The weekend went by too fast. Watching Cage drive away again had hurt just as bad as it had the first time. He had to get back to do kid’s baseball camps that the school held each summer. Those that were on a full ride scholarship were expected to work the camps. He had tried to convince me to let him come home Saturday night. He had promised he’d finish college online like Marcus was doing and he’d get a job. We would be together and honestly it sounded wonderful.
But I couldn’t let him do that.
When this was over and my daddy was gone, Cage would have lost his dream. For me. I could never allow that. He would resent me one day. Maybe not soon but one day he’d wonder “what if” and it would be all my fault. So. I’d used the excuse that I wanted this future for us again and pushed him back to Tennessee. Knowing it would be three weeks before he came back this time had just about done me in.
Jeremy had held me for at least an hour and let me cry on his shoulder. I’d held it together long enough for his car to turn the corner out of sight before I’d crumpled. Jeremy had been right there picking me up and carrying me to the porch.
By Wednesday I was getting better. I was sleeping in my room again. The first two nights I’d slept in the barn so I could smell Cage. But I started worrying about Daddy needing me at night and me not being there so I made myself sleep in the house on Tuesday night. If I was going to make it three weeks without Cage I had to get a grip on myself. Sleeping in the sheets we’d made love on over and over again wasn’t helping me deal. It was making me worse.
Tonight I had agreed to have dinner at the Beasley’s. Jeremy had asked me for his momma again last night and I finally agreed to it. I couldn’t hold a grudge against Elaine forever. She had been a momma when I needed one growing up. I knew her love for Josh tainted me being in another relationship. Seeing me with anyone other than Josh had to be painful for her. We’d been inseparable from the time we were little kids. As I stood in front of the large photo that still hung over their fireplace of Josh and Jeremy when they were fourteen, I realized that a part of me was always going to ache for him too. I missed him. Even though I loved Cage deeper than I’d ever loved Josh I still loved him. He was my childhood love. My best friend. My other half for so long. Sometimes I wondered what he’d say about Daddy. What his wise words would be. If only you could talk to someone on the other side when you needed to.
“For the longest I wanted her to take that down,” Jeremy said as he entered the room. “But I changed my mind. I miss him. It’s good to walk in here and see his face. Remember.”
I agreed with him. It was nice. “Those were good times. He was special,” I said staring up into their identical faces. I knew the difference though. It was in their eyes. Josh always had that restless twinkle. He wanted more adventure. He couldn’t get enough. Jeremy was happy just being here on the farm. He didn’t require anything else.
“He sure loved you. I’m glad he had you in his life, Eva. You made his life special. He didn’t get to grow up and have a family of his own but he did know what it was like to be in love.”
I smiled. “I’m glad I had him. He will always have a place in my heart.”
“Yeah, I know. That makes it easier sometimes when it hurts. I know he’s still alive in our hearts.”
I reached over and took Jeremy’s hand. We stood there in silence both remembering happy times.
“I’ll have that with Daddy too. The memories. The good times,” I said as a lump formed in my throat at the thought of Daddy being gone like Josh one day.
“He’ll be alive in all our hearts too. Just like Josh. They won’t every really be gone. Not for us.”
Jeremy slipped his arm around my shoulder and I leaned into him as a single tear slid down my face. He was right. Daddy would never be gone. I’d hold him close, forever.
“Why don’t we go down to the lake and swim. We haven’t done that in years. Then you can show me all those constellations you used to try to convince Josh and I were up there.”
I nodded. “Yeah, let’s go do that. I don’t want to go home just yet.”
* * *
The moon gave us some light but we left the truck headlights on and shown them down over the water for extra light. Jeremy turned on the radio and left the doors open so we would have some music too. This was how we had spent many a summer night in high school. It was nice to remember.
I tried not to think about Cage and all we’d done down at this lake. It would only make me miss him more. Tonight I wanted to be free of the ever-constant ache in my chest.
“You ever wonder what’s in this lake besides catfish?” Jeremy called out when I surfaced from swimming underwater. He was grinning at me like he expected me to go screaming from the water. Crazy boy. I wasn’t scared of the lake. I’d been swimming in it all my life. I knew there were critters in it but I also knew they were more scared of me than I was of them.
“I’m not one of your silly little dates, Jeremy. That won’t work with me,” I called out.
“What about if I tell you I killed a bed of moccasins yesterday morning down by the bend?”
Rolling my eyes I swam over to the edge and sat down in the shallow water. “You’ve been killing snakes down here since you learned to shoot a gun.”
Jeremy laughed. “You’re no fun at all, Eva Brooks.”
Smiling I stretched my legs out in front of me. The water wasn’t too warm yet. It would get warmer with the heat of the summer. I always like it at night when it was cooler.
“You act like you grew up with boys.”
“Strange I know,” I quipped. I had grown up with boys and he knew it.
Jeremy came over and sat down beside me. “What time do I need to have you back for your Cage phone call?” he asked.
“He calls at eleven unless he text me that it will be later.”
“It’s after ten now. You ready to head back?”
I wanted to be there when he called but we had time. “Not yet. It’s peaceful out here.”
“Yeah, it is. Something healing about this place.”
We didn’t talk anymore. We didn’t have to. We both understood that words really weren’t needed.
I hadn’t seen Eva in two weeks. One more week left to go and I wasn’t sure I could make it. Ace had left me alone when it came to the partying thing. We had also started talking again. We were cool now. I was going to see if I couldn’t make this living arrangement work until Eva was ready to move up here. It helped me save money.
Tonight the team that had been working the camp was heading to go play some pool and drink a few beers. Everyone was ready to unwind. The kids were exhausting. After two weeks of it we all needed a break.
“You riding with Trey? He’s the dd tonight.” Ace asked as I stepped out of my bedroom. I wanted a beer. But I also wanted to be sure and get home in time to call Eva tonight.
“Just make sure you got your phone. You can call your girl from there. Take it outside or something. You can’t drink and drive.” He was right. I tucked my phone down safely in my pocket and grabbed my wallet.
“Yeah, I’m riding with Trey,” I said.
* * *
Trey drove a van. Not a mini van like a real legit van. It was open and I watched as two other players climbed in behind a female. Shit. I didn’t know girls were gonna be riding with us. Maybe going was a bad idea.
“You coming?” Ace asked as he stepped into the van and looked back at me.
I needed some down time. It wasn’t like Eva would forbid me to go places were girls would be. She’d never told me I couldn’t go to Live Bay. I was the one being ridiculous.
“Yeah, I’m coming,” I said, and crawled in behind him.
The female with us was Hayden. Figures. She lived here and I’d seen here with more than one of the guys on the team. Apparently she liked to jump around. I closed the door behind me and sat down beside Louis.
“We’re all here, let’s roll,” Ace called out from the back. He’d crawled in beside Hayden.
* * *
The bar was empty until we got there. The name of it was The Dawg House. Seeing as our mascot was a Bulldog I figured this place must be an exclusive place for the college. At least ten pool tables filled the place as well as several flat screens on the walls and a few dartboards. This wasn’t bad.
The bartender was already filling mugs of beer and lining them on the bar. I followed the crowd and picked up one.
“Coke for the dd,” the bartender called out and Trey walked over and took the soda from the guy fixing drinks.
This seemed safe enough. I wasn’t up for pool yet so I walked over and sat down on one of the couches facing a larger flat screen that was turned to ESPN.
I looked up to see Hayden taking the seat beside me. “No,” I replied.
She only laughed and crossed her legs then took a sip of her drink. I focused on the television. I’d ignore her until she moved on. I wasn’t on her team roster. She needed to go play elsewhere.
“You know we can be friends,” she said leaning into me.
I took another drink of my beer. “Not interested,” I replied. If I looked her way I’d be able to see down her damn shirt. The girl needed to wear more clothes. She had a nice body and she knew it. She showed it off well.
“This hard to get thing is seriously turning me on,” she whispered and leaned into me closer. Her chest was pressed against my side now. I didn’t want to push the chick but she needed to back off. I’d said no more than once.
I turned my head to tell her to get the hell off me when her mouth landed on mine. What the fuck? I froze shocked for a moment before pushing her off me and standing up. “What’s your deal? Damn girl back the hell off.” I knew I’d drawn a crowd. Stalking over to the pool tables I picked up a que stick and looked over at Trey. “Rack ‘em.”
He only nodded.
I managed to enjoy the rest of the night. Hayden stayed away and the other females that showed up weren’t flirting. I’d even played one in pool. She’d been cool even when I’d beat her. I wasn’t one to let a girl win just because she was a girl.
I glanced down at my phone and realized it was ten minutes past eleven. Shit. I dropped the pool stick on the table and headed outside to call Eva. I was ready to hear her voice.
After the third time I called and she didn’t answer I left a message. She must have been exhausted. I’d call tomorrow. She needed her sleep. I walked back into the bar and Ace stood there watching me.
“You talk to your girl?” he asked
That wasn’t really his business. I didn’t answer.
“Here, take a beer and let’s play some pool,” he said handing me a beer that was sitting in front of him.
I took the beer and decided I’d play some more pool and then see if I couldn’t get Trey to take me home.