Authors: Leigh Ann Lunsford
Leigh Ann Lunsford
© 2016 by Leigh Ann Lunsford
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the email address below.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Edited by Chelsea Kuhel
Proofread by Laura Murphy
Cover Design by Kristen Karwan
Who I Am – Emma
Who I Am – William
Who We Are
Note to Reader
My husband and child. John and Evan. You constantly keep me on my toes, both of you cheer me on and love me. Add in a dose of insanity, constant laughter, and a happily ever after, you’ve made my dreams a reality.
Also . . .
For anyone who has dealt or is dealing with Alzheimer’s. It’s heaven and hell all in one. You learn things about a person’s past, imagination, and strength while watching their brain shut down. You relive moments over and over; yet, you mourn the memories that slip away. All I can say is love them, honor them . . . it’s harder on them. They feel distance from others knowing they are missing something, yet can’t put their finger or thoughts on it.
I know we lose them each day, mourn their demise as it happens, delight with joy when a good day is upon them, but they not only lose their ability to recall those memories—they lose their identities, their entire life comes in pieces, never a full reel.
Patience is a gift they deserve. Dignity is a must. Love is theirs and should be emulated in every action of those who love them.
This was one of the hardest subjects for me to write, not because I had to do research or was unaware of what happens, but because I’m too aware and had to remember and relive those days. It brought me tears, smiles, aching in my heart; it also brought me a piece of my grandmother back, and I know she is watching me from above, smiling in my achievements, cringing at some of the words I write, but fully healed in her mind and able to see the love she brought us all. XOXO.
I’m Emma Nichols, daughter of Lucas and Phoebe—best friends to small town sweethearts who found their happily ever after. She was his ballerina; he was her superhero.
I’ve been cherished, loved, and doted on my entire life. One boy claimed my heart before it was mine to give away, but that same boy destroyed my love.
My outlook on life is forever changed.
I’m William Jacobs. Son of . . . I’m not sure. James and Brett Jacobs adopted me and they’re the only parents I’ve ever known.
Life in small town suburbia isn’t always cohesive for the relationship they share, and it has pushed me further on the outside. One girl stole my heart; it beat solely for her. I let her down, but she doesn’t believe in meeting in the middle.
Two hearts, two minds, in time did find one love, one aim, two paths, the same. Hold fast . . . and love will last
Together this is our story, our boundaries, our hurdles.
You have to crawl before you can walk.
Walk before you can run.
Then you can soar.
Standing in my dad’s arms, my hand automatically goes to my necklace. Entwining it with my finger, releasing, twirling it again. It’s my comfort. He gave me the necklace for my sixteenth birthday . . . trying to charm me into cancelling my first date with William Jacobs. The boy who owned my heart . . . and the boy who broke it.
I haven’t been home in three years, and I blame him. I’ve never wavered in that culpability until today. In this moment, though, it doesn’t seem to matter. I told him goodbye in this same hospital waiting room. Ironically, not much has changed from that scenario to this one. One life hangs in peril, yet again. The boy I fled from that day was only a shadow of the boy to whom I had given my heart.
He was cold.
He was callous.
He became a stranger right before my eyes.
I don’t know if it’s time or healing. Or fear . . . but I see things differently.
“Daddy . . .” I look up to his red-rimmed eyes, brimming with unshed tears.
“I know, Princess. No matter what, we’ll get through it. Together.” His lips rest on the top of my head, and I breathe his scent. Begging for the comfort it used to bring me.
“I should have been here. I shouldn’t have run.”
“Emma, we all do what we need to do. Nobody blames you.”
“I do. These last years seem so wasted. I could have been here making memories. I could have been with you and Mom. Brett and James . . .” I refuse to admit William is included in that thought.
“You can’t stop what’s happening. Nothing you could’ve done would have changed this.” I glance over to James, his head hanging low, tears running unchecked down his cheeks. I’m not so sure my dad’s words absolve me. I believe that day three years ago set the course to the present. I distanced myself, created a life that didn’t allow my past to enter; created a fortress around my newly erected reality; and in turn, life back home went to shit.
Before I can go over to console James, the doctor comes in, and all of our attention is snapped to him . . . waiting with baited breath to hear the news.
Life or death.
Goodbye or hello.
Forgiveness or blame.
I’ll never forgive him or myself . . . if this is the end.
Three years wasted.
Three years away from my family.
Three years of hate.
Three years comes down to this moment
“Emma, point your toes!” My mom’s voice interrupts my daydream, yelling at me once again for something that should be second nature after eight years of ballet lessons. I stop myself from rolling my eyes and concentrate on the task at hand. This could all be avoided if she’d let me quit like I’ve asked a million times. My focus doesn’t last long as I begin thinking of missing out on hours of fishing with William. He had his ballet lesson this morning before mine with the rest of the Pop Warner football team. He doesn’t hate it as much as I do because it’s used as a means to an end. The entire team takes a lesson every week to help balance and coordination. You’d think they were playing in the NFL. I’m stuck here because my mom was a prima ballerina who thinks it makes me well rounded . . . even though I suck and hate it. No amount of begging has gotten me out of these lessons, the rule is when I turn twelve I can quit if I still despise it. Two more years. I see her awards, her name on all the posters lining the wall . . . Phoebe Wells. That’s her old name. She now has the last name of my daddy. I wish I loved it like her, but she doesn’t care one way or another; as long as I’m happy…that’s what she says. I’d be much happier today if I was fishing.
Finally, the music ends, and I hope class is over. It’s fair to say my dream isn’t what my mom’s was. I’m horrible at ballet, tap, and any other thing that requires coordination . . . unless it’s climbing a tree or catching a fish. Those are the things I enjoy partly because my best friend does them with me and because I can bait a hook and catch a bass better than most kids my age. And being a girl, those skills come with bragging rights. I hurry to the front of the studio and wait impatiently as my mom talks to students and parents. I wanna interrupt and ask her if I can have my dad come pick me up so I don’t have to wait any more, but I remember the last time I did that . . . one week of restriction and that sucked.
My feet tap of their own accord, and I fidget with my hair, unwrapping it from the tight bun that pulls my eyes and gives me a headache. I make quick work of putting my street clothes over my dance uniform and switching my shoes, and she’s
talking. And talking. And talking. I begin to wonder if it is ever going to end when finally she turns to me with a smile and twinkle in her eye. “You ready to plan your birthday party?”
What? “No, I’m ready to go fish.”
Her deep sigh is my first indication that a lecture is coming. “Emma, it’s not every day you turn double digits. I want you to have everything you want.”
“I know, Momma. It’s just I want you, Daddy, Brett, James, and William. No fuss.”
“Emma, if you didn’t look just like me I’d wonder whose child you were. Let me guess, you want yellow cupcakes with strawberry icing, no ice cream, and no presents that don't include a fishing pole. You’d like to squeeze in the birthday celebration during your obligatory break for lunch so you can go back to fish right away.”
She’s spot-on. I’m her carbon copy, as everyone likes to remind me . . . repeatedly. White blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes . . . Brett and Mom almost cried when they realized what a klutz I was on the dance floor. They used words like lithe, lean, long body—some nonsense about a ballerina’s body going to waste. Daddy just winks and tells them to leave me alone, then lets me sneak off to my tree house.
I grin at her, and she shakes her head at me. “You’re breaking my heart.” My smile falters, and she quickly assures me, “No honey, I’m teasing. It’s your day, and we’ll celebrate it the way you want to.” Even if we’re nothing alike, she loves me and always tells me.
“Love you, baby girl.”
“Love you to the moon and back.”
“Sweet talker—just like your daddy. Let’s get you home so you can get fishing.”