Authors: Lauren Pacaccio
I flinched. I was engaged. That's very different from just dating someone.
"You are just dating him, right, Pay?" Hunter said, looking down at me. His eyes were pleading for a yes.
"Uh," I said, "Not exactly."
"What does that mean, Pay?!" Hunter said, his voice rising. I dug into my front pocket and pulled out my proof and slipped it onto my left hand.
I lifted up my hand. "You're engaged?!" His voice broke. He backed up and turned around.
"That's the main reason why I'm here, Hunter," I said, my throat starting to burn like it did four years ago. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you before. It was supposed to be a surprise for my parents. When Braden got here, we were going to tell everyone the good news. So, I had to hide it so Braden and I could tell everyone together."
His back was still facing me. I saw him shaking his head. "Please," he said, and I heard him sniffle, "please tell me you're just fucking with me. Please tell me you aren't marrying some guy that…" he stopped and faced me. He roughly wiped his face. "That isn't ME."
"What do you mean 'that isn't you?'" I asked, looking at him like he was crazy. "Oh, I'm sorry," I said, sarcastically, "I didn't realize I needed your permission to fall in love with someone else. I didn't realize that you were the only guy who could show any interest in me, Hunter."
"Don't be a bitch, Paisley. Not right now. Don't do that to me. I do not deserve this. Just like I didn't deserve what you did to me four years ago. I loved you. God help me," he said, smiling sadly, roughly wiping away his tears again, "I still fucking love you."
I went to speak. "I'm not done yet," he said, holding up a hand. "Unlike you, Pay, I wasn't able to get over us the second we ended. I had to actually leave so I could get some sort of existence back. Any girl that I saw just reminded me that I didn't have you. I thought that you were doing the same thing. Wishing that I would call you up. Barely existing, just trying to get through each day. But then, I find out you've been with some guy named Braden for three fucking years. How could you do this to me, Pay?"
I was speechless. How was I supposed to respond to something like that? I decided there was nothing I could say. I looked around and remembered that the park was about a block away from the house.
I started walking. "Paisley, where the hell are you going?" Hunter's voice boomed behind me.
I sped up. My heart ached. My vision was starting to blur from my tears. I was so upset on top of being pissed at myself for being upset about Hunter. I had told myself that I would never let him make me cry again. And here I was, engaged to someone else, crying over Hunter.
"Pay, stop!" He said. Like hell, I thought.
I started jogging, but right when I did, I felt a hand grab mine and spin me around.
"STOP!" I yelled, breaking down. "Don't you think I felt like dying when we broke up?" I looked at him, just letting the tears fall. I continued yelling. "You were my FOREVER, Hunter. And then, you just…weren't." He went to talk.
"You got your chance," I said, really crying now, "Let me speak."
He nodded and folded his arms in front of him.
"Every time my phone rang, I wished it was you. It never was. I didn't talk to anyone freshman year. I didn't want to let anyone in again. Hell, when Braden and I met, I didn't even let him in. Not at first. All I wanted was you. But you weren't there, Hunter. You had left. You walked out of my room when I told you that I wasn't giving you another chance. Hell," I said, finding it hard to breathe and it was probably hard to understand me, "you walked out of my life when I told you that I was done.
And I hate myself for feeling the way I do. I LOVE YOU, Hunter. I always have. But," I said, willing the tears to stop, "I'm getting married to Braden. He was there when you weren't. He loves me. He makes me feel whole."
"Do you love him?" He asked.
I went to yell again. But he stopped me. "Or do you just love the way he makes you feel?"
"I," I started, and then thought about it, "love him?"
"Was that a statement or a question?" He asked, not in a mean way, but in a curious way.
I went to walk away. I turned my head for a second so I could answer him.
I cleared my throat and literally put my foot down. "I. love. him. Statement."
"Paisley? Paiiiisseeee? Goooood morrrrrning, sweeeeethearttt."
I felt someone kissing my cheek. I had finally gotten to sleep what felt like five minutes ago. I tried to open my eyes, but couldn't. I settled with squinting again. "Good morning?" I asked, not fully comprehending what was going on.
In my squint-induced blurred vision, I could make out a face very close to mine. I think there was some blonde hair.
"Hey, sleepyhead," he was saying, rubbing my back. He was lying down next to me. I sat up quickly.
"Braden!" I'm sure I had severe bed head, but I just didn't care. My Braden was here.
I was hugging him when I realized that he was here early. Like a whole day early.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, squeezing him. "Not that I'm complaining," I added, kissing him on the cheek.
He smiled. "Mr. Nazi with the Stick Up His Ass actually has a heart! So, I guess we need to think of a different, equally clever name. I smiled and went to ask how he got to leave early. But, he knew me so well, he answered before I asked.
"I had been sulking around during the meetings. Answering with my pathetic voice that you know so well," he smiled. His "pathetic voice" was the voice he used when he was upset about something and wanted sympathy. It worked like a charm.
"Anyways," he continued, kissing me on the cheek, "Mr. Not-So-Nazi asked what was wrong and I told him that you were all alone here, with your ex-boyfriend, engaged and not being able to tell anyone and how I felt so bad for you," He was holding my hand and rubbing circles onto my palm. "I mean, Paise, you were here all alone," he kissed me on my neck and I giggled.
"All alone. Nothing to do," he was whispering, kissing down my neck and to my shoulder. I laughed breathlessly.
"Not that I'm not completely loving this, but what happened?" I asked.
"Oh, right. I was telling a story," he said, grinning at me, "Well, he told me that I wasn't much help sulking about, all depressed, and that they could handle the rest of the work as long as when I came in after the holidays, I would be much happier."
I laughed, "You're kidding."
"I am not. The Nazi does have a heart! Maybe he was engaged once." He started kissing me again.
I felt very underdressed compared to him. Shorts and cami. Compared to his khakis, button up, and adorable sweater vest.
"What time is it?" I asked, suddenly aware of where we were. And aware of the fact that since I had practically cried myself to sleep the night before, I was probably all swollen around my eyes.
"Um," he said, looking at his watch, "it's about a quarter to 12. Why?"
I rolled out of the bed. And he frowned, "Don't do that, Bray," I said, smiling. "I'll be right back. I just have to shower and then get myself presentable and ready to attack the day."
Braden slyly smiled at me, "I have an idea. It would satiate both of our wants. You want to be cleaned, correct?" I nodded and giggled. I had a feeling I knew where he was going. "And I want…you." He pointed at me. "So, hey, let's conserve water and shower together!"
I blushed and looked at him skeptically. "You don't look like you need a shower."
He got up quickly. "Give me a second."
And then, he started doing jumping jacks. Push-ups. Sit ups. Running in place.
"What the heck are you doing, you goof?" I asked, laughing at him.
"I'm trying to work up a sweat! Sweating equals dirty in your book, right?" He walked up to me and wiped his forehead with his hand.
There was just a little sweat there. He showed me his hand. "DIRTY!"
I hugged him tight. "I've missed you so much, you goofball."
He laughed, "I missed you, too, Paise."
"Now," I said, chuckling, "as long as we're quiet…let's go clean up, you dirty boy." I winked and laughed the whole way to the bathroom.
"Well, Braden," my mother said, while we were all sitting in the living room. We had just gotten dressed, or in Braden's case, redressed. "You showing up here a day early and all."
I smiled. Braden grinned, "Well, what can I say, Mrs. Sarah? I couldn't stay away."
I tried to ignore the fact that my mother rolled her eyes.
"Mr. Daniel," a voice came from the front door, "I'm back. Wanna get to work on that car some more?"
Hunter wandered into the living room. He froze in his tracks when he saw me curled up with Braden on the couch. "Um," he said, searching for anything to say. "I'm…sorry? I didn't realize that you guys had company."
I had to be blushing wildly. I was dying. At any moment, Hunter could let it slip or just right out blurt out the fact that the day before, we had been locking lips.
I felt Braden stiffen a little. "Um, Braden?" I shifted a little so we could both stand up. "This is Hunter," I said, gesturing towards the boy who was my everything for the longest time.
"And Hunter," I looked at him and hoped my eyes said everything I couldn't say out loud, like that he really shouldn't say anything about the day before, "this is Braden." And I pointed to the man who was my everything now.
I'll give them credit. They were civil. They shook hands. "It's nice to meet you," Braden said, smiling politely. "I've heard some things about you."
Hunter shot me a questioning glance. "All lies, I'm sure," he said, obviously feeling very uncomfortable in the situation he was in.
It was very weird looking at the two of them sizing each other up. They were both about the same height and they both had the same build. Broad shoulders, long legs, naturally tanned skin. But that's the only way they were similar. Braden stood in a proud manner. His dirty blonde hair contracted with Hunter's dark brown. Braden's eyes were a beautiful green whereas Hunter's were a bright blue.
And then, the clothes were probably the funniest. Hunter was wearing some blue jeans that fit in all the right places. He was wearing a t-shirt with his leather jacket. Braden was wearing his khakis with a white button up and a green and blue sweater vest. It was the ultimate bad boy fantasy up against the ultimate perfect Mr. Right. The one I knew would be good for me and the one that I never felt more alive with. That's when I realized that I was screwed. For some reason, I had put myself in the situation where I had to choose from someone who I hadn't spoken to in years and someone who, for the past three years, has been there for me no matter what.
"Well, now that everyone is here," Braden said, backing up a little from Hunter, "I think Paisley and I have an announcement to make."
I looked at him. "Now?" I said, eyeing Hunter.
"Oh, I wonder what this could be about," Hunter said, looking at me hard.
"Why not now, Paise?" Braden asked, looking at Hunter. "I think the people who need to know our news are all here now. The people that the news would affect are now in this room."
I swallowed. "Sure." I said, feeling like I was about to faint. Hunter was looking at me so intently; I thought he was going to burn a hole into my forehead.
"Mom," I said, turning to face her. She was quiet throughout the whole conversation that had previously taken place. Not untypical for her. "Dad," I continued, looking at him. My daddy. I was definitely a daddy's girl, no doubt about it.
I think he knew what was coming. His face got all red. "Yeah, sweet pea?" he said, waiting for me to continue. I dug into my jean pocket once again. I took out my beautiful ring and slipped it onto my finger.