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Hope you’re well. I’ve been informed that the boy’s parents have died, and he’s staying with you. I know you don’t want to hear from me, but please, I really want to see him. I want to make amends to both of you. I wasn’t the best father, and I have no one to blame but myself for that. But I think the boy deserves to know who I am. I want a chance to get to know who he’s become. I want to provide for him. Please give him this card. I made it myself.
Please, Lanie. Don’t keep us away from each other.
Sweaty and fresh from an early morning run, Lanie didn’t realize how long she’d been standing on the front stoop until a hand touched hers. The one that was holding the letter.
Gasping, she turned around, and Jake was there.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
She shook her head, and realized her whole body was trembling. She just kept picturing the shoes. Shoes that he’d kick off at the end of a long day. Except for that day. No, that day the shoes had been kicked right into her side. Over and over, until she wasn’t sure that anything else had ever existed.
“Lanie.” Jake’s soft voice made her realize she’d drifted off again. “Tell me.”
She sighed. He usually wasn’t this pushy. “It’s my ex. Dre’s dad. He’s heard that Dre’s in foster care with me, and wants to see him.”
“But you don’t want that?”
Her laugh was bitter. She looked at the stiff card in her fingers. It was hand-painted with a picture of the old pickup truck that Sean used to drive. He’d always been a wonderful artist, and Lanie had tried to get him to quit mechanics and let her support him to try out an art career. That suggestion had not gone over well with her macho, prideful boyfriend.
“The last time I saw him, we had a minor disagreement about methods for disciplining a seven-week old baby.”
Jake regarded her. “Well, maybe he’s changed. That was a long time ago. Maybe you should at least figure out whether he’s the same person, before you decide.”
“No. I don’t want anything to do with him.” She shoved the letter and the card into her bag, letting both crumple and bend. “What are you doing here, Jake? You’re supposed to wait for me to arrange a meeting.”
She’d been having a hard time handing over the info that Bel had given her. She felt like she was being asked to do an obstacle course with a blindfold on. If it was anyone else but Jake…But she didn’t have anyone else with his skills who didn’t directly work for Ferami.
“I know. I still wish you’d just give me I need to go after them myself. I hate that Ben might be in danger.”
“Jake. We have to take things one step at a time, otherwise I’ll be exposed. Which means Ben and Dre will be even more at risk.”
“I know that. Really, I’m here to talk to Ben. I have the day off, and I have a feeling he might be in trouble.”
“In trouble? What do you mean?”
Jake gazed down at her steadily. “Don’t you think it’s strange that he’s attached himself to you and Dre the way he has? Aren’t you worried that he might be codependent?”
“Don’t you think I’ve tried to get rid of him? He doesn’t listen to anyone, Jake. Unless you want to sedate him and drag him out of my house, I don’t think there’s anything either one of us to do. You know how he is when he thinks someone needs saving. When he decides he’s going to do something, nothing will stop him.” And, at this point, the thought of him leaving her alone to deal with her son was downright panic-inducing.
Taking Lanie’s hand, Jake opened his mouth to argue, but then they both turned at the sound of a car slowing down beyond the hedge at the edge of the front yard. A second later, a sickly pink vehicle with disgusting yellow flowers pulled into Lanie’s driveway.
Jake went pale, and very, very still. “I’ve got to go.”
“What do you mean? It’s only Jennifer.” The woman was rummaging in a bag in the front seat, then turned around and dug through the back.
“Alright, I won’t ask you about Sean anymore. You don’t ask me about her.”
“I thought you guys were friends.”
“We don’t talk to each other. Or hang around each other.” Dropping Lanie’s hand, he backed away. “Tell Ben I had to go, okay? I…I have to go.”
Just as Jake practically fled down the stairs, Jennifer turned back around in her car and caught sight of him as he studiously avoided looking in her direction. She watched him with an unreadable expression as he got on his bike and roared off. When he was gone, she shook her head and got out of the car.
“Lanie,” Jennifer acknowledged, her bright, bubbly condescending attitude returning. “How’s our patient today?”
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13