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America's Sweethearts

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December 2011

 

            Where is that bitch's phone number, thought T.J. He sat the bottle of vodka down and went into his mother’s office. He found her address book and flipped through the pages until he found it. Kristen Dupree-San Diego, California. The number listed was a cell. He was surprised his mother still had Kristen’s contact information. She hadn't lived in D.C in almost five years, however his parents were still friends with her father and he must have passed it on. It might not even be the right information anymore. He didn't care what time it was in California he was going to give her a piece of his mind. You did this to me. All your fault, thought T.J.

            It took him a few times to dial the number right, it was hard to see the numbers and his hands were shaking. He went back into the dining room for the bottle and took another pull from it. He could hear it ringing on the other end. It took a few moments before the phone picked up.

            “Hello,” she answered and despite not hearing her voice in years he knew it was her. T.J took another swig from the bottle before speaking.

            “Wow you sound really happy. You happy Kristen?” asked T.J..

            “Who is this?” asked Kristen confused.

            “Don't play dumb it doesn't suit you,” said T.J. and he took another drink.

            “T.J...How did you get this number,” hissed Kristen.

            “I wanna know how you did it? Do you get a voodoo doll, pay a Gypsy to curse me...fuck did you pay him to sleep with me?” snapped T.J.. You knew. You knew somehow and I hate you. Damn I hate you.

            “What the hell are you going on about?” asked Kristen.

            “You told me that one day you hoped that I fell in love and that he hurt me the way I hurt you. Well congrats you got your wish. Took five years, but it happened,” sobbed T.J.. Damn it get your shit together. I want someone else to hurt a little and maybe she still does cares. No matter what she said in New York. There was a long silence on the other end before she sighed and he could almost see her rubbing her temples to stay calm.

            “T.J...” it was the hint of pity in her voice that drove him back into the rage. He wanted her to care, but not the pity. God he didn’t want her pity he wanted her to be hurt too. She doesn’t hurt for you anymore because she doesn’t care. You saw to that, said some reasonable part of his brain and T.J tried to shut down with another pull from the bottle.

            “I loved him and he...he doesn't care. Went back to his wife and kids for Christmas. No one wants their fuck buddy for the holiday. I hope you're happy,” spat T.J..

            “I'm not happy that someone hurt you T.J.,” said Kristen calmly.

            “Don't lie it's insulting!” mocked T.J.. It was what she had told him in New York that his lies to her were the biggest insult she had heard in her life and it pushed her back into being mad.

            “What the hell do you want T.J.? Thought I made clear after New York that you and I weren't friends anymore!” T.J. finished the bottle of vodka.

            “Don't worry. You won't be hearing from me after this. Just thought you want to know I got you a Christmas present,” laughed T.J. bitterly. She doesn’t care anymore...no one cares about you. No one really loves you and why should they?

            “What do you mean?” asked Kristen. Shit, thought T.J.. She was always too damn smart for her own good. Why did he even call her to start with? They hadn't spoken since New York. Not since she cut him out her life. You didn't give her a choice. You left first. It just hurt more when she did it back to you.

            “None of your fucking business. Merry Christmas Kristen.” He hung up and headed for the garage.

…........................................................................................................................................................

           

Kristen Dupree looked at her phone and was shaking. God that asshole, thought Kristen. There was a knock at the door and her assistant, Marian poked her head in.      

            “Is everything alright? You were shouting.”

            'I'm fine. Just a really wrong number.” Marian nodded and left her office.

            She had to take several deep breaths before trying to puzzle out what T.J. had been rambling about. Clearly he was wasted, no surprise there. However, it was a huge leap for him to drunk dial her after all this time. I loved him and he didn’t care. God who did he fall in love with? She knew how much that could hurt, could tear you apart from the inside. He did it to you and someone finally gave him a dose of his medicine. She wanted to shut off the part of her that felt for him and found she couldn't. You won't be hearing from me after this. What else could that mean? He was always impulsive and could be stupid. Shit. Kristen fished through her contacts and found Elaine's phone number. She wasn't sure if it was still current, if not she could call her father and let him know about T.J.'s drunken rant.

            “Hello,” said Elaine and Kristen sighed.

            “Hi Elaine. It's Kristen, I'm sorry to be calling so late.”

            “Oh hi Kristen. It's good to hear from you. Are you in town for the holiday?” asked Elaine.

            “Um no. Still in California. Listen is T.J. still living in D.C?” asked Kristen.

            “Yes. If you want to call to him I can give you his number. I'm sure he would love to hear from you,” said Elaine. She sounded so hopeful it made Kristen hurt. We can’t go back to how it was before.

            “No. No....he found my number and called me a little bit ago. Elaine he sounded really, really, really drunk,” said Kristin. Elaine sighed and Kristen could hear the disappointment in her voice.

            “I'm very sorry he called you and for whatever he said,” said Elaine.

            “Listen he said I wouldn't be hearing from him after this and on top of sounding really drunk he scared me a little. Just check up on him please,” said Kristen.

            “I'm on my way home. Thank you Kristen. Have a good Christmas,” said Elaine.

            She hung up and Kristen sighed. Clearly putting three thousand miles between her and T.J. Hammond didn't dull the hurt he could cause her with one phone call after several years. She sighed and picked up her sketch pad. She was on deadline for the next issue of the comic, she was the lead artist for this one and it would look bad if she fell behind. She started rough sketching a background for a destroyed L.A for the issue. She drew for several hours before she had to leave the office and her phone rang. She saw it was a blocked number.

            “Hello,” she said carefully.

            “Kristen,” said Elaine softly.

            “Is everything okay?” asked Kristin.

            “He tried to kill himself. If I hadn't gotten home in time....” choked Elaine and Kristen could hear her crying. There was some static on the line and Bud's voice was on the phone.

            “Thank you for calling us Sugar and letting us know what was going on. You might have just saved his life. I don't know what happened between you and T.J. to cause this little rift. But you've always been a good friend to him even now. Thank you,” said Bud. Kristen hung up and bit back her own tears. God he was such an idiot and she hoped he would be okay. He never cared if we were okay. Nothing but pain and hurt since you were fifteen. When are you going to learn?

….................................................................................................................................................................

 

1997

 

            “Well what color is it?” asked T.J. sitting on the desk in front of Kristen. He had asked about the color of her spring dance dress so he would know what colors to get so they would match. She rolled her brown eyes and went back to typing.

            “I don't know. It's like a bluish purple color,” said Kristen. She quickly read what she typed, looked at the notes on the table and added another paragraph before saving.

            “Bluish purple? You're a girl, aren't you supposed to care about colors and stuff?” asked T.J.. Kristen leaned back in the chair and grinned.

            “Sadly you got the girlfriend who cares if you pass English. She loves you so much that she's here writing your paper that would normally sell for at least 70 dollars. She would like it if you passed at least one of your classes since your tutor is clearly a moron,” said Kristen grinning. She gave him a quick kiss and went back to the notes for the paper.

            “Eric isn't an idiot, I'm just not that bright or focused,” said T.J..

            “ Eric owes me eighty dollars for a history paper. Plus you aren't stupid and when it's something you really like you're super focused. Like piano. You can look at a piece once and play it perfectly,” said Kristen. T.J. moved the notes away from Kristen and she mocked glared.

            “I know something else I could focus on,” said T.J.. He got off the desk, pulled Kristen out of the chair and towards his bed.

            “Your parents?” asked Kristen. The Security Service guys tended to ignore them when they were in the house together so that was a non-issue. Elaine on the other hand would be a huge issue.

            “Some conference...meeting...they'll be gone for hours,” said T.J. pulling her on the bed. He kissed her and got a knee between her legs. “You are so damn pretty.”  Kristen kissed him back just as hard and he felt her hands in his hair.

            “I love you,” muttered Kristen and T.J. kissed again so he didn't have to answer. He wasn't sure what he was going to do. He really did like Kristen, she was smart, they had fun together and well she was really good at what this activity was going to lead to since she was reaching for his pants. However there was Eric and he made T.J. feel something he hadn't felt before. They had only kissed, but it was amazing. At times he wondered what it be like to have Eric in Kristen's place. She was about to go down on him when there was a knock on the door and Douglas walked in.

            “Oh crap...sorry,” laughed Douglas.

            “Generally you wait until someone says come in,” said T.J. redressing. Kristen stood up and her face was turning pink.

            “Well mom wouldn't have knocked and she would like to see you. Dad too. Her office,” said Douglas grinning.

            “Gone for hours you said. Do I need to leave?” asked Kristen.

            “Nah. It shouldn't take too long for them to ground me for bombing math,” said T.J.. He gave Kristen a kiss on forehead and headed to his mom's office. His mom was sitting on her sofa and his dad was pacing.

            “T.J. sweetie sit down please,” said Elaine. Her tone sounded sad and T.J sat down.

            “Is everything okay?” asked T.J.

            “Yes and no,” said Bud. He grabbed a chair and pulled it up to the sofa. “You aren't in any trouble and we want you to know that we love you.”

            “You guys are starting to get weird on me. What's going on?” asked T.J.. Elaine sighed and took one of T,J.'s hands

            “Someone took a picture of you kissing another boy. We have the copies, but not the negatives. Someone is going to run with this and we don't know when,” said Elaine. T.J. felt like he was going to faint and started shaking.

            “It was just a kiss,” said T.J. It was nice and I liked it. It was supposed to be private, thought T.J

            “A lot of people might not see it that way though. Sweetie...are you gay?” asked Elaine. T.J. thought about it. He had felt different when he kissed Eric, lighter and it felt right somehow in the moment. If he were to be really honest he wanted to be with Eric or hell any other guy. He did like Kristen, but if he were to be honest it was hard at times to be with her physically because it didn't feel right.

            “I think I am,” muttered T.J. and he started to cry. Bud put a hand on T.J shoulder and Elaine hugged him.

            “There is nothing to be ashamed of. I just wish you would have told us sooner,” said Bud and T.J. shrugged.

            “Well I thought I liked girls because of Kristen and...” his thoughts all ran together. If they had pictures and someone was going to run a story than everyone would know. He liked Kristen, she was his best friend and this was going to hurt her. You lied to her. You made her think it was real, thought T.J.. It was real in a way, but not the way she thought it was real.

             “I can't tell her. We can't tell people this. I can't have people knowing this!” pleaded T.J. and Elaine took his hands.

            “If we don't tell people someone else is going to tell and you won't have any control. We're trying to figure out the best way to get in front of it right now,” said Elaine.

            “It's not fair! Can't anything be private?” asked T.J. and Bud shook his head. Wasn’t it enough they had to parade Kristen around as his girlfriend and all the attention heaped on them. How people took their pictures and called them ‘America’s Sweethearts.’? Couldn’t he have one private thing in his life?

            “I'm sorry,” said Bud hating the powerless feeling he had and T.J. started sobbing. They were going to make his life hell once this was out and all because he wanted to see what it was like, just once. He should have known that someone would be sneaking around, seeing what he was doing.

            “I'll send Kristen home, but it would be best if she heard this from you first,” said Elaine rubbing his back.

            “She's gonna hate me,” said T.J.. He thought about all the times he heard his parents fight over his dad grabbing some girl's ass or a rumor that he had sex with someone else. He hated how much it hurt his mom and he had done the same thing to Kristen. You are just as bad as he is. T.J. wished they would leave him alone. He was pretty sure he had a joint in his room to take the edge off.

            “She's going to be very hurt, but we're going to be here for you,” said Bud. Elaine got up and was about to leave the room. T.J. decided to get it over with now. If they had the pictures and story  could be going at any moment. It would be better if she heard it from him, he owed her that much. You owe your friend the truth. That she was a lie.

….................................................................................................................................................................

 

            “Really you're writing his papers,” said Douglas sitting down and looking over her shoulder.

            “Well his tutor is clearly a mental midget and I would like it if T.J. wasn't in summer school all summer,” said Kristen saving the last page and hitting print.

            “So how long have you two been...you know?” asked Douglas with a smirk and Kristen gave him a look.

            “It's not all the way sex. It's just blow jobs,” said Kristen.

            “Wow blow jobs and English papers my brother is a lucky guy,” teased Douglas and Kristen  shrugged and Douglas gave her a look. “What's going in there?” Kristen looked up at Douglas and sighed.

            “Have you told Laura that you love her?” asked Kristen.

            “Yeah,” said Douglas without thought.

            “T.J...He’s never said that to me. We've been dating almost a year and he's never said 'I love you'. I'm just at a lost for a reason,” said Kristen and Douglas nudged her.

            “T.J. does love you. You make him laugh and well you've kept his attention for this long which is a record for any girl,” said Douglas and Kristen laughed.

            “So are you ready for me to kick your ass next week in debate?” asked Kristen.

            “Oh you think you're gonna kick my ass?” asked Douglas.

            “Oh I own it already,” said Kristen. Elaine came into the room and she looked grim.

            “Kristen sweetie, we need to have a talk,” said Elaine. Kristen felt something sink in her stomach as she followed Elaine down the hall and into the office. Bud had his hand on T.J's shoulder and he looked like he had been crying. She had never seen T.J. look this upset and she wondered how much they had scolded him over something stupid. Why can’t they ever give him any slack? thought Kristen.

            “We'll give you the room son,” said Bud and he and Elaine left the room. Kristen went over to T.J. and he was wiping his eyes and looking at the carpet.

            “Hey. What's wrong?” asked Kristen and she put a hand on T.J's shoulder.

            “I am really sorry,” said T.J. and he started crying again. Kristen reached out and hugged him.

            “What's going on?”

            “I really like you, but....this isn't ever going to be right for me.” Kristen felt that knot tighten and felt her own tears coming on. He’s breaking up with me and they told him he had too. I’m a distraction and I’m not good enough for him.          

            “Why?” asked Kristen.

            “Because I'm gay,” said T.J.. He said it so plainly she thought he was joking.

            “What?” asked Kristen giving a little nervous laugh.  This was a joke it had to be some sort of horrible joke. T.J. pulled away from her and told her about Eric and the pictures.  It was all a lie. The whole time. Has the whole friendship been a lie? It felt like being sucker punched and she stood up.

            “I...I...I....I can't think right now. I just need to go home,” said Kristen and she turned to leave when T.J. grabbed her arm.

            “Please talk to me,” pleaded T.J. and she rounded on him.

            “What do you want me to say? You asked me out...you...I told you I loved you and you...,” She looked down at the floor. “How long were you going to lead me on?” demanded Kristen trying not to cry. Till the end of high school, college...did you just plan on sticking with me until we were old? She wasn’t mad that he was gay. She was hurt about the lie, that he let her fall in love and was never going to love her back. If you had told me I would have played along because I loved you and you are my best friend. I fell in love and there is a huge difference.

            “I don't know. I did like you, it's just...” started T.J..

            “You like him more,” finished Kristen. You weren’t good enough. He loves someone else. It’s why he never said it to you.

            “I need to go home.” She pulled away from him and left the room. She walked quickly past Bud and Elaine sobbing and they could hear T.J. crying in the office.

….................................................................................................................................................................  

 

December 2011

 

            T.J. looked out the window and he wondered how much hate he could have for one person. He thought he hated Kristen before, but now. Oh if he saw her again he might shove her in front of moving car for calling his mother. I wanted to die and she ruined it...you called her stupid and practically waved a flag in front of her face about what you were going to do. She didn’t have to do anything? Why did she call my mother?

            Because she still cares about you. You selfish bastard, spoke up that silent voice in his head. There was a tapping on his door and there stood Douglas and T.J. felt a wave of remorse and hate at the same time. He hadn’t meant to hurt Dougie. Dougie still cared and now T.J. was being slapped in the face hard with how much his younger brother loved him. On the other hand if Kristen hadn’t called his mother and he had been allowed to die like he wanted too he wouldn’t have to look at the pain in Doug’s eyes. I would shove her in front of the first SVU I could find, thought T.J.

            “So they won’t you let you out for Christmas and I’m not going to let you spend Christmas alone in this shit hole. So I told Annie to fly out without me and I’ll see her family for Easter,” said Doug and a wave of shame covered everything. How could he forget that Doug loved him and was the only person who he could count on when it really matter? Maybe you just haven’t screwed him over enough? said some hateful voice. T.J. shoved it away and gave his brother a tired smile.

            “So I survived suicide to have your future wife kill me. Sounds fair,” said T.J. and Doug closed his eyes tightly.

            “Don’t joke about that alright. I just...why didn’t you call me?” asked Doug. The million dollar question. T.J. looked at the covers and thought.

            “I don’t know. You would have tried to stop me and I didn’t think she figure it out and call mom. I just...I don’t know,” said T.J.. Oh come on now...tell the truth. You wanted to hurt her back for hurting you. For knowing someday you would get hurt that badly.

            “Well dad tried to call her again and Kristen disconnected her phone number and John won’t give them a new number. You two are really done huh?” said Doug and T.J. looked at him.

            “Shouldn’t you not upset the person recovering from an attempted suicide?” asked T.J. and Doug sighed.

            “I just hoped you two would patch up whatever happened in New York someday. She was your best friend T.J. and you need a friend,” said Doug. I don’t need her. I need Sean and I’m not good enough for him. Just an American punchline.

            “Bitches be crazy,” said T.J. and Doug shook his head. “Besides I have you and grandma. Who else do I need?” said T.J..

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

            June 2012

 

            T.J. felt the cocaine flowing through his system numbing everything and he still wasn’t numb enough and he snorted another line. None of them care. I really thought this would be good for me and no one cares. He said he love you and then you weren’t good enough.

            “It hurts doesn’t it?” asked a female voice. Jesus not now, thought T.J. and he snorted another line quickly.

            “I don’t think that’s going to make the hurt stop,” said the same voice and T.J. looked up to see Kristen sitting in the chair that Gunther had just left. It wasn’t her though, she was thirty and he had no idea what she looked like now. No. This is how she had looked when they were fifteen. Reddish brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, her brown eyes behind her glasses and in their school uniform-red and black plaid skirt with a button down white shirt and black tie.

            “Oh fuck. Really?” asked T.J. out loud. Clearly he was tripping something bad if he was seeing Kristen, a fifteen year old version of her anyway. He didn’t care though. He take the bad trip if he could be numb for a little bit. He said he loved me. No one loves you. Do another line. T.J. did another line and the bad trip spoke up.

            “I asked you if it hurts?” asked Kristen and T.J. glared at her.

            “Does what hurt?” snapped T.J.

            “The knowing. The knowing that no matter what you do, no matter what was said or promised that you didn’t matter to them in the end. Not for a second. They didn’t think twice before throwing you away to save themselves. It hurts doesn’t it?” asked Kristen. She got up and sat next to him. The shy smile he once couldn’t wait to see crossed her face. “It’s like having your heart ripped out slowly and they won’t even look at you while they do it.”

          “Go the fuck away!” snapped T.J. and he did another line and rubbed his gums.

           “You loved him and no matter how much you loved him it was never enough. He’s selfish...who would have thought you could find a person more selfish than yourself to fall in love with. If it wasn’t so sad I would laugh,” said the Kristen hallucination.

           “I almost forgot what a bitch you could be,” said T.J. and she sighed.

          “You used to like how bitchy I could be when it was needed. At least that’s what you said. Was that a lie too? Everything was a lie wasn’t it?” she asked and she leaned back on the sofa to look at him. He wished she was real so he could really hurt her.

               “Yeah. It was all a big lie Kristen! The whole friendship from grade school till our twenties was a big fat lie,” snapped T.J. and he snorted another line. It wasn’t a lie though. You were my best friend. I told you I was sorry. Why couldn’t you just forgive me? I told you I was sorry and you still left. You left me behind, thought T.J.. He was physically numb and his mind still wouldn’t shut up and it took the form of a person who he once considered his only friend other than Dougie and his Nana. The hallucination of Kristen rolled her eyes.

        “I left you?” she got up and started pacing around the room. “I envy your ability to re-write history to make yourself feel better,” she spat and T.J. felt something getting tight in his chest. It was how he felt when he came out, how he felt when Sean pushed him away. how he felt when his father told him he wasn’t coming tonight. Everyone leaves you behind, thought T.J..

        “I told you I was sorry,” he sounded like a child and she just shook her head.

        “You were always sorry when you figured out how much hurt you caused. It doesn’t change the fact that you hurt someone. I really loved you,” said Kristen and she started to walk away. T.J. got up as the tightness in his chest increased. She’s not really here...I’m so damn lonely though. I’ll take anything I can get.

            “I miss you,” the words were out of his mouth before he could take them back. “I don’t hate you...I miss you. I told you I was sorry. Why wasn’t that enough?” T.J. fell down and he felt the tightness turning into numbness and his heart felt like it was going to pound out his chest. Something was making it hard to breath and he couldn’t speak. Kristen sat down next to him and put a hand over his chest and everything felt hazy.

“You promised you wouldn’t leave me and you did when I needed you the most. Don’t worry. I won’t leave you alone while you die. Not like you me left me to die,” said Kristen and she kissed him on the forehead. T.J. threw up and everything went black. I told you I was sorry...I still am.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………...

 

July 2012

 

              Douglas walked into the lobby of Laili Studios and couldn't help but be impressed. Kristen had helped take what was a bottom tier comic book publisher her father had bought for pennies and had helped turned into a budding indie studio. It had been a pain in the ass to get away from the conference to come here, but he really needed to talk to Kristen. He went up to the receptionist and smiled.  

            “Excuse me. Is Kristen Dupree in?” asked Douglas.

            “Do you have an appointment?” she asked.

            “No, but tell her Douglas Hammond would like to see her.” She nodded and picked up the phone and let her know he was there to see her.

            “She'll see you in a few moments. Please sit. Would you like some coffee or something else to drink?” she asked.

            “I'm fine. Thank you,” said Douglas sitting down in a chair. It was about five minutes before Kristen came out. He hadn't seen her in five years and she had changed a little. She was still short and petite, but she looked healthy. Her red-ish brown hair was more red more and was pulled into a messy bun. Her contacts had been replaced by thin rimmed glasses. She was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans and tee shirt with some sort of robot on it.

            “Hi Dougie,” said Kristen and she hugged him lightly. Douglas hugged her back and smiled at her.

            “Hi Kristen. You look good,” said Douglas.

            “My office?” asked Kristen.

            “Sure,” said Douglas.

            “So how did you shake your detail this time?” asked Kristen.

            “Waiting outside. I had a few minutes to kill before the next conference and since I was in the neighborhood,” teased Douglas. She showed him into the office and it was painted white and had several posters up of the comics, books and movies the studio had done. There was large light table set up in the corner with prints on it. Storyboards were in another section of the office with notes pinned up. The shelves had back issues and awards she had won the last few years. He noted no personal photos anywhere in the office.

            “Have a seat. I heard you finally made an honest woman out of Anne. Congratulations” said Kristen taking a seat behind her desk that was covered in sketches and pencils. Douglas sat down and studied the drawings.

            “Wow these are violent,” said Douglas looking at picture of girl cutting off someone's head.

            “Zombies seem to be really popular,” said Kristen. Douglas shook his head.

            “I was wondering if you could come home for a few days and visit T.J.. It would really help him. He misses you. He won't come right out and say it, but....you were his best friend since before we moved into the White House. Sometimes I think you were his only real friend. You never used him the way other people did. It would just be for a few days and you can show him these god awful drawings,” teased Douglas smiling at her. Kristen sighed and twisted her necklace nervously.

            “Dougie...Dougie I can't. I'm sorry,” said Kristen.

            “Could you at least call him? He reached out to you in December. Damn it that means something,” snapped Douglas.

            “He was drunk and was blaming me for his life being shitty despite not being in the same time zone for years. That is hardly reaching out,” countered Kristen. Douglas just shook his head and glared at her.

            “He almost died last month,” said Douglas and Kristen sighed and went to look out the window. “What the hell happened between you two? One moment you two are partying in New York and the next moment he's back in Illinois and you're gone and you haven't been back to D.C in years. He won't talk about it and your dad won't talk about it. Now I want you to talk about it. What happened?” asked Douglas and Kristen turn back gave him a tight grin.

            “You were always a jackhammer in debate and it's nice to see it hasn't changed. You might be Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State and you might be used to getting to having people give you want when you snap like that so it's going to be a shock that I'm not going to tell you. We grew apart and we needed out of each other lives. It was the best thing for both of us,” said Kristen.

            “It was the best thing for you. He's gone to shit since you left,” said Douglas.

            “That's not fair. We were both fucked up, the only difference is I hid it better than T.J.. I needed to get myself right and I had to do it without T.J.. I can't go back and it's not right that you're asking me to fix him. He has to want it and until he does it's not going to get better,” said Kristen. Douglas glared at her and got up.

            “You know before T.J. came out I thought you were it for him. I never saw him act the way he acted with you. To this day I haven't seen him with anyone the way he was with you. He loved you and when you left it broke it his heart.”

            “Get out. Get out before I have you removed,” whispered Kristen trying to not cry. Douglas slammed out of her office and once again Marian was poking her head into the office asking if she ok since there was shouting.

            “Stupid men have a way of ruining your day. Do I have anything planned for the rest of the day?” asked Kristen.

            “No. The staff meeting is tomorrow morning and Scott and Vic shouldn't be back until tomorrow.” Kristen nodded.

            “I think I'm going to call it day. Have all calls sent to my voice mail. I'll take care of them later.”

            “Of course,” said Marian and she left Kristen’s office. Kristen gathered up her things and headed out. She was shaking with rage when she got to her car. Why don’t you tell him what happened in New York? Why are still lying about it? He left you. You needed him and he left you and he didn’t think twice. Kristen counted to ten before starting her drive home. You know you are going to have to face T.J. someday. You can’t hide forever. It’s just more hurt and why should you let her be hurt by T.J. Hammond and his selfishness?

When she got home she could hear the My Little Pony theme playing through the door. It brought a small grin to her face and she let herself in. Julia her part time nanny was folding clothes and Hannah was sitting on the floor watching the TV and singing along.

            “Hello,” called Kristen sitting her stuff down. Hannah got up and hugged her as hard as a four year could.

            “Hi mom” she said. Julia nodded and sat the clothes aside.

            “Her day report is on the counter and the teacher sent home a new book, but she wanted to do her reading with you. I hope that's alright?” asked Julia.

            “It's fine. Since I'm skipping work you're more than welcome to clock out. I'll see you tomorrow night,” said Kristen.

            “Have a good day than,” said Julia. She hugged Hannah, got her purse and left. Kristen sat down on the sofa and Hannah crawled up next to her.

            “Can we finish the show before reading?” pleaded Hannah and Kristen gave her a smile.

            “I guess,” said Kristen. Hannah put her head in Kristen's lap and she toyed with her dark brown curls. She was the sweetest girl and Kristen was still dumbfounded some days how she was responsible for this tiny person in her lap. Hannah looked up at Kristen and her blue eyes locked with Kristen dark brown ones. It twisted Kristen heart a bit. Of course she would get T.J's eyes.