Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chapter 11, Babysitters R Us

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***
---



I reveled in my new lightness of spirit. Simply being around Terrill and unburdening myself to him did wonders for my outlook. I was now seeing him as a beacon of hope and strength rather than a wrinkle to further complicate my life.

Life can turn on a dime. Mine certainly had several times, the latest being my attraction to Terrill. I hadn't expected to feel that way toward him or about anyone. After everything I'd been through, a romantic relationship was the last thing I'd wanted. Chemistry had other plans, apparently. Even so, I wasn't going to rush headlong into bed with Terrill. I wanted us to take our time and see where things would go. Not only did I have myself to consider, I had my son to think about, too. I didn't want someone entering his life only to leave if the relationship didn't work out.



I went into fangirl mode when I got a text from Lenora. Terrill had given her my number, so she wanted to confirm that it would be okay to drop over with her daughters in the afternoon. With shaking fingers and stars in my eyes, I returned her text and told her I was looking forward to the visit. Well, I was and I wasn't. I was dying to meet Lenora, certainly, but I was a little nervous. She was an elegant, wealthy lady, something I'd been in my former fast-paced life, and I was feeling a bit intimidated. I suppose my encounter with Ericka and her condescending ways left me feeling a bit wounded.



I needn't have worried, though. Lenora was everything she appeared to be from her season on "The One" and in interviews I'd seen with her. She was kindness and compassion personified. Her daughters, Aurora and Andrea, were beautiful, confident young women, and I could tell right away how close the two sisters were.



"It's so nice of you to have us over, Ms. Evans. Aurora and I weren't sure what we were going to do with our day until Terrill called and told us about a possible babysitting job," Andrea said.

"It's Debbie, and I'm glad you could come. I hope you understand why I prefer to meet you first before handing over care of my son. In this day and age, you have to be careful," I replied.

"We completely understand," Andrea said, then shared a long meaningful look with her mother and sister. It didn't take a mind reader to know what they were thinking. The ordeal Lenora had gone through at the hands of Shane and his accomplices was on their minds. Psychotics and sociopaths could touch anyone's life, regardless of age or lifestyle.

"I can see that you do." I looked over at Lenora, who took my hand and squeezed it. "I...I'm sorry for what he did to you."



Lenora pulled me into a tight hug and I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. "He hurt a lot of people, and I'm sorry ye, too, suffered at his hands." Her Irish brogue was thick and I could see she was battling her own emotions. "It's behind us now and he's behind bars where he belongs."

"Right. He doesn't even have the equipment to ever try anything like that again, either," Andrea said, smirking.

"Andrea, I don't think Debbie cares to hear the...ah...finer details," Lenora scolded her daughter gently.



I pulled out of the hug, feeling a smile tug at the corners of my mouth. Apparently, there were some details that had been left out of the news. All I'd read in the papers and seen on the TV newscasts was that Shane had been grievously injured during Lenora's rescue. I looked over at Andrea, unable to keep the grin off my face. "Oh yes, Debbie does want to hear the finer details," I said. "I knew Shane was injured, but no further details were given, and I never dug deeper to find out."

"Aww, Ma, we can't keep this from her," Aurora said, bouncing on the balls of her feet. "I'm dying to show her, especially the part we saw in the vision."

"Spill," I said, still grinning like a lunatic.

What happened next was something I'd never fully be able to understand. Aurora wiggled her fingers and my TV was momentarily surrounded by some strange green light. Until I moved to Aurora Skies, I never believed in magic. I mean, that was reserved for stories like Harry Potter. However, after studying Lenora's biography due to being such an avid fan and learning about Lenora's husband being a werewolf, I couldn't ignore the existence of magic. Aurora waved her fingers again and a movie of sorts began playing on the TV screen.



It was a good thing Nathaniel was in his crib asleep. I figured what I was about to see would not be suitable for children. On the screen was a room in what I imagined to be part of a dark, dank house. In the room was what looked to be a cell. Bile rose to my throat at the thought of that cell probably being the place they'd kept Lenora inprisoned. An enraged Tyrone Landgraab was about to pounce on the man I'd been married to but had not really known. There came a horrendous grow that made me shudder, blood splattered everywhere, hideous screams tore the air, and Shane lay on the floor in a growing pool of blood. It was inevitably clear that Tyrone had given Shane a sex change in a most agonizing way.

The picture flickered and I knew I was looking inside a prison. I goggled as the biggest, ugliest red-headed man I'd ever seen leered at Shane, who was yelling and screaming in what might have looked like fury. However, his pasty pallor and the beads of sweat forming on his brow gave away the unmistakable fact that he was scared shitless.

"Okay, here it comes! You're gonna love this," Andrea said, rubbing her hands together.


The big man introduced himself as Big Louie Maneater and heartily informed Shane that he was about to become Big Louie's bitch. I clapped a hand over my mouth and screamed with laughter when Shane was unceremoniously hauled in for a passionate kiss. The picture started to fade as Shane was yanked out of sight, but I didn't need to see to understand what Big Louie's intentions were. Besides, there are just some things that are better left to the imagination.

"Oh...oh, my stomach!" I choked out as I continued to howl.

The sisters were rolling around on the floor, completely overtaken by glee. Lenora's cheeks were wet with tears of mirth. I guessed my living room sounded like a hen house with all that cackling going on.

I managed to pull myself together as Aurora and Andrea dragged themselves to their feet. "I can't tell you how that made my day. I know this sounds spiteful, but that did my heart a world of good."

"We figured as much," Andrea grinned. "Sucks to be him."



When Nathaniel awoke, I brought him in to meet the Landgraab women. I could see that the young ladies had lots of experience taking care of children, and they were great with him. Nathaniel took to them almost right away and was having the time of his life getting lots of attention lavished on him.

"Well, I can see that Terrill was right on the nose with his recommendation. You've got yourselves a babysitting job, maybe more if you're interested," I said. "I can see that my son will be in good hands."

"Don't worry. We'll take very good car of the little guy. He's adorable," Aurora said, then gave Nathaniel a big, noisy kiss on the cheek.

"Well then, I'll leave the car here for ye girls and pop on out of here," Lenora said. "Debbie, ye must come over for tea this week."

"That sounds lovely," I said. It was so surreal. Who'd have thought I'd be invited for tea with my all-time favorite author and that her daughters were going to look after my son? Life could certainly be full of surprises.

With that, Lenora literally popped out, just like freaking Samantha Stevens on "Bewitched." I blinked dazedly at such a display of magic, smiled weakly at the Landgraab sisters, and waited for Terrill to pick me up for our dinner date.
-----

Author's Note: I realize this chapter is mostly "fluff" and that not too much happened in the story. However, I thought this would be a fun way to cross over with characters from "Forever in Time," another of my stories. As explained before, crossovers will happen from time to time.

The events Debbie was referring to about Lenora's ordeal can be found in "Forever in Time."

The pictures with Shane are also from "Forever in Time," which you can find the link for that story in the sidebar in the "Other Works By Me" section. Thank you to Shafer249 for creating Big Louie for the purpose of tormenting Shane. :D 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sunshine Blogger Award



I am so honored to be nominated for this award. It always amazes me that there are readers who enjoy my little contributions to world of SimLit. I want to thank the wonderful and talented Mastressalita for nominating this blog for this award. She has two excellent stories, as well as some short stories, that are must reads. her Cat Chronicles is a darling story told in the POV of a feisty cat who was adopted by a recent widow. Her Yandere Diaries spins a web of mystery, murder, and everything i between. These stories and more can be found here on her blog.

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

It's an award to bloggers from other bloggers. It's a beautiful and wonderful way of sharing what they do and rewarding them for inspiring others to do and write about what they love.

The Rules

1. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
2. Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
3. Nominate 11 bloggers and add their links.
4. Notify the bloggers you included.
5. Keep the rules in your post.

Mastressalita's question

1. What is the first Sims game you played?
Sims 3. I was a latecomer to the whole Sims franchise and didn't start playing until right after Pets was released. I started watching some YouTube videos on how to play and ended up ordering the game plus all the current packs. As I waited not-so-patiently for everything to arrive from Amazon, I watched more videos and did a lot of reading about how the game worked. I was in Heaven when I finally got everything installed and started to play.

2. Favorite expansion/stuff pack/game pack?
Definitely Supernatural. I've always been into fantasy stories, so to be able to play with witches, fairies, werewolves, vampires, and so on was the cat's meow. I also really like Showtime (I'm a singer so it's cool to be able to live out my unrealized dreams of fame with my Sims) and Seasons since the weather really adds a lot to gameplay.

3. What is your favorite book or author?
I'm a HUGE Stephen King fan. I loved Pet Sematary (creeped me the hell out!), Cujo (made me cry BUCKETS), and 11-22-63 (it was interesting to see King's take on what might have happened if John F. Kennedy had been saved from assasination). I really loved The Green Mile with John Coffey being y favorite character. I do enjoy Nora Roberts and love how she incorporates elements of fantasy in many of her stories. Plus, I'm a huge Harry Potter junkie and have to read the series again about once a year. :)

4. What is your favorite fictional genre?
Romance and/or fantasy, or a mix of both. I also love thrillers and mysteries.

5. Is there a song that always brings you to tears?
On yes! "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton gets me every time. I also can't sing "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" by Tammy Wynette or "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones (hehe, yeah, old country songs) without losing it. If you haven't tried singing and crying at the same time, you will discover that it's damned near impossible to do. :)

6. What is your favorite vacation destination?
Australia and New Zealand, of course. :) The hubs and I went there on our honeymoon and OMG, it was the best time ever!

7. Pick your poison (what is your drink of choice?)
At home, I generally go for a Miller Lite and will drink it when I'm out sometimes. I also like a nice chardonnay and sometimes a Merlot although red wine sometimes gives me a headache. :( If I want a cocktail, I like Jameson's on the rocks or sometimes Jack Daniels. For a non-alcoholic drink, it's coffee all the way.

8. Let’s play kiss, marry, kill, only with your Sims! (That is, of your Sims, which one would you most like to kiss, which one would you most like to marry, and which one would you most like to kill?)
Great question! Of my Sims, I'd love to kiss Silvan McBeth. He's a fairy prince whose been around for centuries and with his red wings that symbolize passion, he would certainly know how to please a lady. :D I'd marry Tyrone Landgraab. He treats Lenora like a queen, and it would be a great honor, IMO, to have a wolf Indent/Imprint on me and to know that it's me who is his gravity. He's also a wonderful father to his children, which speaks volumes to me. To kill, definitely Shane Clayton. He's just pure evil and what he did to Lenora, Crystal, and Debbie is unforgivable.

9. What are five hobbies you enjoy?
Well, other than playing Sims, reading, or writing stories, they would be coloring, fountain pens, journal keeping, knnitting and crocheting, and scrapbooking. I also have to include music in there since it's what I do (private music instructor and semi-professional singer) but goes beyond a hobby, really.

10. What is your favorite fictional creature?
Oooo, that's a toss-up. As a kid, I collected unicorns and still love them. They'll always have a speciall place in my heart. However, being a singer, I love mermaids/Sirens and love incorporating them into my writing when applicable. Dragons are a favorite, too, as they're beautiful and it would be awesome to soar above the world on the back of one.

11. Against a zombie, what would be your weapon of choice?
If I could defeat a zombie with a magical singing voice, that would be my weapon of choice. Music is a supremely powerful force, after all. :)

My Nominees

This is going to be the most challenging part. By now, pretty much all the bloggers I'm familiar with have already received nominations. There won't be 11 on the list but I'll do my best to come close. As I said, they have already received nominations so please don't feel you need to redo your post on my account.


1. Thymeless Legacies
2. Hemera's Sims Story Corner
3. Subtle Simming
4. A Cornucopia of Stories
5. If It Doesn't Kill Us
6. Blackmoore Legacy
7. Twiggy's Sims Adventures
8. Lisabee's Sims


Questions for my Nominees
Again, please don't feel you have to revise your post to answer them since you all have already been nominated before. But if you REALLY want to, be my guest, or if you're so inclined, feel free to do it in the comments below.

1. What made you start playing Sims?

2. Coffee or tea?

3. Pizza or tacos?

4. Junk food or healthy choice?

5. Do you like where you live or would you relocate if you could?

6. What is your favorite animal?

7. What is your favorite mythological creature?

8. When taking a vacation, do you prefer to drive or fly?

9. If you could go back in time to change something in history, would you? If so, what would it be?

10. When playing your Sims game, do you prefer big families, couples, or single Sims?

11. Cake or pie?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Chapter 10, Unburdening My Soul

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***
---



I was fidgeting like a bitch in heat as I waited for Terrill's arrival. All of a sudden, my house felt smaller than ever; cramped, even. I was never one to be claustrophobic or have panic attacks, but I found myself wanting to run and hide under the bed. "Courage, Evens," I snapped aloud at myself. "The only things to protect you under the bed are dust bunnies and they're not in fighting form."

I snickered at the image of a line of dust bunnies marching in battle formation. Good grief, I was losing it. Hell, I already lost it, hadn't I? I mean, the actions I'd taken as of late weren't those of a sane woman, after all.



I yipped, startled out of my twisted musings when the doorbell rang. Last call to jump ship with the dust bunnies and call it a day. Instead, I heaved a sigh and opened the door. Terrill looked handsome and suave standing on my porch while I felt dowdy and rumpled in my comfy Mom clothes and pony tail.



"Come on in," I said, trying to sound more poised than I felt. "Welcome to my home, be it ever so humble."

Terrill smiled easily as he entered, then set down a bottle of Merlot. "I thought this might help relax you while we talk, that is unless you're nursing your son."

"Nathaniel is past that," I said, feeling the tension ease as I was caught up in his smile. I'd almost forgotten how quickly he'd put me at ease when we had lunch together. Something about this man oozed quiet courage and capability, and I liked that. "It's a lovely gesture. Thank you."

"I aim to please," Terrill grinned and offered me a courtly bow.



I was about to take down some wine glasses when I heard a cry from the baby monitor. "Excuse me. Nathaniel's awake and needs a change. He's potty trained but sometimes he slips when he's sleeping." I scuttled off, quickly taking care of the diaper change. When he was all clean, he reached his arms out for me, grinning in that adorable way I loved so much. "Mama!" he said and giggled.

"Well, someone's in a good mood," I said, lifting him and snuggling him close. "Are you hungry?"

"Hungwy," he said, then belched.

"Excuse yourself, piggy," I laughed.

"Piggy, piggy, oink, oink," he chorused.

Giggling myself, I carried him into the living room where Terrill was waiting patiently. "Terrill, this is my son, Nathaniel."

Nathaniel gave Terrill a big grin. "Hi," he said, waving his little hands.

"Hi yourself, little man," Terrill said, grinning in return.

"Hold!" Nathaniel said, reaching his arms out.

I hesitated a moment, knowing my son normally took a little while to warm up to strangers. However, Nathaniel's arms remained outstretched and Terrill seemed willing to comply. His next words confirmed it. "May I?"



Nathaniel went to him, a look of curiosity on his little face. He started to play with Terrill's beard and mustache, then laughed when Terrill made silly faces at him. I shook my head in amazement and shrugged.



"He's a beautiful boy, Debbie," Terrill said before tossing him in the air. Nathaniel squealed with glee and demanded more.

"Yeah, he is," I said, smiling like the proud Mom I was. "If he gets too heavy or you want a break, you can just put him on the floor. I'm amazed at how well he's taken to you. Normally, it takes him a bit to warm up to someone new."



"Kids are funny that way," Terrill replied. "They have a sixth sense about who likes them and such. I've always been a kid magnet, believe it or not."

"Well, you're very good with him," I said. As I watched the two of them play together, a pang shot through my heart. Terrill had told me he'd wanted kids with his now deceased wife, and I had a strong hunch he'd be an excellent father. Then, there were men like Simon, who I'd been stupid enough to screw even though I knew better. Simon didn't want to be a dad, at least not to my son, but there were men like Terrill who should have had a parcel of kids to love. Life was a bitch sometimes.



I shook off the melancholia as Nathaniel wriggled to get down. When Terrill set him gently on the floor, Nathaniel toddled off to play with his xylophone. "Want me to open the wine?" he asked.

"Sure. I've a corkscrew in this drawer." I indicted the appropriate one and sat on the sofa. It was nice to have someone in my home who wasn't attacking me or cussing me out. Even before taking one sip of wine, I felt relaxed in Terrill's presence.



He handed me a glass and sat down beside me. We were silent as he listened to Nathaniel hammering away on his xylophone. "Kid's got a good ear," Terrill finally said.

"Yeah, he does, actually. He seems to enjoy music already, and I hope that never changes," I said. I took a sip of wine, then glanced over at Terrill. "It hasn't been easy."

"I would imagine being a parent never is. It's hard enough doing it as a couple, let alone going it alone. From what little I've seen, though, he's happy and healthy, and you're a great mother."



"Thanks," I said, feeling the melancholia resurfacing. "I've made a lot of mistakes and I'm afraid they'll affect my son negatively."

"I'm sure it can't be as bad as all that," Terrill said.

"Worse, I'm afraid." I bit my lip, thinking of my encounter with Ericka.

"Hey, it's okay, Debbie." He rubbed a soothing hand briefly over my arm, making me shiver as pleasant tingles accompanied his touch. "Remember what I said. I make a good listener. Want to tell me about it or about why you were so upset over the phone?"



I breathed out a resigned sigh. "I suppose that is why you came over. Fair warning, Terrill, it's not pretty and what happened doesn't paint me in a particularly good light."

"Life is seldom pretty and we've all done things we're not proud of. I won't judge you. You have my word on that," Terrill said.

"Okay, but remember, you asked for it." Taking a deep breath, I plunged in, telling him of my marriage and divorce from Shane, about moving to Aurora Skies, and about everything that had happened up to this point. I was astounded at how patiently he listened. I was even more so when there never came a look of disgust or condemnation from him. Terrill hadn't lied about being a good listener, and his kindness undid me. By the time I finished my recital, I was bawling like a kid who'd just found out that Santa didn't really exist.



I didn't object when Terrill pulled me into his arms and held me tight. "There now. Just let 'em flow. That's it."

They did flow, many of them, and soon, the front of his shirt was wet. The weeping finally died down and was replaced by aftershocks of little hiccups. "You must think me completely deranged," I murmured.

"Not at all, Debbie. You're simply a lady down on luck and who deserves some much needed happiness in her life." He rubbed my back and the nape of my neck with strong, sure strokes. "You got handed a wheelbarrow of lemons and that's a lot of lemonade to make." I grinned a watery grin at his analogy. "You're too hard on yourself and have taken much more than your share of abuse starting from that bastard Shane and going down the line to Ericka. That stops here and now, all right?"

"Easier said than done," I sighed. "Even so, I do feel better after unloading on you. It's like I sicked up something that's been buried for years, and I thank you."

"That's what friends are for," Terrill said, pulling away slightly to reach in his pocket for a hankie. "The way I see it, it takes two to tango and Simon could have stopped things before they got started. Then, there's the matter of Ericka, who should be ashamed of herself. It's one thing to take out her rage on you but dragging an innocent child into it is uncalled for. I never voted for her to be Mayor because I didn't like some of the issues she stood for. Now, knowing what I know, I'll never vote for her in any election she runs in. You should have given her the boot right up her ass."

I laughed despite the situation. "I thought about it but with my luck, I'd have landed up in the pokey. Thanks but no thanks."



"Well, what goes around comes around, and Karma is often a bitch. All you can do now is move forward and put all this behind you as best you can," Terrill said philosophically.

I shrugged. "It's hard, but I'm trying."

"I think you're doing more than trying." Terrill smiled at me and went to refill our glasses. "I know because we wouldn't be here like this otherwise. You're allowing me to be your friend, you let me come to your home to offer a listening ear and a shoulder, and you allowed me to interact with your son. These are big steps for you to have taken, Debbie, and that says a lot."



"I...I guess you're right," I said, letting his words sink in. "I must admit that I was rather scared though. I thought of you as another wrinkle in my life that I just didn't want to deal with." My cheeks colored at the admission.

"'And now?" he asked, reaching out a hand to lift my chin so I had to look at him.

"Now...well...I find myself wanting to kiss you."

"I won't object if you follow through," he replied.

"That's how I got into trouble before. Besides, maybe it's just the wine talking," I said lamely.



"First of all, there are big differences here. I'm not attached to anyone, so there would be no need to sneak around. I have nobody to answer to except myself, and it's no secret that I'm attracted to you. I'm also the kind of guy who takes a relationship seriously. I won't hurt you or your son. I desire to be more than a friend to you, but if you're not ready just yet, I can wait. I'm a very patient man." His gaze met mine and never wavered, and I knew he meant every word he said. "I know you've been hurt, Debbie, and you've taken a lot of chances that went horribly wrong. But, I'm asking you to do it again and take a chance on me. You won't regret it."



His impassioned words moved me, and my lips moved to his, seemingly of their own accord. His kiss was soft and full of a desire for new discovery. I tasted the wine on his lips and breathed in his masculine musky scent. My ears rang with the sound of harps and flutes, and fireworks blazed inside my soul. My body quivered with something I'd never felt before. I was attracted to this man in a way I'd never been attracted to anyone.



When we pulled apart, we just looked at each other for the longest time. "Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night, Debbie? I want to take you on a real date instead of just a quick lunch."

"That sounds nice, but it'll be hard to find a sitter for Nathaniel on a Sunday. My regulars aren't available on Sundays and I'm fussy about who I leave him with," I replied.

"I understand," he said. After a short silence, he smiled. "Listen, I know someone who would be willing to sit for Nathaniel on weekends, I'm sure. Two someones, in fact. They're teenagers but very trustworthy, I assure you."



"Oh?" I asked, raising an eyebrow in curiosity.

"Yes. They're the daughters of a friend of mine. You're familiar with Lenora Landgraab, I know. She and her husband have two daughters who are--"

"What?" I shrieked, clapping a hand to my chest. "Are you telling me that you...I mean, you can't be..." I trailed off, pounding my chest in an attempt to get my wildly racing heartbeat to slow down.

Terrill was laughing. "You weren't kidding when you said she's your favorite author."

"I never kid about such things," I said. "I know you were on her season of 'The One' but never thought about you staying in touch. I've always wanted to meet her. It's Number One on my bucket list, you know."

"I know," he grinned. "It's settled then. How about I call Lenora and ask her to bring Aurora and Andrea over to meet you tomorrow? I'm sure you'll like them and will find them very responsible. They do volunteer work at some orphanage run by someone known as White Wolf. How does that sound?"

"It...it sounds like a dream," I said dazedly.

"Great. So then, you'll go out with me tomorrow night?" Terrill asked.

"If I feel comfortable with them sitting for Nathaniel, then yes, I'd love to go out with you."
-----

Author's Note:  Lenora and her daughters are from my story "Forever in Time," which you can read here.  The events of where we're at in "As Tears Go By" happen while Aurora and Andrea Landgraab are still teenagers. From time to time, characters from "Forever in Time" will cross over into this story and vice versa. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Chapter 9, Hell Hath No Fury

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***
-----



I knew this day would come, but I dreaded it nonetheless. "Won't you come in," I said with measured politeness.



Ericka perched herself stiffly on my couch, looked around my small house as if it were a hovel, then studied me like a specimen under a microscope. It took utmost effort on my part not to squirm.

"You have a...quaint...place here," she said.

I shrugged. "It keeps the rain out. Would you like some coffee? Tea?" I don't have roaches, lady, so stop acting like Snob Extraordinaire, I thought to myself.



"No, thank you," she replied simply.

I shrugged again. "I highly doubt you came here to scrutinize my house, so why don't you get on with the real reason for this surprise visit."

She narrowed her eyes at me. "You're more dense than I imagined if you don't already know." She picked at her skirt as if to remove a piece of lint although she looked impeccable. "I came here to find out exactly what your motives are and to give you a warning."

"I see," I said. I wasn't going to get into a pissing contest of the female variety. It was best to let her get it out without interruption; anything else would be highly nonconstructive. I waited for her to continue and didn't have to wait long.



"You and Simon have put me in a difficult position," she said in measured tones. "Do you know what it's like to find myself in the role the as unsuspecting wife? Do you realize the pain you've caused me?"

"For what it's worth, Ericka, this wasn't a personal vendetta against you, not by me anyway." I tried to speak calmly, wishing my heartbeat would slow down. "It just...happened. I was lonely and Simon was there. I just needed..."

I heaved a sigh, looking down at my shoes. "I needed someone to hold me."



"Well, he certainly did a lot more than hold you, didn't he?" she spat out as she shot to her feet. I felt awful enough as it was but it was nothing compared to how low I felt at seeing the tears standing out in her eyes. "I thought the worst of it was when he stepped out but to find out that he fathered another woman's child..."

She wiped angrily at the tears, composed herself, and looked at me with nothing but coldness. "I'm not easily made a fool of and won't stand by idly as you and Simon laugh at how you've humiliated me."

I felt my blood start to simmer and I, too, was on my feet. "Look, for your information, there is no me and Simon. Our relationship, in all forms, is done. You surely must know he signed over the cosmetics company to me in order to get me out of his hair. As far as hurting you," I lowered my voice, "I never meant you any personal harm. Simon and I made a mistake, one that I am still paying for. I never laughed at you or remarked on any stupidity you believe I felt regarding you. I knew he was married and that it was wrong, but...things happen in moments of weakness. I am truly sorry for hurting you, Ericka. What's done is done though and we need to live with the fallout."

"Sorry doesn't ease the situation, Debbie. What you did--"

I looked her squarely in her eyes. "I take responsibility for my part in this, Ericka. It was a mistake, a very big one, and I own up to it. What you must remember also is that I'm not the only guilty party. Simon obviously strayed for one reason or another. It it hadn't been with me, it would have been with someone else. If you're going to blame someone for this mess, do yourself a favor and place the blame where it belongs and in adequate doses. I'm sorry for your pain. I get that, but I will not take full responsibility."

Ericka reached for an elegant alligator handbag that must have cost a small fortune. "You're right. What's cone is done and we must live with it. Not only must I live with it but I must clean up the mess." She fished inside and pulled out a checkbook. "As I said, I came here to find out what yo wanted and to give you a warning. As to what you want, it must be money."



"I don't want your money. Simon signed over the cosmetics company and that's all I care about. I'll make a very nice living from it and be able to support my son without any additional help. Put the checkbook away."

"Then what is it you want, Debbie?" She fixed me with a thin-lipped scowl.

"I want to be left alone to live my life with my son. I want nothing from either you or Simon."

She looked around my small house again with undisguised distaste. "You call this supporting your son? Why, there's barely room for one person here. He's going to grow, you know, and when he does, he'll require more space."

"I'll deal with that," I said icily. "I might not be able to provide us a huge mansion or send my son to fancy private school like you can do and have, I'm sure, but I manage quite nicely. Now, if there's nothing else--"



"Don't forget that I came here to warn you," she said.

"Right. Fine, then. Give your warning and let's be done with it," I replied, wishing this whole thing to have been over five minutes ago.

As Ericka narrowed her eyes at me, she reminded me a a saber-toothed tiger on the prowl. "I'm warning you to stay away from Simon, me, and any of my family. You are not to demand or expect him to have any kind of relationship with your bastard son, nor are you to change your mind and ask me or him for more money." She still hadn't put the checkbook away. Instead, she opened it and began writing furiously with an ornate gold pen. I goggled at her as she finished the last strokes with a flourish. "This is all you get from either of us."



I was royally pissed now. I glared at her, sure I'd be the one winning the saber-toothed tiger contest. "You can say anything you want about me but I draw the line at my son being referred to in such a filthy way. If you're spoiling for a fight, you'll have a huge one on your hands if you mess with my boy."

"I wouldn't go near your brat even if he was dying in the street," Ericka spat back. She reached for her checkbook again, tore the check loose, and slammed it down on my end table. "I want yo out of my life and if that means paying you off, then so be it. I can afford it."

"I said I don't want your damned money!" I yelled.



"I'm not taking it back so you've no choice. I suggest you use it to buy yourself a house out of town. Let me give you some advice. You'd be better off. Everyone in Aurora Skies hates you. You slept around with a pillar of the community and got yourself knocked up by him. Everyone will figure you blackmailed him into giving you the company and he complied in order to keep you silent about your torrid trysts. Everyone thinks you're a shameless hussy who just wanted to bilk money from the boss." She smiled a fake syrupy smile before turning on her heel and marching toward the door. "If you don't do it for yourself, do it for the brat. What kid would want to be known as the illegitimate one whose father doesn't even acknowledge his existence? Tough break or a young, impressionable tyke, don't you think?"

I wanted to bitch-slap her but kept my temper in check with great effort. What she said hit home and I knew Nathaniel would have tons of questions for me on this very subject when he got older. Still, I wanted to throttle her but realized it wouldn't do Nathaniel or me any good if I took a swing at her and landed myself in the hoosegow. Ericka was an embittered woman and Lord knows she had reason to be. I had to be the bigger person and not let her rile me any more than I already was.

The slamming of the door and squealing of tires told me that Ericka was gone. The only part of her that remained was the check on the table staring me in the face. I picked it up gingerly and swore under my breath. It was made out for a hundred fifty thousand dollars. As much as I really didn't want the money, I had to think of my son. Ericka was right. This place wouldn't hold the two of us for much longer. I'd wanted to get us a bigger place but had to put that on the back burner. I felt it was important to put away as much as I could for Nathaniel's education and figured I could get us something better when I made more from Countess Deborah Cosmetics. Even though my circumstances had started to look more promising, I was still very conservative with what I doled out. However, with this new development, I realized I could put a down payment on a nice, comfortable house for us, still have some leftover money to put away for his education, and still be in good shape.

I decided I would call a realtor first thing Monday morning. Oh, I'd be getting a new house, all right, but it wouldn't be out of town. I never ran from my problems before and wasn't about to start now. I would just deal with whatever the town threw at me. If I ran, it would only be teaching Nathaniel to do the same; I didn't want that. I want him to be able to face adversity with courage and self respect.



I was about to go check on Nathaniel when my cell phone rang. I groaned as I looked at the caller ID. "Hey, Debbie, it's Terrill. I was thinking that since we had such a great time at lunch yesterday, we could have dinner together tomorrow night. What do you say?"

Now was not a great time to deal with this new wrinkle in my life. With everything that happened with Ericka still fresh in my mind, the explosion erupted and I couldn't hold it back. "No, I do not want to have dinner with you tomorrow night or any other night. No more lunch dates and no more making nice. I certainly don't need a man to keep me comfortable. I'm perfectly capable of running my own life."

"Whoa, hold the phone." He sounded completely perplexed. "Let's take it down to thirty-three and a third, and then you can tell me what I've done to piss you off."



"It's just...just..." I was aghast at myself when I burst into tears. "Awww shit!" I put the phone on speaker, set it down on the table, and bowed my face into my hands.

"Debbie, what is it?" the concern in his voice undid me. I bawled, really bawled, and couldn't stop.

"Debbie, please talk to me. You've got me really worried. Are you hurt? Ill?"

"N-no. Not sick. Not h-hurt...physically. I'm s-sorry. Please f-forgive me," I stammered through sobs. Good God! He must think me completely certifiable.

"It's okay. No apologies necessary. I'm just concerned about you. If ever there was a lady who needed to unload some troubles, you're that lady. I make a good listener. Will you let me come over and be that friend you obviously need?" Terrell's deep, rich voice went right to my very soul. If I let myself, I could start to care for him; I could care for him too much and that was how I'd gotten into trouble before.

"I'll b-be okay," I said.

"Bullshit. Friends, remember? I'm unattached and have nobody to answer to. You need to talk and I'll gladly lend a listening ear. What've you got to lose?" he persisted gently.



My soul, I almost said. Instead, I sighed, then sniffled. I truly did need a friend; a friend with no conditions or commitments. It was a lonely existence with only my son for company. I needed adult companionship and I needed someone to listen, truly listen for once. I wiped my tears, gathered my courage, and took a giant leap of faith. "Fine then." I gave him my address and directions to my house.

"I'll be there in ten minutes," he said.

As I waited for Terril's arrival, I went into the bathroom to fix the damage my weeping had caused. I looked at myself in the mirror and heaved a great sigh. "Well, Evans, what have you done this time?" I fervently hoped I wouldn't regret taking this leap I'd been so scared to take.