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The Fake Out: Chapter 63


Our love is like diarrhea,

I just can’t hold it in.

—ELENA S.

I found a woman sleeping in the library.

She was in the children’s section with a little boy of about three who was also asleep. I didn’t recognize her, although it was hard to see her face the way she was curled around the child. It didn’t feel right to wake her.

Two hours later, the little boy wandered over, his big blue eyes sleepy and confused. Something about him seemed so familiar, but I couldn’t place him.

“Haffa go potty.” He rubbed a hand through his dark hair.

“Let’s go wake up your mommy.”

He took my hand and we walked to his mother.

“Miss,” I said quietly, hoping not to startle her. “Miss.”

She startled anyway and immediately went into a panic. “Oliver? Oliver.”

The little boy’s face scrunched. “Mommy, I right here.”

“Oh, my goodness.” She snatched him up in her arms and held him close until he squirmed and complained he wanted to get down.

“Is everything alright?” I asked.

She set Oliver down and stood, brushing her hands off on her faded jeans. It was the first time I got a good look at her face. I gasped.

“Ellie?” I whispered. She looked just like the photo Chris had shown me. Long blonde hair, oversized blue eyes, very pretty in a girl-next-door way.

“Surprise.” She twisted her hands at her waist.

“H-how?” Without too much thought, I hugged her. With a sigh, she returned the hug.

She pulled back and smiled. “I’m sorry. I know this is kind of sudden, even a little weird, right? We drove all the way here from Los Angeles the last few days. I’m so tired that my head’s all jumbled up. And driving with a three-year-old. Phew. The potty breaks alone. And then just all of West Texas. Who would even live there?”

She paused, blushing slightly. “Sorry. I’m making this weirder now.”

I smiled. “What in the world are you doing here?”

“I don’t know.” She bit the corner of her lip. “I’ve been talking to Chris, who tells me he’s fine but then I talk to Betsy and she says he’s miserable and I hated that thought. I guess I wanted to tell you I’m sorry. I feel like my foolish actions are the reason for all this.”

“He’s been miserable?” I leaned against a bookcase.

“That’s what she said but in more words. You know Betsy, she’s a talker.”

“Oh.” My heart did a small flip.

“I just hate that him protecting me turned into such a huge mess. And I was so tired of L.A. It was a foolish dream of mine when I was a girl, going out there. I was such a baby. Only eighteen. Plus, I have Oliver now.” She ruffled the boy’s hair. “So I packed us up and we drove… here. Seems a strange place for me to come, now that I think of it. Sorry, I talk to myself sometimes. And other times, no one can follow what I’m saying. Sometimes I get lost in what I’m trying to say.” Her forehead crinkled. “Short and sweet, what I wanted to say was I’m sorry.”

I grinned. “In a way, you’re the reason I met Chris, so maybe I should be thanking you?”

Her head tilted to the side. “Either way, I’m happy to meet you, Mae Sampson.”

“And I’m happy to meet you, Ellie Sterns.”

Oliver tugged on her leg. “I go to the potty. Now.”

Ellie gave her son a firm look. “What do we say?”

He sighed. “Pwease. I go to the potty now.”

“I’m sorry,” Ellie said. “I should take him.”

“Of course.” I directed them to the bathroom and wandered back to my desk.

I was starting to think my life was likely never going to go back to the way it was before Chris. Some things might still be the same, but I was not.

My texts to Chris that night were all about his sister:

Me: I met Ellie today. She’s lovely.

Me: Found her and her little boy, Oliver, sleeping in the library. Isn’t it funny? The same way I met you. I didn’t yell at her though.

Me: She’s staying in town at the hotel for a few days to figure out a plan.

Me: Just thought you’d want to know.


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