Author’s Note: One swear word.
Dear J, today I stopped over to see Rachel. Yes, you’re seeing that picture right; she’s almost due. And yes, she is as grouchy as she looks.
“I’m doing fine,” she said. “I’ll be glad when this is over with, though.”
I tried to smile a little, but honestly, I wasn’t feeling it. There was just too much on my mind lately.
“What’s eating you?”
“I, uh, got a letter from Chrissy,” I said with a sigh. “She says she’s got a ways to go in treatment yet, but that she loves me and hopes I’ll wait for her.”
Her eyes grew as big as saucers. “Oh. Wow.”
“Are you able to go see her or anything?”
I shook my head. “No, she’s not allowed visitors because her therapy is so intensive. She can have letters, but I didn’t write back to her.”
“Are you going to?”
Shrugging, I picked at a piece of lint on my pants.
“How do you feel about it? Maybe she’s just feeling grateful or something. I don’t see how she can possibly truly love you.”
“I know. I guess I feel kind of bad because she’s had it so rough and everything.”
“Do you love her?”
I shook my head again. “No. I think she’s trouble for me. I’m probably trouble for her, too.”
Rachel gently squeezed my hand. “I think if you can see that, then you’re going to be okay no matter what happens with Chrissy.”
I must have looked doubtful because she asked, “Is there something else going on with you?”
Jillybean, I always thought you would be the only one who could tell things like that. Rachel isn’t my twin, but she’s become very perceptive where I’m concerned. I hope I always show her the same care and kindness.
A few months ago, Rachel had tearfully confided in me that she and Daylynn weren’t very close at all. This surprised me a lot because I just assumed all twins were inseparable the way you and I were. My heart broke for my little sister that day. I was glad that Rachel could trust me to keep her secrets as I trusted her. It was nice knowing that this wasn’t a one way street, where I always dumped on her but she felt like she couldn’t tell me anything.
“There is something,” I finally admitted. “Blue is really pissed that I won’t let her learn to drive.”
“Of course she is. I thought you were prepared for that response?”
“I thought I was. But every time I try to tell her why, I just…. freeze up. I physically can’t make the words come out of my mouth.”
Rachel seemed lost in thought for a moment. She was probably thinking about how the car crash had affected her, too. I knew I wasn’t the only family member traumatized by what happened.
“Oh, Leo, you have to be the one to tell her about what happened. If she finds out from anyone else, it could be disastrous for your relationship with her.”
Of course she was right. I was already thinking along those lines. “How do I get past this mental block I have?”
“Have you ever told anyone?”
She thought again for a moment. “You and Leela are good friends, right? Maybe you could practice by telling her about it?”
My heart immediately screamed my opposition to that idea, but logically, I knew it was a good suggestion. “I’m taking her out to dinner this evening.”
Rachel smiled reassuringly. “Give it a try.”
Give it a try, Rachel had said in that encouraging way that had become her trademark.
When I got to Leela’s, we chatted about the girls who were away for the weekend with the other students in their grade. They were visiting the Grand Museum of Magic today (Blue had better not tell me she wants to be a magician!) and then tomorrow they were going to Grooveytown which boasted the largest wooden roller coaster on the planet.
After a while, we moseyed outside so we could admire the view. Honestly, though, the only view I was admiring was Leela herself. I loved the way the early evening sun made her glossy black hair shine. As always, her eyes caught mine, holding me captive in the moment.
“It’s really beautiful, Leo, but I can’t accept such an extravagant gift,” she murmured as she touched the necklace I had put around her delicate neck.
“That old thing? I got it out of a cereal box when I was a kid,” I grinned.
A small smile touched her lips, making me want to reach out and hold her in my arms, but I resisted the impulse since she seemed kind of annoyed with me.
“It’s much too expensive, I’m sure. I just can’t take it.”
I looked away bashfully before answering. “I saw it and it just called out to me. It belongs on you. Look at the way it shines next to your skin. I can’t imagine anyone else wearing it.”
“Well, you’re just going to have to because I’m not keeping it.”
“Just wear it tonight, okay?” I said.
She agreed to humor me but said it should go right back to the store tomorrow. I figured she could only resist me for so long; I was that determined. There was no way that was going back.
Dinner seemed to be going well… for a few minutes. I had the dim sum and she had hot and sour soup. We hadn’t even begun eating when I realized she seemed very uncomfortable.
Following her gaze, I recognized a couple of paparazzi at another table. They thought they were being discreet with their menus and drinks, but you could always tell who they were.
“Do you want me to tell them to leave us alone?”
She looked horrified. “No, wouldn’t that just cause more of a fuss?”
“Not always. I’m really not on their list of difficult people because I pretty much just ignore them. I don’t look at them or answer their questions but I don’t block them either unless they’re around Blue.”
“What a life you have,” Leela said with wonder. “That would drive me insane.”
I shrugged and lifted my fork. “Sometimes it bothers me. It’s not always easy having strangers stare at you like you’re a rare panda in the zoo or something. But they’re trying to make a living, I guess.”
“Seems to me, I once saw an article on the internet about how easy going you are with them,” she smirked. “You grabbed a camera and stomped it into the pavement and I think you had to pay for it.”
Laughing, I said, “Like I mentioned, sometimes it bothers me.”
After we ate, I took Leela to a spot by the water that was out of town and away from prying eyes.
“How did you know about this place?” she asked, taking it all in with those beautiful amber eyes.
“I’m always looking for places Blue and I can picnic and fish without anyone bothering us. This is our favorite spot.”
“You’re so good with her, Leo. When I first met you, I thought I knew all there was to know about you. The important things, anyway. But you really are so much deeper than that. I’m sorry that I prejudged you the way I did. I cringe now when I think about how cold I was to you when we first met.”
“It’s okay,” I answered, genuinely feeling that it was. “I was a strange guy you saw in the papers and on the internet and you’re very business like.” With more seriousness, I said, “But, Leela, I’m so glad you gave me a chance to be friends. You really mean a lot to me.”
Instead of responding with a sentiment of her own, she said suddenly, “Hey, do you realize I’ve never heard you sing?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“Well, we’re a lone here…. so, sing!”
And like a fool, I did. What she didn’t know is that I would have figured out how to do cartwheels if she’d asked me to.
To my surprise, she seemed to really enjoy the song.
“It’s weird without my guitar,” I said and we both laughed.
As our laughter died down, we stared into each others’ eyes. Suddenly I felt like I was in another world where everything was great and someone really cared about me.
As if being controlled by a puppeteer, we reached for each other and got closer….
… and closer.
Feeling her in my arms was so different than how it had felt holding anyone else. It was the most perfect embrace I’d ever experienced. As I closed my eyes, I lost track of where my body ended and hers began. The sound around us stopped and I felt safe.
But that was nothing compared to the kiss. My nose nuzzled hers for a brief moment, then our lips touched; uncertainly at first. It was the most exquisite moment I’ve ever had. I could feel my adrenaline pumping as soon as that first contact was made.
My lips brushed against her jawline and traced their way to her ear and then down to her collarbone, like little fluttering butterflies. She sighed and ran one of her hands through my hair, her other hand caressing my back through my jacket.
I put my hand around her waist and pulled her closer, against my chest, running my tongue against her lower lip. She opened her mouth and our tongues met, deepening the kiss.
When we finally stopped it was only because we had to catch our breath. I smiled at her, my heart bursting with emotion.
All she said was, “Oh my,” as she touched her tingling lips with the tips of her fingers.
Reluctantly, we went back to the limo and I took her home. I wasn’t sure what she was thinking because we rode in silence, each lost in our own thoughts. But I was encouraged that she held my hand the entire way to her house.
I barely slept at all that night. Visions of Leela and what embracing and kissing her had felt like danced in my head. Whatever I was feeling for her, I had it bad. I could only hope she had it bad, too.
The first thing I did the next morning was to call her. She told me how glad she was that I called and that she’d had a wonderful time the night before. To my utter amazement and delight, she asked if we could get together again soon.
I don’t remember anything else about that day other than that phone call. Working was impossible, so I was mainly just killing time until Blue got home from her weekend trip.
It was late afternoon when I finally ventured out to take a walk. As I rounded a corner and began walking past the bookstore, I saw something that threw me off completely.
I was on the cover of Fan Weekly! My heart sank as I realized these had to be unauthorized pictures. Accidental Therapy had been touring and on a day off, we’d gone to the beach.
Over forty photos inside, the magazine boasted. Over forty! With shaking hands, I whipped the magazine open and began scanning the pictures. Almost all of them were from that day on the beach. We’d thought it was a secluded area, but I should have known someone would be using a long range lens.
My heart sank further down, pounding erratically as I noticed some of the photos could be considered racy. I thought I’d stepped away from this life, but here it was, smacking me in the face!
And speaking of my face, even with my head tilted the way it was, all I could see was that scar.
Frantically, my mind went into overdrive. Could I buy all the copies in Hidden Springs? People were already recognizing me and lining up for autographs. Most of them were teenage girls. Even if I bought all the copies in Hidden Springs, there would be digital copies, too. This was ghastly.
With my pulse racing and my breath coming in panicky gulps, I pushed through the growing crowd and hightailed it out of there as fast as I could.
Out of breath, my heart still racing, I quickly made a drink and started gulping it down.
“What’s wrong, Daddy? You don’t usually drink,” Blue said, startling me.
As calmly as I could, I put the glass down on the bar and wiped my sweaty forehead with my hand.
“I didn’t realize you were home, honey.”
She rolled her eyes a little. “Obvi. What’s got you all nervous?”
“Oh, uh… guess who’s on the cover of Fan Weekly?”
“Oh no,” she groaned. “I hope my friends don’t see it.”
“Me, too,” I agreed.
“This is just great!” she further lamented.
“I’m sorry about this. I don’t know where the pictures came from. I mean, I didn’t pose for them.”
“Oh no,” she repeated. “That’s so not cool.”
“Right?” I mumbled, considering having another drink.
“So, did anything else catastrophic happen while I was gone? I can’t leave you for even two days, Dad.”
That’s when it occurred to me that I should talk to her about the car accident. I mean, the day was already in the toilet. Thinking again about the scar on my face, I absently touched my cheek where it was. The car crash had left so many scars on me, it was time to get it out in the open.
“Actually, there is something I want to talk to you about.”
“Yeah, ummm….,” and then I paused, trying to form the words, “… Leela and I went out last night.” I can be such a chickenshit. So much for facing any of the scars I had.
I cringed, waiting for the fireworks from the girl who never wanted another woman in her dad’s life.
“That’s terrific!” she exclaimed.
This sent her into fits of laughter. It was okay she was laughing at me since I was incredibly relieved I hadn’t screwed up my relationship with her somehow by getting more serious about Leela.
She unexpectedly threw herself into my arms. “I’ve only wanted this for years! Ruby, too! We hope so bad that you guys will get together! I want Ruby to be my very own sister for real.”
Chuckling a little, I hugged my girl back. Could this really be happening? I smoothed the back of her hair with my hand as I said, “Well, I don’t know if that will happen, but I’ll admit she means a lot to me.”
Satisfied, for now at least, Blue pulled away and said, “I’m going to have some ice cream. Do you want any?”
Just then, my phone started ringing. “Yeah, fix me up with some Cherry Potter. I’ll be right along.”
I answered my cell as she skipped out of the room. “Hello?”
“Hi, Leo, it’s Leela.”
My lips curled into a smile. “Hey. How does tomorrow night sound? Candlelight dinner at the Starlight Palace?”
There was a long, pregnant pause.
“Leela?” I said, my smile fading. Something wasn’t right.
“About that,” she began, her words slow as if she wasn’t sure what she was going to say. “I think we made a big mistake. I’m sorry, but I can’t go out with you tomorrow… or ever.”
Bonus pics! Rachel had her baby! Her name is Phyllis after Liev’s mother:
Author’s Note: Leela’s house was made by Bee and can be downloaded at TSR here: The Lake House. Also, I would like to note that the house has a black roof as made by Bee. I don’t know why the roof in my save isn’t black, but just wanted you all to know it is supposed to be. 🙂