I told Dalton I needed to make a quick pit stop at the bakery for more of Ellie’s cookies since three to myself over one weekend is apparently not enough. How many can my travel bag fit? Maybe I could freeze them to uphold my new addiction for the next month.
Rex skips beside me, seeming mesmerized by all the bright colors around him. We stroll past an art and craft store with the quirky name Color Me Happy. Yesterday, Dalton bought Rex a mini lighthouse to remind him of Nantucket.
Just as we are about to make it to sweet heaven, the devil woman herself struts out of the jewelry shop across the cobbled street. I slow my steps, not sure if I should say hello or pretend that I didn’t see Claudia. I’ll have to face her next week anyhow. Best to get the confrontation over with.
Claudia waves and calls out to me, “Pam.” She quickens her pace toward us.
Her dress is a deep cherry red. Her wraparound dress hugs her body like a second skin and is tied around her neck with thin straps. How does she look that good at her age? Her face bears not one wrinkle either, but the leathered skin on her neck proves she’s spent thousands on surgery.
Dalton’s mother won’t travel on the ferry home but arranged a private boat just for her. She sure doesn’t care about wasting money. That amount could’ve been donated to the charity or at least spent more on Ellie’s cookies.
Claudia gives Rex an unusual smile. “Oh, this is your little one.” She bends at the waist. “Hello, sweetheart. Are you feeling better now? I heard you’ve been unwell, you poor thing.”
I’m lost for words. I didn’t think Claudia had a heart of flesh to want to know how my son was doing, let alone show any kindness toward him.
Claudia straightens and pulls back her shoulders. “Now it all makes sense to me.”
“What makes sense?” I ask cautiously, not sure if she is here to start an argument or actually express concern for Rex’s well-being.
Claudia stares deep into my eyes like she knows something I’m unaware of and smirks. “Your son is a little cutie, and now I understand why Dalton would even consider getting involved with you. It’s his charitable heart.” She stills the gift bag swinging on her wrist. “He had a romance with a single mother once before. He was won over by the little girl but realized it would never work out due to the difference in social status. His kind heart had gotten the best of him again. He felt the need to help the mom out, not because he loved her, just that he wanted to help her situation.” She eyes Rex once more. “Anyway, now it makes perfect sense.”
Claudia’s words have a bitter aftertaste, but they’re a much needed warning.
Claudia glances at her smartwatch. “I’ve got an appointment for a facial before I leave the island. See you at the office next week.” She gives Rex a sorrowful look. “Take care, sweetheart.” She tilts her head and looks back at me, her expression all serious. “I’m worried about your heart too. But more for your little boy. What if he gets attached to Dalton, and then he comes to realize he’s made a mistake? That’s not fair on your son. You need to put your boy first and protect him from unnecessary heartbreak.” The words are steeped in maternal care, as though Claudia is a concerned friend rather than a hostile enemy. Her tone is gentle and soothing, “From a mother to another, I think you know that this thing between you and Dalton is not going to end well. Before you sink too deep, and both you and your son’s hearts get broken. It’s best if you walk away while you can.” She touches my shoulder. “You’re a smart woman, Pam. You must know what I’m saying is common sense. Put your son first.”
Claudia drops her hand, gives me a sad smile, and turns on her heel. She power walks the cobblestone street, leaving me in wonderment.
The sun disappears behind a cloud, leaving a cold crispness in the air.
I did enjoy Dalton’s company, and Rex adores him, but it’s a dangerous situation, and I need to protect both our hearts.
Claudia’s words do make sense. I didn’t know about Dalton having another relationship with a single mother. It’s true—Dalton didn’t have feelings for me before meeting my son.
Rex tugs on my arm. “Are we getting the cookies, Mommy?” I glance at my son’s large brown eyes and understand how any person would be besotted by him. He’s full of zeal, and he accepts everyone. Dalton isn’t falling in love with me. He sees me as a struggling single parent, and Rex has no father around. Dalton thinks he has the means to fix my problems. Claudia is right. He’ll wake up one day and realize he’s made a mistake. I need to protect Rex from getting attached to Dalton.
The ferry ride back to the mainland seems longer, but I’m thankful for the time it gives me to think. I had let my guard down and let Dalton in, and now I’m worrying about the consequences of my actions.
Thankfully, he’s on the outside deck enjoying his last moments of the vacation while I sit in the cabin area, scrolling for employment on my tablet. I need to find another PA job and fast. How can I work closely with Dalton, seeing him every day after all we shared this weekend? How can I erase the memories and leave them behind on Nantucket Island?
Rex is asleep in his seat, exhausted from the long days we’ve spent outdoors. My heart squeezes as he sleeps peacefully. He needs a stable father figure in his life–I can’t risk getting involved with someone who won’t be around next month.
I swallow against the lump of emotion that clogs my throat. This isn’t fair to Rex—he deserves better than a broken heart. He deserves happiness and stability so he can thrive with no worries or fears that someone he loves will eventually disappear from his life without warning.
I blink back tears as I make up my mind—it’s time to end things with Dalton before it’s too late—for both Rex and me.
I scroll through my tablet for any potential job openings in our area. Unfortunately, none of the available positions pay what Dalton offered me for his PA, so I’d be taking a huge pay cut if I accepted any of them. Still, I send off multiple applications anyway. Hopefully, someone will call me back soon and provide some form of steady income until I can find better employment.
Claudia will give me a good reference as she’ll love to see the back of me. Although today, she did seem sincere, like she wanted to save my son from heartache. She must have a good side to her.
I spot a job posting for an administrative secretary opening at a local law firm. It pays less than half of what Dalton would give me, but it’s close to home, so there wouldn’t be much commuting involved. I quickly upload my resume and start typing a cover letter.
A looming figure casts a shadow over my tablet, and I glance up to see the disapproving face of Dalton. His tight-lipped expression tells me he’s seen the jobseeker website. A million excuses flood my mind, but no matter how hard I try to conjure them up, there is no satisfactory answer for why I am looking for another job when we both know I had no intention of leaving anytime soon. He fixes his penetrating stare on me, leaving me speechless.