Second Chance(6)

By: Natalie Ann

And that fear of her childhood forced her to stay locked away from anyone from her past.

Everyone but Trixie.

Deep breath again, slow and steady. Don’t panic. Don’t have an anxiety attack. It was years ago, and you’re good now, she reminded herself.

Opening the back door, she heard her phone go off in the other room and ran for it. She never bothered to carry it when she was on the water; no one really needed to get in touch with her in a hurry.

When she picked it up, she saw it was Trixie calling. “Why didn’t you tell me he was coming?” Mallory said in a rush.

“I didn’t know, sweetie. He just showed up. I heard you open the back door and thought for sure he did too, but he didn’t.”

That was something at least. “How long is he staying?”

“I don’t know. I told him he could stay as long as he liked. Stop groaning, Mallory. You’re a grown woman. You can’t let the past keep holding you back any longer, or stay locked in fear. No one can touch you or bother you now. At some point, you’re going to have to let people know you’re alive.”

“I’d rather not.”

Trixie sighed heavily. “I know. But it was a long time ago. He has no control over you. You know that.”

Mallory waved her hand. “Doesn’t matter. I don’t want to remember it. I don’t want to think about it. I just want to continue to live the life I’ve had the last twelve years.”

“Mallory, what kind of life is that? One of hiding?”

“It’s not the time, Trixie,” Mallory said, cutting Trixie off. She’d heard the lecture before. “I owe you my life and you know it. But right now I need to get through this visit with Nick in town.”

“One of these days I’m not going to cover for you,” Trixie said. “Nick is my grandson. And though I love you like my own daughter, you’re going to have to come to terms with things soon. It’s gone on long enough. Longer than it ever should have.”

“I know. I will. But not now.”

“Just be prepared, Mallory. He might be here a while.”

Mallory felt her breathing increase. “Why?”

“He’s not in a good place right now. I can’t turn him away. He needs me almost as much as you did all those years ago.”

Mallory wanted to ask more, but she couldn’t. Part of her didn’t want to know. Part of her didn’t want to feel all those things she’d convinced herself she stopped feeling so many years ago.

“Okay, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to put you in the middle. I’m going to run out and stock up on supplies now while I can.”

She heard Trixie’s deep sigh through the phone but chose to ignore it. “I’ll talk to you soon, Mallory. It’s best you don’t call. I don’t always have my phone on me, and I’d hate for Nick to see your name come up on the screen. You know how to reach me if you need anything.”

Mallory felt her eyes fill with tears. She hated not being able to contact Trixie, but Trixie was right. It was best she didn’t call.

If she needed Trixie, she’d send a text from a burner phone with a message reading “you’ve won.” She’d only had to do that once in all the years she was hiding when the Buchanans visited. When she’d been sick and Trixie was worried about her.

Placing her phone on the counter, Mallory went around the house checking on what she needed, then grabbed her keys and drove into town.

She pulled in front of the grocery store and rushed forward. She didn’t need to hurry but felt better doing so, just in case.

“Mallory.” She heard her name called and turned to see Quinn Baker standing there.

She’d met Quinn about a year ago in a yoga class. Quiet like her, Quinn stayed in the back and out of sight, never talking much and never making eye contact.

Maybe it was the fact that Mallory saw some of herself in Quinn that she’d approached her back then. Quinn had looked like she could use a friend, and Mallory was short in the friend category herself.

“Hey, Quinn. Not working today?” Quinn was a line cook at a restaurant on the water.

“I’m going in soon. Just running a few errands. What about you? You don’t normally come to town in the middle of the day. Playing hooky?”

No one in town knew what she did for a living besides Trixie. Not even Quinn, the one true friend she’d had in years.

Everyone thought she was Mallory Dexter, insurance adjuster, which was the furthest thing from Mallory’s actual career.

She was a popular young adult mystery author. If it weren’t for Trixie and her contacts, Mallory had no clue what career she would have had. It wasn’t like she could go to college since she didn’t have the money or any means to get a loan. Not without her mother or stepfather finding her.