She tilts her head to the side as she hesitantly takes the note from me. “What is this?”
“Just read it,” I say softly.
Her eyes shift down to the page and, after a few seconds, her hand starts to shake. She immediately looks back at me with tears in her eyes.
“Storm…” Her voice cracks with emotion. “This is…I shouldn’t be reading this.”
I swallow over the lump in my throat and fight back tears of my own. “I want you to. I need you to. I’ve never showed this to anyone. I don’t want to be alone with this anymore, Evie. I want you in this with me.”
“Okay,” she whispers. “I’m here.” She grabs my hand as she reads the venomous words written by the first girl I was ever in a relationship with. And Evie will be the last. The damage Britney did to my head and heart prevented anyone from being in between.
Tears fall from her eyes onto the paper as she reads, until she flings it off to the side like it’s on fire and throws her arms around me. She burrows her face into my neck and hugs me so tight I can hardly breathe.
“I’m so sorry…I had no idea…it’s horrible…the things she said and what she did.” She gulps for air and clings even tighter to me. “I know she was sick but it’s devastating…all of it.”
She pulls away from my neck and wipes at her tears as I wrap my arms around her. “It’s not true,” she says, choking between words. “You deserve to be loved. You’re the most loving man I’ve ever met in my entire life.”
“It took me a long fucking time to get here. And even longer to let myself love someone.” Years. For years I put walls up. “When I met you…it just happened.”
“And I pushed you away.” She leans her forehead against mine. “I’m so sorry I was so difficult.”
I touch her chin and lift her face. “That was completely different. You had to be ready for love too. And we got there. That’s all that matters.”
She smiles weakly and peers up into my eyes. “I’ll never, ever hurt you. I promise you.”
“I know you won’t. And I won’t hurt you.” I kiss her lips and tighten my grip around her waist. “Thank you…for reading that. I know it was hard. I feel like a weight was lifted, letting you read it. It was a lot to keep in for so long.”
“You were too young to go through something like that. And it’s awful you kept it all bottled up inside.” She chews her bottom lip and then nods decisively. “If you ever want to talk about her, its okay, Storm. I’m not going to get mad or jealous. I want to be here for you in every way, not just for the good, fun stuff.”
I move my hand up to the nape of her neck and pull her mouth down to meet mine. “That’s why I’m marrying you,” I whisper against her lips.
Our kisses turn deep and desperate as she tugs my shirt off, lowering her head to my chest to kiss the six-inch scar there. She’s touched it many times but never knew how I got it, until today. And now she’s trailing her lips down the bumpy line, loving the bad memories away as only she can.
Storm falls into a deep sleep after we make love, but even the two hours of bliss I just had with him can’t lull me into sleep tonight. Instead, I lie with my arm across his stomach, my leg over his, and my head on his shoulder—needing to be extra close to him.
Britney’s note was devastating beyond words. I can’t imagine what kind of hatred, depression, and hopelessness was going through her mind to make her want to continue to hurt Storm even from the grave. I wonder if she had any idea how much damage she had done. I want to hate her. I wish I could feel glad that she’s dead. But I don’t feel those things at all. I feel sorry for her ending her life so young and taking her unborn child with her, when she didn’t have to do that at all. She was so focused on what she didn’t have that she couldn’t see what she did have.
It all makes so much sense to me now. During one of our trapped-in-a-blizzard talks, Storm admitted he didn’t do relationships—he just had friends with benefits. Sex and go. I thought he was just a guy bed-hopping with a bunch of pretty girls, avoiding commitment so he could be a playboy. It’s one of the reasons I was leery of getting involved with him. I had no idea it was because he had been through such a tragic experience with his first relationship. I didn’t know she embedded the fear of ever being in love so deeply in him that it took twelve years for him to even try again.
And out of all the women in the world, he chose me to give his heart to. Why?
I’m certainly not the prettiest girl. I’m not rich. There’s nothing exciting about me. I can be really annoying. I’m a totally shitty driver. I’m always covered in pet fur. I’m awkward. I’m cute, though. And caring. And I love him.
I hope it’s enough.
He rolls onto his side facing me, and I immediately snuggle up into the warmth of his chest as he rests his cheek against the top of my head. Our hands meet and hold onto each other under the blanket.
“You still awake?” he murmurs.
“You thinking about how much you love me?”
I smile in the dark. “Always.”
“Go to sleep and think about how much I love you.”
I do. I always do.
“No bachelor party?” Mikah yells so loudly I’m sure our neighbors heard. “Tell me you’re fucking kidding.”
“Seriously, Storm, what the fuck?” Finn adds. “It’s your night to party, grope some strippers, and get wasted before you’re shackled to a wife.”
I seem to have walked onto the patio, where Storm, his brother, and one of their friends are hanging out talking, at precisely the wrong time.
I set the tray of sodas and snacks on the table and turn to leave, but Storm grabs me and pulls me onto his lap. “My days of partying and strippers have been over for a long time,” Storm says. “And I’m not shackled, dickhead.”
“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” Mikah urges. “You don’t mind, do ya Ev?”
I squirm under Mikah’s and Finn’s stares. Unlike Storm, they’re the typical rock stars—always partying, acting crazy, sleeping with groupies, and acting arrogant and cocky twenty-four seven.
“Storm can do whatever he wants,” I tell them. “Neither one of us wanted a party.”
Finn scoffs. “So you girls aren’t going to a strip club to shove money into some buff guy’s Speedo?”
“No,” I reply. “We’re not.”
“You guys suck.”
Storm grabs a soda off the table and twists the cap off. “I don’t know what you’re bitching about, you guys party every fucking night. It’s not like you need a reason.”
Mikah shoves a handful of potato chips in his mouth and talks as he chews. “It’s the principle, man. You’re supposed to have one last night to raise hell.”
“Not interested. Why don’t you guys go out and party in my honor? Will that make you feel better?”
Mikah’s head bobs up and down. “Can we text you pictures of what you’re missing and we’re getting?”
Storm laughs and shakes his head. “Fuck no. I don’t want to see any of that shit. It’s time for you assholes to leave. I’m taking my future wife to dinner.”
We stand to say goodbye and, while Mikah and Storm continue to joke around, Finn leans down and whispers in my ear, “We’re just busting balls. We know you guys don’t want to party with anyone but each other.”
Aww. Apparently Finn’s also got a hidden nice side. I’ve slowly learned that most of the band guys, as crazy or moody as they may seem sometimes, have their good sides. They’re just guarded about who they show that side to.
I admit, I was a judgy bitch when I first met Storm. My anxiety got the best of me, and I had a meltdown from the stress of being lost, freezing, going through two car crashes in less than half an hour, and being forced to trust a total stranger wearing guy-liner. Looking back, I’m surprised he didn’t leave me in that snowbank to be a crazy freak all by myself. Luckily, he stuck around long enough to see my nice, more normal side.
Being your true self with someone is a massive cliff dive of vulnerability. Nothing has become more evident to me than that over the past year.
There are so many reasons why I wanted to have a December wedding. The arctic air, the bluish hue, the purity of a blanket of white snow and glistening icicles, the holiday music, the melancholy end of the year—and the anticipation of a new one creates an overall ambience of togetherness and love.
December holds my most precious family memories—all wrapped up in a box and tied with a pretty bow in my heart. I can’t think of a better anniversary to celebrate with Storm every year.
“You look beautiful,” Ronnie says, breaking through my daydreams. “Thank you for letting me walk you down the aisle. It means a lot. To me, and to Storm.” He takes both my hands and squeezes. “Your father would be proud of you, Evelyn. I hope you know that.”
I fight back tears so I don’t destroy the perfect makeup job Amy did on me. “Thank you for saying that. I wish he were here…but I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather give me away in his place.”