The Best Goodbye(8)

By: Abbi Glines

Taking care of us was what I did, and I was good at it. This would not end in regret. This was simply a door that I could finally close so I could move on. The guilt I felt about dating other guys wouldn’t haunt me any longer. I wouldn’t see River’s face smiling at me every time a guy asked me out. From now on, I would say yes if I liked the guy. I wouldn’t live with self-blame and guilt another day.

I went outside to make the call so I wouldn’t wake Franny. If I was lucky, I’d get Elle, and she’d handle it incorrectly. Then I could just quit. Easy.

“Hello?” Captain’s deep voice vibrated over the phone. I hated the fact that I liked his stupid voice.

“Captain, this is Rose. My daughter has strep throat, and I’m going to need to stay with her for two days.” I blurted it out quickly and then tensed, ready for his response.

“OK, yeah. Take however long you need,” he replied.

I forgot to breathe a moment and stood there with my mouth hanging open. Had I heard the man correctly?

“And about my comment today,” he said. “I’m sorry. It was rude and shitty. I shouldn’t have asked you that. I respect the fact that you’re a hardworking single mom.”

Words I had been ready to shout at him all but evaporated as I stood in silent awe at what I was hearing.

“You there?” he asked. I managed to nod my head, although he couldn’t see that.

Swallowing, I opened my mouth again and managed to squeak out, “Thank you.”

Captain let out a heavy sigh and waited a moment.

Was he waiting for me to say more? He’d shocked me. I didn’t know what to say.

“Just give me a call when you know you can come back in. We’ll manage without you while you take care of your daughter,” he said, before ending the call. He didn’t wait for me to say more, but I figured he had given up on me replying.

I held the phone in my hand and stared at it blankly. Had that really just happened?

“Mommy,” Franny called from inside. I hurried back to her. I’d figure out Captain’s motives later.

Fourteen years ago

“You like to eat, don’t you?” he drawled, with an amused grin, from across the table.

If he wasn’t so nice to look at, I’d ignore him, but I liked seeing him smile. Even if he was teasing me. My cheeks felt warm with embarrassment for inhaling my food so quickly. I never knew when food was going to stop coming. As long as full plates were set in front of me, I intended to enjoy them.

I just nodded my reply.

“They won’t stop feeding you,” he assured me, as if he’d read my mind.

This kid, who had been given this life, didn’t know what it was like to be hungry. I did. I also knew that good things didn’t last. You had to soak it up as it was happening.

“I kinda thought they might eat with us tonight, but Dad didn’t come home in time for dinner. Mom’s off pouting. This happens a lot. You’ll get used to it.”

I put another forkful of mashed potatoes into my mouth. As long as they fed me, I didn’t care where they ate.

“You aren’t a big talker.”

I swallowed and put down my fork.

He was nice enough, although he liked teasing me. Maybe we could be friends while I stayed here, if I gave him a chance to get to know me.

“I like the chicken,” I finally said, because I wasn’t sure what else to say.

His face went from a grin to a full-blown smile, and he started laughing. My face burned this time, and he started shaking his head while he laughed. “No, that’s”—he let loose another cackle of laughter—“that’s good. I’m glad you like the chicken, Addison.”

“It’s Addy,” I replied in a whisper.

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