It felt strange to knock on this door. For so many years she'd called this place home. This was where she and Joey had returned after leaving their life in Llanview behind. It was where they'd fallen even more deeply in love. They'd exchanged vows in the gazebo out back and brought their little girl home from the hospital to the nursery Kevin had helped them create upstairs.
Joey had realized it much more quickly than she had. Her relationship with Kevin had always been different both because of their history and their rather strange circumstances. Kevin had, in many ways, saved her. When Zane was born, he could have treated her like a pariah, but instead, he accepted them both, loved them both, wanted them both to be nothing more than happy and healthy. And they had been – for a while.
They'd talked openly about Joey, about how her feelings for him had never really disappeared and he'd seemed to understand. It wasn't until Joey explained things to her, from her perspective, that she'd seen the truth. Kevin was living in his own prison – a prison they were helping to create.
She jumped a bit when she heard the door move and held Sydney's hand a little tighter.
"Hey." Kevin's smile brightened considerably when he saw her face. "You know you don't have to knock."
"The only reason I even kept a key was because of Zane, Kevin. Of course I'm going to knock. This isn't my house."
"This will always be your house," he said quietly. "I never asked you to leave – your or Joey. I never wanted that."
"We probably shouldn't get into this now." She nodded down towards Sydney who shifted impatiently by her feet. "I told Zane I'd come by today and bring Sydney."
"Right." Kevin moved over a bit to allow her to step inside. "Well, Zane had an exam today and he hasn't made it home yet, but you're welcome to come in and wait." He glanced down and met Sydney's eyes. "I just happen to have some fresh baked cookies that Megan made."
Sydney's eyes widened as she looked up at Kelly.
"She does love Megan's cookies," she sighed. "And I guess it wouldn't hurt to come inside and wait."
She laughed as Sydney ran ahead of her, making a straight path towards the kitchen.
"I miss having her around here," Kevin said as he pulled the door closed behind them and headed towards the kitchen with Kelly.
"I know you do. I told Zane she could stay over some nights if it was okay with you."
"I'd like that. She always makes me smile … a lot like her Mom." As soon as the words left his lips he could see the discomfort on her face. "Sorry," he breathed. "I don't mean to make it weird for you to be here. I hate it that you felt like you had to leave."
"We've talked about this." Her voice was still lowered, mindful of the fact that Sydney could and probably would overhear everything they said. "It's not that it was weird. It was just for the best that's all. And I still have no problem with bringing Sydney here to spend time with you and Zane. She adores both of you."
"You sure Joey feels that way?"
"I think Joey would jump at the chance to have a night to ourselves. He's been on this mission to get me to relax. I've been a little high strung lately."
Kevin poured a glass of tea and slid it across the table towards her. "Not because of this I hope? Kelly, I never wanted to …"
"No." She held up her hand to stop him. "It's not this. At least I don't think so. I think it's just everything all together. It's the new house, getting adjusted to a new place. Joey's started the new job at the paper and I'm home with Sydney a lot more." She laughed to herself. "He says I spend too much time watching Dateline."
"That's like crack for a former reporter. A photographer will never understand." He laughed in a feeble attempt to break the tension. "You obviously don't think that's what's going on though." He studied her quietly. She loved Joey. That much was obvious. Joey had loved Kelly for years and they were, in many ways, perfect for each other. But he knew her too. "What's going on?"
She sighed deeply. It might actually be nice to have another perspective. "It's just … the house … sometimes when I'm there, I swear it's like …" She ran her hands across her face. "You know even now, when I hear it in my head, it sounds crazy. I sound like the next Cramer woman poised for the looney bin."
"Hey." His hand touched her arm gently. "You're not crazy." He smiled and shrugged. "At least not the kind of crazy that gets people locked up." He was grateful to see a feeble smile in return. "What happens when you're alone in the house?"
"It's not just when I'm alone. It's at night. It's when I'm out with Sydney. It's on the way over here. I just get this feeling that someone is watching me and I hear things that sound like someone's there and then Joey goes and looks and everything's fine and …"
"And he tells you stop watching Dateline." Kevin took a drink from his own glass as he watched her nod in affirmation. "Listen, if there's one thing I know for certain, it's how much Joey loves you and if you're really worried and you really think something's going on, you need to talk to him about it. He needs to know this is bothering you and if he does, he'll take it seriously. I promise you that."
"I don't even know if I should take it seriously." She let her head fall down to the wooden table top. "Even on the way over here, I felt like this car was tailing us. How crazy is that?"
"I don't think anything you've said sounds crazy."
"Well did anyone show up with me?" She looked around and behind her. "I don't see any stalkers lurking." She shook her head. "And as much as I'd love to just be able to push all of this out of my head, I just can't seem to shake it." She could see the expression on his face change slightly. "What? What is it?"
He sat quietly, obviously hesitating before answering.
"Kevin, come on, you've never been the type to hold your tongue before. If you've got something to say, just say it."
"Have you thought about talking to someone?"
"I know you think I should talk to Joey, but …"
"Yeah, I do think you should talk to Joey, but I'm talking about something beyond that. Maybe a …"
She stood up suddenly. "A shrink? So you do think I'm crazy."
"Seeing a therapist does not mean you're crazy." He stood up and followed her to the counter. "There've been plenty of times in my life I wish I'd had the good sense to do it and you've had a lot going on the past couple of years."
"Maybe." She looked over at Sydney who sat quietly nibbling on cookies and happily drinking milk from the sippy cup.
"You're a new mom. I hear that's a pretty tough job."
She smiled. "It's a pretty great job, but you're right, maybe I do need to see someone."
"Talk to Joey. I'm sure he wants to support you and when you're tempted to just try and power through …" He pointed over towards Sydney. "Look at that little one there. Doesn't she deserve to have her a happy Mom?"
"Yeah. Yeah, she does." Her phone chimed and she glanced down at the screen and sighed. "See," she said, as she raised the phone towards him, "This is the exact kind of thing I'm talking about. Zane is waiting for me at my place because apparently that's what I told him." She ran her hands through her hair. "I can't keep anything straight anymore. I should go."
"You okay?" He could see the stress on her face and the idea that he might have contributed to it at all made him sick inside.
"I will be," she said, as she walked over and gently ran her hand through her daughter's dark hair. "We will be."
He waited at the counter and smiled at the young man as he returned and held out the yellow slip of paper.
"Can I do anything else for you, sir?"
"That'll be it. And it'll be delivered today, right?"
The man checked his watch. "I'll get it on the afternoon truck. It should get there by 8 tonight."
"Perfect." He smiled at him. "That's absolutely perfect."
The sound of the happy bell chimed as he let the door fall shut behind him. It had been a bit of a close call today when she'd almost caught sight of him behind her. He'd changed quite a bit in the twenty or so years since he'd seen her, but she hadn't changed at all. She was every bit as beautiful and intoxicating as she'd been the moment he'd first laid eyes on her. He wanted her then. He needed her then. And now, he'd finally have her.