Second Chance(4)

By: Natalie Ann

“It took you long enough,” his grandmother said, looking at him sternly.

He dipped his head like a child being caught lying about taking the last piece of cake even with the chocolate smeared on his face. “I had work to do.”

“Don’t you always.” She held the door open wider for him. “We both know that isn’t true, but you needed to do what you could in order to run away from it, right?”

Nick walked up and stopped in front of his grandmother, her hair a light brown and cut in a shoulder-length bob, looking much younger than her seventy-five years. She’d always been active and fit, and looked no less than that now.

He reached toward her and hugged her tight, needing that reassurance only she could give, regardless of the fact he wanted to argue he wasn’t exactly running.

“How did you know I would come?”

“You always end up here when you’re battling something.”

Yeah, he did, she knew that, and she knew him well. She kissed him on the cheek. “Come on in. You look like hell. Let me get you something to eat or drink at the very least.”

“Thanks. I drove through the night, so I’m beat. Coffee would be good.”

“No coffee for you,” she said firmly. “It will only keep you up. You need to sleep. I’ll make you a sandwich. We can chat while you eat, then you can bring your stuff to your old room and take a nap.”

He smiled. She was still bossing him around and he didn’t mind in the least. This was why he came.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, knowing she would swat her hand at him.

She did, then said what she always did, “Don’t ma’am me. I’m not Southern. If you can’t call me Grandma, then call me Trixie.”

“You know I can’t call you Trixie without laughing.”

There was something about the name Trixie—short for Beatrice—that made him think of prostitutes working a street corner or turning tricks, and his grandmother knew it.

He’d once slipped and told her that when he was in his teens. She’d laughed so hard at him then, and whenever she knew he was down or needed a laugh, she’d tell him to call her Trixie, knowing he couldn’t.

“Have a seat on the couch then, and I’ll go make you some lunch.”

So he did what he was told and sat on the couch in her living room, then looked around. The house hadn’t changed much since he was a kid. A few new pieces of furniture but not much more. The same light blue paint on the walls, the same hardwood floors, and the same big brick fireplace.

He was always at peace here. Always so relaxed. It was no wonder he ended up here, or that his grandmother had expected him.

Less than two minutes later, she brought him out a plate with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and glass of milk. The same thing she’d fed him for years on his first day of a visit.

He wanted to remind her he was thirty-two, not twelve, but didn’t. He just picked the sandwich up and took a healthy bite, then a big swig of milk.

“So tell me what’s on your mind,” she said.

“Not much. I just need a breather. Can I stay here and work for a bit?”

“You can stay as long as you like. You know that. How are you holding up?”

“I’m fine. I wish everyone would stop worrying about me. Kendra is the one everyone should be asking about. I’m just the jerk that canceled the wedding.”

“You aren’t a jerk, Nick. If you didn’t love her, then you didn’t. You can’t force yourself to feel something for someone just because you want it. It’s there or it’s not.”

“It wasn’t there,” he said sadly. “I tried, I wanted it, but I couldn’t do it. She didn’t deserve to be led on the way she was. I thought having her as my wife would help. I thought she could put me on track, personally and professionally, but that was wrong and selfish of me to think that.”

“You didn’t lead her on, Nick,” his grandmother argued.

“How do you know?”

“Because that isn’t who you are. Leading her on would have been if you actually went through with the wedding even knowing you couldn’t give her what she wanted. She pursued you, and we all knew it. But deep down she isn’t the one for you, and we all know that, too.”

“I thought I wanted the same thing she did. I guess I do, but I don’t want it with her. Maybe I’ll never find the person to have it with. Maybe that person isn’t out there anymore.”

He’d had it once and threw it away. That was his biggest regret. Trying to find it with someone else only fed that guilt and regret more.

“Thinking and knowing are two different things. Be thankful you called it off now instead of trying to fix a mistake later down the road. Time will heal everyone.”