The Man Who Has No Heart by Victoria Quinn

One





Deacon





On Monday morning, the driver picked us up and returned us to the city.

The magical weekend was over.

It fucking hurt.

Derek looked out the window during the drive, mesmerized by the large pine trees, the boulders, the mountainsides. Once we were in the city, he didn’t seem as interested in his surroundings, so he pulled out one of his books.

He and I were the same.

We arrived at the building, and Matt grabbed our bags and carried them to the condo.

I didn’t have much time with Derek because Cleo would take him away any minute.

When we got to my condo, I made him a big meal, grilled chicken with asparagus and Brussels sprouts.

He ate without complaint, but he preferred the pizza we’d had all weekend.

I sat across from him at the dining table, my heart sliding further into my stomach as the clock ticked away. I barely had a few days with him, and it just wasn’t enough. I wanted him every day, wanted to take him to the cabin every weekend.

He finished his food then sat there. “When do I have to go?”

“Soon.”

A knock sounded on the door.

“Now.”

Derek looked just as sad as I did.

I moved to the front door. “Come in, Cleo.”

She stepped inside, wearing her pencil skirt and blouse, back to her professionalism. She looked at me like nothing was different, her eyes lighting up at the sight of me. “I wish I were here for a better reason…”

I turned back to Derek. “Come on.”

He left the dining table and grabbed his suitcase, wheeling it with him. “Hey, Cleo.”

She smiled. “Hey, Derek.” She pulled back the sleeve of her blouse and checked the time. “Well, I’ll give you a few minutes…” She turned away.

I kneeled in front of him, unsure what to say. The last time I’d said goodbye to him, I cried in the back seat of the car on the way to the airport, so distraught I didn’t care about the driver’s opinion. Now I had to do it again.

Derek stared at me, his brown eyes possessing that same intense gaze. “When can I come back?”

“I’ll talk to your mother about it.” I assumed Valerie was on speaking terms with me again, so maybe we could work out some kind of arrangement. But I hated having my son go back and forth on a plane all the time. It was a long flight, too long for a weekend getaway.

“Could I come live with you?”

He was a smart kid, but he wouldn’t be able to understand a marital spat. “Probably not, Derek. But we’ll figure it out. I promise.”

“Okay.” He dropped his gaze.

I sighed before I hugged him, held him in my arms one last time. My arms squeezed him tight and never wanted to let go. The love in my heart grew when we were together, but it seemed to grow even more when we were apart. “I love you more than anything in this world, Derek.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

When I let him go, it hurt. My eyes grew wet because it was so hard to say goodbye, to let my best friend walk away, to lose the one person who was just like me. I’d give up everything I owned to have him here with me, to have the luxury of seeing him every day.

Derek’s look mirrored mine, his eyes wet like he was about to cry. “I don’t want to go…”

Fuck, this was going to kill me. “I promise it won’t be so long next time.” I grabbed both of his hands and squeezed them. “Alright?”

He nodded.

I wiped his tears away with the pads of my thumbs. “Cleo is going to take good care of you.”

He nodded again.

I pressed my lips to his forehead and kissed him. “Alright, little man.” I rose to my feet and turned to Cleo.

She had his luggage in her grasp, and she looked just as emotionally affected by the exchange. She extended her hand to him.

Derek took it.

She gave me one final look, as if she wished she could comfort me instead of taking away my pride and joy. “I’ll keep you posted, Deacon.”

I stood with my hands on my hips and watched them walk out of my condo.

When Cleo closed the door behind her, I let the breath out of my lungs, let the two tears streak down my cheeks to my lips.





Cleo texted me. I just dropped off Derek with Valerie. Headed to the airport.

I was at the office, throwing myself back into work because I needed to focus on something to numb the pain. I knew I shouldn’t be sad that it was over, but glad that it happened. Thank you. Have a safe flight.