Peter grabbed Heather’s hand and listened.
“My husband had a heart attack and died a year and a half ago. I have three kids, a dog and no job. I cannot stand being pitied, and I just fell in the middle of the road and broke my ankle. The thought of heading back to the pity place is killing me. The thought that everyone at the bus stop is going to bring me a casserole or pasta dish again for the next week makes me want to throw up. I want to be normal. I want to be what I was…what we were. I don’t want my kids to be the ones with the dead dad. I want them just to be Henry, Gracie and Hayes.”
Peter was holding her hand, rubbing her palm with his thumb.
“And now I am sure you are so sorry you pulled over. If you had left thirty seconds earlier this morning your day would have been so much different.”
He was drawn to her. Drawn to her in a way he could never have imagined. He wanted to cuddle in next to her on the chair and run his fingers through her hair to make all her troubles go away.
“Stop. I am here. I want to be right here helping you. I wasn’t doing anything important today.”
Hell, he hardly ever did anything important, Peter thought to himself.
“Because maybe you fell into my life for a reason. And you did literally just fall into my path. Who cares why? Let’s call your mom and let her know what’s going on. At least it’s a holiday, and you don’t have to face the bus stop. But that does mean you need to figure out what’s for dinner.”
“No, my mom will bring dinner I’m sure. She’s not one to miss an opportunity to roast a chicken.”
“Ok. Call her now while I run out and pick up some lunch. Tell her not to hurry back. I’ll stay with you until she gets here.” All of the sudden Peter was rushing out to buy this stranger lunch. His sister would tease him, as she had been trying to get him to settle down and be serious for the last twenty years. And now he was buying lunch for a widow with three children.
Heather was too tired to argue. She had a feeling she hadn’t had in a while. It felt relaxing to have someone else take charge of her life for a moment. And someone had finally hugged her. Even better, someone who looked like Peter. Heather had always had a thing for arm tattoos. Hank was a guy without a tattoo. It hadn’t mattered to her. Hank was about so much more than a tattoo. He was her home, her childhood, her life all packed into a 200 lb man. He was her everything. Hank had been part of her life for thirty-two years. He knew everything about her. When he died, he took so much of her with him. Things weren’t always perfect with them, but things were familiar. They had known each other since Mrs. Zarchy’s kindergarten class. He asked her to sleep over at his house when he was in first grade. He was her first love. She was his. There had been others in high school and college for both of them but just enough others to know they were all the other wanted. When he proposed to her in the lifeguard chair on the beach in September, a year and a half after they graduated from college, they both knew this was it. It was a relationship sealed in the bark of the old oak tree in front of the house her mom still lived in. A house and tree that were painful reminders of the current state of things.
But right now, this guy in a white t-shirt, well-worn skinny jeans and Doc Marten’s was going to buy her lunch and had rescued her from the turkey vultures and tennis moms who would have started swarming had he not stopped his car. He looked like the bad boy every girl dreamed of when her usually doting husband did something wrong. Like forgetting to put a Pull Up on your toddler before bedtime or leaving the half-gallon of organic milk in the car on a hot summer night. This guy, Peter, looked bad but seemed like he may have some shining armor in his closet.
Peter left before she could say anything. Heather called her mom, who was frantic and decided she would leave the boys at home and take Gracie to the store to buy dinner. She said they would come over later that afternoon.
Peter hopped in his car and ran over to his brother-in-law’s restaurant. He grabbed some iced tea, salad and sandwiches. Thankfully, Chris wasn’t there. Peter knew he was at a travel baseball tournament in Newport News with Peter’s nephew. Janie was at home with his niece.
He got back to Heather’s pretty quickly. Peter opened the food on the island. He carried a tea over to her.
“I have a chicken curry sandwich, garden salad and grilled cheese with tomato. What would you like?”
“Hmmmm… that’s easy. Obviously you went to Cafe Nouveau. I’ll have half of the chicken curry. It’s my favorite.” She decided not to mention she was a vegan. Or a fegan (fake vegan) as her best friend from high school not so lovingly called her. Heather happened to be a vegan who enjoyed a cheeseburger every once in a while and a good chicken curry.
Peter brought it over to her in the brown cardboard box it came in. Peter seated himself on the couch opposite Heather and ate the grilled cheese.
“Does your Mom take the kids often?”
“At least once a month. I like to have them here though. I’m not good about sharing them anymore. Hank’s mom likes to take them out when she can. But it gets too quiet without them. They have their friends here and usually don’t like to leave.”
“Do you run often?”
“As often as I can get away. I usually write better after I run - assuming I don’t fall in a pothole. But I guess that’s done for awhile.”
“You’ll be back at it before you know it. We’ll have to find other ways for you to workout.” We? What the hell was he doing? he thought to himself. He never said things like that.
We? Who the hell was this guy? thought Heather. After I ruined his day, he was brave enough to mention seeing me again.
“I can only imagine what I would do on another workout. Accidents and misfortune seem to follow me.”
“Yeah, I’ve only known you for a few hours, and I’ve picked up on that.”
“I have a stationary bike upstairs I can probably use to ensure my ass doesn’t get any fatter.”
“Don’t think you are in danger of that happening anytime soon.” Conversation was easy with Heather. He felt like he had known her all his life.
Heather hadn’t fallen into an easy conversation with anyone in the last year and a half much less a stranger of the male persuasion. It felt oddly familiar, and she was hoping she didn’t ruin it or over analyze it too much. She could hardly take her eyes off of him. She was having a hard time figuring him out. He was casually elegant, had at least two tattoos (she could only imagine what was covered), wore Doc Martens and drove a navy blue Lexus. He did not look like any of the men she knew in the area.
“Do you live nearby?” Heather asked.
“I actually have a loft downtown, but my sister lives out here. I dropped something off this morning and was on my way home.”
“Stuck in the 2-3-1-1-3. Lucky you.”
“It’s not so bad. Who knew I would get to experience so much of it today? I divide my time in a few different places. I have a place in Manhattan, and my family has a house in Maine.”
“Some of my favorite places.”
He said family, thought Heather. Did he mean his immediate family or his parents? He wasn’t wearing a ring, and she kind of doubted that a wife would love for him to be spending so much time with another woman.
“This is my home base though. The place where they send my mail.”
“I can’t thank you enough for getting me this sandwich. And for taking me to the doctor. Oh, and for picking me up off the pavement. Great first impression.”
“It was a first impression I am not likely to forget. I get the sense that life with you is always this memorable.”
Peter didn’t know the half of it. Heather had a knack for making waxing your eyebrows interesting. He hadn’t even met the kids yet.
“What are you writing?” asked Peter.
“A memoir. A love story of sorts. I just don’t get a lot of time to write lately.”
“Well, I would love to read it sometime. I guess I can wait till it’s published.”
“Ha! You’ll be waiting awhile then! Mom and the kids should be here soon. Why don’t you get on with your day? I’ve kept you long enough.”
“Only if you are sure you’ll be ok. I’ll be out here again to check in on you.”
Peter picked up all their lunch, made sure Heather had what she needed and left her with a quick tap on the shoulder. And for the first time in ages, Heather had a tiny smile in her heart.
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Genre – Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG13
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