Authors: Anne Conley
Published by Anne Conley.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.
Cover by Vanessa Booke
Edited by Catherine DePasquale
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarities to real persons, living or dead are purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
As always, I would like to extend a special thanks to my writing group, Vanessa, NJ, Suellen, and Katie, for their encouraging words and helpful suggestions. I’m not sure where I would be in this process without them. Thanks ladies, and I hope to meet you in the “real” world someday.
Falling For Him is dedicated to married couples everywhere, who have managed to get out of the “funks” of their marriage and keep on truckin’. It’s also dedicated to my husband, who has supported and encouraged my writing.
Table of Contents
Amy was distracted. Sitting on bleachers full of people cheering on her son’s Junior Varsity football team, she should have been full of pride. Brad was doing well, starting quarterback. But she couldn’t get her mind off Cool_Hand_Luke. She yelled when the people around her yelled, she stood when they stood, she kept her eyes on the field.
But their last online conversation kept popping back into her mind.
He wanted to meet her, and she’d put him off. Again.
They’d met on an online movie website, in a chat room about
From Here to Eternity
, one of Amy’s favorite movies. It was one of Cool_Hand_Luke’s too, and they’d begun a friendship that had escalated quickly. Amy didn’t know exactly how it had happened, nor did she know what to do about it. And if she was honest with herself, she wasn’t sure she wanted to do anything.
Her sister Kathy plopped down next to her, a cardboard bowl of chili-cheese fries in her hand.
"Hey you. How's our boy doing?"
"Not bad for his first time starting. I thought he might be nervous or something, but he's playing well." Amy stole one of her sister's fries, thankful for the diversion. "Those are so good. Who knew fake cheese could be so delicious?"
"Yeah, I can't miss one of my nephew's games, or else I would miss out on my weekly allotment of cheese-in-a-can."
Kathy was Amy's younger sister, and they resembled each other, red hair, blue eyes, freckles. To Amy, that's where the resemblance ended. She herself was a mother of two kids pushing forty, and her body reflected that. Her breasts and butt drooped, her thighs jiggled, and she hid it all with jeans and t-shirts. Her sister, though, had never had kids, was six years younger, and took care of her body. At thirty-two, Kathy looked dynamite. Amy just looked like a housewife.
Amy told herself it didn't matter. She loved her kids more than she wanted a body like Kathy's.
Kathy bumped Amy's shoulder playfully. "What's wrong? You look tired."
"Thanks, every girl loves to hear that." Amy smiled wryly.
"Sorry." Oblivious to the male eyes watching her, Kathy stuck another French fry in her mouth, sucking on her thumb to get the chili off.
"Well, I am tired, so there."
Amy sighed. "Where he always is. At work. He'll probably be home after the game, though. You want to come have dinner with us? Roast and mashed potatoes."
"Nah. I got to get home and call Luke."
"How are you guys doing?"
"I don't know. We're okay, I guess."
Now it was Amy's turn to nudge her sister's shoulder. "What gives?"
Kathy ate another fry, and the man sitting on the bleacher bench below the women was unabashedly watching her as she licked cheese off her fingers.
"I'm ready. He's not. What else is new?"
"I thought y'all were exclusive?"
"Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Yeah…" Kathy mumbled, picking at the fries now instead of eating them.
"I'm almost thirty-three, Amy. I want kids someday soon. He doesn't. I just don't see where this can go." She tossed the fries to the side, uneaten. The man who'd been watching so eagerly looked disappointed before turning back to the game.
"Have you talked to him about it?"
"Yeah, he shuts down every time."
"I totally understand that." And she did. Amy and Bryan hadn't talked about anything that Bryan didn't want to talk about in years. Whether it was why he didn't participate more in the kids’ activities, their own bedroom activities, or money matters, Bryan simply told her that she needed to handle things. He was too busy working. He was always too busy. "Do you love him, Kathy?"
Kathy looked at Amy, her blue eyes turning to big watering pools. "Yeah, I do."
"Well then, y'all will work it out," Amy answered vaguely. The truth was, she liked Luke and wanted to see him with her sister. But her own marriage was less than perfect and she didn't see herself giving relationship advice to anyone, especially since she had started some weird sort of online thing with somebody else.
"Where's Ashley?" Kathy adeptly changed the subject.
"She's supposed to be here." Amy perused the sparse crowd. Not many people showed up to the Junior Varsity games, just parents mostly. "But I don't see her. She’s grounded and was supposed to get a ride here after dance class."
Just then, the crowd rose to its feet with a cheer, and Amy rose to see over the heads in front of her. Brad was streaking down the field for a forty-yard touchdown.
Pride dispelled her ineptness at giving love advice and her rising anger at her daughter. Amy listened to the small crowd cheer for her son and joined in.
By the time the game was over and Amy was driving Brad home, anger at Ashley for not being there was replaced by worry and fear. She had toyed with the idea of letting her have her cell phone for the evening, just in case something happened, but Amy knew her daughter would just take advantage of the opportunity. Now she didn’t have a way to check up with her. She knew her daughter had probably just gone home instead of the game, but she couldn't quell the nagging fear in her gut. She kept telling herself that if Ashley had been in an accident, then somebody would have called her.
When she got inside, instead of freaking out, which was what she wanted to do, she called up the stairs, "Ashley! Come help me finish dinner!"
By the time Ashley deigned to come downstairs, Amy had already heated up the potatoes, and had the broccoli steaming. "Mash those potatoes while I throw together the salad. Brad is setting the table."
Ashley didn't respond, but grabbed the potato masher and started pounding the spuds like she was trying to kill a bowl full of water bugs.
"You said you were going to the game tonight."
"Homework." Mash. Mash.
"You can do your homework at the game. It's important for you to support your brother. He gets dragged to your recitals."
"Whatever." Mash. Mash.
"Ashley, we’re going to have more consequences for your actions, if you’re not going to uphold your end of deals like this."
Ashley threw down the potato masher and turned to Amy, fury in her eyes. "I hate football. I don't like the games, and I don't want to go. I had homework. I figured it was okay as along as I came home to do my homework."
As thankful as Amy was for the enormous sequence of words her daughter spoke to her, she still had to restrain herself from an ugly retort. "Be that as it may, I'm sure Brad doesn't love dance, either. But he still shows up to support you, when you dance in front of people. We are a family, and we need to support each other."
"Dad doesn't have to go. Why should I?"
Amy sighed. This was a popular argument. "Your dad works, honey. When you get a job and contribute to the household income, we'll sit down and talk about your role in these sorts of functions. But until then, you need to do what we tell you."
"Dad has never told me to support my brother."
Amy didn’t know what to say to the predictable line of argument, so she changed the subject. "Where is your dad?"
A shrug of her shoulders was the only response, before the lanky seventeen-year-old turned back to her potatoes. "These are done," she said, before picking up the bowl and setting it on the table with a bang.
Amy finished the salad and put it on the table next to the bowl of broccoli and the roast. Brad was already seated, waiting eagerly. Poor kid was always starving to death. "Bryan! Dinner!"
She turned to see her husband come into the kitchen, his tie loosened and the top couple of buttons un-buttoned. His brown curly hair was disheveled, as it usually was this time of day. Amy presumed it was from stresses of his job, and Bryan running his hands through it all day long. Bryan was still in relatively good shape, even after eighteen years of marriage. He moved with the grace of a former athlete.
Amy and Bryan had been high school sweethearts, he a star basketball player and she a cheerleader. They had been the perfect high school couple, Homecoming King and Queen, Prom Sweethearts, etc. They had stayed together after high school and accidentally gotten pregnant before Amy finished getting her college degree. They'd rushed their plans and gotten married right away, instead of waiting until after college, Amy forgoing her education. She didn't mind, though. She was working toward a degree in teaching, but she'd really only wanted to be Bryan's wife and have his babies. She'd honestly thought that her life was perfect, even without the degree.
Of course, Bryan finished his Associate's degree in Architectural Design and got a job as a draftsman at an engineering company in town, working on drawings for commercial projects in the area.
He'd worked his way up in the company, a smallish mom and pop outfit that had been in business forever, and now he was lead draft man, which in his words, meant that he did all the work of the engineers, he just couldn't affix his engineering seal to the documents, because he wasn't an actual engineer.
"Tough day?" Amy walked over to him and rose on her tiptoes to brush a kiss across his lips.
He grunted in response and fell into his chair at the table. Brad and Ashley were already seated and serving themselves food.
Amy sat in her chair across from Bryan and enquired about everyone's day, trying to keep the conversation light. When she told Bryan about Brad's forty-yard touch down, he looked up with a tired smile on his face.
"Way to go, son."
"Thanks, Dad. You should have seen it. Kendrik recovered a fumble and passed me the ball, and nobody else was watching, so I just ran with it. It was awesome."
"Was the other team any good?" Bryan raised his eyebrows as he took a huge bite of roast with mashed potatoes slathered on top of it.
Brad shrugged, "They were okay."
"Well, good job. I'm proud of you. I'll make it to a game one of these days." Amy gritted her teeth instead of asking him when he planned on going. He had yet to make good on that offer.
They finished their meal, making idle chit-chat about their day, the lumpy mashed potatoes and requests for different recipes. Amy admitted she was stuck in a rut with the food thing, and promised to look online for some new things to feed them.
That night, after doing the dishes and watching the news, Amy woke Bryan where he was dozing in the recliner and ushered him to their bedroom. He was taking off his clothes, and she followed behind him putting them in the designated spots for dry-cleaning and laundry.
"Ashley has been giving me some problems lately."
"Oh?" Bryan yawned loudly and scratched his stomach, before pulling the covers back and sliding into bed.
Amy slipped her nightgown over her head. "Well, she’s still grounded for two more weeks, and today she was supposed to get a ride to Brad’s game. She came home instead. She's got to do what she says she's going to do."
Bryan grunted and rolled over in the bed when Amy slid in next to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Will you talk to her for me?"