Authors: Lori L. Otto
dear jon | choisie book 2
by Lori L. Otto
Copyright 2014 © Lori L. Otto
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Lori L. Otto Publications
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First Edition: August 2014
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Printed in the United States of America
to second chances…
She needs me. Plain and simple, she needs me. How am I helping her by leaving
? I want her to be independent. I want her to be Livvy again, not half of Olivia and Jon. I can’t leave and let her think that I don’t want her. I want her more than anything, and if it means I stay to work this out, then that’s what I do. My brothers have Mom and Aunt Patty. I’ll go visit them for a few weeks, but maybe ten weeks
too much to ask of Olivia.
She’s been lost for a year, and I’ve led her without showing her the way. I keep expecting her to find her own way, but clearly she’s struggling. There are more options than staying and letting things continue in this unhealthy, codependent way or leaving her–alone–for the summer. I needed to focus on school these past two semesters. I can give her more attention over the summer. I won’t lead her this time… I’ll guide her to find herself again.
I listen to her voicemail once more as I make my way to the graduation ceremony.
“Jon, it’s Olivia. I hope you’re here, and I just can’t see you. If you are, meet me by the magnolia tree in the west lot across from the auditorium after the ceremony. This is killing me.”
I should have come for the whole thing. I shouldn’t have wavered. Of course she wants me here, regardless of all the hurtful things that were said last night.
Across the street, I inspect the leaves to identify the tree she wanted to meet me under. A few people in front of me hold cameras, pointing at the space below the limbs. I glance beneath the thick magnolia blossoms, finally seeing Olivia with Finn as she knocks her cap off, then pulls away the bandage from her forehead. As her friend angles her head up, I feel sick in the pit of my stomach. The way he looks at her, and–
He’s kissing her?!
Surely she’ll pull away. Surely… she’ll… I try to turn my attention elsewhere, but I can’t. I watch her kiss him back.
This isn’t right. This isn’t happening
. Finally, she begins to pull away, but just as a sense of relief begins to surface, she holds his lip between her teeth, sucking gently.
This has to be what an earthquake feels like, as the world as I know it crumbles to my feet. My heart falls, obliterated into razor-edged shards that slam down on top of the residual pieces of my life. I can feel the blood draining, leaving me pale and weak. I stumble into a photographer, finally hearing the deafening roar of clicks and flashes. I think it seems loud because I know that all of these strangers are capturing an incredibly intimate moment in my girlfriend’s life– and she’s not sharing that moment with me.
And this moment will be news to everyone.
When I finally breathe, it’s a gasp of air, audibly filling my lungs. I have to get out of here. I push through the growing crowd, taking one last glance. My eyes meet hers. She stops dead in her tracks as I move. I run. I run as fast as I can.
“Jon!” I hear her shout. And then, as if to betray me more–as if she could–she yells his name. “Finn!”
How dare she call after him!
“Finn, you have to stop him!”
“I’m trying, Liv!” he yells, his voice much closer than hers. I turn to see him gaining on me.
“Back off, Finn!”
“Or what?” he yells.
Damn, he’s fast.
“Or… I’m honestly not sure what I’ll do.”
“Let me explain!” His fingers brush against my arm, and I yank away violently. “Would you stop?”
I do. I stop fast and hard, and he rams into me. My feet planted, I barely move, and he falls to the ground away from me. Trying to catch my breath, I start to walk away.
“Jon!” Olivia yells again.
“What?” I have no desire to look at her.
Fingers close around my forearm, and when I realize it’s Finn again, I turn quickly and swing. He ducks, missing my fist by only an inch or two. He pushes against my shoulders. He may be fast, but I’m much stronger than he is, and he knows it.
Olivia screams. Behind her, the crowd begins to catch up.
“We have an audience,” I tell her. “Again.”
“I don’t care,” she says.
“I do. I don’t want any pictorial evidence of what I’d like to do to him.” Even after saying this, after realizing the severity of my statement, my anger takes over and I push him back. He grabs a hold of my shirt and we start to wrestle, trying to knock each other off our feet.
“Why, Liv?!” I ask angrily. “Who’s your dog in this fight, huh? Or don’t you even know?” I stand still, firm, holding Finn’s shoulders until he stops struggling with me.
“You, Jon,” she says meekly. With one more shove, I push him lightly into her and walk away. There’s nothing she could say that would make me stay now.
Frederick takes me to the airport after dropping off the last of my things at the storage place. I feel weird leaving my things at the place Jack had rented for his daughter’s studio, but I don’t have time to make other arrangements now. I always knew accepting help from the Hollands would come back to bite me somehow. Now it’s created an incredibly awkward situation, knowing I’ll have to see Jack or Emi–or God forbid, Livvy–when I return at the end of the summer to find a new place for all of my family’s belongings.
I take a seat after passing through security, thinking of the conversation I’d had with Emi a few nights ago, the night of Livvy’s graduation. She
to me. She asked if I was okay. She was empathetic, and I felt that she was feeling a fair amount of sadness at the strange turn of events. She didn’t try to explain Livvy’s choice. She didn’t pass any messages to me, even though it was obvious Livvy had plenty to say. She’s left messages, but I’ve deleted them all. Was she
apologizing, or trying to end things on her terms? Do I really care?
I’m still numb, and for the first time in my life, I truly understand the lure of the alcohol my mother has had such a hard time giving up. Being hurt like this, accepting that the person I wanted to devote my life to doesn’t feel the same, all I want to do is forget what happened. All I want to do is forget Livvy Holland.
I can’t even begin to imagine what school will be like next year. I’ll avoid art classes so I won’t have to see her. I don’t think I need them anymore. I’ve honed my craft enough, and I can continue to draw in my spare time. I won’t give up my commitments to Nate’s Art Room. If she wants to instruct, too, she’ll have to find a different time. I won’t hold classes with her anymore.
She’s lost. Isn’t this behavior of hers consistent with that? I’ve known she’s been lost. A few days ago, I was committed to helping her. She’s gone too far now, though, and I don’t think I can ever forgive her for what she’s done. I know I’ll never forget it.
I know I’ll never forget it–forget
–because I have a constant reminder of her forever marked on my skin. I guess a part of me always knew it wouldn’t work out between us. That day before Christmas a year and a half ago, I’d considered getting her name tattooed on my back, but at the last minute, I found a way to honor her with less of a personal commitment to her.
No future girlfriends would ever need to know the true significance of the phrase. I’ll just tell them I like Shakespeare.
If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep.
But now, about the last thing I want to do is sleep. Despite the anger I feel for her during every waking minute of my days, she’s still all I’ve been able to dream about at night.
In my dreams, she still loves me.
In my heart, I still love her.
Mail from Manhattan.
I wonder who gave her my address. My mother? My aunt? I bet it was Will.
There’s no return address, but there’s no question in my mind who it’s from. Even though the handwriting is shaky–even though the pen barely leaves an indentation on the white paper–I know Livvy wrote this letter.
I want so much to not care what’s contained inside. Excuses? Empty promises? Does it matter? It’s over. I want it to be over on my terms, and I’m deathly afraid that contained inside this envelope is a break up on
terms. That wouldn’t be fair. She can’t take that from me. She can’t take it from me if I never open it.
Is there anything she could say? I try to envision the perfect letter that would change my mind.
I certainly don’t want to see that line. I’m in no need of a
letter. I don’t think I can read this.
Setting it aside, I grab my borrowed design book and begin to thumb through the pages. I just need a distraction, one that keeps my mind engaged elsewhere. I’d looked online for design internships or drafting jobs, but there isn’t much to choose from in the Middle of Nowhere, Utah. Does it matter if it’s manual labor at this point? No. It’s something to occupy my time.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll shift gears on my job search and take whatever I can find. I don’t even care if it pays well. I just don’t want to spend any more time thinking of Livvy or the life that awaits me–or
–back in Manhattan.
I glance at the postmark once more.
She’s already out of my life by my choosing. I don’t think she really needs me to tell her that to know I’ve broken up with her. I left her without saying goodbye, and surely she knows what she did was wrong–so wrong and so unforgivable.
My fingers are sliding under the lip of the envelope before my brain even realizes it.
Be numb. Detach yourself from this letter. It doesn’t have to hold any meaning. Assign it none. She means nothing to me anymore.
I brace myself for the overused greeting of a break-up letter. I close my eyes in denial, not wanting to see those words.
When I finally raise my lids and lower my head to the page, I see my name first. Seeing it in her penmanship energizes my heart, but it’s false. How can I explain to my heart that she is not good for it anymore?
But in front of
I love you, Jon.
My stomach takes the path my heart just took, startled by the intimacy in her first three words.
Why did they have to be those three words, Liv?
When I sigh, I smell her. It’s not perfume or shampoo. It’s paint. A stripe of color at the bottom of the page briefly diverts my attention. The paint is red, and although it’s a single stroke, there is so much depth in the color.
. I still associate that smell with her even after she abandoned her hobby for nearly a year. Is she painting regularly already?
Whatever you’re thinking right now, the most important thing for you to remember is that I love you. Do you remember the first time you told me that? The way you said it didn’t feel certain. You said you
you were in love with me. I never questioned it, though. I immediately returned a declaration of my love to you.
I was certain. Even though it happened very quickly for us, I knew it was love and I thought it would be forever. What you saw isn’t what you think, Jon.
I’m not certain it could be anything else. I know what I saw. It was a kiss. It was betrayal. It was a serrated knife to the jugular.
I read on, wondering what her explanation is.
Go back to that day in the gallery, when you knelt before me and gave me a necklace that revealed your decision to select me to stand beside you. If not for life, at least for that moment. That glorious moment made me feel more special than the day I added Holland to my name. Remember how new everything was? Remember how we hadn’t messed anything up yet?
As far as I’m concerned, I never messed
up. That was all her doing.
We aren’t finished.
I turn the page over, still wondering where the details of what actually happened between Finn and Livvy are confessed. The back is untouched. Confused, I look again at the letter to see what I’ve missed. This time, I only skim it, but nowhere is there an explanation. I deserve one, damn it! Why would she send me a letter without telling me what moved her to share such a private moment with her friend?
In the stripe of red paint is an etched message. It looks like she did it with a needle, the word barely pronounced amid the warm color.
She didn’t even sign her name!
I don’t want to see it anyway.