from Fall In Love Again — available now: On Amazon & Kindle Unlimited
As I turned the corner into the prep area, she looked up at me with red-rimmed eyes. She averted her gaze, then went back to her task of… chopping vegetables. I approached her slowly — because she was kinda obviously tipsy, with a big knife in her hand — placing a hand on her back as I moved to stand beside her. She’d put on a chef’s coat over her clothes, and once I was at the counter with her, I realized that she was chopping ingredients for the veggie omelet I’d watched her make hundreds of times.
“Hungry?” I asked, turning opposite to her as I leaned against the metal counter, so I could see her face.
She nodded, but didn’t look up. “And tired, and pissed, and… stupid.”
I lifted an eyebrow, then reached forward to cup her chin, turning her to face me. “Explain.”
Shaking her head, she pulled away from my hand and went back to cutting up peppers. “I… was watching Viv and Carter together tonight, and they were so happy and in love. And I was watching Roman and Simone together, and they were so happy and in love. And then I look at myself, and Trent is groping me, and I’m telling myself that it’s fine, that I’m supposed to like it, because we’re dating, and touching is supposed to happen, but I’d really rather just have a glass of water instead. You know? It’s like… I don’t understand why I can’t have that too, you know? I mean… you and I had that for a while, and then we fucked it all up. And now I’m thirty-three years old, broke, with a “boyfriend” that annoys the shit out of me, and a failed marriage. To a criminal. I am losing at this whole “love” thing, I tell you. And now I’m old, and a failure, and getting fat, and I can’t even seem to have a…”
Charlie tossed the knife down onto the cutting board as her voice broke, and she stepped away from the counter. She tried, unsuccessfully to stem her tears with the backs of her hands. “I’m sorry,” she said, sniffling as she finally looked my way again. “I’m a mess. Ranting, and crying… I probably look like a crazy person.”
I chuckled, stepping away from the counter myself to wrap her into an embrace. “It’s not the ranting and crying that makes you look crazy, baby. The tipsy, midnight vegetable chopping in heels does that.”
She broke into laughter, snuggling her face into my chest as I pulled her tighter. I didn’t care that she was getting my shirt all snotty.
“Hey,” I said, drawing back so I could see her face. She looked up at me with glossy eyes… fucking gorgeous, even when she was crying. “You’re not stupid. And you’re not a failure. And you’re not old. And you’re for damn sure not fat. Stop beating yourself up like this. Maybe your life isn’t the way you want it right now, but so what? That doesn’t mean it never will be. I mean… my life isn’t the way I want it, but you don’t see me crying about it.”
Charlie scoffed, her eyebrows lifted in disbelief as she gently pushed her way out of my arms. “Oh, please Nix. You’re a man who’s attractive, successful, and single.”
“I could say the same for you, attractive, successful single woman.”
“It’s not the same.”
She sighed, crossing her arms over her chest. “Nobody really expects you to be settled by now. You have a good seven years, until you’re forty. Then people start looking at you sideways. You’re not…missing anything, I am.”
“Who says I’m not missing anything?”
Sucking her teeth, Charlie gave me a derisive grin. “Oh please. Tell me Nix, what are you missing?”
Her eyes went wide, lips parted as I held her gaze. She just… stayed there, as if she was stuck, until her chest heaved a little and a fresh round of tears filled her eyes. Finally, she tore her gaze away, not turning her face, but shifting her eyes, with a suddenly renewed interest in the chopped vegetables on the table.
My eyebrows shot up. Had I heard that correctly? Was she still doubting that?
“Yeah,” I said, taking a step toward her. “Right.”
She backed away from me until she couldn’t anymore, held in place by the cold metal edge of the counter. “Charlie… you say that you want the kind of love you see in Viv and Carter, in Roman and Simone… baby, it’s right in front of you.” She started to shake her head, but I held up a hand. “I know. I know. I fucked up back then. I know. But I’m telling you… I learned so much from that mistake. Those mistakes. You meant everything to me, and you… still. You still do.”
I leaned down to rest my forehead against hers as a few tears escaped her eyes. She met my gaze again, with a somber smile. “Nix… you’ve been drinking.”
“So? I’m not drunk. Well… I’m maybe a little drunk.”
“Me too,” she giggled, finally breaking into a smile.
I raised my hands to wipe her tears away with my thumbs. “I want you so badly right now.”
She bit her lip, flicking her eyes away again for a second before she brought them back. “Me too.”