(First, stop right there! Did you read Chapter 5 of our South Boston romance serial novella yet? If not, read this first! )
WHEN OLIVIA was in third grade, Lindsey Tyler’s mom died. She was called to the office via the loud speaker interrupting spelling class. Olivia watched a look of recognition pass over Lindsay’s face upon hearing her name then quickly replaced with embarrassment as she exited Mrs. Skinner’s classroom at St. Theresa’s School. A month later, the class gathered the Friday before Mother’s Day to dedicate a cherry tree recently planted in the rectory’s courtyard in memory of Mrs. Tyler. Lindsay stood next to Mrs. Skinner, holding hands. At that moment, Olivia watched longingly, fantasying that her own mother had died and that she was the one holding the teacher’s hand and the center of attention. This habit of inserting herself into other people’s lives began that day. She would look at bleak situations through a rose colored lens in return for being seen.
ON THE BACK patio of Roza Lyons, Steve told Olivia that his wife Michelle was away for the weekend visiting a friend in Kennebunkport. Planting the seed, thought Olivia. He also revealed, in a carefully calculated way, that their marriage was less than perfect. After nearly 25 years of marriage, he confessed that is was on the verge of collapsing.
“We got through go periods and bad periods,” he lamented. “This is one of those bad periods.” He described bickering alternating with bouts of silent treatments lasting for days and raging outbursts brought on by too much alcohol consumption blended in for good measure.
Steve’s description of Michelle did not not match the woman Olivia saw in the hallway or watering plants on the front stoop. Michelle was pulled together. Bold prints with artfully placed statement jewelry or sleek yoga wear with on trend sneakers. This is how Olivia saw her. The Michelle that Steve described was broken and unhinged. Flawed and imperfect.
Olivia found her mind drifting to what it would be like to wake up next to Steve every morning. 800 thread count sheets and a black slinky slip to sleep in. The shape of his outline quietly snoring next to her.
Steve took a sip from his beer. Olivia stared at his face, trying to look closer. The lines in his skin mapped out his past on his face. Each line represented a memory. A memory she wished she was a part of. She wanted to be seen by him. To catch is eye and capture his attention, even only for one night and to later creep into his memory when he least expected it – sitting at a red light, watching the game, having dinner with his wife.
He was self-assured and had the confident swagger that handsome middle aged men possessed. As they stood underneath the patio lights talking, the air around them felt charged. Casually between sips of beer, he would let his hand linger on her forearm before quietly pulling it away. She felt unsteady. She was crossing the line and she felt vaguely ashamed.
The back door to Roza Lyons opened and Maddy appeared. She was visibly annoyed.
“So this is where you’ve been,” she said. “Well, hello, Steve. Is our rent late?”
“Hey, Maddy. How are you?”
“Fabulous,” answered Maddy.
The normally bubbly and effervescent Maddy, now had sharp edges. It was clear to Olivia that Steve had an appetite for women other than his wife.
An awkward silence surrounded the trio on the now empty patio area.
“So are you coming back in. You left me with Jimmy and company and he thinks you passed out in the bathroom.”
“No, I bumped into Steve and we were talking,” said Olivia looking down at her clogs.
“Talking about what?” asked Maddy with a raised eyebrow.
“Jesus, Maddy. Are you her mother?”
“No, Steve, I’m not.” Maddy glared at Steve.
“Small talk, Maddy. That’s all. Just catching up,” added Steve.
“I’ll bet.” Maddy gave Steve a slightly dirty look then focused her attention on Olivia.
“Seriously? I came here because of you and then you flake out and just leave me with the guy your stalking,” said Maddy.
“I’ll be right in. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was out here for that long,” said Olivia. She could feel the weight of Steve’s stare.
“Please, do. Jimmy mentioned something about going across the street to The Broadway. So come on!” With that, Maddy spun on her heels back into the cloud of noise of the very packed pub.
“She’s a real peach,” said Steve.
“I should probably get back inside. It was nice talking to you.”
They stood their for a moment and then he leaned in and kissed her. Without hesitation, she kissed him back. His hands felt the curve of her back and then slipped casually down to her ass. He cupped the soft flesh in his hands. Heat rose inside her and she wanted more of him – all of him – but pulled away instead.
“We’re just having a good time,” he said quietly into her ear no doubt in reaction to Olivia’s expression. He tenderly kissed her on the lips. “Let me run to the bathroom and we can walk home.” There was an ease and familiarity to his command. He turned and walked back into the bar.
Olivia stood alone and the heavy truth of what she was taking on woke her from the spell she was under. She left the patio and started walking down K Street. Then she began running as fast as her clogs would allow. When she got to the end of the street, she texted Maddy.
I had to go. Don’t hate me.
As if being pulled by a magnet or maybe it was muscle memory, she found herself walking down Seventh Street. The city planted trees were budding and blooming spring greens, pinks and purples. The air was warm and she could see the crescent moon in the sky and then she stopped. Olivia stood outside their old apartment. Uninvited.
Okay, Next readers! Where does this story go next? Will Olivia text Paul and Paul will invite her up? Will Olivia Text Paul, and Paul tell her to leave? Will Jimmy text Olivia asking her to meet him? Or will Steve be waiting for Olivia when she returns home? Go to our Instagram to vote!