“Turmoil. Yes, that’s a good way to describe my life,” thought Aidan. He looked around the kitchen and shook his head slightly. He had no idea where his keys and briefcase were, and it looked nearly impossible for him to get out of the house on time. His fifteen year old son, Clay, was sullenly shoveling Apple Jacks in his mouth while ignoring his eight year old twin sisters who were currently fighting over the fact that they had accidentally put on matching clothes for school. The shrieking was only made slightly bearable because it was competing with the thump…thump…thump of some heavy metal song leeching out from the teenager’s headphones.
“You can’t wear that to school because everybody knows you’re just trying to look like me, Bailey!” shouted Annabelle. “Why do you always try to copy me anyway?”
“Who wants to look like you, stupid? I just wanted to wear my unicorn shirt. The whole world doesn’t care what you’re doing, you know,” spat Bailey in response. “You’re the last person I want to look like.”
While Aidan briefly gave thanks that the twins weren’t identical based on the current level of animosity they were exhibiting toward each other, he wondered where on earth his wife could be while the kids were fighting and demolishing the kitchen. Aidan was used to looking and feeling clueless around his house, so no one was surprised when he asked, “Where’s Mom? Shouldn’t you guys be leaving for school already?”
Clay snorted in derision, “Dad, you’re supposed to take us today. Mom had some meeting or something and left like an hour ago.”
“Okay,” Aidan thought, “I remember something about that conversation the other night.” For just a moment, he allowed himself to ponder the fact that Jenny seemed to be scheduling meetings at pretty odd times these days. In fact, when he thought about it, he realized he’d barely seen her alone for the last couple of months. Every time they managed to be at home together, either the kids were around or he or Jenny was asleep. Aidan had that nagging feeling that maybe he should be worried, that maybe something wasn’t right, but real life kept getting in the way of him doing anything about it. Shrugging his shoulders at that mental note, Aidan called to the kids as he searched for his briefcase and keys, “Let’s go. Five minutes and we’re out the door kiddos. Go get your backpacks and meet me in the car.” After finding what he needed stacked neatly in the foyer with a post-it note reminder from Jenny, Aidan breathed a small sign of relief.
Grumbling and still mouthing at each other, all three kids scurried from the kitchen to get their stuff. Aidan stared blankly into the kitchen at the cereal on the counter and the milk spilled on the table and decided he’d just have to deal with it later. He did walk back in to grab the milk and put it back in the fridge at least, but he turned off the kitchen light and walked away from the mess without a second glance. After all, he needed to get the kids to school and try to get to the office before heading out to the planning meeting he had scheduled later that day.
Tall and broad shouldered, Aidan presented an imposing figure. Blonde and blue eyed, he sported a neat goatee that suited his rugged persona. While he had turned 40 earlier that year, he could easily be mistaken for someone in his early 30s, at least when he’d had a good night of sleep and wasn’t eating like crap and drinking too much. Dressed in a tan suit and white dress shirt for his formal meeting today, Aidan looked every bit the businessman. It wasn’t until you caught a glimpse of the breadth of his back or his powerful chest that you realized he was probably more at home in jeans and a t-shirt than a suit.
Clay eyed his dad with a mixture of admiration and hatred. “Was he really that clueless,” he wondered to himself. “Did his dad really not see what was going on with his mom right under his nose?” Shaking his head inwardly, Clay realized that his dad was just too caught up in his job to be bothered with anything like his marriage or his family. He knew that his dad loved them, but he just didn’t pay attention to his family like he should. Clay did know one thing for certain; when he grew up, he wasn’t going to be so focused on his job that he missed what was right in front of him.
“Let’s go; let’s go. I’ve got to get to the office, and you know that traffic is going to be a nightmare.”
First the twins then Clay hopped into Aidan’s SUV. Buckling up as they pulled out of the driveway, Aidan flipped on the radio in hopes of soothing the chatter he wasn’t used to dealing with that early in the morning.
“Why’re you taking us to school, Daddy?”
“Because Mommy had a meeting, stupid.”
“Don’t call your sister, stupid, Bailey. That’s not nice.” On and on it went. Questions and miscellaneous comments and the inane chatter that little girls love so much curled around them all as they rode to school together. Aidan loved his kids, he really did, he just wasn’t the most patient of men in the morning, especially on a morning of what could be a make or break event for his company. Thrumming his fingers on the steering wheel, Aidan did his best to smile and nod and be Mr. Nice-Dad on the way to school, and he pretty much succeeded.
Just as his patience had worn almost through his thin veneer of civility, he dropped the girls off at their elementary school first then made the short trek over to the high school to drop off Clay. Where the girls had chattered nonstop, Clay sat in the front seat with his headphones on, apparently oblivious to the world around him. Hood pulled up to cover his head, he slouched in the seat and looked to an outsider to be catatonic. Aidan wanted to say something to him, wanted to connect to him like they used to when Clay was younger, but he just didn’t want to risk an argument. Better to say nothing than to cause some big blowup.
If only he’d known what Clay was thinking, what he felt at that moment. Clay almost told him, almost warned his dad to wake up and pay attention before it was too late. But that felt too weird. His dad wouldn’t believe him. Worse yet, he might believe him and ask him to explain. Clay just couldn’t risk having to tell him what he knew, so he stayed slumped in his seat with his headphones on hoping the ride to school would be mercifully short. Soon enough, they had arrived. Opening the door, Clay said softly, “See ya at dinner, Dad.”
“I might be late tonight; I’ve got an out of town meeting. I’ll see ya before bed though, son. Have a good day at school.” With that, Aidan watched Clay pick his way up the steps of Clarksville High School and head to class. Shaking his head slightly, he drove on to the office wondering if he and Clay would ever be close again like they used to be.
Standing in the doorway of the house he’d rented in Gulf Shores, she’d waited for his buddy Jim to introduce them. As he’d accepted her handshake she offered in introduction, Aidan was shocked to the depths of his core. He’d been instantly aware of her from the moment she walked inside and was jolted by the instant reaction he’d felt when he touched her. In fact, the sensation had been so strong that he wasn’t immediately even sure what she looked like. He’d only gotten a vague impression – short, curvy, curly hair, laughing – and then she had touched him. What the hell? Since when did he have any reaction to a woman he didn’t know? Why did this woman affect him in such a visceral way? Who was she? As these thoughts skittered through his brain, what Aidan knew for certain was that she was as dangerous for him as cocaine might be for a junkie. He could lose himself in her. Just as he considered that revelation, Jim caught him in conversation, and he had no choice but to shift his attention.
Creeping along in rush hour traffic on I24, Aidan allowed himself just a few more moments of reflection. Here was his guilty pleasure of late. Here was what occupied his thoughts so much of the time. He compartmentalized these memories and the fantasies, but this is where he retreated when he found a few stolen moments.
Golden. She had glittered like metal in the afternoon sun. Hair fluttering in the wind, eyes hidden by giant sunglasses, body hugged by a demure swimsuit, laughter catching in her throat – he had a hard time not staring at her. After introductions and cocktails, they’d all headed out to the beach for some sunning and swimming and fishing and drinking. Like some schoolboy, he had offered to carry her chair and Jim had grabbed her beach bag. Maybe she didn’t notice they were fawning over her; she certainly seemed surprised and appreciative. Aidan discovered he was proud of helping her, proud to be noticed. He puffed his chest out like some friggin’ peacock. All the guys settled down and got serious about fishing or throwing a football or swimming. Since she didn’t know much anyone, she had set up her chair and hauled out an impressive looking book from her beach bag. And Aidan, as if he were some high school lovesick boy, found his gaze drawn to her over and over again. He noticed her brows furrow as she read something, heard her chatting with the children who were digging in the sand nearby, watched her brush the stray curls out of her eyes. He was Icarus about to be devoured by a golden flame. He knew it but couldn’t help himself; he kept drawing nearer that golden flame.
“Damn,” Aidan exclaimed to the empty car, “you need to get your head out of your ass and forget about that woman! You’re acting like some fool. Get a grip, man.” It really all was pretty embarrassing, you know. Why on earth would he keep daydreaming about this girl? He was married with kids, a successful businessman, a friggin’ pillar of the community. There was no rhyme or reason that he’d spend any time thinking about her. Sure, he needed to get laid, but there was no shortage of women in Clarksville who’d gladly take care of that for him. If sex were what he needed, he could easily get that. Besides, Aidan wasn’t a cheater, so it didn’t really matter that Jenny hadn’t welcomed his attentions in six months. He’d just continue taking matters in his own hands in the shower each morning and feel less guilty about looking at porn. There, that should do it. He definitely didn’t need to spend any more of his time or energy thinking about Gulf Shores or her.
Just then, Aidan’s cell phone rang, “Beauchamp here.”
The softspoken female voice he knew so well replied, “I just thought I’d check to make sure you got the kids to school okay. Any trouble?”
“No trouble, Jenny, I got them all dropped off on time. How did your meeting go? I didn’t realize I wouldn’t see you this morning.”
At that, Jenny hesitated just a heartbeat. Ordinarily, Aidan wouldn’t have noticed it, but today his senses seemed to be particularly acute. He didn’t say anything, but he knew that small avoidance spoke volumes about their lives. She finally offered, “The meeting went well. I’m really hoping they write up an offer on the house today; I’ve already shown them a dozen properties, but this one is the best option for them.” She didn’t offer any real details, he noticed – no reference to people or the address or anything. Again, that nagging sense of doubt tickled the edge of his conscience.
Jenny was a realtor in town and had been working to build her clientele for the last five years or so; it was only in the last year that she’d really made real estate her focus, though. Now that the kids were bigger and doing more for themselves, Aidan got the feeling that real estate helped make her feel necessary and competent. He understood that, but he honestly didn’t really support her career fully. These past few months had especially made him feel like he was taking a backseat in her life, and Aidan didn’t like that feeling at all. Rather than bring that up now, he asked, “What else is going on with you today? I’d offer to meet for lunch, but I have a planning meeting out of town this afternoon.”
She didn’t say so, but Jenny was secretly relieved that Aidan was unavailable to get together today. He really was the last person she wanted to see. She made a noise of disappointment in order to save his feelings and said gently, “That’s okay, hon. I’ve got some more showings planned then need to take the kids to their practices after school. I’ll see you at dinner tonight though.”
“Umm, I’m probably not going to make dinner, but I’ll try my best. I just don’t think I’ll get back to town in time, plus the clients may want to grab drinks or dinner. I’ll see you when I get home later though. Talk soon, bye hon.”
Jenny offered a simple return, “Goodbye,” then both of them hung up the phone.
It should’ve made Aidan feel great that Jenny called to check on him, but he realized that the nagging feeling he’d been trying to ignore was still there. He missed her, but he couldn’t decide if Jenny missed him all that much. Once the call was over, he really just felt empty.
After a quick stop at his office to return calls and put out small fires that had cropped up since the close of business yesterday, Aidan once again found himself on the interstate heading south for his afternoon meeting. The sun was shining, and the day was clear. It was a crisp, fall day in Tennessee, and he felt lucky to be out enjoying it instead of stuck inside all day long. He quickly found a playlist he liked and started humming along to some old school country music. Before he could get to the chorus of __________, he was thinking about that day in Gulf Shores again.
That August evening, Aidan had made a giant seafood boil for all the people staying overnight in the house for the reunion – about 20 people in all. He set out all the food and waited while people came through to fill their plates. Without even realizing it, Aidan had been on edge waiting for her to come through the kitchen too. There she was, and he had to have something to talk to her about. “Do you like spicy things?” he asked. No, he didn’t mean for that to sound so erotic, but he liked the sound of it once he’d said it aloud to her. When she replied softly that she did like spice, he instructed, “Hold out your hand.” He then proceeded to sprinkle some spicy seasoning on her fingers. As she put those fingers to her mouth and delicately licked her fingers, Aidan had to concentrate on controlling the erection that burst out of nowhere. The blood rushed in his ears, and he had to resist grasping those fingers and licking them himself. When she smiled her approval, he liberally sprinkled her food with the spice mixture and watched her walk out to the deck to eat. Thankfully, the kitchen was crowded and no one else seemed to notice him following her with his eyes.
Slowly tearing his thoughts away from the memory of that day, Aidan realized he’d made good time on his drive to Nashville, so good, in fact, that he had time to grab a leisurely lunch. He knew exactly where he wanted to go; he’d been wanting to try Sportsman’s Grille, and this was his perfect chance.
That's it for now, y'all. I just thought maybe I should prove to you that I really did write a book last year.I could've just been making it all up, right? Hahaha!