The song this month is one of my favorite from… either middle or high school. I honestly can’t remember, since Bush was popular throughout that time of my life. I spent countless hours listening to Gavin Rossdale croon about things I really had no clue of in my young mind. But teenage angst, and all that… Glycerine remained in heavy rotation on my playlists until I left for the Navy, and now that I remember how much I absolutely loved that album, it will likely be placed back into heavy rotation.
The bell above the door jangled, alerting the diners at Tiffany’s Diner to newcomers. Lindsey glanced up from the worn plastic menu in expectation, but it was just Danny, the owner of the barber shop next door. She sent what she hoped was a good impression of a smile and looked back down at the same food items that had been available since the 90s, when Eileen had bought Momma’s Kitchen from her grandparents. Eileen had named the diner as a nod to a popular song at the time, though most kids who came through had no idea what it meant–just that Tiffany’s Diner had the best breakfast in town.
Tracing the lines of the menu, Lindsey absently noted that her polish had begun to chip. She’d tried to do the manicure, herself, the night before. But dealing with a rambunctious four year old who liked to get his hands into everything usually had her washing her hands–or her son’s–roughly a million times a day.
The smell of bacon, sizzling in the back while Joe sang along to an old Patsy Cline song on the radio, made Lindsey’s stomach rumble–though not in a pleasant way.
It had been two years, five months, and eight days since she’d last seen Kevin. Two years since he’d last held their son. Kissed him goodnight. Held them both close, whispering promises and endearments before disappearing to God only knew where. His deployment had been classified, so even if he cared enough to tell her what caused him to vanish into thin air, by law, he couldn’t.
“Can I get you something, darlin’?” Eileen stood next to the booth, hip leaning against the table behind her. She pulled a pencil from her carrot-red hair, licking the tip before pressing it to the small notepad clutched in her calloused hands.
Her go-to was coffee, but the acrobats performing an interesting version of Cirque du Soleil in her gut insisted on something less acidic. “Can I get a water for now? I’m waiting for someone.”
Eileen cast a blue-eyeshadowed glance toward the door, as if expecting Lindsey’s guest to appear out of thin air. “Sure thing, doll. If you need anything else, gimme a holler, okay?”
Lindsey nodded. “Yes ma’am. Thank you.”
When the large glass of iced water was thunked down in front of her, she gratefully took the straw offered and set it on the table, needing something to do with her hands.
“You and Jared are the most important things in the world to me. I hope you know that.”
Those words had filled her with so much hope at the time. Looking back, she wondered if anything he told her was true. If he’d ever cared about them at all.
The familiar deep, scratchy voice had Lindsey’s head snapping up to look at the man standing in front of her. How did I not hear the goddamn bell? And what do I do? Stand up and hug him? Slap him in the face? Tell him how much he hurt me when he left me alone? Beg him never to go away again?
She’d thought of all that the night before, when Kevin had called her out of the blue asking to meet for coffee. The answers hadn’t magically appeared then, either.
Kevin looked the same. Baby blue eyes, pale skin, short brown hair… same devastating smile. There were a few new lines around his mouth, his chest broader than she remembered, arms more muscular.
Suddenly aware of her mom body, she fidgeted in her seat and crossed her arms over her chest. “Hi. Um, have a seat. I haven’t ordered anything yet. I wanted to wait until you got here.”
The plastic covering the cushion protested as Kevin slid into the booth.”It’s good to see you. You look great.”
Lindsey ran a self conscious hand through her shoulder length blonde hair. “Yeah, you do too.” Clearing her throat, she added, “Look, I don’t want to be rude, and I’ve thought about this since I got your call last night, but…” She heaved a sigh. “I don’t know what you want. Or what you expect. And this is so weird and uncomfortable that I don’t know how to handle it.”
The dimples she’d fallen in love with as a shy twenty-one year old grad student appeared. “There’s my girl–always so blunt. It’s one of the things I love the most about you.”
Her stomach did a flip, though she wasn’t sure if it was because he’d called her “his girl” or if it was from years of pent up anger. She went with the easiest emotion to deal with.
“Don’t call me your girl. You lost that right when you disappeared like a fucking puff of smoke. I know, I know. Classified mission, and all that. You could have written. Or had your captain pass on a message to me. Something. For all I knew, you were dead in a fucking ditch somewhere. And I was home, twiddling my thumbs and waiting on someone who couldn’t be bothered.”
Something in his eyes changed. They went from soft blue to stormy gray, and Lindsey could’ve sworn she’d seen genuine hurt flash through his expression. Steeling herself against the inevitable story he’d have to tell, she swore that she’d stay strong for her son. That she wouldn’t let him back into her life or her bed–because that’s all he’d ever wanted–in order to protect the life she’d built with Jared.
“My name is Lindsey,” she interrupted.
Kevin’s shoulders jerked as though she’d wounded him with the declaration that he wasn’t to use the nickname he’d given her so many years ago. He nodded solemnly. “Lindsey… I probably should’ve asked you to meet me somewhere private so we could really talk, but I wasn’t sure you would meet me anywhere but a public place. So, thank you for agreeing to see me.” He closed his eyes briefly, as though he were searching for the right words. “I wish I could say something that would make these last two years better. To erase the loneliness you felt, or making Jared wonder where I went. Believe me, it hurts my soul to know I caused you pain.”
Lindsey concentrated on breathing in and out in an attempt to keep her blood pressure at bay. She knew he was going to apologize, but hearing the words actually come from his mouth… made her blood boil.
“I wanted to reach out to you so many times, but I couldn’t. I thought about you every single day. Wondered how our son was doing. Wondered if he still looked like you, or if he’d started showing any of my traits. I missed your voice and the sounds of Jared’s laughter when I tickled his feet.” He grabbed a napkin from the shiny silver dispenser on the table and dabbed at his watery eyes. “I missed you so goddamn much, sometimes I felt like I couldn’t breathe. But it wasn’t safe for me to come home. And if anything had happened to you and Jared….”
Lindsey’d fists clenched on the table before she took a deep, calming breath. “I’m trying to be understanding. I thought knew what I was getting into when I started dating someone who worked for the goddamn FBI. But apparently, I was wrong. And you did hurt us. So, how the hell can I trust you, now? Thank you for apologizing, but I just… I don’t think I can forgive you. I won’t keep you from Jared since he’s your son, too. But from now on, I think it’s best if we only see each other when it directly involves him.”
She began to slide out of the booth when he caught her hand, keeping her in place. “I’m out, Linz. I retired.” His brows lowered, his expression pleading. “I left the Bureau. Came home for you and Jared. Please. I love you.”
The noises from the crowded diner seemed to vanish around her as she soaked in his statement. She blinked, staring at the man who’d held her heart since her sixteenth birthday and crushed it so brutally every time he had to go undercover, spending weeks…months…and then years away.
“I… I don’t know.” Lindsey pulled her hand free of his grip and stood, grabbing her purse from the seat. “I’m sorry. I can’t do this right now. I’ll call you… sometime.”
With that, she left the diner, Kevin staring after her.
Want to read the other bloggers’ fics? Click the links below.