Excerpt from One More Kiss!

Exclusive first look at an excerpt from One More Kiss!!
“You understand this goes against doctor-patient privileges, don’t you?”
“I do, Doctor, and I wish that I didn’t have to go down this road, but there aren’t any other options at this point,” I said for the second time. This time, I pulled out the folded pages and set them gingerly on his desk. “The judge, however, agrees with me. I need to know if my mother is a risk to herself or others.”
He leaned back, the buttons on his silk shirt straining against an ever-expanding gut. I couldn’t believe what I’d gone through just to find out if my mother was mentally stable. The past few years had shown me a lot, a great deal of things I never would have imagined about her. I finally had to draw the line, and I was about to find out if all of my work had been worth it. Otherwise, I had no choice but to accept that maybe I was the one with the problem. That just didn’t feel right though.
“Julia,” he said with a sigh of relief as he read over the papers. “I am so happy that your mother has someone who cares enough to go through all of this. To be honest, I was struggling with not speaking out anyway. If this had failed, I don’t know what I would have done.”
My heart started to race. Dryness overtook my mouth as I struggled to speak. “Then you think there is something wrong with her?”
He slowly nodded his head. “I know that there is. I’d brought in a specialist to assess her condition—under the veil of anonymity, of course.”
“Sure,” I muttered. I was still in shock that he was going to help me at all. “You know I’ve been taking care of my mother since before my father passed. I’m just worried that she isn’t the woman she claimed to be. The longer I am here, the more I notice just how controlling she is. And I don’t mean just normal stuff either.”
I shuddered at the memory I had of just a few short months ago. Everything had seemed normal. Or at least as normal as my life could ever become.
Little flashes of guilt would leap out and surprise me, and on that particular morning, it was walking past the park that triggered it. Margarete sighed and tugged at my arm as I stopped briefly to watch the children playing. One little girl, in particular, grabbed my eye. She was about nine years old. The same age as Amy. Even her dark complexion and raven hair matched my own sweet daughter’s.
“For Pete’s sake, hurry up, Julia, or we’re going to be late getting to the market.”
I turned my attention back to my mother, whom I’d only ever called Margarete. “Sorry. I was just watching the children. That little girl looks so much like—”
She dove in before I could finish the sentence. “Don’t you worry about things like that. Some day, you’ll have a family of your own. I don’t know what you would do if you ever lost me.”
Her words dragged up guilt that competed with anger. “Margarete, I have a family. Don’t you remember them?”
Her cold eyes peered into mine, sending a chill over my shoulders. “My dear child, after everything you have done, you don’t honestly think that man would ever take you back, do you?”
“I don’t know,” I said. She was a cruel and controlling woman, but I’d never heard her speak of Amy with such disregard. I’d grown accustomed to the scornful glares and jealous interruptions when I got the occasional update on my daughter, but it had never been like this before.
“No,” she said as she started walking again, pulling me along. “You burned that bridge and there is no going back. It’s better this way. It always has been. You know it’s a daughter’s duty to take care of her parents. If you’d only come a few weeks earlier, how different things could have been.”
Her voice trailed off and I pushed the memory of Amy out of my mind. I didn’t need her to continue. I already knew what truth she was going to say. My father’s death rested firmly on my shoulders. It was my cross to bear for the rest of my life. She hadn’t been strong enough to care for him in the end, but I had been unwilling to split up my family. I wouldn’t make that mistake again. I would never leave my mother’s side.
“Julia?” said the doctor, pulling me back. “Can you tell me what, exactly, it is that started all of this?”
“I don’t know,” I said in a weak voice. “I made her upset a few months ago—something I said absentmindedly about my daughter. That night I got sick. I couldn’t keep anything down for the next two days except her damn tea. Something about it just seemed fishy.”
“You think that your mother poisoned you?” he asked in shock.
“I think that she is capable of more than either of us has given her credit for. She started coming here right after my father died, right? How was she back then? That was five years ago.”
“She didn’t mourn the loss of your father, which was strange. As long as they had been together, I thought that she came to me because of the depression, but it was something else. You know the insurance company forced the first appointment, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah, something about my father’s insurance. She had to come or she wouldn’t get anything. She resented him for that.”
“Well, your mother didn’t show any signs of remorse. She was so elated that you were coming back. Even when I tried to force her to talk about your father, she waved him off. Do you think that she could be capable of what you’re accusing?”
Guilt and fear never seemed to leave my side, but something else kept me pressing on, a strength that I didn’t know was there. “I do. I think she needs to be kept here under observation, at least.”
“I agree wholeheartedly,” he said with a sigh of relief. “She has an appointment with me in a few hours. I will keep her here at that time.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” I whispered as he stood. I took his hand and shook it before he opened the door and led me back to the main office. “Please keep me updated on her progress.”
He tapped the court order in his hand. “I will be happy to. So, what are you going to do now?”
“I have no idea,” I said earnestly. “I think it’s time I went back home.”
“So, that’s it?” I asked the doctor over the phone. I still whispered even though Margarete wasn’t there.
“That’s it. We’ll keep her under observation for the next month or so. Then it’s up to the courts, but given my history with her and how she acted at the time of intake, I don’t think they will recommend her release now, or even ever, possibly. Munchausen syndrome by proxy isn’t often something people can recover from.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” I said softly. “Do you mind if I call you back tomorrow?”
“No, Julia, that will be fine. This is a lot to process. I understand that.”
I told him goodbye then ended the call. All day, I’d been wondering if she would call me from the appointment. In my gut, I feared that she would somehow talk the doctor out of keeping her and I would be back in the house with her at my side. Everything had gone as planned, though, and now I was faced with the phone call I hadn’t known if I would ever get the chance to make. I had to call Aaron, as I did every few weeks, but this was different. This time, I was going home.
“Hello?” he answered on the first ring.
I swallowed hard. “Aaron, its me.”
“Oh,” he said. “Amy has softball practice tonight. Do you want to call back later?”
His tone was off, not as bitter as I’d come to expect. “No. No, I called to talk with you, actually. I knew she had practice.”
“Really?” He sounded hopeful.
I smiled at the familiar tone. It had been too long since he’d been so open. “Aaron, I want to come home.” I waited but was greeted with nothing but silence. “I know that it’s a lot to ask. Things are different here now. My mother . . . well, she had health problems, issues that made it so I couldn’t come home and so I couldn’t see Amy. It’s hard to explain. She isn’t here anymore, though. This whole time was . . .” I trailed off.
“Well, I’m just ready to come back home.”
I fell silent. There was nothing more that I could tell him, not until I knew if he was even listening.
He cleared his throat. “What happened?”
“It’s a long story, but she is being helped now. I know that things between us are broken, but I want to be a part of Amy’s life.”
“Now? After all these years, what makes you think that I’m going to let you do that? When you left, it devastated her. What happens if your mother calls you up again? Then we do this whole thing again?”
“No. She is never going to get out, and I would never come back here. There is nothing for me here but painful memories.”
“Of the hospital?” He sounded unsure. “Julia,” he whispered, “I don’t know about this.”
“I don’t want to stay with you guys or anything. I know that you have your own life. Please, just give me a chance to know my daughter. I will do anything that you want.”
“Anything?” he asked.
I swallowed hard, my mind at once picturing him beneath me, his sweat-covered body intertwined with my own as the smell of burning candles and sex filled my every sense. There was a lot of bad blood between my ex and me, but one thing we always agreed on was that the sex was amazing.
“Yes,” I said hoarsely. “Anything.”
“Well, it just so happens that I need a favor. I didn’t think it would ever happen before, but since you’re coming back anyway, I could use your help.”
“My help? With what?” My heart started to race. “Is everything okay with Amy?”
“Oh, yeah! Amy is fine. She’s really looking forward to our vacation. We leave tomorrow night.”
My heart sank. “I didn’t even think about that. I just assumed that you and she would be there. That’s fine, though. I’ll wait as long as it takes.”
“Actually, I was hoping that you would come with us.”
My mouth fell open in shock. “What?”
“Yeah. I want you to come on the cruise with us. As a matter of fact, I want you to be there and pretend like we’re still married. You wanted a way to get back into my good graces, and this is it.”
“I don’t understand,” I said cautiously. “Why would you want me to pretend to be your wife again? You’ve spent the last few years hating me. I didn’t even think you would let me see Amy for a while, but now you want me to pretend like the last five years haven’t happened? What’s going on?”
“Well, I haven’t exactly been honest with everyone in my life. You have to understand that when you left, I was devastated that you picked your mother over us.”
“That never happened,” I hissed. “I wanted you to come with me but you never gave me the chance to tell you that. All you cared about was covering your own ass with that damn woman of yours.” Even as I spoke the words, I knew that it was a lie.
“It doesn’t matter now, okay?” he shot back. “I never told Amy the real reason you were gone, but she wasn’t the only one I lied to, okay? Can you come back and help me out with this or not?”
“Who?” I demanded. “Who else are you lying to?”

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