“You’re kidding right?,” Jim asked her.
“Jim, I see now that I can’t drag you and Richard into this mess with me. It’s not safe. I would never forgive myself if something happened to either of you!,” she told him firmly.
“Cillay, when you get to know me better, you will see that I am not the kind of man to leave you alone to face this situation. You’re staying with me!,” he told her just as firmly. “We’ll get you a restraining order against Tony.”
“No!”, Cillay cried. “He’ll know where I am.” The thought of Tony’s anger terrified her.
Jim agreed to honor her feelings, but decided that he would bring the subject up again at a different time.
Without realizing what she was doing, Cillay laid her head on Jim’s shoulder. He placed his arm around her.
“Jim you know so much about me now, but I don’t know much about you.”, she told him. “How did you end up here in Mesa Valley?”
“I’ve lived here all my life.,” “Of course, I went away to college, but I always knew that I would return here to live. I love the raw beauty and the warmth. It’s a small town where everyone pretty much knows everyone else’s business. Of course, it’s not perfect, everything can be improved. That’s why I went into politics. I wanted to make things better. I actually love my job.,” he told Cillay.
“You probably wonder what happened to Richard’s mother.,” he went on.
“Yes. You haven’t mentioned her; and I did wonder where she is.,” Cillay said.
“It’s not a pleasant story.,” Jim said. “Her name is Gwen Bustamante. She also grew up here in Mesa Valley. We dated off and on through high school. It wasn’t anything serious. Then when I returned here to Mesa Valley after college, she was working in the same office as I was. “
” We started dating. Again it wasn’t anything serious for either of us. We just enjoyed each others company, and there were a lot of social functions that we were required to attend as a part of our jobs. It was just easier to go as each other’s date. ,” Jim paused remembering. “One night we both had too much to drink. Long story short, Gwen ended up pregnant with my child.”
“What I hadn’t known is that Gwen had developed a drug problem. The doctor had discovered cocaine in her system during her first prenatal exam. I got her into a drug treatment program and she remained clean during her pregnancy.
After Richard was born, she told me that she did not want to be a mother. She did not want to be tied down with a child. We went to see a lawyer, and she gave up all her parental rights to Richard. She packed up her bags and left town. I have not seen nor heard from her since. So it’s just Richard and me now.,” he told Cillay.
“It sounds like it worked out for the best for Richard. You’ve done a great job with him. He seems like a very happy baby boy.,”Cillay said.
“Thank you, Cillay.,” Jim said. “I’ve always wanted to be a father. So even though the circumstances of his birth were not ideal, I’m very glad to have Richard.”
“Richard is adorable. You’re very lucky to have him.,” Cillay told Jim, thinking of her own lost baby.
Jim saw her expression, and it stabbed his heart. He took her hand, and looked into her eyes.
“Cillay, I am so deeply sorry that you have had so much pain in your life. I can tell that you are a gentle and loving person, and you deserve so much more.”, he told her sincerely.
When Jim looked into Cillay’s eyes, he had unknowingly revealed more of his feelings for her than he had intended to reveal. Feelings that he himself was unaware he had for her. He was in love with Cillay.
Cillay wasn’t ready. His emotions overwhelmed her, and she jerked away from him.
“I’m sorry, Jim.,” she apologized for her reaction. “I really appreciate what you said.”
“There is no need to apologize, Cillay.,” Jim told her.
He sensed that she was leery of letting him get close to her emotionally. He definitely understood why, and decided to try not to make her uncomfortable with him.
It was getting late, and Richard’s babysitter was expecting him to be home soon.
“Why don’t we head back home now.,” he suggested.
After they returned to the house, Jim sent the babysitter home and played with little Richard, while Cillay prepared dinner.
She decided to prepare something simple. She cooked goopy carbonara, a recipe she had invented herself. She had often prepared it for Tony and herself, and she hoped Jim would enjoy it too.
Jim came into the kitchen just as she was placing it onto a serving platter.
“That smells wonderful.,” Jim told her. “What is it?”
“It’s my own special recipe. I call it goopy carbonara.” Jim sat at the counter watching her move around the kitchen.
Somehow, it just felt right having her here with him and Richard, and he realized suddenly, that he never wanted her to leave.
Before he could examine his feelings further, she placed a plate of food before him.
“This is really good.,” Jim said, eating with relish.
After they finished cleaning the kitchen, Jim remembered that she had never answered one of his questions earlier.
“You never did tell me how the job hunting went today.,” he told her.
Jim considered for a moment. ” Can you type?”, he asked her.
“Yes. Quite well actually.”, she answered.
“They can always use someone to file and type around my office. You’d probably have to run errands as well, but at least it would be a start. I’d be glad to give you a recommendation.”, he told Cillay.
“That would be wonderful Jim!” She was so happy that she kissed him, surprising both herself and him. Cillay immediately blushed and apologized.
“I’m sorry, Jim. I shouldn’t have done that!,” she said.
Cillay returned his smile. “Well, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll turn in. It’ll be nice to sleep in a bed again.”
Jim stood staring after her, lost in thought. Her kiss and her hug had left him longing for more from her.
He realized that he wanted more than her friendship, much more. He recognized that he was in love with Cillay.
“Can she ever feel the same about me?”, he wondered to himself. He went to check on Richard and then went to bed.