CHAPTER THIRTEEN – Goodbye Greta
Rylan carries empty boxes up the stairs and into the room. He stacks the boxes up on the floor.He takes in the room and lets out a heavy breath.
His eyes scan the room, taking in all the colors and scents that Greta left behind.
He grabs an empty box and starts stripping clothes from hangers, folding them neatly and packing them into the box.
He moves on to her shoes, dumping them all into another box. He empties the chest of drawers of her underwear and scarves.
He neatly packs all her make-up, jewelry and hair brushes and accessories into another box.
He stares at the picture on the dressing table, afraid to touch it… to remember it again.
Finally he picks it up and tucks it under his arm, picking up one of the boxes to start carrying them downstairs.
Rylan drops the box filled with clothing by the door, the photo frame still under his wing.
He jogs back upstairs and places the picture frame in a tiny wooden box on his bed. The box had already been filled with other items – a potplant with faux tulips, her favorite green scarf, their wedding rings, the jade beads from her car and the cassette tape with the voice message recording on it.
Rylan made a few trips up and down the stairs emptying the room of all the boxes with Greta’s stuff. He loaded the boxes into the back of his truck, placing the small box and a sealed bucket of concrete mix in front with him.
He pulled up at the back entrance of a homeless shelter and started offloading the boxes. A middle-aged man helped him carry the boxes inside.
Once the last box was offloaded, they shook hands and Rylan was on his way.
The same man had arranged for their truck to pick up the furniture from the room, with Aaron supervising.
Rylan made his way to Evergreen Cemetry, tucking the box under his arm, carrying the sealed bucket and a tiny shovel in his hands.
Rylan kneels down infront of her headstone and removed the faux tulips from the box.
He diggs up a hole right next to Greta’s headstone, carefully placing the box with the valuable items inside, then cover it with some dirt to protect the wooden box. He steadies the pot holding the tulips in the centre.
He lifts the seal from the bucket and pours the concrete mix into the hole, perfectly around the pot plant.
He sits on his haunches resting his elbows on his knees, studying his handy work, and then trailing his eyes over Greta’s headstone.
“Well Gret… this will be one of the last visits for a while. You see I’ve fallin in love with this great girl… you don’t know her, but you saved her life. She’s great… she’s a lot like you… and I love her.”
He drops his head, “Gosh Greta, for so long I’ve loved no-one but you… and I didn’t care that you were no longer here. I didn’t care that I looked absolutely desperate and pathetic. I figured, the longer I could keep your memory alive… the easier it would get. And I don’t know if that was the right or the wrong way to deal with losing you, because no-one told me what I should do the day I’d lose you… I just wasn’t prepared for life without you. The thought never even
crossed my mind.”
He lets out a heavy sigh, running his hand across his face.
“I will always love you Gret…”
Rylan gets up, picking up the now empty bucket. He slowly turns and makes his way back to his truck.
He sits in his truck for a few minutes, staring at the graveyard in his rearview mirror. The weight of the knowledge that he wouldn’t come back here for some time was overwhelming.For five years this place had been his safe haven, sanctuary, somewhere to be with Greta.
He closes his eyes and thinks back to the first visit to Greta’s grave. It was the very next day after her funeral.He remembered being surpised to see the headstone up and a patch of grass covering her grave so soon.He’d later find out from Aaron that the Lanes had the grass implanted that same day of the funeral.
Rylan stood staring at her headstone for half an hour, afraid to sit or move. He wasn’t sure why.It wasn’t like he could hurt her; she was no longer alive and buried six feet under.He was witness to that.He saw her cascat being lowered into the ground.
He hid the bouquet of yellow tulips behind his back, as if she could still see and be surprised.
He didn’t say a word. He wasn’t sure where those words would land.Rylan wasn’t a man who believed in a higher power, souls going on or staying, or the supernatural.
He would carefully place the flowers on her grasscovered grave, step away and shamefully turn to leave, embarrassed that he couldn’t even manage a goodbye or I love you.
The next day was pretty much the same
and the day following that.
For a full week Rylan said nothing and did nothing but stood there for thirty minutes and leave the tulips on her grave.
One morning he woke up and decided to buy a blue vase to place the flowers in. Another morning he decided he was going to take lunch with.And it was during that visit that he started speaking, conversing with his dead wife.
At first he didn’t know what to say, he just started telling her about his day. He’d complain about Aaron not seeing eye-to-eye with him at work.He’d say he misses her and that he still loves her, more so every day.
Rylan finally mustered up all his courage and started his truck. He made the trip out to the florist and picked up a mixed bouquet of flowers, similar to the one he gave Maja on their blind date.
He parked his truck in the hospital parking lot and made his way to her room.
He peeked in through the door. She was reading.She looked up from her book and smiled.
“Hey stranger… Where have you been?”
Rylan walks further into the room. He gives her a quick kiss on the lips.
He smiles, arranging the flowers in the empty vase next to her bed.
“Out running some errants”
Maja quirks her eyebrow “Errants”
“Yeah… you know that room I have at my house? The one with all Greta’s stuff…”
“Well I’ve boxed it up, taken the stuff to a shelter and cleared the room out entirely.”
He leans over, resting his hands on either side of her waist pressing down on the bed. She cups his face in her hands.
“You did that for me?”
“I did that for us. So now all you have to do is get better so I can finally invite you over to my house”
She laughs, “Is that why you never invited me over?”
He nods, embarrassed, “What possible explanation could I have given you, which you would’ve accepted?”
“I’m very understanding Rylan” she pulled him closer and pressed a kiss to his mouth.
“That you are”
He sits down on the chair next to her bed.
“So what’re you reading?”
She holds up the book for him to see, “The fault in our stars… John Green has this uncanny way of making serious issues like teens with Cancer seem lighthearted… but still heartwarming though.”
Rylan grabs the book and flips through the pages.
He reads, “I want to see you again tonight. But I’m willing to wait all night and much of tomorrow… Smooth guy this Augustus Waters fella”
“He’s sweet and complex and deep… like you”
Rylan hands the book back to Maja.
“Well Augustus and I have one thing in common… I want to see you today. But I also want to see you tonight and all of tomorrow. I’m greedy and possessive like that”
“You are not sleeping in that chair again Rylan. I’ll have Aaron carry you out over his shoulder if I have to”
He laughs, “I just want to spend every waking minute with you Maja. Almost losing you was one of the worst things I could’ve ever endured.”
“Well you didn’t lose me”
She takes his hand into hers, pressing a kiss to the back of his hand.
“I just want things to go back to the way they were…”
“Before you found out about my heart?”
“Before I was stupid enough to make it into a thing”
“We can’t go back in time but we can make the most of our second chance.”
“I want to spend the rest of my life with you Maja. I love you”
“And I love you”
He gets up and kisses her mouth.
It had been a week since Maja was released from the hospital and Tracy finally allowed her to leave the house. Rylan picked her up in his truck and drove them to his house.
They made their way upstairs. Maja was nervous being there again, memories of the last time she was there flashing through her mind.
He opens the door to the room he kept all Greta’s things in.
The room was completely empty, the sunlight beamed in through the window. Maja stepped inside, tracing her fingers along the walls stopping short of the window.
Rylan stood there for a minute, taking in the sight of Maja. The sunlight reflected a glow around her.She looked beautiful.
His heart skipped a beat at the realization that she was in his and Greta’s old room.
“It’s completely empty…”
“Yeah. I kinda figured I needed a clean break. Probably something I should’ve done five years ago.” He shrugged his shoulders.
He stood behind Maja, wrapping his arms around her waist, nuzzling into her neck.
“I never asked you if you still kept reminders of Greta. Was that weird of me?”
He shakes his head, chuckling, “It was weird of me to have so many reminders… it was like a shrine. And I never thought of it that way until I took a step back and saw it for what it was.”
“I don’t want to ask awkward questions…”
She smiles, “But… just because you’ve cleared out a room and got rid of physical reminders…”
“That doesn’t mean that I’ve removed her out of my head… or my heart?”
“I don’t expect that… just so you know”
Rylan presses a kiss to the bottom of her earlobe. “I know. And that’s why you’re amazing and to answer… It’s like taking a small step to clearing my head of the past… as far as my heart goes… she’ll always have a spot there Maja. She was my first love.”
“But don’t think for a second that you’re not in my heart. Because you are…”
“I think I want to come here more often… I mean, not here as in this room…” she giggles, falling over her words “I want to be a part of your world completely”
Rylan smiles, “And you will.”
“What’re you gonna do with this room now?”
“Not sure… didn’t think that far.”
“An empty room in your house could be symbolic of the empty space Greta’s left in your heart…”
“Are you sure you weren’t a psych major at Yale” he teases.
“I’m sorry. I’ll stop pestering you about the room. This was a big gesture from you. And I appreciate it.”
“What do you wanna do today?”
“Anything… as long as I’m with you. But I have to help T get her wedding plans back on track. Me ending up in hospital didn’t really have perfect timing.”
Rylan smiles, “Well I’ll help in any way I can”
“You’re so sweet… but maybe you can keep Aaron busy because I think if he hovers anymore, T might just strangle him.”
He laughs, “No problem, I’ll take care of it”
She turns to face him. “You know I may not be a good cook…”
Rylan’s lips curve up into a smile.
“But I make a mean cup of coffee”
“I can believe that. Why don’t I set you up with the coffee machine and I’ll make some frittatas for lunch?”
They head downstairs and as promised Rylan showed Maja around the kitchen. She starts on the coffee while he makes the frittatas.
Maja’s nostrils flare at the scent of the spices Rylan is using.
“Gosh, I’ve missed the smell of your food and the sight of watching you cook”
He has a confident smirk on his face.
She pours the coffee into mugs and adds the milk.
“You know the last time we were officially together…”
He laughs, “What are you getting at Castillo?”
She smiles, “I’m just saying… that was the night we technically broke up. So, I was wondering if we ever slept together again… if it were a bad omen”
Rylan pulls her up into his arms, pressing a kiss to her lips.
“It’s not a bad omen. We can test that theory right now if you want”
“I will never make the mistake of letting you go again.”
She rests her arms on his shoulders, clasping her hands together behind his neck.
“I know you won’t… and…” she bats her eyelashes, “I would definitely want to test that theory”
“But let’s not rush back into old habits.”
He lowers his forehead down to hers, “All of them?”
Rylan grips her hips between his fingers and pulls her closer. She giggles as he traces kisses along her neck.
She playfully pushes him away. “Oh-kay eager beaver… the coffee’s getting cold.”
Maja sits down at the kitchen counter and sips on her coffee. She watches as he chops and
cuts up ingredients for the frittatas.
“My mom and dad can’t stop talking about you by the way”
His smile beams across his face, “Oh yeah?”
Maja nods, “Mom just loves you… she keeps on talking about your eyes and how she’s never seen such beautiful eyes. And the flowers you brought while I was in the hospital. Every conversation would end with Oh Rylan is so thoughtful, Oh Rylan is so wonderful”
“Well I think she’s pretty amazing too. And your dad was awesome. He even gave me some advice.”
Rylan nods, “He told me that you can’t fight against what your heart is telling you”
Maja’s jaw dropped. She recognized the advice.Her dad had given her the same advice when she was in New York.
“I know that he told you the exact same thing… he told me”
Flush rises in Maja’s cheeks. “Oh”
“He said that you had asked him if it would be foolish of you to wait for me…”
“We just broke up… and I saw you upstairs… and you were pretty mean. So I did what any well-balanced twenty-four year old that had just been dumped by the hunk of the town would do… I fled… to my parents’ house”
He leans over to give her a kiss.
“I’m sorry I was mean. I was a total jerk”
“It’s okay, you’re forgiven. So what else did you and daddy talk about?”
“Guy stuff” Rylan smirks
“Guy stuff? Like what?”
“He knew about the burritos” Rylan quirks his eyebrow
Maja laughs, “I may have told him about that”
“He calls you cariño… I like that. Do you think he’ll mind if I start calling you that?”
“I don’t know, how do you feel about losing the use of your legs?”
“Your parents are great.”
“It’s been good to have them around.”
“How long are they in town for still?”
“They’re staying for the wedding, and then they’ll probably head on back to New York.”
“You excited for the wedding?”
“Not half as excited as Tracy is. You’d think it being her first wedding, she’d be nervous. But she’s not… She’s just so cool, calm and confident. I would be flipping out by now if I were her. I mean, there’s so much to think about… the ceremony, two families coming together, finding a house, a honeymoon… living together. Aaron’s going to be the only man she wakes up to for the rest of her life… the only guy she’ll fall asleep next to…”
“Does that scare you? The fact that you could be linked to one person for an eternity”
Maja shrugs, “I could spend the rest of my life waking up next to you… I don’t think that would scare me.”
“So what would scare you?”
“If my fiancé didn’t want the same thing… the thought of me not being enough… that scares me”
“There is no man on this planet that would for one second look to another woman if he had you to call his own.”
“Would you ever consider getting married again?”
“Why? Are you proposing?” he teases.
Maja smiles, shyly “No… just interested”
“Yeah, if the right woman were to waltz into my life…” he smiles, “Then I would definitely consider getting married again.”
“Well that’s good to know. Storing it in the useful information for future reference pile…” Maja grins.
“You can add to that info in your pretty little head that I’m not looking for another woman to waltz into my life.”
He shakes his head. “But I want to be worthy of that title with you Maja. I want you to feel like you can trust me again…”
“I do trust you”
“But I want to prove to you that I’m not gonna bolt at the first sign of an obstacle.”
“It was a pretty big obstacle in your defence”
He laughs, “I have some serious making up to do… and just can’t wait to start”
She leans over the counter and kisses him.
“I am so in love with you.”
He runs the tip of his tongue over his lips, after the taste of her kiss. “And I love you”
The next few days Rylan gets into contact with an estate agent. He had decided to put his house up for sale.
Maja was right; emptying out Greta’s room was just a reminder of the big void she left in his life. So he decided to sell the house.It was time for him to start over, start anew.
The estate agent brought over the ‘for sale’ sign and left it with Rylan. He opted to put it up by himself.
He sat down on the front porch, keeping the sign up with the palm of his hand. He looked at the sign and re-read the words… for sale.
He gets up and lays the sign down on the front lawn. He took a walk around the property.This had been his home for so long.This had been the house that he and Greta picked out together.This was their home.
He makes his way around front again, shoves his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
“Well Gret… I guess this is it. It’s time for me to really put the past behind me.”
Rylan picks up the sign and cements it into the grass of the lawn.
Later Rylan picks up Aaron for his bachelor party.
“Okay Ry… what’s the plan?”
Rylan smiles, “Gonna hit up the bar with the boys. So no strip clubs, your fiancé says”
“If I’m completely honest Ry… I actually am not interested in seeing any other woman besides Tracy naked.”
“Do you know what the girls are planning?”
“Well Maja is having a little shindig at their house… no male strippers, if that’s what you’re worried about?”
He laughs again, “That’s my girl!”
“You seem really happy tonight dude”
The expression on Aaron’s face turns to panick. “I’m freaking out Ry”
“I have no idea what I’m doing… what I’m getting myself into”
“What do you mean? You love Tracy and she loves you. You wanna spend the rest of your lives together, grow old together”
“Yeah but what happens after ‘They lived happily ever after’?”
Rylan has a surprised look on his face, accompanied by a grin. “What?”
“I admit, we’ve woken up together… in her bed… in my bed”
“Wait let me finish. But we’ve never lived together for an extended period of time. What if I’m one of those people who aren’t meant to share a house with another person?”
“You lived in a FRAT house all through college”
“That was a bunch of rowdy guys, same as me. What if I can’t live with her? What if I can’t deal with all her annoying little habits? What if she snores?”
“Dude, I think you would know if she snores… what with all the in her bed and your bed stuff”
“This isn’t a joke Ry”
“I didn’t intend for it to be bro. Look, you’re just nervous. Tomorrow you get married. You’ll share your life with one person and one person only. And I think that scares you.”
“Did you feel scared before you married Gret?”
“Heck yes! You feel nervous that you won’t measure up, you feel scared that she’ll realize that you’re not what she wanted… if you’re really honest with yourself, those are the real things on your mind… not whether she snores or not”
“How’d you get to be so smart about romance and relationships? I’m the Romeo of this duo, not you”
“It might have something to do with the fact that I’ve actually had a serious relationship before and perhaps, maybe just, the fact that I was married…”
“Okay smartass… help me fix it”
“Just relax; let’s have a couple of beers. Tomorrow you’ll wake up wanting to pewk, then you’ll get to the church and once you see her walking down that aisle toward you… all your insecurities will dissipate.”
“And you’re certain of this?”
Rylan nods, “Your mom has the photos to prove it”
Back at the girls’ house, Maja had invited over some friends and fellow colleagues from The Foote School. The girls were rowdy but not too loud, sipping on champagne while Tracy opened their inappropriate gifts.
Tracy was dressed up in a silk, pink slip with her neck adorned by a bright pink boua and a furry crown on her head, reading Bride to Be.
She holds up a set of black leather whips and red furry handcuffs.
“Well at least I know my sexlife won’t be dull after marriage” she shrieks.
The girls are all tickled pink and in stitches.
“Oh come on Trace, Aaron is such a hunk you won’t have a
problem in that department” middle-aged, librarian Cathy adds.
“My Eddie used to be a hunk too, until we got married, had four kids and now he looks nine months pregnant.” Sheila, the oldest of the group, mocks.
“But Maja… I’ve been meaning to ask you” Debbie, their fellow colleage, continues “How did you land that gorgeous specimen of a man Rylan?”
Maja blushes, “I have my bestie to thank for that. She set us up”
“Thanks a lot for thinking about me Trace” Debbie pouts
“Oh Deb, trust me… you’re too much woman for shy, introvert Rylan.” Tracy teases.
“He is really shy” Maja acknowledges.
“With those eyes… he can be shy anytime in my bed” Debbie giggles.
“Deb…” Maja blushes again, “I didn’t say he was shy in bed”
All the girls shriek, with Oohs and Aahs following.
The rest of the evening is filled with all sorts of sexual inuendos, talks of their other halves and unwrapping naughty honeymoon gifts.
Maja’s mobile buzzes, she leaves the room to answer. It was Rylan.The girls could tell by the glimmer in her eyes and the response was rowdy as expected.
“Hey” she smiles as she answers.
“Wow, sounds like you girls are having a good time over there”
“Sounds quiet on your side… no fun?”
Rylan laughs, looking around the bar. Some of the boys had taken to chatting up waitresses due to the lack of entertainment.Aaron was keeping to himself, trying not to get into any trouble.
“It’s fun for some, but I think Aaron wants to just turn in right about now. He’s trying desperately to behave, so the other guys hitting on the redhead waitress is probably somewhat annoying to him right now”
“Redhead waitress huh?”
“Yeah, but you know me… I have a thing for brunettes. So I think she’s safe”
Maja giggles, “As long as she knows that you’re strictly spoken for.”
“What have you girls been up to?”
“T is just opening a few raunchy gifts from some of the girls. And some girl-talk about our men”
“Oh yeah? What have you said about me?”
“I haven’t had to say anything. You’re a crowd favorite over here. All the girls are swooning over your pretty eyes” Maja teases
“Come on Maja…” he chuckles, “be serious”
“I am. Debbie wants you in her bed, or so she said”
“And you said what to that?”
“I don’t share”
“That’s my girl”
Maja laughs, “I miss you”
“I miss you too. How long will your party carry on?”
“Probably another hour or so. I have to get the bride well rested for her big day tomorrow.”
“Can I come over?”
Maja giggles, “You know you can’t”
“Why? Is it bad luck for the best man to see the maid of honor before the wedding?”
“I don’t know, but we don’t want to tempt fate right?”
“I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”
“Oh Augustus you don’t want to seem too overeager now do you?”
Maja was testing to see if he remembered The Fault In Our Stars.
“I want to see you again tonight… and erm… crap I forgot the rest. But I know it’s from that book you read.”
Maja laughs, “Well at least you tried.”
“Do I get points for that?”
“Oh you get major points for that.”
“I should probably go. Aaron looks like his dog just died, the poor thing. He didn’t realize monogamy was this much of a challenge.”
Maja’s laughter echoes through the speaker of his phone. He loved the sound of her laugh.
“And you? How’s being a one-woman-man going for you?”
“Oh I’ve always preferred being a one-woman-man. I can’t multitask”
There was that laugh again. Rylan smiled on the other end of the line.
“Well I won’t keep you any longer.”
“I think I’ll dream of you tonight…”
She smiles, “You think?”
“Yeah, because you can only dream if you fall asleep… and I can’t guarantee that my thoughts of you won’t keep me up all night.”
“Oh-kay, easy there cheesy.” She teases. “In that case, I think I’ll dream of you tonight too.”
“See you tomorrow beautiful”
“See you tomorrow handsome”
They hang up.
The next day arrived, the day of the wedding. Maja had gotten Tracy to the church already.Genevieve and Maja helped her into her wedding gown.
“You look beautiful Tracy” her mother’s eyes were brimming with tears.
“Oh mom, please don’t start crying or else I’ll start crying and that’ll be the end of my make-up.”
The girls laugh.
“My stomach is in knots”
“Oh that’s perfectly normal dear” her mother reassured her.
“I’m getting married… What if I trip and fall?”
“Then I’ll fall and make an even bigger spectacle of myself” Maja promised.
Tracy smiles before pulling Maja in for a hug.
“Thanks for being here and for everything you’ve done”
“There is no place else in the world I’d rather be T”
Maja adjusts the veil on Tracy’s head.
There’s a feint knock on the door. Stephen pops his head in through the opening.
“Everyone decent in here?”
He steps inside the room. Stephen’s jaw drops when he sees Tracy standing in front of the window, the sunlight creating a glow around her golden wedding gown.
“You look like an angel” a tear escapes down his cheek.
“Why is he allowed to cry?” Genevieve asks before turning on the waterworks. Maja offers her a tissue.
Stephen had Tracy wrapped in his arms.
“I can’t believe my little girl is getting married today.”
“Oh daddy” Tracy buries her head in his jacket. “Now I’m gonna have to reapply my make-up”
He pulls back, cupping her face in his hands.
“You are beautiful. And I love you more than life itself”
“I love you to daddy.”
He presses a kiss to her forehead.
“Now let’s go give you away to Mr. Lane shall we?”
She laces her arm around her dad’s with a huge grin on her face. Maja and Genevieve follow them out the door.
Tracy leans into her dad and whispers, “Thanks for giving me an ultimatum when I ran off with Jorge.”
Stephen gently pats the back of her hand and smiles.
Genevieve makes her way down the aisle, followed by Maja. Rylan smiles, his eyes follow her as she makes her way to the front of the altar.
The organist cues the congregation to stand as Tracy and her dad make their way down the aisle.
Aaron’s jaw drops. His heart slams against his chest as he staggers backward.Rylan grips his shoulder in support and smiles.
“No more insecurities right?” Rylan whispers over Aaron’s shoulder.
Aaron shakes his head.
Aaron takes Tracy’s hands in his. “You look amazing”
Tracy smiled, trying not to cry again.
Throughout the entire ceremony Rylan couldn’t take his eyes off Maja. He nearly forgot where he put the rings when Aaron turned to him.
As soon as the happy couple made their way back down the aisle together, Rylan gripped his hand around Maja’s waist.
“That was torturous” he leans into her and whispers
Maja giggles, “You didn’t listen to a word the priest was saying did you?”
He shakes his head, grinning “All I could think about was getting you alone in a room. You look devastatingly beautiful Maja”
She looks at him through hooded eyes, with a shy smile hanging from her lips.
Maja takes his hand in hers as they follow the newly weds out of the church, being showered with confetti.
When all the attention falls to the happy couple, Rylan lifts Maja up into his arms and kisses her.
“I know Aaron just married the girl of his dreams, but I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the planet right now”
He could feel her mouth curve into a smile as she pressed a kiss to his.