Stories from the Hart: Chasing Charlie, Part 1

Chasing Charlie by Shannon Hart, author of Until the End of Forever
Part 1

“Miss? Is everything alright?”

Dan’s voice startled me.

“I can’t do it,” I answered, shaking my head. “I can’t do it, Dan. I just can’t.”

I banged the back of my head against the soft leather headrest and closed my eyes. I just couldn’t do it.

“Is there anything I can do?”

I shook my head. There was nothing, absolutely nothing that Dan, my trusted driver, could do about it even if he wanted to. “Unless you have magic powers I don’t know about, I don’t think you can do anything to help me.”

I sat in the backseat of my father’s black Rolls Royce with my arms crossed and my eyes closed, tortured by the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car. We were parked right in front of Sal’s Diner where I asked Dan to take me.

A few hours ago, I was so sure that this is what I wanted to do. Less than 24 hours ago, Mom gave Dad a piece of her mind about meddling in my business, then hugged me and told me to go chase after what my heart desired. I got on my father’s private jet thinking I knew exactly how my life was going to play out.

As soon as we landed, I jumped straight into the backseat of the shiny car, entrusting Dan to take me to Blossom County. As the car raced to make sure we could get there before it was dark, I kept smiling to myself, thinking that before the sun came down, I’d be happy again.

I had just attended my sister’s dream wedding in Paris to her prince charming, Jean-Paul, who literally was some sort of royal descendant or something. It was a lavish wedding held at this breathtaking vineyard tucked in the middle of South of France, and was quite possibly one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. The only downside to it was that it was so far. I had to take another flight from Paris to Marseille, and then a four-hour bus ride, which had me wondering if the place even had electricity. But the place was totally worth the journey. I was undoubtedly ecstatic for my sister but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel that pang of jealousy every time I saw Jean-Paul kiss her forehead or whisper things in her ear that made her blush and giggle like a school girl.

I wanted what she had. Not that I wanted Jean-Paul, of course – he wasn’t even my type and what kind of screwed up sister would I be if I wanted him? What I wanted was the kind of relationship she had with him. After four years of dating, two years of living together and at least five hundred fights, they seemed more in love than ever. They couldn’t take their eyes off each other – or their hands for that matter – and they seemed to really complete each other. It was like they were two pieces of a puzzle that fit each other perfectly. Kind of like how it was with me and Charlie. Well, like it was before I messed everything up, anyway.

“Miss? I think Mr. Ross is looking this way,” Dan said, startling me again, forcing me to open my eyes and look out the dark tinted windows.

He was. Charlie was looking this way. But I was sure he didn’t he realize that it was me hiding out in the black sedan like a coward.

Not that it would surprise him at all. I was always a coward throughout our entire relationship. I was such a coward, I never even told him the truth about me – about being heir to a ridiculous fortune and being worth more than Paris Hilton. What I told him when I first bumped into him at the diner was that I was just Kate Murray, a simple girl from a humble family who lived in the outskirts of LA. Never once did I mention that I was actually Katya Annabelle Cordelia Murray Livingston, daughter of Gerald Livingston, who was listed as the number four Richest Man Alive in Wealth Magazine’s annual 100 Richest Men Alive issue.

In my lame defense, I thought everyone knew who my dad was. It never occurred to me that there were people who never even touched Wealth Magazine or watched the business channel on TV. To have an entire town in California, however small it may be, not have a single clue about my identity was actually kind of refreshing.

I stumbled across Blossom County by accident. The crappy rental car I was driving broke down in front of Sal’s Diner as I was driving back from Los Angeles to San Francisco to see my old college roommate Annie, who had just given birth. Charlie helped call the company to ask for a replacement car because my cell phone died, and like a true gentleman, he actually stayed with me until they sent me a new car about two and a half hours later. It took all but ten minutes for me to fall head over heels for him. I drove down to see him every weekend, and after about two months of going back and forth, I moved to Blossom County, telling my parents that I invested in a small business there.

My cowardly behavior had cost me my relationship. Charlie, who could never say a bad a thing about anyone, never actually used the word coward, but he did think I was a pathological liar. I couldn’t say I blamed him. I did lie the entire year that we were dating. I pretended to be poor and I pretended to need the job at his grandfather’s diner. I pretended to understand what it was like for him to have to sweat and bleed to earn a decent amount of money just to pay off his rent and the loan he took to buy his truck.

I would admit I lied, but I couldn't say I didn’t love pretending to be someone else. We lived a simple life together and I actually loved it. Our dinner dates consisted of eating hot dogs and drinking beer on a blanket at the park and I never once felt like I missed sitting at the VIP table in the best restaurants in town. Even when we had to take his beat-up old truck on a road trip to his cousin’s graduation in Reno, I didn’t miss Daddy’s private jet even for a second. Just spending all that time sitting next to him in the car and watching him drive made it all worth it.

“Miss? He’s leaving the diner now,” Dan said, playing his part as the spy very well.

I sat up straight immediately and felt my heart start to race. Maybe he did know that I was hiding out in the car. Maybe he wanted to come over and tell me to get lost and never bother him again much like he did the day he found out who I really was six weeks ago. 

Check back for Part 2 of Chasing Charlie on Wednesday! 

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Book Review: Destined to Fail

With an intriguing title like Destined to Fail, it’s obviously impossible to expect this story to be light and breezy. Destined to Fail is a strong tale of survival and courage packed with emotions and baggage. It is a novel that is hard to put down. Jasmine, or JJ to her friends and family, welcomes readers into her world of chaos. To simply say that her life has been tough is the understatement of the decade. Between getting over her past that includes physical and emotional abuse, battling addiction (not hers though, but it was equally difficult), and an absent father, and trying to cope with the challenges of the present (losing her best friend, financial turmoil, and having to deal with an unplanned pregnancy), it is amazing that she hasn't gone completely insane. Apart from her way-too-perfect boyfriend Nate, her life is a complete and utter mess. But JJ is wise beyond her years and has strength and determination that keeps her going. Her ability to forgive and her concern for the safety and happiness of her friends are admirable characteristics that everyone could learn from.

There were certain elements of the story that could have been better. For example, there were a few sentences that could have been more elaborate to get the reader even more invested into the story. Also, a few more hints about her abusive past could have been added a bit earlier in the story. But these are little things that do not affect the strength of the story at all. It is possible to look past all these things because the underlying message is so much stronger. In this debut novel, writer Samantha March opens up a world filled with what should be anger, frustration, bitterness and insanity, but in the form of formidable strength and friendship. This strong tale is the perfect illustration of how people can rise above the past, no matter how painful, and leave behind all the drama to make the ultimate choice to move on and create a better future for themselves. Samantha presented a well-written, emotional and compelling story, one that all women should read and recommend to others. Girlfriends, go ahead and give it a read!

Samantha March fell in love with books at a young age thanks to her mother and grandmother, both avid readers. In high school, Samantha excelled in writing courses but took what she considered the practical route and enrolled in a business college where she graduated with honors in 2009. However, her thoughts of writing never dissolved. In October of 2009, Samantha started the book blog Chick Lit Plus where she met fellow readers and writers who pushed her to continue her goal of becoming published. Her self-published debut novel, Destined to Fail, is available now as an eBook and will be available in paperback in November. Samantha currently lives in West Des Moines, Iowa, with her boyfriend.

Stories from the Hart: Moving On, Part 2

Moving On by Shannon Hart, author of Until the End of Forever
Part 2 (To read Part 1, click here.)
Anytime now. The words echoed in my mind for a bit while my heart sank further.
“Did you talk to him about telling me?” I asked, hoping the quiver in my voice was not too noticeable.
“I did. We’ve talked a few times actually. He didn’t want me to mention anything to you. He insisted that he didn’t want you to have to deal with something like this. He said you had too much going for you and that you didn’t need him to be a burden in your life, pulling down the weight. Even if the tumor can be fully removed, with surgery there’s always a risk of brain damage and…” Hannah said, while I watched her eyes glisten. “Well, I never made him any promises. So… Here I am.”
My earlier disappointment had suddenly been overridden by this feeling that resembled guilt. In the midst of his life’s biggest challenge, he thought of my future before his own. All of a sudden, I felt like the biggest jerk on the face of the planet. Why was I even taking so much time thinking about this? Why was it so hard for me to just pack up and run off to Nate’s?
It wasn’t. I just had to do it. Then and there, I made the decision. I had to go see him. I had to talk to him. I had to comfort him. I had to… just be there for him.
I grabbed my purse and dug out my wallet. I took out a crumpled bill and threw it on the table. “I have to go,” I said as I stood up. I sped past my sister, but not before giving her a little peck on the cheek. She always looked out for me.
As soon as I dashed out of the restaurant, I hailed a cab and told the driver to take me to St. Agnes’ Hospital, which was about sixteen blocks away. With no rush hour traffic, we were there in no time.
I didn’t immediately get out of the cab when I reached the hospital though. Instead, I sat, just staring at the building from behind the car window. My heart was racing.
 “Miss? Are you going to get out?” The cab driver asked. Not as politely as I had hoped, if I may add.
“Just… give me a second.”
“This will cost you extra,” he turned around and said grumpily.
I rolled my eyes. I handed him a fifty-dollar bill and he took it with a shrug.
I sat there suddenly unsure again if I wanted to walk up to Nate's room, knock on his door and go running into his arms as soon as I walked in. What if he didn’t want me there? Or what if he did really have cancer and I wasn’t strong enough to stick around?
I really had way too many questions in my head. What I didn’t have were the answers. For at least half of the questions I had, the answers didn’t even lie with me, they were with Nate. There was really no way of knowing unless I forced myself to get out of the cab and walk in to that hospital. So with one big deep breath, I opened the door and stepped out of the car.
I knew exactly which room he was in, thanks to a text from Hannah that I got while I was still in the cab. The door was opened so tiptoed my way in and found Nate on his bed reading.
“Nate?” I called, suddenly realizing that my heart was beating so loud and hard that it felt like it was drumming in my ears too.
He looked up from his book and his bright blue eyes locked with mine. I thought I saw his face light up instantly, but it could have just been the sunlight.
“I knew she’d tell you eventually,” he said with a smile.
“Yeah, well, she’s my sister. We don’t keep secrets from each other.” I walked in further and stopped when I reached the side of his bed.
“Right. I should have remembered that.”
Oh God, how I missed his weird Australian accent.
“So…” I started to ask, trying to act as cool as possible, “How are you holding up?”
“I’m fine, don’t worry about me.”
“Really? You’re in limbo land right now, not knowing yet whether what you have is life-threatening or not, and I’m not supposed to be worried?” I found myself rambling about, not even thinking before I let all those words stumble out of my mouth.
I expected him to turn angry. It was pretty insensitive of me to be yelling at a sick person in a hospital bed, looking pale and in a blue hospital gown. But he wasn’t angry. In fact, he broke into laughter.
“Why are you laughing at me?”
He reduced his laugh down to a smile and took one of my hands in his. “I’m laughing, my dear Grace, at myself, not at you. I’m laughing because I have realized how stupid I was thinking I could go through this alone. I’ve been such and idiot, thinking I’d be saving you the trouble, when I should have been spending all the time I have left with you.”
“Don’t say that. You don’t know what the results are just yet. It could be nothing.”
“It could be something.”
“But it could be nothing,” I insisted.
We were silent for a while, lost in jumbled up thoughts. I was just about to break the silence by telling him that I forgave him, when a group of nurses and a Doctor came walking in.
“Mr. Woodward, how are you doing?”
Nate straightened himself up and smiled. “I’m doing great, Doc. Especially now that Grace is here,” he said while giving me a wink.
I felt my cheeks warm up instantly.
“Well, it’s about to get better. We got the results back. It looks like it’s a benign little thing. We can surgically remove it and you’ll be as good as new.”
Dr. Peterson suddenly looked to me like Superman. Maybe not just to me, but also to Nate, who I noticed didn’t blink.
“So, I’ll be fine?”
“You’ll be fine,” Dr. Peterson answered reassuringly.
“Oh thank God!” Nate practically shouted.
“We’ll schedule the procedure for tomorrow morning. In the meantime, go get some rest.” Dr. Peterson started to walk out, accompanied by his entourage of nurses.
“Hey Doc,” Nate called out just as the man reached the door.
“Get your tux ready. You’re coming to my wedding, okay?”
While Dr. Peterson continued to walk out waving and saying, “I’ll be there,” I froze. What wedding?
“Please tell me you haven’t returned the dress,” Nate said, squeezing my hand.
I wasn’t sure what was going on and just stood there, staring at him with a dumb look on my face.
“Grace, I know I hurt you when I bailed out on the wedding. But believe me, I really thought I was doing the right thing. I didn’t want you to have to suffer through all of this. I know it was wrong of me, but I genuinely didn’t want to go down bringing you with me. You deserve so much more and I thought I just wasn’t going to be able to give you all those things.”
As Nate spoke, I lost count of how many times tears rolled down my cheeks.
“I already thought the worst, you know. I thought I’d be dying and if we stayed together, your life would just be ruined.”
“It got ruined anyway when you left me, Nate,” I managed to say.
“I know, and I’m so sorry. Like I said, I was stupid. Either way, you still ended up getting hurt. I’m sorry, Grace. I am so sorry.”
I was so dumbstruck I just nodded and let myself cry a little bit more before finally getting into the hospital bed with him. I wrapped my arms around him, feeling a hybrid of relief, happy but still slightly worried about the surgery tomorrow. Surgery is surgery and there are always risks, just like Hannah told me.
“Why are you so quiet?” Nate asked after a few moments had passed. “Are you thinking about the surgery or about the wedding?”
I laughed a little. “First of all, I don’t think I have agreed to marry you yet. Again, I mean. But mostly…” I paused.
Yes, sure. I was slightly worried about the surgery. But the outlook was great, and the risk was minimal. I had faith. Nate would be fine. I was sure of it. So, no, that’s not what I was thinking about at all.
“Mostly… I’m just so glad I didn’t move on.”
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Stories from the Hart: Moving On, Part 1

Moving On by Shannon Hart, author of Until the End of Forever
Part 1

I checked my watch for the tenth time and sighed. What is taking her so long? The ice in my peach iced tea had already completely melted and the white coaster with the restaurant’s logo below it was dripping wet.
I finally heard the sound of Hannah’s Louboutin heels stomping all over the parquet floors as she seemingly hurried back to our table.
“My God, the line in the bathroom was so long, you’d think they were giving out free food or something!” Hannah said, as she sat down in the seat she had left for at least a half an hour.
“Hannah, I really have to go by 2:30. I can’t be late for this meeting,” I said, probably for the eleventh time since we got to the restaurant.
“Oh lighten up. It’s not like they’re going to fire you for being late once.
“I’m serious, Hannah. I can’t be late for this. This is like the most important meeting in my entire career! If I blow this, I’ll never get that promotion and you know how much I want it.”
“I know, I know, you said that already. This will be quick, I promise.”
She kept saying that, but in the entire hour we were there, she never managed to even start the actual conversation.
Well, it’s not like she really had to start. I already knew what the conversation was going to be about. She didn’t even have to hint. I knew she wanted to talk to me about Nate.
Or rather, she wanted to talk to me about not thinking of Nate. About moving on with my life and stop living in the past. Just like what Sophie tried to tell me last week over coffee, and what Becca tried to convince me to do when we went jogging two weeks ago. One by one, my friends were trying to convince me to move on.
I didn’t want to talk about moving on again, but seeing as that I had already dodged this gruesome conversation with Hannah for about a month now, I figured I should just get it over and done with. Fast, painless, like pulling off a band-aid; exactly how it went with Sophie and Becca. I’d just smile and say, “I have moved on, really. It’s just not as fast as other people. But I’m fine, I swear.”
Hannah took a deep breath, as if she had to prepare herself before delivering the big speech.
“Look, there’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to go ahead and say it,” she said.
I nodded, mentally rehearsing my “I’m fine” line so I could be more convincing. Maybe I wasn’t convincing enough to Sophie and Becca, which is probably why they had to send my sister Hannah down to do the job for them.
“I know Sophie and Becca have spoken to you,” she continued, as I smiled, telling myself I was probably psychic or something.
“Yes, yes they have. And if you’re here to tell me the same thing, don’t waste your breath. I’ll just repeat whatever I said to them. I am moving on. It’s probably just not as fast as other people. But I am. I’m fine. I swear.”
I expected Hannah to roll her eyes. I had already envisioned her shaking her head, disapproving and not buying into what was clearly a big fat lie. But she didn’t. She did shake her head, but it was different.
“No, no. I’m not here to tell you to move on. I’m here to tell you not to. Nate needs you, Grace. You can’t move on just yet.”
I wasn’t used to people telling me I shouldn’t move on. From the day that the news spread – that Nate backed out of our wedding two nights before, claiming he decided he wasn’t ready to commit and didn’t even love me all that much after all – all my friends and family have been trying to tell me to forget him and just move on. Some were more extreme that others: my parents offered to let me stay with my Dad’s brother in Leeds so I wouldn’t have to be on the same continent. Nate’s own sister Marissa, who Skyped me from Sydney, said he wasn’t even worth the heartache. Oh, and let’s not forget my high school boyfriend Jack, who (jokingly) offered to have him “terminated."
So why was Hannah, my own sister, whom I shared flesh and blood with, telling me to do otherwise?
I looked around me, wondering if I was being filmed on some cruel reality TV show or something.
“Is this a joke?”
She shook her head. She looked serious. I don’t recall ever seeing her this serious.  
“I don’t get it.”
She bent down to grab something from her bag; a white envelope, bearing the initials NW on it.
Just seeing those two letters side by side gave me goose bumps all over. Nathaniel Woodward. Nate. My Nate. Or “used to be” my Nate.
“I’m breaking so many laws by doing this, but I have no choice.”
She opened the envelope so slowly that the suspense almost killed me. A million questions rushed through my head. What is that? Why is this breaking the law? What is she trying to show me? The voices in my head just wouldn’t stop asking no matter how much I tried to tell them to shut up.
“Nate went to Dr. Peterson about six weeks ago. He complained that he was feeling extremely weak, and at one point couldn’t get out of bed. Dr. Peterson suggested to him to do some blood tests, some scans and…” Hannah paused. She looked to her left and right, then moved forward before saying very softly, “Gracie, the results weren’t so good.”
I felt a stinging pain in my throat. While I often wished that Nate would drop dead on account that he humiliated me by canceling our wedding, I sincerely never meant it to be literal.
“I didn’t even know he was seeing Dr. Peterson. He was going by his first name, Samuel, and I didn’t realize it until Dr. Peterson had me pull up his file last week.”
“What does this mean? I mean, what exactly are you trying to tell me here, Hannah? Is he like… dying or something? I don’t understand any of this…” I said, shaking my head repeatedly. What was I supposed to think of all this?
“I need you to listen to me carefully when I say this, Gracie,” Hannah blurted out. Then she shook her head and said, “They found a tumor in his brain.”
I started feeling chest pains myself. Either that or someone stuck a blade right through my heart. Whichever it was, I was having trouble breathing.
“I know this is a lot to take on and I know it’s easier to hate Nate for what he did to you. But I think he needs you right now. He moved all the way here from Australia for you. He doesn’t have anyone here except for a few friends that didn’t take your side.”
My head was spinning uncontrollably. I had to tightly grip the edge of my seat just to keep myself from falling out of the chair.
“I hated him for what he did to you too, but I couldn’t help but notice that the dates of his appointments and when he got all the scan results back – they’re all around the time things became rocky with you guys. In fact, here…” Hannah took out a piece of paper and tried to show it to me. It just looked like a white page full of scribbles because my eyes were so blurry from holding back tears. I couldn’t read a single thing that was on it. “This note Dr. Peterson made was from July 7th. That was the day, right? That was the day he called it off? Gracie, it’s not that he didn’t love you…”
“Stop!” I suddenly shouted. I couldn’t take it. Hannah kept talking and talking, and I couldn’t digest everything she was saying. “Please, stop talking. Just… for a minute. I need to process this.”
Hannah pulled back. She sat up against her chair and folded her arms across her chest.
I checked my watch. A quarter past two. I was definitely going to be late.
I wanted to scream. I didn’t know how to wrap my head around this whole Nate situation. He had a tumor growing in his brain? Did he have cancer? So, he might have left me because he knew he was sick, not because he wasn’t ready to commit? And after all this time of hating him, I was supposed to go back to him and be his support system through one of the most difficult situations in his life?
What exactly was I supposed to be feeling for him? By the looks of it, Hannah seemed to think I should be feeling compassion for him. She probably expected me to dramatically exit the restaurant and run off to Nate’s place to wrap my arms around him and tell him all was forgiven. She was pretty dramatic like that. I had no doubt that exact scene played through her head ever since she asked me to have lunch with her. But was I able to do that?
More than anything at that point, what I felt was disappointed. Sure, compassion was lurking around, banging on my head telling me I should just forget about my pride and go running to him. But I couldn’t suppress the disappointment because all this just meant that he didn’t trust me enough to share it with me. Either he didn’t think I’d be strong enough to stick around, or he didn’t think I loved him all that much – both scenarios made me sound like the weak link in the relationship.
“Grace, I know you need time, but if the tumor turns out to be malignant, time is something he probably doesn’t have a lot of. I know you still love him, that’s why you haven’t been able to move past hating him for leaving you. So, open your heart to him again and be there for him. He needs to have some sort of positive reinforcement in his life right now. It really helps. He’s in a hospital room completely alone. The only people who have been seeing him are the nurses, Dr. Peterson and me. He can’t go through this alone, Grace.”
I brushed the tears away from my face. The thought of him alone in the cold and unfriendly hospital bed surrounded by needles and surgeons pushed those tears right out of my eyes.
I checked my watch again. Half past two. I was late, but I decided I didn’t really care anymore. This was so much bigger than some silly promotion.
“When do you know for sure how bad it is?” I finally asked.
“Any time now. We’re waiting for the results from the biopsy to come out.”
Check back for Part 2 of Moving On next week! Do you like this story so far? What do you think will happen? Leave a comment to let us know. Thanks! We love hearing from you!

Stories from the Hart: Dilemma, Part 2

Dilemma by Shannon Hart, author of Until the End of Forever
Part 2
(To read Part 1, click here.)

Four weeks ago, while I was having a boring cob salad for lunch with a few friends so I could fit into my dress, I spotted Justin grabbing a coffee to go. I hid behind my friend Leslie, but he spotted me anyway. He asked if we could meet up and just talk, and like the idiot that I am, I agreed.
To be fair, I didn’t know that by agreeing to meet him, I was opening up old wounds and allowing myself to open up to him again. I naively thought that we’d just be tying up loose ends or something, so by the end of the conversation we would say our goodbyes and be done with it.
We weren’t done.
We ended up seeing each other for lunch every day, just to talk and catch up. Or, at least, that was what I was convincing myself we were doing. The truth was that we were reconnecting. We were finding out again just how much we clicked and still had so much in common. I got completely sucked in again by his charm, his jokes, and the way he’d stroke my hair and say how amazing I was.
I almost told Ian that I couldn’t marry him last night.
Justin and I had spent the whole day together and he told me how much he hated himself for breaking my heart twice. He called up his boss and told him he quit, and wanted to move back to California to be with me. He hung up the phone and gazed into my eyes, then asked me to break it off with Ian and marry him instead.
Last night, I was ready to break the news to Ian but when I got home, he wasn’t home yet. He called and said he got held up because there was an urgent meeting at the office. Then, he asked me to help him pack for the honeymoon.
I don’t even know why I agreed to it, knowing very well that I was actually planning to leave him that night. But I went to his closet anyway and started picking out his clothes. Hidden way in the back of his closet was a pile of papers that I thought were just some lame manuscript from a writer who wanted Ian to read it. I figured it just got tossed in there somehow.
When I grabbed it, I could feel my heart start pounding loudly. It was so loud it felt like it was pounding outside of my chest. The manuscript wasn’t a work of some lame writer. It was something Ian had written. It was dated pretty recently and to my utter surprise, it was actually dedicated to me, whom he wrote was the only reason he wanted to wake up every morning.
The script was beautiful. It was about finding love in the most unusual circumstances. It was about having the strength to embrace life and live it to the fullest and just being grateful no matter what. It was so beautiful. I went through a full box of Kleenex by the last page.
His words spoke of so much passion, passion that I then realized was something that grew because of the relationship we had together. I may have not been in it one hundred percent, but he certainly was. A lot of the scenes in the script mimicked our reality and I knew that the inspiration for his story came from us.
I decided then and there that I couldn’t do it to him. I couldn’t call off the wedding and go run off with Justin. As much as I loved Justin, as much as Justin was my soul mate, I didn’t have the heart to crush Ian. I decided that I could grow to love him and be passionate about him.
I didn’t want to be that girl, the girl who ran off with an ex-boyfriend, leaving the good guy at the altar. I didn’t want to be the runaway bride that left the leading male character with a shattered ego and a stunned family at the church. So, this morning, as soon as I got up, I raced over to Justin’s hotel to tell him that I chose Ian.
I rambled on and on about how he had missed his chance with me, twice, and told him that I could never be with him again. I never denied still loving him, but I told him I loved Ian too and I wanted to make it work with him. With tears running across my cheeks, I told him to call his boss and get his job back. Then I took off running faster than I had ever run before, making sure I was as far away as possible from him so there wouldn’t be any opportunity for him to try and change my mind.
Yeah, I was a lot smarter this morning.
“Look, if it’s his ego you’re worried about, you don’t even have to tell him that you’re in love with someone else. Just tell him you can’t do this. Tell him you thought you were ready for this but you’re not. The point is, Jess, you can’t sacrifice your happiness just because you don’t have the guts to leave him.”
“I can’t. I just… can’t.”
“Why not? I love you. You love me. We should be together, Jess. We, you and me, not you and him.”
“It could have been you and me. I’m not the one who wanted out of this relationship, you know. I’m not the one who packed up and left for London,” I said, suddenly realizing how angry I actually was at him.
“I know and it was a stupid thing to do. But I’m here now, and we deserve another chance…” he begged. “Look at it this way. Maybe you’re setting him free to meet the actual love of his life. Maybe by leaving him, you’re giving him the chance to experience true love. Doesn’t he deserve better than this charade?”
I couldn’t deny that what he said caught my attention. As much as I hated it, he could be right. Maybe Ian was better off with someone else anyway. He did deserve someone who could love him far more than me.
I was still in deliberation about whether or not Justin was making sense when the phone rang.
“I know we’re not supposed to see each other until the wedding but I miss you like crazy already and it hasn’t even been twenty-four hours yet,” Ian said, in his soothing, comforting voice.
“I… I miss you too,” I said, not entirely sure if I was lying or telling the truth. On some level, I did miss him. I missed feeling safe and comfortable and with Justin in the room pressuring me into cancelling the wedding, I felt everything but safe and comfortable.
“I can’t wait to marry you, Jess. I can’t wait to call you Mrs. Ian Webber and I can’t wait to start the rest of our lives together,” he added softly while simultaneously adding to the pain I was feeling in my chest.
“Ian, I…”
“I know we’re only supposed to say our vows tomorrow and I’ll blow you away with my vows, I promise. But I just want you to know that starting today, not even tomorrow, I’m going to spend my entire life trying to make you happy. I just want what you want. Whatever it is that makes you happy, I want to be able to give it to you.”
I guess he didn’t know how making me happy involved making him miserable. He probably never even thought of the possibility.
I looked over at Justin who was shaking his leg like there was no tomorrow. He was obviously nervous, just waiting to see how the conversation with Ian would end. It was the first time I saw him so unnerved.
“Ian, are you happy?”
“I am. I am so happy. You make me the happiest man on the planet,” he answered sounding so sincere it was practically killing me.
I glanced at Justin again, then to the picture of Ian and me on our Hawaiian holiday. Then I looked back at Justin.
Somehow, I felt like I wasn’t looking at him anymore. I was looking at the college version of him, who left me behind to pursue a career in movies. I was looking at the hot shot up and coming director version of him, who got pulled to a studio in London and didn’t seem to hesitate to leave me behind once again.
Seriously, it couldn’t have killed him to at least ask if I wanted to come along, right?
Suddenly, it was all clear to me.
There would always be something else that would pull him away from me and all that’s left would be my broken heart. Again. Sure, now, he probably thinks he wants to stay here and just be with me and not give a damn about his career. But soon enough, he’s going to want something more and he’ll leave me behind again to go and get it. One of these days, he’s going to get another offer from someone and will fly off to God knows where and I wasn’t willing to bet that he’d ask me to come with him.
“Hang on a second, honey,” I said to Ian, as I pressed the mute button. With whatever strength I had in me, I tugged Justin by the arm. “You have to leave. Please. I’m sorry Justin but I can’t leave him. I won’t leave him.”
“Jess, please. I love you. I want to be with you,” he pleaded, a vulnerable side I had never seen before.
“I’m sorry,” I said in between my cries. I opened the door and waited for him to walk out. I felt my heart break into a million pieces when he walked past me with the most gut-wrenching look on his face. But I had a choice to make and I made it.
I cleared my throat and wiped the tears from my eyes. Taking in a deep breath, I pressed the mute button again.
“Hi. I’m back. Sorry about that. I just had something I needed to do. It’s done now. It won’t bother me again.”
“Uh, okay… Is there something you’d like to tell me?” Ian asked.
“Not really. It’s not important. What’s important is what you were saying just now. What was it again?”
Ian laughed a bit. “I was saying, I’m happy, Jess. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. You make me happy."
I smiled to myself. “Good. I’ll make sure to keep that up for the rest of my life,” I answered, vowing to myself to stick to that promise. No matter what.
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