“I love you, Claire.”
This was it? Good news, not bad.
I threw my arms around his neck. “Oh, Ben, I love you more than anything.”
His eyes closed as he dropped his chin to his chest. He continued to hold the steering wheel, his shoulders tense.
The dark cloud of his mood threw a heavy shadow on my joy at hearing his words. We should’ve been kissing and hugging, touching, celebrating. “For Pete’s sake, Benjamin. I love you should be followed with a kiss.” I released him, but shoved against his shoulder. “Is loving me going to be a bad thing?”
His hands dropped to his lap. “I can’t love you, but I want you to know I did.” The muscles in his temples flexed as he clenched his jaw tightly.
Prickly tentacles crept across my chest, quickly closing in on my throat. “Whatever do you mean by that?” I gasped and touched his arm.
He opened his eyes and faced me with watery blue pools. “Susan is pregnant.”
The words assaulted my ears like some foreign language, having nothing to do with our conversation. “I don’t understand.”
“Oh, honey.” He took both my hands into his. “I was seeing Susan before…” He gulped and shook his head.
“Well, yes, but how did this happen?” I still needed a translator, a meaning to words totally incongruous to our situation. Benjamin had just told me he loved me, and I responded in kind.
“Susan and I –”
“I know how!” I jerked away from him. “I mean, why?”
“Why? I don’t know why. I don’t know anything except you.” He drew me into his arms, hugging me, burying his face in my hair. He breathed deep, one hand on the back of my head and the other holding tight to my waist. His breath escaped raggedly.
I succumbed to his desperate caress while my mind raced. This had nothing to do with us. Susan’s life was her problem, not his. Not ours.
“Benjamin.” I wrapped my arms tightly around him. He kissed my neck through my hair. “Benjamin, why can’t this be Susan’s problem?”
He gave me one last hug, and loosening his grip, brought his face a mere inches from mine. His eyes were watery and once he’d lifted his face from my neck, I felt dampness in the hair against my skin. “Because I was there. Susan didn’t do this alone.”
“But…but you can’t love Susan.” My voice, soft as a whisper, didn’t betray the rising fear boiling up from the pit of my stomach.
He gripped my arms with emphasis. “No, I don’t.”
My stomach calmed a bit, the fear at a simmer. “Does she love you?” I had to convince him his thinking had clearly gotten off course.
“No. I mean I don’t think so.”
“Is she demanding you love her?” Love was everything. Without love, this wasn’t our problem.
“No…” His hesitation cheered me on.
My panic churned barely below the surface as I led him down the path of reason. “Well, then, Benjamin, why –”
“Claire, I’ll have to marry her.”
“Marry?” I choked on the word. My fear and panic erupted. “Oh, God, no. Benjamin!” The tears toppled over the rims of my eyes and flooded my cheeks.
“It’s the only thing to do.” His voice shaky, his eyes pools of darkness.
“No, it’s not!” As more tears fled from my eyes, Benjamin’s mournful face grew sadder with my words. “This is her problem.”
“You know it isn’t, Claire.” His words were thick and strained. “I have to take responsibility.”
“No, Benjamin, no!” I slapped my palms to his chest as if I could stop this madness with a physical barrier. “No, you don’t.”
He encircled my waist, gently caressing, and my tantrum played out.
I balled one hand into a fist and hit his chest. “Why? Why do you always have to do the right thing? Why?” I swiped away tears so I could see him clearly to glare into his face.
His chest heaved as he stared into my hostility with calmness. “You wouldn’t love me if I didn’t.”
Honey On White Bread Buy Links:
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Visit Brenda at www.brendawhiteside.com.
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She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at http://rosesofprose.blogspot.com
She blogs about prairie life on her personal blog http://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/