Promises 2018

By: Alexa Riley

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.

My hand goes to the little baby bump that I didn’t think was that noticeable.

“I’ve known for a while, but you just don’t seem to be fessing up.”

“I thought I hid it well.”

“You’re a tiny little thing. Trust me, that bump is just going to keep growing. I’d know, my wife had eight.”

I smile at that. It always makes me smile when he talks about his wife. His own smile just takes over his whole face at the mention of her. I love that. I’d wanted what they had. A little life together without the rest of the world pressing in on them, but I knew the responsibilities that sat on Phillip’s shoulders. I knew the reality of the man I’d chosen to marry, even if he had promised me that someday we’d have the life I’d dreamed about.

I know Oscar has a lot of kids, all older than me, and I often get them mixed up when he talks about them. But that’s what happens when you give all your children names that start with the letter S. It’s hard to keep things straight.

I rub my stomach. I want a baby belly. The thought actually makes me excited, maybe because I remember all the times Phillip would talk about wanting to see me round with our baby, but I just don’t want people asking questions. Questions I don’t want to answer or think about. I’d liked this whole avoiding thing. It might not be working out wonderfully, but I’m getting along for the time being and I still have time. Time to pull myself together.

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