Feisty Francesca

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#47 We need to talk

My day ends different then I thought it would. I’m back in my own clothes, no longer in scrubs, and I am more than ready to head to James’ apartment and hop into the shower with him, but I head to the hospital cafeteria first to say goodbye to Caroline and Annabel, to hear how Aston is doing now that the surgery is done. I already asked Dr. Gerhards to give me an update, but I want to hear from Annabel as well, see if she needs some support. It can be scary to see your man hooked up to beeping machines, looking fragile in a way he normally never goes.

Caroline and Annabel are sitting in the corner with Brittany, Jaxon, Shaughna and Dshawn all huddled around as well. They’re talking in loud, angry voice, making me wonder what is going on. Then I see Annabel’s face and I notice a bruise on her face, badly covered by make-up. Was that there when I saw her a few hours ago? I honestly don’t remember her looking this crappy.

“And how did you get her SIM card?” Brittany asks Dshawn in her high, shrill voice, sounding pissed off. “Come on, I work for an insurance company. People are constantly trying to get us to pay up for stuff they broke themselves, saying it was a storm or something. I know a lie when I hear one. Spill it.”

“Yes,” I add, sitting down with the others. “I’d like to know what’s going on as well.”

It takes a while, but Annabel and Dshawn bring us up to speed. Anan has had quite the night, it turns out. Aside from dealing with Aston being in surgery and worrying about his recovery, she’s also been dealing with Aston’s biological father Ace Powell. He got out of jail earlier than we expected, and showed up at her place last night, beat her up, and then some guy named Cooper, who is her brother-in-law, from what I gather, knocked Ace out and they tied him to a kitchen chair together. Talk about drama…

Caroline assures us that she already took Annabel to see the doctor and the baby is fine, even though she’s got bruised fingers from where the door hit her when Ace attacked her, and a bruise of her face from getting knocked into the pavement. Poor woman. She must have been so scared.

Nathan, this Cooper guy and someone else I’ve never heard off – Angelo, who they’ve nicknamed the Italian stallion for some reason – are keeping Ace prisoner right now, so Annabel could get to Aston before surgery while they all figure out what to do.

Jaxon gets a call from his mother in the middle of our conversation. Aston and Theodore are awake and doing fine, and the doctor wants to fill the family in on the postoperative care the two men will need. Jaxon, Brittany and Annabel leave, and I decide to take off as well. I tell Shaughna, Caroline and Dshawn that I’m here to help if they need me, but I desperately need to get some sleep after a double shift. It seems they’ve got things under control, more or less.

They’re my friends, but I’m not involved in any of this, not really. If I’m being honest, I’m spending more time with James, Thomas, Joshua, Yord, Marcia and Destiny these days than I am with my old friends, and I’m okay with that. I love Shaughna and the others and I think they’ll always be in my life, but I don’t feel like they’re all I’ve got anymore.

A lot can change in three months, I guess. Look at Annabel and Aston, pregnant and engaged. Even though they’re going through some drama now, they will be fine. I’m sure of it.

In the meantime, I’m going to go home to my man and have some hot shower sex before crashing into bed and sleeping for at least ten hours straight.


I’m barely awake and just got out of the shower when James returns from his run, looking hot all sweaty in his work-out clothes with his tats on display. He gives me a kiss and heads into the shower, asking me if I’d mind whipping up some breakfast for him. I head into the kitchen and make us both a plate of eggs and bacon. It’s his birthday and I’m meeting his family today. It’s a big day in many ways, and I’m excited for it. I’ve never been introduced to parents as someone’s girlfriend before, and it’s a first I can’t wait to share with James. If things go well, I think I will invite him to join me for Thanksgiving with my mother when I book my plane ticket soon. He’ll be the first guy I take home to my mother.

After breakfast we snuggle up on the couch for a few hours of watching movies before we get ready for a fancy lunch with his parents and sisters at a restaurant downtown. I asked him what he wanted to do for his 30th birthday, and he said he just wanted a quiet morning with me, hanging out together, then lunch with his family, and to all end up at his apartment afterwards to catch up some more. He doesn’t get to see his family often, just like I don’t see my mother a lot, so them being in town is enough for him. He doesn’t want a party or anything fancy, just the people he loves the most to be there with him. It’s sweet, and I’m happy to oblige.

He feels a little off though, absent or something. I wonder if it’s because he’s turning 30 today. That might feel like a big thing to him, I don’t know. He assures me nothing is wrong, but I swear there is something nagging at him. He went in for another therapy appointment last night and he’s been a little quiet ever since. I try not to worry, but I do.

“Where do I know that actor from?” James asks, gesturing to the TV. “Is he from How I met your mother?”

“I don’t think so,” I say, seeing who he means. “I think he was in Grey’s Anatomy.

“No, I don’t mean him, the other one.” He grunts. “Oh, this is going to annoy me all through the movie. My phone is still in the bedroom. Can I use yours to look him up?”

“Sure.” I hand him my phone.

“What’s your code again?” he asks, trying to unlock the screen and failing.

“My dad’s birthday.”

He pauses and looks at me. “When’s that?”

Oh. He doesn’t know that? I thought I told him. I tell him the date and he enters it, gasping when something pops up on my screen. I give him a weird look, wondering what is going on.

I pause the TV. “What’s going on, James?”

“I think we need to talk,” James says in a tight voice.


He shows me the screen of my phone, revealing a picture of me in a wedding dress. Oh fuck. My heart sinks and watch him scroll through the rest of the pictures that Shaughna took when I tried on the dress Chloe picked out for Annabel and that she didn’t end up using in the end.

“I thought we were taking things slow,” James says, looking freaked out. “I thought that I made it clear that while a part of me wants to propose the second I fall for someone, I don’t want to be that intense commitment guy anymore. That’s part of the reason I’m in therapy. And now you-”

“No no no,” I interrupt him, shifting so I can look him in the eye more easily. “I’m not picking out my wedding dress or anything! That surprise party for Annabel last week, that was supposed to be a surprise wedding. Aston and a bunch of their friends and family planned the whole thing and even picked out a dress for her. She ended up not wanting to have a small backyard wedding, so they didn’t get married that night. I only tried the dress on for fun and Shaughna snapped some pictures.”

“Oh,” James breathes, sagging back against the couch cushions in relief. “Thank God. I’ve never been this relieved about my girlfriend not wanting to get married to me.” He blinks a few times and then focuses back on, a strange look in his eyes. “I don’t think I want to marry you.”

“That’s okay,” I say, smiling a little. I’m proud that he’s come so far in such a short amount of time. Therapy really is doing wonders for him. “I don’t need a proposal anytime soon. You know that I don’t want you to ask me to marry you, James. We’re young, we’ve got all the time in the world.”

“No,” James says quietly, taking my hand in his. “You’re not getting what I’m trying to say. It’s not just that I don’t want to drop to one knee right now. I think… I’ve been talking about this with my therapist, and I feel like I had a breakthrough last night. Remember that you asked me if I’m truly into you, or just in love with the idea of love?”

I nod, panicking when I realize what he’s trying to say.

“I was sure that I truly loved you, all of you, but last night I realized for the first time that maybe you were right. That I’m trying to fill a void inside of me, afraid to be on my own and truly feel that darkness that has been there since I was nineteen, when my sister died, the only family member who ever understood and supported me.” He takes a deep breath and squeezes my hand. “I wasn’t going to do this today, I thought I should wait until I was sure, and it’s my birthday and my family is coming over, so this is horrible timing, but… seeing this picture of you in a wedding dress… I’m sure now.”

“Sure about what?” I ask, already on the verge of tears. “Are you saying you don’t love me?”

“I’m saying that I’m not in the right place right now to love anyone the way I should to have a healthy relationship,” he says, looking just as sad as I feel. “I feel like I’m finally learning to love myself, to find out why I’m the way I am and how to get back to a healthy state of mind.”

“Are you breaking up with me?” I ask, already knowing the answer.

“Yes,” James says softly. “I guess I am.”

Tears stream down my face and I jerk away from him, even though he’s trying to pull me into his arms. He’s breaking up with me. After everything we’ve been through. After we worked through all our issues and I chose him over Thomas and Joshua. After getting past him proposing to thirteen girls before me. He’s breaking up with me.

“Franny!” he calls after me when I dash into the bedroom to change my pajamas for jeans and a T-shirt.

I can’t stay here. I need to get out of here. No matter how hard I try, I can’t stop crying, but I’m not going to stay here until I’m calm. James can’t comfort me right now. Not when he’s the one hurting me.

“Don’t leave,” James says, getting up from the couch when I run through the living room and into the hallway, pulling on my boots and jacket. “Fran, let’s talk about this.”

“Talk about what?” I ask through my tears. “You don’t want me anymore. That’s fine. I’m not going to sit here and talk to you about it. I need to fall apart on my own.”

“I don’t want you to fall apart at all,” James says, pulling me against his chest and rubbing my back. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know I was going to do this. Especially not today. Something just… clicked when I saw that picture of you in the white dress.”

“Good for you,” I bite out. I’m proud of him and happy for him, in a weird way, but I can’t rejoice about his growth right now. He’s dumping me. He may not truly love me the way he thought he did, but I surely do love him. He needs to let me go so I can break into a million pieces without anyone being there to see it.

“I really do love you, Fran,” he whispers, still holding me. “You’re amazing. You’ve been so good to me. I wish things were different, but I think I should be on my own for a while. For the first time since I was 19, the thought of being alone doesn’t scare me anymore.”

“Let me go.” I push away from him and open the front door.

“Fran!” he yells a while I run away from him, racing down the stairs.

Luckily, he doesn’t follow me. I sprint all the way to my apartment and let myself into my dark, empty apartment. It feels stuffy and depressing, so I throw open a window before sinking down on the floor, not even having energy left to take off my coat. General Fluffington pads over to me, rubbing his head against my leg. I pull him into my lap and stroke him while I try to get myself together.

He left me.

James left me.

And even though he’s not afraid to be alone anymore, I sure am.

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