Stories from Lightport, Massachusetts
More stories from your favorite characters in The Front Row Series
Stories from Lightport, Massachusetts
More stories from your favorite characters in The Front Row Series
Summary: Chloe said it was what she wanted, but then again, she was only 19. And five years later, Micah is plagued with guilt over taking her virginity. Especially considering where it all led. Now that they're friends, he thinks it's best to talk about it. When Chloe shows up at his apartment drunk, he thinks maybe that wasn't the best idea he's ever had.
Micah’s senses are overwhelmed. The smell of Chloe’s soft hair, her breaths puffing hot against his shoulder, her fingers grasping his biceps. He pulls back to look in her face, to look deeply into her sparkling amber eyes, to tell her of the depth of his feelings.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
He shakes his head even as he smiles. This isn’t how it went. She didn’t say that. She looked away, so shy all of a sudden, and I had to gently turn her face back to me. I was worried I had hurt her; I was worried she regretted it.
“I loved you, Micah,” she pauses, her face falling, and then her eyes go dull. “But you didn’t love me.”
“What?” Micah protests as she pushes him off her and sits up, hugging the sheet up to her chin. “Yes, I did. Of course I did. I mean, I do.”
Chloe shakes her head, “Obviously not enough. Or you wouldn’t have taken everything from me.”
“Chloe, I’m so sorry . . . “ he doesn’t know what else to say as he reaches for her. “You said this was what you wanted.”
The more he reaches for her, the farther away she seems. Chloe inclines her head, gesturing towards the pink dress lying rumpled on the floor. “You bought me that dress, brought me here, cooked me an expensive dinner. I know what you expected.”
“No, Chloe,” he insists, shaking his head, “I expected nothing.”
Micah reaches for her again, but now Chloe is not just being pulled away from him, she is being pulled under. The sheets entangle her limbs, and she calls for him as panic sparks in her eyes. She fights against the linens, but they just wrap around her, choking her. Micah reaches for her, but his fingertips merely brush hers. Then she’s gone, and he’s left ripping the sheets from the bed in a panic, shouting her name.
Micah heaves forward, sweat beading his brow, gasping for breath. As his breaths slow down, the realization that it was only a dream settles around him. The only limbs tangled in the sheets are his own. He groans as he swings his legs over the side of the bed and leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He cups his face in his hands as he remembers Chloe’s lifeless voice in the dream, speaking so matter-of-factly about all that he took from her. And it’s true. She came to Lightport for an education, to make a better future for herself. And almost immediately, she had met him.
The panicked look in Chloe’s eyes as she was pulled away from his grasp haunts his thoughts, and he runs his hands through his hair. The dream was so disturbing, his hair is still wet with sweat. He glances in the corner, but of course, Chloe’s dress isn’t really there. He remembers her words that night, I want you to be my first, but does that excuse him? Had Chloe felt she owed him? Had he pressured her? And even if he hadn’t, they had only been together such a short time. If Micah had really loved her, he would have slowed things down.
He groans again, falling backwards onto the mattress. He hated himself back then, but whenever he was with Chloe, it was different. He felt stronger, better, more honorable. He thought he could conquer his demons for her. He should have known only God could accomplish the changes he needed within himself. But he had been too stubborn, still running from anything that resembled faith. He had been running straight towards destruction and had simply hauled Chloe Wren right along with him.
He had these types of dreams every year around this time. Some, like the one tonight, were nightmares. Others were more like vivid memories; the feel of her bare back soft beneath his fingers, the way her hair fanned out on the pillow, the taste of her . . . Micah jumps from the bed as the past assaults him. Time for another cold shower.
Micah rubs his temple wearily as he adjusts the knobs in the shower. He steps beneath the cold stream until his pulse eases back to a normal rhythm, then slowly adjusts the dials until warm water runs down and across his shoulder blades. He lowers his head and squeezes his eyes shut as the steamy warmth streams through his hair. He remembers how hesitant Chloe had been that first night, how unsure. He had tried to be as gentle and patient as possible, but maybe that wasn’t enough. How does Chloe remember that night? Does it assault her memory with images of passion and love, as it does for him? Or is it her greatest regret?
Micah reaches for the faucet with his eyes still closed and then leans his forehead against the cool tile. Chloe had been too embarrassed to go by the college clinic and ask for free birth control pills, so Micah had taken care of protection. He had failed her then too, so overcome by her declaration of love that he hadn’t thought. . .
Micah grabs the towel off the rack on the wall by the shower. He scrubs it roughly over his wet hair. Chloe had only known him a grand total of – what? two and a half months? – and he had gotten her pregnant. He had taken her future and shattered it.
Micah’s bare feet slap on the hardwood floors as he makes his way back to his room. The clock reads 2:43 am. He throws on a pair of boxers and crawls back under the covers, but he still lies there, staring up at the ceiling, one arm flung across his forehead. He doesn’t regret Luke, though. In spite of everything, he wouldn’t go back to a world without that little boy in it. How does he reconcile that with this feeling of regret for turning Chloe’s world upside down?
Of course, they are friends now. Maybe this is something they can get out in the open? Maybe he can apologize? Or maybe that will seem offensive. Not to mention stoke the flames that already rage whenever Chloe is around. His passion for her has never dimmed. But this time he is determined to do things the right way. No rushing headlong into passion like a couple of kids. He has made a vow to himself that he will win her heart, but on her terms this time. He won’t push.
Micah rolls over onto his stomach, bunching the pillow up beneath him. Lord, if I should talk to Chloe about this, give me a sign. I don’t want to upset her or hurt her any more than I already have, but this guilt I feel won’t leave me alone. I’ve asked you to forgive me, and I know you have, but I want to tell Chloe how much I regret hurting her. I feel like You’re giving me a second chance, Lord. Help me go at the right pace this time. I hurt her so badly . . . Micah is still mumbling a prayer for Chloe when sleep claims him.
Micah practically runs from his bedroom, stopping when he reaches the kitchen island. He leans over it, gulping deep breaths. He prays to God Chloe doesn’t come out of that bedroom. He doesn’t know if he can resist her a second time.
Okay, God, you’ve gotta help me out here. When I saw Chloe at the park today, it seemed like a sign. So I talked to her. And I thought it went well, but now?
That’s all the prayer Micah can articulate. He starts pacing, running his fingers agitatedly through his hair. He imagines Chloe. In his bed. At this very moment. The reminder that Luke is in the other room just down the hall is the only thing that keeps him from going back to his bed and the blonde temptress in it.
Oh God, I’m sorry, that’s not fair. I stirred this up; it’s not entirely her fault. But what do I do now? I thought I wasn’t supposed to be tempted beyond what I could bear. Lord, I can’t bear this!
The answer to his plea comes in that still small voice he had learned to hear in rehab. He grabs his phone off the kitchen counter, pulls up his contacts, and starts pacing again as he hits the call button. When the warm, comforting voice answers, a peace settles over him.
“Micah? Is everything okay?”
“Maggie, I’m so sorry to call you this late at night, but it’s Chloe. I mean, she’s okay, it’s just . . . I need you to come get her.”
“Come get her?”
“Yes. She’s drunk, and I don’t want Luke to see her like this.”
He sighs at the hint of motherly scolding he can hear in her voice. “It’s not what you think, Maggie, I swear. I’ll explain more when you get here.”
She must be able to sense his desperation because she asks no more questions, instead cupping the phone in her hand to have a quick conversation with her husband. “Okay, Micah, sit tight. I’ll be right there.”
Micah continues to pace as he waits for Maggie, praying fervently that Chloe stays put. He can’t deny how badly he wants her, but having sex with her now, when she’s drunk and in emotional turmoil would be wrong on so many levels. And it would completely ruin this tentative friendship that they’ve built over the past few months. Finally, there’s a soft rap at his door, and he practically yanks Maggie inside.
“She’s in my bedroom,” he explains as he gives Maggie a little shove in the right direction.
“Your bedroom?” She asks, eyebrows raised and her arms crossed. She plants herself right where she is, and Micah knows that despite her burgeoning pregnant belly he isn’t moving her.
“Yes,” Micah practically growls in frustration, “but nothing happened.”
“But she’s in your bed?” Maggie narrows her eyes as Micah tilts his head back and tucks his tongue into his cheek. “Well, you said you’d explain when I got here, so explain.”
Micah begins pacing again. At this rate, he’s going to wear a rut in the floor. “Chloe showed up here less than an hour ago. She was drunk. She . . . well, she . . . hugged me, and tried to kiss me . . .”
“She propositioned you,” Maggie supplies as he continues to stumble over his words.
Micah sighs. He hates to paint Chloe in a bad light, especially with the associate pastor’s wife, but Maggie won’t let him get away with lying, either. “Yes.”
“Is that what you gathered from her behavior, or –“
“Oh no, she made it perfectly clear. She flat out asked me to have sex with her. Twice.” Just saying it out loud has his pulse rising. Why is he so weak?
“And therefore you thought it was best to take her to your bed?”
“Damn it, Maggie,” Micah hisses, “I wouldn’t have called you if I was entertaining the idea. She was drunk and could barely stand. I didn’t want Luke to hear her, or even worse, wake up and see her like that. “
Maggie regards him for a long, tense moment. Micah glares back at her and gestures towards the hallway.
“So, for the love of all things holy, can you take her home. Please? Before our son finds her in my bed?”
Maggie nods, but he swears there’s some mischief sparkling in her eyes. “Yes, of course I’ll take her home. But Luke isn’t the only reason you’re so desperate.”
Micah hangs his head, “I’m only human, Maggie. I mean, what did Joseph do when Potiphar’s wife tried to practically drag him to bed? He ran!”
“But Joseph wasn’t in love with Potiphar’s wife.”
Now it’s Micah’s turn to cross his arms. “You’re awfully nosy. Has anyone ever told you that?” Maggie just grins and shrugs one shoulder. Micah drops his arms in defeat. “Okay, so you’ve got me. Happy now? Which is exactly why I can’t do anything stupid. It’s taken long enough to get back in the friend zone.”
Maggie tilts her head quizzically. “If you’re just friends, then why the guilt?”
Micah blushes and nervously rubs the back of his neck. “What happened tonight is partly my fault, too. This afternoon, I brought up some things from our past. I thought it would be good for us, get things out in the open, but . . . obviously all I did was hurt her again.”
Maggie searches Micah’s face for a moment before speaking. “Maybe you should stop apologizing to Chloe about the past and start talking about the future instead.” She gives him a small smile and then heads to the bedroom.
He hears Maggie speak low and gentle to Chloe, and in no time the brunette is helping her down the hall. Micah thinks how beautiful Chloe is, even with her blonde hair knotted and messy in her face. She glances up at him as Maggie leads her out the door, and even bloodshot and glassy, those eyes arrest him and make his heart pound. He always loved gazing into those eyes that were the most fascinating shade of light brown he’d ever seen. He could never decide if they were the color of honey or the last dusky shade of sunset.
Micah shakes himself out of his silly reverie to follow the women out of the apartment and down the two flights of stairs. He doesn’t want to touch Chloe unless absolutely necessary, but on several occasions Maggie needs his help, especially when getting Chloe into the car. She fights them a bit because she wants to lie down across the backseat, but can’t because of the Newton’s car seats.
Just when they think the worst is over, with Chloe safely buckled into the front passenger seat, Chloe starts to shout something at Maggie – and vomits all over the poor woman instead. Micah tells Maggie to go upstairs and borrow one of his t-shirts while he cleans up the front seat. He’s just finishing wiping down the middle console with disinfectant wipes he found in the glove box when Chloe moans and grabs his arm.
“Do you hate me?” she asks, lower lip trembling. She looks so vulnerable, Micah can’t help reaching out and tucking her hair behind her ears.
“No, babe, I could never hate you.”
“You probably think I’m a horrible mother,” she says, and then the tears begin to flow. It’s the first time he’s seen her cry in five years.
“No, you just had a rough day. You’re a wonderful mother.”
“Because I never do this,” she continues almost as if she hasn’t heard him, “I don’t do this. I don’t. I’m not a dumb kid anymore.”
And that was one more thing for him to feel guilty about. She had gone from a carefree college kid to single mom with so many challenges and responsibilities. Overnight. Because of him. But Maggie was right, he had apologized enough. He was just about to assure Chloe he knew this wasn’t her, but she had fallen asleep again.
“Out, Barrett,” a voice behind him orders, and Micah jumps. Maggie is jerking her thumb and ordering him out of her SUV. “I’ve got this,” she assures him as he slides out from behind the wheel.
He watches Maggie situate her pregnant belly in the driver’s seat and start the engine. “Are you sure about this? Getting her in the car wasn’t exactly easy.”
Waving her hand, Maggie scoffs, “Nonsense, I’ll be fine. Chloe’s apartment is on the first floor. You have to stay here with Luke.”
Micah nods and backs away from the curb, watching as Maggie pulls away. Once the tail lights are out of sight, he turns wearily back up the stairs. He shuts the apartment door quietly behind him and locks it, then heads straight for Luke’s room.
He eases his son’s bedroom door open and stands at first peeking through the large crack. For a long time, Luke had trouble sleeping when he was here. Micah had tried everything to help, but the bottom line is that Micah’s place isn’t his home. It’s just the place he comes to visit his father every other weekend. Luke clutches a stuffed dog and a blanket just like the ones he has at Chloe’s, and a night light shines a kaleidoscope of stars on to the ceiling. But it wasn’t until Micah purchased the sound machine that Luke could finally sleep in his room. It plays ocean sounds: waves gently lapping at the shore in a rhythmic wooshing sound.
Micah eases into the room and first stands beside his son’s bed, looking down at his peacefully sleeping form. His heart constricts in his chest as it often does when he looks at his little boy, but tonight it isn’t just paternal affection. Someday, he wants to be more than the man Luke visits. He wants to be there for it all: getting him ready for school, helping with homework, nagging him about getting to bed on time because it’s a school night. He doesn’t want to just be a weekend father. Of course, there’s only one way he can have it all.
Micah sits gingerly on the end of Luke’s bed. He gently lifts Luke’s right leg that is dangling off the edge and carefully tucks it back beneath the blankets. Luke stirs, but his eyes remain closed and his deep and even breaths are proof he hasn’t awakened. Micah smiles as he brushes the hair from his son’s forehead. For all the mess Micah caused by bringing up the past, at least he now knows one thing. Chloe still feels it too – the passion between them. He thinks back to what she said Halloween night – there were good memories, too. We were in love, Micah. That’s what she had said this afternoon at the park. Could she love him again? Now that they were different people?
Micah mulls over Maggie’s advice. Yes, he wants a future with Chloe. But this time, he wants more than just passion. They aren’t kids anymore. Luke has changed them. This time, he wants to give Chloe a mature love. A sacrificial love. And he’ll be patient proving it to her - no matter how long it takes.
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.