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Chapter 35

“Pleasure of love lasts but a moment. Pain of love lasts a lifetime.”
~Bette Davis


I woke up with a groan and a splitting headache. Lorraine slept soundly beside me. I didn’t remember much from last night except that we’d had a lot to drink. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gotten that drunk. Once Annalise came into my life, I’d been basically sober. I didn’t count the wine or whiskey I drank at social events, especially when it was a glass or two over four or five hours. No, this was like my old drinking times, just worse. This hellacious hangover could make the Devil weep.

Pushing myself up, I shuffled to the bathroom to get ready for the day. I dreaded going to work without Annalise by my side. She made everything so much less overwhelming.

But I’d ruined everything.

I let my emotions get the better of me, and it cost me the best person to have ever come into my life, someone even better than Lorraine, as much as I loved and cared for her. I changed my life because of Annalise. God only knows where I’d be if she hadn’t entered my life that day. I could still be drinking away my problems and partying every night rather than dealing with my issues head-on and teaching myself how to run the kingdom, so I could be the King my people deserved.

Lorraine was terrific, and I was glad I had her by my side, but without Annalise, my life wasn’t the same anymore.

The shower I took helped wake me up a little bit, but I still just wanted to go collapse in bed. I never wanted to drink like that again. I couldn’t anyway, not if I needed to function like a normal human being.

I slipped out of my room, heading to the dining room. I stopped outside the door and sank against it, an overwhelming urge to call Annalise crashing into me. I pulled out my phone and dialed her number. I wasn’t expecting her to answer, and she didn’t, but I wasn’t going to give up. I couldn’t. I needed to right the wrong I’d done to her.

Sighing, I shoved my phone back into my pocket and entered the dining room. Patty and Walt were browsing the news on their tablets. My parents were AWOL as usual, but they hadn’t been coming to breakfast much. Dad kept working himself up so much over the scandal that he continually made himself sick. Mum was forcing him to rest until he was better. Dad didn’t like it, but he knew better than to argue with her.

“Good morning,” I said, taking a seat at the head of the table.

“Good morning,” Patty greeted. “Now that you’re here, we need to go over the agenda for today.”

She dove straight into it, telling me who I was meeting and when, and what the meeting would be about. She gave me notes on everything as well, which I read during breakfast. I was glad Patty had taken over Annalise’s position. She was the only one I trust that was capable of doing so, but I still missed it being Annalise. No one could replace her.

“Your first meeting isn’t until noon, at least, so you have time to prepare,” Patty said, scanning over her tablet. A small smile graced her face as she read an article. I caught a glimpse of a photo and figured it out.

“How’s Annalise?” I asked, my voice softer than intended. I felt guilty for even speaking her name after what I’d said to her, what I’d done. I noticed Patty and Walt glance at each other as if silently debating whether or not to answer me. “I know she wants nothing to do with me. I gathered as much from her ignoring my calls and texts. I’m still going to try and reach out to her to apologize, but I know that’ll take a while. I just want to know if she’s okay. If Mia is okay.”

Surprisingly, Walt spoke up. “She and Mia are doing better. Annalise was shaken up and upset, but she’s found a new job and will be starting there next week.”

“See for yourself,” Patty said, handing over her tablet. On the screen was a newscast, posted only fifteen minutes ago. The video paused on Annalise strutting down the street, dressed impeccably well, her makeup and hair flawlessly done. Her first public appearance since the scandal and she looked incredible. Knowing her, she was out to prove those wrong who thought she was hiding in her apartment from grief or guilt. Annalise was out to show that she was doing fine and that no scandal would bring her down.

I watched the video, involuntarily smiling when Annalise response to a reporter. “I haven’t been hiding in my flat because I’ve been upset or because I’m guilty. I didn’t leave because I didn’t want to be harassed by the paparazzi over rumors that aren’t true like I’m experiencing right this moment. People can believe what they want, but I know my innocence. I would never do anything that would involve the risk of dragging my sister into the line of fire of the media.”

“What about William? He said the two of you aren’t speaking,” another reporter shouted.

Annie’s face fell slightly. “It’s true. We’re not. That’s all I’ll say on that matter. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have friends waiting for me.”

The video continued, showing Annalise with Mia, James, Mark, and Everly at a high-end restaurant, smiling, laughing, and having an overall good time.

“She’s celebrating getting the new job,” Walt informed.

“What’s the new job?”

“We’ve told you enough, William. She made it explicitly clear to everyone, including us, that she doesn’t want to be in contact with you, and that extends to you knowing what she’s doing.”

I clenched my jaw. “I understand. Thank you for telling me what you did. I’m going to prepare for the meeting.”

Walt and Patty called after me, but I focused on going to the library. It was the one place quiet enough I could think.

Once there, I plopped into my favorite chair, the one I always sat in when I bugged Annie while she cleaned. I remembered how our conversations had started about simple things like Harry Potter, and how over time, they became deeper and more profound, like discussing our dreams, our fears, and our hopes. I remembered Annie saying her only desire was to be out of debt with a healthy, cancer-free sister. She was on track to seeing that dream fulfilled, making me wonder what her new goal would be. Get her degree? Travel to a far off place she’d never been? Take a much-needed vacation?

I pulled out my phone, dialed Annie’s number, and listened to the phone ring.

And ring.

And ring.

It eventually went to voicemail, as I predicted. After the beep, I said, “Hey Annie, I’m sure you’re sick of my calls and texts, but I need to make sure you’re okay. I need to hear it from you. I know I don’t deserve that after what I did to you, though, so I get it if you don’t respond. I want you to know I will spend the rest of my life apologizing and making it up to you in every possible way. I’m sorry I pushed you away, and I’m sorry I let my relationship Lorraine come between us. You were always there for me, and when it mattered most, I treated you like I hadn’t known you for four years. I completely understand if you never want to see me again, but please know I’m sorry, and I miss you. I miss your voice, I miss your smile. I miss having you by my side, I miss our bickering, I miss our conversations, and I just... I miss you. Call me back when and if you ever want to. I don’t care what time of day or what I’m doing. I don’t care if it’s three in the morning or if I’m making a speech to a crowd, I will pick up and answer. Take care of yourself, and I hope Mia is doing well. Bye, Annie.”

I hung up my phone, sat for another five minutes to gather my wits about me, and then left the library to tackle the day.

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