394,389
07.03.2019

"Just don't talk about nuts," I said with a sigh, rolling over so he slipped down onto the bed next to me with a giggle as he went.

"My best friend Luke talks about nuts. He showed me his wiener once. Do girls have wieners? Papa took me to breakfast and I ate fwee pancakes wif syrup and sausages, and Papa let me have Dr. Pepper last night wif dinner, and I told him I'm not allowed to have pop wif dinner but he told me not to tell you, and I said okay but I forgot. Can we go to the park?"

Make it stop. Please God just make it stop.

"SO HOW YOU FEELING THERE CLAIRE?" my dad screamed at the top of his lungs as he lounged against the door frame to my room with a cup of coffee in his hand.

I squinted one eye open and peered at him through it, trying to muster up a dirty look but my face hurt too much to do that.

"Really funny there, old man. Don't make me come over there and punch you. When I don't feel like puking. And my legs start to work again," I muttered as Gavin fidgeted and kicked and scrambled his way over top of me to get off the bed.

He ran across the room to my dad and threw himself at his legs, his head smacking into the family jewels.

"Shit! Gavin, you gotta be careful there, buddy," my dad wheezed as he picked him up.

"Papa, can we go to the shit-park?"

I have to give it to my dad, he never laughed at that shit. Er, stuff. I don't know how the hell he always kept his composure. As long as Gavin didn't do that sh..stuff in public and embarrass the hell out of me, it was hard not to laugh.

"Gavin, remember the talk we had last night about big-people words? Well, shit is one of those big-people words. You don't say it," my dad said sternly as he looked into Gavin's eyes.

"Can I says it when I'm a big boy?"

"Yes, you can SAY it when you're a big boy," he replied.

Gavin seemed satisfied with that answer and forgot all about the shit-park. My dad put him down and he ran out the door and down the hall to his room.

"Thanks for watching him last night after Liz got home to Jim," I said as I pushed myself up in bed and leaned against the headboard.

"Yep."

He stood there staring at me silently while he sipped his hot coffee. He knew something was up. I liked to have some drinks every now and then, but getting tanked like I did last night, especially at work, meant something bad happened. Thank God Liz stayed with me at the bar all night and made sure I didn’t drop any more glasses or puke in someone’s lap.

I don’t even know how I’m supposed to process what happened last night. Or more to the point, who happened last night. As soon as I saw his face, I knew. Those eyes were a dead give-away. Aside from the fact that I used to dream about those blue eyes and would remember his face no matter how much time had passed, I’ve had to look into those same eyes every single day for the past four years.

Fuck!

I'm pretty sure the wet dream I was having this morning was about him too.

Double f**k!

His voice was a dead giveaway as well. That deep raspy voice that murmured the words "Jesus, you're so f**king beautiful" in that dark bedroom five years ago floated through my mind all the time. After I tipped the tray full of glasses and dropped down behind the bar, I sent a panicked look to the other end where Liz sat. Without hesitating, she got to my side to see what was wrong. My frantic words of “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, IT’S HIM, HOLY SHIT LIZ IT’S HIM AND HE’S HERE AND HE SAW ME AND OH MY GOD I CAN’T DO THIS RIGHT NOW!” spurned her into action and she popped her head up to get a better look at him. After just a few seconds she dropped back down to my hiding place and with a squeal and a clap of her hands she confirmed it was him.

My dad stood there in the doorway tapping his foot, waiting for me to proceed. I needed more time to think about what I was going to do, but I never kept anything from my dad. With a huge dramatic sigh, I let it out. "He came into the bar last night."

Dad stared at me questioningly for a few seconds before it clicked and his eyes grew wide and his mouth fell open. He knew exactly who I was referring to. There were only a small handful of men in my life, and we both knew I would call them by name if I was talking about them. The only person we ever referred to as "he" over the last few years was….

Fuck! I still don't know his God damn f**king name!

"Did you get his name this time?" my dad asked sarcastically, practically reading my mind.

I shook my head and let it drop into my hands.

My dad let out a sigh. "Well, if he comes back into the bar and you need me to kill him, let me know. I can make it look like an accident."

If you're George Morgan’s enemy and you can see him, it's too late. He already killed you and you just don't realize it yet.

After a shower and two cups of coffee, I almost felt human. I checked my voicemail while Gavin got dressed and there was a message from Liz. She told me to meet her at the old location of Andrea’s Bakery as soon as I woke up. She wanted me to look at the place before I had a chance to freak out about the bomb she dropped on me in the car the previous night. Liz knew me entirely too well. She knew as soon as I came to my senses I would tell her there was absolutely no way I would let her buy me a freaking business. She was out of her mind. Forcing me to meet her at the shop was cheating as far as I was concerned. Liz was smart though, I’ll give her that. She knew this would take my mind off of my other situation.

Butler was a small college town that had a town square right in the heart of it where all of the mom-and-pop-type stores were located. Andrea’s Bakery was situated on the busiest corner. I had to clamp down my excitement as I buckled Gavin into his car seat and headed towards downtown. I would not get my hopes up about this yet. There were entirely too many things to work out and consider. How much rent would I have to pay Liz? What would Gavin and I do about healthcare? Would Liz and I be partners with this whole thing or two separate entities just sharing a space? Could our friendship survive something like this? Would Gavin have to skip college and spend his life as a male prostitute just to make end’s meet because I stuck every penny into a business that tanked?

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