BURNING LOVE

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5 | Beginnings

Closing time, Semisonic

“I shouldn’t have drunk so much yesterday...” Lizbeth grumbled when she woke up with a horrible headache, though the embarrassment for her bold attitude with Sawyer the previous night was even worse. “Why did I do thaaat?” she groaned, muffling her voice with the pillow.

It felt amazing, and she really needed some groping. Jesus, it had been way too long since the last time she had sex, like… six months?

As she tossed and turned on the bed, mentally scolding herself for getting so carried away, images of them making out inside her bedroom started playing in her mind. He was ardent and fiery, hungry for her. The alcohol and the dreamy atmosphere during the wedding must have made them remember the time when they were something else than friends, luring them to that heated moment to try to temporarily revive that blazing fire they used to share. Why did he even stop?

Ugh!

Rubbing her face, she stretched and grabbed her phone to call her brother.

“You’re alive!” He laughed. “We’re about to have an amazing brunch. Wanna join us?”

“Sure... Are there too many people? ’Cause I have a horrible hangover and I don’t feel very sociable right now...” she mumbled, staring at the ceiling.

“Family and a couple of friends. Don’t worry, sleeping beauty.” He chuckled.

“Okay, see you in ten.” She hung up and went to the bathroom to take a quick shower.

Fuck, fuck, fuck! Should I act like I don’t remember at all?—C’mon, it was just a kiss and you’re a grown-up! He probably didn’t take it seriously since you were drunk. It’s not that big of a deal!

With that turmoil of emotions swirling inside of her, Lizbeth walked out of her room, dragging her feet towards the restaurant as she mentally beat herself up. She wasn’t ashamed of what she had done; she wanted him; it was a fact. The man was hot and had always known how to play her, but the idea of facing him at that moment felt awkward.

“Good morning, Baby girl,” Liam said as soon as he saw her, her brain waking up at the smell of coffee.

“Good morning.” She hugged him.

“You want a coffee?”

“Yes, please!” She almost begged.

As they walked towards the beverages table, eyes scanning the place. April’s parents, my parents, and a couple of Liam’s friends. No sign of Sawyer. She let out a heavy breath, relieved, but upset at the same time.

What?

Curious about the firefighter’s whereabouts, she casually asked her brother, “and Sawyer? I thought he was gonna stay longer since you hadn’t seen each other much for the last couple of months.”

“He works tonight, so he had to go back early.” He paused and his tone of voice turned somewhat funny, “he told me something about last night...”

“What did he tell you?” Her heart rate increased immediately.

“That he almost had to carry you to bed.” Liam’s lips stretched in a wide grin. “Really, Liz? If you were going to get so drunk, you should have told me so I could get a camera to keep that moment recorded for eternity.” He laughed.

He meant that, okay. She breathed.

“Don’t forget I have some embarrassing graphic documents of you, Liam. Don’t play that game if you can’t win!”

“Guys, stop talking in secret and join us!” April called from the table.

“Coming!”


They spent a good part of the afternoon on the beach, Lizbeth doing sandcastles with Julian and Jasper—Dylan and Lauren’s kids—while the rest of the grown-ups were playing cards or talking about their jobs. She was tired of adulting and just wanted to have some fun, and the twins were the best for that task.

The weather wasn’t inviting to swim that day, but the breeze was warm enough and the sea was gently swaying. Quiet and peaceful. She loved it.

Having some free time and being surrounded by caring and loving people that didn’t judge her felt better than she remembered. She hadn’t even realized she missed them all so much until that moment. She had been seeing her old friends and her family from time to time, going to her parents during holidays, or hanging out during weekends once or twice every several months.

Her life had rotated so much around work, Nicolas, and his overbearing family for years, she had forgotten about what really made existence worth. But everything was changing.

I can’t lose myself like this again.

As the sun began to sink in the horizon, everyone went back to their rooms, facing the reality of that incredible weekend coming to an end.

Lizbeth packed all her clothes, checking she wasn’t leaving anything behind before closing the door, an intense orange sky torn by purple clouds above and yellow rays slipping from the horizon. She stopped at the veranda to admire the views, eyes fluttering close when she grabbed the railing with both hands, raising her head, taking in all she could from the marine atmosphere. The salty smell, the sound of the ocean moving, the warmth of the sun caressing her skin.

It had been three amazing days, but it was time to go back to the loneliness waiting for her at home. With a heavy heart, she let out a sigh, making her way down to meet her family at the entrance hall.

“I’ll see you when we get back from Hawaii.” April hugged her tight.

“Yeah.” She returned the affection. “Bring me something nice, okay? Don’t let him pick my souvenir,” she said, pointing to her brother, a mischievous grin on her face.

“So funny!” Liam retorted in a mocking tone, pinching her nose.

“Always.”

“Take care, Baby girl,” he said as he squeezed her between his arms.

“You too, guys… and have fun, okay?”

“Will do.”

After that, she said goodbye to April’s parents and her own. Walking away, she waved her hand to them, feeling a part of her already healing.

“Be careful on the road, call me when you get home!” her mother cried.

“Of course!” Lizbeth pressed her lips, trying to hold the smile as she shook her head.

Moms!

As she got inside the car and turned the engine, the vehicle roared and soon after she was driving back to that place she didn’t belong to anymore.

Although she had gone to a motel for a few days when she left Nicolas’ apartment, as bad as the breakup had been, he called her a few days later and asked her to come back. After an interminable talk that didn’t change the outcome for them because their lives had taken different directions without them noticing a while before, he let her stay in the penthouse they had shared for two years. He owned it, but he told her that she could stay there as long as she needed until she found something suitable for her—no rush—that he would go to a smaller one his family owned.

He had always been like that, and that was one of the reasons why—even with all the bad things—the break-up had ripped her heart. Staying in that house, surrounded by their memories, made it all harder, but finding something not-so-expensive for her to rent while she was trying to make it out of the mountains of papers of the serial murder case wasn’t easy.

It took her longer than expected, but as soon as she found a nice apartment, she signed the papers. It was a point of no return.


After finishing loading the van she had just picked up first thing in the morning, she walked around the enormous and luxurious rooftop loft. With her stomach in knots, she took one last look at the place she used to call home. It was nothing but a beautiful and empty room now, meaningless and heart-wrenching at the same time.

Why are endings so hard to deal with? It’s so annoying.

Tears flooded her eyes as she closed the door, a whirlwind of mixed and confusing feelings pressing on her chest. It was weird imagining the future without Nicolas after almost five years together, yes, but a man wasn’t going to change her. The world was still spinning and she had hundreds of possibilities ahead of her.

Leaving the keys in his mailbox as she walked out of the building, she sighed, not looking back. Time to move on.

She drove for twenty minutes. The condo wasn’t as fancy as the apartment complex she lived in before, but it was cozy and, although it wasn’t in the middle of the city, it was closer to work and that was a plus. Besides, it was hers, and only hers.

Carrying a couple of boxes and a bag on her back, she walked up the stairs—so lucky the elevator was under repair. As she opened the door, the smell of cleaning products and fresh paint of the walls hit her nose. It wasn’t as huge as the other one, but she didn’t need anything else. It had a decent kitchen, a small dining room, and a welcoming living room, big enough for a big chaise-lounge sofa. The bathroom had a huge bathtub and the master room had a tiny but well-used walk-in-closet and space enough for a king-size bed—-if she had one so big.

The balcony was her favorite part though, with beautiful views of the park and the city in the back. It was the perfect place to start and end her days throughout the year.

By lunchtime, she was done getting all her stuff up into her new house, so she returned the van and came back with her car, stopping on the way to get some take-away food because she didn’t have anything to cook—nor that she felt like cooking either.

Sitting on the floor, she started eating her burger as she looked at the pictures of the wedding on her phone. She couldn’t believe how far Liam had gotten. He still was the goofy and easygoing man he had always been, one of her best friends and her annoying way-too-overprotective guardian, but he was much more mature now, and a surgeon! Who would have thought?

Lizbeth looked at him in one of the pictures, arms around Dylan and Aaron’s shoulders, eyes the same as hers and hair combed to the right in a classic style, face lighted with a beautiful smile. Seeing how happy he was made her heart thud in her chest. He deserved every bit of it.

The newlyweds had been friends since high school, and although it was obvious even for eleven-year-old Lizbeth that there was more to that friendship between them, they never admitted it. Until one day, during their senior year in college, April exploded.

Lizbeth still remembered that Halloween like it was yesterday. No one knew about Sawyer and her by then, but they were a pair of horny brats and used every chance they got to sneak out of parties to fuck. That night they were in his bedroom, some serious grinding going on, when the crashing sound of glass echoed through the whole apartment followed by April yelling.

They immediately stopped and ran downstairs, mixing with everyone in the living room. It had to be bad, April used to be the quiet, supportive, and understanding friend, always putting up with Liam’s bullshit throughout the years, no matter what.

Silence took over, even the noise going outside seemed to drown out. April had drunk a bit too much and snapped when she saw Liam with his ex—a nasty cheerleader his sister didn’t like either. That argument would have happened sooner or later, though. How many years could someone watch their loved one hooking up with everyone but never looking at them?

A decade had gone by since that day. A decade of part and full-time jobs, of living in a small apartment, of ups and downs, of fights and laughs, of studying for finals one master after another, and almost sweating blood to make their dreams come true. But there they were. New house, new goals, new life.

Of course, April’s family had money and could have helped them—they did with the wedding and the honeymoon—but they were both stubborn and hard-workers like no other and wanted to get and build everything by themselves. And so they did.

As she kept scrolling down the photos, she grinned, watching everyone grinning, joking, eating, and simply enjoying their time together on such a special occasion.

Then, she saw him and stopped. Sawyer was dancing with April. He wasn’t wearing his suit jacket and his light grey shirt was unbuttoned—no tie—showing his strong upper pecs. His slicked-back hair looked a bit messier, strands falling over his eyes, an honest smile plastered on his face. He was so handsome it hurt.

“He couldn’t be sexier even if he tried,” Lizbeth mumbled to herself. “And now I’m going crazy talking to myself!” She laughed, letting air out through her nose, in defeat. No matter how much time passed, she would always have a thing for that man.

Making a paper ball with the food wrapper, she got up, tied her hair in a ponytail, and went back to work. She still had a lot to do.

She started opening the boxes and getting the stuff out of them. Clothes, books, pictures, a huge plant with cascading leaves, and small decorative objects from the cities she had been, were everything she had. She picked up her clothes and carried them to the closet in the room.

After tidying her stuff in the bathroom, she went to the living room. All she had there was a shelf, but it was enough for her books.

Lizbeth was taking a short break—her back was starting to hurt like a bitch—when her phone chimed. The thirties are the new twenties, my ass. She grabbed the device and checked the text she had gotten. The delivery men with her new furniture were on their way.

She helped them to put everything into place after carrying it up to her new house when they rang her bell forty minutes later. It wasn’t much—a bed, a couch, two shelves, and a coffee table—but it made the place look homier.

“I’ll need some more time to make it look like a real home but so far so good.” She smiled, proud of herself—having already accepted that talking to herself out loud was going to be her new quirk.

With a mix of exhaustion and satisfaction after a whole day moving and carrying things around, she stepped out on the hallway, ready to grab as many garbage bags as possible because she didn’t want to go up and down countless times. That was not happening.

After closing the door, she crouched down to get a box full of bags full of shit—the mother box of shit—she wasn’t going to use anymore.

“Are you ever going to get rid of those yoga pants?” His deep voice startled her.

With a sense of being naked, she closed her black cardigan over her chest, turning around to catch Sawyer staring at her with a mischievous glow in his eyes.

Was he looking at my ass?

“W-What are you doing here?” she asked confused, gawking at him as if she had seen a ghost. He was wearing black boots, blue jeans with a white t-shirt under a leather jacket.

Sweet baby Jesus!

“I live here,” he said, pointing to the door across hers. “What are you doing here?” he questioned, arching a brow.

“I-I just moved in.”

“I see... This is gonna be fun.” He smirked.

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