Sage

The moment everything seemed to be going right with her life, Everett Joseph always had to fuck it up. How she'd managed to look through him instead of going into shock right there on the street, she'd never know. What the hell is he doing back? Her mind was a jumble of half-formed questions and raw emotion clashing together, causing her ears to ring. She'd come to have a relaxing day with Kelsey, maybe ask her some questions about the married life, hell…just sit around and talk like they used to, but no. Instead, she was sitting across from Kelsey on her living room couch staring blankly at the wall while Kelsey ran her motor-mouth calling Everett every kind of bitch ass nigga in the book.

"―And I honestly don't know what he's trying to do here, showing up out of the blue like that. Clearly we've all been doing just fine without him! Just trying to stir up some trouble; he was always good at that. Damn! Girl, if you had seen the way he smiled in my face like we were on speaking terms…"

Kelsey trailed off as if finally realizing Sage wasn't as into the conversation as she was. She turned to her with nothing but compassion in her eyes.

"Just when you thought the whole thing was done and buried, huh?"

Sage nodded.

"It is done and buried," Kelsey scooted closer. "Just because he's back doesn't mean anything has changed. For all you know he could be gone tomorrow; don't waste any time thinking about why he's here."

She sighed. "Kelsey, it was hard enough to forget him when he wasn't here."

"That man gave you up a long time ago; it's high time you did the same."

"I have let go," Sage protested.

Kelsey's voice turned even gentler. "Now, Sage, you know that isn't true. Tell me you still don't wonder why he left like he did. Tell me you still don't wish things could be like they were before. Letting go of all that wishing and hoping and speculating is part of letting go of Everett."

"I gave him the best of me, I―"

"Stop it! You did not give him the best of you, have you seen what you've been able to accomplish on your own? The best of you has yet to come! That man didn't take anything from you Sage, but time."

"Oh, Kelsey," Sage sighed and tears began to fall in earnest. "Why is he back?"

Kelsey enveloped her in a hug. "Only one that can answer that is Everett, and I'd advise you to stay far away from him. You've got enough to be going on with as it is. But you know what I think?"

"What?"

"I think it finally hit him. It finally hit him that you were the best thing that's ever happened to him and that self-centered asshole wants you back for his own sake."

"Oh, Kelsey, really―"

"Don't sell yourself short, I'm serious. Tino can tell you himself…speaking of Tino, what happened after we all left?"

Sage wiped her eyes. "Oh…well. He said he wanted to make sure I was making the right decision with Parker because he'd been the only one since…since…"

"Well, I guess that makes sense in a Tino kind of way, but love is love…and he didn't have to be such an ass about it."

"I came over here to talk to you about getting married and just have a good time and now look! I'm crying all over you…"

Kelsey rolled her eyes. "Don't worry about it, that's what friends are for. You want something to drink? Vodka on the rocks?"

"You know me better than that."

Again, she rolled her eyes, this time in mock exasperation. "One hot, steamy cup of mint tea coming right up. You don't want a shot of anything? Damn."

Despite herself, Sage laughed. "You alcoholic." Wiping her eyes once more, she got up to follow Kelsey into the kitchen. She sat down at the counter and clasped her hands in front of her as Kelsey clicked on the electric kettle. "You're right."

"Oh, I'm always right. What am I right about, now?"

She laughed again. "About forgetting Everett, leaving him alone…however you want to put it. It's not going to do me any good to think about him in any way. For one, I'm engaged…it doesn't matter if he still loves me; I'm past that. For two, what part of him is worth my time and energy?"

"So see? You should start right now. The case on Everett Joseph is closed! Now, about that wonder man you've got…"

Against her will, a dopey smile crossed her face. "Yeah…what about him?"

"It's been ages since you've been by here on the weekend, he's usually got you all wrapped up. Where is he?"

"At the office," she sighed. "They're working on a really big case and he thinks winning this one could be the case that could make him partner."

Kelsey's eyes widened. "Already?"

"Yeah, he's something else, isn't he?"

"He's something," she said, turning off the bubbling kettle and pouring the tea for her.

Chris strolled into the room with a newly awake Jason in his arms. "Hey now, Kells you can't be talking about no other dudes in my house."

"Your house?"

"Yeah, I pay the mortgage, don't I? How you doin' Sage?" he asked with a quick kiss on her cheek.

"I'm alright."

"And you can't be kissin' no other women in my kitchen! Gimme my baby," Kelsey jokingly cut her eyes at him and plucked Jason from his arms.

Shaking his head, Chris turned back to Sage. "You were there when I married her, right?"

"Yeah…"

"I wasn't drugged or nothin' was I?"

Sage burst into laughter. "I don't know why ya'll are so set on acting like you're so unhappy with each other."

"I think it's how we stay grounded," Kelsey said, rubbing her nose against Jason's cheek. "Otherwise we wouldn't get any work done."

"You'll know about that soon I hear," Chris nudged her.

She gave into yet another dopey smile, "yeah, yeah."

"Congratulations."

"Thanks."

"Hey…"

"Yeah?"

"Kelsey told you Everett came by here today, right?"

Sage blew out a breath. "Actually, I bumped into him on his way out."

"You're kidding?"

"No, I kid you not. He had the nerve to call me 'his Sage,' even. I didn't let on that I'd recognized him, though."

Chris's fists clenched. "Sage, you know I'd―"

"You don't have to do a thing," she waved her hand and took a sip of tea. "Just because he's physically here doesn't mean a thing has changed; I go on about my life as per usual…everyone else, too."

Kelsey nodded at her. "That's right."

"I wonder if Tino knows he's back in town," Chris mused. "I know he kept in touch with him."

And try as she might to suppress it, the pain still reverberated inside of her. To know that Everett had kept in touch with Tino, but had totally forgotten her…it hurt like being statically shocked over and over again. "Yeah, well, whatever the case…it doesn't have anything to do with me anymore. I'm through."

"Foo!" Jason exclaimed.

Sage looked at him seriously. "That's right. God, I can't wait to have three just like him."

Kelsey and Chris burst out in laughter together. "Girl, they're cute, but they make a mighty mess!"

"Wake you up at three o'clock in the morning for weeks on end…"

"Spit their food back in your face…"

"Decide to go to the bathroom before the diaper is on…"

"Cry for no good reason…"

"Try to put everything in their mouths for crying out loud…"

"But it's all worth it, isn't it?" Sage asked with a knowing look.

Kelsey shared a look with Chris and smiled softly. "Yeah, it's definitely worth it."

Sage's cell phone buzzed in her purse, breaking the moment. She jumped, nearly spilling the tea.

"Don't you know I have enough to clean up?" Kelsey snapped in good humor.

She shrugged and flipped open her cell. "Hello?"

"Kelsey you know good and well you don't clean a thing," Chris rolled his eyes.

"Hey baby," she felt residual tension beginning to melt at the sound of Parker's voice coming through the phone.

"Hey yourself, what's up?"

"I think I left my cell at your place; I'm lucky I had change on me to make a call at the payphone."

"Poor you, I know you've been going crazy all day without it."

"Yeah…I'll be by in about an hour to pick it up."

She felt a small flash of annoyance. Why does he always say things like that― assuming that I can just drop whatever I'm doing to accommodate him? What if I couldn't make it home in an hour? Sage didn't comment on it though; she definitely wouldn't mind his presence in her apartment this evening. A little quality time with Parker was just what she needed to push thoughts of Everett's return out of her mind.

"Okay, Park, I'll see you then."

"Bye."

As she snapped her phone closed, Sage looked up and saw Kelsey and Chris staring at her with knowing looks.

"You have to leave―"

"Because Parker needs you."

She rolled her eyes. "It's not like that. He left his phone at my place and needs to pick it up."

"Yeah right," Kelsey snorted. "I know you've been going crazy all day without it."

"Oh my God, shut up!" Sage laughed. "There's a baby in the room."

"And there's a baby about to get made."

Chris laughed.

"Sage, you better leave now; she's just getting warmed up."

"I'll do that." She picked her purse up off of the floor and sighed. "Chris and annoying wife―"

"Hey! I'm 'best friend,'" Kelsey interjected.

"Whatever. It's been… an interesting time here, however I've got to see you all later― on a less crazy day."

"Alright, lady," Chris straightened out from his position leaning against the kitchen cabinets. "You take care of yourself."

She nodded and said, "I will," with all seriousness. Sage had been taking care of herself for the better part of the past six years. Of course she'd had friends and family to be there as her crutch when she needed them, but ultimately she'd been on her own.

"And take care of Parker!" Kelsey called with an added giggle as Chris walked her to the front door.

"She's so mature for her age."

Sage laughed and reached to unlock the door. "Yeah."

"Hey…"

"Uh huh?"

"You sure you're alright?"

Hesitating for a few seconds, she cocked her head to the side and gave a thoughtful sigh. "I probably won't be when I'm alone and have too much time to think idle thoughts, but right now I'm ignoring it."

"You know Kelsey and I are here."

"I do; you've always been there."

"Always will be."

"Thanks."

He gave her a hug. "Aint nothin but a thing."

She laughed and shook her head. "Bye."

"See you later."

As the door swung shut behind her and she stepped into the swiftly darkening outdoors, she felt thoughts of Everett begin to impinge on her mood once again. What had made him come back? For the past six years he'd been happy in Hollywood and she'd grown to learn to be happy without him. Kelsey asserted that nothing in Sage's life would have to change now that he was back, but Sage felt as if things had changed already. She hailed a passing taxi. Everett's presence was a nagging sensation in her awareness. Just knowing that he was here set her nerves on edge. It bothered her that he could still get under her skin. He didn't mean anything to her anymore. She sighed. Whatever, Parker will be here in thirty minutes. Forget about Everett. And then she heard his voice.