Maddie is spending a lovely day at the zoo with Richie and his niece Tamara. They managed to discuss the Emily situation a little, once the little girl went down for a nap in her uncle’s arms.
Are you ready for more?
“I need to say goodbye to my friend!”
“Connor, wait!!” Eve called out but it was too late, the four-year-old boy had run off to find his new best friend. They’d spent an hour playing together on the playground at the zoo and Eve had been glad for the break, after a full-on day walking around. Connor’s mum, Eve’s best friend Katie, was sitting on the bench next to her feeding four-month-old Alice.
“I’ll go find him,” she told Katie as she stood and looked around to find Connor. She finally spotted him, talking to a couple and a little girl who must be the new friend Connor had been gushing about. As she got closer, she realised why the man looked familiar, though she had never seen the woman before.
“Well this is awkward,” Eve mumbled to herself as she approached Richie and his mystery woman friend. “Connor, honey, you shouldn’t run off like this!” she said, to give herself another minute.
“M’sorry Evie, but I want to say goodbye to TamTam,” the little boy replied, pointing at the little girl in Richie’s arms, whom Eve recognised as his niece Tamara. She’d met her and her parents at his house a couple of weeks ago when they’d arrived from Melbourne. Richie looked as shocked to see her as she felt seeing him and Eve managed a smile.
“Evie? What are you…”
“Same thing as you, by the looks of it,” Eve replied, taking in the sleeping child in his arms. “Connor, we need to go, your mum is waiting for us.”
“But I want to say goodbye!” Connor insisted and Eve crouched down so she was on his level.
“I know you want to say goodbye to your friend, honey, but she’s asleep,” she said with a smile, hoping he wouldn’t decide to have a tantrum about it.
In a move that surprised the three adults, Connor kissed his own hand and very carefully put that hand on the sleeping girl’s arm. “Bye TamTam,” he whispered before running back to his mum before Eve had a chance to move.
The woman stood up and held her hand out to Eve, who shook it, by reflex more than anything. “Hi, I’m Maddie. I’m an old friend of Richie’s and Tamara’s preschool teacher.”
“Eve,” Eve replied, wondering why she had never heard of this Maddie and why she was suddenly hanging out with Richie and his niece she’d only met once before…
The look on Maddie’s face made it clear that she knew who Eve was, and Eve wondered exactly how much the woman knew about her failed relationship with Richie. Was Maddie also friends with Emily?
“Here, give me Tamara,” Maddie said to Richie, picking up the little girl carefully. “You two go have a coffee or something and you know… talk.”
Eve was surprised; she had not expected that move. Richie looked at her then and she gave a brief nod.
Eve sent a quick text to Katie while she waited for Richie who was getting their coffees.
“Sorry, having a quick coffee with my ex… his niece is Connor’s new BFF”
“OMG! U ok?” came the quick reply so Eve looked over to where her friend was sitting and gave her the thumbs up.
She could do this. It wasn’t as if he’d broken her heart; he’d just… bruised it a little. They had only been together three short months when he’d spotted his ex-girlfriend hiding behind that plant at the party. She realised that was less than a fortnight ago. Funny how fast life can change.
Richie arrived with their drinks and they sat at a table in the shade. He looked good, damn him, in his white t-shirt and blue jeans. She could tell he’s had a haircut since she’d last seen him and his scruff was at that optimum level that made her knees a bit weak.
Richie opened his mouth to say something only to close it again, shaking his head lightly. Seemed he wasn’t sure what to say. Eve decided to cut to the chase.
“So you’ve seen her?” she asked, knowing the answer by the look he gave her.
“I have. The night of the book launch. It…” He sighed. “It didn’t go well.”
“Can’t say I’m surprised. I mean, she did dump you pretty much overnight and pretended you didn’t exist for a year.” Eve felt for him but at the same time wondered if he had really expected Emily to welcome him with open arms.
“I know. And I’m sorry.”
“What for? It’s not like you cheated on me the night before our wedding.”
“What? I would never–”
Eve waved a hand in a dismissive gesture. “That’s what happened to my friend Katie. She caught her fiancé in bed with her sister the night before they were due to get married. Apparently it had been going on for quite some time. They just had a baby. A little boy about 3 weeks younger than little Alice.”
“Oh my God. Your poor friend! I had no idea.”
Eve smiled sadly at him. “No you didn’t, and it’s okay. We only had three months together. Not long enough to really get to know each other. Not long enough for you to break my heart.” She meant it too. Seeing him again had proven to her that being guarded when it came to feelings was a good thing, it meant you don’t risk getting hurt as quickly.
“Eve… I am sorry.” She could tell he meant it. She knew he had believed he was over Emily. And she felt he had been, in a way, until he had seen her again.
“It’s okay, Richie. Really. Yes, I’d imagined we could have a life together, maybe a couple of kids one day. I’d hoped your mum would come around and stopped hating me eventually.”
“She doesn’t really hate you.”
“I know, it’s just that I’m not Emily.”
He flinched a little when she said the name and she noticed. She stood up then; it was time to go.
“It was nice to see you again. I hope things with Emily turn out how you hope them to.”
He stood up as well and, after an awkward second looking at each other, they shared a quick hug. They both knew this was goodbye.
S/O to Katt from Afternoon of Sundries for the help getting unstuck with this chapter. The little boy in the chapter above is named after her son, Connor, as a thank you.