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Never to Tango Again?

 
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:47 am    Post subject: Never to Tango Again? Reply with quote

It wasn't that Colleen hadn't been aware of the recent fluctuations in the space time continuum, it was that she was far too aware of them. The last time this kind of thing happened, it turned her life upside down. People rose from the dead and had been slipping through the cracks of time since long before she had come to Rhydin. She had hopes that this recent bend in the river would help to mend things, but it was not to be at least, not yet.

Meeting Darien's younger counterpart told her much about the man she had married. Her husband had changed between the time he'd come to Rhydin and when they'd met. He was still in pain, that much she knew. The younger man had been bitter, but his loss was fresher and he hadn't had any time to heal. He still hadn't let anyone get past the walls he'd built around himself. Colleen knew what that was like, building walls to keep from being wounded yet again. Darien Fenner had managed to chip away at the invisible walls that had both protected her and been her prison. She, in turn, had chipped away at his. There were only two, maybe three, people that she'd ever seen him fully let his guard down with. Two of them had turned four not so very long ago and then there was Maggie. Maggie had a way of getting beyond the masks people wore.

Life had changed in the last two years. Colleen had been rebuilding walls; literally and figuratively. She expected that the new house would be ready by the time the leaves changed again and the snow blanketed the ground. By then, she'd feel comfortable teaching Abby and Madison to ice skate on the lake.
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From the Journal of Colleen Fenner - 4 May 2016

With Eregor's help, several of us will be in Louisville for the Run for the Roses and still be back in time for the Good Faeries Ball on Saturday evening. I'm looking forward to sharing this part of the horse racing tradition with the youngest of my children and with some of my grandchildren. Rhiannon and Dennis have opted out of Friday's gathering, so, they will be minding all of the children while Rhi, Eregor, Bertie, and I attend a dinner dance sponsored by the Lexington Rancher's Association. I made arrangements for his mother, Tilly, to meet us to travel to Rhydin us as Mother's Day will soon be upon us. Dennis's parents will also be there. Barring unforeseen events, they will be able to see our Maggie in the seasonal Talon tournament on Sunday.

We got on our way late on Wednesday as Maggie insisted on seeing Lirssa and Cane's performance. It was well worth the delay in our travel plans. It's been a pleasure to see her grow from the wobbly legged foal stage of life into a fine and confident filly. Like many young women I know, Lirssa has come into her own like a gentle breeze. I dread the thought of anyone awakening a storm in her as she will be a force to be reckoned with.

People say that time heals all wounds, but that's not quite the case. The wound scabs over to protect the injury, but the skin still bears the scars be it on the surface or deep down inside. I try to hide my scars, but some people still see them or sense they are there. It's been five years since that night in a tent, a night that changed our lives. Forever.
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

7 May 2016 - Louisville, KY, Terran Sector - Churchill Downs

A petite woman with blond hair tumbling down her shoulders tapped her earpiece before speaking, "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Tammy Palmer here and welcome to our coverage of the 142nd Run for the Roses! We had an opportunity to speak to several of the owners last night and early this morning about the chances of their horses taking this race." A formal party was being shown on screen as the reporter continued to offer the run down on the entries. The camera closed in on an elegantly gowned Colleen Fenner dancing with Albert Hall. When a tango started, the pair left the dance floor. The picture changed to a zoom in of Colleen in a floral print dress and wide brimmed straw hat in the paddock area. "One of the hopefuls this year comes from Navarra Farms, based in Ireland. Ms. Fenner, what can you tell us about about the filly you have running in today's big race?" The mic was pointed at Collie.

"It's Mrs. Fenner, actually, and the horse is a lovely chestnut filly called Cinnamon Harp."

"Unusual name, isn't it?" the reporter asked.

"Yes and no. My youngest daughters named her." Colleen lifted Madison onto her hip.

The little girl gave a bright smile to the reporter and, in turn, the viewing audience. "Hi!"

Abby's voice was heard just before the camera panned down to the elder of the twins. "I picked cinnamon! She's got pretty red hair!"

"I think her chances to place, if not win, are very good." Colleen set Madison on her feet. The twins joined the rest of the family to admire and visit with the horses.

The reporter had a sly smile on her face as she asked Collie, "So, the man you danced with most of last night, is that Mr. Fenner?"

Shaking her head, Collie frowned at the question. "No, that's Albert Hall. He..."

The reporter grinned. She'd been dishing up a little dirt on just about everyone she interviewed and she was sure she'd hit paydirt. "There have been rumors..."

Collie held up her hand. "Albert Hall is a friend of the family. There's nothing romantic or nefarious going on between us." Anyone that knew her well might have gotten the impression she was ready to explode on the reporter. "Please excuse me, I need to join the others, not long before the race gets underway."

"You heard it, folks, dancing with a family friend and no husband in sight! It looks like we might have a pretty and very wealthy lady in the singles game soon!" The sound of a trumpet was heard in the background to announce that horses were moving to the starting gate. "This is Tammy Palmer and we're off to the races!"
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Harkers had remained in Louisville for a few days. Bertie had offered to escort Colleen to the Good Fairies Ball, but she politely declined saying that he'd never been to Kentucky before and might like do a bit of touring before going back to Rhydin. Rhi and Eregor returned with Colleen. Abby and Madison were to stay with the couple and their twins for the remainder of the weekend.

Something troubled the redhead about that interview with Tammy Palmer, she didn't put her finger on it until she was roaming around grounds near the ball. Was she mistaken? She had to get back and look over the recordings that had been set up before departing home. Colleen rarely entered the inner sanctum that was Darien's study. This exception was made to gain access to the high tech media gadgets that had been used for sporting events, news reports, and very likely super sized viewing of some film or other that wasn't for all ages. The gizmo had it all, zoom, slow motion, and for some recordings several camera angles were available. She settled into an arm chair to watch the interviews. More than one person ducked away from the camera and that particular TV reporter. Collie suspected those playing the game of evasion had dealt with Ms. Palmer in the past. Fast forward, rewind, it was there, wasn't it? She paused on an image of Tammy Palmer, who had passed up interviewing at least three major sports celebrities to make a call. Seemed quite unusual for someone that was gung-ho about getting a mic in someone's face before anyone else could. Adjustments of volume and medicore attempts at lip reading left Collie with the following message, I've got the shots you wanted. They're gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous! They're well looked after, so be careful how you approach. Yes, it's a worldwide broadcast as well several places in the multiverse.

Her eyes flashed with cold green fire as her mind considered the worst case scenerio. Who or what were they after? Rhi and Eregor were excluded from the possibilities as they were already in their seats by the time the others were on camera. Her Harker grandchildren were busy admiring the horseflesh with the other three adults in the party. Abby and Madison were the only children in the party to have spoken to the reporter. There was no way to be certain just what was going on. Collie suddenly regretted not have started defense training earlier. It wasn't too late, not yet.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mid August 2016

The girls had taken to the arms and defense training more easily than their mother thought they would. Colleen was certain that the older children, especially Limelenath and Mairead, had much to do with that. The Fenner girls spent about a half hour, three days a week, learning to hit and block with short staves. Twice a week, they were separated to work with and learn from their nieces.

Abby, the rough and tumble child, spent time with Maggie learning to use a wooden sword. The younger girl was insistent that she was going to use live steel. "No," Maggie told her pint sized aunt, "I learned with wood first, so did just about everybody in the fam'ly. When you're ready for a metal sword or something, we'll go see Uncle Heph. He'll know what you need when you need it."

Some might have said that Limelenath had work cut out for her working with Madison. What she lacked in hearing, Maddie more than made up for with her other senses. Melly had learned to hunt by feeling the vibrations of hoofbeats and thumping of paws. She had been teaching the wee redhead to close her eyes for a moment and feel what was going on around her. Eventually, the little girl wouldn't need to close her eyes, but for now it was a way to help her focus as she learned the basics of using the bow and arrow.

The fall semester was beginning soon at Harker's Academy. Arrangements had been made for Abby and Madison to stay with Rhiannon and Dennis for the month of September. It would be easier on the twins to be starting school with the older children. Colleen needed time to herself. Her daughter suggested a little pampering, maybe at Arcasa. A new hairdo? A mani-pedi and spa treatment, perhaps? No, that wasn't what she needed. What she needed was time to reflect on what had been, what could have been, and what needed to happen. No matter what she decided, Abby and Madison wouldn't be at home to observe their mother drinking herself into oblivion. They wouldn't be there to ask questions about a certain music box or the pictures she'd pore over again this year. She'd avoid their questions about where he was and if he'd be there in time for their birthday if not his own.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Late August 2016

"MAMA!" the child's cry awakened Colleen from a deep slumber.

Bleary eyed, she found herself nose to nose with a four year old on tiptoe. "Abby?" she muttered sleepily. "What is it, lovie?" She sat up slowly; it was much like she would have done after a binge drinking session.

"Maddie's got a bad dream." Abby frowned. "She won't wake up and is yelling for Da again."

Yelling for Da again. The words were like a long knife cutting deep into her heart. This was one of the few things she couldn't do for the youngest of her children. Conjuring their father out of mid air would have been a nice trick, but she had no idea where to even begin looking. The Post wouldn't even give her a forwarding address to the branch nearest to where he was working. That meant one of two things. Either he was deep undercover on an assignment or he didn't want her to find him. The two things weren't mutually exclusive. Her robe was tied in place as she followed Abby up the stairs. The room was painted with lovely pastels including the Cinderella's carriage bedframe. Where the seats were supposed to be, twin bed mattresses rested. One day, they might want separate rooms, but for now they were generally happy in their pumpkin coach.

Madison was indeed calling out for her father; begging him to not leave. Colleen lifted up Abby and took her through the bathroom that connected the nursery to what had once been the nanny's room. These days, Victoria, nanny and housekeeper, had a full suite of rooms on the third floor. Abby was tucked in as Max stretched out his furry body next to the large bed. With one child settled for the time being, she went to tend to the smaller of the pair. Maddie was sobbing as her mother swaddled her in a snugly peach colored blanket. The worried mother allowed herself to slip past the imaginary guard posts of her young daughter's mind and into the world of her dreams. She could feel Maddie's pain as she begged Darien not to go. She managed to guide her daughter out of the dream and to a wakeful state. There was one question on Colleen's mind, had it been a dream of Maddie's hopeful imaginings or had the child somehow managed to find a path into her father's dreams?
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

31 August 2016

It was the middle of the week, but the extra few days before school began would help the Fenner sisters adjust to the household routine of the Harker family. Eregor and Dennis had gladly filled the need for an adult male presence in the girls' lives.

In Rhydin, it wouldn't have been hard for Colleen to find a man to bed down with and satisfy her physical needs. Despite having done just that many years ago, this time was different. Even after all this time, being with someone else would have felt like a betrayal. It had been nearly three years since that trip to Galway and she still wasn't sure if what she remembered was the truth. Was it one? Was it both? She wasn't sure and, worst of all, she didn't know if that was one of the many possible reasons he'd stayed away. Was he even alive? Not contacting her was one thing, but cutting off their children was another. Despite her concerns over what and why, life had to go on.

As their mother packed clothes and a few favorite toys, each of the girls were getting their furry friends ready to visit, too. Muffin, a calico kitten, was already in her carrier and being soothed by Madison. Darien would have lost it if he knew his baby girl was a cat person! Abby, on the other hand, was a dog lover. Max was the self appointed guardian of both children, but when it came to who was going to hold his leash, Abby tended to have a lot more control over the German Shepherd.

Rhiannon Harker's Land Rover came up the drive and as the doors opened, the girls were more than ready to have a bit of fun and start school. Collie kissed and hugged each of the twins then Rhi fastened them into the booster seats. Max laid down on the floor of the car. Abby had helped her sister with the seatbelt to keep Muffin's carrier from flying off the seat. As the Rover's door was closing, Maddie asked her mother a question. It might have provoked a long discussion, but blessedly, Rhi was ready to roll and Who's Jamie? might never be answered.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

9 September 2016 - just after midnight

With the children out of the house, it was too far too quiet. Colleen could hear the slapping of her bare feet on the hardwood floor of the kitchen. She gathered flour, sugar, and other ingredients on the island counter. A glass of cabernet sauvignon was poured and allowed to breathe while while she worked her kitchen magic. It should have been a happy occasion, but it was, at best, a nostalgic one. When the crafting of cakes was finished, one was a double layered chocolate cake and the other a chocolate cheesecake.

Music drifted through the sound system. It was a piece played by the hands of a master musician and graced by an instrument crafted by Antonio Stradivari, himself. When the third song began, her eyes misted and she caught her lower lip between her teeth. She fumbled in the liquor cabinet for a bottle Jameson’s single malt and poured it into the now empty wine glass. She could listen to it, but she couldn’t bear to dance to it. Collie leaned in the kitchen doorway and looked out to see lightning flashing. It wasn’t until until four years ago that she had learned why she was sad when it rained. The truth of the matter was it was raining because she was sad. Far too often, it rained because she held her emotions back. Tonight, however, the deluge outside was competing with the streams running down her face. The glass of Jameson’s was lifted and she murmured, “Happy birthday, ya crazy koala.”
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 1:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1 October 2016 - mid-morning

She had deviated from the original plan of picking up the girls after the debate and Maggie staying the night with them. Maggie, however, was not unhappy to spend time with her cousin, Limelenath, who was two years her senior. It was unusual to find Colleen with a glass of hard liquor in her hand at breakfast time, but this was one of those rare occasions. Pearl's dark brows lifted then one curled and lowered slightly at the sight of her grandmother. The younger woman avoided asking questions since the smell that hit her nose was agave. Tequila, that was rarely a good sign as it tended to indicate that Colleen was lost in memories; especially those of lost loves.

Pearl put the kettle on. Tea, the cure all for the Irish. Like her younger counterpart, she had grown up close to her parents and three of her grandparents. The fourth had parted from the plane before Pearl had been born. Her golden gaze drifted toward Colleen.

"Out wit' it. I know that look, girl! Yer mam 'n' yer ... sister get it, too." She had a wry smile on her face.

"What happened?" Pearl studied her grandmother's face and body language.

"There was a," she sighed, "reporter at the debate last night."

"And?"

"Tall, good lookin'." She drank what is in the glass and poured another.

"I'm getting the picture." The picture forming was a man with striking eyes.

"Had a mouth on 'im."

"And the edge?" She made a pushing motion with her hands.

"Would ya believe me if I said the scent o' cinnamon?"

There was a pin drop moment before Pearl said quietly, "Yes, I do. Toothpick?"

"No," Collie said glumly. "Candy, I think."

"You thought it was him, didn't you?" Pearl's query was almost whispered.

Collie's answer was a nod followed by a swallow of Jameson's.

"Gran," she reached across the counter for Colleen's hand, "you can hide the sadness from almost everybody, but not Mama, not Aunt Rhi, and not from me." She frowned slightly. "Even Maggie senses something is wrong."

"Ever since she was born, we've been close." She upended the glass and finished its contents.

"I know," Pearl murmured.

"Of course you do." She grinned.

"Look, Gran," Pearl blew some strands of hair out of her eyes, "I can't tell you stop missing over him or worrying about him, you wouldn't listen anyway. But I am going to tell you that you shouldn't lose sight of yourself. Whether he's here or not, you shouldn't stop living for you." She was quiet as the clock on the kitchen wall ticked away seconds then minutes. "He's not here and you are. Abby and Madison need at least one fully active parent."

"Yer right 'n' I know it."
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

December 2016

They hadn’t been home in months. It was the first time in years that Colleen wasn’t going to be hosting Christmas Eve dinner for the family or the Christmas Day gathering. The family dinner was in the capable hands of the Harker family and several of her older children had volunteered to host the Christmas celebration for the families that worked the farm. Rhi and Eregor had taken on the gift list for the children of the workers. With the exception of the matriarch’s presence, all was as it should have been.

Abby and Madison loved snow, but this year, they were in a place where Christmas came in summertime. The girls knelt on the window seat that afforded them a view of the gardens across the street. They were plotting something and their mother pretended not to hear them as they discussed how the place would look with Christmas trees covered in snow and ice and how they could make that happen. She smiled to herself as she heard something about candy sugar and freezing it all up like ice cream! They didn’t lack imagination, that was certain.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

February 2017

The letter had been sent the year it was dated, September 2014; it was a few months after she had last seen him. Somehow, it had gotten lost or misdirected before it finally ended up in the hands of a housekeeper or assistant for properly delivery.

Dear Darien,

That address seems stiff and so formal compared to the endearment of beloved husband that I had written just a few summers ago. Truth be told, I don’t know if I have the right to even call you my husband.

They say confession is good for the soul. I am not asking for one from you, but I do wish to make one. It has been nearly a year since the events that transpired in Galway and months since I saw you this past March. I have never really been good at, how does the phrase go, cutting to the chase, so I beg your indulgence even if it is one last time.

When I saw you last, I still had the image burning in my memory of you carrying your baggage, including that worn duffle bag that you seem so fond of, out the door to a waiting and running car. You left without a word to me or our daughters. After the words that were said in Galway, what else was I to think save that you had us left for greener pastures? Sometimes, it is easier to believe a lie because the truth is too painful to bear.

It was not until June when the fog that filled my mind started to clear. If you recall, when we first met, I was suffering from amnesia. This was much the same, like awakening after a long sleep and not understanding why some things are the way they are. I started to remember. I remembered having met the younger Darien Fenner at a masquerade ball. There were tells, differences in behavior during summer, but what if they had faded a few months later in autumn?

We had a game we used to play, truth for truth and a drink to gather courage or wash it down. It was in Galway when I last attempted to play that game. It hurt far too much to hear what was supposed to be truth from my husband coming out in the form of a confession of adultery to realize that it might not have been him at all. If it was not the Darien Fenner that I fell in love with and married that spoke those words to me then who was the man I was with that night in the hotel gardens? Had it been one of you or both there at different times? If that man was not my husband then, despite the unusual circumstances, I am the one who is guilty.

If it was not my Darien with me in Galway then how he could have have known what words were said between us there? He could not, which would mean it was not him that I saw standing in front of our home on that fateful night. That was the first jarring realization when I began to awaken from that fog.

I had believed that he was angry with me, but the man I married wouldn’t have let go of his daughters so easily. There has been no record of any attempt to contact them. It is, perhaps, the remaining tell that brings forth truth. The younger of the Fenners had no interest in Abby and Madison.

I started to remember what happened that winter night when I found myself on the stairs of the penthouse. I had gone there to think and remind myself of the beginnings of our relationship. I had made plans to go backward in time, to change things, to give my husband a chance at a better and different life. He had been unhappy for so long. That was the only way I knew of to make things right and give him a fresh start; a clean slate. I only knew of three ways things could go. As I contemplated those choices and wallowed in self pity and loathing, I was asked questions. I don’t remember what all was said, I vaguely remember what sounded like Darien arguing with himself. I think shots were fired, my ears rang, and I blacked out. When I came to, I didn’t know one from the other. One man was dead on the ground, clearly murdered by the other.

My mind must have shut down. With the exception of what now seems to be a planted memory of Darien leaving, I can’t clearly recall anything between that night and having woken up in Italy, a place I said I would never go alone. I saw you that same night. I was more concerned with trying to learn the whereabout of my missing toddlers than I was with why my husband seemed distant. Had I had the presence of mind to have done so, I would have asked if you knew where they were. Had I done that, things might be different now.

After consulting with a priest in Old Temple, I realized that one of those choices - regarding 31 Dec. 2011 - results in suicide and murder. No matter what afterlife one believes in, the murder of my own children is not something I would want on my head. Since my husband already blames himself far too much for what nearly happened, I cannot be a party to the survivor’s guilt that would undoubtedly occur if a madman’s plan had come to fruition.

And then there was a summer night that following year. Only my husband and I know what happened in that warehouse. Had he arrived later or had my kidnapper acted sooner, I would have been gone from this lifetime and our daughters would have been safe in his care. Since I cannot be sure which of you is still alive, I cannot take the chance on the girls being given over to someone that has no regard or affection for them.

That leaves me with but one option. To return to the Rhydin of 2009 and avoid becoming more than a friend to man that I dearly love. It will be painful, no doubt, to see him making other choices that do not include me. This will give him the new start he needs without anyone to be used against him or hold him back.

It is for all of these reasons that I must ask myself and you, to which man am I offering birthday greetings? Given the response at the masque, is it in fact your birthday or was that a detail that was filled in at random?

If you are not the same Darien Fenner that I have spent nearly four years married to, then I implore you to allow me to put his memory to rest. Allow me and my daughters with him the courtesy of grieving and mourning our loss or grant me the hope of altering the events of that night.

Colleen


There had been another choice and reasons she had changed her mind about that trip through time; two of them named Abby and Madison.

The Hotel Windsor had been their home for the last few months. With the cooler weather coming in Australia, it was time to consider taking the girls home. There would be a stop or two along the way. St. Valentine’s Day in Rome and St. Paddy’s in Dublin. There had been help to get mother and children on their way to the airport. A private plane took them into Rome.

Colleen’s Italian was rusty, but she got by well enough to request a suite with a balcony. Ironically, it was a suite that she and Darien had occupied once before; it had a spectacular view of the city. In the days that followed, she took the girls sightseeing. The Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and other historical sites were on the list. On Valentine’s Eve, she took the twins to the Trevi Fountain. Each of them tossed a coin into the fountain as Collie explained the custom and how it meant someone would return to Rome in the future.

Abby and Madison were tucked into bed with their favorite plushies. As soon as they were off to dreamland, their mother took advantage of the peace and quiet to enjoy a cup of the house coffee and a light snack. She took a leisurely shower before checking on the girls one last time for the night. Keeping up with a pair of active five year olds was not an easy task. Colleen drifted off to sleep quickly.

Several hours before dawn, Colleen had begun to stir. Moonlight was filtering through the sheer curtains that covered the balcony doors bathing the room in an ethereal light. Her eyes were still closed when she realized her fingers were splayed against skin. Specifically, it was a man’s chest her fingers were exploring. Before panic set in and broke her half sleep state, she realized that every muscle, rib, and scar felt familiar. Every inch was familiar, how could it not be? When the winter sunlight finally the moon’s glow to fade, the painful truth was revealed. It had not been Darien beside her, it had been dream. Or had it been a memory of happier times?

By the end of Valentine’s Day, they were out of the hotel and making their way back to Rhydin via Dublin. There would be no St. Paddy’s Day visitation this year, something in Collie’s gut told her to get the girls back home. She could sort things out when she got there.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

23 March 2017 - From the Journal of Colleen MacLeod-Fenner

At the inn this evening, I came face to face with … him. While I must admit the fading color in his hair appeals to me, it added to the sense of weariness about him. Has it been all that long? Or is he yet another echo of the man I fell in love with? Despite all of that, the familiar scent of cinnamon and the sound of his voice caused my heart to quicken. I’ll wager he still has the ability to curl my toes, leave me breathless, and cause the world to fade away for a brief time.

So many questions that need to be asked and answered, but we said so little and, yet, so much. Darien’s parting words of ‘see you around’ trouble me, but not anywhere near as much as his apparent lack of desire to see our children. Maybe that isn’t it at all. There’s something not right about him, not wanting to see the girls might be just the tip of large iceberg with a great deal of mass under the surface.

Was I wrong to wait and hope for some sort of reconciliation? Maybe we have to start from the beginning.
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