Authors: Colleen Hoover
He’s put it all together.
Now he looks like he wants to rip it all apart.
He points at his house. “Go.” The word is sharp and demanding. I take a step into the street, away from him. I feel myself begin to tremble, just as he steps into the street and closes the gap between us. His eyes are on the house across the street again as he reaches his arm around me, pressing a firm hand into my lower back. He begins pushing me along with him as he points toward the house opposite where my daughter lives. “Get inside before they see you.”
I expected he’d eventually put the pieces together. I just wish he would have made the connection last night. Not right now, when I’m only fifteen feet away from her.
I look at his house, then look at Patrick and Grace’s house. I have no method of escaping him. The last thing I want to do right now is cause a scene. My goal was to arrive peacefully and make this go as smoothly as possible. Ledger seems to want the opposite.
“Please leave me alone,” I say through clenched teeth. “This is none of your business.”
it isn’t,” he hisses.
.” My voice shakes from both fear and tears. I’m scared of him, scared of this moment, scared of the idea that this is going to be so much more difficult than I feared. Why else would he be pushing me away from their property?
I look back at Patrick and Grace’s house, but my feet keep moving toward Ledger’s house. I would put up a fight, but at this point, I’m no longer sure I’m ready to face the Landrys. I thought I was ready when I got into the cab earlier, but now that I’m here and Ledger is mad, I’m absolutely
ready to face them. It’s obvious from the last few minutes that my arrival might have been somewhat anticipated and is not at all welcomed.
They were likely notified when I was released into transitional housing. They had to be expecting this to happen eventually.
My feet are no longer weights. I feel like I’m floating again, high in the air like a balloon, and I’m following Ledger as if he’s pulling me along by a string.
I feel embarrassed to be here. Embarrassed enough to follow behind Ledger like I have no voice or thoughts of my own. I certainly don’t have any confidence in this second. And my shirt is too stupid for a moment of this magnitude.
stupid for thinking this was the way to go about it.
Ledger closes his door once we’re inside his living room. He looks disgusted. I don’t know if it’s at the sight of me, or if he’s thinking about last night. He’s pacing the living room, one palm pressed against his forehead.
“Is that why you showed up at my bar? You were trying to trick me into leading you to her?”
“No.” My voice is pathetic.
He slides his hands down his face in frustration. He pauses and then just mutters, “God dammit.”
He is so mad at me.
Why do I always make the worst decisions?
“You’ve been in town for one day.” He swipes keys off a table. “You really thought this was a good idea? Showing up this soon?”
She’s four years old.
I clench an arm over my churning stomach. I don’t know what to do. What do I do? What
I do? There has to be something. Some
kind of compromise. They can’t just collectively decide what’s best for Diem without consulting me.
the unreasonable one in this scenario. I’ve just been too scared to admit it. I want to ask him if there’s anything I can do to get them to hear me out, but the way he’s glaring at me makes me feel completely in the wrong. I begin to wonder if I’m even in a position to ask questions.
His focus falls to the rubber starfish in my hand. He walks over to me and holds out his hand. I place the starfish in his palm. I don’t know why I hand it over. Maybe if he sees I showed up with a toy, he’ll know I’m here with good intentions.
ring?” He tosses it on his couch like it’s the stupidest thing he’s ever seen. “She’s
.” He walks toward his kitchen. “I’m taking you home. Wait until I pull my truck into the garage. I don’t want them to see you.”
I no longer feel like I’m floating. I feel heavy and frozen, like my feet are trapped in the concrete slab of his house.
I glance out the living room window toward Patrick and Grace’s house.
I’m so close.
All that separates us is a street. An empty street with no traffic.
It’s clear to me what’s going to happen next. Patrick and Grace want nothing to do with me, to the point Ledger knew to intercept my arrival. This means there won’t be any negotiating. The forgiveness I was hoping had found its way to them never made it here.
They still hate me.
Apparently, so does everyone else in their lives.
The only way I’m going to be able to see my daughter is if, by some miracle, I can take it through the court system, and that’s going to take money I don’t yet have and years I can’t bear the thought of passing by. I’ve already missed so much.
If I want to see Diem at all, ever, this is my only chance. If I want the opportunity to beg Scotty’s parents for forgiveness, it’s now or never.
Now or never.
Ledger probably won’t notice I’m not following him to his garage for another ten seconds, at least. I might make it before he catches up to me.
I slip outside and run as fast as I can across the street.
I’m in their yard.
My feet are sprinting across grass Diem has played on.
I’m beating on their front door.
I’m ringing their doorbell.
I’m trying to look through the window to get a glimpse of her.
“Please,” I whisper, knocking harder. My whisper turns into panic as I hear Ledger approaching me from behind. “I’m sorry!” I yell, beating on the door. My voice is a fearful plea now. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please let me see her!”
I’m being pulled, and then carried, back to the house across the street. Even through my struggle to get out of his arms, I’m staring at that front door as it gets smaller and smaller, hoping for even a half-second glimpse of my little girl.
I don’t see any movement at all in their house before I’m no longer outside. I’m back inside Ledger’s house, being dropped onto his couch.
He’s holding his phone, pacing his living room as he dials a phone number. It’s only three digits.
He’s calling the police.
I panic. “No.”
“No, no, no.” I lunge across his living room in an attempt to grab at his phone, but he just puts a hand on my shoulder and steers me back to the couch.
I sit down and bury my elbows into my knees, bringing my fingers to a shaky point against my mouth. “Please don’t call the police.
” I sit still, wanting to appear unthreatening, hoping he just looks me in the eye long enough to feel my pain.
His eyes meet mine just as tears begin to fall down my cheeks. He pauses before completing the call. He stares me down . . . studying me. Searching my face for a promise.
“I won’t come back.” If he calls the police, this will not look good for me. I can’t have anything added to my record, even though I’ve broken no laws that I know of. But just being here unwanted is enough of a mark against me.
He takes a step closer. “You
come back here. Swear to me we’ll never see you again, or I’ll call the police right now.”
I can’t. I can’t promise him that. What else is there in my life other than my daughter? She’s all I have. She’s why I’m still alive.
This can’t be happening.
,” I cry, not knowing what I’m even begging for. I just want someone to listen to me. To hear me out.
To understand how much I’m suffering.
I want him to be the man I met in the bar last night. I want him to pull me to his chest, to make me feel like I have an ally. I want him to tell me it’s going to be okay, even though I know with everything in me that it will never, ever be okay.
The next several minutes are a defeated blur. I’m a mess of emotions.
I get into Ledger’s truck, and he drives me away from the neighborhood my daughter has been raised in her whole life. I’m finally in the same town as her after all these years, but I’ve never felt farther away from her than I do in this moment.
I press my forehead to the passenger window and I close my eyes, wishing I could start over from the beginning.
Or at least fast-forward to the end.
It’s typical for people to be praised in death. Heralded to the point of heroism sometimes. But nothing anyone said about Scotty was embellished for the sake of remembering him fondly. He was everything everyone said about him. Nice, funny, athletic, honest, charismatic, a good son. A great friend.
Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could have traded places with him, in life and in death. I’d give up the life I’ve been living in an instant if it meant he could have just one day with Diem.
I don’t know that I’d be this angry—this protective over Diem—if Kenna had just simply caused the accident. But she did so much more than that. She was driving when she shouldn’t have been, she was speeding, she was drinking, she flipped the car.
And then she left. She left Scotty there to die, and she walked home and crawled into bed because she thought she could get away with it. He’s dead because she was scared she’d get in trouble.
And now she wants forgiveness?
I can’t think about the details of Scotty’s death right now. Not with her sitting next to me in this truck, because I’d rather be dead than allow her the satisfaction of knowing Diem. If it means driving us both off a bridge, I might just be vengeful enough to do that right now.
The fact that she thought it would be okay to show up is baffling to me. I’m pissed she’s here, but I think my anger is amplified by the knowledge that she knew who I was last night. When we kissed, when I held her.
I shouldn’t have ignored my gut. There was something off about her. She doesn’t look like the Kenna I saw in the articles five years ago. Scotty’s Kenna had long blonde hair. But I never really looked at her face back then. I never met her in person, but I feel like even just seeing a mug shot of the girl who killed my best friend should have stuck in my head more.
I feel stupid. I’m angry, I’m hurt, I feel taken advantage of. Even today in the store, she knew who I was, yet gave me no hint as to who
I crack my window to get some fresh air, hoping it’ll calm me down. My knuckles are white as I grip the steering wheel.
She’s staring out the window, unresponsive. She may be crying. I don’t know.
I don’t fucking care.
She isn’t the girl I met last night. That girl doesn’t exist. She was pretending with me, and I fell right into her trap.
Patrick expressed concern several months ago when we found out she was released. He thought this might happen—that she might show up wanting to meet Diem. I even put in a Ring camera on my house that points at their front yard. It’s how I knew someone was sitting on the curb.
I told Patrick he was silly to worry.
“She wouldn’t show up. Not after what she did.”
I grip the steering wheel even tighter. Kenna might have brought Diem into the world, but that’s where her claim to Diem ends.
When her apartments come into view, I pull the truck into a spot and put it in park. I don’t kill the engine, but Kenna doesn’t make a
move to exit my truck. I figured she’d jump out before I even came to a complete stop like she did last night, but it looks like there’s something she wants to say. Or maybe she just dreads going into that apartment as much as she probably dreads staying in this truck.
She’s staring at her hands folded together in her lap. She brings her hand to the seat belt and releases it, but when she’s free from it, she remains in the same position.
Diem looks like her. I always assumed she did since I didn’t see much of Scotty in Diem’s features, but until tonight I had no idea just how much she resembles her mother. They have the same reddish shade of brown hair, straight and flat, not a wave or a curl in sight. She has Kenna’s eyes.
Maybe that’s why I saw red flags last night. My subconscious recognized her before I could.
When Kenna’s eyes slide over to mine, I feel a tug of disappointment inside of me. Diem looks
like her when she’s sad. It’s like I’m looking into the future at who Diem is going to someday be.
I don’t like that the one person I dislike the most in this world reminds me of the person I love the most.
Kenna wipes her eyes, but I don’t lean over and open the glove box to retrieve a napkin. She can use the Mountain Dew shirt she’s been wearing for two days.
“I didn’t know you before I showed up at your bar last night,” she says with a trembling voice. “I swear.” Her head falls back against the headrest, and she stares straight ahead. Her chest rises with a deep inhale. She exhales at the exact moment my finger meets the unlock button. My cue for her to exit.
“I don’t care about last night. I care about Diem. That’s it.”
I watch a tear as it skates down her jaw. I hate that I know what those tears taste like. I hate that part of me wants to reach over and wipe it away.
I wonder if she cried as she was walking away from Scotty that night?
She moves with a graceful sadness, leaning forward, pressing her face into her hands. Her movement fills my truck with the scent of her shampoo. It smells like fruit.
I rest my elbow on my doorframe and lean away from her, covering my mouth and my nose with my hand. I look out my window, not wanting to know anything else about her. I don’t want to know what she smells like, what she sounds like, what her tears look like, what her pain makes me feel like.
“They don’t want you in her life, Kenna.”
A cry mixes with a gasp that sounds like it’s filled with years of heartache when she says, “She’s my
.” Her voice decides to reconnect with her spirit in this moment. It’s no longer a wisp of air escaping her mouth. It’s full of panic and desperation.
I grip my steering wheel, tapping it with my thumb while I think of how to say what I need for her to understand.
daughter. Your rights were terminated. Get out of my truck, and then do us all a favor and go back to Denver.”
I don’t know if the sob that escapes her is even real. She wipes her cheeks and then opens the door and steps out of my truck. She faces me before closing the door, and she looks so much like Diem; even her eyes have grown a shade lighter like Diem’s do when she cries.
I feel that look deep within me, but I know it’s only because of how closely she resembles Diem.
I’m hurting for Diem. Not for this woman.
Kenna looks torn between walking away, responding to me, or screaming. She hugs herself and looks at me with two huge, devastated eyes. She tilts her face up toward the sky for a second, inhaling a shaky breath. “
you, Ledger.” The sting of agony in her voice makes me flinch internally, but I remain as stoic as possible on the outside.
Her words weren’t even a yell. They were just a quiet and piercing statement.
She slams my truck door, and then slaps my window with both of her palms. “Fuck you!”
I don’t wait for her to say it a third time. I throw the truck in reverse and pull back onto the street. My stomach is in a knot that feels tethered to her fist. The farther I get from her, the more I feel it unravel.
I don’t know what I expected. I’ve had this vision of her in my head all these years. A girl with no remorse for what she’s done. A mother with no attachment to the child she brought into the world.
Five years of preconceived yet solid notions aren’t easy to let go of. Kenna has been one way and one way only in my mind. Unremorseful. Uninvolved. Uncaring. Unworthy.
I can’t reconcile the emotional turmoil she seems to suffer from not being part of Diem’s life with the lack of regard she held for Scotty’s life.
I drive away while thinking of a million things I should have said. A million questions I still don’t have answers to.
“Why didn’t you call for help?”
“Why did you leave him there?”
“Why do you think you deserve to cause another upheaval in the lives you’ve already destroyed?”
“Why do I still want to hug you?”