I rolled over in bed and stared at my coffee candle. My room smelled of the rich, dark liquid I missed so much. Reminded me of the man I missed for no other reason than because when Cade wasn’t there, something felt like it was missing.
I heard his car door close around midnight. I waited a beat and then got up, tiptoeing down the hall and around the back to listen near my grandparent’s door. Two sets of snoring resonated from the other side. Relieved, I continued tiptoeing until I’d gotten my shoes on and the front door open. On the other side of the screen door, I spotted Cade sitting under the dogwood tree in my grandparent’s front lawn.
It was dark, but the moon was bright, and the summer heat still radiated off the hood of his Lexus parked on the curb. The scent of the perennials in the garden out front were thick and floral, warmed all day by the sun. The street was quiet, making the sounds of the cicadas nearby deafening.
I carefully stepped out of the screen door and shut both behind me. I crossed my arms over my chest and walked down to the dogwood tree.
“My mother used to say that hearing a cicada in the summer was good luck,” he announced, his voice low. “They mean you’re about to get a second chance.” He watched me. “Can’t be a coincidence.”
I hugged myself; I didn’t know what to say.
He nodded to himself. “Okay, you don’t want to talk, then can you please listen?”
I shifted from foot to foot, hugging myself tighter. Squeezing my tears tight in case they escaped. If one escaped, many more would follow. And I’d be on my knees under the dogwood tree. Begging him for so much, I didn’t know where to even begin. “Yes.”
He took a deep breath in preparation, and then Cade Montgomery laid it all out on the line. “I did not and will not bail out my father. He’ll sit in jail until his sentencing and then he’ll sit in there for years for what he did to you. And you know what? I’m so damn relieved.” Tears burst through his eyes. “I’m relieved that he’ll be in jail. For the first time in my life I won’t have to worry about him. I feel free in a messed-up way. But in others, I feel more lost than ever before. I don’t know how to say I’m sorry, how to convey how bad I feel for leaving you with him. For the hurt and worry and pain you endured. I’m sorry I was an asshole when we met. I’m sorry I continued to be an asshole. I’m sorry that I was afraid and took it out on you.” He took an uneven, ragged breath. “I gave my ex-wife what she wanted. Half of everything and she signed the divorce papers two nights ago. I’m officially divorced and she’s out of my life. I settled with the network and they’re paying out my contract. I don’t have a job, but I’ll have the money to take the time to find a new one and the money to take care of you and the baby. I hired a realtor to sell my father’s property and she already found someone interested in the almond groves. I did everything I could.” He pushed to his feet and since the roots of the tree were higher and gnarled, they gave him an advantage over me. “Here’s what I want. I want you to move in with me into the goldenrod house. I want a second chance. To be everything you wanted and deserved from the beginning. I was so caught up in everything falling down around me, I thought you were one more hammer falling. But you weren’t. You were a gift, and I was terrified of ruining a gift that was so perfect for me I couldn’t have asked for anything else if I’d known myself well enough to ask. I want this baby more than I’ve ever wanted anything. I want you and I want us. But I know you need time. I know you blame me for a lot, and you’re right to blame me. I messed up. Move in with me and give us both what we want. A second chance.”
Could he be any more transparent?
My heart was tattered and torn, eager to feel and accept the balm of his words.
I wasn’t like my mother. I wanted what she detested. I wanted security, normalness, and solid ground. She ran from Well Water and I ran to Well Water. In a moment where she would say no, I found myself saying, “Yes.”