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Our Secret Moments: Chapter 28

CAT - GOOD DIFFERENT

MAYBE IT’S the fact that this is the second year in a row where I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my dad. Or maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by people who care about me and are there for me no matter what, but this night feels extra special.

As soon as I took Connor’s hand, I knew I should have asked where he was taking me, but part of me is wanting to see where just hoping for things to happen will get me. Which means blindly following him into the backyard of the Bailey’s lodge until we reach a secluded bench tucked away between bunches and tall trees.

It’s probably the only place we’d be able to get privacy this weekend. Stealing secret kisses on the hike was risky, but he has this weird ability to make me want to take those risks. To stop trying to be a picture-perfect girl and just do whatever I want. And doing whatever I want includes being curled up in Connor’s lap on a dusty bench as we both look up at the clear night sky, constellations shining down on us.

I feel so completely safe and comfortable with him that I’m not concerned when we’ve been sitting down on the bench for almost ten minutes, neither of us saying anything, just enjoying the other’s presence. It’s weird when I think about it.

On paper, he’s exactly the type of guy I would forbid myself from dating or even having a crush on. He’s popular, he’s handsome, he’s annoying, he’s cocky when he wants to be and he’s sarcastic. But he’s also sweet, caring and gentle and he makes me feel like he’s always going to have my back as long as I have his. When I started on my project, this was the very last thing I was anticipating would happen.

“I come here every year, but this year it feels different,” I whisper to him.

“Good, different?” he asks me, his voice thick with emotion.

“Yeah, a good different,” I say back.

I look up at him and he’s looking down at me like I’m the brightest star in the galaxy. The small tug of a smile on his lips makes me realise just how hard I’ve fallen for him.


As much as being with Connor feels like one of the best things to ever happen to me in a long time, he loves to torture me.

After helping Emma and Mark set up the dinner table with Nora, singing along to old R&B songs, we’re all sitting in the dining room and Connor’s large hand is resting on my thigh under my dress.

For the last ten minutes, the skin to skin contact has made me feel like my head has been spinning. No one has noticed or even cared to ask why his chair is so close to mine, but Nora’s chatter about Waitress fills up most awkward pauses.

The way she tells a story is so engaging that you have to keep your eyes on her at all times so you don’t miss anything. I’ve always wondered if people just have that natural ability of being able to tell a story in a way that leaves you wanting more.

Once she’s told everyone at length about her new year’s resolution – which is going to be trying to stop watching Hamilton three times a week and try to settle for two – Emma’s red-cheeked smile wanders over to Connor.

It’s probably the raging mommy issues I have, but there is something so special about Emma Bailey. She literally looks like an angel and she acts like one too. She’s always got something funny or sweet to say. She always has an abundance of good advice even though she’s not that old.

Most importantly, she’s always there for Connor and Nora and the rest of us too. As much as all our parents got along, I always thought that the other parents resented Emma and Mark because they were so young raising the twins and they never seemed to complain. They got lucky in the kid department and Connor and Nora got lucky in the parent department. They act and they seem like a true, real family, which is why being here hurts as much as I love being included.

“What’s your resolution going to be, Connie?” Emma asks, resting both of her elbows on the table, dropping her head into her hands. Connor clears his throat beside me and I slip my hand under my dress to rest on top of his, squeezing his hand slightly.

“Good question,” he hedges, laughing nervously.

This is his family. He doesn’t need to be nervous around them. Or is it me he’s nervous around? I can’t tell.

I used to think that he was lying about needing help talking to people. An egotistical part of me even thought he was doing it just so he could hang out with me. But there’s something deeper underneath the Connor that I know that’s holding back something that could be bigger than the both of us.

“I’m going to try to work harder on and off the pitch to make sure my game is as good as it can be next season,” he explains. Emma’s face tilts, her mouth immediately forming into a frown. “What?”

She shrugs, shaking her head, but Mark answers for her. “How about we do it differently this year? There’s only five of us anyway. Let’s make resolutions that aren’t related to school or work. Can we do that?” We all nod in agreement and Nora lets out a long sigh. “Em, do you want to go first?”

She nods happily. “I am going to take better care of our garden. It’ll give me something to do when I’m not teaching,” she replies.

Mark slams his fist on the table, dramatically and all of our eyes widen. “Thank god for that!” he exclaims and we all burst out laughing. I swear he’s one of the most dramatic people I have ever met. “I’ve been pretending to digest these Brussel sprouts all night. They taste like shit, honey.”

“Whatever,” Emma says, pushing him away with one hand as he tries to kiss her on the cheek. “What about you, then? Because if your resolution isn’t taking regular showers, I’ll have to pull out the divorce papers. Again.”

“Touché,” Mark mumbles, sliding back into his seat. I take a bite of my crispy potatoes as he thinks. Connor’s hand rubs absentmindedly on my thigh, his thumb drawing circles on the apex of my thighs. “I’m going to finally start doing couples yoga.”

“With me?” Emma beams, clasping her hands together as she blinks up at him. Nora snorts beside me.

“Who else?” Mark retorts.

“I don’t know. You could have hoes,” she responds, mumbling and we all burst out into hysterical laughter.

When we’ve all settled down, Nora puts up a fight about how her Hamilton obsession technically counts as her hobby and part of her degree, but her argument is too weak and her mom makes her change her resolution. Instead, she vows to volunteer more regularly at the animal shelter. Connor decides he wants to read more fiction books and I decide to take better care of my physical and mental health with more self-care days and less studying.

I love moments like these where everything just feels so right. There’s no negative energy. No one is talking about oblivion or trying to sour the mood with sad memories. It feels like we’re living in the present, trying to get somewhere that isn’t where the bad memories have been held.

For so long, I’ve felt like I was being held back by my past and the grief, but now I finally feel like I’ve stepped out of the quagmire and I’m finally living again.


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