Read Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts Online

Authors: Talli Roland

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Short Stories & Anthologies, #Short Stories, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Holidays, #Romantic Comedy, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction, #Single Authors

Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts (8 page)

BOOK: Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

I pulled back. ‘Did you really miss me?
’ If he had, wouldn’t he have emailed?

Oh Rosie, Rosie.’ Gareth tugge
d a curl. ‘You know I did. I thought about you each and every day.’ He pecked my lips again, and I couldn’t help noticing his felt dry and rough. Could I stand another Twelve Days of Chapped Lips?

How about we go
inside, you show me this museum you’ve been working on,’ he continued, obviously not noticing my lack of response, ‘and then we can go home. I’ve really missed a proper bed and a shower without roaches.’

Home?’ I repeated lamely.

Yes, home. Our home.’ Gareth smiled and put an arm around my waist, squeezing me closer.

A jet of anger hit
Our home?
I was the one who’d covered all the expenses for the past year while Gareth had travelled. And now that I thought about it, it hadn’t been just for that year. I’d been paying our bills for quite some time before he’d left, too. Not to mention all the cooking, cleaning . . . I could go on. And now Gareth thought he could rock up with some roses, give me a kiss, and everything would go back to normal?

No,’ I said in a small voice.

’s grip on me loosened. ‘Sorry, hon, what?’

I cleared my throat. ‘I said, no. No, you’re not coming home with me.’

jaw almost hit the pavement. ‘But, but, I have nowhere else to go,’ he stammered. ‘And I got you roses.’

I shook my head. Had he really thought giving me flowers would make up for everything he’d done? Or rather,
done. As much as I wanted to blame him, I had to admit that just a few weeks ago, turning up out of the blue with a bouquet probably would have been enough for me to run off home with him. So what had changed?

y time at the Museum of Broken Hearts, surrounded by dozens of objects with sad histories, was bound to burst my romantic bubble a bit. But it was more than that. Seeing Heath with his mum had made me start to wonder if sometimes, people couldn’t – or even
– be brought back together, for a variety of reasons. Not everything deserved a happy ending, and perhaps my relationship with Gareth was one of them.

I breathed in the cold air, noticing tiny flakes falling from the dark sky

Goodbye, Gareth.’ As I turned
to go, an overwhelming feeling of relief swept through me, and I knew beyond a doubt I’d made the right decision. I hadn’t actually wanted
back; I’d just wanted a fairy-tale conclusion.

Wait. Rose, w
ait!’ Gareth’s footsteps echoed in the street. Hurriedly, I pushed into the museum, relishing the noise and warmth of the crowd.

’ Gareth’s voice followed me inside. ‘Rose!’

The crowd went silent and I could see the reporter from
inching his way closer. I was going to kill Gareth if he made a scene here. He hadn’t talked to me in months, and
he’d decided we belonged together? Mel was probably right – Gareth had seen me as a free ride, and he was desperate to keep it going.

Taking a deep b
reath, I turned to face my ex. Funny, even though he’d been gone for almost a year, I’d never thought of him in past tense.

Gareth, please go.’ My voice was calm and steady, and I met his eyes. They looked panicked, moving back and forth quickly across my face.

Gareth shook his head. ‘No. No, I won’t go. Because . . . because I want you, Rose. I need you. We belong together.’

You might need me to pay your bills, but you certainly didn’t need me enough to get in touch
much over the past year.’

A murmur went up from the crowd, but I held Gareth’s gaze.

What, I have
to prove how much I want you? Well then, I will.’ He sank down to one knee as I watched incredulously. Sure he wouldn’t—

Rose Delaney, will you marry me?’

The hum from the audience grew louder, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the spectacle of Gareth kneeling before me. What on earth was he doing? Well, whatever he was playing at, it wasn’t going to work. All the over-the-top gestures in the world couldn’t make up for the heartache and loneliness of the past year. How could I take him seriously when he’d pushed off with no goodbye, then barely even scrawled a postcard?

Gareth, get up.’ I sighed, shifting uncomfortably under the eyes of everyone around me.

Gareth shook his head again. ‘No, I’m not moving from this spot. Not until you agree to marry me. We’ll have a Christmas wedding. Tie the knot under the mistletoe.’

Oh, Lord. A few months ago, that very vision would have floored me. Now – coming from him – it just seemed ridiculous. A wave of exhaustion swept over me as all the early mornings, late nights, and anxiety of the recent past caught up with me.

Fine. You stay here. I’m going.’ And with that, I turned on my glittery pumps. The crowd parted to let me through, and I
thudded up the stairs to Heath’s office, closing the door and leaning against it, trying to breathe. A few minutes later, the buzz below resumed, and I tiptoed over to the chair behind Heath’s desk and collapsed into it, tears pushing at my eyes. Bloody Gareth, turning up like that and making a scene. I’d worked so hard to make this opening professional and polished, and he had to pull a stunt like that.

There was a knock on the door, then Heath’s muffled voice came through the thick wood. ‘Can I come in?’

I smoothed my hair into place and quickly wiped beneath my eyes. If he’d come to fire me, I might as well get it over with. Not that I could blame him: first, I’d meddled with his personal life. Then, I’d caused a scene at the museum’s most important event. I was hardly the ideal assistant curator, was I? Maybe I should have stuck with Ernie the Skull. At least I couldn’t mess up
life. ‘Sure. Come on in.’

The door opened and Heath’s head appeared around the side. ‘Everything okay?’

laughed bitterly. ‘Well, no. Not exactly. You saw what happened?’ Maybe there was a chance he’d missed the spectacle. Maybe he’d been in the cellar . . . in the kitchen . . .

Heath nodded, and my heart sank. ‘It was kind of hard not to. You’re the talk of the party down there.’

Oh, God.’ I
dropped my head into my hands. ‘Look, I understand if you want to let me go,’ I said through my fingers.

Let you go? Why would I want to do that?’ The floorboards creaked, and I lifted my hands from my face to see Heath standing right next to me. ‘I should be thanking you. You’ve given the media a perfect story. It’s not just another boring opening, like the hundreds of others they’ve been to this year. One reporter told me he was calling his article
Broken-Hearted in the Museum of Broken Hearts
. Your man has been down there doing interviews and photo shoots, too.’ Heath’s disdainful tone told me exactly what he thought of that.

I shook my head. Gareth had bounced back awfully quickly, hadn’t he? He’d probably have a new girlfriend to sponge off of next week. ‘He’s not “my man”
’ I said. ‘Not anymore, and not for ages. I’m so sorry, Heath.’

Heath put a hand on my back, and I shivered beneath its warmth. ‘Look, don’t worry about it.’

The room went silent and I rubbed my arms to try to erase the goose bumps that had appeared.

Are you cold?’ Heath shrugged off his jacket, then draped it around my shoulders. His wonderful cookie scent enveloped me and I breathed it in, my stomach doing that funny shifty thing again.

Thank you,’ I said, noticing my voice sounded more high-pitched than usual. I drew the fabric around me, then glanced up. Heath was staring down, his dark eyes full of that tender emotion I’d only glimpsed briefly before.

I’m glad to hear you say that bloke isn’t your man,’ he said, eyes still locked on mine. ‘Because . . .’

Before I knew it, Heath’s
lips were on mine and his arms had snaked around my waist, pulling me to my feet and up against him. And I realised in a heartbeat that
was what I wanted. No grand gestures – just a man, pure and simple, who I cared for.

And who cared for me, too.





Good morning.’ Heath’s voice cut into my
sleep daze. Cracking open a lid, I rolled over to face him, my lips lifting in a smile.

g.’ I rubbed my eyes. I couldn’t believe I was here, beside him, in
. Okay, maybe not in bed exactly, but in
. Memories of last night flashed through my head: Gareth proposing; Heath coming up to the office; us kissing . . . then going downstairs once Gareth had buggered off, and answering countless questions from journalists until Mel had shooed them away.

When everyone
had finally left, Heath and I collapsed onto the settee in the lounge. He’d pulled me into his arms again and we’d picked up right where we’d left off. We’d chatted and kissed some more, he’d drawn an old crocheted blanket over us, and the next thing I remembered was waking up in the middle of the night, with his arms around me and my head tucked into the crook of his neck. It had been a perfect fit.

Now, in the grey light of a L
ondon morning, he looked beyond sexy, with a light sprinkling of stubble on his chin. I hated to think what was sprinkling
chin – most likely drool. The way Heath was staring at me, though, he didn’t seem to mind.

I’m going t
o run out and grab a few dailies to see what they’ve said about the museum.’ Heath got up and stretched, and I couldn’t help admiring his broad shoulders. ‘Back in a sec.’ He dropped a kiss on my lips, then grinned back at me as he pushed out the door.

I padded to the loo, splashed some water on my face, and rinsed my mouth. Given that I was still in party attire and I’d spent the night on a small settee, I didn’t look half-bad. There was something in my eyes – happiness, excitement – that made me look alive.

Thank goodness I still had my work clothes from yesterday to change into. After scurrying up to Heath’s office where I’d dropped my bag, I pulled on my jeans and sweater, then tidied my curls back into a ponytail. I was just about to pat on some lip gloss when I heard the tap of the doorknocker. Had Heath forgotten his keys, I wondered as I rushed down the stairs?

Oh.’ A yelp of surprise escaped me as I swung open the door to see Liz. What on earth was she doing here?

Can I come in?’ Liz’s usually ef
ficient and abrupt tone had disappeared, and she sounded exhausted. She looked exhausted, too, with big dark circles under her eyes and uncombed hair.

Er . . .’ I craned my neck to look over her shoulder, desperate to spot Heath. What should I do? If I let her in, he might think I was interfering again. But the way she was looking at me – with a mixture of hope and fear – made me think this time, she really was here for her son. Could that be true, or had I reverted to La La Land again?

I breathed a sigh of relief as I noticed Heath jogging down the street toward me, a brown bag from the Brick Lane beigel shop in his hand and a sheaf of newspapers shoved under his arm. His grin faded and his face went pinched and angry when he saw his mother.

I thought I told you not to come here again,’ he said, when he’d reached us at the doorway. I shivered at the icy tone.

Liz dropped her head. ‘You did. And you had every right to.’ She glanced up at him. ‘Look, can I come in? I’d love to talk to you.’

Heath shook his head. ‘No. No, you can’t. I think you said everything the last time you were here.’

Liz looked at him with
a pleading expression, but Heath just gazed back steadily. Finally, she jammed her hands in her pockets, her shoulders slumped. ‘Okay. Could I ask you for one thing? Just one, and then I’ll go.’

Heath was silent.

I’d really like to have my locket back,’ she continued. ‘I never meant to leave it with Gran, you know. The clasp was faulty and it fell off one day. I searched everywhere, but I couldn’t find it. Obviously Gran came across it, and stashed it away. She must have forgotten to tell me.’

Heath was staring at his mother with a strange expression. ‘I found the locket with a bunch of my baby things in the cellar. I thought you’d got tired of it. Kind of like me.’ His voice was hoarse.

Liz reached out and put a hand on his arm. Heath flinched, but didn’t move away. ‘Oh, Heath. I made a lot of mistakes, but I never stopped wanting what was best for you. I thought leaving you with Gran while I worked to build a life for us
the best. Somewhere along the way, though, I lost sight of why I was doing it.’ She paused, and a tear dripped down her cheek. ‘For you.’

BOOK: Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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