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  • Valentine(On Dublin Street #5.5)(14) by Samantha Young
  • The most he’d said to me was when he was yelling about that fisheye lens.

    And then the peck on the lips.

    The peck!

    We did not peck.

    Unsettled I shoved a book onto a shelf and lost myself in thought. Had we hit that point? That inevitable point in marriage? That inevitable point that I never actually believed was inevitable for us?

    That point where we just… start taking one another for granted.

    I blinked back the burn of tears at the thought, finding myself overwhelmingly upset by the idea.

    After almost eight years of marriage and with no sign of falling into that trap I thought we were sure to escape it. Of course like all couples we’d reached a comfortable familiarity and sometimes we bickered, but we’d never lost that need for one another, emotionally or physically.

    Oh God.

    Was the peck the beginning of the end?

    ***

    “So when did he start with the lip pecking?” Ellie asked as we shared a coffee over lunch at a café just around the corner from the university.

    Ellie was a professor and tutor in the art history department and whenever we could we met up for lunch.

    I frowned. “Just this morning. But he completely forgot Valentine’s Day.”

    “I thought Nate believes Valentine’s Day is just one giant commercial puppet trick.”

    Those were his exact words actually. “True, but—”

    “Liv, it’s one day. You’re really getting this upset over one peck and one missed Valentine’s Day?”

    I grimaced. “You’d be pissed if Adam forgot Valentine’s Day.”

    “Of course I would. I’m a romantic. You are a semi-romantic. And Valentine’s Day has never been a big deal to you.”

    “We’re just… we don’t get to hang out alone anymore and I understand that that is a part of being parents,” I sighed heavily. “I would probably be more okay with it if I knew he missed our alone time as much as I do.” I groaned. “I sound like an awful mother. I’m not. I love my kids and I don’t know what I’d do without the girls but Nate and I haven’t had a real conversation in—”

    Ellie held her hand up cutting me off. “Liv, no one thinks you’re a bad mother okay. Calm down. It’s hard. We all know it is. You have to work at it. Make time. Why does the ball have to be in Nate’s court?”

    I sat back and processed that. Ellie was right. As a modern woman it was kind of shocking of me to place all of the romantic responsibility on Nate. “You’re right. It’s unfair to put the expectation on him. Perhaps I can get Nathan and Sylvie to look after the girls next weekend.” They were Nate’s parents and they’d helped us out before in the past.

    “Doesn’t hurt to ask.”

    “Olivia?”

    At the deep, somewhat familiar, male voice I looked up from my lunch to see a tall, good-looking guy standing over our table. I stared at him until his gorgeous light green eyes caused recognition to hit me.

    “Ben?” I pushed back my chair and stood up. “Benjamin Livingston?”

    “She remembers me.” He grinned at me before pulling me in for a hug that I returned happily.

    This guy, this handsome tall Scotsman was the reason Nate and I were together. I’d had a crush on Ben when he was a post-grad student at the university and I’d ask Nate to help me become more confident and seductive to win Ben over. Of course in doing so I ended up falling for Nate and vice versa, but during the ‘down’ moments of our ‘courtship’ I’d spent time with Ben and he was a great guy.

    He pulled back, still smiling. “You must still work at the library?”

    “I do. I’m head librarian now.”

    “Hot.” He grinned and Ellie laughed drawing his attention. “Hi, nice to meet you.”

    “Oh we met once before.”

    He studied her and then nodded. “Ellie, right?”

    “Right. Good memory!”

    Still stunned to see him after all this time I found myself asking, “Do you have time to sit with us?”

    Ben nodded. “If you’re sure?”

    “Of course.”

    “Let me just grab something to eat.”

    Once he was out of earshot Ellie leaned across the table and said in a low voice, “How funny. And he hasn’t changed a bit.”

    It was funny to see him of all people on a day when I was feeling so nostalgic for the early days in my relationship with Nate. To clarify I was nostalgic for the post-Benjamin days. Nothing in the world could make me want to relive the angst of being with Nate but not really being with Nate, breaking up with Nate and thinking I’d lost him forever.

    “So, how are things?” Ben said without preamble as he sat at the table with us.

    “Really good.” I lifted my diamond-adorned left hand. “Married. With two girls.”

    “To whom?”

    I blushed, remembering how he stepped back from pursuing a relationship with me because of Nate. “Nate Sawyer.”

    “Like I didn’t already know that.” He said and then held up his left hand where a platinum wide band encircled his ring finger. “Three years. Her name is Jules and she’s pregnant with our first kid.”

    “I’m happy for you,” I said with genuine feeling.

    “I’m happy for you too.” He smiled and then turned politely to Ellie.

    She answered before he even asked. “Married to my brother’s best friend even though it was like pulling teeth to get him to even attempt a relationship with me. We have two little boys, Will and Braden, and they are quite possibly the cutest kids known to man.”

    Ben laughed at her oversharing. “That’s great. And any plans for Valentine’s Day, ladies?”

    “Dinner and a party a colleague is hosting. You?” Ellie said.

    “Well I actually live in Aberdeen now but we came back home for my mum and dad’s fortieth wedding anniversary. The celebrations are lasting a whole week.” He shook his head, laughing I assumed at his family. “Jules is being dragged around while my mother picks out baby clothes, and I tried to tag along but my mother is adamant when she wants something and she wants alone time with Jules, so I decided to grab some lunch and do some work.” He patted the laptop bag at his feet.

    I eyed the bag. “What do you do now that you’re no longer a student?”

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