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Before I could stop myself, I grabbed my purse. A few minutes later, I used my key to open the door. It was late so I knew the boys would be asleep. Renny met me at the bottom of the stairs.
“What do you want, Elaine?”
“My family. I want my family.”
“It’s late. CJ and Cam are asleep.”
“That’s not what I mean, Renny. I want my family. Our family.” Renny didn’t respond; he just stared, his expression impenetrable. I pushed pass the lump in my throat. “I want us.”
“You want us?”
I nodded my head.
Renny snorted. “You want your family back. You want us. Exactly what does that mean, Elaine?” He sat on the fourth step from the bottom and leaned forward, his elbows rested on his knees and his hands clasped.
“It means you are right. I was, well am, selfish. And I’m sorry, Renny. So sorry for abandoning you and the boys. I’m sorry that I choose my career and money over my family. At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing, trying to take care of everybody – “
“Everybody like who, Elaine?”
I swallowed. “You and boys. Momma. Janay, my nieces. We needed the money, and the job was a good opportunity to make more so I could provide for everyone.”
“You’re joking, right? What the hell do you mean take care of me and the boys? I’ve always supported this family, and I never asked you for shit. We were doing just fine until you wanted to go buy that house, Elaine. I was content to stay right here.”
“I know, Renny. The new house was my idea. That’s why I felt responsible. I know you didn’t want to move.”
“Damn right. I asked you a million times if you needed help with your mom’s expenses, and what did you always tell me?”
“I always said – “
“You always said ‘I got it’ like you didn’t want or need my help. And as far as your sister, I told you to stop letting her take advantage of you, especially since she let that deadbeat slide and not pay child support. Janay didn’t need anything, she was still living at home. The house is paid for, and you and Danny took care of all the bills. All she called you for was frivolous shit.”
Renny was angry. His voice was calm, his words were measured and precise. His hands were clasped together tightly, his eyes squinted. I leaned against the wall for support. I was desperately trying to present my case, but Renny shot down all my arguments.
“You are right, Renny. It’s all true. All of it. I tried to take care of Momma and my sister like Daddy did. I felt like I owed it to him.” I slid down the wall and sat on the floor. I never admitted that to anyone, not even my mom.
Neither of us said anything for a while. I sat on the floor, arms folded looking straight ahead. Renny remained on the stairs, his head bowed. Eventually, he broke the silence.
He cleared his throat before asking. “Is that why you came back to Mabrary Springs?”
“I came back to Mabrary Springs because even though I accomplished everything I set out to do, it wasn’t enough. I was able to meet all my obligations and rebuild my savings, but something was still missing. I worked hard, learned a lot, traveled, but I could never re-capture the satisfaction I had before, when it was just me.” I turned to look at him. “Before you, CJ and Cam.”
“So you felt guilty?”
“I felt incomplete, like something was missing. No matter how hard I worked or how much money I made, I was empty. Now that I’m back, I feel whole again. Everything just fell into place. I no longer have the fancy job, fly first class all over the country or eat at ridiculously overpriced restaurants on a daily basis, but I am happier now than I was the past two years. I enjoy being here, taking care of the boys, spending time with Momma, Danny and Janay. I love taking the boys to school or camp and hearing all about their day. My heart soars when my nieces and nephew jump out of the car screaming for Auntie Lainey. Dinner around my momma’s kitchen is ten times better than any fine dining establishment.” I took a deep breath before adding. “And I enjoy spending time with you.”
“What about Javier?” We never discussed my relationship with Javier. Renny knew that our relationship was both professional and personal, but none of the specifics. I decided to start from the beginning.
“Javier and I got together after you filed for divorce. I was hurt, lonely and vulnerable. He took care of me, made sure I had everything I needed. We looked good on paper. I admired and respected him, and we worked well together. Our personal relationship was one of convenience really, more physical. Javier doesn’t do emotional entanglements – his words – so he was content to share his bed but not much else. That suited me up until a point. I wanted more and I needed more. He wasn’t able to give me what I needed. Javier is a kind man, very generous and giving. I wanted for nothing, but all the things couldn’t fill the void.”
“What did he say when you told him you were moving back to Mabrary Springs?”
“He didn’t believe me. He thought I was just upset, grieving after Pops died. I gave him my resignation before I left for the funeral. He just took it, told me he’d see me when I got back. I wasn’t until I went to Charlotte that he took me seriously. He used to call and try to persuade to reconsider. I guess he gave up because I haven’t heard from him in a few weeks.”
“He misses you?”
I laughed. “Javier hates to lose. He considers me coming back to the place where he ‘rescued me’ a failure. I hurt his pride, but not much else.”
I stopped talking, waiting for more questions about my dalliance with my boss. After a while, I asked the one question that was eating away at me.
“What about Brandy?”
Renny laughed. “Yeah, what about her?”
“Are you all still together? As a couple, I mean.” I hated to ask, but I needed to know.
“Brandy and I were never a couple, at least not the kind of couple she wanted us to be.”
“What does that mean?” I was confused. On the surface, they both looked and acted like a couple. They went on dates, took trips, talked often. All couple stuff.
“Long story short, Brandy is ready to settle down, get married and start a family. I told her from the beginning that was not what I wanted. I told her I was divorced, done with marriage and having children. My sons are my focus now. She said she understood that and wouldn’t try to pressure me. Things were fine initially, but eventually, she started pressing for more. Wanted to meet the boys, spend the night, stuff like that. So I pulled back, told her we needed to take a break because we wanted different things. She said cool. Couple of days later, she called, asked me out for dinner. Apologized for coming on so strong, said she liked spending time with me. Said we could just hang out, no strings attached. I said okay. We’d be good for a few months, than she’d start again with wanting more. I’d put the brakes on, tell it was over. Couple of weeks go by, and she’d texting and calling again, saying things would be different. But they never were. Same pattern over and over.”
“And now? Where are you in the cycle?”
“Funny you should ask. I told her earlier today that I was done, tired of all the drama. The relationship wasn’t going anywhere, and it was time to end it.”
I carefully considered his words. He and Brandy were never a couple. Done with marriage. Focused on CJ and Cam. So I had to ask.
“So what about us?”
“What about us, Elaine?”
“Like I said before, I would like us to try again.”
“I don’t know, Elaine. A lot of time has passed. A lot has happened. I just don’t know about us anymore.”
Second gut punch of the night, but I figured I had nothing else to lose at this point. I walked over and stood directly in front of Renny.
“Everything you said about me is right, Renny. I’ve done selfish things my whole life, not considering how it impacted the lives of those around me. After high school, I promised I would never come back to Mabrary Springs, and I stuck to that. When I finally did, my Daddy was gone. That is the one regret I live with every single day, and I can’t do a thing to change it.”
I swallowed hard before continuing, “I should have learned my lesson then, but my parents always said I had a hard head. So I left again, chasing my dream. This time it cost me my family. I regret it, God knows I do, but this time I can do something about it.”
I reached out, gently caressing his face. “I love you, Courtney Reynolds, from the bottom of my heart. I never stopped loving you.”
Renny exhaled, looking me squarely in the eyes. “What’s different this time, Elaine? Loving me didn’t stop you from leaving before. How can I trust you this time?”
Trust. That was the problem, just like Momma said.
“I took you for granted before, Renny. I really did. I thought I could go off, do my thing, and you would still be here waiting. But you didn’t wait, and I loss you. For over two years, I lived without you. Then I got back, I watched you create a life with someone else. Renny, I don’t ever want to do that again. I don’t ever want to live without you or watch you have a life with someone who is not me. That’s what’s different this time, baby.”
Taking a chance, I leaned forward and placed a kiss on his lips. Renny didn’t give in but he also didn’t pull back so I kissed him again. Again. Again. And again, growing more desperate for the connection, his touch, for him.
I pulled back, cradling his handsome face in my hands. “I love you, Renny. You are the love of my life. I need you, baby. So much.”
I smiled as Renny pulled me closer, placing one hand around my waist and the another behind my head before. This time, he kissed me passionately. Renny released me and pressed his forehead to mine. “I love you, too, Lainey.”
He tightened his grip and whispered. “Don’t ever leave me again.”
I shook my head, “Never. Never again.”
Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes
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