Love in Disguise Ch. 1

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Mom

Michael was sitting at the kitchen table staring at an unbreakable Winnie the Pooh dinner plate when I walked in the door, and I knew right then that I was in trouble. ‘You are five hours late,’ he said before I had even locked the door behind me, and all I wanted was to walk out again. ‘I should have been at the hospital three hours ago. I made a dozen phone calls to get someone to fill in for me while I did not get a single call from you.’ I took off my shoes and got myself a drink of water. Michael was sitting with his back to the sink and I tried to conveniently hide in the space between him and the faucet, but he did not make it easy on me. ‘Meanwhile, your son expected you to be home for dinner and refused to go to bed without a good night story read by you,’ he continued, standing up before he started pacing the floor.

The first cascade of words was over as Michael restricted himself to walking around restlessly, obviously searching for words that would make it more than clear to me that I had put him in a bad position today. Putting my empty glass in the sink, I looked at him. Michael was the most responsible and qualified babysitter I had ever had. More than that, he was a great housemate and friend. Years ago, when I first had met him after answering his ad in the paper, his daughter Briana was eight years old and my son Daniel only four. I had driven across town to look at the big house he owned and to make up my mind whether I could share a house with other people. But I had fallen in love with that old Victorian house right away, and Briana was so good with Danny, and Michael seemed really nice, and so we set up that really complicated contract, found two more single parents plus their kids to move in, and we had lived more or less happily for three years.

With the help from everybody involved, I had been able to finish my graduate studies of criminal justice and the training for the police department in the city. With so much help, I was able to get a full time job as a detective two years ago. Likewise, we all helped Michael out when it came to his crazy schedule. He had been working in the ER of a local hospital at first but then changed jobs to a more prestigious hospital across the river. For about two years now, he worked crazier hours than me. Looking at him now, I could tell that the job had an effect on him. He had lost weight. And he constantly had this frown on his face that told me he was really stressed.

I sat down on the chair where he had just sat a few minutes ago. I rubbed my eyes from a long day and ignored the pain in my shoulder. ‘What is going on, Mike?’ I asked quietly as to not trigger the anger he still had inside of him. He shook his head as to sort out his thoughts, raising his hands in an effort to describe everything he felt in a single sentence. ‘I cannot go on like this, Liz,’ he finally burst out, and he folded his hands behind his head, leaning against the fridge with the back of his head. ‘Three years ago I had to find roommates because I could not afford this house otherwise. Now I can, and I did not think that Pat and David’s move would affect me so much. But they were the only normal people in this house.’ He turned around, looking at me while shaking his head. ‘I mean, look at us. While we were all over the place every day, they stayed home and were ready for our kids when they came home from school. I never had to worry about making breakfast, packing lunch, arranging after-care, or just finding qualified people to watch over the kids. Now, I don’t only have to do that but I also have to swap kids with you whose schedule is totally unreliable. All of the sudden I have so many things to worry about. Damn it, Liz, I don’t even know if I can go to work tomorrow.’

I looked at him as he lifted his arms, sat back down in his chair and brushed through his brown hair with all ten fingers at once. I had seen him upset, stressed out, angry, and sad numerous times, but never before had he lost control over a missed night at work, especially since he himself was known for calling to say that he would not make it home for another six hours or so. ‘What else is going on?’ I asked, watching him open his eyes again to stare at the wall next to the sink. ‘Yesterday, my boss Paul told me that he would make me senior physician if I was interested, beginning in two months, and Melissa has set an ultimatum recently. She wants to have a more serious relationship, meaning she wants to move in, get married, and have some kids of her own.’

Stunned, I sat for a moment, not knowing what to say. Images of laughing little children, running up and down the stairs flashed before my eyes. I saw a beautiful woman, perfect in every aspect even though I thought she was a bitch. And her gorgeous husband, the physician who just got promoted which catapulted him into a record high of yearly salary, prestige, and good luck. There it was, his dream, flashing before my eyes. And I could only wonder why it made me depressed to even think about it. ‘But escort kartal that’s great, Michael. This is all you ever wanted,’ I said, trying very hard to shoo away the clouds that started to darken my mood rather rapidly.

As for him, he looked at me as if he was in pain, and suddenly I could not stand being in the same room with him any longer. I wanted to take a look at my sleeping kid and then go to bed. Suddenly, I could feel again how tired I was. ‘I don’t know what I want, Liz. Right now I feel like I have no clue about anything any more.’ I stood up, too tired to take it any longer. It wasn’t envy that I felt. I did not know what the hell it was but I knew I was too tired to figure it out right there and then. I placed my right hand on his shoulder as to let him know I was still there and listening. ‘It will be okay, Baby,’ I said. ‘It’s just a lot of changes.’ I wanted to walk on as he suddenly put his hand on mine and held it there on his shoulder. Intending to just say good night, I started to open my mouth but out came a low cry of pain as my shoulder was moved backwards.

Michael was up on his feet before I even comprehended what had just happened. Before I could even open my mouth again he had unbuttoned my shirt and pushed it over my shoulders until it fell to the ground behind me. The cool air hit my skin suddenly and my nipples hardened and became visible underneath my white bra. The pain was still there, however, and Michael had taken off the bandage to look at my shoulder. Without hesitation he took a hold of my arm and moved it back and forth in different ways until I cried out again and pushed him away with the other arm. ‘That hurts, damn it.’ I said. As he reached for my shoulder again, I made a step back. ‘Listen, I know you cannot help it, but I spent four hours in the ER down in the city. Believe me, I had a doctor look at this and I will be fine. Now please put this stuff back on so that I can go to bed.’ He touched me again but this time his fingers were gentler. He didn’t let go of my shoulder as he moved close behind me so that his body supported mine as he carefully moved my shoulder again. ‘What happened, babe?’ he asked, and since he did not hurt me anymore, I relaxed a little and leaned against him. ‘It doesn’t matter. Just tell me I will be okay,’ I murmured as I closed my eyes and enjoyed the warmth coming from his body. ‘You’ll be okay,’ he said, ‘it’s only a minor cut, hurtful but not too deep.’ As his fingers stopped touching me, he wrapped his arms around my waist and hooked his thumbs in my pants. ‘You are just a very lucky lady,’ he whispered into my ear. ‘And I will kill you if I ever have to get you from the city because you got seriously hurt.’ I smiled at this. ‘Don’t worry, by that time I will have moved out and you will have three more kids to think about.’

What was being said in a matter-of-fact fashion had the effect that Michael abruptly stepped back and away from me. ‘I do not want you to move out!’ he said, and he started to pace the floor again. ‘But Michael,’ I said like I was talking to a little child, ‘there is no way Melissa and I would live here together.’ Just the thought of it made me sick. The way she was with Michael made me sick. The way she touched and kissed him in front of everybody made me sick. Her sweet talk and her pouting lips whenever she did not get what she wanted made me sick. There was no way I would watch her move in here and decorate my room with Mickey Mouse borders. ‘There is no way I stay here if she moves in,’ I said very matter of factly, and we stared into each other’s eyes for a moment until I shrugged my shoulders. ‘When she moves in, you will have a babysitter for all your kids, and a more reliable one as well. I will no longer be needed and you will get to work on time – every day.’ With that, I picked up my shirt and walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs into the bathroom. The last thing I heard before closing the door behind me was him yelling ‘You will not move out!’

* * * * *

Since Pat and David had fallen in love with each other and moved out half a year ago, Michael and I had worked out a schedule that was convenient for both of us. The only drawback was that it only worked if there weren’t any last minute schedule changes as far as work was concerned. Needless to say, there were so many changes every week that we needed to find someone else to watch our kids in an emergency situation where neither of us was home.

After a few weeks of searching, we found a woman our age who was happily married, had three kids of her own, and provided daycare in her home. Her name was Debra, and she was very nice and not at all upset about last minute calls. So today I was on my way to her house with Briana and Danny in the back of my car. I had to leave for work at 5pm to make it to the city by 7pm, and Michael had called to let me know that he would not be home until 6pm.

‘How long do we have to stay at Debra’s?’ asked Briana with her arms crossed in maltepe escort front of her chest and an evident attitude. She had just turned 12 years old and had transformed into a teen princess who was peculiar about everything. I looked at my watch while I turned into Debra’s driveway. ‘Michael said he would be home by 7, so I guess he will pick you up no later than 8.’ I stopped the car, got out and opened the door to let Danny out. He grabbed his backpack and ran to the front door. Of course, he loved coming here since the TV was on all the time. And Debra’s oldest son had a great collection of Pokemon cards on top of it. Briana, however, got out of the car slowly. She thought everyone in Debra’s house was ‘immature’. ‘He always says he will be home soon but then he calls to say he’s sorry to say it will be even later.’ We stopped by the open door. ‘I am sure it is hard for you with his schedule and all. But he said he will be home soon and I know he loves you very much.’ Briana just shrugged her shoulders. ‘Yeah, and soon he will ask me to call that girl-friend of his mommy.’

‘Why do you say that?’ I inquired, trying not to sound alarmed. ‘I overheard him say to her on the phone that he thinks she should not move in for another while because he has too much on his mind right now.’ I raised my hand and touched Briana’s hair. ‘Well, then you can stop worrying about it for a while. You don’t have to call her Mom, I’m sure.’ ‘I won’t! No way! I won’t call anybody Mom!’ And with that she turned around and disappeared inside.

The drive back through town and towards the thruway was slow when I suddenly realized that I had forgotten some important papers at home. I took a side street and got to the house in two minutes. Parked behind Melissa’s car, I jumped out and ran up the driveway. Passing Michael’s truck right in front of the garage, I could tell he just had gotten home. In my mind I congratulated Melissa on her timing. Somehow she always knew when Michael got home, unless she had waited for him by the corner all afternoon.

Opening the front door and leaving it open, they did not hear me come in. I, on the other hand, heard them just fine because they were arguing. Oh great, I thought, trying to avoid Michael’s room and running upstairs to grab the report. Nevertheless, I heard her yell. ‘We have been together for two years. How can you not be ready for a commitment?’ I could not hear Michael’s response. In my room, I looked through the papers on my bed. Apparently, they had come out into the living room because now I could hear Michael speak. ‘I just have so much else to think about right now. It wouldn’t be fair to have you do all that moving by yourself. Also, I am not sure if Briana is ready for such a change.’ Listening involuntarily, I grabbed the report I needed and stood up, ready to run downstairs and out of the house. I heard Melissa’s voice. ‘It’s Liz, isn’t it?’ I stopped abruptly, holding on to the banister. ‘What do you mean?’ Michael asked. ‘What do I mean?’ She was so theatrical that I could see the gesture of her arms in my mind. ‘She hates me. I am sure she would do anything to not have me in this house. She is jealous, you know.’

I heard Michael plopping down on the couch. ‘Don’t be ridiculous, Mel. We live in the same house, that’s all.’ She sat down next to him. ‘Well, then it won’t be hard to tell her to leave.’ There was a silence. Then: ‘I will not ask her to leave.’ I knew that tone in his voice. He was getting annoyed, and if she had any brains and knew him at all, she would back off now. ‘Look, all I am asking for is more time. I am stressed out to the max and I cannot make any big decisions right now. As far as Liz goes, I want her to stay. Don’t ask me to choose between the two of you. She is my friend. We have a history together. And I will not kick her out of this house.’ Apparently, he got up and walked into the kitchen. She must have followed him because their footsteps grew quiet.

Thinking that this was my chance, I walked down the stairs slowly, ran through the living room quickly, and put my shoes back on in the hall. ‘Maybe you should marry her then and forget about me,’ Melissa said very loudly as she came back into the living room to get a bowl of crackers that she had left on the couch. Shaking my head, I ran out of the house and escaped the scene just in time. What a nut, I thought.

‘Danny, don’t scream please! Let your Mom sleep!’ Too late, I thought as I got out of bed and looked at the alarm clock. It was 7 in the morning and Michael was getting the kids ready for school. Briana walked by my room and down the stairs. ‘Hurry up, Briana, or you will miss your bus.’ ‘That would be just fine,’ she replied. ‘What are you wearing? Take this off! You will not go to school wearing this skirt!’ Briana walked back upstairs, muttering all kinds of obscene words directed at her father and passing my room in a totally revealing outfit. While she changed in her room, Danny ran into my room to kiss me good-bye. pendik escort bayan ‘Have a good day, sweetie! I love you!’

When the school bus had left and I was sure I could not go back to sleep while Michael was home, I got up and walked downstairs in my nightshirt. Michael was standing in the kitchen doing the dishes, and I sat down at the table. ‘Did you see the skirt Briana was wearing?’ he asked without turning around to face me. Without waiting for an answer, he added ‘I don’t even know where and when she bought that…thing.’ I did not say anything but grabbed Danny’s used bowl, poured cereal into it and reached across the table for the milk. ‘Good morning!’ I said then, watching him turn around and force a smile. ‘Morning, baby.’ He looked at me for a second and then reached behind him to get a clean spoon which he then handed to me. Damn it, I thought, he looks so good. He wore his oldest blue jeans and nothing else. And the button fly wasn’t buttoned all the way, either. He had left the top one unbuttoned and I couldn’t help but look at him more closely.

I had no idea when he found the time to work out or do any kind of sport, but he was very fit and his body was muscular. There was no gram of fat on his body as far as I could tell, and even though he appeared tall and lean I could see that he was also strong and used to physical work. The light brown hair on his chest became a small line as it traveled down his flat belly and finally disappeared under his pants. I started mixing the cereal and thus forced myself to focus my attention on the bowl rather than on him. ‘She is just going through a phase,’ I said, trying to pick up on what he had said last. ‘What? Who? Oh, Briana…’ he made, and it occurred to me then that he probably thought I was talking about Melissa. Michael sat down across from me and folded his hands on top of the table. ‘Well, whatever it is she is going through drives me crazy! Why would she go to school dressed like a … whore?’ I shook my head. ‘That’s not it – the make-up, the clothes, and her spending hours in the bathroom these days… I think it’s all a way to impress boys at school. She is a beautiful young woman and she begins to try out what kind of effects she can have on boys.’ ‘Great! Now I can worry about boys. Hell, she is only 12. I thought I would have at least a couple more years!’ He stood up and carried the empty cereal bowls to the sink. ‘She does not listen to me anymore, but can’t you tell her that she does not have to use make-up and other stuff to be pretty… I hate that shit!’

I finished eating and drank the rest of the milk out of the bowl. ‘And how am I supposed to do that? Just because she does not think you understand her right now does not mean she just does whatever I say,’ I said, grabbing a napkin and wiping the milk out of the corners of my mouth. ‘You could point out to her that you don’t wear make-up because it’s not good for your skin or something.’ He paused, obviously thinking hard. I could hear the wheels turning. ‘Or tell her that there is such a thing as natural beauty and that make-up is just a mask to hide behind.’ He lifted his hands out of the warm dishwater and made a gesture that sent all the bubbles on his hands flying around. ‘Damn it, just have her look at you. You are so beautiful, without any make-up, fancy clothes, or wonder bras, and you feel good about yourself. You are a strong and healthy woman who does not pretend to be something she is not. I want Briana to be that way.’

Michael let the water out of the sink and dried his hands off before he watched me putting my bowl into the sink next to him. ‘Look at you: you don’t need a fancy short skirt or high heels. You are breathtaking in a blue nightshirt from JC Penney.’ I looked down at myself. ‘Victoria’s Secret,’ I said, after a long pause. Could it be that I had bought this shirt four years ago? No, it couldn’t be, I decided, but made a mental note to go clothes shopping very soon. When I looked up and into his eyes again, he looked away quickly and dropped the towel he still had held onto. ‘Well, I have to go to work,’ he said meekly and turned away from me. How convenient, I thought. Now, that he had told me that I am beautiful after three whole years of knowing him, he had to make his escape with such a lame excuse. I felt like tying him to the kitchen table to make him say more great things about me.

For the next couple of weeks, work went well, Danny didn’t get sick, and our schedules worked out without any complications. It was a great Spring day in May when I drove home on the thruway with the windows down and a smile on my face. I suddenly thought about the approaching summer vacation and its own special problems. Without asking Michael, I had put in for one week in early July. I wanted to take Danny camping up in Maine. The last couple of years, Michael and I had taken vacations on different weeks so that the other one could work and not worry about the kids. This year, however, they asked me about vacation early at the precinct, and I just needed a vacation as soon as possible. The hell with what Michael thinks, I thought while turning up the radio to sing to the song that was on. He will have a couple more kids and a housewife on top of that; I did not have to worry about him.

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