For the first time in a long time, things were looking up. After another week, I was cleared and allowed to do some things for myself again. I was cautioned against physical activity, which I would have ignored if not for Xavier’s careful mothering. Don’t get me wrong, it was sweet, but annoying. I was excited for the chill in the air of fall. Fall was my favorite season growing up. Everything just seemed to be winding down and family was always close at hand around this time of year.
I was taking Loki for his usual walk when I stopped dead in my tracks. Leaning up against a tree was a crooked nose and icy blue eyes I didn’t want to see.
“What are you doing here?”
Loki sensed my tension and raised his hackles as a low growl vibrated through him.
“I came to talk.”
“I don’t want to talk to you, Chase.”
“Come on, Jules, at least let me apologize.”
I shook my head. “Chase, I can’t trust you. You tried to kill me. You nearly did. You need to leave me alone. Come on, Loki.” I turned to leave when someone grabbed my arm and spun me round. Loki’s growl thundered through him, teeth bared. “Let go of me, Chase.”
“Call off your dog.”
“Get your hands off of me.”
“If your dog bites me, I’ll have him put down.”
I scoffed. “And you wanted to apologize? Get off me. Loki, come.” I snarled as I tried to yank my arm free, but Chase’s grip tightened. “You’re hurting me, let go.”
“Juliet, I need to apologize.”
“Not like this. You’re hurting me. Now you let go of me or I’m going to call the cops and press assault charges and get a restraining order.”
“Jules you remember my father.” Chase started as he loosened his grip. “He wants me to set things right.”
“You mean he wants to protect his precious image.” I deadpanned.
Chase gave me a sheepish smile. “Yeah, you remember him. So, can I apologize to you?”
I shook my head. “It’s too late. If you’re truly sorry, you’ll find a way to show it. Your words mean nothing to me.”
“Jules, it’s just, he’s campaigning. Please, just let apologize in public.”
I stared at Chase for a long moment. “I’ll make you a deal.” I decided.
Chase looked up, hopeful. “Really?”
“If you will get out of my life, and I mean completely out of it. For the rest of my life. I don’t see you. I don’t hear from you. You don’t come find me. You’re gone forever. If you do that, I will let you.”
Chase smiled and visibly relaxed. “Thank you.”
“When and where?” I sighed. I can’t believe I was actually going to do this.
“Dad is hosting a benefit dinner. He’ll be talking a lot of campaigning so a lot of his benefactors will be there.”
“When is it?”
“Next Saturday night.”
“Jeez, give a girl some notice. What time?”
“The dinner starts at 8:30, so be there around 6?”
I nodded. “Fine, I’ll be there. But listen Chase, I meant what I said.”
“I know, Jules. I’ll make it up to you, baby. I swear I will.”
“Don’t call me baby.”
“Sorry, old habits die hard I guess.”
“Let go of me, Chase.” I warned.
“Oh shit, sorry.” Chase let his hand drop and Loki relaxed.
“I’m leaving. Don’t follow me.” I growled as I turned and went straight home to tell Xavier what happened.
“Are you mad? Absolutely not! This is ludicrous! You should not be within one hundred miles of that pond scum!” Xavier was nearly shouting by this point. I told him what had happened and what I had agreed to.
“He nearly murders you and you agree to see him for an apology? Are you mad?”
“What were you thinking, Juliet? He could have hurt you! He did hurt you! I already can see the bruise on your arm!”
“What if he hurts you again? I will not stand idly by and watch this happen!”
“You need to calm down!”
“I need to calm down? Oh no, my dead, I most certainly do not!”
“Xavier! Would you shut up and listen to me! I am not a child so don’t talk to me like I’m one. I’m a grown woman, I can tie my own shoelaces and everything. Shut up and let me tell you the whole story, okay?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not ding this for Chase. I’m doing this for the rest of his family. If you come sit down, I’ll tel you everything, right from the beginning.”
I sat down and Xavier sat next to me and I recounted to him the story of Chase and me and how we happened.
I told him about in freshman year, how I’d be terrified. The university I attended was huge, physically the largest campus in the States. I explained how it had a way of making you feel small. I told him how I hadn’t even known Chase was in my class until he started talking to me, I’d been so absorbed in my studies and I wanted to do well. There were about three hundred people in my class and I sat in the front and he used to sit in the back. Honestly, I don’t even know how he saw me. Right around midterms he started sitting next to me.
I told Xavier how I’d fallen for his charming smile and sweet words. At first, he’d asked for my help studying, but I found out later that was just a ploy to get closer to me. He knew how to play me. He told me this sob story about how his father compared him to his siblings and how he never measured up. The entire story I had fallen for.
I told Xavier how I hadn’t known it at the time, but Chase had access to the best of everything. I told him how it started with me being too naive to know he didn’t give a rat’s ass about his grade. After study group, he’d always stay late, he’d always ask me questions. He’d find a way to be touching me, he’d bump into me, lean against me, whatever. I told Xavier he wasn’t subtle about it either. It took me ages, but eventually I figured it out, or rather he asked me on a date. I told Xavier how Chase had been the first guy to really make me feel special. Out of all the girls, he’d chosen me. I’d never really had any guys take an interest in me before, and it had been nice. He could make me feel like I was the only girl in the world. It didn’t take long before we were inseparable. I told Xavier how the first year had been good, but about halfway through sophomore year things changed. I told Xavier that was when my mom started to get sick.
Wee didn’t know what is was at first. I was embarrassed to admit that it was about this time I started really getting into drinking and started getting into drug. When I came home and found Mom just lying there on the floor unconscious. I called an ambulance, and it was about then that we found out she had cancer.
I told about how Mom was sick and just kept getting sicker. When I was with her, I was sober, but that was about the only time. When she’d have a bout when she was stuck in the hospital, I’d go out and get completely shitfaced. I couldn’t deal. I’d get wasted every single night. I explained how Chase loved to party with me, but would get angry, really angry when I would leave to go see my mom or work. He didn’t understand and he didn’t want to. Despite my self destructive habits, I still managed to pass all of my classes and the lowest grade I got was a B+ that I convinced my professor to round up to an A. I was out of it for over a year. I told Xavier how I just couldn’t handle it. Then the doctors gave Mom an expiration date. The doctors said she only had six months, she lived eighteen. Mom was a fighter all the way. But after Mom got sick, Chase got distant. At first I thought it was just because I was spending more time with Mom, but the signs were there. Looking back, it was so obvious he was cheating, I just didn’t want to see it. I wasn’t prepared to lose anything else with my mom already on her last leg. When it was just about the end for Mom, I came home one day, and there he was. Chase was there with Hailey, someone I thought was my best friend and roommate. Both of them were naked and it wasn’t hard to figure out what they were doing.
I couldn’t deny it, he was cheating on me and it turned out Hailey wasn’t the only other person he was screwing around with. Xavier was livid when he found out about that and I put a hand up to keep him from butting in. I wanted to get this stupid story over. I explained how I dumped Chase and kicked her out. After that, I was almost always messed up. The only time I was sober was at my mom’s bedside. I was showing up to work blitzed and it was about this time that Amanda moved in with her son Maverick. She was going through a messy divorce and needed a safe place for her and her son. I had the room and I needed something to distract me. With Maverick in the house, we made sure there was no alcohol here. Amanda was the reason I got pulled out of my drinking binge and other habits. She was there to help me on the nights I detoxed. She was there when I was weak. She was there when I lost Mom. If not for her, I probably would still be in that slump or worse. Thanks to her, I quit the drugs, I wasn’t on pills anymore and it wasn’t long after I’d gotten clean that I got the letter from James.
I looked at Xavier feeling very exposed. “That’s about where the headlines picked up.” I shrugged.
Xavier shook his head. “I cannot believe it.”
“That he really believed he could treat you ant way and that you would still be his.”
I shrugged. “Chase and I had an interesting relationship. It worked when we were both being honest, but once we lost that well…” I trailed off as I tried to find the right words. “Well, where there is no trust, there can’t be anything else either.”
“Agreed, that’s perfectly understandable.”
“But we were together a long time. During that time, I got close with some of Chase’s family. His mother is a sweetheart and his older brother was pretty cool. I only saw his father when he was campaigning. I won a few votes for him, the ‘rebellious youth’ as his publicist put it.”
I shrugged. “If it will make Mrs. Evans happy, I’m willing to let Chase apologize. It’s not him I’m doing it for. I really liked Georgia, she was always so sweet and accepting of me.”
Xavier took a deep breath. “So this isn’t about appeasing Chase?”
I shook my head. “If it gets Chase to leave me alone forever, I’m alright with him apologizing. If it happens to earn a few nods of approval, hopefully I’ll be done with them for good.”
Xavier sighed, defeated. “I don’t suppose I can assuage you in any way?”
I shook my head. “My mind is made up.”
“Very well, then I would like to escort you.”
“I’d like that.”
“What is the dress code?”
“It’s like a ball.”
“Very well, I’ll have a tux rented.”
“Great, oh and I’m picking my dress this time.” I teased.
“Was your last dress not to your liking?”
“No, it’s not that! I loved it, but I get to choose, so I want to. It’s that simple.”
“You will never stop fighting, will you?”
“Never.” I shook my head. “Well, I have a lot of work to do before Saturday. Let me make a few calls.” I retreated to my bedroom and called a friend of mine in fashion design; the one and only lovely Lillian.