Horizons Ch. 14: Forever and Almost Always

If you haven’t read any of Jody and Ellie’s story and happened upon this, stop. Go back and read the rest of Horizons before you read this. You will be utterly lost otherwise.

Welcome to the last chapter of Ellie, Jody and the rest of their little family. Thank you for joining me on their journey. It’s been a long, rough road. These two mean a lot to me. Writing their story was not always easy, but I’m glad I did it.

I hope the ending I gave them does them the justice they truly deserve.

As always please rate, comment, Favorite and send me some feedback.

*****

ELLIE:

The sound of water rushing by filled my ears. My hair was blowing in the slight breeze as I sat on that worn piece of concrete with its rusty metal rods sticking precariously out in all directions, waiting for me to mess up and skewer myself.

This was one of my favorite places to just sit and lose myself. I hadn’t been here in far too long.

Little icebergs floated by every few minutes. Winter was breaking up, making way for spring. I was on spring break from teaching and had taken the week off at my day job. Life was hectic and good, but I needed some quiet. I was still trying to find a balance between my day job, teaching at the college and my home life. I didn’t always succeed. Often, I questioned my choice to start teaching so soon after Jody and the kids moving in.

Madi and Kevin were with Joe this week, Jessie was on spring break too, but in Florida with her friends. It was just Jody, Tim and me at home.

The spring racing season was on the horizon. Evan had left coaching the team, left the state. He dropped that bombshell on us two days after the New Year. A new job, new girlfriend and new life 2,500 miles away. I hated it for my kids. They were just starting to trust him again and he fucking leaves.

My phone vibrated in my pocket.

Jody- just making sure all is well

She still got nervous if I was out of touch for too long. I feared that would never change and hated that for her, that I had done that to her.

I looked at the time. Somehow I had been out here for over three hours. She wanted to take the week off with me and I wouldn’t let her. I loved her. Loved our time together but I needed some quiet. Days home alone, reading and writing. Hours out here. I knew Jody was upset with me when I told her I didn’t want her to take the week off. I had to stick to my decision though. I needed this space. We needed the space.

Or so my therapist told me. By day two of my break, I knew she had been right. My mind was calmer than it had been in a long time.

Ellie- yeah. Lost track of time. I’ll be home soon

Jody- okay.

I had been panic-attack free since between Christmas and New Year. A few anxiety attacks, but nothing that had upset my life. Our lives. Teaching the creative writing class was challenging, but I loved it. The college students were so different from the middle and high-schoolers I saw all day. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed teaching when I was first out of college. Balancing both jobs, plus home was tricky. I wasn’t certain if I was doing it well at all.

Being gone two evenings a week came with its own set of challenges, especially now with Evan really gone. The last decent thing he did for his kids before he left was to give Tim his truck. Officially it was for both of them, but Jessie couldn’t have it on campus anyways. Dealing with them sharing it come summer would be super fun.

Carefully, I hopped off the concrete, avoiding the rusty metal, and made my way back to my vehicle. I got home and Tim and Jody’s vehicles were both there. I missed everyone else. Tim and Madi weren’t dating any longer. That ended about two months ago, not long after Evan told us he was leaving the state. Things at home had been a little weird for the first few weeks but they seemed to have found a new normal. Both were still racing, still friends. I was sure when one of them started dating again, things would get weird again. That was a worry for another day.

Inside, Jody and Tim’s voices filled the kitchen. I dropped my hiking boots by the door and joined them. “Joe is going so I already asked if I could ride with him and Madi so you two don’t have to worry about going.”

I didn’t know what they were talking about. “Going where?” I asked him as I gave Jody a small kiss.

“The big meet up this weekend in Maine. The one for the Varsity riders.”

It took a moment, but I remembered him telling us about this. “Oh, that’s right. So, when are you leaving for that?”

“Tomorrow after school and we won’t be back until Sunday afternoon.”

My head spun with the possibilities. Jody and I hadn’t had much real alone time since the overnight before Christmas. I looked over and she had her sheepish grin on. I grinned back.

“Sounds good.” Jessie was returning from Florida Saturday night but going right back to school. As of now, we wouldn’t see her until Easter. I missed her. A lot.

“So. bursa escort What’s for dinner?” Tim looked at me.

“Whatever you cook kid.” I gave him the same look he always gave me when he was hungry.

Without missing a beat, he replied, “Cheerios or Frosted Flakes?”

Jody let out one of her adorable laughs. Which got me laughing and then Tim too.

Through her laughter, Jody spoke up. “Actually, I thought we would go out. The three of us.”

I looked at her. She hadn’t mentioned this to me. Once they moved in, our take-out ordering and going out to eat had slowed greatly. We did the once a month thing with the team moms and not much else. Mainly because I loved to cook, and it was a good outlet for me. With everyone under one roof it was easier. And cheaper.

“Let me go shower before we go?” I was grimy.

Tim made a face and waved his hand in front of his nose. “Please mom! I didn’t wanna say anything, but you smell like old mud.”

I shot him a look, then went upstairs. It hit me again how quiet the house was when Madi and Kevin weren’t here. A little over a year to go and Madi and Tim would be graduating then going off to college too. Life changed so quickly. I didn’t let my mind wander to what my life would look like that far ahead.

I jumped in the shower and when I got out Jody was sitting on the bed waiting for me. Before I got dressed I sat with her. “Hey.” We kissed; my hands wandered. Touching her was still my favorite thing to do.

“So, where we going?”

“I thought we’d try Mazzeo’s. If that works for you?” I knew by the look on her face that she wanted to try it, so I said yes. We had never been. Usually we didn’t eat out unless we were out of town. This place was a town north of us. I was sure Tim would be happy. Tim would be happy anywhere there was food.

“Sounds good.” I went to stand up to get dressed and she tugged the towel off me, then pulled me back down. By the time she was done touching me I was flushed. “Tim is gonna wonder what’s taking us so long.” I managed to say.

Being touched by her was my second favorite thing. She gave me a look. “No, he’s not.” One more kiss then I got dressed. She went downstairs while I did. Tim was shoving a handful of cereal in his mouth when I got into the kitchen.

“Boy is that all you do. Eat.” He had grown so much in the last few months. This increased his appetite exponentially, which I hadn’t thought was possible.

He looked at me. “I’m trying to not to give you shit here mom, but come on. What took you so long to shower?”

Jody stifled a laugh. I felt my checks flush. “Point taken. Let’s go.” She mouthed ‘told ya’ as we walked out of the house. I rolled my eyes at them both.

This restaurant was far from a usual place we would take the kids. Simply because it was pricey. One perk to only having one home this week, was being able to do this. I’m not a huge Italian food person, but they had a stuffed sole that sounded delicious. Jody had some fancy ass beer. She was getting more comfortable drinking occasionally around me. Even if I had to constantly tell her it was fine.

We were closing in on two years since I had had a drop of alcohol and I didn’t miss it. Didn’t miss who I was when I drank too much. I saw way too much of my father in me in those moments. It took blowing up my life for me to realize that. My hand was on her thigh, I gave it a squeeze. I was so beyond lucky that she never gave up on me. On us.

She turned and smiled. That genuine smile that lit up her entire face. That was the way I had first seen her nearly three years ago in that desolate mall. I smiled back. The best decision I’ve ever made was loving her. Letting her love me.

Dinner was fantastic. Tim ate his body weight in bread and pasta. Back at home, he was already rummaging for more food. I shook my head as I cleaned up.

Tomorrow was Friday. The last weekday of my break and I planned only to sit at home, drink coffee and tea and read. I had set up my college class so nothing was due or would need my attention during this week.

Jody was already on the couch when I finished picking up. I was much more nit-picky about the house than she was. There was stuff I just had to finish before I could even come close to relaxing. It was one of those wrinkles in living together.

She was watching some medical show. I had no clue what it was, nor did I care. My body leaned into her, she grabbed the blanket from behind her and covered us up. Being enveloped in her warmth was my favorite place to be.

I sighed.

“You okay?”

“Yep.” My head turned to look at her. Those big eyes. She had a few more lines around them but other than that, they were exactly the same as they had been almost three years ago when I fell in love with her. When I didn’t even know that was what I was feeling. “Take a half day tomorrow?” The words came out without my knowledge. As soon as they did, I smiled.

She turned her escort bursa head. A smile spread across her face. “I can just take the whole day off. If you want me around.”

I had to close my eyes when her words hit me. “It’s not that I didn’t want you around Jody.” Guilt hit my gut. How do you explain to the person you love the most that sometimes, when your mind is on overdrive, it just needs solitude? Probably like that. She wasn’t an unreasonable person, especially when it came to giving me time and space. I needed to remember that. I had a hard time remembering that when I should.

She put her finger on my lips. “I know Ellie. I was just kidding with you.” She kissed me. “I’m glad you had the quiet time hun.”

I felt bad, felt like I had hurt her and I didn’t mean to. “I think I’m going to go to bed.” I got up and left the living-room. Said goodnight to Tim, changed and climbed into bed. I was avoiding her and we both knew it.

****

JODY:

Fuck. I looked as her lips tensed up and listened as she decided to go to bed. I should have controlled my words better. I knew she didn’t take the time off, without me, to hurt me. She had been in such a good place since New Year. Despite Evan being a complete ass and moving across country. It didn’t matter that they were divorced, he was just another person who left her life. Left his kids. Fucking asshole. Another person in her past I would like to punch. I should have done it while I had the chance.

Now, I probably set her off again. When was I going to figure out how to not be so… me?

I emailed my boss and told her I was taking a personal day tomorrow, hoping that I hadn’t messed up Ellie wanting me here. Then shut off all the lights, locked up the house and went upstairs.

The house was quiet with just the three of us here. I hadn’t told Ellie yet, but Kevin was applying to transfer for his sophomore year to a four-year school. It was close to where Jessie went. He was thriving at the community college but was ready for more. I was nervous about him living on campus, but he insisted he was ready. The house was going to be even quieter.

She was laying down, eyes closed, when I entered the room. I got myself ready then moved in next to her. After I had been living here for a few months, she told me sleeping next to me was better than any pharmaceutical for her anxiety. I worried I had messed that up, again.

Her breathing wasn’t fluid, she wasn’t sleeping. I didn’t prod her, just kissed her head. “I love you Eleanor.” I heard her softly sigh then I nuzzled in close, put my leg over her hip and fell asleep with my favorite person.

I woke up at my normal time, she was still sleeping. I let her. Kissed her head then went downstairs. Tim would be up soon to get ready for school and his weekend. Downstairs, I made coffee and as it drew closer to when he would be down, I made pancakes.

“Morning.” He grumbled. He was his mother’s child when it came to mornings. The weeks my kids were here, mornings were a chaotic mix of personalities. Madi was even more of a morning person than I was. Kevin was still regimented but was getting better about it. It had taken the kids a few weeks to figure out how to move around each other. Ellie wouldn’t let me interfere with them as they figured it out. She told me they had to do that for themselves. As always, she was right. She was much better at letting the kids be self-reliant humans than I was.

“Good morning Timothy.” I loved using his whole name when he was moody. It usually elicited a small smile. I handed him a cup of coffee and he sat down at the island. He needed a haircut. His curls were as wild as Ellie’s when they got longer.

I handed him a plate of pancakes. Enough for three people. Or one almost seventeen-year-old boy. Where he put all the food I could never figure out. He was tall, well over 6 foot now, had grown a lot recently. Was taller even than Kevin, but he was still lanky, only starting to fill out. Ellie was only 5’4″ and Evan 5’10”, I wondered out loud one day where he got the extra height.

‘My father. He was 6’5″.’ She almost never spoke of her father, or her sister. I knew how abusive he was, but now I had this new image in my head. He was over a foot taller than El. I visibly shuddered that day, couldn’t shake that image from my head. I wondered, to myself, if Ellie looked like her father or her mother. Tim was all Ellie. I knew her sister Clara didn’t look much like Ellie from the one picture I had seen; her hair had been straight and dark. They had the same bright blue eyes though.

“Thanks, second mom.” The small smile got a little bigger. I ruffled his hair then went back to my coffee and the paper. He was such a good kid.

He finished eating and cleaned up after himself. “Thanks again Jody.” I told him he was more than welcome, and he went to get ready for school. I heard him greet his mom on the stairs.

Selfishly, I hoped she wouldn’t be mad I was still in jammies, bursa escort bayan still here. Normally by this time, I was dressed for work. We orbited around each other and the kids most mornings. I needed her to still want me around today. She walked in. Her hair was everywhere. I couldn’t help but smile. The sight of her still set off the butterflies in my belly. It wasn’t even just about sex. It was her. Every single thing about her.

“What?” She asked me as she came over, put a kiss on my head and poured herself a cup of coffee, then sat down next to me.

“Was just thinking about how much I love you. All of you.” My eyes went to her hair again.

Her hands went to her head and tried to get it to behave, it was futile. She smiled. “I think Tim and I both need haircuts.”

I preferred her hair longer, but she liked it shorter and it was her hair. “Pancakes?”

She shook her head yes and I made us each some. It was nice to sit here together, not being rushed by outside forces. We finished eating and Tim was back downstairs. Ellie went to help him get his stuff in his truck. I finished cleaning up the kitchen then went up to shower. Jeans and a T-shirt went on. I was drying my hair when she came in the bathroom. Her arms went around my waist.

“Hey.” She kissed my neck. Her morning grumpiness was gone.

I put the blow dryer down and turned to face her. “Hey.” One long kiss later, I asked her what she wanted to do today. We decided on a walk and a movie. We hadn’t been in a movie theater in months. We used to go all the time. Even Kevin rarely went because of college. Life really did change without us even realizing it.

An hour or so later we walked to the lake, hand in hand, talking about nothing and everything. My comment the night before didn’t seem to get to her. She wasn’t tense, her hands were calm. Her lips weren’t tight. As we walked it hit me how much I missed her. Between her day job and teaching and preparing for teaching and grading. I missed the time I used to have with her.

We used to make time to be together. Now, with living together, it wasn’t always a priority. We saw each other every day, slept in the same bed every night, but it wasn’t the same. Maybe I needed to make more of an effort. I brought her hand up to my lips and kissed it. She turned to me and smiled.

We got to her bench and sat down. It was getting warm, at least for here in March. She wrapped her arm in mine as we sat looking at the water. There were still a few chunks of ice to be seen, but mostly, the lake was melted and open. A few boats with eager fishermen peppered the surface.

Her head was on my shoulder. She didn’t move it when other people walked by. We had spent so much time hiding our relationship from the world that I still cherished these moments. When she was comfortable with us. Comfortable with herself. There were more moments like this, than moments when she was anxious or nervous, or guilt ridden now. We were both grateful for that.

Neither of us was in a rush. We sat for a long time. “Mom wants us to come over for dinner once they are back and settled.” My parents were coming back from Florida next week. We hadn’t seen them since Thanksgiving. I missed them.

“Okay.” She quietly said.

She still worried about them, my brother, Beth. She didn’t need to. They all loved her, well maybe not Beth. But the rest did. And they were happy for me. It was just going to take time, and exposure to them, for her to believe that. She had never been to their house, experienced my parents in their home. If it went well, I was going to make sure it happened more often. Ellie needed to see they accepted her. Accepted us.

The sun was shining in a clear sky and it was getting even warmer. We walked up the stairs near the dock and sat with our legs dangling over some rocks. I felt carefree again, like I did as a kid, as we sat there.

“It’s so pretty here.” I told her as I took in the water, the mountains surrounding it. She had lived her for so long I wondered if she appreciated it the same way I did.

“It is, isn’t it?” But she wasn’t looking at the lake. She was staring at me. I closed my eyes for a moment. Sometimes I still got overwhelmed with emotions, with everything that we had gone through in the last year. Last two years. Nearly three years of life changing events.

This time last year, we weren’t in each other lives. I fought hard to get her back. To make her see and understand she was worth something. Worth everything to me. I would fight hard, if need be, to keep her. She stopped my thoughts with a kiss. “I love you Jody. Thank you for staying home today.”

I smiled. Then opened my eyes. “I love you more.”

Back at the house, Ellie made lunch. She did most of the cooking, she was just better at it than I was. We picked a movie. In the theater I curled up into her, almost fell asleep. As much as Ellie needed the last few days of quiet, we needed this time together.

After the movie and dinner, I had to stop her from cleaning things that didn’t need to be cleaned. I knew this was just her, trying to keep everything in order. Her trying to keep herself in order. I usually let her be, but tonight, my selfish side was prevailing.

If you haven’t read any of Jody and Ellie’s story and happened upon this, stop. Go back and read the rest of Horizons before you read this. You will be utterly lost otherwise. Welcome to the last chapter of Ellie, Jody and the rest of their little family. Thank you for joining me on their…

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