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Unexpected Love Story (Love 2) Natasha Madison 2022/8/3 13:50:50

“Yeah.” I walk forward so I don’t feel his touch. “It’s just warm in here today,” I tell him, walking to the desk to grab my water bottle.

“Can someone check the thermostat please?” Gabe yells from his spot, looking over at me. My eyes go to the desk, and I avoid his stare.

For the rest of the day, I never make eye contact with him again. We make our way from patient to patient, and I’m one of the first ones to leave. Getting home, I turn the car off, leaning my head against the headrest and closing my eyes. When my heart finally slows down and my breathing returns to normal, I get out of the car. Walking into the house, I yell, “Lucy, I’m home!” and put my bags on the table. No one answers me, so I walk to the back bedroom and don’t find her there either. I walk to her back porch, and there she is, sitting in the swing with her legs stretched out as she watches the waves crash into the shore.

“A penny for your thoughts,” I say, and she turns around. “You look a million miles away.”

She shakes her head as she rubs a tear away. “Just thinking,” she says. I walk over to her, picking up her feet and placing them on my lap as I sit down. We don’t say anything as we both watch the waves. “You know, if you think about it,” she starts, her eyes never leaving the water, “the signs were all there that something was going on.” She laughs a hurt laugh. “All there … I was just too blind to see.”

“If you were blind, then I guess we all were. None of us suspected anything.” I squeeze her leg.

“But you guys didn’t live with him.” She inhales. “I was such a fool.”

“No, you weren’t.” I try to get her to see, but she shakes her head.

“I hate him, like with my whole heart. For as much love as I had for him, I have just as much hatred.” A tear slides down her face. I always wondered when I would be able to tell her about Samantha, and at that moment, with her doubting her whole life, I know this is the time.

“Hailey, you trusted him. You did what anyone else would have done.” I rub her leg as she stretches her arm out and lays her head on it. “I went to see her,” I whisper. She finally looks at me, but this time, I look back at the water. “I didn’t want to tell you … I just.” I take a deep breath, and then look back at Hailey. “We went down and saw her.”

“We?” she asks, confused.

“Well, Blake wasn’t going to let me go by myself, just in case I did something harsh.” I shrug my shoulders. “I just wanted to know, in case you had questions later. She …” She looks at me, and I let go of the tears I was holding all day, the tears that I’m shedding for my cousin, for her pain, and for my empty future. “She is so different from you. She isn’t strong like you are. He’s all she has ever known. She had no idea. She didn’t suspect for one minute that he would do that to her, that he would do that to his family. He always traveled for work, so it wasn’t like a red flag or anything. The only thing that changed is that the FaceTimes got less and less at the end.”

“They have kids.” I don’t know if it’s a question or not.

“Yes, and every single day, she has to look into the eyes of her children and see the good in them, or else she is going to go insane.” I wipe the tears away. “That is what she has to live with. I wanted to hate her, to blame her for what he did to you, to us, but she had fewer answers than you did.”

“I can’t even imagine. I hated her,” she starts to say. “I hated that she had that with him. That she had him forever. That their love would go on forever in their children.”

I laugh sarcastically. “It was a lie. As much as you think your life was a lie, so was hers.” She nods, and neither of us says anything as we watch the water go from dark blue to black as the sun sets and nighttime blankets the sky.

My dreams that night are nightmares. Even with the sun shining in them, I see a little girl running on the beach, her feet being swallowed by the waves crashing onto the shore. Gabe runs behind her, pretending to chase her, then picks her up, and flips her upside down. While her laughing and squealing bounces off the crashing waves, he looks back at me, his eyes pure happiness as he tells her something, and she waves at me. I sit there and watch him walk away from me, holding his little girl’s hand. Getting farther and farther away from me.