Tomorrow

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I Met A Girl

Jackson

Ara looked beautiful, her eyes wide, her mouth upturned in a smile, she also looked extremely nervous. There were thousands of people out there screaming and waiting for me to step out onto the stage.

But I wasn't nervous, I was actually looking forward to it. Itching to push out there and greet the crowd, bask in their cheers. They knew something special was going to happen tonight. My twitter feed had been blowing up all day, especially after that last tweet, the one they were waiting for.

The media was still all over my every move. My divorce was pretty messy. Layla would not accept any type of settlement I suggested. She was furious that I had revealed her business to the entire world. She was actually dropped from two movies that were pending beforehand, they let her go almost immediately after the news hit the fan. I felt a little guilty about that, but the guilt quickly faded when I heard she blamed me for the separation. Telling the press that I was the one who cheated first, and that I only married her because of her fame.

Cheryl wanted me to go after her for that one, but I decided not to. To be honest all I wanted to do from here on out was show the world Ara. Show them how special she was, how much she helped me grow, all the things she taught me.

That night, the one where I announced to the whole world that I loved her, I was ready to face her husband. Finally fight for what I really loved. It took me by complete surprise when I realized Ara was already divorced. We were on my bus when I found out.

“I’ve been wrong, about a lot of things in my life, about who to trust, about myself.” My voice shook a bit, and I rubbed the palm of my hand back and forth across the rough jean material over my knee. “But there’s something I’ve never been wrong at, and that’s how I felt about you. Ever since the first day, and every day after that, I’ve loved you.”

Her eyes got all watery then, and she tried to blink a couple of times. Her shaky breath and slightly open mouth, that’s what gave me the strength to keep going.

“I should have told you right from the beginning how I felt, but honestly, I was scared. I thought I would mess up your life if you knew, or worse, you would disappear and I would lose you.” I shifted slightly in my seat. Her eyes were locked to mine; I could almost see myself in them. “And I was greedy. I knew you deserved better than me, you still do. Your husband, Clint, I should have respected him more, respected that you are his wife. A part of me knows I shouldn’t be doing this to you, but another part of me doesn’t want to let you go.”

I think she was going to say something then, but I stopped her. I wanted to finish telling her everything.

“And I know before I can really ask you to be with me, I have to be the man I should’ve been from the beginning. I asked Layla for a divorce. My lawyer already knows this and is drawing up the papers as we speak. I’m sure she’s going to fight dirty, but I don’t care.” I stopped then. I knew what I wanted to say next, words that should have been said a long time ago, but it was hard, I might not like what her answer would be. So I looked down at my feet for a second trying to gather some courage, and then right back into those eyes.

“I love you. I don’t want to be with Layla, and I don’t want you to be with Clint. And if you feel the same way, if you think you can forgive me for everything I’ve done to you, would you leave him, for me? To be with me?”

I probably said all this faster than I should have. She didn’t move for a second but her breathing was rapid and her hands were gripping her seat tightly.

“If you want my help to tell him,” I almost stumbled over my words; half afraid she was going say what I feared the most, “I’ll go with you.”

She shook her head slightly at first and then harder, running her trembling hand through her hair. “You don’t know?” her voice was soft, so low it almost cracked.

And that’s when I found out. That she was already divorced. It took everything in my being not to let the guilt overwhelm me, knowing she went through that all alone. The lump in my throat hardly let me breathe.

“Jackson,” she took another shaky breath and scooted near the edge of her seat, “I was sure Cheryl told you, I thought you already knew, but I guess I can see why you don’t.” Her words weren’t making much sense but I was completely filled with apprehension that I didn’t have a chance to react to much of anything.

Her hand reached out slightly, she didn’t touch me; just let her fingertips linger in the air between us, “I’m already divorced. Clint figured us out after he saw us in Arizona. I’m not with him anymore. I live by myself.” She kept watching me, still unsure how to read me.

Her words swirled around my head and then around my heart.

“You’re already divorced?” I could hear the gruffness of my voice mixed with the surprise.

She nodded once, her head tilted, “I had to tell him the truth, when I got back from Arizona. He already knew, he could tell.”

Everything in the bus was suddenly blurry; I could feel the floor falling out from underneath me. “He knew? All this time?”

“Yes, he was waiting for me when I walked in the door, he already knew. He didn’t fight with me, he just asked me to leave, and I did. It took a few months but the divorce is final. I still live in Terra, just a small apartment.”

Her words undid me. Filled me with so much sorrow and regret. I just stared into her eyes knowing there was nothing I could say that would make this feeling go away. If I had been half the man I should’ve been, I would have been by her side for it all.

“I’m so sorry baby,” I whispered, pleading with her to understand, “I didn’t know. It was all my fault, the way I made you leave, the things I said to you. You should have never had to go through that alone.”

Her hand reached out and just briefly touched mine; “I did have to go through it alone. It wasn’t your fault, it was mine too. I should have told him from the beginning, and I should have told you too.” her eyes kept me spellbound and her voice grew stronger, “I should have told you what I was feeling, how you made me feel, how much I wanted to be with just you. That I was in love with you.”

I almost didn’t hear her; my heart was pounding so hard. She didn’t break her gaze with me.

“But it taught me how strong I can be, taught me that being alone wasn't so horrible as I thought it would be, and it showed me how much I didn’t belong with him.”

I just took her in my arms then. Just held her close. There wasn't anything else I could say that would take all the pain away. She didn't deserve just words anymore either. It was time for me show her. Show her exactly how I felt.


Ara

This was the first time Jackson was going out there since the news of his divorce broke, and my heart was pounding. I could hear all the excited screaming going on in the audience but I still worried about him. Worried that their excitement would change, that they would judge him, hate him, scare him.

He didn't look worried though, he looked pretty excited himself, his shoulders broad and straight as Cheryl adjusted his hat for him. One of his crew handed him his guitar. The lights were already dimming in preparation. Dustin and Brett standing right there at the edge of backstage listening for their cue.

The first few weeks after everyone found out about Layla and Jackson were the hardest. Some of the magazines were just awful with their headlines and fake articles. They wrote things about all of us, calling me a homewrecker, Layla a demanding jilted wife, and Jackson a terrible excuse for a man, using two woman at the same time.

It's what we tried to avoid from the beginning, but what we couldn't avoid any longer.

Rick and Cheryl worked around the clock, putting out as many fires as they could. Neither Jackson or I could even speak in public without their permission.

Every appearance was carefully planned. Every word rehearsed over and over. Jackson didn't lie. He never lied to them, always told them the truth, took the blame for his own shortcomings. Apologized to his fans.

And in the end, it was Jared who actually helped the whole thing die down. It was Jared who made the most sense of it all.

He was interviewing for a music magazine, it wasn't supposed to be about Jackson at all, but about creating videos, producing them. Of course the person interviewing him asked him several questions regarding Jackson and I. They wanted to hear his story, what he saw, what he heard.

Jared didn't waver from that interview. I saw it after it aired. He just sat straight up, his mouth scrunching up in anger and looked the reporter right in the eye. "I've worked with Jackson for years now. He's like a son to me. I've seen it all. The music, the awards, the videos, that's just the surface. But the man, the man he is on the inside, there's not fake bone in his body. He's the real thing. A real man. And a real man deserves a real woman who loves him. You can always tell when a man has found a woman like that. I mean just look at him now. The difference is right there whenever Sweet Pea is around. You tell me you can't see that, I dare any one of ya."

No one was foolish enough to go against him, so every article after that actually went easy on Jackson. Easy on me too, writing about how I brought all of Jackson's videos to life, how I brought him to life, and back to the good graces of the spotlight.

So here we were, with just seconds before he was to step onstage. He turned to me, right before the lights dimmed, his eyes bright, his smile full. I just beamed back at him, despite my nervousness, encouraging him to go out there and have fun. He was already holding his guitar in one hand, so with his free hand he reached out and grabbed my hand, planting a small kiss on the back of my wrist before letting me go and walking out.


Jackson

The cheering didn't die down, it got louder as I sang. I was glad for that because I couldn't stop grinning at them. They were in for a real treat tonight. They were about to see something no other crowd had seen at my concerts. I chose Dallas. There was something about this place, the place where we filmed our first video, the place where I kissed her for the first time. It just seemed fitting that I'd do it here.

The first set of songs were easy. The guys and I were having fun. Getting the crowd worked up. Interacting with the audience, shaking their hands as we sang. Nothing scared me anymore, I actually looked forward to it now. It wasn't until somewhere in the second hour I just started feeling just the tiniest bit anxious, trying to remember every move I had to make in order for this to run flawlessly.

We were in the middle of our guitar solos. Dustin and I standing in the center of the stage. Dueling guitars, we did that all the time in the bus, going back and forth trying to outdo each other. It was really working up the crowd and I couldn't help but grin at all those excited faces below. I glanced quickly over to the side of the stage making sure my crew guy was ready.

He was standing there where I told him, holding the wooden stool in one hand. His eyes caught my own and he quickly nodded, reaffirming his cue.

Our lighting guy started dimming the lights, little by little, making the stage a hazy white with all that fog the smoke machine was spitting out.

Behind me that big white screen that played all my videos and graphics during the concert went black, but I knew it would start up again in a few minutes.

Dustin finally left the center, moving over to the far left of the stage, as out of the way as he could get. And my crew guy scrambled over placing the stool right in the middle, before hurrying away.

It was all falling into place perfectly. Only one thing left to do.

I turned on my heel and heading for the side of the stage, the side where Ara was standing.

She was all smiles as she watched me. Her hair bouncing around her as she stood on her tip toes clapping for me. She thought it was over, thought my set was done.


Ara

It went perfectly.

The crowd was still yelling happily. They still loved him. They still loved his music.

I was so relieved about that I didn't even noticed Jackson skipped his last two songs. Didn't notice anything really until he was practically on top of me backstage, extending his hand out, stretching his fingers over mine. His eyes were so bright and his smile took over his whole face as he did that.

It was contagious and I found myself giggling as he pulled me out towards the stage, out in front of all those people.

He didn't let go of my hand, just led me out there and urged me to sit on the stool.

I had done this before. Sat there and watched him play. So it was nothing out of the ordinary and I settled down easily, giving his hand a small squeeze.

He was trying to show me the audience didn't hate me either. And it worked. I could feel my heart swell with all the cheering and whooping going on around me. The screen behind us suddenly came to life and a million pictures flashed brilliantly across the screen, each portraying Jackson and I, lasting only a few seconds before the next one was shown. I was fascinated at first, just like they were. The pictures were beautiful and the last one seemed fitting, taking me all the way back to the beginning, sitting with Jackson looking up at the clouds. The clapping didn't stop, and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I looked back out at all of them.

Their faces looked all the same. Bright smiles, big eyes, extended hands. I just kept grinning at all of them until I saw the change. It started off with just one or two. The eyes growing wide, the mouths forming a jaw dropping "O" shape. My head tilted in question, my eyes darting from face to face until I realized they weren't focused on me.

I couldn't hear the music anymore. I couldn't hear anything anymore. I finally turned my head back to Jackson, only to see he wasn't level with me, with my line of sight. No, he was lower, and I had to look down, lower my eyes and try to control that crazy pounding I could feel in my chest.

Jackson was down on one knee, his right hand up towards me holding this tiny black velvet case, glittering rays of sparkles bounced all around it as his hand shook.

I'm pretty sure everyone heard my gasp, and I don't even know when my hands flew to my face.

He was smiling, still smiling that adorable lopsided grin. He brought his microphone up with his left hand, his eyes never leaving mine.

"Would you do me the honor Miss Ara, of marrying a small town country boy like myself? Of making me the happiest man alive?" His accent rang loudly above the venue, louder than all the cheers around me.

I could feel my eyes water and my heart leap to my throat. That beautiful ring he was holding up to me sparkled with so much promise, so much love.

My eyes traveled over his face, it was a combination of pride and love, and just a hint of nerves. It filled me entirely, overflowed. Every hurt I ever possessed, every empty place in my heart just overflowed with his love, became consumed by it.

All I could do was leap up from my stool and fall down beside him, fling myself into his arms and pull him to me.

"Yes! Yes of course I'll marry you!" I cried into his neck. My voice had caught the microphone so everyone could hear my reply.

The cheers around us increased, lifting the entire venue on a whole other high. I could hear Jackson's deep chuckle, feel his arms go around me tightly. He only pulled back to lift that beautiful diamond from its case and place it on my trembling finger.

The last thing I remember is him bounding up, taking me with him, swinging me around and around while shouting out to his audience, "She said yes!"


Jackson

The news spread faster than a wildfire, sparking headlines before that night was even over. It was the first time in my life that a headline about me didn't bother me one bit. You couldn't wipe the grin off my face even if you tried. Besides, every headline said the same thing... Country Music Superstar Jackson Stone engaged to Arabella James. Just seeing it splashed across the television screens and internet newsfeeds only made that grin turn bigger.

Even though my heart was full, it did take me a while to forgive myself from all the pain that I knew I caused. This woman before me never doubted in giving herself to me, and I struggled with the torment of guilt for weeks until finally one night I was able to break free.

It was an ordinary night, we were in Nashville, my tour was on a small hiatus, just giving me a couple weeks off in between sets.

Since Ara and I were under strict orders from Rick and Cheryl to stay out of the limelight unless otherwise advised, we were holed in at my house. We couldn't even go outside since several helicopters came and went continuously overhead. So we stayed inside, killed some time watching movies, fiddled in the recording studio a bit, tried a few new recipes in the kitchen.

I hadn't touched her yet, intimately that is. Not that I didn't want to, it was quite the opposite really. I wanted to feel her next to me, and sometimes when our kisses grew deeper I couldn't help but feel that old yearning for her. That desire to be one with her.

But the guilt still lingered, trapped me inside my own head and I fought with it endlessly. Ara seemed to sense this. I could see her watching me, those big brown eyes lingering over mine. She never asked me what was wrong and she never pushed me either, to go further that what I was ready for.

I guess it was something she said to me one night, that made all the difference, made me think clearly again. It wasn't about the life we had now, but more about the lives we lived before we had each other.

"In high school I had to write a paper." Ara didn't seem to mind that we couldn't leave my house, she was content to stay inside wrapped up sitting in front of the fireplace in one of the blankets I had draped over my sofa. It was late, well into the evening, so I had the fire going on. The flickering flames were the only light that fell over us. "My paper was was on forgiveness. On why that was an important element in our lives."

I didn't know then, why she brought up the subject, I just listened to her talk, watched the light and shadows dance across her face as I sat next to her.

"At the time I didn't even give it a second thought while I wrote it. Did a bunch of research for it and just scribbled it all down. We had to fill ten pages of this stuff, we all complained to our teacher but he didn't budge. I started off really just scatterbrained at first. Tried to fill the pages with as much technical stuff as I could." She was gazing at her fingers as she started, but eventually as I listened, I realized she was looking at me. "But somewhere around page four or something I started to understand more to why I needed to write this. And I'm really glad I did. When I was packing, to move out, after Clint kicked me out, I found my paper, and I reread it."

It was when she mentioned her ex husband that really jerked me to attention. "And I understood why forgiveness is really hard. Everyone says we are supposed to forgive others, and we think that's the hard part, the impossible part, but in reality, it's forgiving ourselves that's the hardest. Because we don't even see it sometimes, are too busy trying to do right by others that we don't forgive ourselves. It's the one thing I learned from my divorce. The one thing I am actually grateful for having being married to Clint, because it made me realize that I would forever be tied to Clint, divorce or no divorce, until I forgave myself. It took a long time for that to happen. I understand Jackson, it might be hard for you. It might take some time..."

And then I could feel it again. That old familiar want, that breathless way she made me feel whenever I felt she was looking into my soul. She knew me, knew me better than I knew myself.

I just moved down beside her. Reached out and took her hand. "I just keep trying to figure out a way to apologize. To make up for everything. There's so much to apologize for..." I shook my head, not able to finish forming the words. Not knowing what else to say, what to think.

"You already apologized, and I already accepted. My heart's already right here with you, but yours is still in the past, and we can't move forward, move towards tomorrow until you find your way here. With me."

I could feel my breathing even out. The chains loosening up their hold on my heart. I leaned into her, let her softness fall over me, feel her breath on my lips, taste the sweetness in them.

Her hands moved around my shoulders, I could feel her fingertips stroking down my arms. Her kiss held me spellbound, started to make my heart thunder and that ache I carried inside me struggle to break free.

I finally gave into it. Fell into her and untangled my heart, stopped cursing at all the things that went wrong, and gave myself credit for all the things that went right.

Her body was warm and smooth, every curve fit into me perfectly. She pressed up against me, holding me close to her and that's when I learned to forgive. I forgave everyone around me, but mostly I forgave myself.

Once I was a free man there was no denying him. I gathered Ara up into my arms, lowering her down onto the blanket in front of the fireplace, tangling my hands in her hair and stroking down her cheek. I could feel her arms around me, her body arching into mine. It just fueled the fire within me and I kissed her back harder, moving my body over hers, remembering the feel of every curve she possessed, the way every moan she made would make me grow hard, make me want to explore her more, tear another shuddering sigh from her throat.

I tried to take my time, feel every second that passed by. But her tiny gasps and moving hands easily stripped my defenses down.

The pile of clothes thrown carelessly, grew beside us, and when my mouth closed over her breast her hands dug into my back and up into my hair as she held me to her. I wanted to kiss every part of her body, remember the sounds coming from her lips, her softness enveloping me. The heat, the want, the urge to join her. I know I slid in slowly, that was the one thing I was able to control, but once I was there all I could think about was taking her to that high, of reaching it there with her. Her gasps grew faster, her legs wrapped around me tightly as her body rocked with mine.

Those final thrusts tore every feeling out of me, helped me let go of everything I was holding in for so long. Everything I wanted to show her. All I could do was keep my eyes on hers as I moved. Watched those beautiful brown eyes full of promise, full of life.

I had finally...finally...found home...

Ara

"Smile Ara!" I don't know why Cheryl was telling me to smile. I'm pretty sure I had a goofy grin plastered across my face already.

A small giggle escaped me as I twirled around feeling the luxurious fabric swish around my legs, the white lace had a shimmery thread intertwined in it so it sparkled endlessly against the bright lights.

"I'm glad we listened to you guys. This place is gorgeous." Cheryl moved her camera out of the way, placing it down on one of the small wooden tables. She moved carefully, not wanting to snag her dress on the twigs that held the tiny bundles of babies breath in place in the bride's room, my room.

She was talking about the entire ranch, the place where Jackson and I decided to get married. And she was absolutely right, this place was gorgeous. Rustic and charming with lots of space, yet elegant and romantic at the same time.

It was a far cry from the media circus city wedding that Rick and Cheryl originally pushed for.

"It would put you two in the spotlight. People magazine want an exclusive, they're willing to pay big bucks for it too! It would be like getting this whole thing free!"

Only Jackson and I didn't want it free, we didn't want the spotlight either. What we really wanted was something small, something in the middle of nowhere with lots of green and browns and big fluffy clouds.

So West Virginia it was. And Jackson's parents were oh so happy help us set it all up.

It took months, and we had to throw off the press a couple of times, but in the end it was perfect.

There was a big red barn on Jackson's parents property that they hadn't used in years. It got a makeover, a little sanding, some fresh paint. It was for the reception, and Jackson was in charge of that. He wouldn't let me help in any way, wanted it to be a surprise for me. He looked so eager and happy I was more than content to let him have his way.

"Come on Ara. It's time to get this show on the road." Cheryl moved around me, helping me gather up my train and over to the double doors that led to the garden area. I'd been out here this morning, before we started getting ready. It was really beautiful. Rows of dainty white wicker chairs all adorned with tiny silver bows. The rustic wood arch made up of all these long branches tied together with white tulle stood waiting at the head of the walkway. Everything was sitting on the greenest grass I'd ever seen, and those big white clouds in the sky were the perfect touch.

My heart swelled when I saw all the people I loved sitting out there for me and Jackson, but the moment I laid eyes on him, saw him suck in his breath at the sight of me, his hand going right up to his heart, that made me fall in love all over again and I couldn't wait to walk down the aisle and stand next to him. I couldn't wait to be his wife.

He looked so handsome with that little boy grin on his face, almost bouncing on his toes as I walked toward him. He was wearing a suit, and a tie, but it didn't change him at all. He was still all country, still my country guy standing there with his grey signature hat and cowboy boots.

It was perfect. Out there under the bright blue sky and white clouds with the grass underneath our feet and surrounded by everyone we loved. Just perfect.


Jackson

She was a sun kissed vision, all flushed and beautiful in that white lace gown. Nothing in my imagination could ever match what I was seeing walking down the aisle toward me. That sparkling sea of lace hugged her body in all the right places. It wasn't revealing at all, just a small v at her neckline but it was more than enough to start making my heart throb.

She took my hand when she reached me. Just feeling the warmth of her palm gave me a sense of peace, I was finally free from those demons, all because of her.
I worked really hard on turning that barn around. Every single thing done to that space was with her in mind. I wanted it to be amazing, wanted her to walk in there and be transported into paradise. I also wanted her to remember, just tiny hints of all the things we shared along our journey, things that might trigger a special memory for her.
The entire ceiling was covered with white twinkling lights, they strung them all across the beams and down the walls, the lights hung over our heads like a clear night sky filled with stars.
Every table had been carved out of wood and finished to a brilliant shine. Small lit candles bounced the light around the room catching some of the silver sparkle of the carefully placed ribbon with glittery accents. Each table held a picture frame, and inside every frame were different shots of Ara and I. They showed all the places we had been to, all the sets we created, but mostly they showed the look in our eyes as we gazed at each other.
The pictures were surrounded by white roses, and a few yellow ones spread out all around the room, grand designs on each table, filling it with the most heavenly scent.
I put the dance floor in the middle of it all. Centered it so everyone sitting down could see it. It gleamed of polished redwood, and the spotlights on every corner made it the grand focal point of the room.
I pushed opened the doors, taking her hand in mine as we walked in. I could hear her small gasp, just as Brett was announcing from the inside, telling everyone to welcome the newlyweds, Mr. and Mrs. Stone.
My heart leaped, thudded inside my body still amazed that it all turned out this way. Ara shifted towards me, her eyes all lit up like those twinkling lights. Her mouth turned up and her giggle filled my ears.
I escorted her right in, pulled her right into the center of the room. Let every light shine on her. Twirled her round and round, letting that lace flow spread out in grand fashion. Showed her off proudly to everyone who was watching. This here was my life, my everything, and I would never deny it again. My smile was real and my heart was full as she giggled again and then finally settled into my arms as the first few notes of our first dance started. I just nestled my head into the crook of her neck, breathing in her scent, closing my eyes, still marveling at the beauty in my arms.
You see it was then that I realized, what I should have always known to be true...
Because life always offers you a second chance...
It's called Tomorrow...











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