A whole week had passed since I met Jason. The little boy grew attached to me quickly, so much so that when Jay had to work one day Jason insisted on accompanying me on the farm. The two-year-old couldn’t do much in the way of helping me, but with sprinklers to run through and some berries in his lap he seemed content enough in the summer sun. The image twisted my heart, reminding me all too much of myself; of all the moments I had taken for granted in this very soil. Still, I answered Jason’s nonsensical questions as he threw them my way and allowed him to help when he asked, all with a smile plastered on my face.
“What’s dis?” Jason asked, pointing at one of the small bushes.
“That’s a blackberry.” I picked the ripe fruit from the stem and held it out to him, “Try one.”
Jason shoved it into his mouth, face puckering as he bit into it, “Yucky.” He exclaimed, wiping his tongue off on his shorts. It left a rather unappetizing smear of mush behind.
“Well, I think they’re delicious.” I laughed.
“Me too.” The thick southern accent made my heart skip a beat.
Christopher stood awkwardly outside of the farm gate wearing a tie; a bouquet of yellow roses clutched tightly in his hand. My favorite. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to talk to you,” He paused, eyes flickering to Jason, “I was hopin’ you would let me take you out fer lunch.”
“Why would I want to have lunch with you, Topher? You’ve been ignoring me for almost two weeks now.”
Christopher shuffled his feet, “You never tried to contact me either.”
“You accused me of cheating on you.” I scoffed.
“You’re right. I’m sorry, ‘Tina just kept insistin’ that something was goin’ on and… and I don’t know,” He sighed, “I’m sorry. I should have apologized the next day but ‘Tina said you two had a fight that mornin’ and that I should let you cool down.”
“I don’t need two weeks to cool down.”
“I know. I’m really sorry.”
His voice was small, and his lips tugged down into a frown. The apology didn’t completely quell the pain, but it was a start and I honestly did believe him when he said Christina had been the driving force behind his accusations, “Fine, apology accepted. But you’ll have to make it up to me another time. I’m babysitting Jason today.”
“You won’t regret givin’ me a second chance,” Christopher said as he walked backward, an infectious smile where his frown had just been.
“Christopher,” I called after him. He paused, eyebrows raised, “Aren’t you forgetting something?” I asked, gesturing to the flowers still firmly in his hands.
I laughed as Christopher ran to the gate, handing me the yellow bouquet. He leaned in, hot breath fanning my cheek before his lips brushed against my skin, “I’ll see you tonight.”
I felt myself flush, clutching the roses to my chest. I turned to Jason only once Christopher was out of sight, “How about blueberries. Do you like blueberries?”
Benny’s had the best burgers in the world. They were thick and juicy, stuffed with cheese and made your pores ooze with grease. In the four years I spent in San Myshuno, nothing had even come close to the savory goodness that I was experiencing right now. I practically melted in my chair, unable to stop the small groan of pleasure that swelled in my throat.
“I told you you wouldn’t regret forgivin’ me.” Christopher laughed in between bites of his own cheeseburger. He was more into the mushroom and onion deal, while I liked zero veggies on my heart attack.
I nodded my agreement, mouth much too full to speak without grossing out the entire establishment.
“Who were you watching earlier?” He asked as I stuffed two curly fries into my mouth.
I took my time chewing, anxiety bubbling in my stomach. I knew the fact that I had been staying with Jay for the past few weeks would come up eventually though, and I could only pretend my mouth was full for so long, so I swallowed and answered truthfully. “Jason. He’s Jay’s son. I’ve been staying with him since… well, you know… but nothing happened then and nothing’s happened now.”
“I believe you.” Christopher replied calmly, “Are you goin’ to continue stayin’ over there?”
Christopher knew how I felt about my parent’s house and my feeling hadn’t changed, “I’m not sure where else I would stay.”
“You could stay with me.” He mumbled, nervously moving some fries around his plate.
I had never been inside Christopher’s house before but I had been outside of the small log cabin many times since we started dating – always while waiting for him to grab fishing gear or some odd item that needed delivering – but I was still certain that it only had one bedroom, “Your parents would never approve of me living with you before marriage.”
I could see realization dawn on him, and he sighed deeply, “You could stay with Christina and our parents then.”
“Christina and I still aren’t talking.”
“You could fix that. Christina misses you, but she keeps telling me it’s your turn to mend the friendship. That she’s tried hard enough over the years.”
I took another bite of my burger, face hot with guilt, “I’ll think about it.”
And I did think about it. I thought about it as Christopher told me about Christina’s wedding plans and while I told him that the man – or boy, rather – that killed my parents had been caught. I thought about it while Christopher dropped me off at Jay’s with a soft kiss on the forehead. I thought about it as I laid in Jay’s bed that night, staring blankly at his popcorn ceiling.
I thought about it until my heart hurt and my eyes wouldn’t stay open. Because I knew what I should do. I just didn’t want to.