Daniel picked up his cell off the nightstand and answered, his voice cracking. “Hello?”
“Daniel, its Susan.”
“It’s Susan. You know, your best friend’s wife slash ex-wife’s best friend?”
“You woke me up to confuse me?” he asked.
“No, but I did wake you up to let you know Eva and Louis are having trouble. Thought you might enjoy this news.”
Daniel sat up in bed and looked at the clock. “What planet are you on? It’s four-thirty in the morning.”
There was a sigh before Susan replied, “You still love her. We all know it. Do something about it.”
The phone went dead. Daniel looked at it, shook his head and put it back on the nightstand. After hearing that, it was impossible to get back to sleep. He laid there for a couple hours, tossing and turning. Louis and Eva were having problems. As much as he liked the idea of Louis getting the shaft, he didn’t want Eva hurting in any way. Physically. Emotionally. Finally, he decided to get up and go to work, although the shop didn’t open for an hour.
The next morning, Eva and Sadie sat in the exam room at the doctor’s office. Sadie had already suffered the embarrassment of peeing in a cup. Now, they waited for the doctor to come in with results. Sadie read a classic, while Eva flipped through the calendar function on her overused cell.
“Mom, seriously. Put that thing away. All the tapping and water plop noises are driving me nuts,” Sadie said, a note of frustration in her voice.
Eva tossed it in her bag and sighed. “I know, babe, I know. You know, what? I think I’m more nervous about this than you are.” She stood up and paced the tiny room.
Rolling her eyes, Sadie said, “Okay, that’s worse. Sit, please? I’m sure the doctor-”
The door opened and in walked Dr. Hutchins. The tiny, older woman wore a bright purple sweater and carried a tablet. “Good morning, ladies. How are we today?” she asked and sat on the stool next to the exam table.
“Good morning, Dr. Hutchins. We’re a bit anxious, actually,” Eva replied.
“Mhm, mhm. I can imagine.” Dr. Hutchins said absentmindedly. Her tablet pen flew across the screen, and she sighed. “Okay, so. The good news is you’re not pregnant, Sadie.” Eva and Sadie both let out a sigh of relief. “The better news is you’re in really good shape. And you should be, considering you’re seventeen.” She looked up and took her glasses off, holding them in her hand. “But, you’re iron is low and there are some questions about your thyroid levels.” Eva opened her mouth to speak, but the woman held up her hand, cutting her off.
“This isn’t serious, I don’t think. We’re going to monitor everything periodically to make sure it doesn’t get away from us. Likely, all this if from stress.” She looked at Sadie and asked, “You’re a senior this year, right?” Sadie nodded. “Okay. First thing’s first, try to cut as much stress as you can. I know senior year is rough, what with college applications, boys and all that. But, really stop to smell the roses, alright?” Sadie nodded, again. “Good girl,” Dr. Hutchins praised and wrote out a request for blood work at the next appointment. “Give this to Elise on your way out, and,” she wrote out a prescription for birth control, “get this filled on the way home. Start them the next Sunday you have your period.” Sadie turned white and turned to face Eva, who looked as mortified as she felt. “Precautionary measures, sweetie.”
Eva stammered, “Are you…does she really need to be on these so soon?”
Dr. Hutchins gave a Eva stare and asked, “Do you really want to be here again for this before she’s old enough to support a child?”
Eva sat straight up and quickly answered, “Oh, well, no. Of course not.”
“Okay, then. Get those filled, make sure she takes them and come back for the blood-work,” Dr. Hutchins stated firmly. She put her hand on Eva’s shoulder and said, “And you make sure to schedule your annual, too. You’re overdue.” Eva blanched and the doctor left.
“Wow, okay,” Sadie breathed. “Are you ready for shopping?” she asked Eva.
“Oh, yeah. Let’s get out of here,” Eva stood up and grabbed her purse. “I need food, and definitely shopping.” She held the door open for Sadie and they walked to the receptionist’s desk to make appointments. Afterward, they headed out for lunch and retail therapy.
Louis’ phone buzzed on his desk. He ignored it until he became bored with the figures he was running in a spreadsheet. Picking it up, he saw it was from Eva. It was a very short text: “negative.” Louis let out a sigh of relief and texted back, “awesome.” Michael walked in right after Louis put his cell down.
“Hey, man. What brings you here?” Louis asked, surprised.
Michael sat down and eyed Louis carefully. “Well, honestly I just came by to check on you. See how things are going with Eva.”
“She and Sadie just left the doctor’s office. She’s not pregnant, and they’re going out to lunch and shop,” Louis answered and rolled his eyes.
“Dude, you seriously need to do one of two things,” Michael said. “Either cut this jealous bullshit and get counseling, or get the hell out of the marriage. I can tell you’re not happy.” He watched Louis for a reaction.
Louis put his elbows on the desk and his face in his hands. “I know, but I can’t help it. Every time something – no matter how small – goes wrong with Sadie, Eva is right on the phone with Daniel. The girl is almost eighteen. She can basically take care of herself.” There was more malice in his tone than he intended and Michael just stared at him.
Michael, carefully choosing his words, said, “You will end up losing her. She isn’t the kind of woman to put up with this sort of attitude or behavior. God forbid you stray and she finds out? You’re fucked.” He didn’t like putting it that way, but Michael felt he didn’t have a choice. He and Susan had tried repeatedly to make Louis understand the extent of the damage beginning to reveal itself. “Sorry, man. But you can be real pig headed sometimes.”
Louis sighed and was silent for several moments. Finally he looked at Michael and asked, “You want to grab dinner later? I really don’t know how to deal with all this.”
Just then, Steve walked into the room and sat in the chair next to Michael’s, nodding in his direction. Michael nodded in return. “Louis, I need you to stay for a couple extra hours tonight, if you can. There’s some files I need you to go over from last week. Some of the junior staff are making pathetic mistakes,” Steve requested.
Louis said, “Sure, no problem.”
Steve thanked him, said goodbye to Michael and left the room, leaving the door open.
Louis and Michael looked at one another. Michael broke the silence and said, “Guess we won’t be grabbing dinner later.”
Waving his hand towards the door, Louis said, “Nah. We can have something delivered and eat here.” He sighed and said, “I should probably let Eva know I won’t be home.” He picked up his cell and sent a quick text informing her of his plans.
Michael stood up and said, “Alright. I’ll be back around five. Think about what you want, and have a menu ready when I get here.”
Louis said, “You’re on.”
Michael walked out of the office and closed the door behind him, leaving Louis sitting there with his phone in his hands. “I really do need to figure this all out,” Louis said out loud. He returned his attention to the spreadsheet in front of him and made the occasional grunting noise, or groan of disapproval.
The television sat in the corner of Daniel’s living room talking to nobody in particular. Daniel sat on the couch with his cell in his hands. He wanted to text Eva, but didn’t think he should. “We really shouldn’t have any more contact than necessary,” he said out loud. He stared at the television for what felt like endless minutes, not grasping what was being aired, before he decided he was going to do it, anyway. Daniel sent a brief “how are you” to her. Instead of getting a reply text, his phone rang. It was Eva.
“Hey. This is a surprise,” Daniel said when he answered the phone.
Eva chuckled and said, “Yeah. Sadie and I are playing hooky today. We’ve been shopping and are headed to Bella’s for dinner.” She hesitated before adding “Would you like to join us?”
Daniel’s eyes got big and he wasn’t sure how to answer. Would I like to join you? Of course I would! he thought to himself. Instead, he played it cool. “Sure. How long before you get there?” he asked. He heard her ask Eva for a time frame, and Sadie’s muffled reply.
“Ten minutes? Ish?” Eva answered.
Daniel looked at his watch and thought quickly. “Yeah, just need to change and I’ll be right over. Grab a good table, and order me a beer.”
Eva laughed and said, “You’re on. See you soon.”
Daniel took a breath and said, “See you soon,” and hung up. He stared at the phone and smiled before realizing he needed to get ready. “Oh, shit!” he exclaimed and darted off the couch towards the bedroom.
Michael knocked on Louis’ office door and waited for admittance. He heard rustling and muffled voices and a woman’s cry coming from inside. Shocked, he pulled his gun from its holster and burst into the room to find Louis and a beautiful young woman struggling to straighten their clothes. “What the hell, Louis!” he yelled and lowered his gun. Louis put himself between the young woman and Michael. After a moment, Michael realized what he walked in on, and paused.
“I almost shot you, dumbass! And you know what, I still might,” Michael said as he took a step further into the room. “Looks like you made other plans for dinner,” he said with disgust and walked out, slamming the door behind him.
Sadie, Eva and Daniel sat at an indoor table at Bella’s enjoying dinner together. Conversation was light, and the food amazing. Daniel commented more than once how the dinner menu was better than the one they had for lunch. Sadie suggested they eat there the next time they go out for dinner together. Daniel smiled and agreed. Eva watched them interact with a smile on her face.
Sadie caught Eva staring at her and Daniel. “What?” she asked.
Eva just smiled and took a sip of wine. “Nothing. Just been nice seeing you two together having a good time.”
“Thank you, Eva,” Daniel said, smiling back. “Between my stuff and Sadie’s stuff, we really haven’t had much of a chance to hang out lately.” He placed his hand on Sadie’s and looked at her. “Our girl is my top priority.”
Sadie blushed and pulled her hand away. “Okay, I think you two have had enough. No more drinky for you,” she teased. “I’ll drive Mom home.”
Eva slapped playfully towards Sadie. “Oh, I’m fine, babe. Only had three glasses,” she said.
Daniel said, a bit more seriously, “No, Sadie’s right. You never could hold your booze.” He raised his hand, signaling for their waiter.
The waiter came over and asked, “Is everything alright, sir?”
Daniel pulled his wallet out of his pocket and took out a credit card. “Yes, the meal was delicious. We’re ready for our check,” he said and handed the waiter his card.
“One moment,” said the waiter, as he walked away.
Eva’s mouth opened and was about to speak when Daniel held his hand up in protest. “I can if I want,” he stated firmly. He looked at her and she was pouting. “Oh, geez, Eva. Next time you can pay, alright?” he asked.
She smiled and said, “Alright.”
Sadie rolled her eyes and asked for the keys. Eva dug through her bag and handed them to her. The waiter returned with Daniel’s card and receipt. Daniel nodded and thanked the waiter. As he walked away, Daniel asked Eva, “Can we do this more often, or is it against some divorced parents rule?”
Eva and Sadie exchanged curious looks, and Eva was the first to respond. She put both hands in her lap and stared Daniel straight in the eye. “You and Sadie can go out anytime you like, you know that,” she said. “But, I’m not sure the three of us should make a habit of this.” She toyed with the wineglass in front of her, and said, “There are enough problems without adding to it.”
Sadie used that moment to offer her opinion. She crossed her arms and said, “Well, It’s not like y’all are getting back together or something. If people have a problem with the three of us having a meal together…screw ’em.” She nodded her head in a There! manner and reached back to grab her bag.
Daniel nodded his head firmly and said, “Yeah. What she said.”
Eva sighed and resigned herself. “Alright, but if Louis has a cow,” she pointed to Daniel, “You get to deal with him.” She stood up and slung her bag over her shoulder. “And, to be honest, I did enjoy tonight,” she said and walked towards the door.
Daniel chuckled and said to Sadie, “Your mother has always been like that, you know.” He stood up and put his hand on her lower back, propelling her towards the door. “We’d better go after her so the car alarm doesn’t freak out the neighborhood.”
Louis sat in his office, panicking at the thought of Michael telling Eva what he walked in on. Or worse yet, telling Susan. “That woman can’t keep her damn mouth shut,” he muttered to the empty room. His companion had left right after Michael’s interruption. He wouldn’t blame her if she called in sick tomorrow, or quit for that matter. He leaned back, his head laying over the top of the chair. “Oh, god. What if she tells Steve…” he groaned.
His cell phone buzzed and Louis hesitated picking it up. After it stopped, he checked the screen. It was a missed text from Eva telling him she and Sadie were home, and they had brought a doggie bag back for him in case he hadn’t had supper. He returned the text, saying he was on his way home and thanked her for the food.
Standing up, he looked around the office and sighed. “I can’t believe I let that happen,” he said to a chair, and began picking up papers and files off the floor. He tossed them on the desk. He grabbed his coat and briefcase, said “Screw it,” and left.
Michael showed up Daniel’s shortly after he got home from dinner. Daniel asked him inside and offered him a soda. Michael declined, and leaned against the kitchen counter. It was a few minutes before he spoke. And when he did, Daniel was ready to kill.
“I had to leave that room. What he did,” Michael paused. “Eva don’t deserve that asshole’s bullshit, Daniel.”
Daniel hid his anger well and took his time responding. “Have you told anyone?” he asked calmly.
Michael swallowed hard and said, “No, I took care of some last minute stuff at the station and came here.” He took off his hat and tossed it on the table, running the other hand through his hair. “I didn’t know who else to tell. God knows I can’t tell Susan,” he said in a rush. “If Eva gets wind of this…I don’t know what will happen.”
Daniel nodded and moved to the fridge, taking out a beer. “I’m going to call a guy I know in the morning.” He caught the movement of Michael’s head snapping up out of the corner of his eye. Daniel waved a hand at him. “No, not that kind of guy. Just a guy I know from our time in the military. He’s freelance. Does PI work. I’m gonna have him track Louis for a while, compile some evidence and shit. Then we’ll see what he has to say when Eva runs his ass over with a lawyer.”
Michael visibly relaxed. Walking over to the table, he picked up his hat and put it back on. “I think that’s the best route to take with this. If your guy is really good, Louis won’t have a centimeter of wiggle room in court,” he said, and left.
Daniel finished his beer and put the bottle in the recycle bin. He looked around the kitchen and memories flooded back to him. Eva cooking dinner. Sadie taking her first steps. Sadie breaking the window with a rock. Eva dressed up for a girl’s night out. He walked into the living room and more memories assaulted him. Eva rocking Sadie after they brought her home from the hospital. Him changing her diaper for the first time. Eva on the couch, sick with the flu and throwing up on his Lions hoodie. He looked down the hallway. Lots of memories down there, as well. Daniel gave himself a mental shake and went to the kitchen for another beer before sitting on the couch and powering up the laptop.
Sadie stuffed her trig book in the backpack and closed her locker in time to see Jared talking with Trista. Oh, I do not believe this, she thought to herself. Unfortunately, they were standing on the side of the hall she needed to go down. Taking a deep breath, she shouldered her backpack and started walking. As she got closer, Jared looked up and watched her go past.
“Didn’t take you long to move on, I see,” Sadie said and kept walking. Her eyes stung with the prickle of tears. She ducked into the girls’ bathroom and hid in one of the stalls. After a minute of sniffling and blowing her nose, she heard Ami and Trista come into the bathroom.
Ami said, “Can you imagine? Giving him up like that? He’s too damn hot for her.”
“No shit, right?” Trista agreed with enthusiasm. “He said she’s bad in the sack. I told him I could do better.”
Ami, with disdain in her voice, said, “That ain’t called for. They barely broke up and you’re trying to ride the train? Not cool…”
“Whatever. He’s fair game now.” Trista fixed her lipstick and pouted.
Sadie heard the door close, then silence. The tears streamed down her face and left puddle marks on her hoodie. She wasn’t going to hold it back. She sobbed, her body wracked with the effort. The bell had rung, and yet she stayed there, curled on the floor of a stall, willing herself to stop. But she couldn’t. Everything seemed to be going wrong; she needed something to go right. The bell rang again, but she didn’t hear it. She was too tired.
She pulled her cell from the front pocket of her backpack and speed dialed Eva. “Mom?” she sniffled. “Can you come get me?” she asked and made her way to the office to sign herself out for the day.
Sadie was standing outside the main entrance of the school when Eva pulled into the semi-circle loading zone. She took the steps slowly and hit the bottom when Eva stopped the car. Sadie tossed her backpack over the seat and got in, buckling her seat belt. Eva watched her daughter closely, wondering what happened. Sadie didn’t miss school for no reason. Something had to be wrong, she thought.
Eva asked quietly, “Do you want to talk about it?” and smoothed Sadie’s hair back.
“Looks like he moved on already,” Sadie replied, eyes cast on her shoes. “Trista was all over him in the hall.” She sniffled and rubbed her eyes with the cuffs of her hoodie. “Can we just go home, please?” she asked quietly looked out the window.
“Sure, babe,” Eva answered, rubbing Sadie’s arm. “Do we want to get take-out or anything?”
Sadie shook her head no. “I just want to go home.”
“Okay, let’s go home.” Eva put the car in gear and drive away, shaking her head at Jared’s behavior.
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