" James and Clarke, get down here now! Your mom told you dinner was ready like twenty minutes ago." Isaac called up to his kids, trying to get them downstairs so they could all eat dinner.
His wife Nikki had made up a pot roast dinner, and she had been unable to pry their kids away from their video games. Now he was home and ready to eat, but he wanted to eat as a family.
" But we are in the middle of..."
" I don't care if you are in the middle of a level, James. Get down here now." He interrupted, feeling kind of annoyed. " I want to see you down here in thirty seconds, the both of you."
Nikki put her arms around him. " Don't you just love our kids?" She laughed a little, and kissed his cheek.
" Of course. But right now, I am not in the mood for their games." He kissed her and heard footstep's as they rushed down the stairs. " It is about time. Let's go..." The doorbell rang just then, and Isaac rolled his eyes.
" I'll get it, honey. Go sit down and eat." Nikki told him, and he went into the kitchen with the kids. She opened the door to see a tall dark blonde haired girl standing there.
" Hi. I... I'm going to guess you are Isaac's wife, Nikki?" The girl asked.
" Yes. And you would be?"
" I'm an old friend. Actually, I just ran into Taylor a little while ago. My name is Ashley."
Nikki nodded. " I've heard a little about you. And actually, we were just about to sit down for our dinner. Do you think you could come by another time?"
" Yeah. I'm so sorry to interrupt." She wrote down her number, and gave it to Nikki. " This is the number he can reach me at. Tell him I've moved back and that I would love to catch up with him."
" Sure. I guess we'll see you around then." Nikki took the piece of paper, and closed the door behind her. She went into the kitchen, and handed it to Isaac. " Taylor's ex is in town. That's her number."
Isaac took it, and glanced at her in surprise. " Seriously? And she... I wonder what she wants with me."
" To catch up with you." Nikki sat down to eat, and started to serve herself some food. " I guess she ran into Taylor already though. I wonder how that went."
Isaac wondered too, and gave Taylor a call once they were finished with dinner. He wasn't surprised to hear that Natalie wasn't very happy with the idea of Ashley being in town, and that she was there to stay. He wanted his brother's marriage to stay where it was, and not be torn apart by an old love.
The next morning, Ashley got a call from Isaac. She was happy to hear from him, and even happier when he suggested meeting for breakfast. She got in a quick shower upon getting off the phone with him, and then dressed in a pink and black layered short sleeve shirt and black jeans. She left a note for Arielle, asking her to watch over her brother and to finish unpacking once they had eaten.
When she got to the restaurant, Isaac was already there sipping on a cup of coffee. She gave him a little hug, and he pulled a chair out for her. " It's so good to see you again, Isaac."
" You too, Ashley." He gave her a little smile. " But I have to admit, I'm a little worried."
She ordered a cup of coffee and pancakes with bacon and eggs. " Why is that?"
" You do know that Tay is married and has kids, right? I mean, he's not going to come running back to you just because you show back up again."
Ashley rolled her eyes. " Is that really what you think of me, Isaac? After all these years, you think that..."
" Ashley, we don't know you anymore. We haven't seen you in years, and now you show up out of the blue. You showed up on my doorstep and luckily ran into Taylor." He interrupted her. " With the history you and him have... I just don't want you to expect that nothing has changed, because it has."
" I realize that, Isaac. I do know that he has a family now." She sighed. " I mean, I wish things could go back to the way they were. I really do, but I know they won't."
" Good. Because I don't want anything or anyone to come in between them, Ashley." The waitress brought him his food, and he began eating. " And I'm sorry if I seem so rude, but I'm just trying to look out for him."
" I know you are, Isaac." She took a sip of her coffee, and tried to not show her emotions. She didn't want him to see how upset she was.
The rest of their conversation was about catching up on how things had been for them, although she didn't mention her daughter Arielle to him. She only brought up her son Christopher a few times. Until she had the chance to introduce Taylor to her, she didn't want anyone else to know about her. That was something she thought he should know about before anyone else first.
Later that afternoon, the unexpected meeting came about. Natalie was out with her kids taking them for a walk through the park, and Ashley was doing the same with Christopher and Arielle. Penny had walked away at some point without saying anything to her, and all of a sudden out of nowhere Ezra asked her " Where is Penny, mom? She was right here a minute ago."
Natalie looked all around her in fear. " I... I don't..." She started to scream out for Penny as she rushed around the park, trying to find her.
Penny had made her way to the water's edge of the river that was right there, and was throwing bread in for the ducks nearby. Ashley saw her and grabbed her before she could go into the water any further than she already was. " You shouldn't be that close to the water's edge, sweetie. You could fall in and that wouldn't be good."
" But the ducks are hungry. I'm just trying to feed them." Penny told her, trying to wriggle free from her grasp.
" I know that. But the river could pull you under." Ashley took her hand and led her away from the waters edge. " And I bet you left your mom wondering where you are too. She is probably running around scared, trying to find you."
Penny nodded her head. " Probably." She looked around the park, and didn't even see her mom. " I... I left her around here somewhere. She wasn't that far from me." She started to cry, wondering if her mom left her there.
" Calm down. We will find her." Ashley told her, and they began to wander around the park. Arielle and Christopher helped look around for Penny's mom, running around together trying to find someone who seemed desperate to find their little girl.
About ten minutes passed before Arielle found someone who was calling out for her little girl, and she led her over to her own mom who still held Penny's hand in her's. Natalie rushed up to them, and gave Penny a big hug. " Don't you ever walk away from me again, Penny. You scared me half to death."
Ashley let go of her hand. " I found her at the river's edge, trying to feed some ducks."
" Penny! Don't you ever do that again! The river is such a dangerous place for you to be near." Natalie exclaimed.
" I'm sorry, mom. I won't do it again. I promise." Penny hugged her mom tightly. " I'll stay by your side from now on."
" Thank you for finding my daughter and for returning her. It means a lot to me." Natalie looked from Penny to Ashley
" Your very welcome." Ashely smiled at her. " My name is Ashley by the way. I just returned to town a few days ago. I used to live here a long time ago, and then..."
" Wait a minute." Natalie interrupted her. " As in your the girl that my husband used to date. You... your Taylor's ex girlfriend?"
Ashely nodded her head slowly. " Yeah. And I know that you and him are very happily married with a family."
" Yes, we are." Natalie told her. She looked from her to Arielle. She could see a resemblance to Taylor in her. " You never did get rid of your baby with him, did you? After all this time, you've... you have..."
" Natalie, I can fully explain about..."
" Right. Just get out of here, Ashley. Thank you for finding my daughter. It means the world to me, but leave now. Do not bother even trying to contact my husband. If you can keep it a secret from him at all, you can continue to do so."
Natalie took Penny's hand, and stormed away. The rest of her kids followed close behind as they started heading back home.