Chapter 26 - Mystery girl

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Joe loved Saturday mornings because Ella stayed over on Friday nights and it was the one morning that she didn't need to rush off. Even if they did something lame by Caleb standards like school work, they were together. He felt like things were finally going right. Caleb was back spending time with Gaby and was a happy yet moody teenager. He was researching art schools and other colleges where he could study graphic design and illustration. His grades were good and all his teachers, at least the ones that Joe spoke to only had praise for him.

The only thing that he wished would change was Ella's reluctance to move forward with informing her family he was back. He wanted to let the whole world know they belonged together. Although the shadow of hurt still passed over her occasionally, she was his El again, especially when they were together.

He did have new guilt which was niggling in the back of his head because he was keeping someone else's secret and it was becoming harder and harder. Just the night before, Ella was upset because she received a text from her sister asking if she wanted to go out.

"Why are Ava and Tony making plans without me? It's seven o'clock and they are just asking me to go!"

Joe said, "You should go if you want to."

"I don't want to. I'd rather be here with you, but Tony is my best friend, not Ava's. He should be out with his mystery girl instead."

It took all the resolve Joe had not to say something to Ella. He was almost certain that Ella might be Tony's best friend, but Ava was his girlfriend. With Ella's possessiveness, he was afraid she would feel hurt when she found out. Joe also had a theory that he was to blame for Ella's need to have Tony to herself. Her relationship with Tony was something she could cling to as she suffered from the broken heart that he had given her. It gave her control in her otherwise turbulent life. His job was to be there and support her when she found out about her sister.

The night before Ella had told Ava that she was out with work friends and their evening continued, but in the morning her phone rang again.

"It's Ava," she said.

Joe listened to the one-sided conversation.

"I'm out... doing some errands... Lunch?... Yeah, I can meet you... I was out late... You did? How about tonight? Alright, I'll see you at noon."

She looked at Joe and said, "I'm going to have lunch with her. She drove by my apartment last night thinking she could sleep over, but I wasn't home. Then she drove by this morning. Doesn't she know how to pick up the phone?"

"Do you think she's checking up on you?" Joe asked.

"Why would she?" Ella replied.

"Maybe you should just tell her at lunch..." Joe suggested.

"I can't she'll be angry. You don't understand the time she spent dealing with me and my tears. She came home almost every weekend and spent hours on the phone with me in between. She will never understand."

"We can't keep us a secret forever. We can't move on until you tell your family."

"I know, I know, but it has only been a couple of months..."

"A couple of months, but a year and a half too late," Joe said feeling angry but not with Ella as much as himself. "Just think about it..."

"Okay." She kissed him and said, "I'll shower at home."

He watched as she left and ended their perfect morning.

Ella walked into Christa's art room and was greeted by her friend. She had been out to dinner with Tony the night before and he mentioned seeing Christa with Dylan.

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