Dear Diary, it’s been a strange day. The first thing happened as soon as I came inside after a run. Rosetta and Chris were making dinner. Have you ever walked in on people talking and realize as soon as they see you, they shut up? It means they were talking about you, right?
That’s what happened in this instance.
“Uh, hi,” Rosetta said, her face turning red.
“What did I just walk in on?”
“Nothing. Why would you ask that?”
I sighed as I slid off my muddy running shoes so I wouldn’t track all over the house. “Don’t take me for an idiot. Just tell me what’s going on?”
“I said there’s noth – ”
” – It’s okay, Rosetta,” Chris said as he turned around to face me. “We were talking about Julie getting Paisley back.”
He nodded. “Yeah. I suppose you should know since Rosetta figured it out… I’m the one who called Child Protective Services.”
My jaw dropped appropriately as his words sunk in. “Julie totally thought I did that.”
“I’m sorry, Holden, I really am.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? Or Julie?” I demanded.
“I should have. Again, I’m sorry. I didn’t really know how to tell you.”
“This is super shitty, Chris.”
“Look,” he said, “I’m a cop – a mandated reporter. She decided to take her child back to that abusive situation. I had no choice but to report it. If I had to do it again, I would. There’s no way any child should be where that little girl was.”
“I’m not mad that you called, don’t you get that? I’m pissed because when she blamed me, you didn’t say anything.”
“I was wrong not to,” he said. “I am sorry, bro. And, the next time I see her, I’ll tell her.”
It took me a minute or two but I was able to tell myself that what was done was done. I swallowed hard, then said, “That’s all you can do at this point.”
“Do you think she’ll hate me?”
“I don’t know. Let’s just hope she stays on the right path so she can get Paisley back soon.”
“I’m sure she will,” Rosetta said. “Despite everything, I believe she is a good mother.”
“She is,” I said. “And she’s been doing everything they’ve told her to do, so that’s all that matters now.”
Rosetta smiled a little too widely which meant she was going to hit me with something.
“Guess what?” she asked.
Holding back a groan, I said, “What?”
“I’ve been watching Julie a lot and I’ve noticed how much she likes Chris. I’m hoping he’ll ask her out.”
Chris’s eyes grew huge. “I can’t believe you just told him that!”
I couldn’t believe Rosetta didn’t realize she was the one Chris was into.
“Why not?” Rosetta asked. “It’s true!”
“Since when are you the family matchmaker? Leave that stuff to Grandma,” I laughed. It seemed to me Rosetta would never be interested in Chris. The only thing she cared about was getting ahead and controlling everything possible.
I should have gone right upstairs to shower but the TV was on and I decided to sit for just a minute to see what the cooking channel was making. It looked like some kind of pasta thing that I would never eat. I was into fresh ingredients, high in protein.
I must have lost track of time because Julie was home already. Her apartment would be ready in a day or two and she spent her days recently job hunting and going to a domestic violence support group as well as individual counseling. I was so proud of the strides she had made in such a short time.
“Hey,” I called to Jules as Chris, looking extremely nervous, joined her.
Staring at the TV, I popped my earbuds in with the music super loud. I didn’t want to hear what they were talking about, especially if Chris was coming clean with her. It was none of my business. Besides, I had enough to think about regarding my own life and a certain person who wanted a baby.
So, while they talked, I thought about what it would mean to have a kid of my own. I already knew that if I decided to go ahead with this crazy plan, I wouldn’t just be able to ignore the fact that I had a child. There was no way I wouldn’t be involved in his or her life.
But what would that mean for me? What would that mean for the mother? I definitely didn’t see us carrying on a permanent relationship. She’d already told me as much. What if down the road, she became involved with another guy and that dude was in my kid’s life? What if I hated him or if he wasn’t good to him or her?
This was too complicated to make a rash decision about yet I had the feeling she didn’t want to wait much longer for me to make up my mind. Was I even the only person she’d asked? It was a thought that gave me the creeps.
I knew what my answer had to be. I realized this was a careless thing to do. And so, I had to tell her no.
Chris plopped down on the couch next to me, startling me out of my thoughts. As I pulled my earbuds out, I realized Julie wasn’t in the room.
“Sorry,” he said with a slight smile, “I didn’t mean to surprise you.”
“No big deal. Where’s Jules?”
“Oh, she is in the kitchen with Rosetta, eating mac and cheese.”
“Did you tell her?”
He nodded as he replied. “I did. It was just as hard to do as I thought it would be.”
“Well, is she okay?”
“Yeah, man,” he said. “She seemed kind of angry for a minute but then she cooled off and told me that if I hadn’t called, she may still be living with Brent.”
“Wow, she said that huh?” My heart warmed when I heard what she’d told Chris. It meant she really was serious about getting her daughter back and putting her life in order.
“She really did.” Chris had a strange little smile on his face that I’d never seen before.
“What’s up? Is there more?”
His smile widened and his expressive brown eyes stared into mine. “I asked her to accompany me to your final show of the season and she said she would.”
“You’re bringing her to Knight without Glory? That’s great. But…”
He waited a moment then said, “But what?”
“I guess I thought you’d bring Rosetta.”
“Oh,” he murmured, averting his eyes. “I made the mistake of telling her how I felt.”
This couldn’t be good. “What happened?”
His face looked pinched as if he could barely get the words out. “She laughed at me.”
“Oh no.” I loved my sister but she could be the most cold-hearted person on the planet sometimes.
Nodding slightly, he raked his fingers through his hair. “Yeah. Then she realized I was serious. So, she stopped laughing and told me… well, I don’t remember all the weird words she used, but I got the drift. See, a relationship is too complicated and she has things to do.”
I couldn’t help but groan. That sounded exactly like her.
“Hey, it’s okay, though,” he quickly added. “I mean, I’m disappointed, who wouldn’t be? I’m pretty embarrassed, too. But at least how I feel is off my chest and I can hopefully move on now.”
“Dude, we’re just going to your show as friends. Neither of us is ready to date for real yet. She’s not even divorced.”
“Sorry I pried. It’s really none of my business anyway.”
He grinned at me and punched my shoulder lightly. “Hey, man, I’m the one who brought it up.”
He had that right.
The dance went off without a hitch. I put everything into it and I know Zelda did the same. She is an amazing dancer; if I couldn’t have Julie on stage with me, I’m glad I had Zelda.
This was the last performance of the season and I wanted to go out on top. I think the entire company gave it their all.
There was a huge party afterward that I brought Chris and Julie to. It was a formal affair with a buffet and plenty of champagne.
Chris and Jules seemed to really be hitting it off. If I didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t have realized they aren’t an item.
Zelda and Myung hung out together for the most part. They both looked a little tired and I figured Zelda would be heading home soon for some ice.
Myung and I made eye contact and smiled a little at each other. I liked her hair down like that. It was so silky looking, I kept fighting the urge to run my fingers through it. I guess you can tell I really dig long hair.
Turning from Myung, I ran straight into Fletcher and some guy that was with him.
“Fletch,” I breathed, barely finding my voice.
“Hi, Holden. The performance tonight was spectacular! Both Griffin and I thought it was the best ballet we’ve ever seen.”
I stared at him and Griffin stupidly for a moment. “Thanks. How’d you get into the after party?”
“Oh, that would be my department,” Griffin said, his lips curling into a smile. “My parents are theater patrons and know Aiden Minton personally. When I mentioned how much Fletcher and I would like to be here, they made it happen.”
“Oh,” was all I could manage.
Fletcher, I realized, was keenly aware of my awkwardness, it was apparent in the tight smile on his face. “It’s good to see you,” he said. “This is my boyfriend Griffin Hardwin. I was going to introduce you at the theater the other day, but you took off before I could.”
“Uh, yeah, sorry, I had an appointment to get to.”
“I thought you were waiting for your show to start,” he said, meeting my eyes.
What was he trying to prove? Was he really trying to humiliate me in front of my colleagues and friends? Either way, there was no point in my answering him. He already knew the truth that I was there alone and that I’d left without going into the theater.
“Fletch has said such nice things about you,” Griffin said. “And he was so right about your ability as a dancer. I’m impressed!”
I took my time to look at him and stayed as cool as I could. “Thank you,” I said. “I haven’t heard anything about you.”
He blushed a little and cleared his throat. “I work at the building next to Fletcher’s. I’m an attorney.”
“Oh? What kind of lawyer are you?”
As we talked, my pulse began to return to a normal rate and I felt calmer.
“I’m a private defense attorney trying to make a name for myself – ”
” – Without his father’s help, I might add,” Fletcher said, then they both laughed at their inside joke.
“Well, if I ever do anything illegal, I’ll know who to call,” I said, trying to stay cool. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a date – ”
” – Oh! Would that be with this lady you’re having a baby with?” Fletcher asked, an amused smile on his face.
He didn’t believe what I’d said. He thought I was making it up to make him jealous. Well, okay fine. That is what I told him so I didn’t look like I was alone. But that was way beside the point.
“Yes, Fletch told me that you might become a father soon.”
Of course, he did. Was there nothing sacred? All at once, the same emotions I’d gone through during the breakup shot through me… the pain, anger, heartache, disbelief… it woke up every fiber of my being, hammering every nerve like a fresh new assault. My body began to tremble from head to toe and I could only hope they didn’t notice.
“Well, I wouldn’t say soon,” I gasped. It was getting hard to breathe and my chest began to hurt. What was happening to me?
“Well, true, it takes time,” Griffin said.
“Are you okay?” Fletcher asked as if he really cared.
I turned to stare at this monster standing before me, with such a mounting disbelief in my chest. Had I really ever been in love with such a vindictive, hateful man? Had he treated me in such a mocking, mean tone before when we were together and I was just too “in love” to notice? In love, I snarked to myself. Too stupid, was more like it. My thoughts crashed through my head as I put a hand to my aching chest until I felt like I couldn’t think at all. I was strangely disorientated, the noise in the room becoming unbearable.
“Holden?” Fletcher asked, reaching out with his hand, supposedly to take my arm and steady me.
Hastily, I jerked away from him, turning my back to them. I quickly scanned the room, located my girl and hurried over to her practically tripping over people and furniture.
“We have to get out of here,” I hissed into her ear my breath coming in short gasps as my chest continued to heave and my throat constricted.
“What? Right now?”
As we pushed through the throngs of people at the party, I wondered if I was having a heart attack. My chest was so tight with pain shooting through me like lightning. I could barely get enough air into my lungs.
I’m healthy! How can I be dying like this? my brain screamed inside my skull.
It was raining outside and the air smelled like wet, decaying leaves. I stood in the downpour, my face tilted toward the sky, gulping in air as my lady began hailing for a taxi. Inside the cab, it took about ten minutes to calm down. At least now, I could draw in enough air to breathe more normally.
That was the day I learned what a panic attack was.
It was also the day I changed my mind about the baby.
Author’s Note: Things have been really hard for Holden but I wanted to give you a little happy hint about the next chapter to give you hope. Next Saturday will definitely bring some surprises as things begin to look up for our boy!
Thank you, Bee, for making me the most incredible poses to use for Holden’s ballet! I appreciate it so much. If you would like to download the ballet poses, you can find them at Bee’s pose site HERE.
Thank you for reading,