Authors: Sarah Daltry
Tags: #romance, #contemporary women, #sarah daltry, #series, #teen and young adult, #jack and lily, #coming of age, #marriage, #wedding, #college, #flowering, #new adult, #growing up, #contemporary romance
The last one she sent is incoherent. Just a lot of random letters and punctuation. I would worry that something was actually wrong, but my dad and Jon didn’t text. If something had happened, they would have as well. Instead, it’s just endless streams of urgency from my mother.
I leave my stuff in the library and go back outside to call her. She answers almost immediately. “I have been trying to reach you all morning,” she says.
“I had class.”
“But I texted you.”
“Right, but I still had class.”
“Okay, well, two things. First, we need to confirm the DJ. Have you done that yet? Did you meet with him? Do you know what time he’s setting up?”
“I’ll call him when I get off the phone with you. Sorry. It slipped my mind.”
There is a lengthy pause. She’s trying. I keep telling myself that, because it keeps me sane. A few years ago, I would have gotten quite the tirade about forgetting to call the DJ. Instead, she’s practicing deep breathing, which she learned about in yoga. My existence has led her to yoga.
“I promise. I’ll call,” I tell her.
“Okay. The second thing is that your father wants to put down a deposit for your honeymoon this week. Gail has been checking in and we don’t have an answer for her, so you have to pick something. I don’t like having to keep making Gail wait.” Gail is the travel agent my parents use. Everyone in my parents’ life is a long-lost friend; there is no such thing as Expedia.
“Can I let you know tomorrow?”
“I suppose, but haven’t you talked about it?” she asks.
“We have, but Jack feels silly taking your money. Maybe we’ll just do a weekend away at the Cape or something.”
The deep breathing resumes. People in my mother’s life don’t do weekends away at the Cape; they own houses there. I would really love to go to Paris, and Jack and I have spoken about it theoretically. Everyone keeps saying it would be perfect for us, but I feel guilty deciding without him. I know he won’t really care, but it’s
honeymoon, not mine. Still, I realize he is going to be resistant to anything until it’s decided and I don’t have the energy to scroll through another few dozen texts, so I do something I probably wouldn’t do otherwise. I decide for us, and I hope he forgives me. It feels so tacky to make such a huge decision about us without confirming with him first, especially because it’s one of the first real decisions you’re supposed to make together as married couple. Worse, he’s the person I go to for everything. It really bugs me to do this without talking to him first, but my mom’s meditative sounds are starting to sound more like the beginning of an aneurysm.
“We want to go to Paris,” I tell her.
“Oh, that’s perfect. Gail can look into using miles and...” She keeps going, but it’s starting to rain, so I cut her off. After I agree three more times to call the DJ, she finally hangs up. The DJ conversation takes five minutes and we make an appointment for Sunday.
I wish someone had told me years ago that planning a wedding was a full-time job. I probably would have eloped. It’s still incredibly tempting. I know, as a girl, I’m supposed to be all about this, but I just want to be married to Jack. I want to share this with him. I don’t care about anything else.
Once I’m back inside the library and settled at my table, I text Jack and tell him that I chose Paris for our honeymoon. He replies, “I can’t wait to be anywhere with you for two weeks.” Relieved, I start yet another paper and dream of French cafes and walking with Jack along the Seine.
ily has been so overwhelmed with school that, when I get her text, I don’t feel upset that she made the decision. There was no way I was going to feel okay making it anyway, since it’s her parents’ money, and I just want her to be happy. I can tell in the messages that she’s exhausted. We resolved the Tallinn glitch this morning, and today is less hectic than it’s been. When Rich tells me to leave a little early and take a long weekend, I decide it’s a perfect time to plan something special for Lily for when she gets home; we could both use a little relaxation.
I know how she gets. She has probably convinced herself that she should have confirmed about Paris first, but I don’t care where we go. It’s the money, not the location. And really, a couple of hours in the backseat of my grandmother’s car a few years ago on New Year’s Eve were perfect; Paris is just extra. However, she’s probably sitting in class or at the library, trying to take notes but checking her phone to see if I texted, if I changed my mind. We’ve been together for more than three years now – for most of Lily’s college career – and I can’t remember ever being actually mad at her. Stupid fights about dishes when we were both overtired or arguments about where to put a couch, sure, but real anger? Never. I chose to
for Lily, literally. Yet she still worries, because she’s too nice not to worry.
I send her a quick text telling her that I love her in French, just to make sure she knows I’m okay, and then I go shopping. I’m a regular domestic now. I can’t help but stand in Whole Foods and laugh at what I’ve become. Of course, I’m wearing jeans and a gray t-shirt and the crazy, tattooed, laughing guy standing by the cheese display gets a few looks, but I’m holding a fucking shopping basket and picking out cheese. Sometimes, I wonder if I died a long time ago; how is this real?
People talk all the time about growing up, but they always talk about teenagers. It’s weird. I think that’s why I felt like I would have all the answers once I finished high school, just because everyone acted like that was a defining moment. Yet, the first three years of college were just like high school – except people didn’t harass me endlessly. I was drunk, depressed, and desperate through them, just like I was for four years of high school. And then there was Lily.
It’s not entirely her, because the events of my senior year and then working and having my own place these last couple years have all played a part as well. Still, until her, life was endless and it was gray. She brought light into my world. I still struggle to explain it, and I know someone on the outside may not understand. All I know is that there was nothing – and then there was hope. She’s hope. She’s the only person on this entire stupid planet who could even get me out of bed some days, never mind to yuppie food stores to buy fucking Merlot. I don’t even think she likes Merlot, but here I am.
“Can I help you?”
I turn around and the kid working surprises me. I feel like I’m looking in a mirror. He’s got to be sixteen, maybe seventeen, and I instantly recognize the pain in his eyes. It’s strange to see it this way, because I’ve always been so trapped in it that I never really saw it myself. However, I know as soon as I see him that it’s the way I looked at his age.
“I’m...” I start to tell him I’m looking for French things, but it sounds stupid. “Jack. I’m Jack.”
“Sorry, you just reminded me of someone.”
I don’t know what I thought would happen. I would have probably freaked out if some dude talked to me when I was working at the café and acted like he knew me. I don’t know this kid. I don’t have a clue what causes the pain that hangs on him like oppression. All I know is that I feel obligated to take some of it away, to make it hurt less. I just want him to know someone cares.
I think that’s what always got me. It still gets me. People always say how much they care about another person, but when the time comes, there are very few who are there when you’re at your lowest. When you look out the window and you think one more day will kill you, you’re lucky if there is one person who even notices. Maybe that’s why I know how real what Lily and I have is; when I hit rock bottom, she was there. When I’ve been happy, she was there. Regardless of how low or high, Lily is there, and she is always just what I need. To have that kind of a sense of someone else, to understand empathically exactly what another person feels... there are logical and rational explanations and names for feelings, but there isn’t anything that can explain that. When you feel it, it changes everything.
“Sorry. Do you have French bread?” I ask the kid, because what else can I do? I’m no different from anyone else, and I know that you can’t help someone find himself.
“Yeah. In the bakery,” he says.
Fuck. Now I’m standing here, like a creep, staring at this kid, philosophizing and wanting to tell him that shit can get better, but it’s a lie and it’s stupid. If someone had told me that, I would have laughed. And yes, maybe it gets better, but I still wake up some days and want to die. Now, I just have to deal with it for Lily’s sake, because I won’t hurt her. I don’t care about myself, but I will fold the world in half and give it to her if that’s what she needs.
come home to the sounds of Edith Piaf and the smell of something cooking. “What’s this?” I ask.
Jack peeks around the corner from the kitchen, wearing an apron.
We own an apron?
“Shit, you’re early, princess. Go upstairs. I’ll call you in...” He leans back around the corner and returns. “Eleven minutes.”
“What are you doing?”
“Go,” he says and I shrug. I head upstairs and take a quick shower, because if I lie down, I’m going to pass out. After I’m clean and it’s been more than eleven minutes, I head to the kitchen. There are lilies on the table, plus some kind of food thing on plates. And wine. Neither of us drinks wine.
Jack hugs me, gives me a huge kiss, and leads me to the table. “Since it’s still a few months until we go to Paris, I brought France to you for tonight.”
I can’t help but laugh and he looks at me, confused. “Did I screw something up? The wine isn’t French, is it? I asked, but-”
“No, it’s just... look at you. Look at
. How did this become us? We’re, like, old.”
“We’re not old. We’re happy,” he argues.
old,” he teases, but he kisses me again and I don’t feel old anymore. I don’t think about the food or school or the wedding. I think about nothing but Jack, although I hear Edith Piaf and I remember that this is supposed to be special, so as much as I hate to stop him, I pull away.
“After dinner,” I tell him. “You already put all this work into it.”
He looks at the oven. “We can let it cool down. The oven is still warm.”
need to cool down. No, after. After dinner, I am all yours.
yours. I don’t have classes tomorrow and then it’s the weekend and after we eat, there is nothing to think about except you and me and whatever you want to do.”
“Whatever I want?” he asks.
“Whatever you want. Now, feed me.”
I wish I could say that we spend time savoring and enjoying the meal, but the promise of what’s next overshadows it a bit. I can’t think about anything but his hands on me, the feeling of his skin against mine, the way his lips caress me and the sound of my name as he whispers it against my ear. Although Jack and I are still plenty intimate, it always feels like sex is something we do in between a million other things now. It’s incredible and amazing and totally Jack, but life doesn’t allow as much time as it used to just to explore each other’s bodies for hours.
I have to admit that I’m just as happy eating dinner with him and washing dishes and really sitting around and staring at walls. That doesn’t mean that the physical necessity of him is gone, though. And now, knowing it’s going to happen – but is currently
happening – it’s sort of new. In the last few years, anticipation became a thing of the past. Living together means we can have sex when we feel like it and there is no real buildup to it anymore. As I sit across the table from him, watching him try not to choke on his food as he rushes through the meal he put all this work into, I’m impressed at how remarkably sensual the experience is. I want him, but I love that the delay is just another bonus to it.
I can’t believe that after nearly four years, during which we have rarely gone very long without sex, Jack looks at me like I’m still something new. Every time with him feels like the first time. Every time he touches me, I still feel like I’m the only girl he has ever wanted to touch, the only girl he’s ever longed for, and I yearn for his body in a way that I can’t imagine feeling with anyone else. There has only been one other guy, but with Derek, I found myself looking for new ways to keep the passion between us. With Jack, it grows more intense with time naturally. Each time we have sex, I want to do it again, and it only gets better.
“What is it?” he asks, clearing the table, and I let my eyes travel over his body. Every inch of him is so familiar, but it’s not boring. Instead, it’s exhilarating to know another person as intimately as I know him. It’s refreshing that he could kiss me and blow my mind so easily, because he knows exactly what I’m thinking and feeling.
Since we’re both finished eating, I don’t answer. I help him wash the dishes and then, rather than explain, I turn to Jack, lean into his body, and let him lift me and bring me upstairs.
his girl is going to be my wife. I look down at her lying on the bed, once I’ve undressed her, and it’s such a profound realization. My entire life, my entire future, exists inside this one absolutely amazing person. I just want to stare at her, to memorize her body, to remember this instant, because even after all this time, I can’t get over the idea that it’s just too unreal. I don’t worry like I used to, but I will never feel like it makes sense.
“Well?” she asks and she fidgets, twisting her body so she’s on her side. I know she has all these insecurities. She thinks her legs are too stumpy, her curves are in the wrong places, and that she’s shaped weird, but I just think she’s perfect. She is beyond beautiful to me, especially now, when she scrunches up her nose and frowns. “Stop staring. I know. I need to run more.”
“God, you are fucking perfect, princess.”
“Ew. Stop. My thighs are huge.” She starts to go into her list of flaws, which are invisible to anyone but her, and I undress quickly, silencing her as I crawl between her legs and grip her thighs, moving my mouth over her and stopping her speech midsentence. “Oh, God, yes,” she moans.