Sharlee couldn’t help herself. She started crying again.
“Sweetie!” She hugged Sharlee.
Sharlee gave a watery smile. She looked very weary.
The tears came again. She badly missed Noah already. If she hadn’t been pregnant, she knew that she would never have left him. She would have stayed to work things out, but now she had their baby to think about. She didn’t understand how things had gone so wrong.
Alissa brought the milk and some cookies up to Sharlee on a tray. She was waiting in the bedroom when Sharlee came out of the bathroom. Sharlee took the milk and sipped it. She nibbled on the cookies although she wasn’t hungry.
Alissa sat there silently, wondering what had caused Sharlee to leave Noah so suddenly. She hated seeing her baby so unhappy. However she didn’t ask. She knew that when and if Sharlee was ready, she would tell them.
Noah sat in the bar. This time he wanted to get completely wasted and push Sharlee’s terrified and shocked eyes from his mind. He ordered his first of several shots of whiskey and downed it. He drank beer as well. No matter how much he drank, he just couldn’t get her face out of his mind.
Noah didn’t even glance at her. Kat looked at the empty glasses on the table and knew that there must be trouble in paradise. She decided to take a shot at causing a final break between Noah and Sharlee.
She nuzzled against Noah’s neck and rested her hand in his lap. He didn’t immediately move away. She didn’t know if it was because he welcomed her advances or because of the alcohol. Either one would work for her.
“She’s not a dollie. Sharlee’s wonderful.”
She helped him into the passenger seat of her car. Noah didn’t even protest. When they arrived at the house, Noah tried to fit his key into the lock. After three tries, Kat took it from him and unlocked the door. She was shocked by the condition of the room. The table and chairs were overturned and there was food on the floor.
“What happened here?”
Noah headed for the bedroom and saw immediately that Sharlee wasn’t there. He checked the bathroom and realized that she had left him. He couldn’t blame her. The effects of the alcohol hit him again in a rush and he stretched out on the bed. Kat came into the bedroom and smiled in satisfaction. Sharlee wasn’t there!
Even though the alcohol made him feel addled, Noah knew that Kat wasn’t Sharlee. Drunk or not, there was no way he was going to cheat on her. He loved her, and when he sobered up, he was bringing her back home. He pushed Kat off the bed.
“I know you’re both wondering what’s going on with me and Noah. Some of it, I’m not ready to talk about yet.” She closed her eyes, remembering the way that Noah had spoken to her. “I just wanted to let you know that I’m pregnant, but I haven’t told Noah yet. I’m almost three months along.”
They both offered to stay home with her instead of going to work, but she told them that she would be okay.
“Well at least come and have lunch with me today.”
Alissa asked, “What do you think is wrong?”
After her parents left, Sharlee kept going back and forth about calling Noah. Finally, she decided to call him. He should have sobered up by then, and she wanted to hear his voice. She wanted to return home and work things out. He deserved the chance to take care of his baby. They would figure things out together. She knew that he loved her and that he would already be ashamed of his behavior the previous night.
“Hello Sharlee. Noah’s busy right now. We just got out of bed, and he’s in the shower.”
Noah had heard the phone and grabbed a towel. He hoped that it was Sharlee. He’d intended to call her after he got out of the shower and his mind was less fuddled. He heard what Kat told Sharlee and his blood began to boil. He snatched the phone from her, but it was too late. Sharlee had disconnected the call.
Noah didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t need to. The chilling look in his eyes was more than enough. Kat wasn’t dressed, but she grabbed her things and fled from the house. She jumped into her car and sped down the driveway out onto the road.
She prepared their breakfast and they all rushed off to school. The shock of Noah’s cheating still hadn’t completely sunk into her consciousness.
Noah kept trying to call Sharlee back, but all of his calls went to her voicemail. He decided to talk with her in person. He guessed that she had gone to Santa Fe. A phone call to the airline confirmed it. He decided to go there and talk with her face to face. He was sorry and ashamed of his behavior the night before, but he hadn’t cheated on her. She had to believe him! He took a taxi to the bar and retrieved his bike. Then he headed to Santa Fe.
Sharlee rushed to the lobby of her father’s office, not wanting to keep him waiting. Her mind was on Noah and so she didn’t see the man coming through the doors at the same time. They collided and she caused him to drop his books and papers on the pavement.
Kristian retrieved his books quickly before the files blew away. Then he rose and looked at the young woman apologizing. His mouth dropped open in surprise. She had the most lovely, large green eyes he had ever seen. She had the face of an angel. She was gorgeous. Her face was also very familiar, but he knew that if he’d met her before, he would never have forgotten her.
He still hadn’t spoken and so Sharlee asked him, “Are you okay?”
Kristian followed her inside and saw the receptionist come from out of the office and hug her. Then Dina led her inside to Dale’s office. Kristian entered the office behind them in time to hear Dina say that Dale was with a patient but would be finished soon.
Still it didn’t dawn on Kristian who she must be. He walked past her over to Dale’s desk and pretended to examine some papers. He was trying to get up the nerve to ask her name. He felt as though his heart had been hit by a thunderbolt.
“Hi Sweetheart. How are you feeling?”
Sharlee still had not allowed the pain to seep through. She felt like if she did it would be too much to bear. “I’m alright Dad.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Where are my manners. You two don’t know each other. Sharlee, this is Kristian Palmer. He’s a pediatric intern at the hospital. He’s doing a rotation here at my office. I’m mentoring him. Kristian, this is my oldest daughter, Sharlee Hall.”
Kristian took her hand in both of his to shake it. As he did so, he noticed the wedding ring on the finger of her other hand. He’d never been more disappointed to find out that a woman was married. “It’s a great pleasure to meet you Sharlee.”
From the glow in his eyes as he looked at Sharlee and from the way he spoke to her, it was evident to Dale that Kristian was very interested in her. He sighed. Kristian was exactly the type of young man that Dale would have chosen for her. He was hardworking, dedicated, goodlooking, charming, kind and he loved children. Sometimes life’s timing stunk! Then he remembered that Sharlee had left Noah. Maybe the timing wasn’t as bad as he thought. If nothing else, Noah would realize that Sharlee had other options and he’d better toe the line.
“It’s nice to meet you too, Kristian.” Sharlee tactfully pulled her hand out of his.
Sharlee felt like it would be rude to refuse and so she left the office with Kristian. He took her to a nice outdoor restaurant nearby.
“I’ve been here for about a year and a half now. I’ve known your father for a good while. He’s a great surgeon.”
“Yes, he is.”
As she spoke those words, Sharlee felt a deep stab of pain in her heart. She was pregnant and her marriage was in shambles. She knew she couldn’t stay there in the restaurant any longer pretending that her life was fine.
“If I can help at all, Sharlee, please tell me. I know it doesn’t make sense because we’ve just met, but I feel like I know you already. You can count on me for anything.”
“Thank you. Goodbye Kristian.”
Sharlee quickly got into her car and left. She didn’t want to go home. She felt like she needed to be alone and drove to her favorite park.
Hours passed. Dale and Alissa were both home and began to be concerned about Sharlee because she wasn’t answering her phone. Sharlee had left it in the car because she didn’t want to talk with anyone.
When it began to grow dark, Dale and Shawn went out to look for her. Dale called Kristian on the chance that she might still be with him, but Kristian had no idea where she was either. Kristian was alarmed that she was missing and offered to help find her. Suddenly it occurred to Dale where she might be. He was on the other side of town and Kristian was closer.
“I’ll head to the park now and call you if she’s there.”
Kristian drove over to the park and was relieved to see Alissa’s car there. He called Dale.
Noah arrived in Santa Fe, but Sharlee still wouldn’t answer his calls. He called Alissa and told her that he was in town. Alissa had just received the news that Sharlee was at the park and without thinking passed it on to Noah. Noah headed there.
Maddie, I really appreciate you letting me use Jared/Kristian and also Caitlin/Kat!