“Babies come when they want to, they don’t care if you’re planning or not.” She points her fork in Storm’s direction. “Asher was the only one your parents planned. The rest of you were surprises. Especially Rayne. Your parents thought they were all done having babies, then finally the little girl they wanted came along.”
Storm squeezes my leg under the table. “Gram, I know you want a baby to spoil and all that happy stuff, but we’re not having a baby yet. We want to wait a year or two before we even think about starting a family.”
“A year or two? That’s so long. I could be gone by then. I can’t live forever.”
“Gram!” we both say at the same time.
Storm rakes his hand through his hair. “You’re not going anywhere. And we’re not pregnant. Can we just talk about the wedding, since that is happening? We’re gonna have snowflakes fall on us instead of people throwing rice or blowing bubbles. How cool is that?”
His grandmother’s eyes light up hearing Storm’s excitement. “That sounds lovely. A winter-themed wedding is so magical. Aria showed me a photo of the cake you’re having made, it’s going to be too pretty to eat.”
The four-tiered cake we picked out will be decorated with chocolate twigs and candied red berries and dusted with edible sparkles that look like icy snow.
“It’s got a white chocolate layer,” Storm raves. “I’ll eat that entire thing myself.” Leaning closer, he whispers into my ear. “Then I’m going to eat you.”
“My hearing is better than you think,” Gram announces. “And suddenly I’m feeling very tired. I think I’d like to go take a nap. I feel awful you two came all this way to see me, but I’m just feeling very sleepy today.”
“That’s totally fine.” I mask my worry with a smile. “We got to see you and that’s all that matters.”
Storm jumps up from his seat. “I’ll carry you to your room.”
“Don’t be silly. You can’t carry me.”
He proves her wrong by gently scooping her up into his big, tattooed arms and carrying her out of the kitchen and down the hall to her bedroom while she laughs the entire way.
Before I clear the table, I sit there quietly for a few minutes, cherishing one of the sweetest moments I’ve ever witnessed.
The first time I met Aria, she told me Storm had a lot of love to give. At the time I had no idea how true that was, or what an understatement it was. Storm is one of the few people I have ever met who truly knows how to love someone.
My heart clenches as I stare at the engagement ring on my finger. That amazing man, who just lovingly carried his grandmother into another room, is going to be my husband and, someday the father of my children.
Who knew getting lost in a blizzard would turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to me?
Playing riffs on my guitar usually clears my brain out, but my mind is fucking spinning after the visit with Gram yesterday.
The woman who’s been a second mother to me since the day I was born—and who has pulled me out of hundreds of messes—is growing tired. I can see it in her cloudy eyes, and I can hear it in her weakening voice. I could feel it in her weightlessness when I picked her up.
I’m going to lose her. Someday - maybe soon, maybe not. Any day is too soon. I finally found the love of my life, and now I could lose the woman who made me believe I could love.
And be loved.
But that’s what life is about - love and loss, loving and losing. All I want to do is focus on the love part, and not the fucking losing part.
Easier said than done.
I put my guitar off to the side and lean back in the black leather couch in my guitar room. I wish Evie were here, because when playing doesn’t chase the ghosts away, being close to her—losing myself in her—always gives me the peace and solidity I need. But she’s off having breakfast with my mother to talk about wedding and work things.
And here I am in my new guitar room, with Niko at my feet, holding a piece of paper in my hand that I haven’t looked at in a long time. The note is handwritten in blue ink that’s faded over the years, and the white, lined paper is soft and frayed from being folded and unfolded countless times. I should have gotten rid of it years ago, and I came close a few times, usually when I was wasted. But throwing away a suicide note just feels wrong, even when you’re drunk off your ass. It’s sacred. Untouchable. A dark, depressing, twisted souvenir.
It’s so much more than that though. These words are my punishment, my life sentence handed down to me by my eighteen-year-old first wife.
If you’re reading this, then I guess I’m gone. I’m sure you found the other note, the one I left for everyone else to read. But I hid this one where I knew only you would find it. My only regret is I can’t be there to watch you and your perfect little family deal with this mess. I’m sure my parents are playing the victim, pretending they ever gave a shit about me.
You made me do this. I tried so hard to make you love me but I know you never really did. You love your guitar and your bike and your family and I’m just nothing to you. You make us live in this tiny shitty apartment and work crappy jobs. You know your parents will give you money but you have to be an asshole and try to prove a point all the time.
When are you going to wake up? You’re never going to be like your father. You’re never going to be a famous rock star. You’re just a loser wannabe and I’m so sick of you going on and on about your stupid dreams. Your own brother doesn’t even want you in the band because he knows what a loser you are.
Every time I tried to talk to you, you ignored me. I begged you for a nicer place and a nicer car so I could be happy. Asher and Ember have everything and we have nothing. Why does she get everything? Why does everyone love her? My own parents didn’t even want me and now I get stuck with a husband that doesn’t want me either.
I wanted to get married so someone would love me. Well guess what? I don’t want you either. I hate you. I can’t even stand to look at you or hear your voice. I wish I had killed you when I stabbed you with that knife. It felt good to hurt you. Now you know what I feel like every day.
Oh and now that I’m pregnant suddenly your mother wants to try to be nice to me. Like now I’m good enough for everyone? I know what will happen. Once I have this baby everyone will love the baby and forget about me. I don’t even want this baby. It makes me sick having your baby in me. It will probably hate me just like everyone else does.
I don’t want to feel like this anymore and it’s your fault. All you had to do was try to make me happy and this wouldn’t have happened. You said you wanted to get a divorce because you thought I’d be happier without you. I would be but I’m not going back to living with my parents and I’m not letting you just take this baby. You don’t get to just get rid of me.
I don’t want to live like this anymore. I hate this place and I hate my parents and I hate you and I hate this baby and I just want it all over. Now you can spend the rest of your life knowing you killed me and this baby because you’re a selfish asshole and you don’t deserve to be happy and you don’t deserve to have someone love you and you don’t deserve to have this baby. You were a shitty husband and you’d be an even shittier father.
Enjoy your life.
Her words cut deep, tore out all my organs, and shredded them in her massacre. We were too young to be married, and way too young to deal with her depression. After her parents washed their hands of her, she stopped seeing her therapist and expected me to fix her, waving a magic wand that I just didn’t have. She hated me for not being able to make everything better for her.
I hated me, too.
What started as fun, innocent, teen puppy love turned into a horrific tragedy that will haunt me ’til the day I die.
I blink and Evie’s adorable smiling face comes into focus, leaning above me.
“Hey you,” she says. “Did you fall asleep in here? I was only gone a few hours.” Her hand pushes my hair back from my face as she kisses my cheek.
I stretch my arms out, yawn, and sit up. “Yeah…I guess I did.”
She flops onto the couch next to me with a big sigh and pulls her boots off. “Your mom is exhausting. I love her, but oh my God, it’s hard to keep up with her sometimes. I told her we don’t need an ice sculpture and a flowing water fountain. The guests don’t care about those things. Do they?”
“I don’t think so, babe. They want to eat and drink and dance and watch us kiss.”
“That’s what I thought.” She lays her head on my shoulder. “I missed you all morning.”
“I missed you too.”
“What’s this?” She touches the note lying on my leg.
Fuck. I forgot to put it away and fell asleep with it sitting here. I exhale a deep breath from my lungs. “This is where my future meets my past.”
“Huh?” She blinks at me. “Are you feeling okay?”
I turn sideways so I’m facing her. “Not really.” I slowly hand her the note. “I…” I take a deep breath. “I think I want you to read this.”