It had been over a month and Mona had neither seen nor heard from Luke. Well, it wasn’t as if he didn’t try, he’d come by the firehouse only to be turned away brusquely and with threat of bodily harm by some of her fireman brothers. She didn’t want to speak to him, she’d cried not just for the loss of her relationship with him but for the betrayal and knowing he was part of it. She’d gone home that night after the scene on the street and threw up, she was sick to her stomach. She’d felt so violated, she cried and wailed for days at home but at work she was just stoic. Guys asked her what was wrong but they got the look of death for interfering but they knew she didn’t want to see Luke so they protected her. He called so much, she actually changed her phone number and threatened her niece with bodily harm if she gave it to Brady.
On this S unday she’d finally come out to have lunch with Georgie and Amber. Her older cousin had found out that she’d broken up with Luke and was happy about it although she tried her best not to show Mona.
‘So how about shopping after this? It’s almost time for my baby to head back to Eugene. I am so sad.’ She reached over to caress Amber’s cheek.
Amber rolled her eyes and sighed she was excited about getting out of there so she wouldn’t have her mom watching her every move. It seemed she and Brady had been secretly going out from time to time, she wanted to tell her Aunt Mo but that was the last thing she needed to hear now.
‘Mom it’s just Eugene, it’s not a big deal.’
‘It is to me young lady, I’m your mother and I miss you when you’re gone.’
‘I’ll be back Thanksgiving mom, geez.’
‘Well ask Mona, I’m sure she’ll miss you too. Won’t you Mona?’
‘Huh?’ Mona had barely heard the nattering of her cousin, maybe it was bad idea to come out today.
‘Aren’t you going to miss Amber.’
‘Oh. Yea, of course, I’ll miss my regular running buddy. But she’s a grown woman Georgie, let her live her life.’
‘Oh whatever, you don’t understand. When you have kids you’ll know.’
Mona got a pained look on her face, Georgie realized what she said. ‘I’m sorry Mona that was so thoughtless of me.’
It had to be bad if Georgie apologized, she never apologized but Mona knew that they all knew what she had been struggling with over these last few weeks.
‘It’s okay, it really is. I need to go to the bathroom,I’ll be right back.’
Mona rose from the table and headed toward the restroom sign. She was standing in the mirror looking at herself, gosh she looked like warm death, her eyes were bloodshot because she’d been having nightmares about her parents. Her face was sort of gray, she didn’t normally wear makeup but today would have been a good day to start. Her hair was pulled back into some sort of makeshift ponytail. She thought for a woman who’d supposedly moved on she certainly didn’t look like it. As she headed back into the restaurant, she noticed in her peripheral vision a sight she knew. It was Luke. She wasn’t sure at first but then she heard him laugh that deep rumble of his, she was mortified. She’s looking like a hag and he’s here guffawing it up with a blonde. She was a fool. After she got back to the table Georgie excused herself to the restroom. Mona hoped she didn’t see him because knowing her cousin there would be a scene but then again what did she care he deserved it.
‘Huh?’ She seemed to not be listening to anything or anyone today.
‘I was just asking how was your salmon?’
Mona shook out her consuming thoughts of beating Luke senseless. ‘It was great honey but we better go. I’ve got stuff to do today.’
‘Oh yea, mom said when she got back she’d pay the check and we’d be out of here. You know what Aunt Mo?’
Mona smiled at her, ‘what?’
‘I’m worried about you.’
‘Dont be sweetie, I’m fine.’
‘I know you miss Luke and you know he misses you too. Brady tells me that all the time. That his dad is miserable without you.’
Mona clenched her teeth, he couldn’t be too miserable with that blonde.
‘Really. Well it’s too complex for you to worry about. We’re adults we know what we’re doing.’ Although Mona wasn’t sure what she was doing.
Amber just looked at her suspiciously, she loved her Aunt Mo but she couldn’t understand someone giving up someone they love. She was willing to defy her mother to be with Brady, although secretly.
Georgie had returned and was ready to pay and get out there.
‘Okay, ladies let’s head for shopping. There are these bad pumps I’ve got my eye on at Lindstrom I have to have them.’
‘Well, I won’t be joining you guys I’ve got other things to do.’
‘What other things?’
‘Just other stuff, will you lay off Georgie,’ Mona raised her voice at her cousin it was something she rarely did but Georgie could be overbearing sometimes and she wasn’t feeling it at the moment.
‘Okay, okay I’ll leave you alone.’ Georgie put her arm around Mona and pulled her tight it was a sweet gesture and actually Mona could use some human contact. She was becoming a bit prickly.
She was hoping they could escape without anyone catching a glimpse of her ex man here with another woman. That hope was dashed as they headed for the exit and she spotted Luke and his lunch companion. She was a petite blonde all curves in a dress Mona couldn’t pull off on her best day.
‘Aunt Mo, you okay?’ She heard Amber say in her ear as she took her hand.
Mona shook her head because she felt as if she spoke she’d scream like a maniac. She could hear Georgie behind them babbling, she hadn’t seen Luke and Mona was not in the mood for a Georgie drama trip. She turned toward Georgie who spotted the look in her eyes.
Georgie’s brow furrowed and she saw who Mona was giving her the look about. Georgie’s shock and disgust shown immediately and as she opened her mouth, Mona mouthed ‘please no’ to her. Georgie stopped but only because she knew Mona needed her silence now but any other moment and she would have ripped him a new one.
Luke saw her coming toward him, of all the days to run into Mona why today. He couldn’t think he just wanted to grab her and drag her away from this place, away from the obvious pain that shown in her eyes. This was a business lunch and although Ms. Sheila Webster wanted more he had no interest in her. The only woman in his thoughts was Mona. She looked away for a moment at her cousin Georgina who he’d met at a family gathering. She didn’t like him then and there was pure hatred in her face now, but Amber was there and in her he did have an ally. But even she looked confused at this scene, he’d have to get Brady to explain it to her later.
He spoke first to the frostiest reception of his life. ‘Hello there.’ Sheila stopped at his side and eyed the group of women in front of her cautiously. The one in the middle who looked like she needed a vacation as she looked almost through her and back to Lucas.
‘Hi Luke,’ Amber was the first to speak up, ‘wow fancy seeing you here.’
Luke tried to play it cool but his hands her itching to reach out and touch Mona so badly. He was wiling her to look at him but she wouldn’t.
‘Yes, I’m taking an associate out for lunch. Everyone this is Sheila Webster. Sheila, this is Amber, her mother Georgina Delacroix and Mona Anderson.’
‘Hello y’all. Nice to meet you.’ She had a heavy southern drawl Mona noticed.
‘You too,’ they said in unison.
Mona was ready to head pass Luke, when she felt his hand on her arm. ‘How are you, Mona?’ His voice was so soft, sweet with care and concern could this be the same person she’d discovered had a hand in her parents’ death. She turned to look at him then down at where his hand warmed her skin.
He let her go and Mona walked on. His body was racked with pain, Georgie was at her side and Mona looked back at the scene she’d just left. Luke was staring at her with a pained expression, she couldn’t look too long or she’d cry. Amber was saying goodbye and moving past. Mona could hear the woman asking, ‘who the heck were they? Why was the one in the middle giving you the evil eye? What a witch.’
Mona just tuned the rest out, as they reached the exit and into the parking lot. Amber and Georgie were asking if she was okay, she kept reassuring them that she was but she wanted to get to her car. She said her good byes and promised them, she’d call if she needed anything. Once in her truck, she lay her head on the steering wheel and began to sob loudly. She knew she may have looked strange to passersby but she cried like a baby in that car for almost an hour. Mona hadn’t felt pain like this since her parents’ death and she was feeling it for the man who killed them. At that thought her pain deepened.
Luke came home to an empty house, Brady had gone away to Lincoln City with friends. One more blast before it was time for him to head back to school for the Fall quarter. He was proud of Brady he seemed to be making friends and adjusting to life here. He was doing a lot better than his old man. Luke flopped down on the couch, he was drained. This last month or so had been the pits, he’d told his father happened between him and Mona. His papa had lectured him a bit but really what he needed he got from his dad. He cried in that small man’s lap just as he did when he was young. Luke couldn’t believe it, he cried like a baby but he needed that time. He hadn’t cried like that since his mama died but he was heartbroken.
He’d finally started getting full nights of sleep here in the last week and then out of the blue Sheila Webster had called about a business brunch. Well, maybe not out of the blue, she’d had her eye on him he knew since he’d rolled into town many months ago. What was his rotten luck to have lunch with her and run into Mona. He almost wanted to start crying again. She looked so sad, so lost, he wanted to kick his own ass for being the one to do that. He figured he could explain but what would it matter now he should have told her from the beginning.
That had been a tough time in his life, no mama, he was running wild in the streets. His father working day and night to keep the business alive. He was just a punk kid who followed, who wanted to belong so when he should of said no or stop, he ran. He remembered the next couple of days hearing about the fire and the people killed. He was so scared but he had to do something, he told his pops who immediately boxed him about the ears and dragged his sorry ass down to the station to report his friends. But in the end what he learned was they weren’t friends, they were punk kids like him. Danny was over 18, so he was an adult so he got the most time, the rest of the gang turned on him to make sure they got the least amount of time they could. Since Luke turned State’s evidence and didn’t have anything to do with the actual murder he was set free and immediately sent to live with his Grandfather and Nana in Brooklyn.
His grandparents had a store and he worked his butt off, his grandfather cut him absolutely no slack. He worked everyday after school and weekends. He was so tired most of the time he didn’t have the energy to get into trouble. He went to mass on Sundays and went to the school attached to the church. He hated it but his father wouldn’t let him come back till he cleaned up his act. He worked hard, played baseball, started to make friends and started getting serious about life. He graduated, went to a two year college to get his grades up and then went to Fordham. He meet his ex-wife on a trip with friends to the Jersey Shore, he’d completely fell head over heels in what he thought was love. She was a WASP, everything he wasn’t, cultured, beautiful, and rich. He felt lucky she looked his way. They got married after she graduated and started living not the life either imagined then Brady came and it got real complicated. He loved her, he really did, but he knew she deserved someone that was in love with her. So he got divorced and played bachelor about town and boy did he play. Beautiful women everywhere and he loved the sistas and they loved him.
He never thought he’d want to be married again even with all the beautiful women he met in New York but then he came here and found this spectacular angel that made everything about his world more sane, joyful and comforting. He didn’t know what he was going to do with Mona out of his life. The thought of never holding, kissing or making love to her again filled him with unspeakable pain. Luke physically hurt. He’d made a complete mess out of his life again but this time he didn’t think he could recover or if he wanted to. He rose from the couch to head to bedroom he just wanted to sleep and forget.