When he read her text message, he felt both excitement and reluctance, a hint of wanting to lie to postpone the inevitable.
Unwilling to either hurt her or give reason for even more uncomfortable questions, he agreed.
Not five minutes later there was the knock on the door. He forced a smile and opened, immediately she hugged him, squeaking for joy, like it had been way more than just one week that they had not seen one another.
His fake smile became a real one. She had always had that effect on him.
“I missed you!” Everleigh smiled at him, after a quick peck on his cheek, while her eyes wandered he could see she immediately noticed the photos on the wall – or better, the absence of all that weren’t of Abby or her.
She looked back at him, her smile gone but a question in her eyes.
“Can we talk about your honeymoon first?” Heath tried to deflect the inevitable truth.
“Take a guess! Only correct answer: No! SPILL!”
“Nothing to spill that wouldn’t be obvious. Samantha moved out.”
“I knew it! You lied to me, at the wedding, didn’t you? I felt it all along! Oh my god, Heath!”
“Yes. I am sorry, but I saw no other way without ruining your big day.”
“What!? You let me go through with all this while you were here all alone, falling apart?!”
“Why hurt you too? You deserved happiness, every second of it. No use making you suffer for me. I am fine, Little Leigh. I have been through worse. I knew you would be back after just a week. To a vampire, a week is nothing.”
“Can I at least ask what happened?”
“In a nutshell, she got cold feet about marriage, being turned into a vampire, but has a bad case of baby fever and without being a vampire, there won’t be a baby, at least not with me. A vicious circle, of sorts. And nothing that can be fixed.”
“How is my sweet angel taking all that? Where is she, anyway?”
“Abigail is with her mother. Oh, that part you do not know yet. Heather is my new next door neighbor.”
“Oh, come on! You’re shittin’ me!?”
“Wish I were.”
“Cam told me they broke up. Has she tried to get back with you yet?”
“Count on it. Did she tell you why they broke up?”
“I cannot say I cared enough to ask.”
“You probably should. They broke up because of you. Cam got tired of hearing about you all the time, how great you are as a person, Heath this, Heath that, Heath everything and everywhere and then some. They had fights about just that and eventually she gave up and broke up with Cam, who swears he will not take her back this time. He’s as heartbroken as he is annoyed.”
“Sucks to be him.”
Evey snorted a laugh.
“Sorry, not a laughing matter, I know, but that was funny coming out of you, unexpected anyway.”
“It is laughable. Are you supposed to be here alone?” Heath asked, referring to KC’s rule of them not being alone in private.
“It’s fine. KC went to work. We both thought Sam would be here. And I really think he is over all that now. Are you going to try and rekindle with her? Heather, I mean?”
“I am done with relationships, at least until Abigail is at least old enough to grasp the concept. Having women come and go is not healthy for her.”
“Heath, I get needing to lick your wounds but there are wonderful women out there just waiting for an amazing man like you, who would fully appreciate you too. You cannot withdraw and sit alone again like you did most of your life. You hated it then, you are going to tire of it now.”
“Let me stop you right there Little Leigh. I am not alone. I have two wonderful people in my life, who I know would never betray me: Abigail and you. As long as I have you, I need no one else. You are the only one aside from my child who has never betrayed me, abandoned me, recklessly hurt me. On the contrary, the things you have risked for me, after all I have put you through …. and you are still here. I have never forgotten the time when I had given up and was about to let go, when you found me in that basement, Evey. You saved my un-dead life then, physically by letting me drink from you, but ultimately you gave me so much more than just some of your blood that night. From that moment on I knew I would do anything for you, absolutely anything, and for the rest of my life part of my heart will always be yours. Apologies if this it too straight forward but there is no woman who could ever hold a candle to you in my book. The three relationships I have had thus far are case in point.”
Evey looked at him, closed her eyes, then stared at the hands on her knees.
“What am I going to do with you? And what about Sam being your soulmate?”
“I am not so sure about that anymore. Maybe I was wrong, so enticed that I saw only what I wanted to see. Truthfully, I have a hard time believing that a soulmate could do to me what she did to me. It’s not even that I am not sympathetic with her fears and issues, but how recklessly she acted on them was lacking, to put it mildly.”
“You know I work directly across from her flower shop, right?”
“I do. I cannot stop you from doing what is undoubtedly brewing in that beautiful head of yours, but please, don’t do it on my account. I am not ready to make up. Not sure I ever will be, but who’s to say?”
“So, if you HAD TO pick right this very second: Heather or Sam?”
“Sure you can, you just don’t want to.”
“Fine, I do not want to. Now, am I ever going to see those photos you teased me with? And could it be that you have a light tan? Ha, if you tan, oh Queen of Pastiness, maybe there is even hope for me.”
“Very funny, you marshmallow! Is that your way of changing the subject?”
Evey shook her head but started showing him the photos on her phone, explaining excitedly, telling funny anecdotes here and there, swooning about the scenery, the food and KC’s hunkiness and sense of humor, when she wasn’t fangirling how romantic he could be.
When she left a few hours later Heath seemed to be in good spirits.
After shutting the door behind her, for once his smile remained.
A genuine one.
No mask this time.
He felt better already.
Seeing his best friend had changed his outlook and he believed his own words: he was doing okay.
He was sitting on the bench, had arrived early, using the time alone to contemplate his decision to finally agree to her pleading to meet for a face to face talk on neutral ground. It was obvious what this was going to be about.
What remained to be seen what how both of them would feel when they left here.
Looking up at movement in the distance he recognized her dark outline against the streetlight long before she came into the cast of the streetlight closest to him.
She waved, he waved back and she gestured him to remain seated as she reached him and sat down next to him.
“Hi.” he replied.
“How are you? Uh – nix that. I bet I can guess the answer. I should instead apologize. Gawd that sounds so lame. I had it all thought out, practiced what I would say to you at home and now I am drawing blanks. So sorry. For everything I put you through.”
“I see you are still wearing the ring.”
“You want it back?” she asked quietly after looking at it herself.
“No, it is yours to keep. I do not want it back. Not quite my style.” he smiled.
“Oh … ha ha ha.” her laughter sounded forced and uncomfortable.
“Now that we have that awkwardness out of the way, what did you want to speak to me about?”
“I miss you, Heath. I still love you.”
“Nothing has changed though. The facts are still the same as they were before, and that won’t ever change. So we are exactly where we have always been, in a way.”
“What do you want from me then?”
“Can we at least be friends? I miss you, and I miss Abby. How is she doing?”
“Confused. She misses you as well.”
“Where is she? With Evey?”
“No, with her mother.”
“Oh, right. Are you … seeing Heather again?”
“What if I were?”
“You’re right, none of my business. Sorry.”
“Let me think about the friends thing. I cannot give you an answer now. I need some time.”
He walked her to her car and watched her drive off. It still felt weird to see her drive away, knowing they each were going to different homes, when only weeks ago they shared the same home. A home they were going to share for the rest of their lives …
They barely got a chance to even greet each other when the pitter patter of little feet was only outdone by the squeaky high-pitched voice of an excited toddler.
“Daaaaaaddyyyyyy!” Abigail ran into her father’s arms, who caught her, greeted her, then bent down and kissed her as she made herself as tall as possible standing on her little toes.
“Thank you for watching her again.” he told Heather, the baby holding on to his leg as if for dear life.
“My pleasure, anytime. Thank you for allowing it, I know I just about passed up my right to this little darling. Why don’t you come in and stay for a minute? I’ll give you the tour.”
“Daddy, look my dolly house! Come pway wi’ meeee!”
Heath could not deny his daughter, so he followed them inside.
“Anything to drink? I was just about to make some tea.”
He was distracted by first being smothered with wet toddler kisses, then receiving instructions by his toddler daughter about which doll he was assigned and what his doll was supposed to be doing.
“Being a daddy really suits you, Heath. You have changed a lot. For the better. Not that you had that much to work on to begin with.”
He looked at Heather, suddenly flashbacks of their time together came to his mind, of good times.
Heath put down the doll when he noticed Abby was engrossed in play, stood up and went over to Heather.
“I think I’ll take some tea if the offer still stands.”
“Always.” she smiled, turned and started preparing it. Watching her, there was a strange feeling of familiarity. When she turned back around and smiled at him while handing him his cup, all he could think about were those beautiful blue eyes.
While everybody swooned over Abby being the spitting image of her father, including inheriting his unusual eye color, he had been a little disappointed that she did not look more like her mother.
“Still just black? The tea. Or would you like something in it?”
“Uh – yes. Black, like my soul.”
“Now THAT I do not believe for a second. You are the sweetest man I have ever met, with the kindest heart and soul.” she smiled, faintly, and her words sounded genuine.
Attempting to drink while she spoke, their eyes met and he nearly dropped the full cup when he felt one of those jolts of lightning go from the top of his head to the tip of his toes causing him to spill some of the beverage on his shirt.
“Oh, you okay? Too hot? Hope you didn’t burn yourself!” Heather comforted him while trying to blot off the spill.
“Good thing I always wear black. Makes my clumsiness a non-issue after all, except for the humiliation.” Heath joked to make light of the situation.
“You and Abby are not the ones in this house who should feel ashamed. Not for anything.”
Their eyes met and locked.
He had to leave soon, it was Abigail’s bedtime and she was getting very antsy and cranky. Filled with regret for having to cut this evening short, he looked back at Heather, he was not ready to leave yet and she was apparently not ready to let them go either, but both were careful not to overstay each other’s welcome.
Later that evening, after reading Abigail to sleep, he sat in the living room of his home, staring at the black screen of a turned off TV, while trying to sort out his thoughts and feelings.
He knew Evey was right.
He knew he had to choose.
There was no point in sitting all this out.
He had already met his Mrs. Right.
And which relationship did not have ups and downs?
Even Everleigh and KC had their fair share.