You are dragged to a dance club only to meet a nice Cambridge boy who likes dancing. You didn't know how much one dance would change your life.
The house is quiet when you arrive home. Tea at the café with Ben had been nice, but you’re happy to have the night over with. You find Meg working on her studies on the floor of Juliet’s room. She smiles as you come in. Juliet is asleep inside a blanket fort the two must have constructed. She’s hugging the Loki doll you made for her. You had taken her to see Thor and she had fallen in love with the broken character Loki straight away.
“She took her medicine fifteen minutes early. She was starting to slur. I documented it on the chart.”
“Thank you, Meg. Were there any other issues?”
“She wanted to know what I thought of Mr. Cumberbatch as a father figure.”
You sigh, knowing that you’ll have to explain to Jules, again, that Ben is only a friend. You hand over her fee. “I’ll talk to her. Ben said he would wait and drive you home.”
With a smile she grabs her books and bag, “If you don’t want Mr. Cumberbatch, I’ll take him,” she tells you with a wink before rushing out the front to meet Ben. You close and lock the door behind her, chuckling to yourself. You check in on Jules, adding an extra blanket to keep her from getting chilled in the night. Rising from the floor, you look at her sleeping form, realizing again how precious she is to you. You switch on her night light before turning off the main one. You gaze for a few moments at the illumination of stars cast on her ceiling, then softly pull her door shut.
You’ve just slipped off your heels and sat down on the couch with a glass of wine when there is a knock at the door. You weren’t expecting Ben to come back, but perhaps Meg forgot something. You set down your glass to answer the summons. “Whatever could you have…” you begin as you open the door, but the words die on your lips. A large hand, not Ben’s hand, slams itself flat on the wooden surface, pushing the door wide. You stagger backward, a scream in your throat, as the disheveled man enters your house. He swings your door shut without a backward glance. No, his eyes are locked on you, an intense gaze burning through you.
He stalks forward, intent on closing the distance between you. His long legs catch your retreating form easily. His bow tie and jacket are gone. His crisp white shirt, wrinkled, half untucked, and buttons undone exposes the column of his neck down to his chest hair. The sleeves are rolled up to the elbows. You unconsciously lick your lips, swallowing hard, before your eyes return to his face.
Your voice, laced with fear and uncertainty, is barely a whisper, "What do you want, Tom?"
“Say ‘Yes’, Jazzy.” His voice is rough and low. You smell the alcohol on his breath. He continues to move forward, backing you up against the wall.
“What am I saying ‘yes’ to?” Your eyes search his face for answers.
“This,” is all the warning you get before his lips crash down on yours in a searing kiss.
God! It had been so long. You are transported back to that weekend when his scent was everywhere - around you, inside you. You’re on your tiptoes before you can think, the palms of your hands braced against his chest. The moan that escapes you startles you both apart. You look at one another, your breath coming short and fast. You see the hardness in his eyes soften, his lips turning up in a slight smile. His thumb touches your cheek, tracing its contours. You lean toward his fingers, prolonging the long-denied contact. His hands bracket your jaw, cradling your head. The distance is closed and time is stripped away as he kisses you again, his tongue sweeping easily between your parted lips to dance with yours.
You melt against him, your lips pliant under his control. Your fingers curl to grasp his shirt, further wrinkling the fine garment. His hips grind against you, his straining erection evident through the fabric of his dress pants. He continues to kiss you until you are dizzy. You realize when he leaves your lips to draw your nipple into his mouth how far this has gone. Your thin lace dress hangs to your waist, caught on your hips. Evidently his nimble fingers unfastened the catch at your neck while you were distracted.
You push against his shoulders, telling him, “No, Tom. Not like this.” You think for a moment he didn’t hear you, or he did and he isn’t going to stop. However, he releases your nipple with a sigh. He’s breathing hard and rests his forehead against your collarbone as he catches his breath. He’s holding you loosely, enough so you could slip free of him if you were of a mind to.
His posture straightens, him stealing a quick kiss again before releasing you. You cover yourself with your arm and, slipping around him, quickly make your way to your room. You glance at yourself in the mirror as you strip your dress off. Your cheeks are flushed, and your lips bright and well-kissed. You reach for your sweat pants and tee, pulling them harshly on to remind yourself that you are a single mother because he wasn’t there. The tears begin to fall then as you berate yourself. You thought you were finished with crying over him years ago, but tonight reawakened the ache that still dwells in your fractured heart.
He finds you on the floor of your room, concern causing him to seek you out to apologize for his actions. Yes, he was angry, but you were not to blame for tonight, and he should have been a gentleman no matter his emotions. Now, you’re crying and his heart tears at the sight and sound of you in distress. “I’m sorry, Jazzy,” he tells you. “I’m a complete and utter prat.”
His words cause you to sob harder, the years of pent up emotions pouring forth. “Why weren’t you there,” you wail. “I waited, I called, and you never showed up.”
Your words take him aback. “What do you mean, you waited? I was there! Where were you?”
You look at him, tears still streaming down your cheeks, not believing what you’re hearing. How could he have been there? “I was there until they closed at ten. If you wanted to dump me, why did you send me to that dingy place? It smelled horrible and the food was worse, but I was afraid I would miss you if I left. The Bard… more like The Barn.”
“I didn’t want to dump you! The Bard is the finest pub in Cambridge. The food is excellent. How could you think it anything but?”
“I don’t understand, Tom. Are we talking about the same place at all?” Faced with this new information, your mind was frantically working. Were the last ten years of hurt all based on miscommunication? You shake your head, “Location aside, why didn’t you pick up when I called? Why didn’t you call me back?”
You could see his anger surface, his carefully controlled expressions drop. His voice a hiss, "You lie. Not one call to my phone! Not one! Do you think lying about it now will get me to take you back, take in your fatherless spawn? That’s it isn’t it? Now that I’ve made something of myself, you think you can play me. I see through your deceptions.”
You recoil from his statement, realizing the horror of his words. Was he denying Jules? Did he really think so little of you? “I don’t know what you think I’ve done. I went to that place… the place you wrote down for me… You weren’t there. I called the number you put into my phone. You never answered. I don’t understand how you can now say I am the one that didn’t show up. I don’t know why you are saying you never received my calls. If this is your idea of a joke, it isn’t funny. It’s cruel and heartless. ‘Thou shinest in every tear that I do weep: No drop but as a coach doth carry thee; so ridest thou triumphing in my woe.’ I think you should go now. Please don’t return.”
You turn away and are suddenly wrapped in small arms. The scent of wild strawberries envelops you. Jules must have woken up and overheard the exchange. “You leave my Mum alone,” the slender, blue-green eyed girl with a head of shoulder-length golden curls boldly tells him. “We don’t want you here, Mr. Hiddleston.” Freckles dot the bridge of her nose, but the features are very familiar to Tom. He swallows hard, all anger dissipating in an instant.
“He was just going, Jules,” you softly tell her, wishing him to do just that. You didn’t think you could handle any more stress tonight. It was bad enough that Jules had to see you like this.
“I called, Mum. He’s on the way,” she tells you, showing you your phone screen. You cringe, knowing this could make matters worse. “He said if we ever needed anything…”
“I know, Darling. I know. You did good,” you reassure her.
Tom has continued to stare at Jules. “She really is my daughter?”
You feel Jules tense against you. “Yes, Tom, Juliet is your daughter. I’ve been with no one else, ever. You can think me a liar in anything else, but this, this is an absolute fact. I want you to leave my house. I’ll have a solicitor contact your agency.” You look away from him, hugging Jules to you, not seeing sadness tinge Tom’s eyes, not seeing him walk away as if struck through the heart.
A short time later, strong arms lift you up and place you in your bed. Covering you with your thick bed quilt, Ben’s voice tells you, “It’s okay. I’ve got you.” His thumbs wipe away your tears. “Come up here Jules; sleep in here tonight.” He pats the bed beside you. Once she’s in, he leans over and kisses each of you on the forehead, “Would you like me to stay?” Before you can protest it’s too much to ask, he says, “I’ll be on the couch.” Your door closes with a soft click. You have no idea if Tom is still here, but knowing Ben is just down the hall allows you to find some modicum of sleep.