I felt like I’d magically teleported back thirty years. I couldn’t believe I was standing next to my high school boyfriend of ages ago.
“Lexie! Wow. What are you doing here?” Cory said. Why did he have those cute freckles still? Didn’t those go away with wrinkles and old age? And why the HELL did he look so damn hot?
But then my mind caught up to me and yelled. Hard. “Lexie,” it said. “You’re MARRIED! And to one of the hunkiest men alive, I might add. Sure, he’s never around anymore but that doesn’t matter. GORL! Wake up!”
Fumbling over my words as my heart beat out of my chest, I said, “J-Just taking the kiddos out for a fun, fantabulous Saturday morning at Freezer Bunny Park. You know what Freezer Bunny says. If you’re not hoppin’, you’re boppin’.” Oh God. I sounded like one of those goofy Simsney cartoon commercials.
“Hey, me, too! I’m here with…”
EEPS! So, Cory had kids? Well, of course. He probably had a whole football stadium full of them. And I bet he was the greatest father in the world, too, and his kids made him trophies that said, “BEST DAD” out of toothpicks or popsicle sticks. I noticed a little girl who was about three that was with him. Super cute. And a teen. I blurted, “You…uh…want to meet mine? They’re right over there. All three of them. I’m kinda proud, if I do say so myself, they’re the best kids on the planet. W-Well, next to yours, of course, since you probably think that anyway.” My mouth was like someone had detached it and it was going a mile a minute on its own.
“Sure. I’d love to meet them.” He was such a sweet person, exactly how I’d remembered. And he was wearing cute “Dad” shorts and a vest. Omg!!! WHY WAS I LOOKING AT HIM LIKE THAT? I had to get myself under control.
“Uncle Cory, who’s that?” A girl came up from behind him.
“Lexie, this is my niece, Aleyna,” Cory said. “Aleyna, this is Lexie Day. We used to go to high school together.”
And…he left out the part where we dated. Nope. We didn’t need to go there. Very smart thing since I’m a happily married woman. Um…well married anyway.
YIPES! Why did he have to have that cute blonde stubble on his cute chin? I so needed some sunglasses that blocked out EVERYTHING. You have a hubby, I chanted. And then a devil on my shoulder whispered, who doesn’t care about you. But I screamed in my head, You have a hubby, damn it!
“Nice to meet you, Aleyna,” I said. And then the devil on my shoulder asked him, “So…this isn’t your kid?”
His niece laughed. “Uncle Cory isn’t married and he doesn’t have children. But he likes to say we’re his kids. Right, Uncle Cory?”
Cory smiled. “That’s right.”
“Who’s that, Lee Lee?” Brandy pointed at Mom talking to some strange dude.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe he’s the tickle monster.” Then I pressed my fingers into her tummy, making her giggle.
Mom walked up to us with a strange grin on her face. “Kids, I want you to meet someone.” I recognized Aleyna Cummings from school, but the old guy next to her I didn’t know. Maybe he was her father?
I nodded. “Hey, Aleyna. Long time no see…what…it’s been a day?” I had Aleyna in my computer class. I didn’t know her very well since we hung out in different crowds, but we’d been in school together for like forever.
“Hi, Liam. This is my uncle, Cory. Uncle Cory, this is Liam. He…He’s in one of my classes.”
The guy’s face and neck turned red which was weird. “Nice to meet you, Liam. You sure look a lot like your father.”
Ah…must have been a Flamer back in the day.
I did a head bob then said, “Yeah, I get that a lot, especially since Dad now does the acting thing.”
“Oh, Cory,” Mom squealed. “Do you see that bench over there? It looks exactly like one of those skateboards you used to have. Come look!”
Mom practically pounced on the poor guy and rushed him away.
Aleyna shot me a quick smile. “So…your mom and my uncle knew each other in high school it seems.”
“Really? That’s cool.”
And then silence erupted around us. I swallowed awkwardly and said, “SO…um…is that your little sister?”
In the next fifteen minutes Cory and I didn’t shut up, filling each other in on the past eighteen years. I told him all about my kids and sidestepped my problems with James.
He actually lived in San Myshuno and was taking a vacation here in Brindleton Bay, staying at his sister’s house for the summer. His band, Surf’s Up, broke apart shortly after they’d made that first tour when The Heartthrobs split. They had a one hit wonder, but pressures of traveling (and their songs not doing that well) forced them to seek other options. He helped produce for a while and now, he just filled in as a background singer and an instrumentalist for many bands the record company he works for produces. He also painted instruments for side money.
“That’s so cool! I never thought you’d be an artist!” I gushed.
“You got me started. Art club?” Our eyes locked for a moment too long which made me a little uncomfortable. So, I started blabbing.
“WELL…remember when we were at the skateboard park and Wyatt Roth used the ground as his own personal kleenex? I thought he’d broken his nose!”
Cory laughed. “Yeah…poor guy. He wasn’t very coordinated.”
Thinking about how big Wyatt’s nose grew made tears come out of my eyes, I was laughing so hard. “Oh, God! And I thought you were going to bite it, too. I got so worried watching you sail over those skate pipes. Geeze.”
He had to wipe his eyes as well. “Yeah, I wasn’t going to tell you I faceplanted a time or two. You would have burned my skateboard.”
“Hee hee! You know it!”
“Those were the days, huh?”
“Yeah,” I said, loving the feeling of laughing so hard my stomach hurt. Hadn’t done that in a while.
After we’d settled down, the breeze picked up, swirling around us. Cory asked, “So, Lex…are you…happy?”
And that one question was like someone hitting me in the face. My eyes watered but not from laughter. I sniffed. “Yeah…sure…um…I’m happy.”
But Cory didn’t believe me. Although all those years had passed, I was still the same person–an incredibly AWFUL liar. He stared at me for a while, probably processing on how he was going to react. I prayed he wouldn’t say anything. Let me go in peace and leave my troubles to myself.
He sighed then dropped his head in his hand. “I have a confession to make. I came to Brindleton Bay on purpose. I was hoping to see you.”
My eyes narrowed. “To see me? Why?”
“I…read a magazine with James on the cover. Someone dropped it off. A coworker of mine. He was making fun of me for dating you back in the day. I got so mad, I hit the guy.” He shook his head. “You know I’m not like that but…anyway. I got fired because he was the producer’s son.”
I covered my mouth. “God, Cory…I’m sorry.”
He shrugged. “I’ll be okay…I actually have another company who’s asking for me to work for them, but I needed some time off. I couldn’t help myself. I kept thinking about you, wondering if you’re okay. According to the magazine, it’d said you and James were having trouble, but you know how those things are. I just had to see for myself. Are you okay? Is James treating you well? I know it’s none of my damn business and if you want to, you can tell me to go to hell but…”
He sighed. “You don’t know how many times I stopped myself from going to your door, though. So, I didn’t. And I wasn’t going to see you. But…well…here we are.”
I wanted to tell him that things were bad, but I couldn’t. I was married. I’d said my vows. Words of love. To one man. To James. And I knew I wasn’t ready to give up on us. But…then something Cory said just registered with me. “What magazine are you talking about?”
“It was in Simstar. You haven’t seen it?”
I noticed a magazine peeking out of the diaper bag he was carrying. I pointed. “Is that it?”
He nodded slowly. Swiping it out of the bag, I seethed.
Unbefreakingbelievable! It was happening all over again. James and me on the covers of magazines. And just like back then, I was the butt of jokes.
“How the hell did they know I wasn’t on board with him being Robotron?” I hissed. “I’d just found out about it last night.” They must have made the whole thing up or James let it out that he thought I wouldn’t like it. Who knew? But the more I’d read, the more it was obvious the paparazzi was here, spying on me. They got shots through my windows. I was going to have to beef up security. And probably was going to have to hire body guards again. What was he thinking with this?
“He’s going to be Robotron over my dead body!” I proclaimed like throwing a gauntlet. Too bad my husband wasn’t here.
But when James did get home, he was going to suffer under the wrath of Lexie.