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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Coming Home by Ellen Dye

Allison sat bolt upright, her eyes transfixed on the large brown eyes of the little boy standing in front of her desk. There could be no mistaking the paternity of her newest kindergarten student. She’d have known, even if she hadn’t seen Kevin tenderly kiss the boy’s cheek before sending him through the school doors this morning.

“Can I ask a question, Miss Sutton?” the smaller carbon copy of her first, and only, true love asked.

“Of course, Mark.”

“Did you really know my daddy when you two were my age?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Were you really best friends, like the forever kind?”

Allison swallowed hard. “Is that what he told you?”

Brown curls bobbed affirmation.

“Well, I think you should believe your father,” Allison returned, hoping he’d ask no further.

“Okay.” The boy beamed a smile so like Kevin’s that Allison’s heart nearly stopped beating.

“You’d better hurry. Everyone else is gone,” she suggested. “You wouldn’t want to keep your father waiting.”

With a sigh of relief Allison watched Mark carefully pack his family portrait featuring two dark-haired stick figures---today’s art project---into his book bag and slip the straps over both shoulders. He gave a wave and ducked out of the classroom, almost at a run.

Only then did Allison take her first unguarded breath of the day. Kevin Bailey, a single father now, had come home. Finally.

She couldn’t resist making her way to the picture window holding the perfect view of the school steps. Just one more glance, she promised. One tiny look and she’d return to the life she’d so carefully built.

He was even more handsome now, she thought. Allison watched the tall, well-dressed man whisk Mark into his arms. Kevin had been transformed from the shy boy who wore second-hand clothes to a very confident, and apparently very successful, man.

She felt a pang of envy as she watched the happy pair stroll away, Mark’s hand engulfed in Kevin’s larger one. Many were the times she’d wished for just such a hand to rest in hers. But she was happy for Kevin; it couldn’t have been easy for him.

Allison had been fortunate. Her family, while not rich, had the funds to see her properly fed, dressed and educated. But such good fortune hadn’t favored the Bailey clan.

They’d been a large family crowded into a small clapboard house on the outskirts of town, the place upstanding citizens did not visit.

“Dreamers and lay-abouts,” Allison’s mother had proclaimed.

But Allison hadn’t believed her.

And at the same time, Allison hadn’t believed in Kevin strongly enough.

Allison turned from the window, a slow ache started in her chest—--in her heart---as she realized Kevin must have found someone who did believe. Mark was certainly proof of that.

Half an hour later Allison strolled into the corner video store, beginning her standard Friday night ritual of DVD’s and Chinese takeout. She turned her attention toward the shelf marked New Arrivals.

Seconds later she felt a tug on her skirt and found herself, once again, looking into a pair of achingly familiar eyes.

“Hi! Are you getting movies, too?” Mark asked.

Allison’s heart began to beat double time, knowing Kevin would be close by. “Yes.”

“Hello, Allison.” Kevin extended his hand, just as Mark dashed away. “It’s been a long time.”

The electrical jolt that shot through her body as their hands clasped took Allison’s breath away. She stood, counting the beats of her heart, her hand in Kevin’s.

“I was wrong,” she blurted.

Kevin merely smiled and the years fell away. “Things happen. The past is over, Allison.”

“And the future?” she ventured.

Kevin looked at her left hand. “I don’t see a ring.”

Allison blushed. “I’m not married.”

“Now that’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.”

Allison flushed with pleasure, but was prevented from commenting by Mark’s excited arrival.

“Can we get this one?” He held up a box decorated with cartoon dinosaurs.

Kevin nodded.

“Can Miss Sutton watch with us? And eat pizza, too?”

“If she’d like.” Kevin watched her closely.

“I usually have Chinese on Fridays,” Allison babbled, embarrassed.

A wounded look streaked across Kevin’s eyes.

“But I think it’s time for me to try something new,” she quickly added.

Mark hooted with joy, dashing back to the DVD shelf.

“And what about trying something old?” Kevin asked, taking Allison’s hand.

“Yes. I’d like that,” Allison returned, linking her fingers with his.

About the Author: At the age of nine, Ellen decided she was going to be a writer after she found her Aunt Nettie's trunk of True Confession magazines and spent untold hours reading the lot, a bag of Munchos potato chips and a frosty RC Cola at her side. She was lucky enough to have turned that dream into reality. Her first novel, Three’s The Charm is available digitally now at www.thewildrosepress.com and will be available in paperback November 28, 2008. You can check out her website at www.ellendye.com

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