Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 58

Coffey comes once more, this time to tell her that Diego is dead. Tissue Warning

“Hi,” she said softly. “I won’t ask how you are…. Do you want something to eat?”

Janet shrugged, shaking her head.

“You have to eat, Jan. You have to keep your strength up.”

“Why?”

“Because, like it or not, there are two little boys who need their mother. You might want to give in to your grief, but you can’t stop, because he’s gone.”

“How can you sit there and say that to me? You’ve got your husband!”

Sookie took her hand. “That’s why I know. If I lost him, I’d be a wreck. But I’ve got a child to think of, too. I’d be torn up plenty, but for her, I’d keep going. And you will, too. I know you’ve had more shit happen in your life than any one person deserves, and you’ve lost the man you love more times than you can count. I don’t pretend to understand that, but I know the only way past this is to get through it.”

Janet knew she was right. As much as she might want to give in and cry, she couldn’t. She didn’t have that luxury. She got up and had a shower. Sookie helped her dress and do her makeup and they went out to the kitchen for breakfast.

Evander had prepared a feast. He always cooked when he was upset. He had enough food for a small army. Three extra men sat at the table with Sookie’s husband, Tim. Janet stopped just inside the kitchen door. The men stood. They were dressed in casual clothing, no uniforms today. You might put a soldier in jeans and a polo shirt, but they were still soldiers through and through. They saluted her as she walked in.

“Why are they here?” she asked her father.

“Because I asked them to stay. You need to know,” said firmly. “You need to hear what happened, so you can understand.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“But you will,” her father replied. “Because one day, your boys will ask what happened to their father, and you need to be able to tell them.”

Coffey stood once more, holding a chair for her. Janet took it reluctantly.

“I’d like you to meet my companions,” he said. “I don’t believe you’ve ever been properly introduced.”

Janet realized that they were the same men who had come to the house before. Slightly older versions of themselves, but the same.

“This is Tab Granger,” Coffey said, indicting the sandy haired man to his right. “And Len Evanston.” The dark haired man to his left, nodded. “I brought them, because they were good friends of Diego’s.”

“Were you with him? When—when it happened?”

“We were on the extraction team,” Tab replied. “We went in and got them out.”

“But not him?”

“No, ma’am.” His ears reddened, and his jaw clenched, as he fought down his emotions.

Janet could tell that these men were not only Diego’s friends, they held him in very high regard.

“Don’t call me ma’am. I’m not my mother,” she snapped. She apologized with a smile.

“Not sure what else to call you,” Tab said with a smile. “You don’t use your married name, do we call you Ms. Yarkowsky?”

“How about just Janet?” She burst into tears. That brought back the memory of meeting Tex. “Oh, God,” she wailed. “I can’t do this. I can’t sit here and be civil and friendly. I hate you all, and I don’t even know you….”

Sookie held her, letting her cry. The men looked uncomfortable. Coffey cleared his throat.

“The mission was flawless,” he said quietly. “Diego’s plan was perfect.”

“And yet, he died,” Evander said from the stove.

“We had bad intel,” Tab said. “More men were in the camp than anticipated. They got in without us catching them on satellite. The people watching the camp didn’t report them.”

“We’ve reason to believe that team was compromised,” Coffey said.

“What does that mean? Bribed? Dead? Infiltrated?” Evander asked.

“We’re debriefing them now.”

“Let me do it. I guarantee I’ll get the answers,” Janet snarled.

The three men, who had faced down more than one enemy, were terrified of the woman with dark, dangerous eyes. Coffey fully believed if she led the interrogation, they’d have the information they craved.

“I believe you could,” Coffey said in awe. “And if I can’t get any answers my way, I damn well might let you.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 57

Coffey has interrupted their lives yet again. This time, he can’t give Diego extra time, only enough to say goodbye to his sons. Tissue Warning

The tears Janet had fought so hard, poured from her eyes when he asked that simple, every day question.

“Pumpkin?” Evander took her in his arms, asking Diego for explanation.

Diego squatted by his sons, taking them in his arms. “I’ve got to go for a while,” he said quietly. “See the man in the car?” Danny nodded. “He’s a friend of mine, and he needs my help. He’s got some more friends who are in trouble, and Daddy needs to help them. I’ll be back soon, and we’ll go see the prairie dogs, okay?”

The prairie dog village was Danny’s favorite place to go. He could watch them for hours. He nodded happily. Diego hugged them close, kissing them.

“Don’t forget, Daddy loves you very much. And no matter what, I’ll always be with you. Don’t ever forget that. Danny, you need to watch after your brother, and take care of Mommy, okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

Danny hugged his father, kissing his cheek. Ricky gnawed on his fingers, wide eyed. Diego kissed them both again and stood. He held out his hand to Evander.

“I know you’ll watch out for them, Dad.”

“Always, son. You can count on that.” He said nothing, but his eyes held understanding.

Janet went to Diego, holding him close. “Don’t you dare die,” she whispered. “You come back to me, you understand?”

“I promise.”

“Don’t! Don’t promise. Because if something happens…. If you break it…. Just don’t.”

Diego laughed, smoothing her hair. “I’ll do my best. I love you more than my own life.”

“You’re my heart,” she said. “You come back. I can’t live forever without my heart.”

They kissed a long time. Finally, Diego broke their embrace and walked to the car. He turned to wave. Danny clutched his grandfather’s hand. Janet held Ricky in her arms. Diego stood there, memorizing that picture of them, before getting in the car.

Janet watched the car drive off, feeling like someone had punched her in the chest. She followed her father into the house and flopped on the couch, unable to go another step.

“Boys, come help Popop with dinner,” Evander said, herding his grandsons into the backyard.

Janet let the tears come. She cried until her eyes hurt. Finally, she went into the tiny half bath off the hallway and washed her face with cold water. She redid her makeup and tried to smile. The boys ran at her, hugging her around the legs and she forced herself to greet them without tears. Her father smiled at her, nodding. She knew no matter what, he’d be there for her.

“Sookie called. She and Tim are coming over.”

“It will be good to see them.”

Two weeks passed without a word, but Janet hadn’t expected one. She went through her days on autopilot, teaching her classes and caring for her boys. One evening, the boys were in bed and she was grading papers listening to Prince’s Purple Rain album.

She heard a car pull up outside. Thinking it might be her sister or father, she turned on the outside lights, flinging open the door. She didn’t even dare to hope that it was Diego, but a part of her fluttered at the sound. Three uniformed men walked up her path. The leader was Colonel Coffey. He didn’t have to say a word. His expression was enough. Janet broke down. Her legs giving out, she sank to the floor. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Numb all over, she gasped for breath, as the impact of their silent message hit her. Blackness surrounded her as her body lost the fight.

Some time later, she woke, finding herself in bed, with her sister lying beside her. It was morning and Sookie was asleep with her head on Janet’s shoulder. She held Janet’s hand. Janet moved and Sookie woke up.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 56

Janet and Diego are happy for a time, until Coffey comes back into their lives.

“You—Men! Going off to fight your damn wars! And we stay home….”

“We fight to protect you,” Coffey began.

“We stay home, have babies, raise families, work, keep house, and you think you can waltz in and out of our lives as you please. We’ll be there, breathless sex toys for your hiatus f**king! Well, it doesn’t work like that!” She punched the colonel in the chest.

“Janet….” Coffey tried again.

“You can’t call me that. You come in here and ruin our happiness. I hate you! Get out of my house!” She pulled back with her other hand to hit him.

Diego stepped between them. “Let Lane speak, babe. We really can’t talk about this on the street.”

Shoving past the men, Janet went to the kitchen, leaving them to talk while she made coffee. She might loathe the man, but he was Diego’s guest. Her mother’s training was ingrained, whether she admitted it or not. When she got to the living room, Diego was showing Coffey pictures of their boys. Danny, seven, was identical to Diego at that age. They looked up, smiling. Janet set the coffee things down with a rattle. Diego took her hand, pulling her onto the couch beside him.

“Listen to the job, please. And you decide if it’s important for me to go.”

“Normally, we don’t discuss missions this openly,” Coffey said, reaching into his breast pocket. “But you’ve proven, over the years, that you can keep a secret.”

Janet refused to be flattered, glaring at him.

“A group of doctors with World Health Organization went to a country I’d better not name.”

“On the other side of the world?”

“Pretty much.” He smiled slightly. “They were captured. The men, six of them, were executed right away.” He laid pictures of six smiling men on the table. They ranged in age from thirty to sixty.

“The women are hostages. The people holding them demand ransom from their governments—the US, UK and Japan.” He laid more pictures down. This time of four women in their thirties and forties.

“Policy is not to negotiate with terrorists,” he said quietly. “But we can’t let these women suffer any longer. We need Diego to lead the multinational rescue mission to retrieve them.”

Janet burst into tears. “You unmitigated bastard! You knew I couldn’t tell you no. He has to go, but it’s going to be horribly dangerous.”

Coffey nodded. “I need the best on this. Diego is the best. These women, their husbands and children, need Diego.”

“I need him too,” she whispered. “What about his wife and children?” She couldn’t cry. The tears refused to come. Dry eyed and furious, she glared at Coffey. “I really didn’t think I could possibly hate you more….

“Is that a go?” Coffey asked.

“That’s a go,” Diego replied. “Can I have time to say goodbye to my boys?”

“I can give you an hour. I’m sorry. They’re threatening to kill Dr. Lacy.” He tapped the picture of the youngest woman. “In forty-eight hours if we don’t comply.”

“So soon?” She gazed into Diego’s face. “You knew about this. You knew he was coming.”

“When I heard about it, I suspected.”

“Heard? This hasn’t been in the news!”

Diego eyed her levelly. He didn’t have to say that he had other ways of hearing about things. More reliable ways. He’d probably known about it within hours after it happened.

“You can’t give us a little time—together?”

“It’s a long flight to Langley,” Coffey replied. “But I can give you time for your sons. No father should disappear without a goodbye.”

Janet bit the inside of her cheek, holding in the angry tears. She refused to let Coffey see that kind of weakness.

They drove to her father’s house a few blocks away. Coffey followed in his car. The boys were playing in the yard. Coffey waited in the car while they got out and greeted them. Evander came out in the yard, smiling.

“I was setting up the grill. Can you stay to supper?”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 55

Lubbock, Texas. 2000.

“Did he stay that time?”

“He stayed two years. He got a job with the Navy ROTC on campus. In that time, we had another son. Named Ricardo, after Diego’s dad.”

“How did you end up with Tex again?”

“I didn’t.”

“Then why was he at your house?”

“I’m still trying to remember,” Janet replied. “I know it’s late—or early. I’m pretty tired.”

“I’ve kept you talking too long.”

“I kept myself talking.”

“I’ll come back later. I wanna know how this ends,” Flora said. “I’ll see you later, Janet.”

Janet sighed, closing her eyes. She lay in the hospital bed with the beeping and the blood pressure cuff, trying to sort things out. She’d lied to Flora. She did remember how Tex got there, and it sickened her that she’d agreed to have anything to do with him.

He threatened to kill my son! Tears rolled down her face until, eventually, she slept.

Lubbock, Texas. Spring 1990.

Diego and Janet pulled into the driveway of their home, warily. A strange car was parked out front. A man moved slowly from the shadows of the arched front porch. From his bearing, Janet knew he was military. The way Diego stiffened, she knew he recognized the man.

“Babe, why don’t you go pick up the boys at Dad’s?”

“It’s Coffey, isn’t it.”

“Honey….”

Janet leaped from the car, storming the porch like the peasants breaching the Bastille. Not saying a word to the colonel, she unlocked the door, flinging it back with a bang.

Diego ran after her, deeply worried. He shoved past Coffey. The other man tried to stop him. Diego shook him off.

“She’s got a .357 and she knows how to use it. Get in your car.”

Janet didn’t have the gun. He found her in the bedroom standing over the locked drawer where it was kept, weeping.

“Honey, please. We knew this could happen.”

“Is this all there is for us? Little snatches of time together. Is this it?” She spun around, her balled fists pounding his chest. “Tell him you can’t go. You’re not available.”

“It doesn’t work like that, baby. I go where I’m sent. A warrior follows orders.”

“Why you? Why does it have to be you?”

“Janet….”

“No matter what it is. No matter what rat hole he sends you to, you’ll go. You’ll leave your sons and go halfway round the world to do what? Kill someone?”

“That isn’t all I do. You know that.”

“I don’t! I don’t know what you do. You can’t tell me.”

“Mrs. Macy,” Colonel Coffey said from the living room.

“Don’t call me that. Don’t say that name in this house,” she screamed. Pushing past Diego, she confronted Coffey, standing toe to toe with the big man.

“Janet,” Diego said softly, taking her arm.

She jerked her arm away and shoved the Colonel. She was powerful in her rage. The tall, broad shouldered warrior took two unsteady steps back. Janet followed, bumping him back another step with her hip. Her arm came back to slap him, but Diego took it in an unyielding, but gentle, grip.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 54

After dinner, Diego and Janet go to the campus, but there are too many memories of Tex.

“He thinks Tex is his dad.”

“He’s five. What was I supposed to tell him? Your father’s an assassin, who left us to hunt down and murder other assassins? It isn’t easy being the son of a jailbird who beat his mother, but it’s easier than the truth.”

Pain contorted his face. “Is that what you think of me? That’s what you think I do?” He turned from her, biting his lip. Hands deep in his pockets, he hung his head.

“I don’t know. I don’t know you anymore! You’ve skipped in and out of my life for twenty years. Every time I think it’s going to last, you get snatched away from me again. I love you so much, but I don’t know how much more of this I have in me. I’m not a yo-yo, Diego. I’m a woman who’s lost without you. So broken and weak, she marries a man like Tex.”

“Why? Why him? You knew I was coming back.”

“But I didn’t! I had no idea where you were. I was alone and pregnant and scared…. And I did love him, once. I was never in love. He wasn’t you…. But he was there. And as flawed as he is, he made me feel alive and sexy and loved. Can you ever understand that?”

“I don’t know.” Diego shrugged, his hands out, palms up, hardly knowing what to do or say.

Janet eyed him carefully, tilting her head to one side. “Will you do something for me?”

“Anything.” He stepped close, winding his fingers in her hair.

“Will you take me back to that damn hotel and fornicate my brains out?”

Diego laughed loudly and abruptly. “That was unexpected.”

“I ache for you, and I can’t breathe right when you’re around. I want to laugh, or cry, or both at once. I haven’t had sex since Danny was born.”

“That’s a long time,” he replied huskily.

Taking her face in his hands, he lowered his mouth to hers. His kiss ignited the old fires. They surged and grew the longer he kissed her. Diego set some sort of speed record back to the hotel. Practically undressing in the elevator, they went to his suite. They didn’t make it as far as the bed the first time. Instead, they fell on the couch and made love there. Eventually, they made it to the bedroom. Janet lost herself in the moment, reveling in the affection, feeling alive for the first time in years.

Early in the morning, they lay cuddled in the middle of the king sized bed. Janet lay with her head on his chest while he wound his fingers in her hair.

“I want to get married,” he murmured. “We’ll find Tex, and get him to sign the papers.”

“I’ve tried. He won’t.”

“With all due respect, baby, you don’t speak persuasion, the same way I do.”

She shivered, imagining how he might coerce Tex. It wouldn’t be pretty, and she strongly suspected she’d end up not needing a divorce, because she’d be a widow.

“In the meantime, Janet Yarkowsky, will you marry me, at some unspecified time in the future? Will you live with me, and let me be father to my son?”

“Yes. Will you quit the agency?”

He exhaled slowly. “I can’t yet.”

She glared at him. “You said…!”

“Don’t start. If I quit, I’m no longer protected. There are still some nasty folks out there who want me dead.”

“And you expect me to marry you? To bring my son into that life?”

Our son.”

“I conceived him. I carried him nine months. I gave birth to him. You notice I did most of it without your help.”

“You had help with the conception part,” he pointed out, tickling her. “And I’d like to try that again. And again…. And again. I love you. And I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to talk about Tex, I don’t want to think about anything hard, or sad, or painful…. I want to make love to you until I can’t walk. I want to live the life we’ve missed out on all these years.”

“Okay. For now, we can do that. Eventually, there are some hard questions we have to answer.”

“But not tonight.” He rolled over, pulling her close, his desire evident.

“Not tonight.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 53

It’s 1988, and Diego finally returns. He meets his son, Danny, for the first time.

Diego crouched on the ground, holding out his hand. “Hi, Danny. Nice to meet you.”

Danny shook his hand solemnly. “Nice to meet you, too.”

“I thought… I kind of hoped we could—we could talk,” Diego said hesitantly.

“Let me tell Dad. He’ll watch Danny for me. Honey, go tell Popop Diego’s here.”

Danny ran in the house. “Popop, Dago’s here!”

Diego laughed loudly, tossing his head back with abandon. He looked years younger when he laughed, like the boy she’d loved 13 years ago.

Evander came to the door, taking off his reading glasses. “Oh, Diego.” He chuckled. “So it’s you. I couldn’t understand why he was telling me there was a dago at the door. Not exactly a word we use around here.” He trotted off the porch, holding out his hand. “Good to see you again, son. We’ve missed you.”

They shook hands. Evander pulled the younger man into a hug.

“Glad you’re back.”

“Thank you, sir. That means a lot to me.”

“Surely after all this time, you can call me Dad?”

Diego nodded, smiling. “I’d like that. My own father passed….” He blinked hard. “I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”

“We know,” Janet said. “We all went up for the funeral.”

“And Ilene. I’m so sorry for your loss….”

Evander nodded his thanks. “I have to believe they’re in a better place,” he said in a matter of fact tone. “So, you kids need some time. Do you have a place to stay? You’re welcome with us.”

“I’ve got a room. Thanks. I didn’t want to impose. I thought maybe Janet and I could catch dinner….”

“Sure. I’ll hold down the fort. You take all the time you need.”

“I’ll go in and say goodbye,” Janet said. She went inside to speak to Danny.

“Been a long time,” Evander said sternly. “You couldn’t write? You couldn’t call?” Although older, he was nearly as fit as Diego. His dark eyes registered his disapproval, as did his muscular arms crossing his chest.

“Did Janet tell you what I do?” Diego asked calmly. He kept his body relaxed, casual.

“She was pretty evasive.” Evander shifted his weight, lifting his chin.

“Evander, my job isn’t the kind that lends itself to Christmas cards and snapshots. I’ve tried for five years to get out….”

“But right now, you’re safer in than out?”

“Something like that. I love your daughter. If she’ll have me, I want to marry her.”

“She’s still married to Tex.”

“What? I hoped by this time he’d be out of the picture.”

“He refuses to divorce her. We’ve tried….”

Diego said nothing, lips pursed. Evander watched him sublimate the anger. He could see the younger man put it aside, channeling it into more acceptable emotions.

This is a very dangerous man. That bastard of a son-in-law of mine had better be very careful, or he’s gonna wind up dead.

Janet came out of the house. She had an overnight bag and her purse. Evander gave her a kiss.

“You sure, baby girl?”

“More sure of this than just about anything,” she said. “See you later, Dad.”

They had dinner at her father’s restaurant. Diego was impressed. The food was delicious and reasonably priced. The wait staff were efficient and well mannered. It was the best dining experience he’d had in over five years.

After dinner, they went for a walk on the Texas Tech campus and Janet showed him all her old haunts. More than one statement began with “Tex and I used to go….” The third or fourth one made Diego feel like he’d been slapped in the face. He stopped her, turning her to face him.

“Do you still love him?” He asked adamantly, taking her firmly by the upper arms. “Do you still want him?” He relaxed his grip when she winced, realizing it must bring back bad memories of another man’s violence.

“No!” Janet burst into tears. “How can you even ask me that? Your son is the most important person in the world to me. More than my father, Sookie, or you. That little boy is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. He’s your son, not his.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 52

Lubbock, Texas. 2000.

“No one understood why I took him back, not even me. He was like a drug that I was hopelessly addicted to. I was weak without Diego. I didn’t know where he was, if he was alive, and suddenly, the idea of raising my baby alone was more than I could bear.

“Mom started doing better, so I went back to Nebraska after Christmas. Tex went with me. There was still no word from Diego. It had been nearly two months. I hid the fact that I was pregnant from Tex. I let him think that the baby was his. He was thrilled to be having a child. He worked hard in AA and stayed clean and sober. I finished out the school year, resigned my position and we moved back to Lubbock.

“Danny was born July 14, 1982. Mama died a week later. I was so busy with Mama, I didn’t see the changes in Tex right away. Back in his old party environment, he started slipping. He didn’t go to his meetings like he should. He’d ditch calls from his sponsor, and started drinking the occasional beer after he got home from work. Soon, it became two or three, then six. He’d binge with drugs, and come home high. He never hit me, but he yelled a lot. I was terrified that he’d do something to me or the baby, but I couldn’t get a single judge to listen to me.

“Danny was four months old when Tex hit me again. He was cutting teeth, and having a tough time. I kept his gums covered with Ora-gel and gave him cold teething rings and Tylenol, but nothing helped. He was miserable. Tex came home one night, drunk, surly, smelling like cheap beer and cheaper women. I tried to keep him out of the house, but he broke a window and climbed in. I called the cops…. It scared the baby, all the noise and yelling. Danny cried and cried. Tex threatened my son. I stood up to him, and he hit me. He beat me until I couldn’t stand. He was standing over the crib yelling at the baby when the police came in.”

“Off to jail again,” Flora said. “What a bastard. Please tell me you didn’t take him back.”

“No. But I still couldn’t divorce him. I tried. But there was no way to make him sign the papers. It was the one thing he could do that really hurt me.”

“What about Diego?”

“I didn’t see him for nearly two more years. A phone call or two, then those stopped, too.”

“Why do long? Did he…. ” Flora leaned over, whispering. “Do the job?”

Janet smiled, nodding. “Yes. He found the men Coffey sent him after. Then there was another job and another…. Each job mired him in more. He hated what he’d become, but by then, he didn’t know how to quit.”

“But did he come back for you?”

Janet gave a quick nod. “It took some time, but he did. Danny was five. We lived with my father. I was teaching high school again, A.P. English. Sookie was married and expecting her first baby, a little girl….”

Lubbock, Texas. June 1988.

Danny was in the fenced-in yard playing with the dog. Janet kept an eye on him from the front room while she worked at her computer. She didn’t notice the car pull up, or the man who got out, until she heard someone talking to Danny in the yard.

“Is your mother home?”

“I’m not ‘posed to talk to you,” Danny said loudly. “I don’t know you.”

Janet got up, running to the door. She knew that voice.

“Diego?” It came out like the cry of a wounded bird. “Tell me it’s really you!”

He turned to her, smiling, arms wide. She ran to him. Diego lifted her spinning her around and around.

“You came back,” she murmured. “You came back….”

“I tried to get here sooner. I tried…. I’ve thought about you every day.”

“Me too.”

“Mona said…. She said, you and Tex?” The pain in his face made her cry.

“For a little while, we tried. It didn’t work out. He’s back in jail.”

“He hit you again?” He tightened up, his face taking the look of a predator.

“It’s okay. I’m okay….” She reached her hand toward her confused son. “Danny, I want you to meet my friend Diego. Diego, meet Danny….” She didn’t say it, but he could tell that she was introducing him to his son.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 51

Out of nowhere, Tex shows up at her parents’ house on Christmas Day.

He stopped babbling, listening to her. His face clouded. “I’m so sorry, baby. I didn’t know.”

“Don’t call me baby. Don’t you ever call me baby! You gave up that right the second you raised your hand to me, and killed our child!”

Tex hung his head. He rubbed his nose, sniffling loudly. “I’m so sorry about that. I can’t take back what I did. That was the worst thing I’ve ever done…. I didn’t know. I couldn’t possibly.”

“Oh, so it’s okay to beat the hell out of me if I’m not pregnant?”

“No, babe. No. That was wrong, totally wrong. But I wasn’t in my right mind. You have to believe—to know, I couldn’t control myself. I was in deep, Janet. The drugs, the alcohol.”

“The women. Don’t be coy, I know you had more than one affair.”

“I wouldn’t call it that.”

“One night stands? Orgies? F**k parties?”

“Janet, can I came in?”

“Absolutely not. Anything you want to say, you can say from here.”

“I’m putting my life back together. I’m in a program. I’m drug and alcohol free, have been almost two years. I got about as low as a man can go. When I hit the bottom, I started looking for a way back up. They got me in AA and Narcotics Anonymous. I found out that I was working hard on a sex addiction.”

“They have programs for that too,” she replied tersely. “It’s called castration.”

“Don’t,” he whispered. “Throw me a bone, ba…. Janet. Please. I messed up bad. I know that. As part of my program, I’m supposed to find people I hurt, and make it right. I know I can’t make our child’s death right. But if you’ll take me back, give me another chance, I’d like to try again. This time, we can have the baby you want…. I’ve always wanted kids….”

“Why? Why is it so important?”

“I love you!”

“You beat me. You cheated on me repeatedly. You killed our son!”

“It was a boy?” His eyes clouded once more, and the tears fell. “I’m sorry. I’m so terribly sorry…. How can I fix this? How can I make this right?”

“I don’t think you can,” she said tersely. “I don’t think anything can put it right.”

“Will you give me another chance?”

She said nothing.

“You owe me a chance to reform.”

“I owe you nothing!” She screamed, forgetting about her mother and the neighbors.

“I need you,” he whispered. “I love you more than life and I need you to put it back together. I was my best when I was with you.”

“Your best sucks, Theodore.” She started to close the door.

Tex stopped it. “Please?”

Before she could stop him, he grabbed her, kissing her desperately. His hands roamed freely, with the knowledge of long, intimate association. Hating herself, she responded to his attentions. She couldn’t help it. She remembered how making love to him felt. No one, not even Diego, knew her body like Tex. He’d coaxed more from her than Diego ever had. Not that sex with him was bad, it wasn’t. But Tex did things Diego never imagined.

She shoved Tex away, gasping as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “I can’t. You need to go.”

“Please, Janet. Give me one last chance. If I blow it this time, I’ll give you the divorce. I’ll leave your life, and never come back. Please?”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 50

Janet is on the way to see her folks in Texas. She’s pregnant, upset and worried about her sick mother.

The woman came over to sit by her, putting Janet’s head on her shoulder. “You go ahead and cry it out, honey. You got to get the bad out before the good can come in.” She held Janet and let her sob.

One of the truckers called to her from his booth. “You gonna come refill my coffee?”

“You know where it is, don’t you?”

“Yeah….”

“Well, help yourself. While you’re up, see if anyone else needs some. This girl needs me more than you lazy bastards.”

To Janet’s surprise, the man got up and got the coffee. He made the rounds and topped off his own cup. When she’d calmed down, the woman handed her the bill. It had “On the House,” scrawled across it. Janet thanked her, leaving a handsome tip. She stopped in the bathroom. When she came out, the waitress came up with a huge teddy bear from the gift shop.

“The boys chipped in and got this for you,” she said with a happy grin. “Don’t you worry. It’s gonna be okay.”

The men stepped forward, introducing themselves, shaking her hand. They promised to keep an eye on her while she was traveling. Each of them took turns watching her all the way to Lubbock. The last man, whose final destination was Mule Shoe, followed her to her parents’ house. She waved at him as she pulled into the driveway. He honked his horn and drove off with a rumble.

Sookie ran out. When she saw Janet, she burst into tears. Evander followed, supporting her mother. Ilene was bone thin and sallow. She looked so pale and weak, Janet could hardly equate her with the robust beauty she’d been just months before.

Janet and Sookie got her bags in and Evander put Ilene to bed. They’d converted the den to a sickroom. There was a hospital bed and oxygen beside it. Janet knew without a doubt, her mother had come home to die.

The family ate an early dinner and her mother went to sleep. Janet and Sookie sat around talking to their father. Janet told them about the baby. Neither of them knew whether to be happy or sad. Janet didn’t know herself.

“So, when’s he coming back?” Sookie asked as they got ready for bed.

“I don’t know,” Janet murmured.

Christmas passed quietly. Janet and Sookie went to church, but their father stayed home with their mother. Janet called Ramona to wish her Merry Christmas, and asked if they’re been any word from Diego.

“Nothing. I know he’ll be back, Janet.”

“I don’t know if I will,” she replied. “Daddy needs me. I’m thinking of taking a leave of absence.”

“Really? Oh, Janet!”

“I have to be here.”

“At least come finish out the year.”

“I don’t know. Mom’s really bad, Mona. She’s so weak she can barely feed herself. I want her to see the baby, but… I don’t want her to suffer. I’m so confused!”

“Of course you are! I could kick my brother for leaving….”

“Mona—I can’t tell you why, but you must believe that he did what had to be done.”

“I still want to kick him. Leaving you after he got you pregnant.”

Janet’s laugh was tinged with irony. “It’s not like he did that on purpose. He didn’t know. Neither did I. Even if he had, he would have gone.”

There was a loud knock at the door. Sookie was out, Evander was with her mother.

“There’s someone at the door. I need to go.” The knock sounded louder. “I really need to go. Merry Christmas!” She hung up quickly.

The banging on the door got louder.

“Look,” she began before opening the door. “We’ve got a sick woman….”

Tex stood on the porch, fist raised to pound again. He lost his balance, falling toward her, smiling.

“Janet, baby! I’ve missed you so much!” He tried to hug her, but she ducked aside.

“You prick! Don’t touch me!”

“Janet, please….”

“How dare you come here like this? My mother is dying!”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 49

Diego leaves, and Janet can hardly stand it. Tissue Warning

Days went by, then weeks, with no word from Diego. It was as if he’d fallen off the edge of the world. Janet forced herself to keep going. She had a job to do, but her spark was gone. Everyone noticed, including her students, but no one knew how to cheer her up. Every morning, she forced herself to get up and go to work, but it was an effort. Then one morning, she got up, vomiting. She called in to work, thinking she had the flu.

Ramona checked on her later in the day. She found her friend huddled in bed, shivering. “That’s it. We’re going to the doctor. I’m not having you lie here miserable. Up. Get dressed.”

She helped Janet put on a loose fitting running suit and drove her to the hospital. The emergency room doctor took a look at her and his brow wrinkled.

“I want to run some blood tests, Mrs. Macy.”

“Ms. Yarkowsky,” she insisted.

“It says here you’re married.”

“Yes, but I don’t go by that name anymore. Call me Janet.”

He smiled warmly. “Okay, Janet. I’m going to have the nurse draw some blood and we’re going to run some tests just to be sure. She’ll be in soon.”

“Thank you.”

The nurse drew blood and sent it to the lab. Within the hour, the doctor came back, smiling.

“I have some good news, Ms. Yarkowsky. You definitely don’t have the flu.”

Janet breathed a sigh of relief. “Then why do I feel so rotten?”

He took her hand, gazing into her eyes. “Congratulations, Janet. You’re about six weeks pregnant.”

She burst into tears. Ramona held her while the startled doctor backed away.

“I thought she’d be pleased.”

“She is. She will be. It’s complicated. The father—my brother, is in the military. He’s been called away.”

“Oh, gosh. I’m so sorry. I’ll get you the name of an obstetrician.”

“She can use mine. Thank you, Doctor.”

“If there’s anything else I can do….”

“Can we leave?”

“I’ll have the nurse bring in the paperwork.”

“Thank you.” She did her best to calm Janet down.

Ramona drove her friend home and stayed with her until she fell asleep. Between her and her sisters, they kept an eye on her all night.

Janet got through the next couple of weeks in a daze. Christmas break was coming, the students had exams, and she could hardly function. As excited as she was about having Diego’s child, she couldn’t face the reality of being alone. She planned to head to her parents’ house the first day of break. She woke that morning and got ready slowly. There was no joy in her trip. Her mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and had been given less than a year. Janet could only hope that she’d live long enough to see her first grandchild come into the world.

Her trip south was uneventful. There were warnings and threats of blizzards, but she managed to dodge them all. She sat in a truck stop drinking coffee and eating a piece of pie. The lowering clouds on the horizon made her think of Tex for the first time in years. She wondered what he was doing with himself, where he was. Not that it mattered. The only reason she wanted to see him again was to get him to sign divorce papers so she could marry Diego.

Overcome by grief, she propped her head on her hands and let the tears fall. She was tired, worried about her mother, and had the unbalanced emotions of a pregnant woman. Clutching handfuls of paper napkins, she wept as silently as she could, shoulders hunched and shaking. Her sobs and sniffles didn’t go unnoticed for long. Her waitress, a kindly woman about her mother’s age, slid into the booth across from her, handing her a clean cloth towel from the kitchen.

“You okay, honey?”

Janet sniffled, dabbing at her eyes. “No. Do you ever feel like life just plain sucks?”

“All the time,” the woman replied. “Every day when I have to come to this place.” She smiled warmly. “Can I get you anything? Another slice? A warm up on the coffee?”

“I’ll take a new life to go, please,” Janet said, trying to smile. “I’m sorry. My husband’s gone overseas and I just found out I’m pregnant. I’m on the way to Lubbock to visit my mother. She’s really sick, and this may be the last time I see her.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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