Concealed in my Heart
David held his daughter over his head. She squealed and reached for his hair for support. He cradled her back against his shoulder and looked accusingly at Charity. “I know what you’re doing. You want all the chips and salsa to yourself. You know it will take Suzette an eternity to eat and I won’t have a chance at the chips.”
Charity slung Suzette’s diaper bag over her shoulder and opened the front door. “You’ve got that right, buddy. When you take the ladies out to eat, you pay in more ways than one. Come on. Let’s get this show on the road.”
David found a Mexican restaurant that had an outdoor patio. He was feeding Suzette the hated green beans, when a flash went off. Both David and Charity saw the reporter at the same time. David had his long legs threaded through Suzette’s high chair so he could get close enough to feed her. His position made it impossible to get his legs untangled before the reporter ran out of the restaurant. Charity still had a chip loaded with salsa raised to her open mouth. She set the chip back on her plate.
“Well, that hasn’t happened in a while. I wonder what the headlines will be this time. Actress overeats?”
David returned his attention to the green beans Suzette had spit out for the hundredth time. He patiently spooned them back in. “You might as well eat this young lady. Daddy is not going to give up as easily as you think he is. I can spoon them in as fast as you can spit them out.”
Suzette tested his theory by spitting them back out.
David finally took the time to look up. “What can they write? We’re just having lunch. I can’t imagine what they could come up with from that to be as bad as they have been in the past.”
Charity took the spoon away from David and spooned the green beans back into Suzette’s mouth. She could see that he was suddenly too tense for the job at hand. She didn’t mean to add to his tension, but he had to know the truth. “You do realize that’s the same cameraman from Dallas. The one where if the cops ever asked, you didn’t destroy his film?”
David took the chip loaded with salsa off of Charity’s plate. He looked where the cameraman had been before stuffing the chip into his mouth. It wasn’t until he’d chewed and swallowed that he answered. “I’m not letting it ruin our day out.” He grabbed another chip. “I know of a place near here that sells the best ice cream, and if you’re really nice to me, I will ask them to add sprinkles to yours.”
Charity wiped Suzette’s face and beamed. “I love sprinkles. If you promise to have them add some whipped topping, I’m in.”
They exchanged grins and then he did the strangest thing. He ran the pad of his thumb across the corner of her mouth and then he studied the spot, as if lost in a trance. When he finally looked down at his plate of food she reached up to feel if she had something on her face. When she didn’t find anything, she tried to shrug it off as just another thing about David that she no longer understood. But when she caught him looking at her again, and as if he had never really seen her before, her stomach did a strange little unsettling flip and for a second, she couldn’t breathe.
Fortunately, the rest of lunch, and the trip to the ice cream parlor, went without further incident from the cameraman, or between her and David. Suzette fell asleep in the car on the way home, and as soon as they were in the house, Charity was able to get her tucked into bed without her even opening her eyes again. Suzette had such a sweet innocent expression on her sleeping face. Charity just stood and studied her for several minutes before finally seeking David out.
When she found him in the living room he had made them both a tall glass of iced lemonade. He had a glass in each hand, and the moment he saw her enter the room, he nodded in the direction of the deck. “It’s nice outside so why don’t we go out and enjoy the view?”
It was a simple question, but standing there and seeing how happy he looked for the first time in such a long time gave her pause. She studied his face for a moment before nodding and then following him out onto the deck. Once outside, he handed her a glass and then waited until she was seated before he sat in the chair next to her. There had been a time when she wouldn’t have noticed how close David sat, but something over the course of the week had changed between them. She tried replaying all the events over in her mind. Nothing stood out over anything else, nevertheless, there had been subtle changes that had somehow altered their relationship.
When his knee accidently touched hers, in an absurd overreaction, she jerked her leg away as if the contact had burned her. To cover that up, she began bouncing her leg as if that had been her intention all along. She suddenly felt as if she had been transferred right back in time to junior high years when everything had felt awkward and overdramatized. Finally, to put some distance between them, she stood and walked over to the railing.
That might have worked but after a moment he came over and stood next to her. He leaned his forearms on the railing and looked out at the ocean. “I love this view. When nothing else makes sense in my life, just looking at the ocean reminds me that I’m just a speck in the universe and my problems must be just as insignificant as I am.”
She mimicked his stance and stared out at the ocean too. It was such a peaceful feeling to be there. After a moment, she closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, trying to absorb everything about this serene moment. So many things in her life had been so uncertain, but for some reason it felt as if maybe everything was falling into its rightful place and as it should be.
She might have stood that way all night but David spoke. “A penny for your thoughts.”
When Charity opened her eyes, he was so near and they were almost nose to nose. Instead of backing away, as she might have done with anyone else, somehow, she didn’t feel as if he was invading her space. She was so at peace with everything and it didn’t seem odd for him to be so close, but very companionable. “They’re not worth a penny, I’m afraid.”
He flicked the end of her nose. “Then give them up, girl. You were a million miles away from here a second ago.”
She grinned shyly and shrugged. “I feel safe.” She blushed and then quirked an eyebrow. “It sounds silly saying it out loud. I haven’t felt safe in a longtime, but for some reason, standing right here, I feel safe and I have no idea why.” She chuckled and rolled her eyes. Not able to meet his eyes any longer, she turned to stare at the darkening sky.
He turned too, but bumped her shoulder with his. After a moment, he leaned over closer and whispered, “I feel safe too.”
This beautiful book is part of the collection called
A Touch of Passion (99cents)