Chapter 15

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I had to tap out a half hour after Sydney left the party. Maggie suggested we head on to a club but I didn't feel much like dancing, or having a hang over for the meeting tomorrow. She was happy enough to head off with Taio, Glen and his girlfriend, while Trey cleared up. I asked him if he wanted me to stay but he said he needed to go for a drive. He'd been doing lots of driving lately and I knew where he was headed. I went there often myself. I'd noticed the brightly coloured flowers wrapped in cellophane in the kitchen. The same flowers that were always arranged so lovingly on Colton's grave.

Trey wasn't the sentimental kind. He'd have laughed at the prospect of leaving flowers for a man, before we lost Colton. Now I knew it was all a part of his grieving process. It made him feel like he was doing something. As if he couldn't bear the grave to be barren and unloved in the midst of so many decorated head stones and lavish flower arrangements.

I took a slow drive home, Arlo sitting in the passenger seat, watching the world whizz by. I reached over and patted his head, and I could smell her in the car. That scent that conjured up images of her sunny smile and those brown eyes that had me wondering what it would feel like to undress her. To taste her. To commit to memory every last inch of her. I groaned. Driving with an erection wasn't on the top of my list of delightful experiences. I set my jaw, feeling the twitch in my cheek as I tried to lose my train of thought. I turned on the radio and tapped my fingers on the wheel, trying to rid the guilt I felt when I thought of her like this. I remembered her in that red dress and I bit down on my lip so hard I felt the skin split. I was close to losing control over a woman who'd been nothing but a friend to me. I wanted desperately to understand whether my feelings were real, or just magnified by my current state of affairs.

Arlo licked my hand, and my mind was pulled out of the proverbial gutter. He looked at me with shiny black eyes, and I stroked his ears, the contact was calming, comforting.

'Its just you and me now buddy. At least till I figure out how this mess makes some sense again. But my girls will love you.'

As I headed home I wondered what they'd think of my pit of a loft. It was late when I let Arlo jump onto the sofa and claim his own little corner, while I started unpacking. Two hours later, and I had a few photographs on the walls, I'd placed an online order for some new furniture and had a cold shower to purge myself of the unexpected urges I felt towards Sydney. I finally fell asleep at three am.

.........

My alarm screamed at me, and coupled with the pounding on my front door I wondered how late I'd overslept. Maybe it was Lewis wondering if I'd fallen into a coma. He knew how punctual I was, and he was the best assistant I'd come across. I'd definitely be taking him over to my new venture.

'Can you give me five minutes?' I shouted to the mystery uninvited visitor. I wanted a shower. Scratch that. I needed a shower. After a quick blast on full power, I dressed in a pale grey suit and skinny tie. A little slick of product in my hair and I looked ready for a day of formally accepting a job offer, and going head to head with my wife. More importantly, I would see my girls, or I hoped that I'd see them.

Running too late for a home made breakfast, I figured I'd pick up a bagel and a coffee from the street vendor outside Maryam Karimi's office and in light of my visitor I knew I needed to buy a little time or have the full brunt of the courts displeasure at my missing the appointed meeting. Swinging open the door as my feet slid into my leather Italian loafers, I nearly lost my balance as Elodie charged into my arms. The way her shoulders shook I knew she was crying.

This felt unreal.

She'd come all the way across town, waited for me whilst I got ready. My little girl. I wrapped my arms around her, trying my hardest not to cry. The lump in my throat choked any words that tried to announce themselves. I held her like my life depended on it, as she clung to me, face buried in my fresh shirt. But I didn't care. Her shoulders, wracked with pain, shuddered against me and that's when I lost it. I sobbed. The scent of her reminded me of all the times I'd held her when she fell off her bicycle, when some kid threw a ball at her face in gym class, and when her great aunt died. Everything seemed to hit me at once, the memories of rocking her whilst she was so tiny she fit perfectly in the crook of my arm. The way she used to say 'lellow' instead of yellow as a toddler, and the way four year old Elodie dressed as Snow White even to go to bed.

I stroked her hair, hushing her just as I had so many years ago. The tears came in floods and I wiped them on my shoulder, not wanting to let go of her. Not wanting her to disappear down the hallway and leave me standing here with nothing. All over again. She kept her face nestled against me, but passed me a folded piece of paper. I recognised Tasha's handwriting from many a Father's Day card. I let go of her long enough to read the note. As I read, my heart dropped, a sickness forming in my stomach that left me faint and disorientated.

Elly,

I'm not at Karen's house tonight, I just couldn't be in the same house as Mom anymore. She lied to us and I can't be here anymore. I can't explain. It's too awful. I love you. I'm so lucky you're my twin.

Tash xx

Anger stained my vision, and coupled with the tears I felt despair at what Caroline had done to us. To all three of us. Had Tasha found out about the affair? Did she feel the same utter betrayal I did? Whatever the answers to those questions were, I needed to find my baby girl.

'Elly baby, does your mom know where you are?'

I checked my watch. It was only 8.45.

'No. She dropped me off at school early, she had to run some errands and ballet class is before school so she thinks I'm there.'

'And she thinks Tash is headed to school with Karen.'

'Yeah.'

Elodie looked up at me with huge tear filled eyes and I kissed her forehead.

'I'm gonna make a call sweetie. This is gonna be okay. I promise.'

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