I spent the next three days hiding out and spending every second I could at the beach with Loki and my board. After that, I was finally ready to deal with the world again and I let a few people know I was back. It was lonely since I’d bene back. Amanda had done her best and we talked when she had a moment, but between being a mom, working full time, and being a full time student, there wasn’t a lot of extra time. It was a very strange feeling, as much as everything was the same, it was all different now.
This was home. It always had been. While there alone, I walked into Mom’s room. I’d kept it exactly as she’d had it when she’d been with us, and it even still smelled like her. I took a deep breath as I sat on the edge of her bed. God I missed her. She’d know what to do. She’d tell me how to deal with all of this. She’d have an answer. She’d be my compass needle, like always, and be my true north. I grabbed one of her pillows and curled myself around it as I started to cry. I wasn’t sure why I was crying, but once I’d started I couldn’t stop. Suddenly, it felt like everything was falling apart.
Eventually I cried myself to sleep and when I woke up I just looked around. I sighed and put the pillow back, just right, like Mom kept it. I washed my face and turned on my old phone and made a call. I arranged a meet up with a few old friends at the current bar they were frequenting.
“Preston!” I grinned as I ran up and hugged him.
“Lookie here, our little Jules ran off to be a princess without us.” Preston teased. “Can believe you’re really here, welcome back, princess.”
“It’s good to be back.”
Preston was like a brother for me. He was about a head taller than me and stocky. He’d cut his brown hair since I’d last seen him, instead of the shaggy style that hung in his eyes, it was more business like and considerably shorter. “So, how are you?”
“Great! I’ve missed you. Who all’s here?”
I was introduced to Preston’s new girlfriend, Ellie, and a few of my great friends I used to know. Unfortunately, my former best friend, Hailey decided to show her slutbag face.
“Hey.” She offered awkwardly. “Sorry about last time we saw either other.”
I rolled my eyes. “Because that fixes things.” I dismissed as I took another sip of my beer.
“Juliet, I really miss our friendship.” She pressed, a pout across her lips.
“Well, I wonder who’s fault that is.”
“Juliet, come on. What do I have to do?”
I paused for a moment and thought. “Okay, here’s what you do, build a time machine, go back in time, don’t screw my boyfriend. There’s a novel idea.”
“Jules! You forgave him, how come you can’t forgive me?”
“Wait, what?” Preston asked as I heard the tail end of our conversation. I shot a glare at Hailey. “Jules, please tell me that I didn’t just hear you forgave Chase.”
“Hailey said that, but I haven’t.”
“Then why are you back with him?” Hailey whined.
“Preston, it’s a long story and I don’t want to get into it tonight. We can get into it, just not tonight. Tonight I just want to enjoy myself and not worry. Okay?”
“Okay.” Preston nodded, his eyes locked on me. “But I’ll hold you to that. You owe me an explanation. In the mean time, Ellie just bought us a round of shots.”
The night continued like this. Hailey moped and I ignored her, I caught up with what I’d missed. I was starting to feel like myself again. Right now, I could just be Juliet.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t just Juliet anymore, even if I ran halfway across the world. Even back on the sandy beaches of home, I was not Juliet Eastgate-Benn illegitimate daughter of the Eastgate nonsense whether I liked it or not. Thus my quiet night of catching up and reconnecting with old friends turned into the mess I was in now.
The flashbulb of cameras alerted me to the media before questions were hurled at me.
“Juliet, is it true you’re engaged to the Prince of Denmark?”
“Juliet, are you pregnant with a love child, like your mother, now?”
“Juliet, is it true your father never wanted you?”
“Juliet, how do you think your mother would feel about this?”
“Juliet, is it true?”
So much for keeping low-key. I was going to kill whoever leaked who and where I was to the press.
I smiled politely as the flash mob of reporters and news cameras swarmed me, but I kept my damn mouth shut. Preston helped me fight against them and get to my car. I kept my damn mouth shut, and Xavier would be so proud. I felt a pang of guilt in my gut at that thought. Not only had I just up and left, but I hadn’t explained to anyone that I was leaving. I’d just disappeared into thin air. I hated how much of a burden I’d become and I just wanted to slink back into the shadows of obscurity. Given how tonight had turned out, I doubted my plans had a hope of becoming reality. I missed Xavier in this moment. I hadn’t even said goodbye. Not to him, not to my father, not to anyone.
I missed them all terribly. It had only been days since I’d seen them, but it felt like longer. I missed Gwen and her quirky nature and the fact that somehow, she always had a cookie. I missed Harper and his music. I missed Laurel and her way of politely telling me what I needed to hear. I missed the daily rides with my father and learning about his past and my mother’s. And I really missed Xavier.
More than I shoulder have.
I missed our late night chats.
I missed our arguments.
Part of me even missed him trying to tell me what to do.
I waited patiently in my car with my mouth shut for the police to show up. They escorted me to a hotel and advised against going home tonight. I called Amanda and warned that I wouldn’t be home. At the hotel, I was advised to use an alias. I didn’t like the special treatment I got when the hotel realized who I was. They comped my room and offered free service tonight.
That’s how I ended up here. I had locked myself into a five star hotel suite alone. I would have given just about anything in that moment to be curled up in my own bed.
I looked at my phone again. Preston had left another voicemail.
I’d texted him when I got to the hotel safe, but hadn’t said anything after that. Hailey had called the press when I refused to forgive her, and I was more than a little annoyed that Preston had invited her in the first place. I didn’t have anything nice to say, so I didn’t want to talk.
I went out to the balcony and let the warm, sticky heat of Florida envelop me. I let the warm, salt breeze fill my nose and every pore. It was good to be home. I’d missed this feeling more than anything else while I was in England.
The next morning I called Chase.
“Good morning, sweetheart.”
“Cut the crap.” I growled. “The fucking paparazzi know I’m home.”
“I didn’t tell them.”
“I know. You want the limelight? Fine, go get Loki and my surfboard and meet me at the spot.”
“Now.” I hung up on him. I had to put up with him, not like him. I bribed on the of the kitchen staff to give me her change of clothes then went and bought a new bathing suit, a cover up, flip flops, and a hat. Fuck the paparazzi. If they wanted a show, fine. But it was going to be on my terms. I walked to the best place I knew to surf. The waves where always awesome.
There was a nice swell this morning. It wasn’t long before Chase was blowing up my phone.
“Same beach you used to love to surf?”
“Okay, I’m here.”
“Come find me.” I snapped before I hung up on him for the second time that day. Childish as it may have been, it was satisfying. Unfortunately, it didn’t take him long to find me, on the plus side, Loki was with him.
“Hey.” He smiled and waved at me.
“Yeah, whatever.” I knelt down as Loki bounded over to me. “Who’s a sweetie pie? Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?” I laughed as he locked my face. “That’s right! That’s my good boy!”
“Whatever?” Chase demanded.
“Yeah, whatever.” I growled at him as I scratched Loki behind the ears.
“Jules, you’re supposed to be my girlfriend.”
“Chase, it’s an act.”
“I don’t like the way things ended between us.”
“Oh? Was it the you cheating? You cheating with my best friend? Or the me finding out part?”
Chase sighed. “You don’t understand, Jules. You never had any time for me anymore. I got lonely.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. My mother was a little busy dying! I’m sorry you were lonely. I’m sorry I had bills to pay, school to finish, and a sick mother I was desperately trying to keep alive, you douchebag. Fuck you and your loneliness.” I snapped.
“Don’t say it like that.”
“Chase, cut the bullshit. I’m not doing this as a favor to you. Ride this little wave of fame, just like you wanted. Once you’ve gotten your stupid fifteen minutes of fame, you’ll give me that tape then I want you out of my life. Forever.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“I don’t want you in my life! I’ve already told you this! You delusional fuck! If you didn’t have that goddamn stop I wouldn’t even be talking to you right now, you piss poor excuse of a waste of space and air human being!”
Chase was stunned silent for a moment, and even Loki looked unnerved at my outburst. “Come on, Loki.” I called as I took off into the waves.
I was just excited to have the company of Loki. After several hours I was ready to head back to the hotel. I made the police keep Chase out of my room. Having Loki there will me made it seem less lonely. Amanda and Maverick were my only visitors. This had become my life.
I couldn’t go back to my old job now. I couldn’t go back to my old home. I couldn’t go back to who I was or the life I used to know. My only reprieve from the quiet of the lonely hotel room was if I could sneak out to surf; if not then I was stuck watching tv or playing video games. I was beginning to wonder if this was how the rest of my life would be until the last person I expected to see showed up at my door.