Romance Fiction Drama

I hadn’t stopped smiling. Especially when I saw my Valentine's Day flowers in a vase on the kitchen table. The flowers came in pinks and purples, with the lilies still in bud. Once they opened, the stamins would need removal because I am allergic to the pollen. I hadn’t had time to get anything for Tom. It had been enough that I went out with him for lunch, our first proper date. After much thought, I decided to buy him a tie as he said he did wear suits. After all this time alone, It seemed strange to think of gifts for a man.

However, I had given Mark Hansen my cat. Edwin gave our poor cat such a dog’s life, and Mark had always liked my moggy, so he adopted her. Then we discovered that she was a he, and he named him Ceefa. C for cat. He said he liked the company. That was a different type of giving. It was a rescue.

Tom invited me to his home for a meal one Friday night. He picked up Edwin and me after work one evening, and we drove over to his place by the sea. I had the chance to present him with his new tie. He loved it. The red stripes in it contrasted beautifully with his Navy and Grey suits.

His home was amazing but in a different kind of way. When he bought it initially, it had been small. An old nurse had lived there on her own. She originally lived there in a converted Army Nissen hut. It sat lengthways on the section, and a square room had been attached to the back, including her laundry and kitchen combined. Tom had open-planned the laundry/kitchen and dining room. A small bedroom for Chloe took up one end of the hut. Beside the kitchen alcove, the back door opened into a small entranceway onto a massive deck Tom had built.

The original owner had also bought half a house and attached it to the front of the hut. This had given her a hallway, bathroom, lounge, and front entrance. Tom had built off to the side towards the driveway, which gave him two more small bedrooms, an extension to the lounge in the middle, which became a small foyer with a front door. He had also built up to create another bedroom upstairs. So, Tom was a handyman. A Jack-of-all-Trades. Much of it was a work in progress, but three downstairs bedrooms were complete, minus carpet.

The bathroom blew me away. First came the toilet when one opened the door, surrounded and enclosed by a cabinet of red tiles. The colossal corner bath was in black. This also doubled as a shower. The black basin, surrounded by red tiles, had a black cabinet below it. Ceiling-to-floor mirror tiles adorned the wall behind this vanity. The wall to the side of the corner bath was a double-glazed clear window that looked out onto a private courtyard. The walls had been papered in washable wallpaper. A black background where sparsely clad nymphs danced all over it. The floor had been carpeted in red. Mats in red had been fringed in black. Striking décor that attacked the senses.

“Whatever gave you the idea to do your bathroom like this?” I wasn’t sure if I felt shocked or surprised.

“I went to a Home Show and saw a bathroom set up like this and duplicated it.”

“You are very clever.”

After dinner, which proved Tom could cook, we walked to a nearby park with the children. The summer evening stayed light for hours, and a slight warm breeze kept us comfortable. The children ran around, and we all had fun on the flying fox. My first time on one. Tom had an idea that we could put the three children to bed and spend some time talking. Later, the boarder could be the sitter while he drove me back home. The following day, he would bring the three children back to mine, and we’d talk about what to do for the day.

This is the kind of arrangement we had. Sometimes, the children slept over at my home, and Tom left later in the evening and returned the following morning. Nothing seemed a problem. The children got on well. No plans had been made, but we knew we would eventually settle down as a family. I wondered if Tom’s daughters realized I was not just one of the girlfriends they had seen come and go from their father’s life.

One day, only a few months after the sort of blind date the children had insisted on, after the movie we had all enjoyed, Tom came in and asked me to go with him into the room off my kitchen. Chloe slept here when she stayed. The children peeked around the corner of the door, trying not to giggle.

Something was up.

“Darling Kathy,” said Tom. “I know it hasn’t been long, but . . . will you marry me?”

He hugged me, and I looked beyond his shoulder at the children. I could see that Anne looked ecstatic. Chloe smiled, but her eyes were cold. Oh, dear. What was that about? Edwin looked accepting. He loved company and excitement, and I knew he would be fine if he had time to adjust to the idea.

“I looked at Tom. I’m not saying ‘no,’ but we do need to discuss this . . . without the children around.”

“Sure thing. Let’s chat about what we’ll do today, and tonight when I get home, I’ll ring you, and we’ll talk.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

We spent an enjoyable day at the Botanical Gardens, walking around the Rose Garden, fountains, and the tropical Hot House. We finished at the play park.

Tom worked that evening, so he had care arranged for his girls. When he dropped Edwin and me at home, he promised to ring later from work. In the meantime, I went through Edwin’s usual bedtime routine. Bath, stories, peaceful music, and finally, sleep.

This time, I waited over the phone. I thought of possible reasons why Chloe may not be happy about her father marrying me. Was it something she may get over? The phone rang.

“Hello, Kathy, love of my life. What did you want to talk about?”

“Hi, Tom. I wondered if you had discussed marrying me with your girls.”

“Of course I did. Both of them are as happy as.”

“I know that Anne is. I believe she has been Chloe’s mother for so long and wants a proper mother to take over. Tell me what happened to their mother.”

“It’s a sad story. I took on Jane because she needed someone to look after her. She has Bipolar really bad. Gets totally delusional. Spends time in a mental home on and off. She’s there at the moment. Will probably be there for several more months. When Anne came along, we married. Later, Chloe was born. I’ve done most of the baby care. Jane used to get so depressed after the births that she’d have to go away. One day, she got this delusion that she’d be better away from me. Took the kids with her. Bad move. After a while, she ran herself and the children down to the point where they had to be removed. She ended up inside again. So, in no time at all, I had the girls back. I got them legally. No way did I want to risk what happened again.”

“And how did the girls feel about leaving their mother?”

“Anne was happy. She told the lawyers she wanted to live with me. Chloe said she wanted to live with both of us. She was too young to really understand what had happened.”

“Mmm, I think I understand. You see, I had mixed feelings when my mother remarried. My father left when I was 7 years old, and I believed he should have stayed and been kinder to my mother. Later, I felt I had to be happy when my mother remarried. We children had a new father, and I didn’t want to rock the boat, but I had mixed feelings. I secretly wished my father had been a better man and returned. I also felt disloyal if I treated my stepfather well. At age thirteen, with my own issues, I became argumentative with him. He couldn’t handle it. My mother just wanted peace, so I bottled up my feelings. I can see that Chloe is not telling you her true feelings. I’m probably the last nail in the coffin of any hope her mother will return. The fact that I didn’t cause the breakup is immaterial. She views me as the ‘other woman, ruining everything.”

“Wow. Are you sure? I mean, she is a bit of an inscrutable Asian. Don’t mean it in a prejudiced way.”

“I understand. My mother says, ‘You don’t know what is behind her elbow.’ Have you ever tried to look behind your elbow?”

“So, does it make a difference? She’s a sweet little girl.”

“It just means I’ll have to discuss things with her and reassure her that I’m not taking the place of her Mum.”

“I’m sure glad you think you can handle it. You are the most sane, level-headed woman I’ve ever met.”

“On the subject of mental health, there is something else. Is your ex-wife’s mental health problem likely to have been passed on to the girls? Because it is possible that Edwin, for example, has his issues from his father.”

“Never thought about it. Doesn’t Bi-Polar skip a generation?”

“I have no idea. Let’s hope so. In the meantime, can I have a chat with Chloe sometime?”

“Yes, sure, if you think it will help.”

“There’s another thing too. Chloe’s clothes.”

Tom’s eyes rolled. “Girls and their dresses. The girls have one wardrobe cram-packed with so many dresses. People give me their daughter's cast-offs. Don’t know what to do with them. Anne sorts through them. The trouble is that Chloe doesn’t listen to her older sister’s wisdom about what to wear. If we are going to go somewhere special, I just buy them new clothes. It’s easier.

I laughed. “Anne is in the mother role. As for Chloe, she’s obviously stubborn. The weather is getting colder, and every time Chloe comes out, she has an invisible summer dress covered with a coat that is too small, and she won't take it off because she’s cold. I know she’s only seven, so I suppose it figures.”

“I have noticed that. What do you suggest?”

“Leave it to me. I’ve got some ideas.”

“So, are you going to marry me?”

“Now that I’m taking over the dressing of one of your girls, I guess I should say, ‘yes.’ ”

“You know I want to marry you because I need you.”

“That’s rubbish. You want to marry me because I don’t need you!”

“Thank heavens for that.”


The perfect day came when we were all at Tom’s place. I took Chloe aside, and we went into her room. I sat on the floor in front of the wardrobe. It had a white net curtain in front of it, which I opened. She sat on her bed on my right.

“Your Dad told me you girls have so many dresses, it’s hard to keep track.”

“Lots of them I hate,” she said.

“That’s fair enough. You have your own taste. So, let’s make it easier to find the ones you like by removing the ones you don’t. It’s a fun thing we can do together.”

Chloe smiled and nodded.

I took a beautiful green floral off the rack.

Anne poked her head around the door. “What are you doing?”

“I hate green,” said Chloe. “I don’t like that one.”

I put it to one side.

“That’s a new one someone gave you. You can’t get rid of that,” said Anne.

“If she doesn’t like it and won’t wear it, it must go. She has too many and can’t find the ones she likes.”

“Oh, I see,” said Anne. “Don’t get rid of any of mine. I like my clothes.”

“Don’t worry. This is just a session for Chloe.”

Anne’s lips turned down into a pout.

“Don’t worry, Anne. Come back later, and we’ll check your clothes for any repairs that need to be done.”

She beamed and left us to it.

By the time we had finished, Chloe looked happy, and a vast pile of discarded clothes sat to my left. Anything that remained in the wardrobe had lots of space. Another smaller pile had dresses and shirts needing buttons or other repairs. I promised her I’d do that for her.

“Something else I want to tell you about, Chloe. I was older than you when my Mum married again. I really wanted my father back home, and it would never happen with a new father there. Your Dad explained to me why sometimes you can’t see your Mum. She gets ill. But you will always be able to visit her, even when I marry your Dad. She is your Mum.”

“There isn’t anything wrong with my Mum,” she said. “It’s not that. I want Analiese to marry my Dad and Moana to be my sister. I don’t want you or Edwin . . . Analiese will let me grow my nails and wear nail polish.” Her face looked like steel.

My friend Analiese had the unhappy knack of being the one loved before the next. The one who toyed with her men and broke their hearts every time. Who didn’t want to marry any of them?

“It’s a shame that Analiese doesn’t want to marry your Dad, isn’t it.”

What else could I say? Inside, I was dying. The thought of being anyone’s ‘next’ made me want to run to the hills.

Chloe stared at me with her big blue eyes. I had no idea what she thought about that revelation. I doubted she believed me.

“Can you go and get your sister, please, Chloe?”


That evening, after I arrived home with a pile of Chloe’s and Anne’s clothes to mend and Edwin in bed asleep, Tom rang as usual.

“Hi, Love. You seemed like you had a lot on your mind. How did you get on with Chloe and her clothes today?”

“Oh great. I haven’t earned any Brownie points, though. I had a chance to talk with her. I found out her reservations about us getting married . . . She wants you to marry Analiese.”

Silence on the other end left me wondering if Tom was shocked or mystified.

I felt tears welling.

“My girls love her daughter, Moana. But I had no idea Chloe wanted me to marry her mother.”

“Are you telling me this is complete news to you? So many guys I know have wanted to marry her.”

“I’ll be honest with you. I ended up writing Analiese a 'Dear Jane' letter. She and I? It could never have worked. I'd have ended up with four instead of just two girls to bring up.”

“But why the letter to dump her if you weren’t a thing?”

“I knew what I was doing. She’s a lot of fun . . . but she is so needy. I don’t believe she had any intention of marrying me. She knew it was what I wanted. What she did was use me. It had to end. Please don’t ever feel you are a consolation prize. The second best. I never gave Analiese flowers.”

I shed a few tears. “Well, we still have a problem with Chloe. It’s hard on kids. I feel angry with Analiese. I told her to say to guys right from the start that she didn’t want marriage. She didn’t heed my advice.”

“You told her that?”

“Sure did.”

“It’s just like you.” he chuckled. “You are the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. So glad we got together.”

I sighed. I couldn’t blame him, but I knew when he had written the letter. It had to be after his trip to the capital with her, not long before we first went out on Valentines' day. It seemed that this time, Analiese got what she deserved. A man who didn’t want to marry her.

The End

February 16, 2024 04:52

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Howard Halsall
21:22 Feb 18, 2024

Hello Kaitlyn, I enjoyed Kathy and Tom’s story and loved the way you developed their relationship. The way you handled Kathy’s dealings with Tom’s girls was appropriately delicate and insightful, demonstrating your writing talent in its true light. The pacing throughout never faltered and concluded neatly with plenty for an attentive reader to think about. I hope the couple’s future life together works out and trust time will heal the childrens’ wounds; they all deserve some peace of mind… HH :)


11:10 Feb 19, 2024

Thanks for that, Howard. It wasn't even the one I submitted to the competition. I enjoyed writing about these characters.


Howard Halsall
12:15 Feb 19, 2024

Hello Kaitlyn, I occasionally find myself compromised for time and upload my stories in an unfinished state, regarding them as ‘work in progress’ rather than submit to the competition. In that instance I’d probably continue making additions and/or editing on-line, especially if I’m enjoying myself, and if someone offers an opinion then I’ll take it on board. Whatever works is fine, wouldn’t you agree? HH :)


20:29 Feb 19, 2024

Very Much So. Except that if you are not as widely read in Reedsy, those stories not in the competition often don't have many readers. LOL. I know that to have more readers, it's a courtesy to read others stories as well. I always read the stories suggested via critique circle and often point out many things to specific members in a helpful way. But my time is limited. One of my Romance stories (I am not a fan of Romance stories - never been a Mills and Boon girl) Who is That Girl, was not in the competition (months ago) because of a glitch ...


Howard Halsall
21:06 Feb 19, 2024

To be honest, Kaitlyn, I’m not a great fan of social media for the reason that time is always short as you pointed out and, without a filter, it’s easy to get swamped under a deluge of material. In an ideal world I’d prefer a smaller reading/writing group as I’m convinced it leads to progress in steady increments and one develops an understanding of other’s work too; it’s both mutually beneficial and more focused. However, having said all that, I enjoy the weekly challenge and have found the pressure of the deadlines exciting and useful for ...


21:50 Feb 19, 2024

Totally agree. I see it the same way.


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Helen A Smith
08:02 Feb 18, 2024

Here you portray the complexity of marrying when partners have been married before and have children so well. I particularly liked the considerate way the MC tries to overcome the hurdles with Tom’s children. Making them feel she is part of their lives but they still have choices. By the way, I’m a little envious of Tom’s bathroom. I need one like that - obviously I’d have to put my own stamp on it. 🛀 . It would be great to have a bathroom where you could really indulge yourself and maybe read and write in there too. Maybe I’m going a bit ...


07:50 Feb 20, 2024

Thanks Helen. I appreciate your comments.


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Alexis Araneta
09:30 Feb 16, 2024

Yay ! The long-awaited follow up to Tom and Kathy's story! Once again, I truly enjoyed how this flowed and how the descriptions were so rich. It made me feel like I was right there. Brilliant! When you described to me in a comment that Annaliese would figure in why the engagement was a bit problematic, I thought that you were going the trying to steal Tom back route. Hahahaha! Glad he and Kathy are now engaged. Lovely work!


19:01 Feb 16, 2024

Thanks so much, Stella. I realize there may have been drama between Tom and Analiese during the two and a half weeks that Kathy never heard from him. I don't like changing POV like that. But did Tom have trouble deciding who to pick? Kathy will never know. That's life though. If I had been able to write the whole two parts as one story, I think I would have called it, 'She Would Never Know.'. The next prompt is about words unspoken. I wonder . . . Just joking. All the best with your writing.


Alexis Araneta
23:11 Feb 16, 2024

Oooh, interesting ! Thank you so much !


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Mary Bendickson
08:23 Feb 16, 2024

A follow up. Great development.


18:58 Feb 16, 2024

Thanks for reading, Mary. It completes the other story better. Somehow the whole story took too many words. Had to write it as two separate ones. 2nd not entered.


Mary Bendickson
19:47 Feb 16, 2024

Still great.


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