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Ride Steady


PAGE 43


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She took a breath before she continued and I kept listening hard, my heart still hammering in my chest because she sounded on the ball and raring to fight. I hadn't had anyone but me in my corner for so long, it was a thrill to have someone who knew what they were talking about finally helping me fight.

"Also, your ex-husband by signed agreement does not have the right to make unilateral decisions of the magnitude of ceasing breastfeeding. And last, regardless that it was croup, and I assume, as well as hope, your son is feeling much better, any illness should be reported to an ex-spouse. It's an unparalleled hardship that you weren't informed of his ailment nor granted access to him while he was ill. From what I understood from Mr. Allen, this situation was sketchy at best. Now, understanding it fully, it's far worse. I'm fighting mad, Carissa. I just hope you are too."

"I am," I whispered, my heart thumping faster, because she didn't sound fighting mad.

She sounded incensed.

"Then please, make a meeting with Leanne as soon as is convenient. I'll stay late if you have to work. I'll instruct Leanne about that. Take care, Carissa, and I hope to see you soon."

She transferred me. I spoke with Leanne. We set a meeting the next day after I got off work and I disconnected, then stood there in a cute tube top, staring at my phone.

I did this thinking maybe, just maybe, finally there was hope.

"Your ex made you stop breastfeeding?"

I stiltedly turned to Tyra at her question.

She was staring up at me, her eyes bright with tears, though, from the look on her face, I didn't know if they were tears of camaraderie of a mother done wrong or tears of fury.

"Yes," I told her.

"Oh my God," she whispered. "I totally hate your ex."

"I hate him too!" Rider cried loyally.

I forced a grin at him but said, "That's sweet, cutie, but you really shouldn't hate people."

"You should if they're mean," Rider returned.

Now, how could I argue that?

"Tyra, notice," Elvira stated, and at her tone, my eyes went direct to her.

At one look, I saw Elvira wasn't feeling upset about a mother done wrong.

She was just flat furious.

"Your man's got T-minus a month to sort that jackass, then I'm settin' Hawk on him," she warned.

"Vira said ass!" Cutter shouted, though why he'd point that out when his father said the same and he hadn't uttered a word, I didn't know.

I also didn't ask.

This was because Tyra said, "We're on it, Elvira."

"You better be," she snapped then looked at me. "Tube top and tank. And I saw a cute dress out there you're gonna try on, girl. I don't care what you say. And if it looks as cute as all that," she pointed a finger at me, "I'm gettin' all of it for you." Her upraised hand snapped into a palm out position when I opened my mouth. "No lip," she ordered. "Not lost on me you're a sister whose current circumstances say you can't treat yourself, and no sister of mine who looks that good in that top, that tank, and probably that dress you're gonna try on doesn't get a treat. Comes around goes around. That's life . You'll have your shot. Now it's my turn."

Then, taking Travis with her, she flounced on her deep purple suede stilettos out of the dressing room.

I looked to Tyra.

"You'll learn Elvira's ways and bow to them like the rest of us," she informed me.

I had a feeling I would.

"And she's right," Tyra continued gently. "You need a treat, Carissa. You'll enjoy it, but trust me, as much as you do, she'll enjoy giving it to you more."

I felt a stinging in my eyes and bit my lip that had started quivering. Since I had to do that, I didn't answer.

I just nodded.

She kept hold of my gaze and kept talking gently. "You're going to be okay."

"You're all helping a lot. Too much," I replied, my voice quaky.

She stood and got close. When she did, she placed a hand light on my cheek and leaned toward me.

"We've all had our times. And if we're lucky, we've all had people that took our back during those times. You've been unlucky, honey. But your luck has changed. Roll with it."

I stared into her eyes.

And with lips again quivering, I nodded.

Thirty minutes later, we all left the store, me pushing Travis's empty stroller (Tyra had ahold of him now), and in it was a bag that held a cute tube top, an awesome tank, and a fabulous petal-pink sleeveless tee dress with a boat neck, blousy top, and side-ruched skirt that wasn't exactly me.

But it was perfect.

Better, it was a treat. And I hadn't had one of those in a long time.

We had lunch at the food court while Rider and Cutter terrorized all the children in the play area.

And I ate, chatted, and even laughed... feeling it.

Feeling it like I felt it when I was riding with Snapper.

But this time, that first-time feeling wasn't feeling free.

It was feeling lucky.

Chapter Nine

You Like Mexican?

Carissa

IT WAS AFTER lunch and more shopping that included Tyra buying me a pair of really neat big hoop earrings with a webby thing in the middle but mostly included Tyra and Elvira amassing five shopping bags each.

It was also after Tyra spoke with her renters and they let us come around so I could view her home.

It was better than I could imagine just looking at it on a small phone screen.

In real life, it was a dream come true.

But now, it was dinnertime and I was back home, someplace I didn't want to be and someplace I was thrilled would not be home for long.

I had my son at my hip, my purse and Travis's diaper bag over my shoulder, my shopping bag in my hand, my foot lifted to take the first step that led to many-steps I would soon not have to climb when I got home with my baby (and there it was, me feeling even more lucky)-when I heard, "Yo."

I turned, stopped dead and stared, unfortunately with mouth open, at Joker sauntering to me.

What on earth?

"What are you doing here?" I asked as he made it to me.

"Got him," he muttered, and before I could make a move to stop him, he grabbed Travis.

Then before I could say a word about that, he spoke.

"Here to check your place. See how many trucks we need to move your crap."

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