Home > A Beautiful Funeral (The Maddox Brothers #5)(5)

A Beautiful Funeral (The Maddox Brothers #5)(5)
Jamie McGuire

“Make sure we see each other again,” she said.

Hyde opened the front door. “Thirty seconds, sir.”

I nodded to her, grabbed my car keys, and glanced back at Liis, taking one last look before closing the door behind me.

CHAPTER TWO

TAYLOR

“CHEER UP, BUD. I bet she’ll be at the house by shift’s end,” Jubal said, watching me fold laundry.

“You’ve said that every shift since she left,” I grumbled, shaking out a pair of standard-issue navy blue cargo pants. The color was fading.

When Falyn did the laundry, she somehow kept them looking brand new for months. I cooked dinner and took out the trash; she’d do the laundry and the dishes. We tag-teamed taking care of the kids. Having Hollis and Hadley four months apart was a lot like having twins. One of us held down flailing legs and pulled out baby wipes while the other cleaned and re-diapered. I’d take Hollis to soccer, and she would take Hadley to volleyball. For nine years, we’d worked like a well-oiled machine. We’d even perfected fighting. Anger, negotiation, make-up sex. Now that she was gone, I had no one to compromise with, no kids to juggle, no dinner for four. I’d been doing my own laundry for two months—since she’d moved back to Colorado Springs with the kids—and my pants were already looking like shit. One more reason to miss her.

I folded the cargos over a hanger and hooked it on the rod inside my armoire. I hadn’t been on the mountain digging firebreaks in four years. Only being home for six months out of the year had taken its toll on our marriage, so I hung up my pulaski and took a full-time job with the city fire department.

In the end, it didn’t matter what I did. Falyn wasn’t happy.

“How are the kids liking the new school?” Jubal asked.

“They’re not.”

Jubal sighed. “I wondered if it would be tough for Hollis. I’m surprised you let her take him.”

“Split ‘em up? No,” I said, shaking my head. “Besides, she’s his mother. She always has been. It wouldn’t be right to pull the biological card now.”

Jubal nodded. “True.” He patted my shoulder. “You’re a good man, Taylor.”

My brow furrowed. “Not good enough.”

My cell phone rang. I held the receiver to my ear, and Jubal nodded, already knowing I needed privacy. He walked back into the living area, and I swiped my thumb across the display, holding the phone to my ear.

“Hi, honey,” I said.

“Hi.” Falyn was uncomfortable with terms of endearment now—as if I shouldn’t care about her because she’d left me.

The truth was I’d tried yelling. I’d tried being angry. I begged and pleaded and even threw tantrums, but all that did was push her further away. Now, I listened more and lost my temper less. Something my brothers had all learned early on. They still had their wives.

“I was just thinking about you,” I said.

“Oh, yeah?” she asked. “I was calling because … Hollis isn’t doing well. He got in a fight today.”

“A fistfight? Is he okay?”

“Of course, he’s okay. You taught him how to defend himself. But he’s different. He’s angry. Thank God it was the last day before summer break or he would have been suspended. He still might. Taylor, I think …” She sighed. She sounded as lost as I did, and it was both painful and a relief not to be alone in that. “I think I made a mistake.”

I held my breath, hoping she would finally say she was coming home. It didn’t matter why. Once Falyn came back, I could make things right.

“I was hoping … maybe …”

“Yeah? I mean, yeah. Whatever it is.”

She paused again. Those in-between moments felt like dying a thousand times. Her voice said it all. She knew when she’d called she’d be getting my hopes up, but this conversation was about the kids, not me. Not us. “I was hoping you wouldn’t mind helping me find a rent house in Estes. You have more connections there for housing than I do. It’s going to be hard to find a three-bedroom apartment. The kids are too old to share.”

I sat down on my bed, feeling like the air had been knocked out of me. “Couldn’t you just … move back in? The kids’ rooms are all set up. It’s familiar. I’d love for you to come back. I want you to. It doesn’t have to mean anything more than if you got your own place. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

The other end of the line was quiet for a long time. “I can’t, Taylor.” She sounded tired. Her voice was deeper than usual; ragged.

I’d begged before. It would only start another fight. This was about our children. I had to put us aside. “Falyn … move back into the house with the kids. I’ll find an apartment.”

“No. I’m the one who left. I’ll find a place.”

“Baby,” I began. I could feel her discomfort through the phone. “Falyn. The house is yours. I’ll let the school know they’ll be back next year.”

“Really?” she asked, her voice breaking.

“Yeah,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck. “It doesn’t make sense for me to live in that big house alone and you and the kids crammed into an apartment.”

“Thank you.” She sniffed. “The kids will be so happy.”

“Good,” I said, forcing a smile. I wasn’t sure why. She couldn’t see me. “Good, I’m glad.”

She puffed out a breath of relief, and scuffing sounds against the phone had me imagining she was wiping away tears. “Okay, then. I’ll, um … I’ll start packing.”

“Need help? Let me help you.” The apartment she’d found in Colorado Springs was furnished, so there wouldn’t be much heavy furniture, but I was desperate to return to our well-oiled machine.

“No, we can do it. We don’t have much. There’s nothing too heavy.”

“Falyn. At least let me help pack up the kids. I haven’t seen them in two weeks.”

She thought about it for a moment, sniffing again. I imagined her weighing the pros and cons. She had to think about her choices longer these days, her decisions made only after having more information—something I had to start doing, too. I half-expected her to say she would think about it and call back, but she answered. “Okay.”

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