Author: Teresa Mummert
"I know. He loves me as much as I love him. But sometimes I worried… When we couldn't have another baby, I felt like a failure. You know?"
"May, you are not a failure and no one, not even Jake, sees it that way."
"I know he doesn't. That's how I see it."
"You know what we need? A girl's night out. Let Jake watch the boys and we can go out and do some fun girly stuff."
"That does sound nice. I haven't had my nails or hair done in years."
"Good. It's a date." I laughed, but sadness washed over me as I remembered Shane and me on our first "non-date" date at the movies.
"I can assure you he is thinking about you right now," May said with a smile before taking another sip of her drink.
"How do you know I was thinking about him?" I asked as I wiped the condensation from my mug.
"You have that look in your eyes."
I pulled my lower lip between my teeth and bit down on it, unable to look her in the eye.
"Oh, my God! You do love him, don't you?" May's problems were seemingly forgotten when she uncovered my secret.
"I think I do." I nodded. "I do." I snuck a peak at her through my hair that hung in a curtain against my face.
"Good. That's really good. Does Shane know?"
"Yeah, he knows." I could feel the blush creeping over my cheeks. I liked sharing my feelings about Shane with someone else. Ideally, I would have called my sister and gossiped about my feelings, but she and I didn't have that kind of relationship. I wasn't used to being able to be so open with another female.
"Well, I want all of the details while we're out on our girl's night."
"Deal." I held up my glass and May followed suit. We clinked them together and both took a drink. "How did you and Jake meet?" I asked as I bobbed my head to the music coming from the radio behind the counter.
"We met when we were teenagers at a park."
"That sounds nice."
"Yeah, it was. We ran in the same crowd but had never met. Our friends all played basketball and Jake and I climbed on top of a roof over the picnic tables and talked for hours. Two days later he was calling me his girlfriend and the rest is history."
"You're lucky to have found each other so young."
"It makes things a little more difficult. You are still growing and learning who you are. That can be tricky. We both changed a lot since those days but in the end, I think it made us stronger."
"Any advice for the relationship challenged?"
"Never give up. Things will get hard. No relationship is easy. You have to work through your problems as if tomorrow isn't guaranteed, because it's not. Never go to bed angry and always make sure you say I love you every chance you get."
"You ever think of becoming a therapist?"
"Oh, honey. I'm a mom, therapist, chef, chauffeur, nurse, and I have even been known to kill a few spiders." She winked at me as she motioned for the bartender to refill our glasses.
"I don't know how you do it."
"No one knows how to be a mother. There is no handbook. Believe me. I have looked. You learn as you go."
"I wish we would have met sooner. I could have used some of your advice over the years."
"Most of my advice came from Jake's mom, MaryAnn. She was an amazing woman. She made everything look so…effortless. I'm here if you need me. Might be here for a long while if the bartender doesn't bring us our drinks," she giggled.
"You don't drink much, do ya?" I asked with a laugh. I finally felt like I wasn't alone.
March 29, 2010
As soon as I heard her voice, all of the sadness I had built up inside of me dissipated.
"God I've missed the sound of your voice." I closed my eyes as I pictured her smiling up at me.
"Shane? I was so worried!" Jenn said as she relaxed back into her office chair.
"We got into country a few hours ago. I called as soon as I could. How are you? How are you holding up?" I wanted to ask if this was as hard for her as it had been for me.
"It's been so hard, Shane. I think about you constantly. I haven't gotten any work done all morning." She laughed. God she laughed. I missed that sound. "Luckily my boss isn't such a bad guy."
I smiled, relieved that Jake was taking it easy on her. She didn't have many people in her life that she could rely on.
"That's good, sunshine. I'm glad to hear it."
"You still haven't told me why you call me that."
I smiled as I thought back to when I first met Jenn. She was wearing yellow and she had this pull about her. I couldn't stay away from her even if I had wanted to. She was gravity. She was the light in the darkest of my days, and her smile ignited a flame inside of me that had gone out a long time ago.
"One day I'll tell you."
There was a moment of silence before she spoke again, her voice cracking.
"I really miss you, Shane." A small sob escaped her and my heart broke for her.
"I miss you, too. Can you do me a favor?"
"Yes," she said with a sniffle.
"Go into Jake's office and hand him the phone."
"You're done talking to me already?"
"No. I have to go soon but not just yet. I need to speak with Jake. Can you get him for me?"
I waited as she made her way into Jake's office. I heard her tell him I was on the phone.
"Shane?" Jake asked.
"Yeah, man. It's me. I'm here. I made it. Look, I don't have much time. I need you to do me a big favor."
"Yeah, sure. Anything. What do you need?" he asked. I closed my eyes as I forced the words from my throat. I didn't want anyone laying a single finger on Jenn, but I couldn't let her cry in her office while feeling all alone
"I need you to hug Jenn."
"You want me to what?" he asked. I took a deep breath, not wanting to repeat myself.
"You heard me. She is crying and I can't do anything to comfort her. I need you to be there for her." There was another long pause before Jake responded.
"Yeah, okay. I'll do it, man."
"Thank you. Now give the phone back to my girl so I can tell her I love her."
"Stay safe, Shane."
"Always." I couldn't wait to hear her voice again and the two seconds it took for her to get back on the phone seemed to last an eternity.
"Jenn, I have to go, sweetheart. I want you to know that what Jake does next I asked him to do. Please let him. You will feel better. I love you."
"I love you too, Shane. Please be safe."
I hung up the phone and ran a hand over my hair, wishing I could be the one to hold her in my arms when she is sad. I hated the thought of someone else comforting her, taking away the pain that I had caused.
We only had to get through six more months of this and we could be together, but those six months were going to test me in every way possible.
March 29, 2010, Monday
I slid my phone onto Jake's desk after the line went dead, sobs racking through my body. Jake quickly closed the door to his office and stood in front of me with a nervous look on his face.
"What?" I asked as I looked at him through teary eyes.
"Shane asked me to do this," he said as he awkwardly lurched forward and wrapped his arms around me in a hug. I didn't like the idea of anyone touching me. I didn't want to be in the arms of Jake. I wanted Shane so desperately my entire body ached. I slowly raised my arms and looped them around his back as the tears continued to pour, the anger and the sadness finally finding a release.
"Shhh…" he said as he rubbed his hand over my back. "I know you wish Shane could hug you, and he will. He will come back to you." I nodded into his shoulder, unable to speak. We stood that way, hugging in his office, in the middle of our busy workplace for at least ten minutes before I finally stopped crying. I felt drained and tired, but it was nice to be able to share my sadness with someone else.
"Thank you," I mumbled as he grabbed a couple of tissues from his desk and held them out for me. I wiped my eyes but I knew, without looking in a mirror, that my face was puffy and pink.
"Take the day off. Go spend some time with May. She would like to have the company."
"I can't just leave." I shook my head as I stared down at my shoes.
"Go. I can handle the reports. I know I haven't always been easy on everyone here. I was so wrapped up in my own problems I didn't stop to think about what anyone else might be going through."
I nodded but didn't know how to respond. I had always thought Jake was just a mean-spirited person. I had judged him unfairly. I was so preoccupied with my own heartache that I didn't consider what he might have on his mind. We weren't that different.
"Thank you, Jake."
Jake reached out and rubbed over my shoulder with a sad smile.
"We're family now. Family needs to look out for each other."
I smiled and gave him a small hug before grabbing my phone and making my way to the elevators.
Now seemed like the perfect day for May and I to have a girl's day out. A little pampering would make me feel better, and I knew she needed a break.
I pulled out my cell and dialed May as I started Shane's car. The phone linked to the Bluetooth and I was able to talk to her over the sound system.
"Good news?" May asked. I couldn't help but smile. It was nice to have someone care.
"I spoke to Shane. He is fine."
"Yeah, I think I am going to be okay. Listen, I have the rest of the day off. I was wondering if you wanted to go have that girl's day."
"You don't have to ask me twice. The boys are in school and my house is semi-clean."
"I'll be right over." I smiled as I hit end call on the touch screen.
April 14, 2010, 7:14 p.m.
"You have done enough."
"This food will just go to waste if you don't take it." May pushed the casserole dish toward me. I rolled my eyes and picked up the container of leftovers.
"Not bad for my first turkey." I had always loved to cook, but unfortunately, I was never any good at it. My mother didn't like to spend time in the kitchen so as a child, we ate out a lot or microwaved something to eat.
"You will be a hit next Thanksgiving." She laughed as we both turned to Jake, who was groaning and stretching out on the couch.
"I just hoped it lived up to his birthday tradition." I motioned toward Jake flipping through the channels on the television.
"Are you kidding? Look at him." May laughed and patted me on the arm. "I see a promotion in your future." She winked, and we both laughed.
"I better get home. Don't forget, Shane should be calling sometime tonight. He didn't want to miss Jake's birthday."
"If he doesn't slip into a food-induced coma, we will be up."
"Have a good night," I called out before making my way to the door to head home.
I loved spending time with May and her family. It made me feel like I was with Shane, even though he was still a million miles away. I wished I would be able to spend his birthday with him. It was coming up in only a few weeks. He insisted that he didn't like his birthday and would sooner forget about it, but I couldn't. Not that there were many options for celebrating with so much distance between us.