And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her skies
I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my mind off of you
Beth opened the front door and welcomed the embrace Cooper offered. He held on tight breathing deeply, trying not to let the anguish he felt bleed through his arms. He was going to hurt her, he knew it, and there was nothing he could do to prevent it. That moment had come and gone the morning he came home and kept his mouth shut while she held out her pain and guilt in open hands.
Reluctantly, Cooper released his hold running his hands along her arms. "Where are the kids?"
Before Beth could answer a peal of laughter rang out as Harmony bounded down the stairs. "Daddy! You came!" Running up to her father she threw out her arms as Cooper scooped her up and planted a kiss on her forehead. Behind her walking more slowly down the stairs were Nate and Eric.
Cooper rose looking directly at the twins, "Your grandmother is waiting for you in the car." Before they could respond Cooper glanced down at Hugs, "I think she said something about pancakes at the diner." As Harmony raced to the car Cooper shifted his gaze back to the boys, "Don't keep her waiting, go." Exchanging glances with their mother neither twin spoke as they left the house.
Beth folded her arms as she tilted her head slightly, watching his mother drive off, obviously confused. "Hugs has been waiting all morning to see you. Is everything all right with Rayne? Is that why you sent the kids off with Cass?"
"Rayne is fine, as well as can be expected I guess. She wanted to move out on her own; I said I'd help her. Baby, that's not why I'm here, can we go somewhere to talk?"
They walked down to the beach, a place that seemed to connect them to each other. Settling into the warm sand Cooper drew Beth down toward him until she sat facing the ocean as he slid his arms around her. "I love you baby." His words were little more than a sigh as he leaned into her. "I never meant to hurt you. I don't know how you manage to forgive me every time I fuck up but you do. It's a lot to ask and I don't deserve it but I'm asking - I need you to forgive me again."
Beth stood and Cooper rose with her. Wary, uneasy, she took a light breath and looked away out at the beach before facing him. "Coop I told you, it was my fault, I cheated. Nothing you have ever done compares with that, and whatever you do now, we're separated. You don't need to share it with me. I don't want you to.”
Cooper shut his eyes. He'd let her believe that lie and allowed her to bear the brunt of his mistakes. He had to tell her the truth, a truth that might end his marriage for good, not a choice he wanted but one that he created without anyone else's help. It wasn't Ryan or any of the women that fucked it up, not this time.
He wanted to reach out to her so he could hold her to him when she tried to pull away and leave him but his arms were like lead weights. His heart raced and his throat went dry. He was going to lose her, please don't let me lose her. “This isn't about anything that happened since I moved out. Beth, that night after I saw you with Ryan, there was something I didn't tell you. I went to Chameleon and talked to Melinda, that part is true, I was there but not all night." He drew a breath; this was it, the final cutting words. "I went to Millwood, to Gemma Wilson's place. You were there when Ryan nailed me to the wall and I don't know, don't even remember what I did or how I got there, but I think I slept with her. Maybe."
Beth took a little half step back, stumbling in the sand, walking carefully, slowly, a few steps up the stairs away from the beach. “Gemma Wilson. Julia's cousin, the one who looks like Julia. Surely you're not...What are you saying, that you've been seeing Julia's cousin? Wyatt's cousin?”
"No, God no! I was angry at her, at you, at Ryan. I never intended to fuck her it just happened! I thought I'd lost you and I wasn't thinking straight. Shit Beth I wasn't thinking at all." Coop rubbed his forehead before continuing. "She came to see me last night at the hotel to tell me she's pregnant. She thinks it's mine but baby she's going to have to prove it before I'll believe it. I'm sorry I didn't tell you that night. I'm asking you to forgive me, please."
A long moment passed. Her silence hung between them, and for the first time since he had known her, Cooper could not read her. If she'd shouted at him, hit him, something, he could deal with that but not her silence. "Beth...I know you're probably upset..."
"Upset?” She started slow, her voice picking up speed, breath after breath, finding octane, coming right at him hurtling at him.
“I’m ‘upset’," she said, biting it off. "Coop, I am 'upset' when Nate and Eric break curfew. Upset. You let me hang out there, the bad one, the one who cheated, and you used it, you used it. You left me there to cry my eyes out scared and worried and wondering where you were and if Ryan had really hurt you and all the while you were rolling around in bed with Julia’s cousin? And she's pregnant? With your child? And you didn't feel even the slightest bit strange when I broke it off because I thought we would never get past Ryan, and you were standing there fresh off her bed...and I am UPSET?!"
"Beth, I know I'm not a perfect man, but you have to believe me when I tell you it didn't mean anything. I should have come clean but I thought we could put everything behind us and start again. I still want that." Cooper reached out to her but she pulled away anger and horror written all over her face. And worse, disappointment.
"Don't touch me! I've blamed myself all this time, overlooked your behavior because I didn't have the right to say anything and you think this is about believing you? I don’t care if it didn’t mean anything! That is not the point! Your betrayal is not the fact that you fucked some girl; it's that you let me carry the blame so you wouldn't have to face yours. And it's not 'some girl' Cooper, it's that particular woman. She's Julia's cousin! She looks like your dead wife!"
She stood there cool, tightly controlled, and quiet. Cooper held his breath and waited. "You need to go," she said without looking back at him. "Now. Before the kids get back. You have to go. I don't want to see you again." Without another word Beth moved toward the house her head held high but even then Cooper could see her trembling.
"I'm not going to let go. Beth, listen to me, I need you, we need each other. We know each other...I am not letting go!" Cooper thought she might have said something but if she did, her words were lost, carried away, carried away by the wind and the tide and each and every long quiet step she took away from him, each and every single and irrevocable footstep going away.
NEXT CHAPTER: Sessions Chapter 44