Authors: Whitney Boyd
Before I change my mind, I grab the handles of my suitcase and jog as fast as I can back the way I came. I hurry past the security line ups, past the helpful people ready to point directions. I walk past the check in points, not caring that my luggage is on a one way trip to Argentina without me.
I hear over the loudspeaker a perky woman’s voice announce, “Last call for boarding on flight one seventeen to Buenos Aires.” I feel a moment of longing but I hold tight to my carry on, as if it will keep my willpower strong.
be hard sometimes. Life can suck and people you love don’t always love you back. But running away from all the problems isn’t the solution. I’ve made my peace with Todd. He’s over and done with. Now it’s time to make my peace with my life, possibly make peace with David eventually.
I feel disoriented, sure that I just heard my name. I look around, seeing hundreds of people, but not recognizing anyone.
“Kennedy, thank God I found you!”
I hear it again, directly behind me. I spin, searching for that face. I know that voice. My heart, beating wildly, knows that voice too.
I spot him. He’s striding toward me, looking clearer and clearer and more and more real with each step. He is wearing a suit and tie but the tie is loose around his neck as if he was in a hurry.
Is he going to yell at me? To tell me I’m a horrible cow and he wishes he’d never met me? I wouldn’t blame him if he did. I am a horrible cow. But I can handle it. I can take whatever he throws at me, as long as I get the chance to at least tell him what he means to me. This is it. Moment of truth.
“David, what are you doing here?” My voice is shaky and I can barely stand upright.
David is breathing hard, a bit of moisture on his upper lip. He wipes his face with the palm of his hand and draws in a deep breath. “Kennedy! You’re here! I freaked out when Leila told me what you’re planning to do!”
His mouth opens again and I know he’s going to say more, but I have to get my words out first. “David, I was coming to find you. I have something to say.” I hold up a hand and beg him with my eyes to let me speak. He nods, his eyes searching mine.
I look at him and bite my lip. My eyes are still wet; my head is pounding like the bass in a dance club. I hear a dozen different languages as chattering people push past me, reading signs, trying to find their way, the sounds of luggage scraping on the tiled floor. When I can’t procrastinate any longer, I take a deep breath and begin.
“David, I’m sorry for what happened. I’m sorry I never told you about Todd or my past. I’m sorry I ran off to Orlando without telling you. I’m sorry I almost married him and that you had to read about it in the paper. I’m sorry about everything. I’ve made a mess and I was going to let it all go and escape again. Leila was right, I have been a coward. But I’m done running.” My sentences are choppy and I don’t know if I’m making sense at all.
Coward. The word repeats over and over in my mind. Stop being a coward.
I take another long breath and run my tongue over my dry lips. “I’m going home now. Back to my apartment in Kissimmee. I thought you should know that. I’m not escaping this time. But I also need you to know that I have some things to sort out. I need time away from Todd but also away from you. I think I care about you. A lot. But I don’t want a man right now to complicate everything. I need to get to know myself, and I need to do it without you, at least for a while.” This is hard. But it’s also what will be most fair to David. To us. To our future together.
I reach into my purse and take out my passport and the ticket. I hold it for a second, my hand shaking slightly. Then, with a single tear trickling down my face, I tear it in half once. Then again. David watches me without speaking. He seems content to let me finish.
“I’m done running.” My words are heavier now and I’m pretty sure I’m talking in circles, repeating myself like a broken parrot. “So I’m going to go home, back to my life as a waitress. I’m going to go to the beach in Daytona like real Florida people do, and I’m going to get tanned and wrinkly and tough. I’m going to stop being ashamed of who I am. I’m going to stop lying to everyone.”
I hesitate. This is the part where he freaks out. “And, David? Please give me time. I think we have potential. I can see myself with you someday. Just not right this minute. You deserve better than a rebound relationship. And so that’s why I’m going to beg you to let me sort out my life, and when I’m ready, we can see where this thing can go.”
I have nothing left to say, so I stand there, my arms dangling at my sides. I feel selfish. Me, me, me. Say something, I breathe. His blue eyes search mine, and for a minute he looks worried. Then the crease between his eyebrows smoothes and he pulls me into his arms, at first a little hesitant. His grasp is crushing, but safe. He pushes his lips to the top of my head and murmurs, “Todd’s gone. He’s not there anymore. He used to stare at me from your eyes. When you looked at me, I never knew if I had you or not. But he’s gone now. He’s not haunting your thoughts.”
He pulls back a little and looks me directly in the eyes. “My beautiful Kennedy,” he whispers. “You need time? I will give you all the time in the world. I realized something this morning when I drove past Maxie’s on my way to work. Life without you isn’t life. Now that I’ve had a few weeks with you, I’ve discovered that I cannot live without you. I can’t. I’m willing to give you the space you need to get to where you want to be.
“When you’re ready, let me know. I’ll be waiting.”
“I’m sorry,” I murmur, tears falling from my eyes again. “Why are you so good to me? I don’t deserve it.”
David pulls a Kleenex out of his pocket and hands it to me. I dab at my eyes. Mascara is running; I’m probably a raccoon right now. I have no idea what David even sees in me.
“It’s okay. You need to figure some stuff out, but you’re worth it, no matter how much time you take.”
I hear him, but my heart doesn’t quite believe it.
David squeezes my hand in response, takes my carry on from me and leads me out the door of the airport, back into the humidity and sunshine. Overhead, the jet bound for Argentina takes off, engines roaring as it soars into the sky.
I turn my face into the sunshine. The tears on my cheeks dry and an odd peace surrounds me.
“You’ll figure it out, Kennedy.”
I nod automatically. I know he’s right. For the first time ever, I’m not escaping from the chaos and confusion of my life. I’m going to face it head on. My suitcases may be jetting off for a world adventure. But as for me? I’m going home.
It’s been two months since I last saw David. After the airport, he drove me home, helped me inside with my carry-on bag, and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. True to his word, he then left and I was alone. The first time I was truly alone in a long time. No Todd. No David. Just me.
But for some reason, being alone wasn’t terrifying. It felt good. Healing.
I got back into the swing of things. Max forgave me for disappearing and gave me my old job back, although he did take away ten cents from my hourly wage to teach me the lesson of responsibility, or something like that. But then he gave me a ten cent raise for having gotten so much press for the restaurant, so I’m right back where I was.
I registered for a couple classes at university and will finally finish my degree in a few months. I’m making something of myself. I’m becoming who I needed to become. Leila and I spent a weekend at Daytona Beach where I saw my first shark in real life. Christine, the other waitress on our shift, and I had a road trip down to Miami. She and I have a sort of friendship now that we’ve gotten over the “I’m famous” thing. We got a flat tire, ended up hitch hiking to Fort Lauderdale, and, when we got home, I was tanned, had blonde streaks bleached into my hair, and felt like I’d conquered the world.
I think I
conquered the world, to be honest, or at least I’ve conquered
world. I haven’t thought about Todd in weeks, other than with mild, passing curiosity when I read the sports section of the newspaper. My face no longer appears in those pages. After the scandal of the almost wedding, people lost interest. Two weeks later I was able to walk down the street without people pointing. Shortly after that,
US Weekly, Celebrity Magazine
and others stopped printing updates on their websites about the affair.
Life calmed down.
I stare at myself in the mirror. I’m at Target, holding different pairs of jean shorts up to myself, trying to find a pair that I like. I look like a normal Florida girl, born and raised. I’m not average, boring Kennedy anymore, attempting to fit into my hockey player fiancé’s extravagant life. Nor am I that flighty girl who ran at the first sign of trouble.
I wrinkle my nose in distaste and toss the latest pair of shorts back on the rack beside me. Yuck. Way too short. I don’t want my butt cellulite to be seen from behind while I walk.
I begin rooting through the rack for what feels like the hundredth time. “Come on,” I mutter, “there’s got to be something cute here.”
I hear my name and straighten, looking around. He stands a couple feet away, hands shoved into his pockets, watching me. He’s wearing jeans and a blue shirt, the exact outfit he was wearing the first time I saw him in the restaurant. I wonder if he remembers that.
“David.” My lips curl into a smile. Who would have thought that seeing him would feel so good? Almost like he was a friend from high school or something, a pal long time forgotten, but still close to my heart.
We look at each other for an eternity. A few people shove by us, a girl grabs the cellulite-shorts off the rack and carries them off, and somewhere in the store a baby starts to scream.
“How are things?” My words are a bit dusty, but I’m not awkward. It feels nice to talk to him again. It’s time.
“Good, good. A lot of work, you know, the usual. I’m volunteering at the Mayor’s office now on my days off, and so the politics thing shouldn’t be too far off now.”
“I’m glad. You deserve that.”
The intercom comes on overhead and a woman’s gravelly voice reminds everyone that marshmallows are on sale in aisle twelve.
“You look good,” David says, the shadow of a smile making his lips twitch. “You’ve grown up.”
I know what he means even though he doesn’t explain. I’m not the same girl I was. I’m stable. I’m different.
“Would you like to come over for dinner tomorrow night? I’m not much of a cook, but I can always bring some takeout from Maxie’s.” The invitation comes without me thinking about it. It feels right, though.
David holds out his hand and takes mine gently in his own. Then he shakes it once, then again, his grasp firm. “As much as the thought of eating Maxie’s food again makes me break out in a cold sweat, you’ve got yourself a deal, Miss Carter. I look forward to it. Tomorrow it is.”
“Great, it’s a date.”
He says goodbye and my smile lingers as I watch him stride away.
I’m ready. Todd is gone. I’ve figured out who I am. And I’m ready for whatever tomorrow brings.
Now if only I can find some cute shorts.
I would like to thank so many people for helping me out with this book. First, the whole WiD
Publishing team, from Karen Gowen, the best editor in the world, all the way to Steven Novak, who worked so hard on the cover art. Thank you! Also, my gratitude goes out to my family, especially my husband Stephen. Thank you for many evenings looking after the baby so I could write. I appreciate everyone who has made this book possible and definitely can't forget about my wonderful readers. I love you all!
About the Author
Whitney Boyd was born and raised in Calgary, but has always been a sucker for warmer weather. After graduating from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Boyd spent some time in Florida, married her best friend and began writing. Her debut novel,
Tanned, Toned and Totally Faking It
was released in 2012.