Veronica had been nervous about seeing Tim again for weeks. She’d purposely avoided stopping by the school for anything. Every other year she’d volunteered in Charlie’s class, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it with Tim as his teacher.
But she couldn’t avoid him any longer. They needed to talk.
“I need you to stop encouraging Charlie to be a truck driver when he grows up. He comes home every day talking about it and it can’t continue.”
Tim crossed his arms over his chest, pulling his shirt tight to his body and making Veronica lose her train of thought. She still remembered how those arms felt wrapped around her, the sound of his heart pounding against her ear, and the taste of his bare skin. Not that she let herself think about such things often. No, Veronica was focused. Determined. She was no longer the carefree girl she once was.
And not even Tim could make her forget what really mattered in her life.
“I don’t encourage anything. I simply listen to Charlie tell me about how great his dad is and agree that he should be able to do whatever job makes him the most happy.”
Pain pierced Veronica’s heart at Tim’s words. She knew Charlie wanted to drive trucks like his daddy, but she thought it was something he’d outgrow. She never imagined he’d be so focused on the one thing that scared her the most.
“I need to sit down,” she said, suddenly feeling lightheaded.
“Are you alright?” Tim asked, sounding a mix of pained and pissed.
Veronica shook her head. “I’ll be fine. I just need to figure out how to handle this.”
“Not that it’s any of my business, but why are you opposed to Charlie driving trucks for a living? If he wants to be like his dad, he should be allowed to dream that.”
“His dad is a dream. He died six years ago. Driving his truck. Charlie doesn’t even remember him.”
Tim dropped into his desk chair and gawked at her. His mouth opened and closed like a fish, trying to formulate some sort of response, but Veronica knew there wasn’t one.
“You’re not married?”
Veronica shook her head. “I kept wearing my rings because I didn’t have any interest in dating with Charlie being so little. Now… I guess it’s just habit to keep them on.”
“You’re not married,” Tim said again, quieter, almost reverently.
Veronica looked up at him, her eyes meeting his. She saw all the things she longed for in his gaze. Desire. Need. Want. Passion.
Her cheeks heated and her skin tingled at the idea of being with Tim again. When she allowed herself a moment of weakness, her thoughts always went back to Tim. Yes, she’d married another man, but Tim was her first love. The man she compared every other man against. The man she would have followed to the ends of the earth.
And he was back. Sitting in front of her looking like he hadn’t forgotten any more than she had.
“I can’t do this. You’re Charlie’s mom. Not Veronica. You’re the parent of one of my students. I will do what I can to deter Charlie from wanting to be a truck driver, like his dad, but I can’t make any promises.”
“He likes you. He respects you. You could tell him to do anything and he’d listen. Just pull back on the truck driver thing,” Veronica replied, ignoring Tim’s first statements.
“You’re still beautiful,” Tim finally said. “God, V, I never forgot you.”
“I never forgot you either.”
“But you got married.”
“I didn’t think you were ever coming back. I tried to move on with my life. He always knew though. That there was someone else. We never talked about you, but he knew.”
“I’m sorry,” Tim said, sounding like he meant it.
“Me, too. He was a good man. He didn’t deserve the half-assed attempt I made at our relationship. But he wasn’t you. I couldn’t hide that.”
“Jesus, how are we going to get through this? It’s been eleven years but it feels like yesterday.”
“There’s nothing to get through, Tim. Nothing is going to happen. Charlie is my priority now. He’s the only man I have time for in my life.”
Veronica couldn’t let Tim know how much she’d thought of him over the last few weeks. She wasn’t strong enough to let someone else in, but she knew in her heart Tim was already in. He never left. He took up residence years ago and never moved out.
But she couldn’t tell him that. She couldn’t be vulnerable again. Not with him. Not when the pain of losing him the first time nearly killed her. Not when she ran straight to Charlie’s dad’s arms when she accepted Tim really wasn’t coming back. Not when she only ended up getting pregnant with Charlie because she’d been too foolish as a young girl to realize Charlie’s dad was just as messed up as she was.
And she couldn’t ever let him know the truth about how Charlie’s dad really died. Or who he was with when it happened.
“Charlie’s lucky to have you. I can’t help but wish he was mine. Every time I look at him, I see little bits of you, and I wish I could see me in him too. I wish I’d never left. Or that I’d convinced you to come with me. It’s my only regret in life. And the reason I came back. I came back for you, V. The job is a perk, but I came back hoping I’d get a chance to fix what I screwed up all those years ago. Except this time, I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to wait until you’re ready to let me back in. Then I’ll spend the rest of my life proving to you that I’m worthy of you now. That I won’t leave you again.”
Veronica sucked in a deep breath, one that didn’t come close to filling her lungs. Tears burned the backs of her eyes and emotion she hadn’t felt in over eleven years clogged her throat. She’d dreamt of hearing those words. For eleven years.
But could she trust them? Could she trust him?