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FORGIVENESS IS A VIRTUE – CHAPTER TWELVE

Kennedy

I sent Thornton off to do other things as I pulled out the files from Lark’s desk. Thank God, she was organized because I found Jude’s birth certificate and shot record, along with report cards and school information. I also found a folder with all of her financial information which would come in handy when it was time to settle her estate.

I continued to flip through the files and found one with my name on it. I pulled it out and opened it, finding a handwritten note written on the inside cover.

Kenny,

If you’re finding this, I’m gone. I had a will prepared, leaving everything to Jude with you as the executor and trustee. I want to be cremated as soon as possible. Don’t let my parents talk you into anything else.

I have no idea how old I’ll be when this happens, but I have to thank you for Judah. Without you, I’d probably never have become a mother.

I’ll always love you,

Lark

There was a date at the bottom that was near Jude’s first birthday. It was evident to me she never intended to tell me Jude wasn’t my son, and it made me resolute not to let anyone take him away. I needed a plan, and I needed to get my shit together now. There was no two ways about it.

I stacked the files on the desk and went to her bedroom. I went through her nightstand, gathering a few sex toys and condoms. There wasn’t anything else in there, so I went to her dresser, finding her lingerie drawer. There were some pretty risqué things in there which I tossed on the bed as well, and when I opened her jewelry box, there was a note.

K-

Take my phone as well. It’s plugged into the outlet in the kitchen by the toaster. Let Thornton take care of you, and if you start drinking again, I’ll come back and haunt you. It wasn’t your fault, so let go of the guilt right now.

L

I shoved it in my pocket just as Thornton walked back into the room with a trash bag and a box. “I put the files you left on the desk in a box and loaded it into the trunk of my car. Anything in here?”

I pointed to the bed, seeing his eyes widen when he saw the things I’d accumulated. He began filling the bag as I loaded another box with a few pictures of Lark and Jude he’d want. I walked through the house, gathering more photos and placing them in the box. The rest of it, well, I’d let her parents figure it out later.

–FIAV–

Later that night, everyone had gone except for Thornton. He and Jude had spent time playing a game while I was busy reviewing some of Lark’s files to figure things out before her parents arrived the next day. I looked up at the kitchen clock to see it was late, so I cleared up the files and went to the living room, finding Thornton alone. “Where’s Jude?” I asked.

“He was tired, so I sent him to get ready for bed. He’s in the shower. I guess I better get ready to go,” he responded.

I wanted to ask him to stay, but I was trying not to seem so fucking clingy. I did need him to be with me, though starting a relationship under the circumstances was fucking ridiculous, but I just didn’t want to be alone.

Jude walked into the living room in his pajamas, and he crawled onto my lap. “How ya doin’, Dude? Grandma and Grandpa will be here tomorrow afternoon,” I offered as he snuggled himself into my chest.

“Can I sleep with you tonight?” he whispered.

Thornton stood from the chair in which he was sitting. “I’ll be back in the morning. If you need anything, Kennedy, call me.”

Jude bolted from my lap and went to the house phone, punching a couple of numbers. “Aunt Aurora, Thornton’s leaving. I’ll turn on the light. Bye.”

I stood up and looked at my son. “What on earth was that about?”

“Aunt Aurora told me if Thornton doesn’t stay I’m ‘posed to call her. She’s coming over.”

Judah! I don’t need your aunt to babysit me,” I complained.

He looked at Thornton. “If you stay, she won’t come over.”

I couldn’t allow my sister to blackmail him through my son. “Thornton, you don’t have to…”

“I’ll take the spare room. Let me get my bag from the car.” He walked out of the house without another word and returned a few minutes later with a leather bag, shocking the hell out of me.

“Call Aurora back,” I ordered to Judah.

He laughed, as did Thornton. Jude walked over to him and the two high-fived each other. “Told you,” Jude laughed which made me smile because he’d barely spoken all day.

“Okay, when my son and my boyfriend start conspiring behind my back, I have a problem,” I stated without thinking. That fucking verbal filter…

Thornton looked at Jude and held up his hand again. “Told you.” They slapped hands, and I wanted to melt into the hardwood floor.

“Seriously? Call your aunt,” I ordered.

“I didn’t call her, Dad. I told Thorn if I threatened to have Aunt Aurora come over, you’d want him to stay, and I was right. I’m going to brush my teeth. I’ll meet you in bed,” Jude announced as he left the room after a quick hug with Thorn.

“Night, Jude.” Thorn watched him walk down the hallway with a smile on his face.

When we heard the water turn on in Jude’s bathroom, Thorn walked over to where I stood dumbfounded. “I’m sorry, love, but he wanted me to stay, and well, who could turn down that face? I was pretty sure you wouldn’t ask, and I didn’t know how to ask, so I left it to your very creative son to come up with a plan.” He pulled me into a hug, and I appreciated it.

I pulled away and looked at him. “I’m sorry I said the thing about… Wait a minute, when I called you my boyfriend, you said ‘told you’ to Jude. What’s that about? I just forgot… hell, having you here with us is so fucking natural I forgot myself.”

“I told him things were going to be fine between the two of us and he didn’t need to worry because I’d take care of the two of you,” Thornton explained with a small smile. He leaned forward and kissed me gently on my lips, teasing them with his tongue.

I couldn’t resist, feeling needier than I ever had in my life. I didn’t know where things would end up between Thornton and me, but I needed to touch him…taste him. I opened my mouth to his and pressed him against me again, igniting my body as he always had in the past. I couldn’t hold back, and it wasn’t just because of the circumstances. It was because I’d missed him so much, and after so many years, it felt so good to feel him in my arms and taste him on my tongue again.

We kissed, and it was definitely going to lead somewhere, but when I heard the water shut off in the bathroom, I pulled away to catch my breath. “I’ve gotta…um.”

He leaned forward and kissed me chastely. “It’s okay. Where are the towels? I’d like to… No, I need to shower before I go to bed.”

I laughed. “Hall linen closet. Thank you for staying, Thornton. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me,” I told him as I took his hand and kissed his palm.

He smiled at me and squeezed my hand. “I’m glad you allowed it.”

Just before he was about to walk away, I took his arm and pulled him to look at me. “If I didn’t think you’d freak out it was too soon, I’d have asked you. I need you, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.” I watched his face to see if there was any fear.

The smile gave me pause. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear that. I need you too, Kennedy. I’ve never stopped needing you.”

Without waiting for a response from me, he left the room. I heard the hall closet open and close, and when the bathroom door closed, I snapped out of it. What he’d said… It floored me.

–FIAV–

I woke to see Thornton in a chair in the corner of the room, sound asleep. Jude was cradled in my arms. It was then I remembered he’d had a bad dream and awakened with a scream. I tried to wake him before he woke Thornton, but I wasn’t fast enough. Thornton raced into the room, turning on the bathroom light and sitting down on the bed next to us, stroking Jude’s back.

“Shh, you’re safe. It’s okay, little man,” I chanted as I rocked him in my arms. Jude finally woke, and we had a good cry and both fell back to sleep. I had no idea Thornton had slept in the chair. I untangled myself from my son and rose from the bed. It was six in the morning, and Thornton’s neck was craned in a very uncomfortable way.

I walked over to the chair, placing my hand against his stubbly cheek. When his eyes popped open, I saw his concern. “I’m sorry to wake you, sweetheart, but your neck is gonna hurt like hell. It’s early. Go to bed,” I whispered. He glanced at my bed, smiling when he saw Jude sprawled out.

“He’s not a small boy, is he?” Thornton whispered as he stood from the chair and stretched, giving me a long look at that lovely body I’d missed so much.

We walked down the hall to the kitchen where I made us coffee. “I have things I need to tell you, Thornton, but before I do, I need to know your plans? What was the scene I walked into yesterday between you and Rory?” It had bothered me, but I’d neglected to ask about it.

“She told me if I was just hanging around to get you through this I should get the hell out of here. She brought up the book, and I told her to burn it. It’s not—that story isn’t the truth because I didn’t do my fact checking as I should have before I submitted it for review,” he answered me. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, but I had to be sure I understood him.

“How, uh, how so?” I prodded.

“I didn’t stick around to allow you to explain the dilemma you were in, Kennedy. I wish to hell you’d have tied me to a chair to explain it after the fact or talked to me before it happened and let me know what was going on in your head—the doubts you were having. We were young and naïve at the time, and we didn’t think things through, so I get it. Don’t get angry with Aurora. She only has your best interests at heart, love,” he responded.

I sighed, knowing he was right, so I took a chance. “I need to contact Lark’s lawyer and get the process moving forward regarding her will. She had some very definite ideas about what she wanted, and her parents aren’t going to be happy, but it’s all planned out, and she named me the executor,” I explained, worried about what I had to say next.

“I have to take a chance they won’t have too many questions because there are some things I don’t want coming out. I can’t—I don’t want to tell you because I don’t want my parents to come after you as a material witness. I don’t know how the hell I can fight them without being completely honest, and if I am, I might lose Jude forever,” I confessed—sort of.

I saw his face was tense. His jaw was pulsing as if he was grinding his teeth, Thornton’s tell that he had something to say but wasn’t sure if it was the right thing or would be well received. “You have something to say. Just say it,” I ordered.

“Fuck. Okay, but don’t jump to a conclusion before you listen to everything,” he demanded. I nodded as I poured the two of us coffee. I sat down at the table, as did he. He took a sip of the scalding hot coffee, and I saw the scowl which nearly made me laugh because he was a coffee snob, to say the least, and my coffee tastes weren’t as refined.

“Lark came to see me. She got my address from somewhere and showed up at my house last Friday night, I guess after she dropped off Jude. She told me what happened between the two of you back then, which aligned with your explanation. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe you, Kennedy, but I won’t lie and say her take on it didn’t spur me to send you the text that I wanted to talk. She made a compelling argument I couldn’t rebuke, so I sent the text that I wanted us to get together. I would have contacted you eventually, but her words sped up the process.” Thorn glanced down at the tabletop. I could see the worry written all over his face.

I was stunned she’d gone to see him, and I needed to make sure he understood one thing. “I didn’t ask her to…”

He held up a hand to stop me. “I know that. She made it very clear you didn’t know she was coming over. It wasn’t exactly friendly, our impromptu meeting, but I knew she was someone special to you, and she wanted to make things right between us, I think. That was the foremost thing on her mind it seemed.”

I wasn’t surprised at Lark’s actions; I was surprised Thorn had given her the time of day after everything that happened. “She was always, always remorseful about that shit. She told me many times that she was sorry about the way things happened, and I believed her.”

“She apologized, and she told me…”

Just then, Jude came into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes. Without any forethought, he climbed onto Thorn’s lap because he was sitting in my usual chair. I was utterly shocked when Thornton pulled him into his arms and laid his cheek on the top of Jude’s head without a moment’s hesitation.

“Hungry?” he whispered. Jude nodded without looking up, quickly falling back to sleep in Thornton’s arms which didn’t seem to bother him at all. I took in the sight of the two of them, and it looked so natural. I prayed with everything inside me it wasn’t just because of the circumstances. At some point, we needed to talk, but there was so much shit going on at the moment that I didn’t have the energy. Seeing Thorn holding my son—and he was my son—gave me a sense of peace.

To be continued…


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