The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 51 - Live your life

PART 2

THREE YEARS LATER

CHAPTER 51 - LIVE YOUR LIFE

NATALIE'S POV

I'm sorry. Truly I am. But I can't stay. I love you, princess. Please, forgive me. But forget me. Live your life. You'll be better off without me. – Eric

I read the message for the thousandth time. After three years, it still hurts. Three years, yes. It's been three years since that message, that message I found where he knew I would search. The Place. I went there for answers of any kind, but found only a piece of paper with his neat calligraphy. Forgive me but forget me, he said. I can't stay, he said. Why?

After three years I still don't have an answer, nothing. Not even his brother knows. He just ... disappeared. When we girls came back to the cabin that day, there were only Kyle and Joe waiting for us at the entrance, confused and alarmed. We asked what was wrong and the first thing Kyle did was grab my hand and drag me to Eric's car, he pushed me inside and, Joe doing the same with the other girls but in his own car, drove off.

When I asked what the heck was happening and where was Eric, Kyle responded with a very simple phrase: "I have no idea. Just told me to keep you safe. Then he was gone."

I inquired to know more, but nothing. Once we got to my place, I found out my mother had already packed my things and everything was set. Principal Roberts knew, he'd abbreviate the procedures for me to get my degree, after all, hadn't I refused, a few months before, I'd have graduated in January already, being in advance with credits and everything, I already had a destination, a plane ticket and a safe place. Everything had been done at the speed of light.

Kyle took me to the airport in the town nearby, hugged me and promised he'd keep in touch, but I ought to stay out of town for more than a while. For my safety. I asked and asked and asked, but nobody told me anything.

While Kyle was driving to take me home I'd texted Eric to ask where was he, but received no response, not even when I gave him the good news: I was not pregnant, we still had our dreams intact. When I called and called and called, I kept hearing always the same automated voice telling me that the number I had dialed had been disconnected. So he got rid of his phone. Why? Why? Why?! I kept asking myself and Kyle, but he couldn't give me an answer, neither he knew.

When the plane landed I found a tall man in his late twenties outside the gate, with my name written on a white cartel. My cousin. Jake Watson. In the haze I was in, only then I realized I was in Boston, but why? What was happening? Where did Eric go?

None of my questions were ever answered. Jake only knew my mother called him that he'd barely woken up, to tell him that I was to leave our town immediately and she asked him if he could take care of me for a while. He agreed immediately, saying he'd see to be sure I was safe from anything, even if he had no idea what that was.

I was allowed to go back in town only three months later, with the excuse of seeing my friends graduate and retrieving my own diploma. I pestered Kyle with thousands of questions, but he didn't have the slightest idea. Last time he'd seen Eric, it was at the cabin three months before and he told him to keep me to safe. Nothing more than that. Same goes for my mother, she'd only received a call from Eric, who told her I had to leave town as quickly as possible, but he didn't explain why. Trusting him, she agreed. Especially when Kyle confirmed everything.

I forced myself to keep silence when I realized what a distraught look Kyle had on his face. And then it hit me: he had no idea where his brother was, Eric had gone missing since three months and nobody knew, nobody had seen him. As if he'd disappeared all of a sudden. Of course Kyle was hurt too. Eric was still his brother,despite the past.

We hugged each other, knowing that, despite everything, maybe we were the closest people to ... him and nobody else could understand our sorrow.

Though when Dana spotted me, she walked up to me like a fury and slapped me, yelling that it was all my fault, he was missing for my fault. I didn't react, just took her insults, tears silently streaking down my cheeks, like they had for the past three months, but when she stopped, she startled me.

I had barely noticed tears were in her eyes too and when she moved closer even Kyle feared she'd want to hit me again, so he moved to stop her, but she didn't hit me. No. She hugged me. She hugged me and burst out crying.

Dana Langley and I cried our hearts out on each other's shoulder. Because we both missed the same boy. We both were hurting because he was gone and we had no idea where he was. She didn't need to tell me, I could feel it in her tears and in the rhythm of her throbbing heart that she was in love with him, maybe not as much as I was, but she loved him too, maybe had been since long.

It took us long to part, we even crawled to the floor, still crying, till we ran out of tears and her father pulled her back, escorting her to their car in the middle of curious people gaping at us.

As soon as I could move, I ran off, knowing that, even if he wasn't there, he'd left a message, a hint, something ... because he wouldn't leave me without a word, I knew that.

When I reached our place I found everything like we'd left it last time we'd been there, there was still the tent too, and when I stepped inside, lying on that same duvet I'd lost my virginity on, I hugged the same pillow he used when we slept there, me using his own chest for that purpose. The pillow still reeked of him, of his manly scent mixed with the peppermint fragrance of his perfume. I could still see every single moment we spent there.

For instance, when we fought and I leaped to my feet, ready to go home, but Eric grabbed my hand and pulled me back in his arms, apologizing "for being a stupid jackass that always upset me", I giggled at the words and he took the chance to kiss me into submission, even while reminding me he loved me.

He loved me. That's why he left. Kyle told me. I knew he wasn't telling me everything, but he never wanted to give me details. I even doubted he was telling the truth, maybe he knew where his brother was ... but no, he had no idea. Hadn't seen him neither heard of him since that day at the cabin, when Eric woke him abruptly and ordered him to keep me safe. Just that. He didn't explain, didn't say where he was going and what was happening, he just said I was to be kept safe.

That's why my mother, receiving the same instructions, immediately thought I'd better leave town and the first person she thought of was my cousin, Jake, not because she didn't trust her own brother, but because she knew Jake for being a tough man that knows his way round, with money and strength and every necessary resources, so he was the best choice.

She said she was flustered to ask him at first, but was pushed by the necessity to have me safe and sound as soon as possible. She said Jake didn't even let her finish, as soon as he heard he was to keep me safe, he said he'd book the flight for me and fetch me at the airport as soon as I arrived, he'd take care of me the best he could.

And he has. Both him and Silvia, who was by then just his girlfriend. She lived with him and they welcomed me in their apartment immediately. She said Jake had briefly explained the thing when she'd woken up at him getting dressed while blabbing at the phone, talking to the operator to book a flight for Boston. Said she didn't need reasons, I was welcome.

Now, The Place. I cried all my tears while I hugged that pillow, begging, even out loud, for Eric to come back, for God to listen to my prayers and give me my love back, but nothing. And the few pieces of my heart that were left were shattered when I read that note Eric left for me. Forgive me but forget me. Live your life. I yelled against the note and him, wherever he was, that I had no life if he wasn't with me, I couldn't move on from him. And I didn't.

Despite my mother's and my friends' attempts, for months, after I left town again, I merely vegetated. If I'd spent the past three months trying to be strong and hid to Jake and Silvia all the tears and the sobs that shook my body every night and every day, if in the past three months I had been able to keep the vague idea of a poker face while asking, almost begging my cousin to use his family's power to find an answer, an answer he never was able to find, despite his truthful efforts, when I then went back to that apartment, I was worse than a zombie.

I'd been crying all the way there, hadn't been sleeping since days and my poker face had broken, to the point that my cousin and his girlfriend had no idea how to console me. Silvia remained close to me, Jamie and Aisha stayed in Boston all summer to help me, Jake did his best to find answers, but not even his mighty uncle was able to.

It just seemed as if my boyfriend had disappeared into a parallel universe. Pushed by his niece, Serene, who was even informed, Keith searched through the whole country, but nothing. Till he came to one very simple conclusion: if the boy was nowhere to be found, it only meant he was no more in this world.

They didn't tell me that. I overheard Keith as he told Jake. I barely remember what followed. My cousin said I fainted in front of him and spent days in the hospital. A consequence of having been awake for a week more or less, barely drinking necessary water, touching only the apple slices Jake almost forced down my throat, trying hard to keep me alive, saying he wouldn't have wanted me to end up like this.

Yeah, but he abandoned me. He disappeared. Without anything else other than a note. Just that. And he ... he was gone. If he couldn't be found anywhere, it only meant he was no more in this world. Keith's words kept resonating in my ears, as I tried to find an excuse. Maybe they didn't search hard enough. Maybe he wasn't in the country anymore. Maybe he was at the other side of the world ...

I've kept hope till I could. But harping on him and the chance that he was still out there, just hiding from whoever it was that was after him, that hope was killing me, as my mother and friends pointed out. That hope was slowly bringing me to the grave. And, Kyle pointed out, Eric wouldn't have wanted that. He disappeared to keep me safe, Kyle was sure of that, I couldn't throw away his efforts.

Hence, I pushed my body and mind to move on, step by step, starting to eat the whole apple instead of the three slices Jake fed me almost forcedly, I started accepting the sleeping pills my cousin had me prescribed, so that I could sleep at least for a couple of hours. I took baby steps for weeks. Till I was able to even go out and attend classes. The irony, Harvard was never my choice and yet there I ended up.

The next year I moved out of Jake's apartment, knowing I'd taken advantage of their kindness even too much, I had to move on and live. Live your life. Was his request. Live your life. Well, I did. Or at least tried to.

Though my cousin didn't want to hear reasons, even if out of his apartment, I was to accept the free one he offered me in one of his family buildings. And there I've lived since then.

"Honey? You ready?" A familiar male voice brought me back to reality and I immediately hid the note in my nightstand, as I have been doing since ... well, always. I re-read it every week more or less, as a reminder of what I've lost. I keep pretending I've moved on, and maybe I have, but after three long years, my heart is still there. With him. Wherever that there is.

Somewhere where, where is somewhere. As he once joked. And if that somewhere is Heaven, then my prayers for his soul will get to him every night, when I go out to my balcony and stare at the sky, trying to see if there's a new star, always making one simple wish: for Eric to be fine. Wherever he is. Be it even Heaven.

Quickly wiping away my tears, something else I've learned to do not to alarm my friends, I turned around and tried to smile as best as I could, but since Eric left me, my smile has never been the same, everybody that knew me before has pointed that out, starting from my mother.

My mother who knows how hard for me it is and doesn't even hold it against me that I don't go see her. She comes here once per month, along with Michael, who's been a great support for me too, a real father, even if only through the phone. Because, as a matter of fact, I haven't set foot in my old town in three years. Since I left it with my heart and soul shattered.

I've severed the bond with that town, as my new neighbor, when I moved out of Jake's apartment suggested. She told me it shouldn't be forever, but for a while at least. Till I felt enough strong to go there without bursting out crying.

She's amazing. Along with my cousin's girlfriend, well, wife, Tara is the greatest friend I've found here. Sure, she comes off as cold and maybe harsh sometimes, as her roommate, Lukas, points out, but in the end she's a sweetheart. Well, he says that, but he's biased.

In these years I've made new friends, just a couple, enough to be able to spend my nights out other than mourning at home. I still love books, in fact I've just graduated (in advance) in History and Literature. My cousin didn't want to hear reasons, even if I gained a scholarship, he paid for the rest of the expenses. I forced him to accept that my internship at his Lion's Publications would be free, even after I repaid him, especially considering he was letting me stay in one of his apartments without paying rent.

I graduated just last week, you know. Everything perfect, everybody happy and blah, blah, blah ... no, not true. It was a very sad ceremony. Just my mother, Michael, Jake and Silvia were there. Plus Tara and Lukas, of course. Those two have been my salvation, taking me away from my depressing nights. Though they're a bit too ... loud sometimes.

The ceremony of my graduation, I was saying. It was sad. For me at least. But then, I can't seem to find happiness in anything these years. Even though, since last year I've had some more support. And that support was right now standing in front of me, wearing a worried look, the one he always has on when he studies me to see if I'm okay.

My faint smile still there, I nodded and hinted at my bags, all packed on my bed. Chase gave me one of his not truly convinced frowns and came to me, placing his hands on my shoulder as he once more asked: "You really sure you want to do this? You don't have to, you know? You can ..."

"I know. But ... I want to. It's ... closure."

Chase cracked a small smile and kissed my forehead, before wrapping me up in his arms, an embrace I very gladly welcomed, needing it every time. He felt it, so he hugged me tighter and reminded me: "I'm by your side, honey. Always."

I don't know how that's possible, but every time he tells me that, my heart both shows tiny signs of life and drops even deeper than the abyss it's been in since three years. Because there was somebody else that promised to always be by my side and is gone. Somebody else used to always remind me he loved me ...

Chase and I have been together since a year more or less, we met at Tara's graduation ceremony, casually, he was there for a friend of his, though he knows Lukas too. We merely exchanged a few words, but a week later Lukas came to me with his phone in his hands, saying he was fed up, had to study for his finals, couldn't waste time answering his friend that asked about "that cute girl that was at Tara's graduation ceremony".

I was both surprised and flustered, because I knew from Tara that Lukas was in deep, being that one a crucial semester for him, considering those finals were the ones that would give him more credits to get admitted to the Medical School once he graduated and he'd been "as panicky as he'd never been", Tara said, neither she could get to calm him down sometimes, though Nicky succeeded more often, but that's because he's obviously biased when it comes to that girl. Well, he is with both, but more with Nicky, Tara often mocks. Understandable, I think.

He graduated in my same days, but of course, different colleges, and since October has started both Med School and residency. It's tough, he gets home always late and Nicky whines that she never sees him, but Tara tries to explain that he needs to do that for them too.

I know all these things because in these months I've found myself doing the babysitter, considering Tara works and didn't know where to leave Nicky, but also because my neighbor and I are, as I said, really close, just as much as I still am with my cousin and his wife.

So, wanting to let my neighbor have his peace of mind, considering Tara and Nicky had left him alone on purpose for that day, I took the phone and started talking to Chase, and from one thing to another ... we've been dating, as I said, since a whole year.

It works. Really it does. He loves me, I ... I care for him. He understands that I can't still tell him such words, better said, he understands when I say I need more time to wipe off from those three words the always incumbent aura of the person I told them to for the first time, but Chase knows I care for him. Truly I do. And it's fine. Our relationship goes with flying colors. He's been the first boy I dated since ... Eric. And only because Chase makes me smile, as both Tara and Silvia pointed out.

You know, it's sad to say, but I've kind of replaced my old friends with these new ones. I mean, while before I had Jamie and Aisha and Kyle, now I have Tara and Silvia, Jake and Lukas. My cousin calls me every day, always asking how am I doing, even if I hear from his wife every day as well. And Tara and Lukas...well,they're just next door.

When I graduated, Jake offered me a permanent job at his Lion's Publications, considering the one of the editor had just gone vacant, because of some internal movements it'd be useless to explain, but I refused, saying I ... well, I needed fresh air. I've loved Boston and all those amazing people that have helped me, but Chase has found a job in New York and I thought that was my cue to leave as well.

At first I knew it was a very bad idea, because part of my-our dreams implied that specific city and there had been a 40% chance we'd pick the Big Apple over Hartford, but then my ... well, therapist, because I have been on therapy for a while, suggested me I push myself and face at least a past dream, just to be able to get over my pain.

When I announced I'd follow Chase to New York, my cousin immediately told me there was his sister there and he could see to put me somewhere in the Watson Enterprises, but I argued that, other than owning his publishing house, his family's company is in a completely different field from mine, besides, I didn't want to rely on him, I wanted to be hired because of who I am, not because of who my cousin is.

Though he insisted and told me that, via his uncle, he could get me at least an interview for a new publishing house that was sort of connected to his, because of a pairing, or something like that, I didn't quite understand. After much discussing and arguing, I agreed. After all, it was just an interview, it wasn't completely granted that they'd hire me and in any case that interview, then I found out, was accepted only because Harvard's dean had included me in the annual list of graduates he usually sends to outstanding companies in the East Coast. To help young graduates find a job soon, of course.

Now, among these companies, there is one that is quite known, but always much far from my field, yet this same company is the one that owns this publishing house that's been being started up in these past months. They're still hiring people, have a lot of vacant positions.

But ... I'm not going to New York. Not just yet. I will after a ... let's say pit-stop in Springfield, Massachusetts. Just not even 2 hours away from Boston. And yet I have to please His Majesty and go there when he could have easily come here. But it's ok. It's perfectly fine. This trip might be useful to relax a bit.

Chase is starting to work in a week, I have my interview next Monday, so we have this week free and he proposed we take the chance to go somewhere to relax after ... this meeting I ought to attend. This rendezvous I'm not at all sure about. I mean, he doesn't even deserve it, as mom says. Why am I doing it?

Chase pulled back, caressing my cheek, then kissed my forehead and, taken my bags, said he'd see me downstairs, was waiting at his car. I just nodded distractedly and he left. I only needed to grab a few things more.

I'd come back here on Sunday, just to salute everybody, then head to New York, but I'd already packed everything and my other trolleys were against my wardrobe, which was empty. There was almost nothing left in that bedroom, same in the rest of the apartment, everything was packed and ready to be brought to the Big Apple on Sunday.

I'd say I feel sad, but I honestly don't. I'm only sorry to leave Tara and Lukas and even Nicky, and Jake and Silvia, but New York is just 4 hours of drive away, as my cousin reminded me, and with the excuse of coming to see his sister they'll pay me a visit the most they can, even though, he's been being engulfed in work more than a bit lately, his uncle kind of forcing him to take his heir responsibilities. Lucky thing he has such a patient wife as Silvia, though Leanne is not exactly as patient, but they cope.

I'll admit I miss my old friends, but I needed to, like I said, sever the bond from everything, so while I've kept in touch with Jamie, because she kind of forced me to, I never hear from either Aisha or Kyle. They just send me Christmas wishes and so, but nothing more than that. Though Jamie is kind of a link between us, even if she knows better than to mention me anything related to our old town.

She's engaged, you know. Just last April she gave me the news. She's engaged. But not to Joe. No, they broke up months later, because, even while caring, he couldn't cope with her moods, which were, ashamedly, also due to me not wanting to hear from her or see her and always me being so hopeless at the time.

Though she had someone that could cope instead. I had no idea there was more to their relationship, we've barely ever talked, but yeah, she's engaged to Hunter, her brother's best friend. When they started dating, two years, she was delighted, purely in seventh Heaven.

Said he'd been close to her when Joe broke up with her, because Cole told him Jamie was hurting real bad and, she said, after two years of not having heard one single word from him, Hunter showed up at her door, claiming she was too strong and too beyond love dramas to let a single boy bring her down.

Though they fought, because she blamed him for having been the first heartbreak of her life, and he said he was sorry, but, just like Joe couldn't cope with her bad period, Hunter couldn't cope with his own developing feelings towards her. Said he'd distracted himself the most he could, dipping himself into his studies and so, but in the end, he had to face the truth, he was deeply in love with that same girl he used to babysit and hold on his knees. Said his best friend was, absurdly, understanding, because "he knew nobody could take better care of Jamie as Hunter would, as he'd always done".

So, my best friend, because she still is my best friend, is happily engaged to Hunter, who I still barely know, considering I barely see Jamie anyway; Aisha and Kyle ... I just know they're okay, but I have no idea what's going on in their lives, especially Kyle.

We've drifted apart completely, because neither of us, but especially me, could cope. We couldn't look at each other, I couldn't look at him without seeing his brother and ... it hurt too bad. It's probably just a caprice, because everything that Kyle shares with Eric, physically, is the nose. But nothing. I looked at my friend and saw his brother and I couldn't cope. I couldn't cope with that remembrance while I was still struggling to get over him and the pain I felt-feel.

Inhaling deeply, I grabbed my purse and headed out, though I had just locked the door and was tiptoeing towards the elevator, knowing that it was barely three and by then Nicky was taking her nap, and since Tara was working and Lukas was most probably resting from his morning shift, I had to be the most silent I could. I'd see them in a week anyway.

But I was saying, I had just locked the door and was tiptoeing towards the elevator when my phone buzzed in my bag, so I grabbed it, but waited to be in the elevator to answer, always not to wake Nicky and Lukas, though I couldn't recognize the number.

"Hello?" I greeted once I took the call.

I heard a woman scolding a child, presumably, not sure, so I waited and a moment later she was back to me: "Hello. Is this Natalie Watson?" She asked in a very sweet voice, I'll admit.

I confirmed and could feel her smile through the phone, though there was some noise in the background and two childish voices, one male, the other female. I guess this woman had unruly children? But why did she call me?

"Sorry, Miss Watson, my twins are a bit hyperactive today ... well, more than usual. Ugh, Richie stop tormenting your sister!" I couldn't help but chuckle lightly, and it kind of made me think that pretty much everybody I know has children, though I don't know this woman, so, I responded that it was no problem for me, but ... "May I know who am I talking to, please?"

She fumbled with her phone for a moment, though I heard a male voice in the background, possibly the woman's husband, scolding this "Richie", who I presume is one of their twins. I honestly couldn't think of being mother, even though really I am surrounded by kids sometimes.

The woman at the phone inhaled deeply and regained her gentle tone as she spoke: "Sorry again. Seems like my little monkey only listens to his father lately."

I chuckled as I suggested that maybe it was some sort of hero worship, usually male children have it with their father. Though how would I know, considering I don't have siblings and I've never even met my own father ... yet? But the woman confirmed, admitting that her mother-in-law also often says her son had a deep bond with his father and she couldn't be happier about it ... "But I'm ranting, aren't I? Sorry, I come from a tough period, with work and everything."

I heard a male voice suggesting they should hire a full time babysitter, they could afford it, but the woman denied, saying she wanted nobody else to raise her children, she could cope with everything, just "needed a little help from her lovely husband sometimes", there he argued he was helping as much as he could, despite working keeping him away and ... ugh, couple discussions.

I remained there, pretending not to be listening, as I thought it'd be rude to just hang up and I needed to know what the woman wanted with me, but in the meantime I'd reached the lobby and was walking out to reach Chase, who was leaning against his car, waiting for me.

My boyfriend, with his chocolate brown hair and eyes, has the typical good boy face. He's three years older and graduated last year in Psychology, though will be enrolling for the School in New York starting from next year (had to save up some more money first). But I was saying, Chase is the very face of the good boy.

When you look at him you'd never think he hides who knows what secrets, you know, just by looking at him, that he's sincere in everything and would never even dream of violating rules. And I like it. Because I can trust him and rely on him, without fearing ... fearing that now he's here and tomorrow he won't be, fearing that he hides secrets he won't tell me with the excuse of my overreacting ... no, ok, no. It's not the right time to think about that someone. No.

Chase gripped my shoulders, silently asking me if I was ok and I nodded, faintly hearing the woman at the phone arguing with her husband. These two already remind me of Tara and Lukas. They also banter a lot. Sometimes they seem to never get along on one single thing.

I flinched when I heard the woman's voice directed at me again as she apologized again, saying "her life was a mess right now, she had twins to take care of, was starting up a new business and, to top it all, was also organizing a wedding". All I could think was "oh, they're not married". Not really my problem, though.

I've changed in these years, people tell me. I've become more detached, less compassionate ... as if my heart had turned into stone. I reply that it should have, because then at least it wouldn't have hurt that bad, but hey, those are just details.

"Ugh ... sorry, Miss Watson, again. You wanted to know why I called, I suppose ..." The woman started. Finally. "You have an interview with us next week, I was hoping you could maybe ... start already? We really need employees, there's a big upcoming event to launch our publishing house and ... ugh, I'm in a bit of a mess. I've read your profile and you seem to perfectly fit, so I'd say you can ... start already?"

My eyes widened. "Y-you mean ... I'm hired?"

"Yes! I talked to Jake Watson of the Lion's Publications and he only told me great things about you and the internship you did for him, back to when he was in charge." I rolled my eyes. That's so Jake ...

I pointed out, honestly, to the woman, that maybe he exaggerated a little because he's my cousin and very fond of me, but she said he was known, for her own fiancé's admission, for being really cold and impassive about work, so she had no doubt he was only saying the truth, besides, also the actual editor-in-chief, some Logan Hayes, confirmed it.

I had some doubts there too, because Logan is my cousin's friend and he was his vice till Jake directed the house, before his uncle kind of forced him to get on the big boat, but ... whatever.

I'd just been hired! Sure, a publishing house at its dawn, but the name of the woman that started it preceded her and actually the company that owns this house is quite famous, more than my own cousin's even maybe, though they're kind of different fields.

Smiling, I thanked the woman and she said it was only due, my career was stellar, so much that her own fiancé was thinking of "stealing me to replace the role she left vacant when she started up the publishing house". I blushed, truthfully, and Chase grinned.

The woman asked me if I could be there on Wednesday already, even though she knew I was probably on vacation, but she really needed all the help she could muster, also not to, she whispered, just for me to hear: "Not to have to admit to my fiancé that I need his help ... you know how men are ..."

I chuckled lightly, recalling how Silvia says the same about my cousin, because he always wants to do things for her, advance her career even, but she doesn't want him to, because, she says, she wants to be recognized for what she does, not for who she's married to.

Agreeing, I let the woman know I needed at least a couple of days, to ... settle some family business, and proposed to be there by Thursday maybe. She agreed, so we could also take care of bureaucracy and so on.

"Okay, be here at 9 am on Thursday. You know the address. To the front desk, say you're coming to see me, I'll text you my number as soon as we hung up." I was about to open my mouth and argue I didn't even know what was her name, but she recalled on her own, so she added: "Oh, uh ... if you don't find me at my office, ask for the big boss's one, top floor of the Grant Enterprises building. Ask of Samantha Benedetti." Then she hung up, barely giving me time to say goodbye.

I took a deep breath. So, I've got a new job and a new apartment waiting for me in New York City, a boyfriend that takes care of me, friends fond of me as well. What's missing? Oh, right ... practically almost all my heart? Details, right?

Inhaling deeply, I explained everything to Chase, who was looking at me dubiously, and he cheered, saying we should celebrate soon. I smiled lightly, but then recalled where were we going instead ... Springfield, Massachusetts. To see one specific person.

"Do I really have to do this?" I almost whined. Chase tilted his head to the side, kind of trying to read what I meant, considering only a moment ago we were talking about my new job, but then he looked at me intently, as he always does when I seem upset. It's his way of cheering me up, because he knows I find him sort of cute like that and can't help but crack a smile.

Though this time he also explained with words: "Of course not. It's up to you. If you want, then we go, if you say no, then we pick whatever other destination, just to use up our vacation time." I sighed, although kind of smiling, pointing out that my new boss wants me at work by Thursday, but he said we still had from today, Saturday, till Wednesday, so five days. Enough for a small relaxing vacation, as he gently assured me.

My smile was still really weak, but widened a little as I faked a complaint: "Why do you have to always be so adorable?"

Chase grinned crookedly as he wrapped me up in one of his warm hugs that not always, but often anyway, succeed to cheer me up, especially when he, like now, kissing my cheek, admits: "Because I love you."

I sort of giggled, moving my head up to graze his lips with mine, something I do every time he tells me those words, to make up for the lack of my same response. "You're too good to be true." I stated. And it's true.

He's been wonderful with me. All the time. Well, ok, Tara admitted that Lukas did warn his friend about treating me right and I suspect my cousin too sort of did the same, considering that Jake is Mr. I Never Mind My Own Business when it comes to, apparently, his sister and I. Then again, for his own admission Jake has taken me under his wing as another sister, so ...

Chase chuckled as I moved my head to lean it on his shoulder. It's a habit I had with someone else and while I've done my best to abandon everything related to that someone, I can't help but keep this one.

"Am I now? Only the other night you said I snore." Chase pointed out and I jokingly pushed him off as I raised my head to argue: "That's out of context. I was mad at you for ..." He didn't let me finish, Chase just wrapped me up in his arms once more and kissed me to shut me up, well, at least till I pushed him off again.

"That's a bad habit you've taken, Mr. Hamlyn." I chastised, although jokingly.

He brought his right hand to his heart, lightly bowing. "I'm sorry, Milady, it won't happen again." I couldn't hold back the laughter at that obviously, like always.

Chase is like that. He always makes me laugh, I guess because he sees I do need much cheering up most of the times. I've gone on with my life and yet something inside me keeps on pulling me back at times. Like reproaching me for forgetting, which is odd, because I never forgot. Never ever.

"Now, can we go?" Chase commented, I guess eager to get on route because otherwise we'll arrive too late. I sighed, better snuggling up to his chest so that he hugged me tighter, knowing I needed comfort. "You sure you wanna go?" He asked me.

I nodded against his chest. "As long as you're with me."

"Of course I am, honey." I cracked a smile. It's nice to know that, especially because I'm gonna need all my strength for this one. Mom has been repeating me not to go, because I owe him nothing, but ... well, I at least want to see him. Just once. I want to, just once, look him in the eyes and ask him one simple question: why did you leave us?

Who am I talking about? Landon Pierce. My biological father. The one who fled when mom told him she was pregnant with me, yes. The one that's, according to my therapist, part of the reason why I was so weak as a child and teenager, because he abandoned me. That's why I need to face him. But he's just my biological father. Nothing more than that. I am giving him this chance only because I want closure and I want to look in the eyes of the man that's forgotten his daughter for 21 years.

Then again, he is only biological. My dad, and so I've calling him, is Michael Green. Has been since he started dating mom. There's only one man I call dad and that's him, not Landon Pierce.



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