Second Chance(7)

By: Natalie Ann


“I took some personal time. It’s a beautiful day.”

“And on this beautiful day, you decided to come to the grocery store. You’ve got issues, Mallory,” Quinn said, letting out a giggle that only Mallory seemed to be privy to receiving.

Quinn didn’t know the half of it. “What can I say? I guess my priorities aren’t straight.” Yep, there was a double meaning there, but Quinn was clueless as to it.

“Well, I’m on a time crunch myself. How about we get together for drinks tomorrow night?”

“I’d love to, but I’m kind of backed up with work. Maybe next week?”

Mallory hoped by then Nick would be gone and she could venture out again.

“Sure, sounds good. I’ll touch base with you then.”

Mallory watched Quinn walk away toward the back of the store while she grabbed a cart and started filling it full of food and supplies at random, hoping she wouldn’t need half of what she was putting in there.

***

Nick felt himself floating through the dream. The same dream he’d been having for months.

He was in his tux at the altar waiting for Kendra to walk down the aisle toward him. He was nervous and anxious but tried to convince himself it was fine. That it was completely normal to have pre-wedding jitters.

Only they weren’t jitters—they’d never been that.

But in his dream, he thought they were the jitters and continued to stand there as Kendra made her way toward him with her father on her arm. The two of them stopped in front of Nick, but when Kendra’s father lifted the bride’s veil it wasn’t Kendra standing there. It was Mallory.

The same long blonde hair he remembered from years ago. The same blue eyes staring at him, looking and wondering. Wondering what he was thinking. Could she tell how much he still felt for her? Could she tell how much he regretted hurting her? He’d had no choice. He hadn’t wanted to say what he did, or do what he had, but someone else was controlling the show.

Someone else was threatening everything that meant so much to him, leaving him no choice.

He reached for Mallory in that wedding gown, the same way he did the day he’d told her they were only friends. And even then, loose ones at that. That he shouldn’t have kissed her and that she thought more of him than he did of her.

The tears in her eyes back then were the same as they were in his dream right now—standing there in that wedding gown, staring at him. Pleading with him not to say that, that he didn’t really mean it. And she was right, he hadn’t meant it, but he had to say it and he had to sound convincing. It was better that way.

He woke up with a start, his heart racing, sweat on his brow and his hands damp and shaking.

That damn dream had been the last straw. The final nail in the coffin that ended up confirming what he always knew.

He couldn’t marry Kendra. He didn’t love her. He would never love her the way he should love his wife. And he couldn’t bear to hurt another woman the way he’d hurt Mallory.

Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he decided to take another shower and clear his head.

He picked up his phone on the bedside table and noted that he’d only been sleeping three hours. Better than nothing, he figured.

He walked over to his suitcase and grabbed a change of clothes, then made his way into the bathroom.

Twenty minutes later, with his head much clearer, he marched downstairs in search of his grandmother. He found her in the kitchen baking.

“Are you making a wild berry pie?”

“It’s your favorite, isn’t it?”

“You know it is.”

“Then that’s what I’m making.” She stopped and glanced at the clock on the wall. “I thought you’d still be sleeping. It’s just four.”

“I woke up and decided to shower and put my stuff away.”

He wasn’t going to tell her about the dream. He’d never told anyone he still dreamed about Mallory. That he’d never had any closure and didn’t know if he ever would.

Until then, he would always wonder if he could move on. Was it what he said to Mallory all those years ago that caused her to leave in the middle of the night? Did she leave on her own? No one knew.

Some thought she was kidnapped. Others thought she ran away, since some of her clothing was missing.

Regardless of what happened to her, he’d always blame himself for playing a part in it. Maybe it was his fault. Maybe he didn’t have to be so harsh; maybe he didn’t need to say what he did to her.

“Are you okay?” his grandmother asked him.

“Yeah, why?”

“You don’t look good. You’re too pale for me right now. Spending too much time indoors working. You need a little bit of color. Why don’t you go sit on the deck and I’ll bring you a drink.”

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