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After All These Years


"Just a minute Bay," Brian said patiently.



"So, I'm here with my family for a couple days to explore Cedar Point," Brian said, his eyes locked on mine. I felt ashamed I couldn't look away. "Can I give you my number? I'd love to catch up after all these years."

Catch up. As if we had only missed a few months out of each other's lives. The large part of me that had been wounded too many times in my life flared its ugly head. I shook my head.

"I don't--"

"Please," he said. He pulled out a Sharpie pen, leaned into my cart (past the tampons), pressed his left hand on the giant dog food bag and wrote a number on it with his right.

He wasn't wearing a ring.

No Jill, my subconscious chastised. Remember? Remember what happened?

"It'd mean a lot," he said softly. "There was a lot left un--"

"Uh-oh," Tibby started working on the one overall strap still attached. "I gotta go!"

It seemed like whenever Tibby was engrossed in something she could go hours without having to use the bathroom, but the moment she got bored, it was all over. Her eyes widened and her pee dance began in earnest. I spotted a bathroom sign behind Brian's shoulder in the Layaway area. I scooped Tibby up over my shoulder.

"It was so good to seeyouagain," I said, my last few words coming out a jumble. "Colestaywiththecart."

My sneakers squeaked on the waxy floor as Tibby and I made a beeline for the restaurant. I kicked the door open with my foot, swung her down, and had her sitting without incident in a matter of thirty seconds. She swung her legs nonchalantly and looked at me.

"This is the bestest night ever!" she declared happily.

My sixteen-year-old self, the one that had spent a lot of time pining away for Brian Littrell over the years whole- heartedly agreed. My current self, the one that had been to hell and back, just sat back and folded her arms in a self- hug.

"I want some big glow-in-the-darky shoes!" Tibby declared as she hopped off the toilet seat. She hitched up her bottom and I grabbed the overall straps.

"When you learn to tie your shoes, we'll talk," I said. Her bottom lip jutted out and her eyes grew large as she contemplated giving up her beloved velcro.

"Poop," she declared.

I followed her out of the stall and pulled out the courtesy stool so that she could climb up and wash her hands. As she made a mess of the soap I studied her adorable reflection in the mirror. My heart welled with love and yet broke at the same time.

Life just wasn't fair sometimes.

"Okay!" she declared as she flung soapy water everywhere, including the mirror. She hopped down and eagerly shoved her hands underneath the automatic air dryer. She swayed back and forth, the sound of the machine making some type of music in her mind. When it turned off she shoved her hands in her pockets.

"Ready?" I asked, wondering if he would still be out there.


Taking her freshly washed hand, we made our way back to Cole. Brian was gone. Cole looked sour.

"Who was that?" he asked the second he spotted me.

The question was harder to answer than he would ever know. "Just someone I went to high school with a long time ago," I said, trying desperately to keep my voice light.

"I don't like him," Cole scowled.

"I liked him," Tibby declared.

"You only liked his shoes," Cole countered.


The night was ticking away. I clapped my hands. "If we're going to watch our movie, we better get home."

- - -

Thirty minutes later, we pulled into the driveway. Tibby was fast asleep, slightly snoring as I yanked her out of her booster seat. Cole slid out and grabbed the bag of dog food, struggling under its way, but with a look of determination on his face.

"I'll come back for the rest," I whispered.

"Can we still watch the movie?" he asked.

"Of course," I said with a smile. I knew that my days of him actually wanting to do stuff with me were numbered. Soon it would be completely about friends and, I shudder at the thought, girls.

"Woof. Wooo-ooof."

The moment I unlocked the door, Hoover, our Bull Mastiff/Boxer mix put his giant dark head into my crotch and bemoaned the agony he had just gone through being left home alone. Only the smell of dog food tore him from me. His head flew up to focus on Cole.

"Don't you dare Hoss," I warned. The big dog took a step back, but didn't take his large dopey eyes off of the food. As Cole headed into the kitchen, he padded behind with his large nails clicking on the linoleum. He let out a happy 'Woof' at the bag of food thudded against the floor. The bag of food with Brian's phone number on it.

"Uggggh!" I said quietly. I turned in the opposite direction, following the garish orange hall carpet that I hadn't had time or money to replace and walked into Tibby's room. A large pink rug covered most of the brown shag carpet. A large Smurfs comforter blanketed the bed. A My Little Pony with half its tail gone sprawled across her pillow. I nudged it aside and put my rough-and-tumble princess down. Immediately she did a roll onto her stomach, something she had stubbornly done since she was three months old.

"Love you Tibs," I whispered, leaning back down to press a kiss to the crown of her head.

"Mom, I got the movie in," Cole whispered. He hovered by the door.

"How about I make our stove s'mores first and you microwave the popcorn," I said. He grinned and nodded. With one last look back at my sleeping angel, I followed him back into the kitchen. Hoover's nose was pressed against the red bag of chow.

"You break into that and you'll be sorry," I warned.

"Wo--" he must have understood the look on my face. He sprawled out on the floor by the bag, placing his giant head on his paws. I headed to the stove and lit the burner. My supplies were laid out on the corner, pushed far back so a giant pup wouldn't get to them while we were gone.

"Where did you learn to make s'mores on the stove?" Cole asked as he placed the popcorn into the microwave and pushed the corresponding button. I slowly slid marshmallows onto the large metal cooking fork used to cut the turkey at Thanksgiving. I let out a large exhale, not realizing I had drew in my breath.

"We got creative the first summer your grandma, grandpa, and I lived in Kentucky. There was a burn ban out right from the start of summer..."