A story of long-lost love, pain, & childhood sweethearts
We stood apart, surrounded by the well-tended wildflowers on his dad’s back porch, his eyes focused on every inch of my face as he had done eight years ago when he said those words to me.
Eight years felt like a long time ago, yet it felt like only a moment ago when he shattered my life and walked away without a backward glance.
My eyes fluttered.
Hearing his voice again after so long made my heart leap. Tried as I may, I couldn’t stop myself from sniffing the air in search of his favorite Cologne.
“Yes. Your father was a great man and an excellent confidant. He stood by me even when you didn’t.”
I raised my hand to stall his next words because he didn’t deserve to say anything to me. It took me years to heal from his hurt, and much more to convince myself I didn’t need him.
To believe I was enough.
Tonight wasn’t about him, nor us. “I’m sorry for your loss, Jack. I’ll miss him greatly. I only came out here to pay my respects and mourn my loss,” I said, looking towards the garden and then back at him. “Alone.”
He swallowed, taking a step toward me.
I stepped right back.
He ran a hand through his hair, scrubbing it across his face, before looking back at me. “I was a fool, Juliet, and I shouldn’t have ended things the way I did. I was young, ambitious, and stupid.”
The raw anguish in his voice caught my attention, and I gazed at him for the first time in eight years. He looked like he’s been battling demons all his life.
Although still ruggedly chiseled, his eyes were hollow and void, unlike the warm, chocolate pools I grew up staring at every day at the ranch.
I shook myself.
No! I vouched never to let him affect me again. Whatever he was dealing with was his dammed business. I’ve got to go.
“Say something, please.”
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My heart thumped.
What was he up to? Why the sudden feelings of remorse and guilt?
These thoughts rattled around in my head, yet they didn’t break my resolve to leave unaffected.
“You weren’t stupid, Jackson. You knew exactly what you wanted and did what you had to do. Same as me. You hurt me, but you didn’t break me. Your apology is more than half a decade late,” I said and turned to leave.
“See you around.”
“It’s always been you, Juliet,” he yelled, stopping me dead in my tracks. “It’s still you.”
His voice, although low and raw, carried over to where I now stood. “As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t stay away because I was too proud to apologize. I stayed away because I was too afraid I had lost you for good.”
No! Not after all these years. He had no damn right.
I stomped back toward him, jabbed a finger in his chest, and almost lost it. His familiar scent assailed me, and I had to summon every ounce of willpower to stay pissed.
“You don’t get to play the guilty card, Jackson, because you left me scarred. You left when I needed you the most. I don’t care how much you’ve suffered, it’ll never compare to the tidal waves of pain you’ve put me through.”
“Never,” I yelled at him, poking him hard in the chest.
“Be grateful to your parents. They were much kinder than you ever will be. I built a life without you in it. You don’t get to walk back like the last eight years didn’t happen,” I spat at him, ready to storm off when a voice melted my insides.
“Mom! Grandma’s been looking for you,” he announced, running towards me.
I caught him mid-air, ruffling his hair. “Tell Grandma I’ll be with her shortly,” I say, nudging him towards the back entrance, but he sidestepped me, walking toward a slack-jawed Jackson.
“Hello,” he greets, extending his little hands. “I’m Julian.”
My heart danced like a wild panther in labor when Jackson stared and stared at Julian. I grew nauseous when he asked, “How old are you, Julian?”
And he replied. “Six and a half.”