I can’t do this. Don’t follow me.
Chapter Three Molly
“Wow, Molly, that’s really good.” I look over at Oscar. He’s holding a white bag that I’m guessing came from Elaine’s Diner, the local eatery only two blocks down from the beach. He smiles at me, the sun hitting his dark hair, making all his grays show.
My eyes go back to the painting I’ve been working on all morning, and for the first time, I see it. It’s a moment in my life I could never forget. Branded. I could paint this in my sleep, if I was sleeping that is.
“I’d love to know what he’s looking at,” he adds, sitting down next to me on the old, white, chipped wooden bench that looks out onto the beach. I’ve come to feel like it’s my bench over the past few months. I spend most of my time on this beach doing this. Painting.
I took up residence on it today before the sun really even started to rise over the endless ocean. Everything around me waking up, coming back to life, leaving me behind in the darkness. I don’t sleep anymore. I don’t know how someone can be so exhausted and not be able to sleep. I just keep thinking I’ll crash, but as soon as I do, I wake moments later. The bittersweet dreams are more than I can bear. Taunting and torturing me.
Who knew sweet memories could cut so deep? Make you not want to close your eyes at night because you know what you’ll see? Make you ache for something you can’t have? I’ve even started to question myself as to what I’d really seen in Phillip’s office that night because not once have I dreamed about that night. No. All that ever seem to come are the things that made me fall in love with him. Ache to be with him so deeply I didn't think there was a bottom to it.
The nights he’d hold me close and tell me all the things we were going to do together. The life that we would have. That he wanted that life, too, never having had a family of his own. He’d always make me smile when he’d tell me he’d never wanted one until he met me. That he’d just been waiting for me to come and wake him up. That things had been so lonely before me. That he hadn’t even realized he was. That he wasn’t really living until me. Once again making me feel like the center of his world.
And maybe I could have that life if I could be that woman who looked the other way. It was pathetic because I’d actually contemplated it. The ache of not having him hurting more than him having an affair.
“Me,” I finally say, realizing I hadn’t answered Oscar. It’s the first time I met Phillip. I’d walked into my father’s study, and there he was, waiting for my father to get back. I’ll never forget the look on his face. His sharp, deep blue eyes narrowed on me, then lit up his face, a dimple showing that only I could ever seem to get from him. My dimple. I’ve kissed it hundreds of times. It was instant. I knew in that moment I’d love that man until I took my last breath. No one had ever looked at me like that. He’d made me feel like the world began and ended with me.
Most of all, I loved how I seemed to be so different to him. To others he was hard, cold, and calculating. Intimidating, I think many would say, but that wasn’t what I’d seen that first day. He was sweet and charming, and I’d sat talking with him in my father’s office for three hours. We didn’t even know the time had passed. My father had come rushing in, apologizing, and asking why we hadn’t responded to his phone calls or texts. It was like we’d gotten lost in our own little world, something I easily do around him. I could even see the shocked look on Phillip’s face when he pulled his phone out of his suit-jacket pocket, surprised that he’d forgotten. My dad even made a joke that it was normally glued to his hand.
Phillip had leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I would have left hours ago and thrown this deal out the window, but now there isn’t a thing I wouldn’t do for this deal if it means I’ll get to wait in your father’s office for hours just to talk to you.”
Always sweet with me. Telling me about his life, which I knew he didn’t do with others. Even Cindy had said that while they had known each other for years, she didn’t know much about his past. No one seemed to know but me. About the fighting, the foster care, the drive to be the best. The nothingness he’d felt.
It wasn’t until I’d seen him at work or around others did I realize that only I got that. Did he give that to her, too? The thought is like a smack. A reminder of what really happened. What led me to this bench, sitting alone like I do most days.
Those sweet memories are why I believed all those words Cindy had said to me at dinner that night. Phillip would never do something like that. But he did. I’d seen it. Just like I’d seen my father do the same to my mother. It took a while to see it, or maybe my head was in the clouds, but it was there right in front of my face. We like to make ourselves believe things aren’t what they seem. Phillip had told me he had dark parts to him.
How much easier would it have been if I could have acted like my mother? She’d seemed happy until she just wasn’t, but I wonder if she had the ache deep in her, too. Probably. Why else would she just take off and leave? I always wondered if it was because I reminded her of my father. She couldn’t even be bothered to attend any of my graduations or even my wedding. There was always a reason she couldn’t make it.
“Hmm. He your baby’s father?” I look over at Oscar in shock. He turns his big brown warm eyes to me, eyebrows raised with a knowing smirk on his face. He reminds me so much of my grandfather. Maybe that’s why I latched myself to him. He’s only person in this little town in the middle of nowhere I really talk to, but in all fairness, he doesn’t really give me a choice. Just like today, he normally shows up with something to eat and we take it from there.