Authors: Marilyn Grey
No, Not that Jane Austen
Copyright © 2015 by Marilyn Grey
To learn more about Marilyn Grey, visit her Web site:
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This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
Everyone Who Believes in Real Love & Romance
It seems that it is a truth universally
that every girl in the world is not looking for a romance.
I clicked my pen and stared at my bedroom wall. Every one of my girl friends—and I do mean every.single.one—went to see the latest Nicholas Sparks flick. I stayed home as usual. Not my thing, really. I preferred intense dramas or maybe even a little action. Plus I majorly procrastinated on my English essay.
I wrote my name at the top of the paper and shook my head. The idea of marriage didn't appeal to me, at least not any time soon, but I can tell you this ... the idea of changing my name appealed to me.
Tomorrow I'd turn eighteen and, against the oh so old-fashioned ideals of my parents, I planned to get a few tattoos I'd been dreaming about. Or ... spend that money to change my name. The decision consumed me.
I tried to finish my homework, but Donovan kept interrupting me with his hilarious text messages, then finally he rang my phone.
"I'm trying to finish this paper," I said. "Aren't you supposed to be doing the same? I know you haven't started either."
"I finished it last week." He laughed. "Come on, let's hang out one last time before my trip."
"I really should finish this paper, but it does sound tempting."
"I need to give you a gift for your birthday anyway."
"I'm taking you to the airport tomorrow morning, remember? You can do it then."
"All right, all right. Finish the paper and if it's early enough maybe we can get a coffee?" He paused. "Wait, never mind, I forgot. You're Jane and you start your start your essay's the night before they're due and stay up until sunrise to finish them."
I smiled. "Exactly. Except it's due Monday and today is Friday, but there's no way I'm spending my birthday weekend writing this."
And that's exactly what happened. I stayed up until the light poured into my room and as much as I wanted to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep, I shoved them off of me, rolled out of my fluffy cloud, and rubbed my eyes. I skipped a shower, ate breakfast as fast as humanly possible, and drove to Donovan's house. I was early, but I wanted to see him for at least thirty minutes before he left.
He jogged to my car and flopped down in the passenger's seat, stuffing a backpack between his legs as he buckled up.
"Happy eighteen." He reached over the armrest and pulled me into a hug. "How does it feel?"
"You tell me." I backed out of his driveway. "You experienced it five days ago."
He tapped the door. "Eh, we'll see."
He tilted his head and stared at me.
Shaking his head, he turned his gaze back to the passing trees and smiled. He was fresh out of a breakup with a girl who cheated on him. He didn't really love Megan. It was a relationship built on convenience. She was there. He was there. And it just happened before anyone could say no. Now he was on his way across the ocean to meet a Russian girl he met through some kind of online dating site. You can only imagine my disapproval of a dating site, but I tried to be as supportive as possible. One day, he'd find someone amazing. Someone nice and soft and beautiful. He deserved that.
After a comfortably quiet drive, I parked in the airport's garage and turned the car off. He looked over at me and reached his hand into his backpack.
"So, I got you a birthday present," he said, his voice oddly shaken. "I know there's only two things you want for your birthday. To change your name and get some tattoos. So, I thought I'd help you out with one."
I smiled. "You got me a gift certificate for that tattoo joint, didn't you?"
He pulled a small jewelry box out of his bag and stared at me. I tried not to look at the familiar shaped box in his palm or make eye contact with him. He was going to meet this girl … right?
"I thought I could give you my last name, Jane." He opened the box to reveal a sparkly ring. "If you'll have me. I know it's weird and everything, but I love you. I need you. I’ve got an extra plane ticket for you and we can elope right now if you want to."
I raised my eyebrows and choked on my words.
"You had to see this coming." He set the box on my lap. "I love you. Always have."
"I ... I..." I suddenly needed to open the window to breathe. My pulse quickened so fast I felt it beating in my ears. Everything around me—the dashboard, the steering wheel, his face, my hands—blurred until I closed my eyes.
He slapped my arm and laughed hysterically. "You totally bought it."
I looked back and forth. "What?"
"It's a fake ring." He kept laughing and handed me a wrapped gift. "This is for real."
I held up my hands. "Slightly freaked out to open it."
His little boy smile replaced the mischievous grin. "You'll like it."
I slowly unwrapped the paper and set it neatly on the floor of the car as he smiled. How did he remember? It was so long ago. I didn't even remember telling a soul. Not even him. Running my fingers along the edges, I tried to thank him but the words refused to make an appearance.
"It took me years obviously, but I finally found it a few months ago. Thought I'd wait until your birthday though."
"Where did you ... how?" I opened the box and felt the familiar smooth velvet. "How do you know it was mine?"
He shrugged. "Who else buried a box in the woods in the exact area you said it would be?"
"You just went out there and dug it up? This is really it?"
"When I had time every few months or so. It's been years. I just didn't want to give up because you always talk about how you wish you had never gotten rid of it. Thought I'd surprise the hell out of ya if I found it, so I dug around until I did. Found some jewelry and other stuff in my search." He pulled out a bag. "Some of it you might like."
Don't cry, don't cry
, I said to myself, but my eyes already stung with joy. "Thank you, Donny." I pulled him into a hug. "I can't thank you enough."
"You could by accepting my proposal."
I hit his arm and sat back, staring at my box. The box that held my dreams. Underneath the velvet was a secret compartment. I looked at him, wondering if he searched it. Not that I'd really mind. The guy knew me inside and out. Still though. The secrets under there would tell him things about me I hadn’t told even him, things I didn’t know if I could face again after all these years.
"I better run in there." He couldn't erase his smile. "I'll miss my flight."
"I'll walk you in."
We walked fast and it didn't take him long to find where he needed to go. His family traveled far more than mine. The only major vacation I remember was our trip to England. Mom and Dad and their ridiculous obsession with all of that stuff. Jane Austen and everything related. Made me want to turn my fork upside down and lower my face on it until I punctured out my eyeballs. Okay, maybe not that bad, but it overwhelmed me to the core.
Donovan stopped when I could no longer follow.
"Time for a little radiation exposure," I joked, only he knew I wasn't really joking.
He ran his fingers through his messy dark hair. Typical lacrosse player with hair flipping out at the ends. It's a wonder we stayed so close with all of our differences.
"Happy birthday, Jazzy." He gave me one last hug as my mind drifted back to the first time he called me Jazzy. We were playing in my basement while our parents talked upstairs and he thought the way I played with Barbie’s was "jazzy." I guess in his little kid world that meant weird or crazy. True though. I hated Barbie’s. So I guess I gave them mullets and dyed their hair with Kool-Aid and well, yeah, that can be a tad weird to some people.
"Thanks again, Donny," I said. "I'm serious. You're the best friend I've ever had. I love you."
"Love you too, girl." He looked over his shoulder. "Gotta go. Talk soon."
I watched him check in and disappear, then took a step back. My foot bumped into something and I almost lost my balance. I turned to find a guy flat on his face, cheek pressed against the cold, dirty airport floor
"I am so, so sorry," I said. "Are you okay?"
He stood and shook his head as though he were waking from a dream he was still trying to figure out. "How embarrassing." English accent. Sounded like Yorkshire. "I am so sorry. I didn't see you there and ... you're okay?"
"I'm not the one who fell." I quickly took in his details. Brown and caramel Asics shoes. Fitted, but not too fitted, jeans with a few not-so-deliberate worn spots. Plain black t-shirt. Nice arms. A few tattoos peeking out from his sleeves. Defined jaw line. Sandy hair. Attractive in a normal way. Not the type of guy to stand out in a crowd, but certainly not one most girls would ignore.
"I'm sorry. Mind if I buy you a cup for the trouble?" Especially the totally cliché English accent. How romance novel-ish. How ... Jane Austen-ish. I never understood why women immediately gave a man fifteen bonus sexy points just for having a foreign accent.
"I'm okay, really. I should be the one apologizing."
"You could buy me a cup then." He held back a smile. "I've only just missed my flight and I could use a bit of company. If you don't mind, that is."
"What are you here for?"
He glanced around the busy airport. "I suppose the same thing every one else is here for. To fly on a plane?"
I almost laughed, but it came out as a puff of air. "I mean, why are you in America?"
"Um, nothing important really." He swung his bag to the other shoulder. "Coffee? I could use the company."
I nodded and followed him. He didn't seem to be flirting, just friendly and apologetic, I guess, even though it really was my fault that the poor guy fell flat on his face.
We stood in the Starbucks line when he asked the inevitable. "So, what's your name?"
"Jane." I nodded as the line moved.
He stepped forward. "I'm Alistair. And no, people don't call me Al."
"Just Alistair, huh?"
"Only just? Not at all."
I laughed, not quite understanding but decidedly going with the flow. "What am I doing here? A stranger … in an airport. Recipe for disaster."
He glanced at the cashier who called us over to her. "I believe you are getting a coffee, Jane." He ushered me in front of him. "Anything you like."
"No, no," I said. "I'll get it myself."
He didn't object as I opened my wallet, but gently pushed it away when I reached for my card.
"It's my apology," he said, then turned to the girl. "I'll have a coffee with plenty of cream and just a bit of sugar please."
The girl's eyelashes fluttered at his accent until she caught me staring at her. "And for you?" she said, trying not to look at Alistair as her face flushed with pink.
"Just a vanilla latte is fine. Thanks." I scooted behind him. "And thank you, Alistair."
He paid the girl without making eye contact, then touched my back as he edged me toward the counter where our drinks would soon appear. Touchy kinda guy.
"Jane Austen?" He laughed. "Your name really is Jane Austen?"
I looked away and rummaged through the straws.
"It really is, is it not?"
"You saw my license." I shook my head.
He nodded. "So ... that's pretty weird, but what's weirder is that you people here in the States put marshmallows on your sweet potatoes, yams, whatever you call them."