carmen.

I raced to the parking area and jumped into my Chevy blazer. The music wailed throughout the vehicle and I sang along. I felt absolutely invincible and carefree. Nothing in the world could bring me down from my high. The radio played my favorite song, which was, ‘Kiss Me’ by Sixpence None the Richer. Every station that I switched to was playing this song and I knew that it had to be a sign. I pulled into the driveway and sang to myself as I made my way to the door. It hadn’t crossed my mind as to what explanation that I would have to give Jack until I walked in. My mind skimmed excuses and then, I finally decided to just tell the truth. I repeated my alibi over and over until I came to our bedroom door.

“Now, Alyssa.” I spoke to myself. “You are going to be honest with him. This is the man you are supposed to marry. If there is no trust, there will be no marriage. No gory details, just explain that the door shut and you were stuck there all night. Nothing to it, just tell the truth.”

I walked inside the door and saw something that time can never take away. My heart dropped to the ground and my voice was mute. I realized that I had been betrayed. The longer I stood there, the more that I realized that this is a plan and I wasn’t supposed to be with this man. My place was with Lance and there was no doubt about that now. Jack woke and rubbed his eyes. He stopped suddenly and stared at me, standing in the doorway. The surprise on his face told me that I didn’t have to say a word and his punishment would occur during the next couple of minutes. His, wondering what I would do, was punishment enough.

“Jack, I want you out of this house and far away from me. You can take your little tramp with you because she will never step foot in this house again unless it’s over my dead body.” I said in a calm voice.

Jack leaped from the bed and stumbled over to grab me. “You don’t understand! We were just sitting in the den and we both had too much to drink. Early this morning, your father had a meeting and I guess we just got a little carried away.”

“I don’t want to hear it! And don’t touch me! You no longer have the right.” I slipped my engagement ring off of my finger and set it into the palm of his hand. “Cynthia!”

She woke and pulled the sheet up to cover her naked body. “Oh my goodness! Alyssa!”

“Yeah! My ass! Get out of my bed and get the hell out of my house. If I catch you anywhere near this property or my publishing company again, I’ll have you arrested. And that’s a promise!” I gathered her clothes from the floor in front of me and threw them out the open bedroom door.

“Alyssa!” Cynthia called to me. “Please don’t tell your father!”

“What? You’re lucky that I don’t haul your naked ass to the meeting! Now, out!” I shouted

Chapter 5

I sat on my bed and stared out of the window over the pond. I wished for my mother and felt her presence shelter me and ease my pain. I was wrong and I knew it. I slept with Lance and it was the same as Jack sleeping with Cynthia.

“Mother, what am I going to do? I feel like I still love Jack.”

The wind blew through the open window and whistled through the screen. My heart ached and I still had the picture in my mind of Jack lying there with that woman. Suddenly, there was a pounding on the front door. I jumped to my feet and fumbled to answer.

“Megan!” I cried. “I’m so glad to see you! You are like my angel and you always show up when I need you!” I threw my arms around her and tears wet my cheeks.

“Alyssa? What’s wrong? I came to tease you about being in a locked room with Lance all night and you’re crying!” Megan wiped the drops from my face.

“It’s Jack!” I found it hard to speak without sobbing. “I caught him in bed with Cynthia. I saw them, still in bed, when I got home this morning.”

Megan hugged me again and she sat down beside of me on the sofa. “I find that hard to believe. That slut! How could she do that?”

“I’ve asked myself that same question over and over in my mind. It has to be me. I’m just not pretty enough for all of his attention! Maybe I’m not intelligent enough. Have you seen her? She’s beautiful.” I sobbed and shook my head.

“Don’t be silly! You know that’s not true . Now you’re just feeling sorry for yourself! If you have already forgotten, you did the same thing.” Megan grinned. “I’m not trying to be smart and contradict you. But it is true , you know. You are so wonderful. Do you know that? You are pretty and fun to be with, very intelligent and witty. He doesn’t appreciate what he’s got and I think you did the right thing by getting him out of your life. You’re not ready. And deep down, you know it’s true . It was just as much Jack as it was Cynthia so don’t put all of the blame on her.”

I wiped my eyes and sniffed. “I know. I just can’t get the image out of my head. Have you spoken to Lance this morning?”

“No, but Carmen called me earlier and she mentioned that he spoke to her after she asked him every question she could think of.” Megan shed her jacket.

“She let us out of the copy room this morning. For some odd reason, she didn’t look surprised to see us there.” I said.

“Were you naked?” Megan asked.

I giggled and answered, “Megan! Nothing went on! We’re just friends!”

“That’s not what Carmen said! She said the two of you looked pretty rough! If I were you, I would go to him.” She suggested.

“I can’t face him. Anyway, I think I’m going to go to the library and just read in peace for a while. Just let my mind settle and get over what has happened.” I slipped my shoes on and walked Megan outside to her cavalier.

“Take care of yourself and call me later!” I called.

“You know, my psychic told me something like this would happen to a close friend of mine. She’s wise, you know!” Megan ducked her head into the car and I watched as she drove away.

The library was quiet and was exactly what I needed. My mind needed to be lost in a love story and my heart needed to be healed by the words of a passionate poet. Silence flooded my thoughts and I could hear a ringing in my ear and dizziness of my head from a long, sleepless night. Instead of reading my novel, my mind took me back to about twelve hours ago when I was lost in ecstasy and with every touch and every kiss, I wanted him over and over. I could remember the smell of his skin and the taste of his mouth. I was excited just thinking about it and I wanted to do it all over again, even if it was wrong. I must have sat there for an hour just reminiscing behind closed eyelids and an unknown smile spread across my face. A familiar figure sat in the seat in front of me in a silent stare.

“Are you alright?” Lance peaked over my partially opened book.

I was surprised and could hardly speak. “Yes, how did you know I was here?”

“Your blazer was parked out front and I thought I would stop to see how you are.” He answered.

“I’m fine. Look, I’m sorry about last night. I didn’t have those intentions and I wasn’t expecting anything from you.” I still couldn’t believe he was sitting in front of me once again. I wondered, if the story starring the fairy godmother were true .

“Did you enjoy it?” Lance asked.

I answered, “You know that I did.”

“Then don’t apologize for something that was the truth. Don’t apologize for wanting that as much as I.” Lance added.

“I have to tell you something, Lance. I don’t really know how but I have to let you know.”

He studied for a moment and then, he said, “What is it?”

“I am so in love with you. I have been in love with you since the day we met in high school. When we met once more, at the Planet, I fell in love with you all over again. I know every move you make and every feature of your body.”

“Alyssa, I am only an errand boy. I can’t give you everything that you deserve. I can’t give you the world.” He explained.

I felt so alone. I was afraid of this feeling and expected a better answer from the man that I thought he was. He eased out of his chair and kissed my forehead and then, he departed. I watched as my tears spotted the pages of my opened novel and all I could do was weep.

Weeks pasted and I did nothing except bury myself in my work. My desk was cluttered with folders and paper work. I just stared at the mound of responsibility and commitment lying in front of me and was startled when the telephone rang.

I answered, “Hello? Alyssa Myers’ office.”

“Lyssie, I need to speak with you.” Jack spoke from the other end of the line.

“I don’t want to see you, Jack. Just stay away from me! You’ve done enough damage.” I thought for a moment and realized that maybe this would be the last chance that I ever have to mend my relationship with him. My wedding would have been in two weeks and I could just go on with the wedding plans and forget all of the bad experiences.

“I really want to see you, Lyssie. I love you so much and I want to be with you and no one else.” Jack pleaded.

“Ok, I will meet you, after work, at five o’clock. This is your chance so be there.”

Jack told me that he loved me before he hung up the phone and I dreaded facing him after so long. Maybe this was what we needed.

I met Jack after my shift and he seemed unusually sincere. The look on his face said that he still wanted me and I still loved him as well.

He took my hand and kissed my knuckles. “Let’s get married now. Let’s move the date up and just do it. I want you more now than ever.”

“Why should I trust you?” I asked.

“Because I love you.” Jack answered and pulled me toward his car.

As I moved along with him, I noticed Lance gazing out of the office window above me. He turned away as I entered the vehicle. I felt a lump in my throat as Jack kissed my cheek and confessed his love for me.

Our path ended in front of my old high school and we walked hand in hand to the top of the concrete bleechers. Our shadows hung over the field and grew dim as the sun went down.

“I know about Lance.” Jack said suddenly.

“What do you mean?” I was surprised to hear him say this since I did think he had no idea.

“I know he has touched you. And I know you’ve slept with him. I don’t like it.” He raised his eyebrow and stared at me in silence waiting for my reply.

“You have no right to ask me such things.”

“You’re right. I just wanted you to realize that I know.” Jack said.

I thought for a moment and said, “Is that what you really wanted? I thought we were making up.”

Jack took my ring out of his pocket and took my hand. As he slipped the diamond onto my finger, he said, “I give you this ring once more with all my love. I vow to you that I will never betray you again. Please promise me that you will never let another man touch you.”

I had no idea what I was thinking. I felt so confused and tired of him. But, at the same time, I felt like I was afraid to lose him again. “Jack, I promise.”

He kissed me passionately and held me close. Maybe I could make it work. After all, I had spent several years with Jack. We made our way home and I laid in bed staring at the ceiling. Jack slept sound beside of me and I thought of Lance. I had to stop this. And I wondered to myself how.

I longed to hear from Megan but I still heard nothing from her; not even a message. She dodged me at the office and Lance was always busy. Carmen noticed an empty seat beside of me while I was having lunch alone.

“What do you think you are doing?” She snapped.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” I answered.

“You haven’t answered any of our calls, Megan has been worried sick about you, since you are back with Jack, and Lance is totally different. Jack always tells us that you are busy or out somewhere. What is up, girl?”

I thought about what Carmen had said. “I haven’t gotten any messages from him. You know I would’ve called you back if so! Look, we worked it out. Please don’t be angry with me for being happy.”

“Lance loves you. Did you know that?” Carmen asked.

“I told him how I felt and he didn’t give me any kind of a green light. I was just another notch on his bed post.”

“You’ve got it all wrong and you will find out. Until then, if you need me, you know that I’m here.” Carmen assured me.

“We’re going to elope tomorrow evening. I have reservations in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. After that, I will be heading back to Chicago with Jack.” I stood up and turned to leave.

“I hope you know what you’re doing.” Carmen said.

I made my way to the copy room and over heard a conversation between Megan and Lance just before I turned to go inside.

“I didn’t know what I was doing.” Lance said as he tapped an ink pen against the desk.

“I can’t believe that you slept with another woman last night. I know how you feel about Alyssa. Why would you do that?” Megan asked.

“I thought I could ease my mind. And besides, she loves Jack or she wouldn’t have mended things between them.” Lance moved toward the doorway and I started to leave except to hear one last question.

Megan caught him just before he departed. “You love her don’t you?”

He paused and then said, “Yes, I do. But there is nothing that I can do.”

“Are you just going to let her get married? Are you just going to let her slip through your fingers? If you do, you’re crazy.” Megan said.

“If she wasn’t happy with him then she wouldn’t be with him now. She wouldn’t marry him if she didn’t want to be with him.”

“Did you ever think that maybe she’s waiting on you? I’ll bet that if you go to her right now, she’d be happier with you. You could save her, you know.” Megan begged.

I retraced my steps to make Lance think that I had just arrived and he stopped and looked at me before moving on. He acted as if he wanted to speak but he said nothing. I entered the copy room and noticed Megan standing there staring at me.

“What was that all about?” I asked her.

“Lance was just telling me about his evening. You know Lance.” She uttered.

“Yes, I’m afraid that I do. Too well, actually.” I tried to go on with my work.

“You haven’t answered my calls.” Megan moved toward me.

“Carmen just said the same thing to me! I’ll find out why. Are you happy for me? I’m getting married tomorrow evening.”

She smiled slowly and said, “Your father told us. I think, if you leave Lance, you’ll wish that you had taken a chance.”

“I’ve told him how I feel. He doesn’t feel the same way. I was wrong about the signs of love. There aren’t any! There is only the person that you feel comfortable with. Jack is all that I need.” And with that, I turned to go.

“I’m having a party tonight. I would really like to see you there.” Megan called for me.

“We’ll see.” I answered her.

That evening, I mentioned to Jack that I would like for him to go with me to Megan’s party. I thought wrong. Deep down I knew he’d make a big deal out of the whole thing.

“Why do you want to go? Is Lance going to be there? Is that why you want to go?” Jack snapped.

I dropped my arms to my side. “You are so hopeless. If I wanted to be there for Lance, would I want you to come along? No! Think, Jack, think! I’d like to introduce you to my friends. They are eager to know who I’m marrying.”

“I’m not going. You can go to that low grade party if you want to but you have better friends in Chicago. These hay seed people are really getting on my nerves! They are ruining you, Lyssie.” Jack walked into the bedroom.

I sat there in silence for a moment. The longer I sat there, the angrier I became. Why should I do what he says? Why should I give into him like I’m the bad guy? He’s not so perfect! My friends are hayseeds? His friends’ parties are so boring! Everyone huddles into their own little groups! There’s no dancing, no cutting up, and you can’t be yourself because you feel like these people are always expecting more from you! That’s it! I’m going! I’m not staying here just because he wants me to sit right here with him. I politely asked him to go. He doesn’t want to go, so I am.

“Jack! I’m going. Bye.” I exclaimed while making my way out the door.

The party was anything short of relaxing. The music blared between my ears and the liquor was plentiful. I sat at Meg’s dining room table, taste testing every experimented cocktail on top of my own glass of Jack Daniel’s. My head spun and I heard voices calling for me from behind. I saw faces and mouths moving in slow motion. I dropped my head against the table and then, back up. I saw a couple dancing from a distance and soon realized that it was Lance. He had brought a date. I sat there staring and thinking to myself. He was so handsome. No one deserved such looks, such charm and kindness. I had to leave, I couldn’t sit there any longer and watch the two of them rub against each other. The thought of him thinking of someone else or even touching someone else made me cringe. The thought of him being in love with someone else angered me and the liquored pit in my stomach burned from raw emotion. I stumbled through the house and out into the night air.

I was drunk and could barely feel the ground beneath me. Lance knew that I couldn’t walk, let alone drive. He followed me from the party and grabbed me, gently, by the bend of my elbow.

“Where do you think you’re going?” He asked.

“Home. I don’t want to be here.” I felt the sprinkling rain fall, from the darkness above me, onto my bare shoulders.

“Not like that, you’re not!” Lance demanded and threw his jacket over me. He guided me back under the eve of the porch, out of the storm.

“I’m not letting you go like this! You’re in no condition to go anywhere. I’ve been watching you all night!”

“You’ve been watching me?” I noticed the key words roll off of his tongue. “Why? Why do you care where I go or what I do? I go home to Jack every night and you don’t give a damn! Why? Why don’t you just tell me?” My words blurred and my eyes wondered over fuzzy, head aching lights.

“Tell you why I care about you?” Lance lifted my chin with his hand.

“No, tell me that you love me, Lance. Tell me you want me and think of me. Don’t be a fool. I’ve heard you say it! Now, tell me!” I shouted.

“I’m not going to do this! Not right now!” He turned to leave me but I didn’t want him to go.

“Why not now? Why, Lance?” I sobbed.

He turned and moved toward me once again. “Because, you’re drunk! You have no idea what you’re saying.”

“I have never been thinking more clearly. I should’ve done this along time ago.” I moved closer. I longed to feel his breath against my body once more.

“Even if I did tell you anything; it doesn’t matter now!” Lance dropped his hands to his side. So lost and so empty.

“Yes, it does!” My voice raised its volume once again.

“You’re getting married! You went back to him! For what?” Lance asked.

“For what? What do you mean, for what?”

His eyes widened. “You were scared! You didn’t know what would come next! You’ve been with him for so long, that you don’t think you can make it without him. We had something, I know. You felt it and I felt it. It doesn’t matter now. If you didn’t want to be with Jack, you wouldn’t have gone back to him. It’s over.”

“You never said a word to me! I assumed you got what you wanted!” I called back to him. I knew, the more I argued with him, the longer he would stay out there with me.

“Hardly!” He paused for a moment. “What do you mean by that?” Lance leaned against a brick pillar supporting the eve above us.

“We had sex!” I yelled. “You can’t tell me that you never loved me. I felt you. I felt your hands against my back. I felt your breath against my skin. I remember that I had never felt that way.” My heart pounded with every word spoken and I could feel every beat as if it were on the outside of my chest. “Make love to me again, Lance. Right here. No one will know.” My arms draped his shoulders and then, I kissed his soft, desirable lips.

I watched as his eyes began to close and his jaws moved. I could feel his arms slowly skim around my waist onto the small of my backside. I knew what I was doing but the spinning of my head made me feel weak and unstable. He didn’t want to let go. The strength in his grip and the hunger from his kiss let me know the answer that I had been seeking.

Suddenly, Lance stopped and dropped his arms. “I can’t do this.”

“Lance?” I whispered.

“You act as if I should prove my love to you. Alyssa, you are the one that owes the proof. I never went anywhere.”

“You should have let me know.” I exclaimed. “Instead, you just let me go!”

“And you went anyway!” Lance replied. “You made your choice.”

My eyes filled with tears and drowned my voice. “You never told me your feelings.”

“You proved to me that you didn’t care when you excepted his proposal yet a second time. What is it that you want?”

I dowsed my head and then, glanced up again. “I don’t know.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. You figure it out and then, come and find me. Until then, I hope you’ll be ok.”

The rain ended as I watched Lance walk back into the house. I was starting to sober but Megan insisted she drive me home.

Chapter 6

My bags were packed but, for some reason, I wasn’t happy at all. Jack was bouncing around the room, kissing me every chance he could on his way by me. I wanted to say farewell to my best friends at the office before I was on my way. Part of me felt so nervous and the other part felt distance and regret. I threw my luggage into the blazer and kissed my father goodbye. The tears in his eyes were enough to make my stomach upset and a nauseous feeling came over me.

“Jack!” I called. “I have to go back to the office and gather a couple more things before we go.”

“That’s fine. I’ll drive you there.” Jack answered and touched his hand to my shoulder.

“No, I’ll go alone. I’ll be fine.”

It seemed like I drove for hours and the music seemed to sound so drab. I began thinking about how I was going to live with Jack knowing that, deep down, I didn’t want to be there at all. To sleep be side of him made me cringe and the thought of him kissing me and touching me was unbearable. I wanted to be married and start a family but I was afraid of growing old with no one and rolling over in bed to a cold pillow and a lonely sheet. The emptiness was a miserable feeling and I thought that once I did it, I would be glad and get use to the fact that I would be with Jack forever.

I turned into an empty parking lot. I sat there in my seat and hummed that tune with the radio that I loved. The ‘kiss me’ song roared against my eardrums. I strolled up the steps and felt for the light switches as I walked through the hallway and into a large room filled with empty desks and sleeping computers. I noticed someone sitting in my chair and I flipped on my desk lamp to reveal the shadow.

“Lance.” I whispered. “What are you doing here.”

“I could ask you the same thing.” He folded his hands over his lips with both elbows secured on the arms of the chair.

I pulled a chair from across the room and sat down in front of him. “Is there something on your mind, Lance? You can tell me, you know. We’ve been friends for a long time. And I know you; I know when something is bothering you.”

He leaned down toward me and said, “Nothing is wrong. Let’s go out back to the courts and play some basketball.”

“Lance, I was trying to talk to you. All you want to do is play; you never want to be serious.” I said. But I followed him anyway.

We tossed the ball around for a long time just laughing and not really saying anything. I loved playing basketball with him. He’s so rambunctious and just plain fun. Suddenly, he stopped and walked toward me. His eyes looked so morose and a gloomy expression made me feel so sorry.

“Do you have something to say to me?” I asked. I wanted to hear him tell me the same thing that I over heard him telling Megan.

“I’m just going to miss you. I hope you’re happy.” Lance replied and turned to shoot his basketball one last time.

I felt furious. I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t going to say anything. Maybe he had changed his mind and just thought that he had felt something for me. Then, I remembered the conversation of another woman, the one from Meg’s party. Before he revealed his feelings for me, he mentioned sleeping with her. How could I have been so foolish? How could I have not known?

Lance walked toward me and said, “Just remember me, ok?” And then, he moved a bit closer.

“You know I can’t forget you.” I said while moving back away, slowly.

He knelt down slowly as if to kiss me. He seemed to be in some kind of trance and I could see myself in his brown eyes. I wanted to lose myself in the moment but I stopped and moved away.

“I’m sorry. I have to go.” I whispered and dropped my head.

“I know.” He replied. “Funny how things change.”

“Yeah, it’s funny.” Tears stung my eyes. “Goodbye, Lance.”

I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay there with him forever. I wanted him to tell me to stay and he would take me away in his arms. I just wanted him to stop me, for once, and stop pretending to not love me. I knew that deep down, he did. Lance watched me walk off the court and I cried as I ran back to my blazer. My head pounded and the tears that fell from my eyes, soaked my hands as I wiped them away. All I needed was some kind of sign.

I started the vehicle and I heard the stereo sound. I felt like drifting away to some unknown world where I couldn’t be found. The wheels turned and I was on my way back to Jack once again. I could hardly see the road for the tears blinding my eyes and I cleared my throat from the lump that blocked it.

When I arrived back to the house, Jack was waiting with his arms opened wide. I was getting married. I was going to wear my nine hundred-dollar dress and my perfect, satin white shoes. For a moment, I felt happy. I thought, I would feel better once I was away from the feelings that I have here. The feeling that I had for Lance was nothing more than a schoolgirl crush and I had to escape them. Moving away was the answer. Jack was right. But a good friend once told me that I couldn’t run away from my heart.

Jack and I were on our way to the airport when the rain, from troubled clouds above us, poured. The blazer was silent and I noticed that the whole way, Jack never once looked over at me. I turned on the radio and a song brightened my smile. It was my song; the ‘kiss me’ song. To me, this song marked the coming of a good thing. But then, Jack reached down to turn the station.

“Why do you listen to such filth?” Jack asked me.

“I like my filth!” I raised my voice.

“We’re not listening to that all the way to the airport!” He snapped back.

I felt so tired of being called down for nothing more than what I liked to do. That was my song and, by gosh, I was going to listen to it. I reached down and flipped the station once more.

“Alyssa! What is wrong with you?” Jack asked.

“You are fixing to marry me and you don’t even know me. This is the type of music that I like. I don’t like your classical crap and if you put it that way, then we’re not going to listen to what you want either!” I answered.

“You’re being childish!” Jack uttered.

I stared at him and said, “I’m the one being childish? Now I’m childish because I want to listen to this one song?” I thought for a moment. “Let me out!”

“Don’t be ridiculous! It’s raining!” He shouted. “You’ll catch a cold!”

I opened my door and burst outside. I knew that we weren’t far from home so I decided that I would walk back without him.

“I’m not marring someone that doesn’t want to know me! You want to change me! You want me to sit at home while you go out and do God knows what. Do you know that I could be happy right now? Do you know that I hurt a very close friend of mine because I made a commitment to you and I am afraid to break it? I am not afraid of what people will think anymore. I don’t care what your family will think! All that matters is that I’m happy and I’m not happy with you!” I shouted.

The rain poured its cold, wet drops over us and I stood there and watched the confused expression spread across Jack’s face. I felt so guilty that I had hurt him although it hurt me every day to have to be with him knowing that I didn’t want to be there.

“You don’t want to marry me?” Jack asked as he walked closer to me with his hair dripping with rain onto his freezing, red nose.

“I’m sorry.” I sobbed.

“Then why do you cry? We’ve been together for five years. Let me take you away. I don’t want to end it like this. I love you.” Jack took me into his arms and held me in the storm.

The whole time, I was thinking how I would like to run back to that office and live happily ever after with Lance. I felt stuck. My feelings poured out of my mouth like the rain around us but it didn’t seem to phase Jack. He still held me.

My head began to feel dizzy and I passed to the black, puddled pavement below us. I remember lying there listening to the rain drip into my ear. My body was numb and freezing. Jack carried me to the blazer and wrapped me into a flannel blanket.

I woke to bright lights and a chilly hospital room. I could hear the voice of a doctor and I could see Jack at my side holding a blood soaked blanket in a clear, plastic bag.

“Doctor Eburn, what’s wrong with her? Is she going to be alright?” Jack’s voice shook from fright.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine. She just needs plenty of rest and I would like to see her again in one week.” Dr. Eburn explained as he jotted onto a silver folder.

Jack was confused and asked, “What was the problem?”

“Mr. Kerrington, Alyssa had a miscarriage. We predicted that she was about five weeks along.”

“A miscarriage? I don’t understand. She was pregnant?” Jack scratched his head and thought for a moment.

Dr. Eburn sat into the chair beside of me and answered, “Yes, sir. That is what that means. You didn’t know she was pregnant?”

“No.” Jack rubbed his hand through his hair and then, stared up at the ceiling.

“Sometimes, a woman doesn’t know until well into the pregnancy. It just depends.” Dr. Eburn explained.

“How? How could she have lost our baby?” Jack asked.

The doctor felt of my forehead and touched my cheeks. His hands were cold and I could see his face more clearly now.

“It could be caused by several things, Jack. May I call you Jack?”

Jack sat back down with and interested and concerned expression upon his face. “Yes, please.” He answered. “What could cause it?”

“Well, for one, her body may have simply rejected the pregnancy. She may not have been ready to carry a child or maybe her body reacted and didn’t think it was safe. It could also have been caused by massive stress or drinking heavily. Even a simple fall could trigger a miscarriage. The thing is, we really don’t know in a case like this.”

I could hardly believe the conversation that I was witnessing. I was pregnant? Five weeks pregnant? It had to be Lance’s baby. There was no other way around it.

I started getting some feeling back into my body. I positioned my back comfortably and said, “I was pregnant?”

“Alyssa! You’re awake!” Jack leaped across the room to my side.

I smiled. I saw his hazel eyes sparkle as he gazed back at me. He was horrified at the loss of my unknown pregnancy but glad at the idea of actually carrying his baby. Little did he know, that baby belonged to Lance. I was sure of it.

“We’ll try again, Lyssie. We’ll make another baby.” Jack suggested.

I rubbed the back of my hand against Jack’s flushed cheek. “No, let’s get settled first and then, we’ll talk about it.”

I was discharged from the hospital and after brief rehabilitation, we continued our plans to marry.

Chapter 7

Our apartment, in Chicago, seemed small but it was all that we needed. I spoke to my father on the phone everyday. He kept me updated on the gossip at the office and I also learned that Lance had found a job in Florida as chief copy editor at some worldwide publishing facility. Part of me felt sad but the other was relieved to hear that he was further away from me. My feelings for him had slipped slowly and I was content to be taking care of Jack. It had been one year since the day I last spoke to Lance. Still, sometimes I could feel the pain from leaving him. I could have changed it all but I didn’t.

I decided to go shopping and linger around the town to take my mind off of home duties and things, I knew, needed to be done around the apartment. I felt the cool, autumn breeze blow against my cheeks and through my hair. The streets were populated, as they usually were, with tourists and curious people. People that looked different and walked with dumbfounded looks upon their faces. I always noticed things like that about Chicago. It made me long for home. Home was called Pennington Gap.

I returned to our apartment and pushed through the door. The silence was unusual since Jack’s vehicle was out by the curb.

“Jack?” I yelled.

I went to check my messages on the answering machine and noticed the green button flashing which meant that the phone was in use.

“Who could he be speaking with?” I spoke to myself.

My father’s telephone number was listed several times and I had a gut feeling that something was definitely wrong. I rushed up the stairs and heard a low, almost whispering voice when I topped the flight. I eased toward the door where the voice was coming from. It was Jack.

“I know you miss me, Cynthia. I will be in tomorrow. Alyssa thinks that I have a meeting in Atlanta. I’ll be there, don’t worry. I love you.” He said.

I stomped straight into our bedroom and threw my clothes into a small, blue suitcase. My stomach was in knots and the shivering of my hands and arms made my packing a bit difficult. I tiptoed back by the door and left for home, my home.

I left on the first flight back to Virginia. It seemed like forever but I finally made it back to my childhood home. I ran quickly into the house and hollered for my father with every desperate step.

“Daddy!” I called. My voice echoed throughout the halls. “Daddy, it’s Lyssa!”

“Pumpkin! I have tried to call you all day! You have to come with me to the hospital. I’ll explain on the way.” He uttered, out of breath.

We hopped into his vehicle and swiftly pulled onto the highway.

“I got a call from the hospital early this morning.” He explained.

“Lee County Community?” I asked.

“Yes. They wouldn’t let me in to her!” Daddy tried to speak with a trembling voice.

“Who?” I asked. “Wouldn’t let you in to see who?”

“They called wanting you to identify Megan’s body. She had your name and telephone number in her purse and you were the only person they will let in to see her. I tried all day, all day. I’m just glad you got here when you did.” Daddy cried.

“Oh, no! How? How did it happen?” Tears filled my eyes.

“Apparently, she was racing her car on a straight away. It was rainy and dark. She just went over the bank. Her family doesn’t know yet.” He wiped the tears from his cheeks. “She was so young.”

I held my head in my hands to hide the tears. “I can’t believe that. I should’ve known. How could I have not listened to her?”

“What do you mean?” Daddy asked.

I wiped my eyes and stared up at him. “She was trying to tell me about a conversation that she had with her psychic. She had told Megan that she would die soon.”

“I don’t believe in that stuff.” Daddy said as we turned into the parking lot.

“Neither do I but don’t you think that sounds just a little fishy?” I asked. “She was trying to tell me how she felt and I didn’t want to hear it. She was scared.”

The hospital was busy with ringing telephones and buzzing alarms. Nurses crowded the halls and the intercom rang across chatting visitors. Suddenly, Carmen came toward me with flushed cheeks and bloodshot eyes.

“Carmen! What’s going on?” I called.

Carmen hugged me tightly and explained, “They won’t let me in but I was there. I knew something bad was going to happen. She was arguing with Todd, her ex-boyfriend, about something. Evidently, they raced and she wrecked. I haven’t seen him. He must have just left her there!”

“I can’t believe that!” I felt a chill and rubbed my shoulders. “I’ll go in.”

I walked into a large, cold room and noticed a doctor standing beside of a cluttered counter.

“Excuse me, doctor?” I asked.

“Young lady, you’re not suppose to be in here.” He demanded.

I stood still and announced. “I’m here to identify Megan Malloy’s body. You’ve tried to contact me?”

“Oh, yes, ma’am. You must be Alyssa Kerrington.” He held out his hand.

I raised my eyebrow and corrected him. “Alyssa Myers. I’m devorced.”

“Miss Myers, my name is doctor Loyd. I need you to identify Miss Malloy’s body before we can release any kind of information to further contacts.” Doctor Loyd explained as he pulled open a giant drawer hidden inside the wall.

“Oh my goodness! Megan!” I cried. My body went numb as I gazed at my best friend frozen and lifeless. “That’s her, doctor, can you please shut it now?”

“I want to thank you for your cooperation. Do you have anyone we can call to let her family know to make arrangements or we could make arrangements on our own and all the family has to do is show up.” He assured.

“Yes, please do that and I will do the rest. Thank you.” I slowly walked back into the waiting room and buried myself into Carmen’s embrace.

I could feel nothing except pain and could think of nothing other than a swollen, powder-like body lying in front of me. I wanted to reach out of my thoughts and pull her back to me but my best friend was gone. My life was over now.

As I walked slowly outside of the building, I noticed Todd coming toward me. Rage over took my emotions and thoughts. I spoke before I knew what I had done. “You son of a bitch!” I yelled.

Daddy rushed up behind me and grabbed my arms. “Lyssa! Stay cool! This solves nothing!”

“What?” Todd yelled at me and threw both of his arms into the air above his head.

“You are a murderer!” I shouted.

“I didn’t murder no damn body!” Todd bellowed back as he shook his finger toward me.

“You killed her! You ass hole! You just left her there to die! They could’ve saved her life and you left!” I felt weak and dropped to the ground. My father continued to grip my arms into his while still settled close behind me.

“I didn’t!” Todd announced.

I eased toward his face with a burning desire to rip his flesh from every visible part of his body. “I hope you burn in hell for what you’ve done to Megan. You will burn and Megan’s face will flash before your eyes! Every time you gnash your teeth and moan in agony, you’ll think of her and how you let her die!” I screamed.

“Alyssa!” My father shouted. “That’s about enough!”

I watched as this good for nothing bozo bounced into the hospital doors with not a care in the world. “I’ll see you in court!” I screamed as my father and Carmen pulled me away from the sight of Todd and closer to the blazer parked beneath the concrete steps.

The day of the funeral came quickly and the clouds gathered over head. Friends and family that I had known since childhood stood around me sniffing and holding each other’s hands. The minister began his sermon and spoke loudly as the clouds hung darker with every word that rolled off of his tongue. We prayed and felt chilling drops on our heads that made me cringe and feel even worse. There, my best friend lay dead and all that was left to do was move on. I cried loudly and fell to the ground. The mud seeped through my stockings but I had to be closer to Megan. Suddenly, someone picked me up from behind.

“I’ve got you.” Lance whispered into my ear.

“Lance, it’s you! It’s really you!” I replied.

“Come on, I’ll take you home.”

Lance drove me to a nearby lake that we use to play by when we were children. The rain stopped and the clouds seemed to quickly glide away leaving nothing except a warm sun to dry the puddles. He carried me to a rain shed that we use to call our playhouse. Lance smiled and gazed deep into my eyes.

For a moment, I noticed an expression on Lance’s face that I had never seen before. He smiled and gazed at me like he was intoxicated. No man, that I had ever been in love with, ever made me feel as comfortable and safe. Without a doubt, I knew Megan was smiling down on me. For some strange reason, I wondered if this wasn’t a plan; her plan to bring us together. I stared out over the dancing water as the last few raindrops dripped into its surface. I thought of her again and smiled. God must have his hands full now. The biggest scammer of all time made me laugh when I thought that I had no hope left in the world. She was a necessity to my life and my thoughts. She was really something.

While thinking to myself, I noticed Lance still glaring at me with a frivolous expression.

“I have missed you so badly.” Lance spoke and cupped my cheeks into the palm of his hands.

“You really do love me, don’t you?” I asked him.

“I’ve waited a long time for this.” He moved my hair away from my emerald eyes.

“My whole life.” I answered and moved closer to my soul mate.

Lance touched his nose to mine. “So, what do we do now?”

A familiar tune danced in my head and I answered him. “Kiss me.”

What It Takes

The End

Written by: Kristina Bailey

       Web Site: What It Takes

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Reviewed by Beth Young 12/28/2002
Reviewed by Donna (fellow Lee Countian) 11/11/2002
This was a really good story. I'm very proud of you! I can't wait to read more!
Reviewed by jennifer 10/18/2002
great story! way to go!

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