Authors: Kelly Elliott
I heard Ari say my name, but I was so numb that I couldn’t even turn around.
They left me.
I felt a hand on my shoulder as I closed my eyes.
Why did I ever tell Ari about my secret place?
It was the only spot I could escape to when I needed time to think.
“Heather, Ells and I are really worried, sweets. Please come back to my house with me. You can’t be all alone tonight.”
I felt a chill run through my whole body.
How am I going to sleep in that house, knowing they’ll never come back?
I tried to talk, but nothing would come out. I looked up toward Ari as tears ran down my face.
Ari dropped to her knees and grabbed my hands. She put her head on my lap as she started to cry. “I’m so sorry, sweets. God, you know I would do anything to bring back your parents. Anything. Just please tell me what to do, Heather. What can I do to help you?”
I smiled as I looked down at her beautiful dark brown hair. Ari was filled with so much spit and fire but also with so much love. I knew there wasn’t a damn thing she wouldn’t do for any one of us.
“Will y’all stay with me tonight? I can’t leave the house, but…I can’t stay there alone either,” I said as I began to stroke Ari’s hair.
She sat up and smiled at me. “A slumber party?”
I let out a small giggle. “Yeah, a slumber party. You, me, Amanda, and Ells.”
Ari stood up and reached out her hand for mine.
“Will you give me just two more minutes?” I asked as I glanced back to the water.
“Sure, sweets. I’ll be waiting in my Jeep. I’ll go ahead and call Amanda and Ells, too,” Ari said as she rubbed my back before leaving me to my thoughts.
I closed my eyes, took in a deep breath, and held it for a few seconds. I would never forget the first time Daddy brought me to this gazebo. I’d felt like such a princess. He’d told me that this was our special place—a place where we could always come and feel each other’s presence, a place to feel safe when we were scared, lost, or lonely.
“Daddy…it isn’t working. I feel so lost…so completely and utterly lonely without you and Mom. I can’t do this. I can’t do this by myself.”
A warm feeling captured my whole body as I thought of my father’s last words to me.
“Princess, you’ll never find anyone who will love you like your mother and I do. Remember to guard your heart, and don’t let just anyone in. To love strongly is a great thing. To be loved just as strongly in return…well, that is a miracle in itself.”
I would never love anyone again like I loved my parents.
No, I’ll guard my heart and never let anyone in, so I’ll never be hurt again.
I stood up and took one last look at the river. Closing my eyes, I decided right then that I wouldn’t cry anymore. It did no good. They were gone, and they were never coming back.
“I’m sorry, Daddy. I’m sorry I couldn’t get there in time to be with you and Mommy one last time. I love you both. Good-bye.”
I slowly turned and started to walk toward Ari’s Jeep.
All because I wanted to go on a stupid date.
If I’d just gone with my parents to Marble Falls instead of insisting on meeting them there the next day, I would’ve been driving, and they would be alive today.
This is all my fault.
Sophomore Year of College
“Dude, how many times do I have to tell you? You’re gonna get in trouble,” Jeff said as we walked onto the football field for practice.
I let out a laugh. “Jeff, I’m careful. I’m not going to get a girl pregnant. Besides, I’m too damn young to settle down with just one girl. I wanna have fun.”
Jeff rolled his eyes as he looked over at Gunner, who was talking to Smitty.
“Gunner agrees. You have to take it easy, Josh. You’re a fucking manwhore.”
When my eyes darted toward the bleachers, I saw Victoria sitting there.
I let out a sigh as I threw my stuff down on the ground.
Jeff glanced over to where I was looking.
“Your latest? She’s cute. What’s her name?” Jeff asked as he turned back to me, raising his eyebrows.
“Fuck off, dude. I actually liked this one, but she’s so damn clingy. Gonna have to break it off.”
“Yeah, they tend to get that way after you sleep with them. You’ll have to forgive them, Josh. Most girls don’t put out for just a one-night stand.”
I smiled at Jeff, shaking my head. “Most of the girls I meet have no problem with a one-night stand.”
“You ain’t all there.” Jeff pushed my shoulder back and started running off toward Gunner.
When I glanced over at Victoria again, I decided to just get it over with. As I walked toward her, I noticed her beautiful, long dark brown hair. She had it down today, and the thoughts running through my head were making my dick rock-hard. I’d hooked up with her more than any other girl, and she knew it. Something was missing though. I just wasn’t feeling it with her.
Fuck. I want to meet a girl I feel something for. I want someone to love me for more than just my looks.
As I got closer, the smile spread wider on her face.
Yeah, she’s definitely beautiful, great in bed, and smart as hell, but she’s too fucking needy.
“Hey there, handsome.”
“What’s up, Tori?” I asked, giving her my signature smile.
“I was hoping you were,” she purred back.
Oh god, I think I just threw up in my mouth.
“I thought I’d come and watch y’all practice. Afterward, maybe you and I could go…you know, play around a little back at my place.”
“Listen, Tori, I don’t think this is working out for me,” I said as I noticed her friend Michelle sitting near her.
“What?” Victoria said, almost shouting.
Ah hell, here we go.
“Listen, it was fun. It was, um…it was a lot of fun, Victoria, but it’s just not working out. I’m not really ready to settle down yet, and to be honest, you were giving me that vibe.”
She leaned over and said something to Michelle. Her friend quickly looked over at me and smiled before she turned and walked away.
“Baby, let’s go back to my car and talk about this. I’m sure I can…change your mind,” she said, glancing down toward my junk.
I let out a sigh.
Damn, a blow job would feel really good right about now.
I shook my head and cleared my thoughts. I needed to find a girl who would not put out just because I smiled at her.
Fuck me. Does someone like that even exist?
“While you’re thinking pretty hard about it, Josh, I’m feeling a little wet with excitement,” she said with a wink.
Yeah, fuck this shit.
“Sorry, Victoria. It was fun, but I’m done. Good luck with nursing school. You’re gonna make a damn good nurse.”
With that, I walked away, and she called out my name twice.
Just keep walking, Josh. Just keep walking.
Her hand grabbed my arm, pulling me to a stop. “Wait, Josh! Just one more time? Please. Just as a good-bye, that’s all. I promise.”
I looked back at the field where Gunner, Jeff, and Brad were all talking. I reached in my back pocket and pulled out my phone to see how much time I had before practice started.
Fifteen minutes. I could do that.
I glanced back at her with a smile on my face. “Lead the way to your car, baby,” I said as she smiled back.
Yeah, she’s beautiful, and we have great fucking sex, but she’s definitely not the one.
I glanced over at Ari. She was staring out the window, and I could see tears running down her face. I looked up to the front seat where Jeff was on the phone with Gunner. I assumed Jeff was giving Gunner the details about the accident.
Oh my god. I didn’t even tell him that I loved him before I walked out the door. I just left.
Ari squeezed my hand. I was guessing it had been about twenty minutes since I’d stopped crying hysterically.
“It’s gonna be okay, sweets,” Ari said with a weak smile.
I tried to smile back at her. My heart was pounding in my chest as images of Josh flashed through my mind. Leaning my head against the seat, I thought back to when he’d made such passionate love to me in the rain.