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Authors: Colleen Hoover

Reminders of Him (24 page)

BOOK: Reminders of Him
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That’s my day, every day, on repeat.

I’m sorry. Thank you. I’m sorry.

My sentence was not justice considering the way you died. Eternity wouldn’t be justice. But I hope your family knows my actions that night didn’t come from a place of selfishness. It was horror and shock and agony and confusion and terror that guided me away from you that night. It was never selfishness.

I am not a bad person, and I know you know that, wherever you are. And I know you forgive me. It’s just who you are. I only hope one day our daughter will forgive me too. And your parents.

Then maybe, by some miracle, I can start to forgive myself.

Until then, I love you. I miss you.

I’m sorry.

Thank you.

I’m sorry.

Thank you.

I’m sorry.




I close out the document. I can’t read anymore. My eyes have filled with tears. I’m surprised I made it as far as I did before crying, but I tried not to absorb the words as I was reading them aloud.

I set my phone aside and I wipe my eyes.

Ledger hasn’t moved. He’s in the same position, leaning against his driver’s side door, staring straight ahead. My voice is no longer filling his truck. Now there’s just a silence that’s thick and uninviting, to the point that Ledger can’t seem to take it anymore. He swings open his door and gets out of his truck. He walks to the back of it and begins unloading the table without so much as a word.

I watch him in the rearview mirror. Once the table is on the ground, he grabs one of the chairs. There’s a pause before he chucks the chair onto the table. It lands with a loud clank that I feel in my chest.

Then Ledger grabs a second chair and angrily tosses it across the yard. He’s so mad. I can’t watch.

I lean forward and press my hands against my face, regretting ever reading a single word of that to him. I have no idea if he’s mad at the
situation, or me, or if he’s just back there throwing chairs as a way to process five years’ worth of emotions.

“Fuck!” he yells, right before I hear the crash of the final chair. His voice reverberates in the dense trees that surround his property.

The whole truck shakes with the slam of his tailgate.

Then there’s just silence. Stillness.

The only thing I can hear is my shallow and rapid breathing. I’m scared to get out of the truck because I don’t want to have to come face to face with him if any of that outburst was directed at me.

I wish I knew.

I swallow a lump that forms in my throat when I hear his footsteps crunching against the gravel. He stops at my door and he opens it. I’m still leaning forward with my face in my hands, but I eventually pull them away and hesitantly look up at him.

He’s gripping the top of the truck, leaning in my doorway. His head is resting against the inside of his raised arm. His eyes are red, but his expression isn’t filled with hatred. It isn’t even filled with anger. If anything, he looks apologetic, as if he knows his outburst scared me and he feels bad.

“I’m not mad at you.” He presses his lips together and looks down. He shakes his head gently. “It’s just a lot to process.”

I nod, but I can’t speak because my heart is pounding and my throat feels swollen, and I’m still not sure what to say.

He’s still looking down when he lets go of the roof of the truck. His eyes meet mine as he reaches into the truck and puts his right hand on my left thigh and his left hand under my right knee. He pulls me to the edge of the passenger seat so that I’m facing him.

Ledger then takes my face in his hands and tilts it so that I’m looking up at him. He blows out a slow breath, like what he’s about to say is hard to get out. “I’m sorry you lost him.”

I can’t hold back the tears after that. It’s the first time anyone has ever acknowledged that I lost Scotty that night too. Ledger’s words mean more to me than I think he can comprehend.

Agony spreads across his face as he continues. “What if Scotty can see how we’ve been treating you?” A tear forms and spills down his cheek. Just one lonely tear, and it makes me so sad. “I’m part of everything that’s been tearing you down all these years, and I’m sorry, Kenna. I’m so sorry.”

I place my hand over his chest, right over his heart. “It’s okay. What I wrote doesn’t change anything. It was still my fault.”

“It’s not okay. None of this is okay.” He’s cradling me in his arms with his cheek pressed against the top of my head. He runs his right hand in soothing circles over my back.

He holds me like that for a long time. I don’t want him to let go.

He’s the first person I’ve been able to share the full details of that night with, and I wasn’t sure if it would make things better or worse. But this feels better, so maybe that means something.

I feel like a weight has been lifted. It’s not the weight of the anchor that keeps me tethered under the surface—that won’t be lifted until I get to hold my daughter. But a small portion of my pain has attached to his sympathy, and it feels like he’s physically lifting me up for air, allowing me a few minutes to breathe.

He eventually pulls back far enough to assess me. He must see something on my face that makes him want to comfort me because he presses a soft kiss to my forehead while brushing my hair back tenderly. He kisses the tip of my nose and then plants a soft peck on my lips.

I don’t think he expected me to kiss him back, but I feel more for him in this moment than I ever have. I clutch his shirt in my fists and quietly beg his mouth for a much fuller kiss. He gives it to me.

His kisses feel like both forgiveness and promises. I imagine mine feel like apologies to him, because he keeps coming back for more every time we separate.

I end up on my back, and he’s halfway into his truck, hovering over me, our mouths pressed together.

When we’re in the thick of fogging up all the windows, he pulls away from my neck, and there’s a split-second look he gives me. It’s so quick; it’s a flicker, a flash. But I can tell he wants more in that quick glance, and so do I, so I nod and he pulls away and opens his glove box. He grabs a condom and starts to open it with his teeth, bracing himself up with one arm. I take this opportunity to slide my panties off and bunch my long skirt up around my waist.

He gets the package open, but then he pauses.

The seconds begin to drag as he silently stares down at me with contemplation.

Then he tosses the condom aside and lowers himself on top of me again. He presses a soft kiss against my lips. His breath is hot against my cheek when he says, “You deserve a bed.”

I drag a hand through his hair. “You don’t have a bed here?”

He shakes his head. “Nope.”

“Not even an inflatable mattress?”

“Our first two times were on an inflatable mattress. You deserve a real bed. And no, I don’t have either one here.”

“How about a hammock?”

He smiles at that, but still shakes his head.

“A yoga mat? I’m not picky.”

He laughs and kisses my chin. “Stop it, or we’ll end up fucking in this truck.”

I wrap my legs around his waist. “And that’s bad

He groans into my neck, and then I lift my hips and he gives in.

He grabs the condom and finishes opening it. While he’s doing that, I’m unzipping his jeans.

He slides on the condom and then pulls me to the edge of the seat. His truck is the perfect height for this. Neither of us even has to adjust ourselves or change positions. He just grips my hips and pushes into me, and even though it isn’t a real bed, it’s still just as good as it was last night.



I don’t know how I found the strength to pull away from her long enough to go inside and get the floors started.

I figured she’d sit back and watch me, or write in her notebook, but as soon as I told her I needed to get some work finished, she asked how she could help.

It’s been three hours. We’ve mostly worked, with the occasional short break to rehydrate and kiss some more, but we’ve finished most of what will be the living room floor.

We’d be done by now if she weren’t wearing that shirt with that skirt. She’s been crawling across the floor, helping me lock the flooring into place, and every time I look at her I can see straight down her shirt. I’m so distracted I’m surprised I haven’t injured myself.

We haven’t discussed a single thing of importance since we exited the truck. It’s as if we left all the important stuff inside it and chose to carry nothing of weight with us into this house.

It’s been such a heavy day already; I’m doing everything I can to keep things light. We both are. I haven’t brought up the letter since we came inside. She hasn’t mentioned the restraining order, I haven’t
mentioned Mother’s Day under this roof, we haven’t talked about what our new physical connection means or how we’re possibly going to navigate it. I think we both know the conversations will come, but right now it feels like we’re on the same page, and all we want out of today’s page is to ride the high of each other.

I think Kenna and I needed today. Kenna especially needed today. She always looks like she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, but today she looks like she’s floating. She makes gravity seem powerless against her.

She’s smiled and laughed more in the last few hours than she has since the day I met her. It makes me wonder if I’ve been a huge chunk of the weight she’s been carrying.

Kenna locks the piece of wood in place on her end and then reaches for a bottle of water. She catches me staring at her chest, and she laughs. “You sure do have a hard time looking me in the eye now.”

“I think I have an obsession with your shirt.” She usually wears T-shirts, but this particular shirt is made out of a slinky material that dips down in the front, and now that she’s been working for three hours, it’s starting to stick to her in all the places where she’s sweating. “That shirt is fucking lovely.”

She laughs, and I want to kiss her again. I crawl over to her, and when I reach her, I press my mouth to hers so hard she falls backward against the floor. I kiss her through her laughter, until I’m on top of her.

I hate that I have no furniture. We just keep ending up on the hardwood floor we’ve been installing, and it’s nice, but I’d give anything to kiss her on something more comfortable. Something as soft as her mouth.

“You’ll never finish these floors,” she whispers.

the floors.” We kiss for a few minutes, and we just keep getting better at it. There’s a lot of pulling and tugging and tasting, and it gets a little chaotic, and her shirt that I love so fucking much ends up somewhere on the floor next to us.

I’m admiring her bra now, kissing her skin right above it, when she whispers, “I’m scared.” Her hands are in my hair, and she keeps them there when I lift up just enough to look down at her. “What if they find out about us before you have a chance to tell them? We’re being reckless.”

I don’t want her to think about this today because today is good, and they’re out of town, so there’s no point in dwelling on it until they return. I press a comforting kiss against her forehead. “Worrying won’t make the situation any better,” I say. “They’re out of town. Whatever happens is going to happen whether we make out right now or not.”

She smiles when I say that. “Good point.” She wraps her hand around my neck and pulls me back to her mouth.

I lower myself on top of her, but then whisper, “What’s the worst that could happen if I have to hide you forever? You’ve seen my closet, Kenna. It’s huge. You’ll love it in there.”

She laughs against my mouth.

“I could install a minifridge and a television for you. When they come to visit, you can just go to your closet and pretend you’re on vacation.”

“You’re terrible for joking about this,” she says, but she’s laughing. I kiss her until we aren’t laughing anymore, and then I slide off her until I’m lying next to her, leaning over her.

It’s the first time we’ve really looked at each other without feeling like we have to look away. She’s so goddamn flawless.

I don’t say that out loud, though, because I don’t want to diminish any of the other wonderful things about her by giving her a superficial compliment about her face. It would take away from how smart I think she is, and how compassionate, resilient, and spirited she is.

I look away from her impeccable face and slowly trace the center of her cleavage until she has chills running across her skin. “I have to finish my floors.” I slide my hand over to her breast and gently squeeze. “Stop distracting me with these things. Put your shirt back on.”

She laughs at the same time someone clears their throat from across the room.

I quickly sit up, immediately scrambling to block the view of Kenna from whoever the fuck is in my house.

I look up to find my parents standing in the doorway, looking at the ceiling. Kenna immediately scrambles away from me and reaches for her shirt.

“Oh, my God,” she whispers. “Who are they?”

“My parents,” I mutter. I swear, embarrassing me is their favorite hobby. I raise my voice so they can hear me. “Nice of you to warn me you were showing up today!” I help Kenna to her feet, and my parents are still looking at everything but us as I help her back into her shirt.

My father says, “I cleared my throat when we walked in. How much warning do you need?”

I’m not as mortified as I probably should be right now. Maybe I’m growing immune to their shenanigans. But Kenna isn’t immune.

Now that she’s dressed and halfway standing behind me, my father motions at the work we’ve been doing. “Seems you’ve made a lot of progress . . . on the floors.”

“In more ways than one,” my mother says, amused. Kenna buries her face against my arm. “Who’s your friend, Ledger?” My mother is smiling, but she has a lot of different smiles, and they don’t always mean something sweet. This smile is her entertained smile. Her

“This is . . . um . . .” I have no idea how to introduce Kenna to them. I don’t even know what name to use. They’d definitely recognize her name if I said Kenna, but I’m not exactly sure they won’t recognize her face, so lying to them would be pointless. “This is . . . my new employee.” I need to ask Kenna how she wants me to confront this. I wrap my arm around her shoulder and lead her to the bedroom. “Excuse us while we go coordinate our lies,” I say over my shoulder.

Kenna and I make it to the bedroom, out of their view, and she looks at me wide eyed. “You can’t tell them who I am,” she whispers.

“I can’t lie to them. My mom will probably recognize you once she gets a better look at you. She was at your sentencing, and she never forgets a face. She also knows you’re back in town.”

Kenna looks like she’s about to fold in on herself. She starts to pace, and I can see the weight of the world begin to return to her shoulders. She looks up at me with fear in her eyes. “Do they hate me?”

That question digs at my heart, mainly because she’s starting to tear up. And it’s only in this moment that I realize she assumes everyone who knew Scotty must hate her. “No. Of course they don’t hate you.”

I realize as I say those words that I don’t necessarily know if they’re true. My parents were heartbroken when Scotty died. He was as important to them as I am to Patrick and Grace. But I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a conversation with my parents specifically about their opinion of Kenna. It was over five years ago. I can’t remember what conversations were had or what their thoughts were on everything that happened. And we barely discuss it anymore.

Kenna can see that I’m processing, and she grows a little panicked. “Can’t you just take me home? I can sneak out the back and meet you at your truck.”

Whether my parents realize who Kenna is or not, Kenna doesn’t know what kind of people my parents are. She doesn’t realize she has nothing to be concerned about.

I cup her face with my hands. “Kenna. They’re my parents. If they recognize you, they’ll have my back no matter what.” Those words calm her a little bit. “I’ll introduce you as Nicole for now, and then I’ll take you home and deal with them and the truth later. Okay? They’re good people. So are you.”

She nods, so I give her a quick kiss and grab her hand and lead her out of the bedroom. They’re in the kitchen now, inspecting all the things Roman and I have added since they were last out here. When
they notice our return, they both casually lean against the counters, anticipating this introduction.

I wave a hand at Kenna. “This is Nicole.” I wave a hand at my parents. “My mother, Robin. My father, Benji.”

Kenna smiles and shakes their hands, but then she sidles back up to my side like she’s scared to move too far away from me. I grab her hand that’s at her side, and I move it behind her back and squeeze it to provide her with a little comfort.

“It’s such a pleasant surprise that you aren’t alone,” my mother says. “We thought you’d be out here moping by yourself today.”

I’m scared to ask. “Why would I be moping?”

My mother laughs and turns to my father. “You owe me ten bucks, Benji.” She holds out her hand, and my father pulls out his wallet and slaps a ten-dollar bill in her palm. She shoves it in the pocket of her jeans. “We bet on whether you’d even remember you were supposed to be leaving for your honeymoon today.”

Why am I not surprised? “Which one of you bet that I’d forget Mother’s Day?”

My mother raises her hand.

“I didn’t forget. Check your email. I sent a gift card because I had no idea where to send flowers to this week.”

My mother takes the ten-dollar bill out of her pocket and hands it back to my father. She walks over to me and finally gives me a hug. “Thank you.” She doesn’t look at Kenna because her attention is stolen midhug by the patio door. “Oh, wow! It looks even better than I imagined!” She releases me and passes us to go play with the accordion-style door.

My father is still focused on me and Kenna. I can tell he’s going to attempt to be polite and include her in conversation, but I know how much she wants to be ignored right now.

“Nicole has to get to work,” I blurt out. “I need to give her a ride, and then I can meet you both at the house.”

My mother makes a
sound behind me. “We just got here,” she says. “I wanted a tour of everything you’ve done.”

My father’s attention is still on Kenna. “What do you do, Nicole? Besides . . .” He waves a hand toward me. “Besides Ledger.”

Kenna gasps quietly and says, “Wow. Okay. Well, I don’t . . .
. . . Ledger.”

I squeeze her hand again, because that is
what my father meant. But if we’re being technical . . . “I think he means what do you do other than . . .
. . . for me.” She’s looking at me blankly. “Because I said you’re my employee earlier, but then I just lied and said you have to go to work, and they know my bar is closed on Sundays, so he assumes you have a different job besides the bar, and he said what do you do besides . . .” I’m rambling now, and it’s just making the moment worse because my parents can hear this conversation, and I know they are enjoying the shit out of it.

My mother has returned to my father’s side, and she’s grinning with delight.

“Please take me home,” Kenna pleads.

I nod. “Yeah. This is torture.”

“It’s such a treat for me, though,” my mother says. “I think this might be my favorite Mother’s Day yet.”

“And here we were thinking he was going to be sad because he didn’t get married,” my father says. “What do you think he has in store for Father’s Day?”

“I can only imagine,” my mother says.

“You two are mortifying. I’m almost thirty. When will this stop?”

“You’re twenty-eight,” my mother says. “That’s not almost thirty. Twenty-
is almost thirty.”

“Let’s go,” I say to Kenna.

“No, bring her to dinner,” my mother begs.

“She’s not hungry.” I lead Kenna out the door. “I’ll meet you both at the house!”

We’re almost to my truck when I realize what leaving my parents alone means. I pause and say, “I’ll be right back.” I point to the truck so Kenna knows she can go ahead without me. I turn around and walk back to the house, and then I lean in at the doorway. “Do not have sex in my house.”

“Oh, come on,” my father says. “We would never.”

“I’m serious. This is my new house, and I’ll be damned if you two christen it.”

“We won’t,” my mother says, shooing me away.

“We’re getting too old for that anyway,” my father says. “So old. Our son is almost

I step out of the doorway and motion for them to leave. “Get out. Go. I don’t trust either of you.” I wait for them to join me outside, and then I lock the front door. I point toward their car. “I’ll meet you at the house.”

I walk to my truck and ignore their chatter. I wait for my parents to back out, and then Kenna and I both sigh simultaneously. “They can be a lot sometimes,” I admit.

“Wow. That was . . .”

“Typical of them.” I glance over at her, and she’s smiling.

“It was embarrassing, but I kind of liked them,” she says. “But I’m still not having dinner with them.”

I don’t blame her. I put my truck in reverse and then point to the middle of the seat. Now that we’ve shattered whatever line we had drawn in the sand, I want her to be as close to me as she can get. She slides across the seat until she’s right next to me, and I put my hand on her knee as I drive away from the house.

“You do that a lot,” she says.

“I do what?”

“You point all the time. It’s rude.” She sounds amused rather than offended.

BOOK: Reminders of Him
8.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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