The next morning, Dale was supposed to go in to work, but he didn’t feel comfortable leaving Alissa alone in her upset condition. She had cried throughout the night and was finally sleeping. She too was supposed to go in to work. He called the television station and spoke with Alissa’s supervisor.
“No, it didn’t go well yesterday. Alissa is still very upset.”, Dale explained in answer to his question about the hearing.
“Well, please tell Alissa that our thoughts are with her. Tell her to come back to work as soon as she can.”, Mr. Dennison told Dale.
“Thank you, Mr. Dennison.”, Dale said.
He knew that he couldn’t just call the hospital and say that he wouldn’t be in. He had received his promotion. He was now a resident which meant more responsibility. He had no more vacation time, and their savings were rapidly dwindling. He needed to work.
Matthew and Miki were both working today. He had no choice but to ask Alex to stay with Alissa for a few hours. He called Alex’s cellphone.
“Hello Alex, is there any way that you could come and sit with Alissa for a few hours today? I have to go to work, and I don’t want to leave her home alone right now.”, Dale told him.
Alex wasn’t sure if he should agree. He longed to spend time with Alissa, but he knew that he needed to stay away from her. His feelings for her had grown even stronger since she and Dale had last been in Riverview. However, he knew that she needed him, and so he agreed.
After Alex arrived, Dale hoped that he had not made a mistake in asking him to stay with Alissa. He looked his brother in the eye.
“Alex, Alissa is my wife. She is very vulnerable right now. You are my brother, and I am trusting you not to take advantage of the situation.”, he told him.
“I would never take advantage of Alissa, Dale! I will take good care of her.”, Alex said.
“Thank you, Alex. She didn’t sleep much last night, but she is finally asleep now. I’ll call and check on her later.”, Dale told him and then he left for work.
Alex settled down in the livingroom and thought about the night before. He and Trent had gone to club Grind to find out who the man was that had been dancing with Alissa in the photograph. The bartender claimed not to know him, but Alex and Trent did not believe him. However, there was nothing they could do. Trent said that he would have one of his people stake out the club and see if the man returned.
After Dale had been gone about an hour, Alissa woke up. She expected to find Dale in bed beside her. When he wasn’t there, she went downstairs to find him.
“Dale!” She called as she came down the stairs. She was surprised and embarrassed to find Alex in the livingroom. Thinking it would be Dale, all she was wearing was her underwear. “Alex!” She cried.
She surprised Alex as well. He forced himself to turn away, remembering his promise to Dale.
After Alissa left, Alex cursed to himself. “I knew this wasn’t a good idea. Now, every time I look at her, I will see her half naked. I hope Dale knows how lucky he is.”
Alissa returned to the livingroom and sat down on the sofa beside Alex. At first neither of them spoke. Finally, Alissa broke the silence. “Is Dale at the hospital?”
“Yes. He didn’t want to leave you alone, and so he asked me to stay with you.”, he answered.
“So there is nothing new about Sharlee?”, she asked anxiously.
“I’m sorry, but not yet, Alissa.”, Alex said. They were silent again, feeling awkward with one another. She thought she should apologize.
“Alex, I’m sorry that you had to see me that way. I didn’t mean to offend you.”, she told him.
He looked at her puzzled. “Offend me!”, he repeated. “What do you mean?’
“I didn’t know you were here!”, she said.
“Alissa, I know Dale has to have told you how beautiful you are. There is something about you that makes men want to do everything they can to have you. I turned away, because I was trying to be a gentleman. I would love to look at you and be with you, all day and all night!”, he told her. He had said more than he had intended to.
Alex smiled, remembering their first kiss. “Remember when you thought you had offended me before at my parent’s home?”
Alissa blushed and moved uncomfortably on the sofa. “Yes. I remember.”, she said.
Alex moved closer to her on the sofa. He put his arm around her. The fresh lavender scent of her hair was intoxicating. “One kiss won’t hurt!”, he told himself.
“Alex, what are you doing?”, Alissa asked.
“I’m trying to comfort you!”, he told her.
Alissa’s cellphone rang and she jumped up from the sofa to answer it . It was Dale.
“Hi, sweetheart. Did you sleep well?”, he asked her.
“Yes.”, she answered.
“I spoke with Ms. Gardener this morning. She filed the paperwork to request a new hearing. As grounds, she cited the judges predisposition to award custody to fathers as well as the results of your drug test.”, he told her.
“How long will it take?”, Alissa asked him.
“She said that it will take at least a week before we know if the request will be granted.”, Dale said. Then he paused, not wanting to go on. “Alissa, she also told me that the court appointed child psychologist advised that it would be better for Sharlee’s adjustment with the Littlers, if we do not see Sharlee for at least two weeks. The court accepted her recommendation.”
Alissa wailed into the phone. “No!!!”
She began sobbing again.
Alex rushed over to her and took the phone. “Dale, what happened?”, he asked. Dale told him. Dale could hear Alissa’s sobs in the background.
“I’m coming home now, Alex. I just need to talk with the chief of staff to get a leave of absence. Alissa needs me right now.”, he told him and then disconnected the call.
Alex held Alissa trying to sooth her. He was ashamed of his earlier behavior and just wished he could take away her pain. Her sobs finally subsided and he had her stretch out on the sofa. He went into the kitchen to prepare some soup for her to eat.
For the first few days with the Littlers, Sharlee refused to eat very much and cried herself to sleep at night. Somehow, she sensed that this was more than a visit. She had been content with Dale’s family, but she was not comfortable with the Littlers. She cried constantly.
“I want Mama. I want Da!”, she kept saying. She called Dale, Da. Bronson hated hearing her say that. He was her Dad. Finally, he had had enough.
“Mother, let’s give her back to Alissa!”, he said.
“No. There is no way that I am returning this child to that woman. Sharlee just has to get used to us, and then she will be okay.”, she replied angrily. Bronson had moved in with his parents so that his mother could help take care of Sharlee. She was about ready to hire a babysitter.
While Alex was in the kitchen, Alissa tried to get herself together. This was exactly how Rene Littler wanted her to react. She was letting Sharlee down by not remaining strong and trying to find a way to get her back. She knew that Dale was worried about her and neglecting his career and at least one of them needed to work. She called him on her cellphone.
He saw her number on his caller ID. “Hi, love. I’m on my way to talk with the chief of staff, and then I am coming home.”, he told her.
“No, Dale. I’ll be okay. I know you need to work. Please don’t worry about me.”, Alissa said.
“Alissa, I want to be there with you.”, he told her.
“I know you do, but I’m really okay.”, she told him. “Please stay at work. I’ll see you tonight.”
Dale’s heart told him to go home, but his logic said she was right. So he agreed.
Alissa thought about the night that she and Miki went to the club. She wondered who had taken the photographs. Whoever it was had to have worked for the Littlers. The man who she danced with might know who it was. She decided to try and find him.
“Alex!”, she said. “I am going out.”, she told him.
“Out where?”, Alex asked.
“To find the man dancing in the pictures with me!”, she told him. “Even though I don’t remember that night, I can recognize him from the picture they showed in court. He may know who took the pictures. Maybe he is working for the Littler’s too. I am going to try to get him to admit it. I’m going to a different club, close to the Grind.”
“Alissa, do you know how crazy that sounds?”, Alex said. “That man drugged you. Besides, Trent has someone staking out the Grind in case he comes back.”
“I’m not going to the Grind. It would be stupid for him to go back there. I am going to Waylon’s Haunt.”, Alissa said.
“Let me guess. You’re not going to tell Dale, and you’re going before he gets home from work.”, Alex told her.
“There’s no point in making Dale worry about me more than he is now. Besides, if someone is with me, he might not talk to me.”, she replied.
“There’s no way I’m letting you go alone!”, Alex told her firmly.
“Alright, but you have to stay away from me.”, Alissa agreed.
They quickly ate the soup that Alex had heated, and then she went upstairs and got dressed. After she returned to the great room, Alex was shocked.
“Where is the rest of that dress?”, he asked her.
“Gone, with the help of scissors and seam tape. I have to draw his attention again or there is no point in going!”, Alissa replied and headed out the door, ending the discussion.
Richard thought over the last couple of weeks as he dressed to go the club. He owed Bill big time for not turning him in to the police after he had drugged that girl. He couldn’t seem to forget her. She was even in his dreams. He remembered how she had locked eyes with him after that guy had shown up and then taken her home.
“Does she know I drugged her?”, he asked himself for the hundredth time. He wondered what had become of the pictures of them dancing together and wished that he hadn’t agreed to do it. After he was dressed, he headed to Waylon’s Haunt.