Maybe I should start at the beginning to help you better understand.
I was driving through my hometown in rural Mississippi. I couldn’t believe I was here again. I had once vowed I would never come back. It had been ten years. But my best friend Emily wanted her wedding to be here. At the lake house. In rural Mississippi where we were both born and raised. If you met me now, you wouldn’t be able to tell I was from the South.
My accent had long since faded, and I was a psychiatrist in New York. New York had been my home for the past ten years. I really didn’t want to go and see Emily, my best and oldest friend off all time, marry him. Not when I loved him too. I had loved him since I was 16 years old.
My phone rang and I sighed. “Hello?” I answered. I heard a dramatic sigh on the other end. Oh great. My mother. “Hello, dear. Are you on the way?” She asked me. “Yes, I’m on the way right now.” I told her. I’d only been driving for oh, eighteen hours now. I was exhausted. I had made a stop halfway, then woke up to drive the rest of the way.
“That’s great. Honey, have you called Jason? I know he misses you!” My mother said and it took all my strength not to yell at her. “No, mother. I did not call Jason. And I won’t call him.” I said, my voice rising a little out of anger.
I don’t know how my mother could still support Jason when he was abusive to me. He had always been. I’d stuck around for nine years of it though. “Claire, he loves you.” She said, her voice full of concern. Not for me, for Jason. “Mother! He beat me every day for nine years. He didn’t love me!” I said, and now I was really fighting the urge to cry.
Mother sighed. “I’ll see you at the wedding.”
She said, and she didn’t say “I love you.” I knew my mother didn’t like to lie. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I wiped them away quickly. I wouldn’t ruin Emily’s big day with my problems. Besides, I was the maid of honor, and I had to make sure everything went smoothly.
I took a deep breath as I pulled into the driveway. Everything looked exactly the same as it used too. I felt like I was 16 years old again. I wished I could go back and change things. Make everything better. I saw Emily on the front porch, wearing a huge smile. How was she more beautiful every time we met?
She was practically glowing. I thought only pregnancy had that effect. Apparently being with your true love does it too. I stepped out of the car and smiled. “Claire!” Emily squealed, rushing into my arms. “Em!” I said and hugged her tight. I had missed her. Of course, we had FaceTimed every day, and she visited me once in New York, but it was better to see her now.
“Wow, everything looks the same.” I said, glancing around. And it did. I could see Emily and I rushing through the yard barefoot. I could see my father playing guitar at the bonfire. I could see my mother happy. Of course, she hadn’t been happy since my father passed away. And she hadn’t loved me since then either. I tried to forget the bad thoughts. Today was supposed to be happy. This week was supposed to be happy.
“I know, it’s crazy.” Emily said, taking my bag from me. “I can do that, Em.” I said, but she insisted. I followed her into the house. It was like a shockwave. Nothing was out of place. Everything was exactly as it was ten years ago. I fought back a wave of sadness when I saw my fathers portrait. I missed him so much. Emily led me down the hallway to my old bedroom. I opened the door cautiously.
Did I even remember what my room used to look like? Emily walked in. “I didn’t move anything. I knew you would like it just the way it was.” She said, grinning at me. Her emerald green eyes sparkled. She was so happy. I wished I was that happy. But I hadn’t been that happy in a long time. But I wasn’t going to let her know that. I grinned. The posters on the wall were of Twilight. God, that was a crazy phase.
My purple bed was in the corner, and my jewelry box was still there too. I’m pretty sure all of my clothes would still be in the closet if I hadn’t packed them to leave. “Wow. This is so weird to see. It’s been so long.” I said, running a hand through my brown hair. Emily grinned. “Remember our feud over Team Edward or Team Jacob?” She asked me, glancing at the Twilight posters scattered about the room.
I laughed. “God, how could I forget!” I said. “Carter?” I heard from behind me. Why did he always have to call me Carter? I think I could count on my fingers how many times he ever said my real name. Oh no. I wasn’t mentally prepared for this yet.
He looked as beautiful as ever. His light brown hair, the color of chestnut, was cut cleanly, though you could still see some of the wave. And his eyes. They were as blue as ever. I used to love to look in those eyes. Now they weren’t mine to look into.
“I didn’t know you were coming early!” He said, bear hugging me. I laughed, even through deep down I was freaking out that he hugged me. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. It was wrong. He walked over to hug Emily. It hurt to watch, no matter how much I loved Emily. I would never act on my feelings, but they were there. And they always would be. I decided that was my cue. “Hey, I’m gonna go get the rest of my bags.” I said, a hint of my southern accent coming back.
No. No. I thought. The last thing I needed was one of my clients remarking on my accent again. It had taken a year to even go away. Emily smiled. “Ok, I’ll see you in a minute.” She said, her eyes glowing as she looked back to Mason. I walked out of the room. As soon as I was outside the house, I let out a shaky breath. I walked over to sit by the lake. This was where I used to go to feel safe. When I used to feel protected. This was also where I met Mason Baker.
I waved my best friend Emily away. Usually she stayed the entire summer with me. In fact, this was the first summer we would be apart. She had to go to summer school, and I was alone. At least we had one day together, I thought. I didn’t know what to do without Emily here.
That was when I saw him. He was about my age, and he was tall. What offended me the most was that he was jumping into my lake. I stormed down the hill. Who the hell was this guy? Some random stranger? “Who the hell are you?” I asked, just as he came up from underwater.
He smirked at me. “Who the hell are you?” He countered. I rolled my eyes and folded my arms. “I’m Claire Carter, and you’re trespassing on my property.” I said, my voice annoyed. He laughed. What a jerk. “I doubt if I looked up the deed your name would be on it.” He said. I rolled my eyes. Who did this guy think he was?
“You know what? I don’t care who you are, just get the hell out!” I said, really mad now. “Okay, Okay. Carter, I’m going.” He said, climbing out of the water. Oh great, he was one of those guys. The type of guy who loved to address girls by their surname as if it made them cool.
I tried not to look in his direction as he got out. But I was only 16. He looked pretty good, I’m not gonna lie. He had a tan, and I could tell it was from working in the sun. And his chest was very muscular. His face was gorgeous . But I hated him, so I’d never admit it.
He snickered at me. “What are you laughing at?” I asked, seething. “Just you, Carter.” He said. “Why don’t you tell me your name? So I know who to name when I call the police?” I asked innocently. His eyes flashed. His eyes were a fiffern They were probably the prettiest eyes I’d ever seen except for Emily’s. He was about to say something when my mother called my name. I looked up and saw she was walking down the hill. Thank God, she could kick this jerk out. She smiled at me. “I see you’ve met Mason.” She said, and I looked at her incredulously. She knew this guy? How?! “You know him?” I asked, and my tone was anything but nice. Mom flashed me a warning look. “Of course. Your dad and I hired him to help clean up around here. He’s going to be staying in the guest room.” She said. I could barely believe what I was hearing. I looked at Mason, I could tell he was really enjoying this. “Oh, well, that’s great.” I said, faking enthusiasm. It wasn’t very convincing. My mom smiled and walked back up the hill. I glared at Mason. “Why didn’t you just tell me you weren’t some axe murderer?” I asked him. He rolled his eyes. “Like you would have believed me anyway.” He said, stalking off. I couldn’t believe this. First Emily leaves and now I have to deal with him all summer. This was going to be the worst summer of my life.
I was wrong.