Damaged Souls (Broken Man)
Author:Christopher Scott

Prologue

Mother’s Day

Delaney didn’t know what to expect after Jack told her there was someone he wanted her to meet. Sure, she had told him it was time for him to move on and find love again, but now as they made their way from the parking lot to the hotel, Delaney was unsure if she had really meant it.

In a strange way, she admired how difficult it had been for Jack to get over the death of her mother. It showed how much he truly loved her, and Delaney knew she could count on Jack to help keep her mother’s memory alive. That was important to Delaney as already she could sense her mother’s memory fading from people’s minds. Even her father had moved on fairly quickly, unfortunately preoccupied in his relationship with Wendy.

Wendy. This woman who pretends to be my mother, this fake blonde haired impersonator who tries to tell me how to act, how to dress, how to think. When is she going to realize she is nothing like my mother? I just hope Jack has the sense not to fall in love with a woman like that, Delaney thought to herself as they arrived at the hotel’s front entrance.

“Are you hungry, honey,” Jack asked as he opened the door and Delaney sensed his nervousness.

“I am, Jack,” she responded with a smile and tried to ease his nerves.

They made their way to the restaurant that was so special to both of them, the spot of her mother’s first date with Jack exactly two years earlier. Delaney remembered the way he looked at her during that Mother’s Day brunch, the way he paid attention to her and little sister, Bailey. It was then that Delaney realized how much Jack loved all three of them, and he had never disappointed from that day forward.

He had helped make the last few months with her mother so special. Delaney had never seen her mom any happier and their mother daughter relationship had evolved in a way that was hard to describe. It was as if she no longer had to spend the majority of her time trying to hide so much stress and could instead just concentrate on being the wonderful mother she always had been. The result was an entirely different relationship between them, and Delaney remembered the many conversations they had, conversations that would have never happened when her mother was still married to her father and she was just a little girl.

But she wasn’t a little girl anymore. Delaney was thirteen now, half way to fourteen. No, she definitely wasn’t a little girl anymore, and she wished that Wendy would stop treating her like one.

“Delaney, this is Amanda,” Jack interrupted her daydream as Delaney quickly realized they had arrived at their destination.

“Hi, Amanda, it’s nice to meet you,” Delaney greeted her politely as she extended her hand.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Amanda replied as she ignored Delaney’s hand and instead gave her a hug. “Jack has told me so much about you, and he is right, you are absolutely gorgeous.”

“Thank you,” Delaney smiled shyly, unsure of what to make of this new woman in Jack’s life, not yet willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

She was certainly beautiful, not in the made up, contrived way that Wendy was, but in a different, more natural way. Long dark hair, great figure, and perfect skin that hardly needed any makeup at all. Amanda was also young, much younger than her mother and probably closer to her own age than Jack’s.

“So, how was your visit with your mother,” Amanda surprised Delaney with a rather personal question as they sat down.

“It was good,” Delaney replied slowly, still not quite sure what to make of this woman. “I think she would have been happy that Jack and I visited on Mother’s Day.”

“I know she is happy,” Amanda impressed Delaney by referring to her mother in the present tense. “Jack has told me what a special woman she was.”

“She was a special woman,” Delaney replied suspiciously, unaccustomed to anyone discussing her mom so freely. “She was a great mother to me and Bailey, and I know she will always be there with us.”

“I know she will be, too,” Amanda reached for her hand as Delaney could tell she was about to cry.

“Did you talk to your mom this morning,” Delaney tried to quickly change the subject so Amanda wouldn’t cry.

“My mother passed away earlier this year, just after the holidays.”

“I didn’t mean to bring that up,” Delaney immediately apologized to her new friend. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay, honey,” Amanda tried to smile. “She had been sick for a long time, and it wasn’t entirely unexpected. I did have a chance to spend some time with her last weekend before Jack and I left New Jersey.”

“That’s good,” Delaney replied and instinctively knew what Amanda meant. “I bet you miss her.”

“I do miss her, and it was nice to have that time with her,” Amanda looked away as she wiped her tears with a napkin. “Delaney, it looks like we both could use a trip to the ladies room. Do you want to join me.”

“That sounds good, Amanda,” Delaney responded as she realized she was also crying and that Jack was still sitting at the table with them. “Is that okay, Jack.”

“Of course it’s okay, Delaney,” Jack responded as he stood up from the table. “Take your time, I’ll be here when you get back.”

* * *

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom,” Greg tried to find some enthusiasm as he placed a cup of coffee on the night table and realized their plans for the day had been shelved.

“Good morning, honey,” his mother barely whispered as she rolled over and squinted as the light hit her eyes. “What time is it.”

“It’s a little past eleven, you got in pretty late,” Greg answered as he remembered hearing her stumble in a little after 1:00 that morning. “I wish you wouldn’t drive when you’ve been drinking. You know how much that bothers me.”

“You can’t scold me on Mother’s Day, Greg,” his mother chastised him as she sat up and took a gulp of coffee. “My head is killing me, would you be a sweetheart and get me a couple Tylenol and maybe some more coffee.”

“Sure, Mom,” Greg tried to be kind as they went through their weekend routine. “I’ll be back in a second. Why don’t you try to drink some water.”

I am so tired of this, Greg thought to himself as he made his way to the kitchen. Every weekend was a waste, his mom drinking all night on Friday and Saturday and then spending the day hungover on Saturday and Sunday. At least she managed to control herself during the week.

And that’s an improvement, Greg remembered that dark time after his father’s death nearly two years earlier just before he entered middle school. His mother had been a mess, barely able to get out of bed, unable to work or really even function in any way. He remembered the non-stop crying and the many nights he spent all alone after she finally passed out. Compared to that, a little weekend hangover wasn’t too bad. Yes, she is getting better, Greg tried to convince himself as he poured another cup of coffee.

Who dies of a heart attack at the age of thirty-eight, Greg wondered as he added cream and sugar to the coffee and remembered his Dad. Not a guy in the shape of his father. Not a guy who could seemingly conquer the world. His father was the least likely of any man to have that happen.

Genetic abnormality, Greg remembered the technical term the doctor had used as he made his way back to his mother’s bedroom. A fancy phrase for an enlarged heart that had gone undetected and killed his father. A sterile description for the overlooked condition that had destroyed his mother’s life.

“Here you go, Mom,” Greg tried to smile as he handed her the cup of coffee and two Tylenol. “So, what do you want to do today.”

“Why don’t you and I hang out and watch a movie,” she tried to smile as she requested her favorite hangover activities. “Then, maybe we can order takeout Chinese for tonight.”

“Sounds good,” he agreed to her plan. “I’m going to go mow a couple lawns. Why don’t you get a shower and maybe try to eat something. I should be back by two.”

“Okay, Greg,” she tried to apologize for her actions. “Sorry I’m not feeling well today and I’m sorry I drove last night. I’ll get better, honey, I promise. Do you forgive me.”

“Of course I do, Mom,” he replied and again felt sorry for her as he gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Happy Mother’s Day.”

* * *

“So, what did you guys talk about,” Jack pried for information as he turned into Delaney’s neighborhood. “The two of you were gone for so long I nearly starved to death.”

“None of your business,” Delaney replied with a smile as he confirmed he had done the right thing by introducing her to Amanda. “Just some girl talk.”

“You can’t keep secrets from me young lady,” Jack teased her. “Amanda will fill me in on everything later on.”

“No she won’t. We promised to keep our conversation a secret.”

“Hmmm,” Jack pretended to be perplexed as he pulled into Delaney’s driveway. “We shall see about that. Im really glad you came out today, Delaney. It was great to see you.”

“It was great to see you too, Jack,” Delaney replied as she smiled and gave him a hug. “I really like Amanda. She is so nice.”

“Thanks,” Jack thought about how to include Delaney in their future. “She really liked you as well, and being new in town and not knowing her way around, I was hoping you would go shopping with her next weekend and maybe show her around a little bit. What do you think.”

“That sounds great,” she responded as he could tell Delaney was pleased with the invitation. “Just tell Amanda to call me and we will set it up.”

“Will do,” he replied as he opened his car door.

“Jack, you don’t have to walk me to the door,” Delaney rolled her eyes at him. “I’m not little anymore.”

“You’re right, honey, you are not a little girl anymore,” he acknowledged her independence. “But, at the same time, I am still a gentleman and I am always going to walk you to the door, like it or not.”

“Okay, Jack,” she laughed. “Take it easy. You can walk me to the door.”

Just like her mother, Jack thought to himself and smiled for just a second as he got of out of the car.

Then, he was hit with a sudden pang of guilt as he realized he was standing in front of Brittany’s house for the first time since her death.

* * *

Amanda tried to catch her breath as she laid in Jack’s arms and caught him smiling out of the corner of her eye.

“What are you smiling at,” she laughed and tried to embarrass him.

“Nothing at all, Amanda,” he replied as she realized he was just as out of breath as she was. “I was just trying to figure out what the heck that was we just did.”

“I have no idea,” Amanda wondered as well as she rolled her body back on top of his and looked directly into his eyes. “But whatever it was, it was great.”

“Yes it was,” he agreed as his hands found their way to his favorite spot. “So, are you ever going to tell me what you and Delaney talked about in the ladies room.”

“Of course I’m not going to tell you,” she teased him, knowing it was driving him crazy not to know. “What happens in the ladies room stays in the ladies room.”

“Very funny,” he smirked and pretended to give up. “I really don’t want to know anyway.”

“Awww, poor Jack,” she enjoyed him not getting his way for once. “He can’t know what’s going on in every square inch of his hotel. What is he going to do.”

“May be time for video cameras and microphones,” he joked as he rolled Amanda over and switched positions with her. “Now, tell me what you talked about or I’m going to do that thing to you again.”

“Go ahead, I’m ready,” Amanda laughed as she decided to share some of their conversation. “Seriously, Jack, I’m not going to tell you everything we talked about, but I will tell you I like her very much. We have a lot in common, and she’s at a very difficult time in her life, especially for a girl. We talked about her mother some more and a little bit about her father and the woman he is dating. I think it probably helps that I am not quite old enough to be her mother and we can communicate as friends if you know what I mean.”

“That makes sense,” Jack seemed pleased with their communication as he slowly rotated his hips and kissed her neck. “The two of you will have a lot more time to talk when you go shopping next Saturday.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Amanda closed her eyes as she felt Jack move inside of her. “Jack, can I tell you something.”

“Right now,” he questioned her as she opened her eyes and saw him smiling.

“Yes, right now, you can wait a second,” she enjoyed making him wait. “Jack, I think I’m pregnant.”

He immediately stopped. “What did you say, Amanda.”

“You heard it right,” she paused, pleased to have caught him by surprise. “I said I think I’m pregnant.”

“You’re silly,” Jack laughed as he slowly resumed his favorite activity. “We’ve only been together for a week, and while I may be fast, I’m not that fast.”

“Very funny, Jack,” Amanda responded as she stopped his progress again and squirmed out from beneath him. “But, I’m being serious. We haven’t exactly been careful.”

Amanda sat up and looked at him carefully, curious as to how he would respond. They had not spoken about it until now, but all week, they had made love with reckless abandon, each time looking into each other’s eyes and signing an unwritten contract agreeing to the consequences and benefits of their actions. Jack wouldn’t break that contract, would he?

“Come here, Amanda,” he smiled as he pulled her on top of him. “I would consider myself the luckiest man on earth to have a child with you. You know that, right.”

“Thanks, Jack,” she was relieved he had told her exactly what she needed to hear. “I know it sounds silly after just a week, but I can’t explain it, just a feeling I have.”

“Well, I hope you are right,” he replied as he moved her into position again. “Do you want to try and make twins.”

“I’m not quite sure that’s how it works,” she closed her eyes once more and felt him about to enter her body. “But, let’s give it a try.”