Chapter One: My Best Friend's Brother
To My Ryan,
As promised, here is my monthly check-in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written this letter and thrown it out because it portrays everything I wanted to say without turning into a short story. I really thought the time apart would become easier with each month passing, but really, who was I kidding?
I haven’t seen you in a whole year as of today. As I’m sure you know, it’s hard most of the time, and I feel like I’m not living the same life anymore. I find this difficult to put into words without hurting you because I will always support your decision to fight for our beautiful country, I only wish it didn’t mean an entire year without seeing, touching, smelling you.
The apartment is silent all day and night. The little Amazon Dot you gave me for Christmas last year sometimes fills the silence, but half the time it doesn’t work. You’ve always laughed at me for being technology challenged, and boy, were you right.
Your sister, Celine, comes and visits often. She’s worried but trying to play it off with excuses of petty fights between her and Ace that bring her to our small place. I remind myself often that it’s out of love and try to control my temper like you’ve reminded me countless times. Nights are the worst, but she keeps me company, especially on the weekends. I hope you are doing the same there.
Celine roped me into helping at your dad’s work. She swears they’re understaffed, but I know she’s lying. Did you put her up to it? I know you’ve been worried since I quit working at the restaurant, but the pay wasn’t worth it for the hours on my feet. I’m over-qualified for the job too. I sure as hell didn’t pay for a Master’s in fucking business to seat people in a mediocre restaurant.
That’s beside the point. How are you, handsome? How’s Mike? Did his wife have the baby yet? Has anything exciting happened recently? Any chance of you coming home sooner? I miss you so much.
I have so many questions, but I’m afraid to get you into trouble, and mostly, I want to distract you from the war, to save your sanity, and so, my love, I have very good news.
When you receive this letter, it will be our anniversary and coincidentally Valentine’s Day. Five fucking years, baby. Can you believe it? Five years ago, we were still in college, you hadn’t enlisted yet, and Celine was still recovering from surgery. To think how much our lives have changed since the week before her surgery, where we stayed in your house watching movies all day.
I’m counting down the days until your tour is over—only three more fucking months! I can’t wait to kiss you, baby, to feel your strong arms wrap around me, to smell your familiar comforting scent. I just want to bury my face in your chest and never let go. Most importantly, I want you to take away my constant fear of losing you by coming home.
We’ve been through the worst of our relationship already when you let me go because I didn’t know what I wanted. We survived the doubts, the long-distance blues, and now, we get to plan our life together. We can finally have our happy ending, baby.
My anniversary gift to you this year isn’t glamourous like in previous years. I didn’t want to send you something materialistic when I could tell our beautiful story from my eyes. To show my love for you in this letter.
I wanted to remind you of what waits at home. Time has changed us both. I’m no longer the wild, spirited girl who caught your attention all those years ago, but rather a cultured woman with a body of flaws and insecurities that belongs only to you. This year hasn’t been easy on either of us, but with time we’ll heal because our love is stronger than every test thrown our way.
Please forgive me ahead of time—I was in a bad place before I met you, heartbroken and unbelieving in love, but you made me believe, and I will love you with the entirety of my heart for as long as I breathe.
Here’s to us, baby. We’ve made it through the first five, with a year of fear and confusion, in the beginning, the year that tested us the most. I knew the moment I saw you at Celine’s graduation that I could never stop loving you. To think, a few hours and many drinks later, I would find myself in your arms, sitting on the very bed where I realized I was in love with you, to now, where I’m counting down the days until you’re home with me for good.
I’m holding you to your promise—no more tours, no more goodbyes. Time to take your rightful place beside your dad and Celine, to come home to me every night, share our bed in the cold of the night, to make our talk about a future a reality. Time to finally be us.
I love you, Ryan.
While I’m writing this, I picture you lying on the small cot you’ve described in your letters, hand behind your head as you lounge against a small, hard pillow, ready for bed. I hope you’re smiling, that this letter gives you a moment of peace in all the chaos over there. I won’t let you go off the deep end, baby. I’m here for you.
I was told from a young age that everyone dies alone, and it didn’t scare me until I met you. You made me fear death, fear being alone because you are the first man I have truly loved with every fiber of my being. God just knew my heart needed you and you needed me.
I walked into your life during a crisis, a storm so strong that hundreds lost their homes and lives. My best friend, your sister, almost lost her life and her ability to walk. Within days, I started to fall for my best friend’s brother, a man, not a boy, who knew what he wanted.
Before I knew it, you owned my heart like it was always yours to keep, took down every wall I had ever built, and lit my soul on fire. You claimed my mind, body, and soul with a charming smile and teasing nickname.
No one had ever called me that before, I’ve always believed it’s because of my hair, and foul mouth, something only you can find funny and sexy at the same time.
When I met you five years ago, I had no expectations other than the knowledge that I never wanted to date a boy again, I wanted a man, someone who knew what they wanted and were willing to fight for it.
And, boy, were you willing to fight for me.
I cried enough tears with the sudden break-up from my high school boyfriend to know that I was ready for a fresh start, and the gloom that surrounded my move to Florida from Tennessee faded away with each passing day.
You see, what I’ve never told you is that I stopped believing in love when Lucas, my boyfriend of three years, broke up with me the day of senior graduation, We had spoken about that day for months, posed for cheesy pictures with my twin, Alissa, and all our friends. We sat apart for the ceremony and met up instantly for a kiss of congratulations when suddenly, his lips were stiff against mine.
He couldn’t look at me, eyes darting all over the room, hand scratching the back of his neck. With a common story of long-distance being out of the question, our three-year relationship, and the dreams of visiting each other every month at college, disappeared in a moment.
Three months later, with a heavy heart, I left my sisters and parents behind to start my journey of adulthood in a new town, a new state, completely surrounded by strangers.
Billiards University was a small private college nestled in a quiet beach town where I had hoped to make my home with Lucas. Most of the students were international, their fancy accents enviable, and the stories of their lives abroad were unimaginable, but I found that I didn’t fit in with any of them. Definitely not my tall, tanned, blonde roommate from the Netherlands—we didn’t get along from the first hour in our cramped room.
A girl from the north with a southern accent and flaming red hair wasn’t exactly easy to accept, but two years of searching led me to Celine and she led me to you.
Our journey didn’t start out easy. If I remember quickly, there was a lot of childish bantering and secret meetings in your room while Celine was asleep. Do you remember our first kiss?
I remember it like yesterday, the chill in the darkness of the night, your guilt about Ace, our hushed conversations of concern over Celine. I expected you to kiss me so many times but you never did, always going in for that stupid hug.
Oh, how my skin tingled and my heart leaped when you wrapped your arms around me that night. Without much thought, I leaned in and claimed your lips. I knew you never would, too afraid to upset Celine.
Ryan, you set my skin ablaze when you took control, no longer listening to your mind, your full lips nibbling mine, tongue tracing my swollen bottom lip, hands holding me together when I was so close to falling apart. Nothing but primal need fueling your advances.
I was already in love with you. I had fallen for the compassionate man who couldn’t sleep at night worried about his little sister’s broken heart.
That night, when I snuck out, everything was different. My lips still tingled the next morning over breakfast, especially when you looked at me from across the table, blue eyes dark with desire for me.
I had seen that hungry look before from other men, and every time it repulsed me. But you were different. You’ve always been fucking different, Ryan.
I’ve never told you this, but you claimed my heart that day, and it still belongs to you six years later.
Who would’ve thought I would fall for my best friend’s brother?
I can’t wait to hear from you, so please write soon.
With love always and forever,
Yours only, Amber