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The Beginning After by Kiersten Modglin (21)

Twenty-Five

ISABEL

Isabel shut the door behind her, resting her back against it and heaving a sigh. She turned, peering out the blinds and watching the taillights fade down the driveway. Once they were gone, she picked up the house phone sitting on the old wooden table and dialed his number.

It rang and rang with no answer. She sighed, walking to the kitchen and grabbing the kettle off the stove, filling it with water. She placed it on the burner, turning it on high and pacing around the kitchen. She hadn’t technically done anything wrong, she reminded herself. She was truly trying to do what she believed was best for the boy. She cared about Kyle more than anyone in her life, as much as if he were her own child.

Her phone rang loudly from the living room, causing her to startle. She rushed into the kitchen, her hands shaking as she picked up the receiver.

“Hello?” she whispered into the line.

“Izzy?” His voice told her he’d been asleep.

“Kyle, I’m sorry to wake you, sweetheart.”

“What is it, Iz?”

“Your mother was just here. It worked.”

“It did? What did you tell her?”

“Yes, they tracked your phone here. You were smart to leave it with me. I didn’t tell her anything. I made it seem like you hadn’t been here at all.”

“Did she believe you?” he asked.

“I think so,” she said honestly. “Maybe not completely, but I was convincing. I was on Broadway, you know,” she teased him.

“No, you weren’t,” he said in disbelief.

She laughed aloud. “Okay, you caught me. But I could’ve been.”

“How long ago did they leave?” he asked, changing the subject back to what mattered.

“Just a few moments ago, dear. I think she’s headed home. Did you make it there safely?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” he told her.

“You can’t stay long, sweet boy. She’s worried sick.”

“I know. I just…I don’t know how to face her right now, Izzy. I don’t want her to hate me.”

“My dear, she’s your mother. She could never hate you,” she said, though she wasn’t sure if that were entirely true under the circumstances.

“I wish that were true.”

“You just need to come home and talk to her. She will understand.”

“I don’t know that she will.”

“You’ll never know if you don’t talk to her, Kyle. I understand. I don’t love you any less.”

“You’re different, Izzy. You aren’t like her. You aren’t like Dad.”

“I’m only different because you think of me as different, my sweet. I love you just the same as they do.”

“I’ll come home,” he promised.

“Soon?” she asked.

“Soon.”

“I won’t lie to your mother for long.”

“I know. I’m sorry I have to bring you into this.”

She cradled the phone as if she were holding his face, rubbing it gently. “Don’t apologize, Kyle. You’ve done nothing wrong. I will protect you as long as I live, you know that.”

“I know,” he said. “I just wish I could change everything.”

“You can’t change anything but the future, sweet boy. That’s just how life works.”

“It sucks sometimes,” he said, yawning.

“You should get some rest, m’dear,” she said kindly. “I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

“Okay, Izzy.”

“Take care, sweetheart. Sweet dreams. It’s going to get better.”

“Goodnight,” he said softly, just moments before the line went dead.

She placed the phone down, her heart full of sadness. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to take that boy’s pain away. She wished more than anything she could promise him that it would all be okay, though she knew that was a promise that wasn’t up to her.

She wiped a stray tear from her eye, jumping once again as the tea kettle began screaming from the kitchen. She raced in, grabbing it from the burner and cursing as the steam burned her wrist. She took a mug down from the cabinet, filled it, and placed a tea bag into the scalding water.

She turned around, throwing the tea down. “Christ!” she yelled.

“I think we need to talk,” he said, staring into her eyes. She hadn’t heard the door open, his footsteps muffled by the blaring of the tea kettle.

“How much did you hear?” she asked, not daring to move to clean up her tea.

“Everything,” Frank said, grabbing a towel from the back of a nearby chair and tossing it to her. “Now start explaining.”

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