DJ, my heroine in All Those Miles I Walked, is a woman I like and understand. And now that she’s with Scott, we share a common trouble: the Anxious Man.
Let me tell you a bit about him.
The anxious man is a highly intelligent, self-made, strong man who needs reassurances on your well-being whenever he decides to check on you, with no regard whatsoever for what you might be doing. He’ll text or call you, and you have from 5 to 20 seconds to reply. Problem is, maybe you can’t because you’re, I don’t know, using the restroom or cleaning the ceiling with a long-handled brush. After an average of 10 minutes from the first text (and at that point you’ll have 150 texts and at least 300 calls) (yes, the Anxious Man can defy time and squeeze all those messages and calls in just few minutes) the police, fire department, an ambulance, and possibly the FBI and the National Guard will barrel down through your door.
I’ve been with my husband for 18 years and let me tell ya, that cool, self-controlled man can go bat-shit crazy if I don’t answer the phone in .3 nanoseconds.
So does Scott in the story.
Let’s be clear on one thing here: the Anxious Man doesn’t do that out of need of control. There’s no jealousy or will to tell you what you can or can’t do. He needs to know you’re well.
With him, a simple thumb-up emoticon would do.
Because he loves, and loves deep. So deep he needs to know the most important thing in his life: not that you love him, miss him, think about him, but that you’re alive.
Which means you can’t get mad. Or overly mad, at least. Sometimes I do get annoyed.
So, because I learned from personal experience that people like me and DJ will never be reliable with our phones, I have a word of advice for all the people like Marco and Scott, and the relationships that follow.
In my case it’s called iWatch, but any device like it would do.
My husband gave me one for our anniversary few years back, and now I never lose a call or text. I can reply anywhere with the littlest time and effort. It’s pretty, and it gives him peace of mind, and me the freedom from checking the phone or (the horror) of the ringtone.
At eighteen, DJ made a choice–her heart or her dreams. Neither was wrong, yet either would break her heart. She chose the world. Over a decade later, she returns to Crescent Creek and to the one regret she’s ever had–Scott.
Scott’s always been steady as a rocky reef. He’d loved once and when she’d left, his strong heart had crumbled like a sandcastle. Now DJ is back, and Scott wants nothing to do with her. If only Eva, his and DJ’s old friend, didn’t need their help. Because of her, he’s stuck with DJ and he’d be damned, she still gets under his skin.
DJ is a free spirit who needs the road under her feet. Scott is a family man who wants to groom his roots. With danger on their doorstep and a baby to keep safe, how much are they willing to compromise for love?
DJ put Henry in the stroller, grabbed his tiny ball cap and hers. It was a cloudy day, perfect for taking him play with the sand without the risk of burning him.
She filled her beach bag. Water for both, sunscreen, diapers, wipes, a clothes change, and a couple of towels. “We’re all set, buddy,” she told the boy as she got out.
“Shoot,” she mumbled when she reached the sidewalk. The beach umbrella. It was heavy and uncomfortable to carry, but even with the clouds, Henry needed protection. Besides, the beach was in front of the house, she really only had to walk to the other side of the road.
She loaded the umbrella on her shoulder, got back out of the house. Then in again. Henry liked to snack mid-midmorning, she’d bring some fruit pouches. Some cereal puffs, too. One more bottle of water, just in case.
“Third time’s the charm,” she sing-songed, earning a happy gurgle from Big H.
The build-and-destroy a sand castle never got old. They went through many shapes, sizes, and few rounds of panic because she wasn’t sure how to clean the inside of Henry’s mouth when he stuck his sand-covered fist in it.
Despite those little hiccups, she wanted to pat her back and compliment herself. Big H was safe, was having fun, and she was too. He looked so darn cute, all smiles and sandy feet and hands. She could send a pic–or ten–to Eva and her own mom. Maybe even one to Scott, because she was such in good mood.
DJ fished her cellphone from the bag, turned it on. 12 unanswered calls and 6 messages.
Fear raced through her good mood. Something had happened to Eva? To her parents? She checked the call list. Scott. From all of the calls and texts.
Well, unexpected. From zero interaction to a gazillion? She called his number; he picked up probably before it even rang.
“Where in the fucking hell are you?” he said quietly, but anger vibrated in his voice more than a guitar string.
“Okay. Not really prepared for that, but okay. We’re across the road, at the beach.”
“Damn it, DJ.” She had to move the phone closer to her ear to hear his words. “You’re supposed to text me when you leave,” he added.
“I know. We’re just across the road.”
“Are you in the house?” he asked. Still very much pissed, but at least he’d gone back to a human tone, one she actually heard.
“It’s basically the same.”
“Okay, my bad. I didn’t realize I’d agreed to a middle of the morning text. When did it happen, by the way?”
“Damn it, DJ.”
Oh god, back to hissing. “You said it already. A few times, in fact.”
She brushed a bit of sand from Henry’s legs, blew the boy a kiss that made him smile. Then heard a voice in the background of the call, then Scott saying to someone, “they’re fine, they are at the beach.”
“Who is with you?”
“You called the sheriff? Where are you?”
“At Eva’s, ready to bust the fucking door down,” he explained.
“That seems extreme.”
“You don’t text me, don’t call me, and don’t pick up the damned phone,” he said, anger making his even words a bit breathless. “What am I supposed to do?
“I guess, calm down, would be the first thing.” She’d always thought he might have a stroke, at some point. All control freaks like him did. Maybe today was the day, who knew? “You saw us at 8 this morning–two hours ago. You could have waited until, let’s say, lunchtime before freaking out this big.”
“I could kill you right now,” he said, so evenly it might actually have been truer than truth.
“You might want to be careful what you say with Sheriff Charlie there with you. By the way, tell her I say hi. Actually, can you give her the phone? We planned a spa day for next week but I’ll have to postpone it until Eva comes home.”
He closed the call.
Staring at the silent phone, DJ took a couple of long breaths.
This was going to stop. Right now.
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