Look The Part(4)

By: Jewel E. Ann


“Follow me.” I walk past Ellen, dodging the waves of happiness that flow from her all-too-giddy smile.

“It seems really cold outside. It wasn’t this cold last year at this time.” Ellen rubs her hands together and blows on them as we ride up the elevator.

I narrow one eye at her. “Sixty degrees is not cold in Minnesota. This time last year it was unusually warm. This is normal.”

“I moved here from California.” She lifts her shoulders to shrug and blows on her hands some more.

“I know.” I nod toward the elevator doors as they open.

“Of course.” She smiles as she steps off the elevator. “My references.”

I steal a second to glance at her from behind. As much as I don’t want to notice her subtle curves and her perky ass, I can’t help it.

“You coming?” She tosses a flirty look over her shoulder at me.

I don’t think she’s trying to be flirty; it’s just a familiar look. It’s the way my wife used to look at me. “Yes.” I mentally shake it off and follow her two doors to the left.

“Four offices total, right?”

I use my key to open the door to her space and shut off the alarm. “Yes. Mine, an optometrist across the lobby from me, and on the other side of you is an accounting firm. Here…” I step aside “…it’s ready for you to type in a six-digit code.”

She types in two numbers and then peers over at me. “You’re watching me type in my personal code?”

“My code is the master code. I can get into any of the offices. You’re not keeping me out.”

“I reuse codes.” Her lips pull into a tight grin.

On a sigh, I turn my back to her.

“Thank you.” The keypad beeps four more times.

I turn back around and push the pound key. “That code will get you in the building as well.”

She nods and roams around the empty room with nothing more than a bathroom in the far corner. A familiar hum fills the room. It’s “You Are My Sunshine.” I know it because Heidi sang it to Harrison a million times. Why is she humming that song?

“I love having a full wall of windows.”

After catching myself watching her too intently again, I clear my throat. “Any more questions before I take off?”

She turns and resumes her humming. I glance out the window over her shoulder because I can’t look at her without staring at her. Something about her has triggered something in me, throwing my control off kilter. I pump my fists a few times then glance at my watch. Maybe I can hit the gym before it’s time to get Harrison from his after-school robotics class.

“I’m good. I’ll move my stuff in this weekend if that’s okay?”

“The space is yours now. You don’t need my permission.”

“And paint?”

“Paint away.”

“Thank you.” She grins and then spins in several circles.

What the fuck?

“I love it!” She stops and hugs her hands to her chest, blue eyes alive with gratitude like I just gave her a new car or something much more exciting than five hundred square feet of space—which she’s paying a lot to rent from me.

“Okay, then.” I slowly back my way toward the door. “You have Amanda’s number, so we’re good?” This is my code for I don’t have to see you again unless there’s a catastrophic emergency.

“One hundred percent good.” She presses her thumb and index finger together in an A-Okay sign.





CHAPTER TWO





The hardest part of taking the life of another person is knowing nothing can ever make it right again.

Not a million “sorrys.”

Not the strongest glue.

Not an infinity of good deeds.

Most days I manage to fool myself into believing that my son is a gift, and that I’m worthy of raising him. But on days of complete clarity, I see that having him and loving him is my greatest punishment. When he’s old enough to make total sense of what happened to his mother, he will hate me—almost as much as I hate myself.

“I’m the only kid who eats weird stuff like this for lunch.” Harrison sips his dairy-free smoothie at the counter as I make his allergen-free lunch.

“I spent a lot of money to have you tested for allergens. Not to mention endless hours of research. You’re doing better in school, and we’re getting along better as well. So I don’t care if you’re the only kid eating healthy stuff for lunch.”

“Kids make fun of me.”

“Kids are idiots.”

“I’m a kid.”

“You’re the exception. That’s why they’re making fun of you.”

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