I wanted to apologize but nothing came out. My mouth flapped open and closed but words eluded me. Betraying a best friend by kissing his sister ought to be punishable by death. I was certain Cory was furious and, in that split second before he spoke, I silently vowed not to defend myself if he took a swing at me.
“Sherry told me what happened.”
I braced myself, expecting his fist to collide with virtually any part of my body.
“It’s about time!”
Confused, I opened my eyes and Cory’s face was lit up like a Christmas tree. He doubled over with laughter, pointing at me.
“You should have seen your face! You were all tensed up with your eyes closed like you were just waiting for me to slug you. How could I be mad? You two are perfect together.”
Cory had to pull out one of the kitchen chairs and sit down; he was laughing so hard he nearly fell over. I stared at him in utter disbelief before I noticed Sherry watching through the screen door. She caught my eye and smiled, taking my breath away. Like a tractor beam from one of Cory’s favorite sci-fi flicks, I was drawn to her. She slipped through the door and wrapped her arms around me. Our lips met and never before had I felt as complete as I did in that moment. I wanted it to last for the rest of my life.
“Alright…Just because I said I was okay with it doesn’t mean I want to see you two slobbering all over each other. I’m outta here. Have fun, love birds”
Lost in the moment, we barely noticed Cory’s departure. We spent the afternoon talking and then made plans for our first official date. I was so thrilled, I’d forgotten all about the “visitor” in my basement.
I took Sherry to a fancy restaurant and then we went to the movies. After that, we stopped for ice cream at a cute little mom & pop specialty shop. For as long as I’ve know her, she’s always been an absolute ice cream addict. She squealed like a little girl when the waiter brought our sundaes. Secretly, I had a dual purpose for choosing that particular ice cream vendor. One, they had the best sundaes in a three state radius and, two; they were right next door to a pet shop.
We walked out, arm-in-arm and I opened the car door for her. Her grin lit up the night as she settled into the passenger seat.
“Oh no! I totally forgot to leave a tip. Wait here, I’ll be right back.”
With Sherry nestled comfortable in the car I raced back like I was going inside the ice cream shop. Instead, I dashed into the pet shop and my eyes settled on a cuddly, little striped kitten that looked nothing like Jinx. I didn’t want her to be reminded of his death each time she looked at her new little kitty. I paid for the little guy and tied a bow onto its collar. As I nestled him into the inside of my jacket, he began to purr. Yeah, I thought, this little bugger is going to steal her heart.
I strolled back to the car and got in as if everything was normal. I kissed her cheek and took her hand in mine.
“I didn’t really forget the tip. I needed an excuse to pick up your gift.”
I reached inside my jacket, pulled out the little ball of fur, and handed it to her. She held it close, covering its fuzzy little face with kisses and speaking to it in baby-talk. The scene should have filled my heart with joy. Instead, it reminded me of why I had Mandy in basement….my love for Sherry. He’d hurt her deeply and I had to make him pay. The thought consumed me. I would never again allow anyone to hurt her. If I had my way, the only tears she would ever shed would be tears of joy, for the rest of her life.