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Authors: C. S. Moore

An American Love Story

BOOK: An American Love Story
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An American Love Story

by C.S. Moore

Published by Astraea Press

www.astraeapress.com

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.

AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY

Copyright © 2013 C.S. MOORE

ISBN 978-1-62135-160-3

Cover Art Designed by AM Design Studios

To the love of my life, you saved me from despair with your smile. Thank you for never making me regret giving you my heart. I will love you for always.

Chapter One

As I drove into the valley I had been avoiding for nine straight months, the ever-present ache in my chest throbbed around the edges. I hadn't been back since calling off a six-year relationship, and everything in a hundred mile radius of this place reminded me of my still broken heart.

Apparently, moving to Utah hadn't helped as much as I thought it would. In my cozy apartment where there were no memories attached to him, it still hurt, but not like in the beginning… and not like it did now. I thought I was healing up, but as I pulled off of the interstate onto the windy old highway that led to our hometown, the heartache I had gotten so good at repressing reared its ugly head. My lungs felt like they'd shriveled up, and I sucked in air but somehow wasn't getting any oxygen. Before I'd traveled a mile down the road, I was hyperventilating.

I pulled off of the highway, sending a cloud of dirt up behind me. My clammy hands griped the wheel as I tried to steady my breath. Why did this still hurt so badly? I broke up with him; I knew he wasn't good for me, so why couldn't my stupid heart get the memo? Didn't it remember how many bruises he had left on it while we were together? How could I love someone so fiercely who made me feel awful about myself; what did that say about me?

I swallowed hard against the questions I had been asking for too long. There was no point in torturing myself with them, but it was so hard to look back and see the way I had allowed him to treat me… stupid twenty-twenty hindsight. After all, ever since I could remember, my father had preached to me and my sisters about being strong independent women — and that was pretty much the opposite of the person I had been for the last six years.

I looked out of the windshield at the rolling hills surrounding the community I grew up in, hills my ex and I had explored both on four wheelers and on foot. One of my favorite memories was picking wild flowers in the spring with him. The hills were dominated by yellow and pink blooms, and he would tell me the names of all of them. But before he came into my life, I had hiked those mountains with my father, and he was the reason for this visit.

Taking a deep breath, I threw my car back into drive; it was just a long weekend. I could handle being in Idaho for that long. I had to. My poor family was so worried about me, and I wasn't helping the situation any by avoiding a visit like the plague… because I knew what I'd be plagued by if I came back, the ghost of every touch, every kiss, and every hurtful word.

I sighed and reminded myself that any pain I felt would be worth it if I could put on a good show and take away my family's worry. It killed me to think my parents were losing sleep over me; I had always been the daughter they didn't need to worry about.

Highway ninety five went through the center of town, and before I knew it, I was in city limits. The familiar street lamps lining the wide lanes would kick on at six fifteen whether it was dark or not; the brick-laid crosswalks would make a purring sound underneath the tires. And grouchy old Mrs. Johnston would be perched in a lawn chair making sure children weren't picking cherry tomatoes from the vines crawling up her fence.

I knew everything about this place, and all the people in it knew everything about me. A small town was like that; it was almost like being famous. In a larger city a person had anonymity; here even the smallest detail of my life was public knowledge within a week — yet another reason I felt the need to move away after the break up. It had been earth shattering news, and anywhere I went, I'd been hammered with personal questions. People didn't seem to understand that just because they had known me since I was five didn't mean they had the right to badger me for gossip.

I had always thought of myself as a small town, white picket fence type of person… until the breakup made me want to run as far and fast as I could to a place where no one knew my name — a place where no one expected me to talk about him. That was what I had now, and it was the only part of my new life that made each day bearable. No one was there to give me sad eyes, no one was trying to get me to drag my ex's name through the dirt, and no one was there to point out that I was the one who broke up with him and therefore shouldn't be sad. I hated that. Just because I was the one to end it didn't mean it didn't kill me to do so. It didn't make six years of my life vanish, although I wished it had.

I turned down Main Street to make my way to my childhood home. Time seemed to have slowed to a crawl the nine long months I'd been away — yet as I pulled into the driveway of the pale yellow house it felt like it was only yesterday that I had sat on the porch swing while my mom chattered happily about her day. I guessed no matter how long I'd been gone, or how miserable I happened to be during that time, home would always feel welcome and familiar.

Before I could cut the engine, the front door swung open and my father's silver-topped head popped out of the opening. My chest tightened with emotion when I realized exactly how much I'd missed him. How had I managed to stay away for so long? I jumped out of the car and ran to meet him in the perfectly manicured yard. The smile on his face faltered, and his eyes grew wide in surprise. I tried to keep my smile in place as he tried to hide his shock at my appearance; I guessed that this might happen. One of the first things I had done after my move was cut my hair into a chin length bob and dye it platinum blonde. I had wanted to try a bob cut for a while, but my ex liked my hair long and brown. While styling it every morning, I still got a rush of liberated satisfaction knowing that I had done something that he would have found too extreme. Everything about my life was so free now. Being tied down for so long, and at such a young age to a controlling guy, had fogged my idea of what a normal twenty-two-year-old's life was supposed to be like. I could do whatever I wanted, I could be whatever I wanted, and I could follow whatever dreams nestled into my heart.

"Tessa." My father grabbed me into a bear hug. "I've missed you so much, baby sister! Your hair—"

"Do you like it?"

"You always look beautiful," he said. "Your mother will love having another blonde around, you know someone to share the burden of all the blonde jokes —"

"Is Mom still at work?"

"Yes, she'll be home soon. I took the whole week off — needed a break from the scumbags."

My Dad was a detective; he also happened to love his job. His days off were merely for me. I'd have to be sure to spend as much time with him as I could.

"So, how was your trip down? I hate thinking about you on the road with those big city drivers—" He shivered.

I laughed; my parents had no idea how insane traffic got during rush hour in a town populated by a lot more than the four thousand souls sharing the roads here. "It was fine… really I got out so early no one was on the road to bother me."

"Good, I don't know how you stand that fast-paced environment. They're all in a hurry even if they don't have anywhere to be." He pulled the satchel off of my shoulder and slung it across his. "You got any other bags?"

"Nope, I packed light."

His face fell a little, and he turned his gaze to the house. "Well, let's get you inside to rest up."

I followed him across the lawn, enjoying the soft grass tickling my feet through my sandals. Yard work was one of the many things I had enjoyed doing with my father since childhood. He would tell me how much better the flowers I planted were doing than his and ask me how I made them so healthy. It's funny how little things like that can boost a kid's self-esteem. If I hadn't been raised in such a loving home, I probably would have stayed in that relationship forever. But I knew that when a person loved someone, really loved them, they should want to build them up at every opportunity — not tear them down.

"Your garden looks amazing as always, Dad," I said as we hit the porch landing.

"It's the first year that you haven't helped me plant the annuals. I'm afraid the flowers don't look near as happy as they did last year."

Guilt ripped through me. Even when I was going to college two hours away from home, I had always come back and helped dad with the gardening in the spring. How had I not thought about anything other than trying to carry on? I had dedicated the last nine months to healing myself. Had that been a selfish choice?

"Sorry, I've been pretty busy at work. I haven't had any free time," I said lamely.

"Then your visit couldn't have been timed more perfectly. We'll celebrate your freedom from managerial duties on Independence Day," he said with a laugh.

"Seems fitting," I agreed.

I was lucky to get the Fourth of July weekend off; everyone had wanted the mini vacation. But somehow I lucked into getting five days off, probably because I had worked too many hours already… always filling in for people. Being busy wasn't something that bothered me; in fact I preferred it.

The cool air of the house hit me in the face, and it felt good after such a long, hot drive. Our old family dog, Dan, came into the living room to greet me. He was a tan wiener dog — well, he used to be tan. He had so many white and grey hairs they almost dominated his coat now. I couldn't believe how old he was getting. The little dog had been my best friend in middle school when kids were vicious or a crush ended badly. I bent over and picked him up into a hug. My current heartbreak was a little too much for him to cure, but it was still good to see him again.

"I'm sure that dog is happy to have his Tessa home. He's getting to look more and more like your old man you know." Dad ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair.

"Don't worry, the more silver in your hair the more wisdom you have." I jumped into the oversized forest green couch; why my mother purchased the eye sores, I'd never know.

"I don't know about that," he said, settling into his arm chair of the same shade. "I've known some grey haired idiots."

I laughed, but it fell a little flat under his scrutinizing gaze.

"Are you okay, sweetheart?"

"I'm all right." I broke off when I saw that he wasn't buying it. "I'm better than I was." I shuddered, thinking of how hard it must have been when he had seen me in the aftermath. My Dad was the first person I called and told about the breakup. He had kept me on the line while I drove home and met me at the halfway point, so he could drive the rest of the way. Driving while in hysterics wasn't the safest of things to do, so I let him.

"You still seem so sad."

"I still am sad." There was no point in lying to a detective. He'd see right through me. I just had to choose what to be honest about and what to hide so he didn't worry. This trip was to ease his worry, not increase it.

"Do you think" He stopped himself, looking torn.

"What?" I asked.

He sighed. "Do you think you made the right choice, I mean, maybe you should take Phillip back."

"No," I blurted without hesitation. "I'd rather be alone than be with him." I'd be lying if I said I had never thought about going back to him, especially at first. But it was easier to stay strong when there was a state between us.

"But you're so sad; I can't stand to see you like this! I never liked him, but maybe it would be better if you—"

"Dad," I interrupted. "Listen, I was sad when I was with him too. I didn't like myself when I was with him; I was never good enough. No matter what I did." I sighed and looked at the dog sitting so content in my lap. "Maybe I'll always be a little sad, maybe I'll never fall in love again, but I'd rather be sad and lonely out of a relationship then in one."

"He made you feel like you weren't good enough?" He steamed.

"It isn't his fault. That's just his personality. I blame myself for staying with him for so long. I'm the one that allowed it to happen, and anyway, it's done now and my self-esteem is on the rise." It was the truth. I looked back up at my father, and his face was so red it was almost purple. "Dad, I'm fine. There's no reason to get mad."

He took a deep breath. "That's really easy to say. You'll understand when you have children of your own. See, raising a kid is like growing an oak tree; it takes hours of care and decades to grow. Knowing that he ever made you feel inadequate… it's like he came along and chopped that tree down. The tree your mother and I nurtured into such a strong unwavering thing."

BOOK: An American Love Story
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