Scott put the car in park and waited. Seeing Natalie had royally messed with his head. He’d wanted to see her, practically kidnapped his brother’s kids so he’d have an excuse to see her but god, she was…She was so much more than he’d been expecting.
She was the same. Just as beautiful as she’d always been, just as kind, just as bright. They’d barely spoken for five minutes and within that time he’d felt lighter, less burdened by his mistakes, maybe even a little at peace. It was just five minutes and now all those things that had started to ease were crushing him instead, back with a vengeful fury as he realised he’d completely destroyed the one relationship that might have made him happy. He’d thought he was over this. It had been eight years. He’d let her go.
“Name.” The security guard asked.
“Scott Garrison.” He replied.
“You’re not in the system.”
“I won’t be.” He said. “I’m Cecilia’s son.”
“I thought her son’s name was Pete.”
“I’m the other one.”
“Okay give me a minute.” The guard said, clicking off the intercom system and beginning to make some calls.
This whole place was a joke. It was the only retirement village between their town and the three surrounding ones, and retirees from all four flocked to the gated community. It was decked with tall fences, security guards and multiple surveillance cameras, like anyone would ever want to steal a pair of dentures from old Mr. Roger.
His mother had moved here right after his dad had died. Now she spent her weekends playing bingo and Yahtzee, no longer managing the orchard and all the business that flowed through it. That was Pete’s responsibility now. You’d think they could have spared Scott’s third of the inheritance, neither Pete nor his mother needed it. But no, with him there were strings attached, to get what was rightly his he had to spend the spring in this place. He was being forced to deal with all the crap he’d left behind. To finally face Natalie, the girl who’d always been there for him in a way no one else had, who now looked at him as if he were a stranger.
“Cecilia’s not seeing visitors today.” The security guard said, coming back onto the intercom.
“Tell her Pete’s with me.” Scott replied.
“But he’s not.” The security guard pointed out. “I can see you on one of our cameras, you’re alone.”
“So tell her Pete’s here anyway.”
“I can’t do that Sir.”
Of course not. Well at least Scott had tried. No one could pester him about it now, demand to know why he hadn’t spoken to his mother.
He pulled out of the entrance and headed back to the manor, wondering why he’d come here in the first place. His mother hadn’t spoken directly to him in at least two years. His father sure, Scott had gotten the monthly call and weekly email keeping him caught up on everyone, and reprimanding him for not coming home. But his mom had stopped, given up after one particularly nasty visit to the city. Scott had often wondered when his father would stop trying to break through too. He’d never thought death would take him first.
This is exactly why he’d never wanted to come back here. Coming back meant dredging up all the crap he’d left behind, and he just didn’t have the energy to deal with it all. Pete’s disappointment, Eliza’s transformation, his mother’s silent treatment and Natalie’s happy, perfect life. It was all too much, happening all at once. He needed to take the edge off, he needed to stop the thoughts that were currently entering his head.
When he pulled into the Garrison Manor he jumped out of the car and rushed to his room, taking the stairs two at a time. Once he was inside he reached for the duffle he’d kicked under the bed, and pulled out that tiny black bag housing his weed.
Within seconds the joint had been rolled and he’d stepped onto the balcony, ready to let go and revel in the calmness this would bring. Slowly he brought the cigarette to his lips. Then he stopped, just a mere inch from taking that drag he so desperately craved. Eliza wasn’t home, but Pete was, and no way would he overlook this again. Scott brought the joint closer, he wanted it badly, he needed it.
“Dammit.” He yelled, throwing it onto the timber deck and putting it out with his shoe. He stepped back into his room, slamming the glass door behind him. “Dammit, dammit, dammit.” He brought his arm back and slammed his fist into the solid brick wall, connecting as hard as he could. He barely made a dent, instead pain ricochet up his arm, instantly numbing his hand. There was a good chance he’d broken something, but he didn’t care. This was bullshit. He just needed a little something to take the edge off, to dull everything, but prim and proper Eliza would never allow it.
What did he care anyway? Was the money really that important to him? No, it wasn’t. Screw the money. But it wasn’t the money holding him back right now. It was Jenny, her excited, smiling face shining like a beacon in his mind. He couldn’t break her heart, it would be like kicking a puppy.
“When did you get back?” It was Pete, standing in his doorway, a furious glare directed at Scott.
“Not now.” He said.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Pete demanded. “Taking my kids like that. I came out of the bathroom and had no idea where they were.”
“Oh come on, we both know Bryce texted you one minute updates.”
“You took my kids without telling me you were taking them, and without telling me where. Do you even have a license?”
“I know how to drive.”
“That’s not the point Scott. They’re kids. And you put them in danger today. I know you’re used to doing whatever the hell you want, but don’t you dare do that with my kids.”
Pete shook his head and he looked at Scott like their dad used to, making it clear he was disappointed in Scott, but also in himself for expecting more. Scott should have smoked that joint.
“Are you done?” He asked.
“Yeah.” Pete replied, still shaking his head as he turned to leave. Then he stopped, turning back around as another thought struck him. “You need to leave Natalie alone too.”
And there it was, the warning Scott had always known was coming.
“This town’s small. We’re bound to bump into one another.” He shot back.
“Bumping into each other is one thing, but don’t seek her out.” Pete said, his voice stern. “I’m serious Scott. Don’t mess with her head. Don’t confuse her. Just leave her alone. You never deserved her, but she gave you a shot and you messed it up. Now leave her alone.”
“I know why you’re back, I know about Dad’s Will. You screw with Natalie and you won’t see a penny of it.”
Okay, Natalie had done some thinking and she’d figured out just what she was going to do about Scott.
It may not be the best plan, the most mature plan, but it would get the job done.
Oh who was she kidding? She was being an idiot. But seeing him had messed with her. She kept replaying every tiny detail over and over again in her head, wishing she’d said about a million other things.
When she and Scott had first broken up she’d often imagined that moment, the moment she’d see him again. She’d imagined what she would say, how she would say it, how he would react. She had about 10 different scenarios she could have turned into some short film and in the moment she’d forgotten everything.
She should have called him a jackass.
She should have slapped him.
She should have told him about Ryan and rubbed how happy she was in his stupid face.
She should have done a lot of things. Instead, she’d forgotten how to speak. Then she’d gone on with her day and suppressed everything. Now she was home, and she was finally letting it all out.
She was confused, and conflicted, and her head was spinning. She just kept picturing his face, wondering if he’d been just as freaked out as she was. He could hide his feelings so well, if he didn’t want you to see something then you didn’t, he had this way of blocking everything out. He’d worn the look that morning, his face stoic, mysterious, everything but that one half-smirk locked away. She desperately wanted to know how he felt, if this was as weird for him as it was for her. She wanted to know why he was back. Had he come back for her? Or had he just come back?
Except she couldn’t ask these questions, because if she asked them she’d also have to ask herself a few. Like how did she feel? Did she want him to be back for her? And if she did want him to be back for he,r then did it mean she still had feelings for him, or did she just want the guy who’d hurt her to say he was sorry.
Anger was easier. A lot easier. She wanted to be angry. Scott had broken her heart, smashed it to pieces, he’d hurt her more than she thought anyone could hurt her. She should be angry with him. She should have called him a jackass, and slapped him and rubbed Ryan in his face.
She wasn’t angry though, not really. Years ago she’d had to make a choice. She could either hold onto her anger, and continue to be miserable, or she could forgive him and move on. She’d chosen to move on, to let go of the negativity, but now she had no idea how she was supposed to feel about him. One thing was for sure though, she needed to figure it out, and until she did she would be avoiding Scott like the plague.
She heard a door open and she quickly fell back onto the sofa and pulled the thick blanket over her body. She took a deep breath in, and prepared herself for her acting debut.
“Natalie are you home?” Came Ryan’s voice.
“Hmmm.” She moaned from her spot on the couch.
“Natalie?” His voice came again, louder this time. “Oh, are you okay?”
“I have a headache.” She said keeping her eyes closed and saying every word as if each one caused her an immense amount of pain. “And my throat hurts.”
“Are you getting sick?”
“No.” She said. That’s what she always said when she got sick. She denied it and denied it and denied it.
“Natalie.” He pushed.
“Okay maybe a little.” She made her voice squeak on the word little and she pulled the blanket closer to her chest. “I don’t think I can go tonight. I just need to rest so I can go to work tomorrow.”
“Yeah, of course. I’ll call Pete and cancel.”
“No.” She said. “You should still go. You were looking forward to it.”
“That’s because I thought we were going to be announcing our engagement. We still need to talk about everything.”
“I know, but my head hurts too much right now. Go to the barbecue, and when I feel better we’ll talk.”
“What about Scott? He’s gonna be there. What am I supposed to say to him?” Ryan asked.
“I don’t care.” She said, and this time she wasn’t lying or faking her headache. Just thinking about Scott and Ryan in the same room together was bringing on a real one.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?”
“I’m not gonna be a lot of fun right now, and I don’t want to get you sick. Get out while you can.”
“If you’re sure.”
“I’m sure.” She pulled the blanket tighter, and turned onto her side as if getting ready for a nap. Ryan didn’t say anything more, but Natalie could still hear him in the house, rustling around as he got everything together for the barbecue.
Natalie felt a tiny bit guilty for missing it. Jenny would be upset. She just couldn’t face Scott right now. She knew she’d have to eventually, but for now she was going to do the cowardly thing. So she pretended to sleep until Ryan left, and then turned on Netflix and spent her night watching Gilmore Girls.