Wow, midweek, already? Humpday and whatnot. Except, yeah, no humping here.
Anyway, we're pushing along now. This is the next installment of the story. I had some other things to get done this evening...we won't go into that. Maybe later, but for now, let's get back to our friends as they try to sort some stuff out, shall we? It's another shorter one, just because shit's been hectic 'round about Casa del Jenks today.
In case you missed the other installments in this series, you can get your fix here:
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six Part Seven
"Drew, what the hell?"
I gradually realized there were two figures standing over me as my vision began to clear. If I had been knocked out, it was only for a second or two; I did not remember hitting the sidewalk in front of the house, but my body ached as if I had just been slammed to the grown and half my face felt tender and sore at the same time.
"What the fuck is your ex-boyfriend doing here?"
There was an extended pause, then I heard the scuffle of a bare foot on the stone walkway. Someone was crouching over me, but the porch light was behind her head, hiding her features in shadow. Even though I could not see her, I knew who it was the knelt next to me.
"Tori, what the hell--"
"Drew, just go back inside. Sarah needs her bath and Emmy's probably ready for bed." I had not spoken to her for years, and though she was snapping orders, the familiar sound of her voice carried me back at least two decades.
"Drew! Just go! Take care of the kids. I'll clean your mess up out here."
For a moment he loomed over both of us, a thunderhead ready to crackle lightning down up on us. I watched him, fearful of whom he would go for first. Finally, shaking his head, Drew turned and retreated into the house, slamming the door behind him so hard I thought sure the glass would shatter.
"Robbie," Tori sighed into my ear, her fingers touching the spot where her husband's fist has crushed my face, "Robbie, is it really you?"
"In the flesh," I said, sitting up more. Her arm slipped around my shoulders to support me; my heart skipped a beat within my chest. "The bruised and slightly spongy flesh, but in the flesh."
She gave an abbreviated giggle at my joke and shook her head. "It really is you, isn't it?" Her face was suddenly next to mine, and there was an urge to grab her and kiss her as if the past twelve years had not happened. The ache in my jaw reminded me that it would not be a good idea to follow through on my urges.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, her voice carrying a familiar lilt of both amusement and annoyance. It was a tone I had heard often during our relationship.
"Well, you know," I said, forcing myself to my feet. I grabbed her hand and helped her up, as well. The touch of her skin against mine was electric. Though I was invested in the visit now, part of me was screaming that I should leave, that I had made a mistake coming here. Instead of following that instinct, I offered a half smile and a shrug. "I was in the neighborhood, thought I'd swing by, see how things were, maybe borrow a cup of sugar."
"You are such a smartass," Tori said, lightly slapping me in the chest with the back of her hand. She folded her arms under her breasts and set her jaw, though the barest of smiles still brightened her features. "Come on, Rob. You live in D.C. What's the real reason you're here?"
I tried my best to come up with an answer that was not an answer. Seeing my internal struggle playing out on my features, Tori raised her eyebrows, expecting an answer. Finally I frowned at myself and looked at her. "It's been twelve years," I said plainly. "I thought it was time to clear the air between us."
For the first time, I saw the defiant, friendly smile disappear. She looked at me and then looked down before sighing audibly. "Twelve years is a long time, Robbie." Her voice was soft and quiet, yet the words seemed to echo between us.
"You know why I couldn't be there, right?"
She nodded, avoiding eye contact with me. I never wanted to take her up in my arms so badly I did at that moment. She sighed softly, a sob mostly hidden beneath the heavy breath. "I saw you, you know. At the chapel. I saw you walking away." She looked up at me and I could see in the light from the front porch that tears stood in her eyes. "I called out to you, but you did not stop." She took another heavy breath, her shoulders shaking softly as she did so. "I knew what I did to you then. I knew that I was being selfish and a bitch and everything. I was so blind until I saw you walking away.
"But the thing that broke my heart most was when I found that picture from your graduation weekend at the grotto. I nearly burst into tears when I realized what I had done to you, someone that I cared for so deeply, someone that I really, truly loved. It broke my heart to see it there on the ground, so I picked it up and I was going to keep it. I was going to use it to remind myself what I had done to you. That's when Drew and I had our first fight."
She paused for a moment and I could think of nothing to say in the silence that fell between us. She shook her head and I thought I saw the glittering reflection of a teardrop on her cheek.
"This isn't the place to have this conversation," she said, shaking her head. Looking at me, unshed tears glimmering in her eyes, she asked, "Do you want to get a cup of coffee?"