Second Chance(10)

By: Natalie Ann


“Come out now, stop hiding. It’s too late,” he heard his grandmother say.

What the heck was she talking about? Then his grandmother reached forward and pulled the door open to help the woman out of her vehicle.

Everything started to move in slow motion. The woman stood up, rubbed her hands across her face, dropped her chin down, then lifted it higher, stronger, and turned to look at him.

It was her—it was Mallory. And everything went dark.

***

Mallory looked at Nick lying on the grass where he’d passed out. She wished she could just vanish right now.

She was cursing herself for being outside. She knew better, but she wanted to feel the sun on her back and smell the lake air.

“Help me get him up,” Trixie said.

She couldn’t move. Her legs were locked in place and she was still gripping the car door. “I can’t.”

“Snap out of it, Mallory. It’s over with now. He knows it’s you. Why else would he have passed out?”

“Heat stroke. Let me leave, please. He’ll be fine. Make up an excuse or a lie about who I am.”

“No,” Trixie said firmly. It was the first time Mallory had ever seen Trixie lose her temper.

Deep breath again, and another one. Pull it together, and snap out of it like Trixie said.

She was an adult; she was strong and she was fine. The scared kid was gone, and it was time to face the music.

Nick was fine, she could see. He was already starting to stir. Mallory took one more look at her vehicle. No way could she leave that way, even if she wanted to.

She could go hide in the house, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything. Besides, she couldn’t leave him lying there, having Trixie care for him. What kind of person would that make her? A coward, that’s what. Run away again, that was all she could think of, even though her mind was waging a tug of war telling her to grow a backbone.

The backbone won. She couldn’t let Trixie down. She’d never go against Trixie, regardless of her primitive urge to just flee.

Getting her legs to move, Mallory walked closer to Nick and knelt down next to him, ran her hand over his face, and fought back the tears. Still so handsome, even as pale as he was looking right now.

His dark hair wet and slightly curly, a rough growth of a beard on his face, thinner than she thought he’d be.

The last picture she’d seen of him, he had more weight on. Then again, Trixie had said Nick was in a bad place, so he’d probably lost weight not taking care of himself. She tried to fight back the sympathy she felt at that moment.

“Come on, Nick. Open your eyes,” she whispered.

There was nowhere to run now. She had to face this. She had to face Nick. It seemed like it was all full circle again, today of all days.

He blinked once, then twice, and slowly pushed himself to his elbows. “Mallory?”

“Yes, it’s me. Can you stand up, or are you going to make your little old granny and me lift you?”

Trixie snorted behind her. “Little old, my butt.”

Nick sat up slowly, looked back and forth between his grandmother and her, his mouth open, his dark brown eyes glossy, penetrating her. “I’m dreaming. Tell me I’m dreaming.”

“I wish you were, but you’re not.”

See, Mallory thought, Trixie probably could have made something up and Nick wouldn’t have known it was her.

“Stand up, Nick,” Trixie said. “Let’s get you in a chair. Mallory go get him a towel and a glass of water.”

“Make it a stiff drink. I think I need it,” he said. That sounded like a better option, she thought.

“Make it three,” Trixie said.

“What the hell is going on?” Mallory heard Nick ask his grandmother when she was walking in the house.

Trixie would take care of Nick. He looked no worse for wear right now, but she needed a minute to compose herself.

Twelve years, and it’s over now. Or was it really?

She could only hope that Trixie could get Nick to understand without telling him everything.

Walking into the hall, she grabbed a towel from the linen closet, then made her way to her bar and grabbed the first bottle of liquor she could. Vodka; it would have to do.

Mallory threw the towel over her shoulder, stuck her fingers in three glasses, and carried the bottle out. With her hip, she pushed the screen door open, but Nick was nowhere to be seen. Then she heard his voice toward the back of her house and made her way around.

He was sitting on her deck next to his grandmother while Trixie ran her hands over his shoulders, trying to soothe him. A familiar move that Trixie had done to her plenty over the years.

Walking up the few deck stairs, she moved toward the table and set the glasses down. She tossed the towel toward Nick and then proceeded to pour three shots of vodka.

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