Tomorrow

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Your Side of the Bed

Jackson

“She’ll be down in ten minutes.” Cheryl wouldn’t look at me; she kept her eyes fixed on the clipboard she was holding with both hands.

I didn’t bother to answer her. I couldn’t anyways, my mouth was so dry and my throat felt like it had cotton in it. I just shoved my hands in my jean pockets and wandered over to one of the several picture windows, looking out into this pretty botanical garden the hotel featured.

Everything was lush and green, dotted with spots of color from the exotic flowers and plants nestled around it. It did nothing to brighten my mood; my mind was spinning in all different directions at the moment, fear, hope.

I spent the entire night lying in bed starring at the ceiling. Wondering what she was doing in the next room, wondering if she was thinking of me at all.

Every time I thought about how things ended with her it would make me cringe, make me die a little inside. I treated her so badly.

Yet still, I wanted to see her. I wish she knew she still filled my entire soul, what I still carried with me nestled at the bottom of my pocket. I took it everywhere to remind me, sometimes bringing it out and watching it glisten and sparkle under the lights.

She still affected me the same way, made my blood rush through my veins, and my heart ache. I desperately wanted to look in her eyes and make sure she was okay; even though I knew I had no right to anymore.

I wondered how her husband was handling her being here this time? I told Rick to stop keeping track of him, and her, once they left Arizona, but I had the nagging feeling that he didn’t listen to me. He didn’t talk to me about them after that, there were no more updates, no more quick phone calls letting me know where she was, if her husband was on a run.

“You doing okay?” Brett’s words pulled me away from my daydreams and I turned slightly, meeting his eyes.

“Think so.” I still had my hands shoved in my pockets, mostly to hide the shaking.

“It’s just a photoshoot Jack, try to relax.” Brett placed his hand on my shoulder but I was looking past him, already undone.

My gaze was no longer fixed on Brett; it was frozen, watching the vision over near the doorway. The pounding of my heart made my eyes blur, and through the haze, the chaos in my mind, there she was, walking into the room as beautiful as ever, her hair flowing around her shoulders as her eyes scanned the room quickly. She spotted Cheryl first and smiled, heading straight over to her.

I watched them hug each other tightly. Cheryl began chatting a mile a minute, keeping Ara occupied, ushering her over to the opposite corner of where I was standing.

I tried to turn away, pretend I was doing something else, pretend I was talking to Brett, but my fucking eyes wouldn’t tear themselves away from her presence.

I was glued to my spot, frozen in place. The only thing that was moving was my heart, beating with racing speed, making me feel out of breath.

I can’t tell you how bad I wanted to go to her. Break free of that frozen fear and spin her around to face me, fall to my knees and beg for forgiveness. I wanted to ask her how her life was these last few months, and tell her how empty mine felt. How I couldn't shake that hollow feeling in my heart.

Instead, I just kept looking at her.

She looked thinner somehow, and much more withdrawn. There was a small smile on her face as she nodded and listened to Cheryl, yet it didn’t look genuine, it was guarded, very carefully guarded.

Her eyes briefly met mine when Cheryl was interrupted by one of the camera crew. She turned her face upward in my direction, those brown eyes blinking at me twice before tearing away and looking back at Cheryl. She could probably feel my gaze burning into her, and in my wishful thoughts I hoped she could feel my emotions too.

Her look alone sent my blood coursing through my body at a much faster pace. Sent little tingles of apprehension and impatience down my spine, and it was all I could do not to push Brett out of my way and head over to her.

“Give her a minute to adjust.” Brett seemed to read my mind, and his arm shot out, his fingers closing over my wrist and pulling me back. “Let Cheryl make her comfortable. Come on, let’s go out back here.”

And without letting me go, he dragged me past the glass windows and out the double doors to the garden.


Ara

I told myself I wouldn’t look at him. Wouldn’t glance, even for one second, in his direction.

Of course that lasted all of one minute once I stepped into the convention room. I really don’t know if it was a convention room at all, the hotel clerk was the one who called it that. This room looked more like a movie studio at the moment with huge white umbrella lights in nearly every corner, and this wooden platform sitting right in the center of the room.

One man was holding a camera with the biggest lens attached to it; I’d never seen a lens that big before, he was chatting with another cameraman who was holding a large black bag with even a bigger camera inside of it.

There seemed to be no shortage of cameras. Two other cameras were sitting on tripods angled at the platform. I glanced around me warily, sincerely hoping they were not secretly filming this encounter because I was almost positive they weren’t going to like what they saw.

Before walking into the room, I repeated over and over to myself not to look at him, to seek out Cheryl and head straight for her. I even said it under my breath as I pushed open the doors.

It was all for naught. Once my heart knew it was standing in the same room with him, it fought and struggled, forced my eyes to scan the room quickly until they found him.

Fortunate for me, Cheryl came into my sight before Jackson did, so I forced my body to walk towards her, all while still trying to search for him.

I felt him before I saw him. Cheryl grabbed me in a bear hug, chattering about how excited she was to see me again. She went on and on about the photoshoot, how we were going to style my hair and makeup, the dress I was going to wear. She even told me she had a new pair of boots for me.

But I wasn’t really listening to her. I was still fighting to stay in control. I could feel him, his gaze. It burned through me like fire, tingling across the back of my neck and down my spine. I knew he was watching me, and it was taking every once of restraint not to turn my head and look back at him.

“Okay, so let’s head over to the room in the back. It’s supposed to be for storage, but today we are using it like a dressing room.” Cheryl reached for my hand but we didn’t have a chance to move, one of the cameramen interrupted her, asking her some questions about the set, and some other things I didn’t understand.

It was only a few seconds but it was more than enough time for my heart to take control. My eyes traveled over the rest of the room quickly, seeking out where he standing by these big bold picture windows.

Those green eyes still looked the same. They still filled my entire being with want, and haunted me at the same time. I couldn’t even breathe, he was watching me like I thought.

He didn’t look away, stayed frozen in place, not breaking our gaze. It was me who broke it, forcing myself to blink and turn back to Cheryl. I had to keep reminding myself that this was the way he wanted things. This was the way he protected himself and his career. I might not be married anymore, but he still was. And that, I knew, was never going to change.

“Come on Ara, let’s get you ready.” Cheryl was back to giving me her full attention. I could feel her fingers closing around my palm and I gave her a quick smile hoping she couldn’t see all those emotions I was trying to hide.

We both turned slightly, heading for the makeshift dressing room, only my heart wasn’t ready to give up yet, and I found myself glancing over my shoulder, back to Jackson.

This time, those windows were empty.

It was the longest hour I ever spent in that dressing room. They stylist was going to try a new look, using her straightener to make my hair lay flat against my head. The only plus was Cheryl. She stayed by my side the entire time, keeping me entertained with her stories about Dustin and Brett. She avoided mentioning Jackson, I noticed. I wished I had the courage to ask her about him, how he was doing, but I guess bitter pride stood in the way of that.

When the stylist was done Cheryl was thrilled with the results, gushing over my hair and eye makeup in her enthusiastic voice. She pulled me towards the rack of clothes, “This dress is totally going to make your hair stand out. It’s the perfect color to match those pretty brown eyes too.”

Of course Cheryl was right. The dress was a rich burgundy color, it made my skin look almost tan, my eyes glow, and my perfectly straight hair shone as it fell past my shoulders.

“I don’t know how you do it Cheryl.” It was the first real smile I felt all morning. I really liked what I saw in the mirror.

“It’s a talent. I have a gift for picking out the right colors and the right outfit for any occasion.” She joked, adjusting one of my straps at the same time. She admired me a little more before her expression changed from playful to serious, “He’s really gonna like this outfit, he hasn’t been the same, you know, since you left.”

She didn’t have to say his name, or even finish her sentence; I knew exactly what she was talking about.

“Well, time has a way of changing things.” I think I was still in shock, my mind still tumbling from her words to make much sense of my own.

“Yeah it does.” Cheryl nodded her head at me, watching me, waiting to see if I would say anything else.

The anxiety hit me again with full force. I wanted to ask her a million questions about Jackson, and tell her everything that changed in my life since I left, but my mind wouldn’t tell my mouth to move, I could only stand there and wish with all my heart that things were different.


Jackson

I didn’t have any say so about this cover, or this shoot. It was all planned before I even stepped foot on Jay Leno’s stage, so I stepped back into that room just as blind as I went in.

Cheryl and Ara were nowhere in sight when Brett and I returned, and I took advantage of that, making a beeline for Jared, trying to find out what his plan was.

“Not now Son,” Jared wasn’t going to make this easy for me; he sounded annoyed, so disappointed, his brows furrowed together, “I have to go over the camera angles with the crew, we’ll talk in a couple of minutes.”

I didn’t like being brushed off, was about to throw a fit, when he turned back to me, his expression hadn't changed, “Go get Sweet Pea. I haven’t seen you say Hello or even Good Mornin’ to her, what kind of manners is that Son? Your Mama raised you up better.”

His words killed any fight that I might have felt, and I could only just watch him walk away from me knowing he was right.

Taking a big gulp of air, I turned on my heel and headed straight for the door I knew Ara was behind. I may have broken us in two, but I didn’t have to keep deepening the wound. I could still be polite, still be a gentleman towards her.

I didn’t get a chance to knock at the door; it swung open the second I reached it, taking me by surprise.

We nearly collided.

Ara and I.

She pulled the door open and stepped out right as I reached for it, her startled gasp escaping her lips as she looked up at me all wide eyed and beautiful.

“Oh!” Her mouth opened, her voice was high, it matched the look on her face.

“Uh…I…” I was at loss for words at first. I was surprised as well, not to mention blown away at how gorgeous she looked.

Her hair framed her face beautifully, fell straight down all around her like a waterfall, making those eyes look like silver dollars, wide and round, and full of shock.

She just looked at me, once the surprise subsided, I could see the skepticism in her eyes, the mistrust.

“Ara…Miss Ara…” I fumbled with my words, not sure how to address her anymore, “I just wanted to thank you for coming, and wish you a good morning.”

It sounded weird, to my own ears, sounded all wrong.

She didn’t answer, her eyes moved across my face as if she was trying to read me, whether or not to believe me, believe in me.

“You’re welcome.”

That’s all she said. I couldn’t tell from her tone if she meant it, tell if she was angry or hurt. Her words were simple and flat, no emotion in them at all.

It frustrated me, because I knew I did this to her, lost all her trust in me. It’s what pushed me to keep trying, keep looking for some type of feeling from her, “The cover,” I racked my brain for something to say to her, something neutral, “It shouldn’t take too long to make. Won’t take up too much of your time.” I wanted to ask her if she might want to sit and talk after that, just for a few minutes.

“I hope so.” There was no mistaking her tone this time, “Because my plane leaves tonight.” She tore her eyes away from mine and brushed past me, her boots making this soft clicking noise as she made her way to the set.

I just stood there,tried not to let defeat wash over me. Cheryl lingered at the doorway for a couple of seconds, she heard our exchange, she didn’t look at me but said, “It’s going to take more than Good Morning to make her forgive you…a hell of a lot more…”


It felt like everyone was out to get me.

The cameramen, Cheryl, even Jared.

The entire morning was torture.

I was this close to Ara. She was right here, right next to me, this living, breathing goddess, and she would not look at me.

Or talk to me.

Or even acknowledge that I was in the same room, that I even existed.

It didn’t help that Jared actually wanted her to act that way. “You’re in love with someone else Sweet Pea, not with Son. I want to you to do everything in your power to make it look like you don’t even know he’s here, that he’s in love with you.”

She would only look at him and nod. Her eyes never once met mine, never once glanced my way.

I could start to feel the tension in the room, maybe I was just imagining it, but it was beginning to make me feel desperate, and lonely.

I never realized how much I longed for her attention, her smile, her affection.

“Nothing matters in this world, Son, except her. I want you to imagine that you have to spend the rest of your life without her, that the one woman you love, is gone, and all you have left,” he waved his hands over to my grey guitar propped up against a makeshift white picket fence, “Is that.”

It was worse when I had to sing. We weren’t even making a video, it was just supposed to be a picture for the cover of the single, but now Jared wanted me to sing, saying it would make it look more believable.

I was able to avoid singing that song out loud these last two weeks, but right now it seemed like that was all Jared wanted me to do. I couldn’t at first, my words coming out all cracked and broken. It was so hard to sing all those things in front of Ara, wondering if she knew that every word to this song was about her, that she was the inspiration, the reason this song existed.

I had to do it over and over, my guitar in my hands, those notes swirling around the air, the only voice you could hear was mine. I fumbled and missed, choked on sounds and pronunciations, my fingers tripping over themselves against my guitar.

“What’s the matter Son?” Jared wasn’t letting up, “Play it like it’s meant to be played. Tell this woman how you feel about her.”

Even Cheryl was looking at me with sympathy in her eyes as I kept trying to play. I pushed on the guitar strings again, trying to clear my mind, trying to pretend that this was just another song, just another love song that didn’t mean anything.

I fought with the frustration, the empty pit in my stomach, the hollow in my heart. I told myself she wasn’t in the room, the room was empty, just like me. This was going to be the rest of my life.

But it didn’t work.

I still messed it up. And the more I messed it up, the madder Jared got. I never once seen him get this mad, at least not until today.

“Why are you making this difficult Son? We all have better things to do than wait for you to get it right.”

I could only stare at Jared in surprise, he never once talked to me that way, and I was finding it hard to believe that he was this upset over a song and a cover.

I guess Cheryl couldn’t take it anymore and she stepped forward, “Jared, let’s take five. Jackson could use a break and Ara needs a quick touchup on her hair anyways…”

Jared turned his head to Cheryl and gave out a sigh, “Fine…fine…five minutes…”

Everyone moved around the set quickly, setting down their equipment and walking over to the coffee and other drinks we had. I just put my guitar down and hopped off the stage, sinking into one of the folding chairs in the corner.

I knew then I wasn’t going to be able to go through with this. There was no way I was ever going to sing this song in front of anyone, much less her. I closed my eyes, leaning my head back against the stone wall of the building, trying to figure out a way to avoid the singing part.

A couple of seconds later Brett settled down into the chair next to mine. “Fifteen hundred miles.” his voice was soft.

“What?” I opened my eyes and turned towards him in confusion.

“Fifteen hundred miles, that how far she flew to get here today. She flew fifteen hundred miles, just for you.” All he did was raise one eyebrow at me, letting his words sink in.

My eyes left his face and moved across the room to Ara. She was standing perfectly still while her stylist sprayed some sort of mist in her hair.

“She’s not talking to me.” I didn’t take my eyes off Ara; she was thanking the young girl holding the spray can.

“Well maybe she thinks she’s done enough. flying all the way out here. maybe she’s waiting for you to make an effort.” Brett rose from his seat, leaving me alone again. I kept watching her, Cheryl chatted with her for a few seconds, but then she too moved away, going over to one of the cameramen.

What did I have to lose, I sighed, I already lost her, there was nothing left. So I rose from my chair, and with quick strides I made my way across the floor.


Ara

The lump in my throat never left. Not when I nearly bumped into Jackson at the door of the dressing room, or when he wished me a good morning, or even when Jared practically yelled at him when he was trying to sing.

I was using willpower I didn’t even know I had to avoid him, to keep my distance from him. And it didn’t make it any easier listening to Jackson fumble with his words, hear the breakdown in his voice, feel the discomfort in the room. I never heard him sing with so much trouble before and it tore at me, made me wonder what was making it so difficult for him.

I was grateful when Cheryl intervened, and even more relieved when she told me I had to wait right where I was standing for the hair stylist, I wouldn’t have to mingle or make small talk with anyone.

I was telling Jackson the truth about leaving tonight. My plane ticket was good for another two days, but I thought it would be best for both of us, for me, to get out of here as quickly as possible.

“Okay, your hair’s perfect once again. I need to have one of the camera guys move, he keeps getting into view of our set. Give me a sec.” Cheryl was really going out of her way to keep me company, and I was so grateful for that, because I was acutely aware of the emptiness, the loneliness, that instantly fell over me when I was by myself.

I thought it would bring me closure, bring me even the tiniest sense of peace, coming out here. But in reality, all it did was remind me of the one man I could never have.

It was the most awful sense of alienation and heartache.

“Do you really have to leave tonight Miss Ara?”

My heart literally leaped at the sound of his voice. He was directly behind me, this close.

I spun around looking up at him. His hat was off, and his hair was a bit of a mess, some of it falling near his forehead.

“I…” I couldn’t form any words, think of anything to say.

“Because if you think you might be able to stay, there’s a country fest going on right now, and tonight, quite a few of us are going to preform. It’s something you might enjoy, since you’ve come all this way.”

He was speaking carefully, I could tell because his accent always got thicker when he spoke carefully or got more serious.

I struggled internally in those seconds. I wanted to leap into his arms and tell him I would stay as long as he wanted me to. That going to a festival with him sounded heavenly.

“I…I don’t think I can.” I was forcing myself to use my brain, let my brain lead.

He looked so somber then, and so defeated. There was no light to his eyes anymore, no smile or teasing grin. It was so hard to watch.

“Um…” He looked down and I could see his hands gripping his belt loops tightly, “It’ll mean a lot to Cheryl, and the guys, if they could take you there, they haven’t seen you in a while, they miss you.”

“I miss them too.” I had to pause or my voice was going to break, “But I don’t belong here. I belong at home.”

He just nodded his head, still looking down, “I understand.”

“You have fun though,” I don’t know why I kept talking, I guess I couldn’t bare to hear all that pain in his voice, “I’m sure the audience will love you Jackson, you’ll do great.”

His eyes shot up to me when I said that, “Yes Ma’am.” he said softly.

I probably would’ve said more. I was already sure my heart was taking over at the moment, but Jared decided right then that break time was up.

“Where’s your hat Son. Go grab it, stop wasting time.” I couldn’t figure out why Jared was acting so harsh towards Jackson. He was the same sweet, perfect gentleman with me, yet his tone would instantly change to almost scolding whenever he spoke to Jackson.

And Jackson wouldn’t say anything to him. He turned away from me and walked back over to his chair to grab his hat, adjusting it on his head before making his way to the stage.

Jared watched him for a short minute, his gaze going back from Jackson over to myself. I had to turn away when his eyes met mine. I didn't want him to see my pain.

“I’ve changed my mind.” Jared suddenly announced, waving one hand through the air, “I decided we don’t need the stage, or the guitar.” He looked over at Jackson, who paused mid step at the sound of his voice, “Let’s go out into that garden instead.”


It was gorgeous.

The garden.

Beautiful and wild, filled with so much color and scent. Every type of green leaf and colored flower mixed together like a fragrant rainbow.

We all walked behind Jared quietly. Even Cheryl was quiet, her eyes filled with apprehension as we made our way past the roses and blue violets.

It seemed that Jared knew where he was going because just as quickly as he started, he stopped.

“Right here.” He pointed out a spot by this green leafy bush to one of the cameramen who moved quickly to his spot.

“You see that yellow flower dangling over there,” Jared suddenly turned to me, “That there is a trumpet daffodil, my wife used to love those, you go stand there Sweet Pea, next to those daffodils.” His voice got softer as he said that, kinder too.

“I want you Son, to go stand to the right of Sweet Pea. Just stand there for a second, I need to see how this looks in the camera.”

Jackson did as he was told, despite all the mixtures of scents of the different flowers, I could still smell him as he stood next to me, earthy, strong, and it immediately got my heart racing.

We both stood there awkwardly while Jared fiddled behind the camera. He was mumbling to himself as he worked, “She would always yell at me, mad as hades whenever I took home daffodils to her. Scold me and tell me they would die, not to cut them next time, but then, all I had to do was take one flower, just one, and put it behind her ear. Worked every time.”

We all stood there silently and listened, wondering what he was trying to tell us.

“So you take that flower Son, just one, we don’t need to cut more than we have to, and put it behind her ear. Make sure you face her, make it count Son.”

Jared motioned to the cameraman, and then back to Jackson, who immediately turned to face me, looking past my shoulder to all the yellow flowers hanging behind me.

My body begin to tremble then. Jackson’s right hand shot out somewhere just above my head. I could tell when he found the flower he wanted, because before he even plucked it off the stem, his gaze was already back at me, his eyes were sincere and steady, looking deeply into my own. I could only stare up at him, mesmerized by his features and the look he was giving me.

I’m sure it took only seconds but it felt like forever, his hand sliding gently back towards my face. He didn’t tuck the flower behind my ear right away, no, he brought it up, right near my temple. I could see the bright yellow out of the corner of my eye, and smell the sweet beautiful scent as I breathed. His eyes stayed locked to mine, darker, determined. It sent my mind spinning, my breathing jagged.

And just like that, I was back again, back inside that circle of love and warmth, that place that I only managed to find when I was with him.

I could feel the softness of the petals as he slowly caressed them down my cheek, the silky velvet floating down near my jaw, his warm breath falling over my lips in the softest of a whisper as he worked.

That flower made everything inside me feel alive, made me remember every touch, every stroke, every emotion. It tore a quiet shudder from my body as I felt his fingertips slide gently along my cheek and up towards my ear where his hand pushed back some of my hair as he tucked the flower into place.

He didn’t move his hand away. He kept it there, brought his face down even closer than it already was.

We stayed frozen there, our eyes searching, seeking unfounded answers, trying to find our way back.

It was the soft whimper coming from Cheryl that broke the stillness, the silence, and Jared’s smiling face suddenly came into our view, “That’s what I’m talking about. I always told her, a woman as beautiful as her deserved to have at least one flower. Works every time.”


Jackson

I probably would have kissed her, and then maybe gotten slapped, I don’t know. The look in her eyes was telling me everything I remembered, making me want to pull her into my arms, feel her next to me again.

Jared was rambling, something about flowers and beautiful women, I wasn’t listening because I had the most beautiful woman standing right here in front of me, and I didn’t want move from this spot.

“I don’t know if I’m done yet.” Jared began talking again. The harshness was gone from his voice, this was the Jared I knew. “I don’t want anyone to leave until I know we have what we need. Ya’ll just enjoy the pretty scenery until I get back.”

It looked pretty obvious to me, what they were trying to accomplish when everyone around us scattered, including Cheryl who got pulled away by Dustin and Brett. I glanced down at Ara, wondering if she noticed the almost comical disappearance they all quickly made, but she still looked like she was lost in a daydream, her head turned up towards the flowers.

“The yellow,” I had to force my voice to work, “Yellow, it looks good with your eyes.”

She turned to me sharply, blinking at my words. She didn’t say anything to me, tore her gaze away and looked down around her.

“I think I might plant some of these, back at the house.” I blurted out the first thing that came to mind, trying for the life of me to figure out how to get her to talk, but all she did was give me a half nod, never meeting my eyes.

“I played a concert last week,” I tried to change the subject, a different approach, “It was a smaller place, reminded me of your hometown.” Her eyes snapped up to mine, they were wide almost defensive, “Cheryl,” I continued on quickly, not wanting to upset her, “She arranged to have a few fans meet me after the show, surprised the heck out of me when I walked backstage and there they were.”

“Oh,” She voice was soft, and those beautiful eyes showed just a hint of concern, “Were you okay?”

“Um…yeah, yeah…they were just a couple of kids, teens. They were excited.” I tried to shrug it off, but she knew, she could see it.

“Well that’s good then,” I swore her voice changed, it floated around me, delicate and light, “Those kids, they don’t really know how lucky they are.”

“Turns out they won some radio contest. We didn’t know about it until after I was already on stage. Cheryl did the best she could.”

“Cheryl adores you,” There was a brightness to her eyes again, I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I saw it again, “I don’t think she would ever let anyone hurt you.”

“Well if she does it again tonight, as least I won’t be so surprised.” I kept on talking, not wanting to lose that look in her eyes, the emotions I heard in her voice.

“Tonight?” She gave me a small frown, “Oh, you mean at the festival?”

“Yeah, those things get a little rowdy.” I didn’t even realize how much closer we’d gotten to each other. Her body was right back next to me; her eyes looking up with so much worry, so much feeling, I don’t think she was even aware of it.

“You’ll be fine. You’ll be okay. Cheryl will take care of it, and so will Dustin and Brett.”

Her voice was already creating havoc in my heart. I rushed to find the right words to keep her there, to keep this going. “It’s not the same.” it just tumbled out, it made no sense, but it was exactly what I meant.

“It is the same.” she sounded more like she was trying to convince herself than me, she tore her eyes away from me for a second before taking a quick breath, “Everything is the same, as it always was.”

But that was a lie.

Cause nothing was the same in my life anymore. The heartache I felt now was a thousand times worse than the heartache I felt before I met her. And my want for her was a million times more than it ever was.

I tried to be honest, “No, it’s not, every time I walk out on stage, every time I sing in front of an audience, it’s not the same. It’s missing something.”

She just watched me carefully, a flutter of emotions flashing across that beautiful face.

“I know what it’s missing, what I miss.” I threw out those words in a hurry, bringing myself even closer to her. I could see Jared and Cheryl making their way through some of the shorter flowers and bushes, “It’ll mean a lot to me Miss Ara, if I could take you to the festival.” I tried to lower my voice, wishing I had more time with her, “I miss you.”


Ara

I didn’t have a chance to wonder where everyone disappeared to. I was still lost in the feelings Jackson was awakening in me, I remember Jared telling us not to go anywhere.

But I guess no one listened to him because when I looked back into Jackson’s face, it was just us two.

And that voice, he started telling me stories in that deep southern voice. It just pulled at my heart, one syllable at a time.

At first I didn’t know what he was trying to say to me, complementing my eyes, talking about planting flowers. My guard was up too high, nothing was getting past it, until he mentioned a concert, and how he was forced to meet fans of his.

I instantly saw it in his eyes. His old fear, the worry of failure that he saw in himself, but what pulled me to him was that he was sharing it with me, telling me the story because he knew I understood.

It made me want to protect him all over again. And I tried to, the best way I could. Tried to take away the dismay I saw in those green eyes, the disappointment.

“It’s not the same.” his voice was much lower now, and when did he get so close? I could smell his cologne, feel the heat his body was radiating, it made me dizzy, made me want to close my eyes.

“It is the same.” I was talking to myself really, trying to make myself believe this, “Everything is the same, as it always was.”

But I wasn’t convincing, not to myself, and not to him. He shook his head at me telling me it wasn’t true, his life wasn’t the same, he was missing something, we both were missing something.

Maybe if he hadn’t been so close to me, his next words wouldn’t have affected me so much. But he was right here, his face only inches from mine, those green eyes pleading with me.

“I know what it’s missing, what I miss.” and just hearing him say it hurt so much, because I missed the same thing. I missed him.

“It’ll mean a lot to me Miss Ara, if I could take you to the festival.” his voice was warm, husky, those green eyes never leaving my face, “I miss you.”

The room was spinning. I wanted to stretch my hand out and grab onto something to keep me steady, wanted to break the trance those eyes were holding me in.

All I could do was breathe.

“Will you come with me?” he was whispering in my ear, I could feel the scruff of his cheek teasing me as he talked. It played with my emotions, tortured me.

“Tell me you’ll come with me.” He pleaded achingly, and that was all he said before Cheryl and Jared broke through the colorful flowers and bold green leaves…

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