The Sidelined Wife(14)

By: Jennifer Peel

“What’s so funny?”

Should I tell him? “I just can’t get over you coaching Cody’s team.” Not exactly what I was thinking, but true nonetheless.

His well-kept eyebrows knitted together. “I’m not a teenager anymore.”

“I guess in my head you’ll be forever fifteen.”

He let out a heavy breath and focused on the towel and water bottle I was holding. “Do you need me to give those to Cody?” His smile was long gone.

It made me realize how rude I probably sounded. “I am so sorry. What I just said was ridiculous. I’m turning into my mother.”

I noticed his eyes graze over me. “I wouldn’t exactly say that.” His smile was back.

I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I made things more awkward. “I’m sure I’ll get over the fact I used to babysit you and see you as you know, what you are now.”

This is what happens when you hide yourself away for months. I must have lost some brain cells along the way. Who was I and what was coming out of my mouth?

He stepped closer. His eyes were laughing at me. “And what am I now?”

I waved over his tall, lean body. He had at least five to six inches on me, which was weird because I used to be taller than him, but I maxed out at five-feet-eight.

I sputtered for words. “You know, a . . . grown-up person.”

His laugh was loud and in my face.

As if the heat and humidity weren’t bad enough, embarrassment coursed through me, making me feel like I had been swallowed by hell. I pushed Cody’s towel and water bottle toward him. “If you could give these to my son, I would really appreciate it.”

He wasn’t taking them. He could hardly catch a breath he was laughing so hard.

I took matters into my own hands. I would give them to Cody myself. I needed to be anywhere except where I was. I headed for the field as fast as my strappy wedge sandals would take me.

It didn’t take Reed long to come after me. “Hey, Sam.”

I ignored him. The situation worsened when several of Cody’s friends saw me and some of them said, “Hi, Mrs. Higgins.”

It was like my kryptonite. My feet froze in the sweltering summer heat. Everyone told me not to change my last name because of Cody, but I could no longer be Samantha Higgins. She had been destroyed. But to everyone, that was who I was.

“Sam, are you okay?”

I met Reed’s concerned eyes and made more of a fool of myself. “I’m Samantha Decker.” My frame shook.

At first, confusion flooded his eyes and then a softening appeared. “I always liked that name. It suits you.”

His words helped me snap out of my minor breakdown. A friendly scoff escaped. “You used to tease me about it.” Peter and him taunted me about having a “boy” name.

“I plead my brain not being fully developed yet.”

I shoved Cody’s things toward him. “I need to go.”

He partially took the towel and held it between us. “Sam, I’m sorry for whatever it is you’re going through.” He didn’t sound at all like the boy I once knew.

It was then I realized how close we stood together and how weird it seemed. I let go of the towel, leaving it in his capable hands. “Thank you. And I’m sorry for . . . well, for . . .” I couldn’t articulate a thing. What had happened to me? I had a degree in English. I sounded like I minored in stupidity.

I might have detected worry in his eyes, like maybe he should be calling someone for a mental health evaluation for me. It probably wasn’t a bad idea.

I turned to flee the scene. I made it ten feet before Reed yelled out, “I’m sorry about your Bryan Adams poster and t-shirt.”

I stopped and smiled, but couldn’t face him. I felt too much like an idiot. Cody apparently had a big mouth.

“Bye, Sam.”

“Bye,” I softly murmured.

Chapter Seven

I walked up the wooden steps to the office, still shaken about the events that had taken place at the school. I took a deep breath, or several, and admired the beautiful wraparound deck my dad and brothers built last year around the double-wide that was our office, or as my brothers referred to it, headquarters. I guess that made it sound manlier. Our “headquarters” were located just outside Clearfield near a nursery and an apple orchard. We had a deal with the nursery for discounted materials and they had given us plenty of referral business. In exchange, we gave them free snow removal service in the winter.