Time went by quickly. Chase fit in well in Zoey's life and she felt more relaxed having him there. The house was always clean, and Zoey never had to worry about her kids' safety. It was a little weird at first, getting to know adult-Chase better. But after awhile it felt like they had never lost touch. He moved into the lake house, (a private room with a small kitchen, a sleeping room, and a bathroom) about a half mile down.
It was mid-November now and the leaves were shades of red, orange, and yellows. It was the prettiest fall Hayward had had in a long time. Fall was Zoey's favorite season but it was also Adam's favorite, making her heart ache for him. If he was still alive he would be taking the kids to pumpkin patches and attempting a fire in the backyard with two sticks (the way he did when he was an eagle scout), and going apple picking at the county orchard.
But those memories were just memories, and no matter how hard Zoey wished he was back, she knew that he was gone. So she pushed thoughts of Adam away. She focused on the present.
The kids were getting so big! And they really seemed to be behaving better with Chase. While Carly was still unsure about him, Noah and Mariah took an instant liking to him and they formed bonds quickly.
One Saturday morning Zoey woke up early and did something she hadn't done since Adam's death- she made pancakes. It was a Saturday morning tradition before. She would make chocolate chip pancakes for Carly, and a mickey mouse pancake for Noah.
She decided to go all out and make some scrambled eggs and sausage too.
Not long after the first batch of pancakes were ready, she heard the tap of little feet step down the stairs. Chase came in through the back door too. Before she knew it, the five of them were sitting down together at the table for breakfast. It was nice. Noah and Carly were the happiest she had seen them since Adam's death. Mariah was happily sitting in her high chair eating cut up pieces of pancake.
Chase fit in.
Early December on a tuesday evening it was snowing. It was just starting but already, there was an inch of snow on the walk.
"I'm home," Zoey walked in and shook her boots on the doormat. She was covered in snow.
"Hey! We've got dinner all ready and everything," Chase greeted her as he set a frozen pizza on the kitchen table, along with some tater tots and some fruit cocktail.
Carly, Noah, and Mariah greeted their mom happily.
"Hi babies!" Zoey smiled and gave them each a hug and a kiss as she peeled off layer upon layer of her winter clothing. "Whew, it is really coming down out there."
"Shoot. I have to go run up to best buy and get a new battery for my laptop. I should probably eat dinner later and go now if I'm going to make it," Chase grabbed his coat and started to put his shoes on.
"Wait, Chase. Can't it wait until the morning? It's really nasty out there."
"I'm writing Zoey!"
"You are? That's great! How much have you written?"
"Actually I've written about three hundred pages since last week. I'm on a roll but this morning when I went to turn my laptop on the old battery finally died for good. I already called them and they have it waiting for me."
"That's great, but, Chase are you sure you don't want to wait until the morning?"
Chase could tell Zoey was worried but he did his best to reassure her,"Zoe, I will be fine. It's only a ten minute drive, I'll be back in a half hour at the most. You guys eat your pizza and tater tots. Sit down, watch a movie, and I'll be back before you get through the beginning of Dumbo."
"Ok, but, please be careful."
"I will," Chase smiled at Zoey and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
And then he was gone.
Zoey and the kids ate their dinner, and started Dumbo, just as Chase suggested. It was the kids favorite movie, though it always made Zoey cry.
But soon, the movie was over. It was nearing the kids' bedtime. She put Noah and Carly in the tub. And gave Mariah a bath in the sink. She tried to push the paranoia out of her mind. He was not going to end up in a car accident like Adam.
At 9:30 Carly, Noah, and Mariah were all sleeping. Zoey decided she could not wait any longer. She dialed Chase's cell phone number and got his voicemail. She dialed it three more times with the same result. She was starting to get seriously worried.
Yet, she continued her routine. She cleaned up the kitchen, and watched a little late night tv to get her mind of things.
Maybe he had just gone straigt down to the lake house! Zoey thought. So she dialed the lake house's number and there was no answer. Finally Zoey opened the front door and gazed at the falling snow. She couldn't stop worrying now.
Zoey stayed up late waiting for a phone call. But there wasn't one. There was only silence. Zoey cried herself to sleep the first time since Chase had come back into her life.