Yes, it's the end. Thank you for sticking with Cami, Grant, Petey and I for thirty-six weeks.
Now, I just have to decide what's next for Fiction Friday...
Petey raced down the beach, chasing the tennis ball Grant tossed. Cami laughed out loud to see the dog’s joy at being able to run again. Two weeks had passed since Kyle’s attack. She was slowly finding her way to a new normal. Just like everyone else.
The wind blew a strand of hair into her eyes that she brushed out, not wanting to lose the vision of this man in khaki pants, white shirt, and a silk tie with forks full of twisted spaghetti marching across it, as he tried to throw a ball for her barking dog while not getting all sandy.
Grant was spending a few hours with her and Petey before boarding a plane for Houston. He was out for the season but needed to be with the team. The trainers said he was coming along quicker than they’d expected, due to his peak physical condition as an athlete. He and Cami knew that only accounted for part of it. The rest was thanks to God and His mercy.
Kyle had spent a night in the hospital, concussed from the knife block. He’d been released to a mental health facility in the San Fernando Valley. According to Detective Bermudez, Kyle still insisted he and Cami were in love and blamed a conspiracy between Grant and the police for keeping them apart.
Janis had hired a top Orange County attorney for him. The deputy district attorney said Janis was making more problems for Kyle than she was solving by insisting Cami had encouraged him. Because of the police reports on file about the SUV vandalism and the dead bird, among other things, the evidence was on Cami’s side.
Church was tough. The kids stared at her; some of the parents, too. But most people had been kind, approaching her to say they were praying for the whole situation. A new crisis should emerge any time that would take the stage away from her and Kyle. Pastor Mike had been great, discouraging gossip and giving enough details so people didn’t need to ask questions.
Grant and Petey moved a little farther down the beach. Every so often Petey would stop and look back. Once he found her, he’d return to running and barking. He’d gotten braver in the last weeks. He only needed occasional reassurance that she was nearby. Petey’s new courage mirrored her own. She no longer checked under the Tahoe for hidden thieves, rapists, and kidnappers before getting in. At least during the day and in crowded areas. Dr. Segress said it was okay and plain common sense to do it at night and in lonely parking lots.
Raised voices drew her attention to a couple on a nearby blanket. “I can’t believe it,” the man said. “How long are you going to keep this up? And then what? Do you get there’s going to be a then what?”
The woman stood. “It’ll be fine. Can’t you trust me for once?” She stalked away down the beach and he followed, still talking.
The man’s words echoed in Cami’s head. “And then what?”
She had to think about the next step.
A future with Kyle in it frightened her. But she couldn’t depend on herself and her alarms, the police, or even Grant to keep her safe. That was God’s job. She repeated that to herself again. “There is a God. And I’m not Him.”
She must have spoken louder than she thought because the tousled-haired boys in front of her turned to stare. She smiled and looked away. Grant and Petey had reversed and were nearly back.
“Did you say something?” Grant called.
Cami indicated the beach and the dog and the kids building a sand castle. “This is nice.”
“I’ll miss it.” He threw the ball hard, skipping it along the edge of the surf. Petey was learning too. He now ventured into the lapping water, but once the white foam reached his belly, he retreated.
Cami was seeing her therapist again. Dr. Segress was helping her learn how to distance herself from feeling responsible for Kyle and his obsession. And to truly forgive Patrick and move on. And to think about the “now what.”
“Does he ever get tired?” Grant joined her on the beach towel as Petey bounded up to them, pausing to shake off sand and water droplets before dropping the ball to the ground.
“I think he’s making up for the lost time when he stayed with you. I can hardly get him to leave my side.”
“I sympathize and understand completely.”
She smiled. She’d stopped feeling embarrassed by Grant’s affection and was able to accept his comments for what they were: verbal affirmations of his feelings for her, not an attempt to manipulate her into returning those feelings. Therapy worked.
“I have to leave soon,” he said.
“I know. I’ll miss you.”
Grant reached for her hand. “So much has happened to us in such a short time.”
She sighed and sent a prayer-thought heavenward. She needed to say some things to Grant. This is a part of the now what. “I spent a lot of time angry with God for what happened to me. I blamed Him. I blamed myself. And when I met you, I used that blame and anger as a shield to keep you from getting too close.” She looked away, focusing on the horizon where the blue sky lightened and melded with the sea. “But I’ve learned that no matter what happens, God is faithful. He brought you into my life when I needed you. And I’m so glad.”
The words were out before she could second-guess them. But they were the right words. “I love you.”
His head whipped around. “What did you say?”
She laughed. “You heard me.”
“I thought I was supposed to say that first. Then you would blush and maybe in a month or two you’d be able to maybe sort of almost whisper the words back.”
“Haven’t you heard? I’m a new woman. You might not even know me, much less love me.”
“Oh, I know you all right.” He lifted her chin with his fingertips. “And I love you, too.”
She closed her eyes to receive his kiss. And to welcome him. Their lips touched and a new feeling flooded her. Peace. She did love this man.
After a long moment Grant pulled away. “I have to go.”
“It’s okay.” She smiled into his eyes. “You’ll be back.”