THE ART OF FALLING GRACEFULLY
The rain began as soft as velvet; it was calm and refreshing. It was as if the rain was cleansing her soul and washing away all the pain and heartache she had endured over the sum of her twenty-two years. She looked now toward the future; whatever it held in store for her she was ready. She was ready to live she had been dead inside for far too long.
She said a silent prayer of thanks to God for opening her eyes to what had been right in front of her all along and for giving her a second chance at life, love and happiness. Thinking back she had never thought she would be given this hope for a second chance. How crazy was it that only a few weeks ago she had been so sure that true happiness would never be hers and love was only a fantasy for little girls. Of course that t was until she found a friend so true that the very thought of what had transformed her life brought tears to her eye. Was it possible that her search was finally over? Did she dare believe? She wanted to oh she really wanted to believe in happily ever after but she didn’t want to be hurt again; the scars were still too raw and she never wanted to hurt that way again.
Sydney Jordan was a quiet, sheltered young lady. She did not make friends easily, spoke only when spoken to. She always seemed to be looking over her shoulder as if she expected someone to be sneaking up behind her. When she smiled there was always a trace of sadness etched around her mouth and if you looked closely enough you could see the ghosts hiding in her eyes. Sydney Jordan was a very mysterious young lady.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Trent Isaac sat in the corner of the crowded restaurant, slowly drinking his coffee. He could see her over the rim of his cup as she ran in a hundred different directions. He secretly admired this woman; she was responsible for everything that happened in this bustling café from the cooks to the waitresses. If something was broken she would fix it, if someone was sick she would make them feel better or send them home and fill in, if something was misplaced she would find it. He smiled thinking about it, there didn’t seem to be anything that she couldn’t do. He was amazed by her.
He never came in when she wasn’t here of course if her car wasn’t on the parking lot he usually drove on by. He continued to watch as she refilled drinks, boxed to go orders and answered the phone. It never seemed to matter how busy she was she always made time to chat with the regulars and prepare their usual orders. Trent loved to watch her as she worked the floor because when she interacted with the customers was the only time he got to see her smile. She was always beautiful but this was different it was as if an angel had came down to fill the café grace and beauty with just a simple smile. He wondered why she didn’t smile more and he wondered what it would be like to be the one to put a smile on her angelic face.
Trent wasn’t sure what had made her so unhappy, shy and scared. He had known her for ten years or longer, he honestly couldn’t remember when he had first met her. They had attended the same high school but she had been a year older and not his type or at least that had been his excuse for never asking her out. She had been so smart, graduating as Valedictorian of her class with scholarship offers from all over the country and yet here she was working at a minimum wage job. He could still recall how kind and caring she had been and so full of life. She always seemed to have this glow about her that seemed to radiate and light up the whole room whenever she walked in. Wherever she went she brought laughter and happiness with her. He wondered again about her smile she had always smiled easily and it had been contagious soon everyone would be laughing and having a good time too. She had always gone out of her way to make everyone feel included, always giving but never expecting anything in return. She was just a caring and giving person and found himself wondering what had happened to her over the last ten years. What had changed her so drastically? The thought of it all bothered him more than he cared to admit. He had found himself thinking a lot about Sydney. In fact since that day six months ago when he had seen her through the Café window he had been able to think of little else.
“Daddy what are you staring at?”
“Kelsey I am not staring.”
Trent had almost forgotten that his six year old daughter was with him today. His mother had had a doctor’s appointment so he had had to ditch work early.
“What is you thinking about daddy?”
“The correct question is what are you thinking about daddy and the answer is what are we going to do this afternoon, any suggestions?”
Kelsey Isaac was the picture of innocence in its basic form. She was petite with blonde hair and blue eyes topped off with dimples designed to make any attempt at telling her no almost impossible. She had the cutest little turned up nose with just the right amount of freckles. She was the mirror image of her mother. Her mother had been the center of Kelsey’s life; Trent had never imagined that she would ever have to live without her mother. He had never entertained the idea of being left alone to raise their little girl alone. He knew he was ill equipped for such an important job.
“Daddy can we go to the park and feed the duckies?”
“The ducks not the duckies.”
“Can we go to the park and feed the ducks, please daddy.”
Trent grinned at his daughter and gave in without much of a fight, “I think that sounds like a terrific idea.”
Trent could see Kelsey fidgeting and glancing at the front counter. He wondered if she was as infatuated as he was with Sydney. She stood on her tiptoes and watched as Sydney handed an ice cream cone to a little boy about her age.
“Kelsey what’s the matter honey?”
She looked back toward Sydney and then smiled at her Trent, “Daddy may I ask Ms. Sydney to go with us to the park?”
“Honey I don’t think Ms. Sydney can just leave work to go to the park with us.”
Trent watched Kelsey as her face fell and she looked down at her feet. He hated telling her no but he and Sydney had never been friends, they never spoke more than the casual hello or hi all through school. He could see the disappointment settling in Kelsey face and her slumped shoulders broke his heart. He sighed he knew she would say no but what the hell, maybe Kelsey wouldn’t take it so hard if she at least got the chance to ask her herself.
“Daddy please I just want ask her. She is my friend and she is super nice to me. Please Daddy?”
Trent thought about it a moment longer, what would it hurt? After all Sydney was always nice to Kelsey, giving her treats and candy when she came in. Who knew she just might say yes.
“Well? Can I please just ask her?”
Trent could never say no to Kelsey, “Okay fine go ahead.”
He watched as Kelsey ran to the counter and began to talk to Sydney. He could see a smile on Sydney’s face as she leaned across the counter and patiently listened to Kelsey. He watched as she began nodding her head and saying something in return. In a few short minutes Kelsey was back at the table with a balloon and ice-cream in hand.
“Look what Ms. Sydney gave me.”
Trent watched her cheeky grin as she took a bite of the cold vanilla cone. He watched as the ice-cream covered her nose.
“That’s great honey, now are we ready to go?”
“Daddy we can’t leave yet, we have to wait for Ms. Sydney.”
Trent was frustrated how was he supposed explain why Sydney wasn’t going with them? He wished he had taken her to Burger king to eat.
“Kelsey sweetheart, Ms. Sydney is very busy and I am sure she has more important things to do other than spend a lazy day feeding the ducks with us.”
Trent could see the disappointment and hurt filling her sweet face and it almost brought him to his knees. She had been through so much and he hated seeing her upset.
“Honey we need to go.”
“What you’re going to leave without me?”
Trent looked up to see Sydney standing behind him with an impish grin on her face. He was utterly shocked to say the least, honestly he wasn’t sure what to do or say. He realized he must look like fool with his mouth gaping open. He tried to regain his composure.
“Sydney you’re really going with us today?”
“Well I couldn’t disappoint this beautiful little girl here, now could I? That is if you don’t object.”
Trent knew he was smiling like a fool but he was pleasantly surprised that Sydney was even talking to him.
“Object, of course not. I’d be honored to have you join us. I’m just surprised that you can leave like that? We aren’t going to get you in trouble or anything?”
Sydney tried to hide a smile as she rubbed her hand on Kelsey’s back. She looked at Trent and wondered what he was doing back in Cole County. He had been one of those who talked about getting out and never coming back; but she had been one of those too and here she was right back where she started.
“No worries I have connections with the boss. I was just filling in for a couple of hours this morning. One of the girls called in and you know me I rushed right over to help out. I guess that’s what happens when you own the place.”
“Yeah I guess that’s what happens when…..You own this place?”
Once again Trent looked over to see that impish grin playing on her lips. He caught his breath as he watched the light filtering through the window making it look as if she had a halo framing her head.
“Well mostly seventy five percent belongs to me and the other twenty five percent is held by my brother I run the day to day running of the place Brett just sees the bottom line.”
“So that’s why you’re here all the time.”
“That would explain it.”
Trent was even more intrigued by this woman standing beside him. He couldn’t help but think that there was a lot more he would like to know about her.
“So how long have you owned this place?”
Sydney leaned on the table top as if she were thinking back to another time and place. She straightened back up and looked a little embarrassed.
“Sorry I was wool gathering. Brett and I bought this place about six years ago, right around the time I got married.”
Trent had taken a drink of his lukewarm coffee and almost chocked. He thought he must have heard wrong, “Did you say married?”
By the look on her face she had most definitely said married. “Yeah I got married a couple years after high school. I tried to stay in college but it was too hard. We were trying to start a family, trying to get this place up and running and college something had to go. Not to mention Rick was a few years older and he had graduated that spring before we got married in June. So anyways I dropped out. I only had two years left and I just walked away.”
Trent knew the look on her face well one of regret. He could see it her eyes and ached to tell her it was okay. “Sydney you could still go back and finish what you started.”
“Well I am taking night classes right now and hopefully by Christmas I’ll be finished.”
“That’s really great Sydney.”
“Thanks so subject change, your turn on the hot seat. So Mr. Isaac inquiring minds want to know what you have been up to.” Sydney could see Trent’s face filling with embarrassment as she teased him. She wasn’t sure what had gotten into her but it was as if she could just be herself with him. “Seriously, I haven’t seen you in ages where have you been hiding?”
“I haven’t been hiding. I just moved back about seven months ago. I bought the old McGee place, you know on the outskirts of town. I’m still working on the renovations but I think it’s coming along really good.”
Sydney nodded her head as she listened to the timber of his smooth soft voice. She found herself staring at his lips as he spoke and she began to wonder how they might feel against her skin. She shook herself out of her random daydream and tried to follow the flow of the conversation.
“I wondered who had moved in over there. It’s funny I usually hear all the gossip but no one as even mentioned you yet. Do you mind me asking what made you decide to move back here? I can remember back in high school all your talk about getting out of town and never coming back.”
Trent shifted uncomfortably in his seat and glanced at Kelsey, who was totally absorbed in her ice-cream. He lowered his voice, “Well after Meg died I needed some help with Kelsey. My mom came to live with us for a while but then dad got sick and she had to come home. I tried daycare and sitters but nothing fit then mom called and volunteered to help if I agreed to come home and run the family business.” Trent paused for a moment to let Sydney take his words in. He was actually surprised that she remembered him at all. “I didn’t want Kelsey growing up in the city. I wanted her to grow up in the same small town that Meg and I did. A place where she could play outside without having to worry about drive by shootings or drugs on the playground. I guess I decided Cole County wasn’t so bad after all. Besides all that Dad was forced into retirement after his heart attack so I took over Isaac Construction.”
Sydney had heard about Megan St. John’s death and she had wondered how Trent had handled it. She could see the demons nipping at his heals and she knew she couldn’t go down that road yet. She decided to try to change the subject.
“Wow I didn’t know your dad retired. So you are now the owner/operator of Isaac Construction Company; no wonder your house looks so good.”
Trent was brought out of his melancholy by the sound of her gentle voice and he smiled at her compliment. “Thanks I am trying to do it on my own mostly on the weekends. Of course Ryan is helping me out, when he’s not out wooing the women of Cole County.”
Sydney laughed as she remembered the tall athletic guy with the green eyes and blonde hair, “I suppose that would be Ryan Harper your infamous partner in crime.”
“Hey I was home asleep when Mr. Varner’s house got toilet papered, that was all Ryan and Conner.”
Sydney felt the laughter bubbling up her throat as she envisioned Ryan and Conner with a dozen rolls of toilet paper, “I guess you’ve forgotten that you were pretty good at wooing the ladies of Cole County too.”
Trent could feel his face flushing at the barb, “Nah not me, you must have me confused with someone else.”
“Maybe but I don’t think so.”
“Okay enough about me, let’s get back to you. How long have you and your husband been together?”
Sydney nervously looked down as if she were studying the floor beneath her feet. She finally looked up and smiled weakly in Trent’s general direction, never making eye contact.
“We would’ve celebrated our sixth anniversary last week, if we had stayed together.”
Trent felt like an idiot as his eyes looked at her ring finger and saw the white circle where her wedding band had once been.
“I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were separated.”
Sydney avoided making eye contact by wiping a spot of ice-cream from Kelsey’s cheek.
“We’re not we’re divorced.”
She turned and threw the napkin away taking a moment to gather her runaway emotions. She still found it hard to believe that she was a divorced woman.
“I’m still sorry for bringing up what must be painful memories.”
Sydney shrugged her shoulders, “Don’t be it happens, divorce I mean. Trust me I am fine with it.”
Trent wished he could believe her but he could see a single tear on the bottom of her eye, threatening to start a tidal wave at any moment. He could almost see the ghosts trying to come out. The awkward silence stretched on for an immeasurable time until Kelsey’s voice sliced through tension filled room.
“Ms. Sydney can we go feed the ducks now?”
Sydney looked down at Kelsey; she was such an adorable child. She wanted to reach down and pull the little girl into her arms. Sydney took the little girl’s hand and headed to the door. She turned toward Trent with that grin on her face again, “Hurry up Mr. Isaac we have a date with some very important ducks.”
Kelsey chimed in a sing song voice, “Yeah, come on daddy.”
Sydney and Kelsey were already outside before he could even think to move. What was wrong with him today? What kind of affect was Sydney having on him? He had learned a little more about her in the brief conversation at the café but oh how he wanted to know more about this lovely lady. He wanted to know everything about Sydney Jordan.
Once outside Sydney realized what a beautiful day it was. The last couple of weeks had been unbearably hot even for July. The temperature had dropped off and it was actually a nice day with a breeze. It reminded her of a late September day, why hadn’t she noticed how pretty it was before?
“Sydney do you want to leave your car here?”
Sydney shook her head, “I would really like to go home and change if that’s okay with you guys.”
Trent nodded, “Sure that’s fine.”
“Great if you want to go on to the park I’ll meet you there.”
Trent thought about that for a moment, now that she had said yes he didn’t want to let her out of his sight. He was very afraid that she might change her mind.
“Why don’t we just follow you home and wait for you? Then we can all go together?”
Sydney hesitated for half a second, “Okay as long as you don’t mind waiting a few minutes.”
Trent felt the air he hadn’t realized he was holding rush out mixed with the words, “I could wait forever.” He could feel his face turning bright red, he hadn’t meant to say that out loud, “What I meant to say was Kelsey and I are in no hurry so take as long as you need.”
Sydney watched as he buckled Kelsey in her booster seat. She quickly opened her door and slid behind the wheel. She hoped that Trent hadn’t noticed her staring at him. She couldn’t believe that she was going to be spending the whole day with Trent Isaac and his daughter.
She tried to convince herself that she had only accepted because it had been Kelsey who had asked her to go. She was such a sweet kid and she had been through so much losing her mom at such a young age. Sydney ached for the void that must have filled the place her heart had once been, poor Kelsey. Sydney would do anything for her, but she also knew in her heart the real reason was Trent.
Trent seemed to be such a funny and down to earth guy had he always been like that? Had she failed to notice how great he was until now? She had thought she had known him in high school, but he had never even known she was alive.
He was tall, athletic and very good looking. He had short black hair and amazing green eyes. The first thing she had noticed about him all those years ago had been his eyes. She had found herself lost in a sea of green and she had wondered what was hiding behind those guarded orbs. Of course he hung out with the basketball players and cheerleaders which had never been Sydney’s crowd; it wasn’t that she had anything against them but she didn’t drink or swear. Sydney was comfortable in her own skin and she didn’t feel the need to make others feel small in order to make herself feel big.
Sydney had been involved in almost every club and after school activity but somehow she never crossed paths with Trent, maybe because she headed the opposite direction anytime he was near. She had played softball from the age of five and she loved it. She had been really good at it o, she had loved being on the field with the smell of the fresh cut grass and the feel of the dirt under her feet. The feeling of standing on the pitcher’s mound and making eye contact with the batter and then hearing the simple words “Strike three, you’re out!”, what a rush that had given her as if she were invincible and nothing could touch her. She sometimes wished she could still play but that had been a lifetime ago.
Sydney still remembered the first time she had met Trent; it had been the summer before her sophomore year. She had practically lived at the ball park playing on an all-state team and coaching a younger team. One of Sydney’s best friends, Marley Timmons had been helping with the team. She had been going on and on about some new guy, who had just moved to town apparently to play basketball. He would be starting school in the fall. When Sydney heard he had transferred to play ball that was all she needed to hear to know he would be out of her reach. She just didn’t mesh well with jocks and girls who wore clothes two sizes too small. Sydney listened as Marley rattled on and on endlessly about Trent Isaac. It really didn’t matter if Sydney liked him or not because it was beyond obvious that Marley had a thing for him. Sydney knew her friend well enough to know that what Marley wanted Marley got. She loved her friend but everything seemed to come so easily to Marley and it wasn’t that she was jealous; she just wished that guys noticed her like they did Marley.
In the Jordan family Sydney had been the only girl with three brothers and seventeen cousins all of whom were boys. She had grown up following the guys she had been a tomboy and they just treated her like one of the guys. She had always insisted on doing whatever they were doing , baseball, basketball, football, go-carts, camping, hiking, fishing , hunting you name it she could do it. Growing up as one of the guys had been so much fun and she had loved every minute of it. She had taken pride in the fact that when teams were picked for sports everyone wanted her on their team. She was better than all of the guys put together and they all knew it. It had driven her mother crazy, she had wanted Sydney to be lady like and pristine but she would no part of it. She had refused to wear dresses except for church and chose to wear jeans and hand-me down t-shirts the rest of the time. She had never stopped to think that one day her mother would be proven right. Then one day it happened the guys started taking an interest in girls. They had started dating and Sydney couldn’t very well tag along on dates to the movies and dances. So the guys had grown up and left her behind.
When Marley had brought Trent to the ball park to watch her play Sydney had been swept away. She had never seen anyone who made her melt—until she laid eyes on Trent Isaac. She however seemed to have no affect on him at all. He had smiled and been polite but all of his attention had been on Marley. Being the new guy in town had given him an advantage no other guy had, mystery. Everyone wanted to know about Trent Isaac and everyone wanted to be his best friend. The romance was short lived and by the time school started every girl in Cole County wanted to date Trent Isaac. Sydney had comforted Marley after the break up but seeing Marley so upset made Sydney think little of Trent Isaac. That had been the end of her dreaming about Trent Isaac.
Sydney came crashing back to reality as she turned on to the road leading to her apartment. She had to stop this insane daydreaming, enough of memory lane for today. Trent might be older and more mature but he was no more interested in her now than he had been in high school. Trent Isaac was, is and would always out of her reach. After all until today he had never said more than two words to her, hello or goodbye. He hadn’t even known she had existed. He was only letting her tag along today because of Kelsey. Well she was with them for today and she would enjoy it while it lasted and only God knew how ling that might be.
Sydney pulled her mustang in slowly and killed the engine. She almost ran to unlock the front door. Trent and Kelsey pulled into the parking space next to her.
“Ms. Sydney can we take your car to the park?”
“Sure if it’s okay with your daddy.”
Kelsey looked hopefully at Trent, “Well can we daddy?”
“What’s wrong with my truck? Do you two lovelies think your too good to ride in my old work truck?’
Sydney could see the mischief twinkling in his eyes. He stood with his hands on his hips, staring down at Kelsey and glancing in Sydney’s direction. Sydney couldn’t help smiling at the pair.
“Nothing daddy, but I like Ms. Sydney’s car. We can ride with the wind in our hair like the people on TV.”
“Okay I have to admit that I have been dying to ride in Sydney’s new car ever since she got it. Who knows she might even let me drive.”
Trent flashed her that perfect smile that made her want to melt into a puddle at his feet. She realized that right about now there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for him.
“Maybe who knows? Stanger things have been known to happen in Cole County.”
Sydney tossed her keys on the table and ushered her guests in. She talked over her shoulder as she left the room, “Make yourselves at home. There are sodas in the fridge and the remote is on the coffee table.”
“Syd we’ll be fine, just go and get ready.”
Hearing Trent call her Syd almost made her stop in her tracks. She felt tears fill her eyes, how long had it been since a man had been in her house? How long since a man under the age of fifty had called her Syd? She was being silly and far too emotional. She told herself to get a grip as she scolded herself, “Gees you would think I was back in high school and the captain of the basketball team was sitting in my living room. Come Syd Trent is no longer the captain of anything; he is a friend waiting for you with his six year old daughter.”
Sydney hurried in and out of the shower to her walk in closet. She searched for her Capri pants, red tank top and old comfortable sandals. She began to hurry she hated the thought of Trent getting impatient or simply changing his mind and leaving without even saying goodbye. She brushed her hair and applied a touch of makeup. What was that commercial if it took longer than five minutes you’ve got too much on? Sydney studied her reflection in the mirror and knew it would have to do. She slipped her feet into the worn but comfy sandals and headed for the stairs. Would he still be waiting or had she taken too long? She held her breath as she turned the corner and looked over the railing. She descended the steps two at a time. She stepped off the landing and entered the living room. She could feel her lips forming a smile as her eyes took in the sight of Trent and Kelsey lying in the floor watching her favorite Disney movie Beauty and The Beast.
“It looks like you two are doing alright and I was afraid you’d be bored.”
“Hey I didn’t even hear you come down...” Trent wasn’t able to finish his sentence when his gaze fell on Sydney. He found himself speechless; she was breathtaking in a clean pure sort of way. She had very little need for makeup for she had a natural beauty that radiated filling the room with a glow, “Wow you look great and it only took you ten minutes I’m impressed. I’m also amazed it always took Meg at least an hour to get ready to go to the grocery store….” Trent caught himself and an awkward silence filled the room.
Sydney saw the look of sadness flicker in his eyes as he spoke of his deceased wife. She wanted to reach over to hold his hand and take some of his pain and grief she saw reflecting in his eyes on to herself. She wished she could be the friend that he seemed to need; she just wasn’t sure how to go about being that friend without crossing the unseen line around his broken heart. She had never been very good at relationships even platonic ones she always seemed to inevitably screw them up. Impossible relationships seemed to be her forte.
She cleared her throat, “Thanks it usually takes me longer but I hated to keep you guys waiting so here I am.”
Trent pushed his feelings of guilt away and smiled at Sydney. She was always thinking of others and never seemed to think of herself or what she needed. He didn’t think she ever considered what she wanted or needed. Like today for instance he was sure she could’ve found a hundred other things to do today but here she was agreeing to spend the day with them. Well with Kelsey, he was sure that if it wasn’t for Kelsey Sydney would never have agreed to spend the day with him alone.
Trent couldn’t imagine what a loser her ex-husband had been or what could have possible made him leave such a wonderful woman. He had to be crazy or blind if he hadn’t realized that he had had the prettiest, sweetest and smartest wife in Cole County. Trent found himself wondering what had gone wrong for Sydney just didn’t seem the leaving type. Trent looked at the pillow in his hand to see he was clutching it so tight his knuckles were white. The thought of anyone hurting Sydney made him so angry he couldn’t even think straight. He would gladly make anyone who hurt her pay dearly for their transgressions.
Sydney’s voice pulled him out of his troubled thoughts, “Well are we ready?”
She and Kelsey were standing at the door waiting for him. Sydney looked so nervous that she might run up the stairs and hide under the covers if he didn’t say something. Kelsey’s excited voices chimed in breaking the uncomfortable silence, “Come on daddy let’s go!!”
Sydney grabbed her key ring off the table by the door and waited for Trent to follow them outside. She caught his eye and playfully tossed him the keys, “Heads up Mr. Isaac.”
Trent looked from the keys now in his hand and back at Sydney with confusion clouding his handsome face. He continued to look from the keys back to her as if he truly had no idea what to do with them.
“Syd I was only kidding about driving. I honestly didn’t expect you to let me drive your new car.”
“I know that but I feel like being pampered today so you get to be our chauffer today Mr. Isaac.”
Sydney climbed in the backseat and buckled Kelsey in beside her. She rummaged around in her bulky straw bag and pulled out two pair of sunglasses. She put one pair on Kelsey and then slid the other pair on preventing Trent from seeing her eyes.
“Are you sure about this Sydney?”
“Absolutely now come on Sir time is wasting let’s go.”
Trent shook his head as he grabbed Kelsey’s backpack out his truck and tossed it in the vacant seat beside him. He laughed at the sight of Sydney and Kelsey sitting in the back with their sunglasses on and singing some kid’s song at the top of their lungs. He slid in the seat and turned the key in the ignition and sighed at the purr of the engine. One thing was for sure Sydney had excellent taste in cars.
“Okay everyone buckled in and ready for takeoff?”
Sydney checked Kelsey’s car seat and then fastened her own, “Ok captain ready for takeoff.”
Trent slowly backed out of the parking space and pulled on to the road. He was a little nervous driving her new car, “Syd are you sure this is okay, what if I have a wreck? You would probably hate me and never speak to me again.”
“First of all my insurance covers anyone driving as long as I am in the car. Secondly that is just the silliest thing I have ever heard. You will not have a wreck and if you did I would still have to talk to you.”
Trent watched her in the rearview mirror but the dam sunglasses made it impossible to see her eyes. He could hear the teasing in her voice, “Really and why is that?”
“I always talk to the regulars at the Café so you see problem solved.”
Trent laughed at her ridiculous reasoning and shook his head, “Okay then we have a date with some ducks!!”
Kelsey cheered and raised her hands in the air as he pulled on to the main highway. She looked at Sydney and tried to talk so that she could hear her soft voice over the wind whipping around them.
“Ms. Sydney will you slid down the slide with me?”
“Sure I will sweetie.”
Kelsey clapped her hands excitedly, “Great daddy won’t he says he’s too big.”
“Maybe he’s just scared. We’ll work on him.”
Trent could see the smile on her face and knew she was teasing him unmercifully. He felt his heart skip a beat she was beautiful and he knew he was falling for her. The question now was what was he going to do about it? He would not let her slip away from him again. He knew he would have to take a risk but he had to find a way into her heart because his was lost to her the day he walked into the café six months ago. He listened as his two favorite girls sang off key and he wondered exactly how someone falling in love manages to fall gracefully.
Hi Isabella Marie Cullen yes our Syd is with child but is it Ricks or is it Trent's? Brian is her cousin that suddenly disappered the summer before their sophmore year of high school more on that in next post.
thanks so much for reading!!
oh my gosh!!!!! sarah, ur absolutely AMAZING!!!! i never thought syd would get pregnant and not knowing whose child just ads fuel to the fire!!!! AAARGH!!! im really crazy!! i just dont know wat to type!!! so, brian did rape her,huh??!!! i thought so!!! absolutely wonderful update!! -waiting for more such updates, smru ;)
Hi Smru how are you? Good I hope and yes you are very close to right about Brian and when she was with trent it was the first time she actually loved the person and expeirenced what it was like to be loved and feel loved does that make sense?: Basically she doesn't sleep around and now she's caught in a situation of not knowing who her baby's father is! I am almost finished with next chapter and will have it up tomorrow yay.
Thanks so much for reading.
Hi Alice thank you so much for reading and I am so glad you liked it. I am sorry that i made you cry though. ihope you don't hate me too much things will get better. I have so much going on in my head but I will have next chapter up tomorrow yay. I hope you hang in there because there will be mroe happy moments soon
Hi again Smru you are right but for syd what happened to her as a kid wasn't the same has being with someone you love and she knew she had made a mistake with Rick so Trent is the first man she has been with who she loves and loves her back hope that makes sense.
SHADES OF GRAY
Alana sat across the table from Marley and Ryan completely unaware of what was going on around her. The dimly lit pizza parlor was vibrating with music and gyrating bodies but she was lost in what might be happening at 666 Jameswood Dr. She idly twirled her straw between her thumb and forefinger hoping that Trent had broken through the walls that Sydney had built around her heart. She was praying desperately that they were talking and working all this out but somehow she knew that it wouldn’t be that easy to pull Sydney back this time. Sydney was stubborn and determined to do what she thought was right by Trent even if it meant lying to him.
Alana was pulled out of her depressing thoughts by Marley’s fingers snapping in front of her face. “Al, hello are you here with us? You haven’t heard a word we’ve said in the last ten minutes. Care to share what’s going on in that head of yours?”
Alana raised her eyes to see the worried looks on her friends’ faces and offered a weak smile. “Sorry guys I was thinking about what is or isn’t happening at Syd’s.”
Ryan had been worried about Sydney too but all he knew was she had had some kind of relapse and refused to leave the house. He had tried to talk to Marley about it but she had only said that Sydney was dealing with some unresolved issues. Ryan had then tried to talk to Trent but he had been as in the dark as he was. Ryan knew all about Rick and her family so he was sure that she had lots of reason to run for cover but he also knew Sydney was strong and it would take a lot to make her run and hide like this for no apparent reason.
“So would either of you lovely ladies like to fill me in on what exactly sent Syd over the edge this time?”
Marley and Alana looked a little uncomfortable under his stare as they squirmed in their seats, staring at the scarred table top. Alana finally looked at Ryan and decided to talk around the truth and maybe find out something useful in the process.
“The jury’s still out on that but do you remember Syd’s cousin, Brian at all?”
Ryan leaned back against the booth and stretched his arms across the back. He vaguely remembered the guy but he very distinctly remembered he didn’t like the guy much. He wasn’t really sure why but something about the kid had given him the creeps.
“Yeah a little why do you ask?”
Alana shrugged indifferently. “I was just curious about him. I didn’t know until a couple of months ago that he was adopted. I just wondered what your impression of him was.”
Ryan snorted at the question. “He was a couple years ahead of us and he didn’t really run with anybody I knew. I only remember him from some of Syd’s parties when we were in grade school.” Ryan laughed as he remembered how Sydney invited every kid in school because she didn’t want anyone to feel left out. He was pretty sure that her mother had wanted to only invite a select few to the summer pool parties and birthday bashes that only the Jordan’s could throw but Sydney had always invited everyone she knew regardless of their annual income. “She was always a little rebellious and refused to fit into the mold her mother tried to force her into. As for Brian well he was an odd bird and he never really made a lot of friends except for his obsession with Syd. I always got the he alienated himself from the rest of the kids so that Syd would feel sorry for him and include him in whatever she was doing.”
Alana nodded and could see that too. “I think you’re right on that he was always hanging around waiting for her after school and tagging along with us to the mall and the movies on weekends. I thought it was odd because he was four years older than us which made him six years older than Syd. I know Nanette and Brady held him back a year after they adopted him because he was so far behind due to being shuffled around so much from one foster home to another. So he was a junior when we started high school.”
Marley pushed her soda away. “Have you found out anything else in your digging Al?”
Alana continued to play with her straw watching the ice float around the bark liquid. “I know he left here sometime the summer that Trent moved to town, he graduated from a private school the next year. He drifted around the country for a couple of years after that getting kicked out of Vanderbilt University, Duke and Penn State. He disappeared after that but I found an obituary dated September 8, 2004 which is…”
Ryan and Marley finished Alana’s sentence for her, “Sydney’s birthday.”
“Right and that was the fall Sydney met Rick.”
Marley didn’t like the sound of this very much as her stomach began to roll. “Al how exactly did Brian die?”
Alana looked across into the waiting eyes of Marley and Trent. “He committed suicide.”
Marley was speechless as the waitress brought the pizza and refills to their table. She wondered now exactly what had happened that summer and why Brian had felt the need to end his life or had he?
Trent continued to watch Sydney as she turned to face him without ever looking at him. He could see the dark circles under her eyes and paleness of her skin. He wanted desperately to reach and take her hand but he was afraid that the simple action might make her retreat further away from him. She was so close but the distance that stood between was like a chasm so deep and wide that he would never be able to bridge the gap. He never took his eyes off her face for fear that she might disappear all together.
“Listen if you’re here to make sure that I’m okay let me assure you that I am fine. I have the alarm system set on at all times, all the doors and windows are locked. I also have your number, Marley, Alana, Mac, Jay and Logan’s numbers on speed dial. I swear on all that is holy and good that I am fine.”
Trent cleared his throat that had suddenly gone dry and stopped pacing to look at Sydney. “Well I have to admit that I was and still am worried about you. The thing is even if you didn’t have a psycho ex husband who was a stalking raving lunatic I would still worry about you but that’s not the only reason I came by.”
His soft spoken words took her by surprise and she cared more than she cared to admit. “Is something wrong? Has something happened to Kelsey or your parents? Are you okay?”
Trent took hope in the sound of concern in her voice and the distressed look in her brown eyes. “Well the answer is no and yes.” He could see the questioning look in her eyes. “You see my family is fine but I on the other hand am not so good. I do have a problem that I hoped that maybe you would be able to help me with.”
Sydney could see the look of love shining in his green orbs and she wondered if he had found someone else and wanted her to tell him it was okay. She could feel her heart slamming into her ribs and she found it hard to breath just thinking about Trent with someone who wasn’t her.
“Of course anything I can do to help.”
He smiled and spoke in a whisper of wonder. “Well there’s this girl that I have known for a very long time and she is absolutely beyond beautiful and amazing and more than words can adequately describe. I never realized how special she is before and I have fallen completely head over heels in love with her.”
Sydney felt her stomach drop and her heart struggling to keep beating. She nodded her head but kept her eyes on her feet. “That’s um great so what’s the problem?”
“Well I don’t think she feels anything at all for me. I am afraid I have already poured my heart out to her and that she is laughing at my stupidity.”
Sydney could feel the anger taking her over and she wanted to know who this completely idiotic girl was. She wanted to tell her how great and wonderful Trent was and lucky she was to have the love of a good and kind man.
“Trent there comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to take a chance. If you really love this girl who ever she might be then tell her. You need to go to her right now and tell her exactly how you feel. I promise you she would be the luckiest woman in the world.”
Trent felt hope in the fierce words spoken by Sydney. He could see her eyes brimming with unshed tears as she spoke. “Really and why exactly would she be so lucky?”
Sydney shook her head in exasperation. “She would have the love of a handsome, kind and honorable man. Trent you love with your whole heart and you don’t hold anything back its all or nothing with you. We should all be so lucky to be loved like that. I understand that you have found someone else and that’s good for you and Kelsey. I wish you all the happiness in the world because you deserve it. We should all be so lucky to have someone us as much as you love this woman. I know you love this woman, whoever she is, I can see it in your eyes and I can hear it in your voice. This woman is very lucky and I envy her.”
Sydney knew she was crying but she couldn’t seem to stop anymore than she could stop breathing. She knew that this was what Trent deserved to be with a woman who could love him back the same way he loved her but why did it hurt so much. Why did she feel like she had just died a thousand deaths and why did she wish it was her that Trent still loved? Sydney knew she would never be able to bear seeing him with someone else or how empty her life would seem now without Trent and Kelsey in it. She swallowed back her tears and tried to put on a brave face, all the while knowing she was failing miserably.
Trent could see the hurt in Sydney’s brooding brown eyes and he knew there was still something between them. He had no idea why she was pushing him away but he wasn’t going to leave until she heard what he had so say. He was going to keep pushing back until she talked to him.
“Syd, what are you thinking about? You look so sad, what can I do to make it better?”
She gave a dry humorless laugh. “Trent there isn’t anything you can do. Besides it’s obvious that you’ve moved on so you need to go to this woman and tell her how you feel.”
“That’s just it I just told her and yet here she sits looking as if the whole world has fallen in around her. I love you Sydney and nothing could or would ever change that. So see I was right I poured my heart out just to have it handed right back as if it meant nothing at all.”
Sydney could feel the tears spilling out and running down her cheeks now but she was beyond caring. He loved her still? After weeks of missed calls, unreturned phone calls, unanswered text messages and absolutely no interaction what so ever and he still loved her. She wondered how that was even possible. She knew she had to tell him the truth and maybe then he would realize that she was just not good enough for him.
“Trent I tried so hard not to let this happen but like everything else in my life I failed. I’m so sorry for not being stronger and for pulling you into the nightmare that is my life. You have no idea how I wish I had met you when I was still young and idealistic but by the time you came along I was still young but way too jaded to believe that real love existed. You have no idea how much I wanted to get to know you back then or how I would watch you when you had no idea I was there. I think I knew everything about you I knew that you love anything you can build with your hands; blue was your favorite color although any shade of green does amazing things to your eyes, you liked to have fun, when you needed to get away you used to sit in your car on the end of my block, you were a true and loyal friend and you always found the good in whatever situation you found yourself in. I have looked up to you and admired you since the first time I saw you. I remember the first day I saw you walk into my Café and I absolutely loved your smile like it was just for me, as if you didn’t see anybody but me even in a crowded Café.”
Sydney could feel her throat aching as the tears threatened to start falling again. She paused to gather her runaway thoughts and to finish this before she hurt him anymore than she already had. She could see him sitting across from her tapping his foot and then he jumped to his feet as if he couldn’t sit still for another minute. She could see him out of the corner of her eye as he began to pace the room.
“Sydney did you ever love me at all?”
She found it hard to speak, to find the words to express exactly what it was that was in her heart. She forced in a deep breath and willed her mouth to open. “Yes Trent I have always loved you but you really don’t know anything about me at all. I am not the person you think I am and I am so sorry for not telling you this sooner.”
Trent slowly walked to the chair beside Sydney’s by the window and sat down. He waited patiently for her to continue. “Syd take your time but believe me when I say that nothing you have to tell me will change how I feel about you.”
She nodded her head and closed her eyes as she let the images and memories flood her mind. She could hear her voice as if from a great distance as she began to share the story of her life.
“I have only told one person besides my parents and Gram what I am about to tell you so please be patient. I know how lucky I was to grow up with all the advantages my family name provided. To live here in this nice, quiet picturesque town; I mean you said it yourself it’s a safe and a world away from the drug infested city with its guns and violence on every corner. I mean sure on the surface appears to be the perfect place to raise a family but every small town has its buried scandals. I have to say that I for one hated growing up in Cole County. All my childhood memories are filled with such pain, disappointment and silly childhood dreams that never quite came true.”
She paused for a moment to catch her breath. She could see Trent sitting on the edge of his chair with his hands clasped so tight his knuckles were turning white. Sydney swallowed and continued on with her story.
“You know my entire family lives on the ridge. My grandfather divided up the land between his children so we all lived there safe in our little piece of heaven. My dad’s brother Brady and his wife Nannette and three sons, Brian, Beau and Blake lived across the street from my parents. Then there was my uncle Bruce and his wife Barb and their two sons Adam and Scott. My Uncle Drew and his wife Jane with their three sons Kevin, Benjamin and William lived on the other side of us. Of course they moved a few years ago to Eureka Springs. My aunt Ashley and her husband Tom along with my cousins Paul and Clark moved to Tulsa before we even started school and Marley’s parents bought their house. Then that leaves my Uncle Dean and his wife Alice and their sons Vince and Clay. So here we all were family living in a wonderful gated community with acres and acres of woods behind us to play, run and have all the freedom we wanted without any real freedom at all. We were supposed to be safe but let me tell you it wasn’t safe at all not for me anyway.
I loved my cousins and I trusted them all with my life so when I was twelve I didn’t think anything about Brian asking me if I wanted to go hiking with him one afternoon in the woods behind the house. I remember it like it was yesterday it was the beginning of that summer that you moved to Cole County and I was twelve almost thirteen. I thought I was really something that year little did I know that my whole life was about to change. So here I am with Brian my cousin who was sixteen, tall, dark and handsome. I had always loved him dearly and when I was like seven or eight I would tell him I was going to marry someone just like him when I grew up. He would always laugh and say that when I grew up and all the guys saw how beautiful and great I was that I would forget all about him; it sort of became our little joke so this went on for years. Well on that particular day he seemed different somehow and I knew something was wrong. He was very quiet almost sullen and that wasn’t like him he normally was laughing and joking around on the way to the creek. When we reached the edge of the creek we sat down putting our feet in the water. I waited as the silence between us grew with each minute passed and I wondered if he was going to talk to me at all. Then he began to talk and his words came out in a rush so full of venom and rage. I could see so much hate in his blue eyes that for the first time in my life I was scared of him.
He told me he had just found out he had been adopted in 1985 to replace Brady my cousin who died in 1984. I don’t think that’s why he was adopted but that was what he thought. He had only been two when they adopted him so he didn’t remember anything. I had never seen anyone so full of uncontrolled rage and he was starting to scare me so I decided to start walking back home. I mean I wanted to help but I was only 12 and all I could do was listen. He seemed to get upset when he saw me reach for my shoes and he grabbed them out of my hand and threw them over his shoulder. He told me he loved me and now that we weren’t really related we could be together one day. I wasn’t sure what to do or say I didn’t even know what love was or what being in love meant but he was beyond reason. I tried to laugh and act like nothing was wrong but then he got even angrier. He started screaming at me telling me how I was just like my mother and that now that I knew the truth that I didn’t think he was good enough for me. I told him that he was a great guy and that he would find some girl he just couldn’t live without and forget all about waiting for me. He grabbed me by the hair and told me he had always known that I would outgrow my childish fantasies, that I would be just like everybody else a liar. I kicked him in the shins and took off running up the hill but without shoes the rocks were digging into my feet and he caught me by my hair. I was kicking and screaming but he pinned me down as he ran his hands all over me and kissed my face and my neck. I cried and screamed for my dad but of course no one heard me. I closed my eyes and tried to block it out what he was saying what he was doing to me but I knew exactly what was happening. I begged him to stop but he but he laughed at me. I don’t remember much after that except closing my eyes as the tears flowed and then later crawling around looking for my shoes. I remember walking home being afraid to move because it hurt so bad. I snuck in the backdoor and made it to my bathroom. I took my clothes off and climbed in the bathtub and turned the water hot until it scalded my skin. I must have taken a dozen showers that afternoon but I just couldn’t seem to get clean. I tried so hard to wash it away but it was still there in my mind and I was so ashamed. I felt like it was my fault he did that to me. I didn’t tell anybody at first I was too ashamed and too afraid of what my mother would say. I just started to stay at Gram’s house more but one day I went home to get tome things and Brian showed up. He had seen Gram drop me off and then mom had let him in on her way to some charity lunch. I was so scared he started telling me he loved me and next thing I knew he was holding my arms behind my back and all I could think of was its going to happen again. He was kissing me and breathing in my face and all I could smell was beer and cigarettes. I felt like I was going to be sick as the thought of him repulsed me. He was putting me through hell as the world outside was spinning around as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. All of a sudden I heard a voice yelling and I opened my eyes to see Brett walking in my room. Well he went crazy he beat the hell out of him and then he made me tell him what had happened. When my mom came home she heard me crying and came in to find out what was wrong. Brett held my hand and we told her together, do you know what she said. She said she would take care of it and to never mention it again that it would ruin our family’s reputation in the community. I can still remember the look of disgust in her eyes and how it felt to hear the disappointment dripping in her voice like salt on my already open wounds.”
Sydney stopped talking and felt herself start to cry. What started out as one tear was soon followed by a hundred more. All the years of hurt, anger, guilt and frustration were being released. She shed all the silent tears that had been held inside for so long. She felt a soft touch and then a strong firm hand holding her own. She looked down and saw Trent’s hand entwined with her own and it felt so right. She raised her eyes and was shocked to see that he was crying too.
“Sydney I am so sorry I wish I had known.”
She shook her head. “I didn’t tell you all this to gain your sympathy or to have you pity me. So please don’t cry for what happened before I even knew you.”
He gaped at her and tried to form the words to let her know how he felt. “Sydney I don’t feel sorry for you and I don’t pity you. I love you even more and just the mere thought of anyone or anything hurting you hurts me too.”
Sydney smiled at that. “Trent I told you all of this so you would understand why we can’t be together. I don’t expect you to love me or to ever look at me the same again I mean I’m broken and the scars I carry will never fully heal. I think I will always be looking over my shoulder waiting for somebody to grab me. Trent you deserve so much more than I will ever be able to give you.”
Trent raised her face to look at her watery brown eyes. He felt like he was drowning in the tears that had refused to stop falling. He wiped them away and dropped soft kisses on her closed eyelids. He waited for her to pull away or to show some sign of distress but she rested her head on his chest.
“Syd I can’t tell you that I know how you feel or that I understand what you’re going through because I don’t. I can tell you that I know you’re used to trying to go it alone and that you shut people out when things get too hard but Sydney you can tell me to go to hell or you don’t have to say anything either way I’m not going to let you shut me out. I will be here for you and I will listen, hold your hand, wipe your tears and take whatever you throw my way. I love you Sydney every part of you and everything that has made you who you are today. So I’ll leave if you tell me to but make no mistake about it I will back again tomorrow and he day after that and the day after that and…. Well you get the picture.”
Sydney was so shocked at his words that she couldn’t even form a coherent sentence. She watched the way one his hands held hers the other one was slowly playing with her hair. She had expected him to run for cover not to be sitting here as if she had told him her secret recipe for cornbread dressing and pecan pie.
“Why aren’t you running?”
He looked at her tearstained face and smiled. “Sydney you’ve been hurt by a lot of people who you loved and who were supposed to love you back. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to hurt you there are a few of us out here who know how to love.”
Sydney wished she could believe him but she wouldn’t saddle him with a baby that might not be his. She didn’t want him to eventually resent her like he had Megan. She would not make him give up his life to support her and her baby she could do this on her own. She knew it was going to be hard but he would thank her someday for letting him go.
“Trent thanks for being such a great friend and in answer to your question earlier I do love you but right now friendship is all I’m capable of.”
He raised her hand to his lips and softly kissed her palm before turning it over and kissing the back. “You know that’s okay with me because my mom always told me to marry my best friend and I have to say you look a lot better than Ryan.”
Sydney could feel the laughter bubbling up her throat and she knew that things weren’t always black and white sometimes the good things came in shades of gray. Sydney was sure that no matter what happened she would be okay.