Authors: Victoria Klahr
Tags: #Romance, #new adult, #Adult contemporary, #Contemporary Romance
Copyright 2013 by Victoria Klahr
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locals, are entirely coincidental.
That’s a Promise
Copyright © Victoria Klahr, 2013
First published 2013
Published by Victoria Klahr
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a database and retrieval system or transmitted in any form or any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the owner of copyright and the above publishers.
Original illustrations/ Photographs by Grace Vang
Cover art design by Samantha Bagood
That’s a Promise
THAT’S A PROMISE
For Alexis- who has always shown me what it means to love and be loved unconditionally, and who has always been the source for my own happiness
“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” –Sarah Kay
When I pictured my life six years ago, I’m pretty sure that where I am right now would not have been in that image.
I’m in a sea of black. The beautiful, May day gives no impression that there is any sadness or grief in the air. It’s one of those days that you want to spend outside, smelling the new blooming flowers, getting some sun, and walking in the grass barefoot, but none of those things hold any interest for me.
Everything is a blur around me, a haze that is just as depressing as I am inside. I know people are talking to me, but I don’t hear them. They express sadness in their words, but most never sympathized with us before today. They talk as if they knew us, but where were they before? They live their lives talking shit behind people’s backs, but don’t see the hypocrisy in their fake condolences.
I’ve learned to ignore the whispers and stares, a lesson learned repeatedly as I grew up in what some would call an “unconventional” household. Apparently punching everyone who bullies you isn’t the socially acceptable way to handle it, so I try to just ignore them. I don’t want or need to let in any of their negativity, so I remain quiet. There’s been enough sadness in our lives, and there is no need for nasty words from nosey neighbors to add onto that pain.
I watch as a person in a black suit finishes shoveling dirt into the cold, deep grave. I focus on the earth closing around the person I loved so immensely and to whom I felt so close. The ground is consuming the casket and taking my loved one away into a lonely pit, permanently putting an end to access with the best person I will ever know.
I look to my dad sitting next to me. He is distraught, but well medicated for the occasion. But the medicated cloud in his eyes still cannot hide the overbearing sorrow that he is feeling. He seems to have aged ten years in the past week. He was once the strongest and most commanding person I knew, but today, he looks like a child. He doesn’t speak, doesn’t do anything except for the essentials. He exists, but he’s not living. He looks up at me and I feel like maybe he wants to reach out and say something to comfort me, but I know that his internal pain is limiting him from showing affection. I put my hand on his shoulder to show that I’m here, hoping he understands what I mean.
People are finally leaving. Leaving us behind to grieve together in peace. Which is a lie. There is no peace for us, and there won’t be for a long time. With all of the preparations for the funeral complete, I have all the time in the world to sit in “peace” and think about the gravity of what I just lost. That’s not peace. That’s torture.
“Dad,” I speak out to my father who is still sitting in the chair that was provided for him, “I think that maybe we should head back to the house.” He still sits there giving me no inclination that he heard me suggest our departure.
“Dad,” I try again, after a minute, “let’s say goodbye, and go home.” I can’t stand to be here any longer.
He starts to stand slowly and walks over to the mound of dirt covering a life that was once vibrant and lively. He collapses onto the dirt, and at first I am startled by the sudden fall. Once I hear the heart wrenching sobs that escape his mouth, I understand that he is saying his goodbye. I hear him murmuring about his undying love, and decide to give him some privacy.
I look towards the entrance of the cemetery, shaking myself out of the haze that I was just in. I don’t even remember walking this far to get to the grave site, but I don’t want to remember, so I don’t try to conjure up the memory.
I see a figure leaning against one of the nearby trees, and I start to sweep my eyes past until recognition hits me in the chest like a ton of bricks. I don’t think he wanted to be seen, but he was caught and he knows it. My throat starts to constrict and I feel pain clogging my chest and throat.
He hasn’t changed much since the last time I saw him, except that he has no smile on his face today. He’s still breathtakingly handsome… but he’s also still the asshole I left behind the café a year ago.
Why is he here?
How dare he show his face here on a day like today?
I am in such a state of shock that I lose all concept of space and time. Time seems to have stood still and blurred around me as I take him in. I stare at him for a good two minutes before I jerk back to reality. He gives me a small wave with a slight lift of his beautiful lips. It is a sad and withdrawn smile, enough for me to know that he knows exactly what happened. I glare back at him, not in any mood to be civil, and start stomping my way towards him. I am intent on giving him a piece of my mind. He has no right to be here.
As I near closer to him, he pulls himself from the tree and walks towards me. We meet up and we are so close, that I almost forget the reason why I came up to him. In my mind’s stuttering state, he speaks first.
“Hi Josie,” he says. His deep dominant voice washes over me, and I am mad that it thrills me to hear his voice again. I swallow down any excitement he’s giving me, and try to keep my guard intact.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I hiss. “I’m pretty sure I made it clear that I never wanted to see you again. How dare you show your face here?”
“Jo… I just wanted to come and say how sorry I am about your loss. I heard about what happened, and I couldn’t just not come see how you were doing,” he responds, sadness clear in his voice. Hearing him use my nickname with his gentle voice makes me weak. I wrap my arms around my body to try and keep my anger from being impacted by his gentleness.
“I don’t want you here,” I whisper back, looking anywhere but at him. I didn’t want him to see me break down ever again, but between my loss and seeing him again, I don’t know if I will be able to hold back. In that one sentence, filled with the longing and sadness that I didn’t want to show, I have made it clear to him that I am still hurting over what happened.
“I understand, Jo. I just needed to make sure you’re ok. I know how hard this is for you.” He slowly starts to reach out his hand, and while my cheek tingles at the thought of his perfect hands touching even an inch of my body, I think he knows that his touch is unwelcome. As I turn the slightest fraction away, he lets his hand fall back to his side, a look of regret crossing his face.
“I can’t do this. Dad needs me right now. I have to take him back to the house,” I say, wanting to get rid of him and the memories he is bringing back.
“Let me come help you for the day. We can catch up and I can help you with things. Today is tough as it is, let me help,” he says to me, confidence and determination starting to come back into his personality. This is the man I knew.
I hear footsteps come up behind me as my dad walks up to us. He simply stands there, lost in a world I don’t want to enter. He said his goodbye and now he’s retreated back into his shell. I look up to my unexpected visitor and get ready to tell him goodbye for the last time, but he beats me to it.
“Mr. Sommers, I am so sorry for your loss,” he says softly to him. My dad nods slightly. “Josie and I were just talking about heading back to the house to catch up and throw away some of the food that your neighbors sent over,” he gives me a sly smile, and then returns his attention to my dad. “Would one extra person be ok?”
My dad grunts and we both know him well enough to know that he has accepted the request for more company. I shake my head at his response.
“Dad, go ahead to the car. I’ll be there in a couple minutes,” I say, in hopes to convince this annoying person to leave. When Dad is almost to the car, I whip myself around to face the stubborn man and scowl at him. He has a small cocky smirk playing on his lips, and I don’t like how distractingly handsome he still is.
“You need to leave and never come back around here or me again. I can barely even look at you without wanting to punch you in your stupid face!” I say. The last part is only partially true; a part of me wants to hit him again, and the other part wants to kiss him again. His smile grows a little after he hears me say that, because he knows me well enough to know that I really do want to hit him.
“I get that you never wanted to see me again after the last time, Josie. Just let me be here for you today. Let me be your friend for this one time. I can help. You know I can help,” he says, sincerity in his tone. I know he can help, but that scares me
I take a deep breath and try to sort out my thoughts. He is the last person I need to be talking to, and the first person I want to talk to since this happened. I remember exactly who is standing before me, and I know without a doubt that if I let him back in, I will be hurt and betrayed all over again.
September Four Years Earlier
excited to start classes today!” I exclaimed to my roommate, Brooke. I finally made it to the university, and I was starting classes that week. I had been through a lot in the last two years, and I was beyond excited about getting out, meeting new people, and learning refreshing new coursework that would “stimulate” my mind.
Brooke was sitting in front of the mirror applying make-up to her already perfect face, and I was sitting on the ledge of my bed in our shared dorm, thinking about the upcoming school year. Butterflies were in my stomach and there was anxiousness creeping through my blood. My body couldn’t decide what it wanted to feel.
Brooke swiveled in her pink chair and looked at me.
“I swear you are the strangest nerd I know,” she said. I smirked at her before turning back to my thoughts.
That wasn’t the first time she had said something like that. She had gotten to know me a little bit over the summer, and she knew early on that I loved to read and going to school. But she always said that I never looked like a nerd because I had the whole “exotic beauty” thing going on. I personally thought that she was undoubtedly prettier than me. I wasn’t insecure about myself, but I did know that she was really beautiful. She had light blonde hair that was cropped into a cute bob. She had bright blue eyes, was a gorgeous 5’6,” and had the cutest button nose on her face. She brightened a room because of her “girl next door” beauty and charms. She was a smart girl, but sometimes I wondered where she came up with the things that came out of her mouth.
We had become good friends once we found out we would be rooming together for the school year. We were both juniors at North Carolina State University, but it was my first year there because I was transferring from a community college. Some personal things delayed my entrance to the college.
My parents and I lived in Wilson, North Carolina and Brooke’s parents lived in Goldsboro. When we realized that we were only thirty minutes away from each other, we took the opportunity to hang out during the summer. She was a great friend to have during that time in my life, helping me forget about my issues and helping me focus on how to be a normal twenty year old college student.