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Ride Steady


PAGE 104


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This time, it was, You're on my mind.

I liked that.

What I didn't like was the notification above it that said I had a missed call and voicemail from Aaron.

Ulk.

Well, he had my son and it could be about Travis, not to mention I needed to talk to him about the boxes, so I quickly texted Joker back with, Me too, sweetie. See you tonight.

Then I listened to Aaron's voicemail, which only said, "Riss, hey. When you have a second, call me. Okay? Later, honey." All of this like we left voicemails for each other every day due to the fact we were in love, married, had a baby, and all was hunky dory.

This was not a surprise. This was the way he behaved when he went about getting back into my good graces the other times he'd jerked me around.

But this time, I didn't feel hope from his behavior.

I only felt exasperation.

I drew in breath and hit the Call Back button, hoping all was okay with Travis, further hoping that Aaron wouldn't give me any guff about me getting the boxes in the attic, and last hoping that I got voicemail (of course, only if Travis was okay).

It rang twice before he greeted, "Hey, Riss."

I fought a gag and asked, "Is Travis okay?"

"He's fine, babe."

Babe?

He'd never called me babe.

"Listen," he carried on. "I'll be working into the night. Can you come to the office? We need to talk. I'll get food in and we can talk over Chinese or something."

Was he crazy?

"I have plans tonight, Aaron," I told him. "So perhaps you can tell me what you'd like to discuss while you have me now."

"I'd like to do it in person."

"Is this about Travis?" I pushed.

"In a way," he hedged.

I didn't have time for this.

"Okay, Aaron, I'm at work on lunch break and I need to eat so I don't have a lot of time. It'd help if you could be more forthcoming."

He hesitated for a moment before he said, "It's about Travis, you, and me."

You and me?

"You may have missed this, but there is no you and me," I pointed out.

"Riss-"

"Stop," I whispered.

He stopped.

Then he started again.

"That was wrong to ask."

He was so right.

Then, as he was wont to do, he went wrong.

"The wrong way to go about it. This is important. I'll ask Mom to look after Travis and I'll take you to dinner so we can talk. It may be a while before I can get away but I'll take you somewhere nice."

He was crazy.

"Aaron, please don't do this," I said quietly.

"Do what?" he asked. "Sit down with my wife to talk about our family?"

His wife?

Our family?

I wanted to kick him. Since I couldn't, I lost patience with him.

"I can't do this now," I snapped.

"I messed up," he said gently. "I've been thinking a lot, can't get it out of my head. I messed up, Riss, and I want to fix it. I'm trying to fix it. And I have to talk to you about what I've been thinking."

"I just said I can't do this now," I reminded him. "I'm at work. I have to get my lunch and get back to my register ."

Before I could continue in order to finish our conversation, he muttered, "I hate you work a cash register at a fucking grocery store."

I let that go, since in reality he put me at that register but I didn't think it would end our conversation any quicker if I reminded him of that.

Instead, I kept on with what I wanted to say.

"Since I have you, I've discovered after the move that I left some things in your attic. A couple of boxes. I'd like them back."

"I'll bring them over to your place tonight," he offered instantly.

That was easy, which was good, just not what I needed.

"Like I said, I have plans," I told him. "But maybe I can come over after work some night this week and get them?"

"Whenever you want, Riss. I'll cut out of the office and be there. And maybe you can have dinner with Travis and me or something."

What about Tory?

I didn't ask.

I said, "I'll text you, let you know."

"Great. I'll go up and get them down."

I studied my memory banks and couldn't remember so I could only hope that the boxes were closed and taped.

I also could only hope he didn't go through them. I'd told him about that sketch and who'd done it. If he saw it again, who knew what he'd do with it.

And I wanted it back.

No, I needed it back.

"Right, um... talk to you later, Aaron."

"All right, honey, have a good day."

He was making me queasy.

Still, to keep him from turning into a jerk (or exposing he still was one), I said, "You have a good one too. Good luck with the case."

"Thanks, sweetheart."

I swallowed back another gag and said goodbye.

I didn't wait for him to return my farewell before I rang off, ran out, got myself a sandwich from the deli, went back to the break room, and ate it while calling Joker and telling him my latest tales of ridiculousness from Aaron (though I left out the part where Aaron still had Joker's sketch).

When I was done telling him and had precisely six minutes before I had to be back at my register, he remarked, "Gotta admit, this shit is kinda funny."

"I'm glad you think so," I mumbled.

"Ride it out, Butterfly," he advised. "And the best way to do it is twist it from what it seems to you, a pain in your ass, to what it just is. Desperate acts from an asshole who fucked up his life by lettin' go the best thing he had in it. You win by just bein' you. He's rubbin' his own nose in his loss."

That was a much better way to look at it.

"Thanks, sweetheart," I said softly.

"No probs, Carrie. You gotta get back?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered unhappily.

"Okay, baby, see you tonight."

"Tonight."

"Later, Butterfly."

"'Bye, sweetie."

I shut down my phone, put it in my locker, sucked the rest of my soda up its straw, cleaned up, and went back to my register.

* * *

I dashed in the back door, tossing my purse to the side, where I heard it skid across the counter and fall to the floor.

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