Forgetting Yesterday

BOOK: Forgetting Yesterday
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The road blurred in front of
me. For the past half hour or so, it hadn’t stopped blurring. After five hours of driving, it was no wonder. The sun was going to come up sooner rather than later and I had yet to sleep. I
sleep. Not until I reached Claire’s house.

I had never been to my friend’s new house. I’d never actually been to the city of Grafton. Thank God for the slip of paper Claire had handed me at my mom’s funeral. Thank God I’d had the sense to tuck it in my purse and not toss it in the trash. Actually, that may not be accurate. I’d stuck it in my purse, in a side pocket, and forgotten about it.

a few weeks ago.

“If you ever need to get away,”
Claire had said quietly as she wrapped me in a hug, “you can stay with me. Anytime.”

Claire had released me, she’d placed a business card for
The Petal Pusher
in my hand. The front of the card boasted a bouquet of lilies wrapped in ribbon along with her full name—Claire Holloway. Her business phone was embossed on the front, right under her name.

While at
my mom’s visitation the night before the funeral, I had spoken with Claire only briefly. It hadn’t been nearly enough time to catch up with an old friend.

On the back of the card, in the script
I remembered from countless notes passed back and forth in high school—was Claire’s home address and a phone number that I assumed was her landline.

I had her cell phone number programmed into my phone. It had just been a disturbingly long time since I’d used it.

“I don’t…” I had shaken my head, pretending not to know what Claire was talking about. Pretending that Claire couldn’t have seen the way Jason grabbed a hold of my wrist, squeezing, holding me back when I’d intended to make my way across the crowded church to talk to my friend.

At the time, all those months ago,
I had convinced myself he was just trying to protect me. I had been in such an emotionally fragile state. Now…
I saw it for what it was. He had been trying to control me. Not just trying. But he had succeeded. For over a year, he had succeeded.

But not anymore.

“No questions asked,” Claire had said softly. Her eyes had narrowed with worry and sorrow. She’d loved my mom too. She’d spent so much time with my family over the years; she was almost like family herself. “I miss you Zoey,” she’d said.

I realized right then that I’d been so entangled in my mom’s impending death that I’d let everyone else slip away. Including Claire, my best friend, and I realized how much I missed her.

I didn’t get a chance to tell her that.

had blinked at her in surprise just as a strong arm slid around my waist, reeling me backward, against a hard, familiar chest.  Wrapped in the steel cage that was Jason’s arm, I’d given Claire a weak smile.

She deserved so much more.

Right then, I’d had nothing left to give.

,” Claire had said again, not bothering to look at Jason. Then she’d turned and melted into the crowd.

breathed my first sigh of relief when I saw the sign announcing I was entering Grafton. It had been an exhausting trip; driving from the southern part of the state to the northern in the dead of night. I was guided by my determination, an extra large gas station coffee, my GPS and a rumpled computer print off of a map complete with detailed directions (on the off chance the GPS didn’t cooperate).

Most of the drive had
been on quiet county highways. I’d gone through countless towns, most of them small. Each time the lights had been oddly disorienting after driving in near pitch darkness on the mostly deserted roads. The bright streetlights that lined downtown Grafton were no different. My head was fuzzy and my eyes continued to blur.

“Almost there,”
I encouraged myself.

The radio continued to
blare; loud enough that I hoped it would keep me awake. So far, it had worked. Now that I was in Grafton, a jolt of nervous anticipation shot through me, making me feel more awake than I had in hours.

It probably wouldn’t last but for now, I welcomed it.

Claire had been my best friend for as long as I could remember. We’d lived in the same neighborhood, close enough that a quick bike ride would have us at each other’s front doors. We’d gone to school together kindergarten through our senior years. Then we’d gone our separate ways for college. Claire to the northern end of the state, me to the southern. While we’d had the best of intentions when it came to keeping in touch, we hadn’t.

A pang of regret
coursed through me. I was mostly, almost completely, at fault for that. I wouldn’t deny it and only hoped that in time, I’d be able to make up for it.

I’d lugged my aching, battered body into my car earlier tonight, the last thing I’d wanted to think about was the past two years. As the hours dragged on and the miles crawled by, I couldn’t
thinking about the past two years.

couldn’t stop assessing what I’d allowed my life to become. The things I’d allowed to happen to me. Because while
had done this to me…I’d let him. Time and again, I hadn’t walked away. I hadn’t told anyone how bad things were getting. I hadn’t asked for help. And while tonight went far beyond what he’d done any other night, I still should not have put up with it for as long as I had.

Funny how a few hours away, a giant step back, allowed for a clearer picture.

“I wouldn’t have if I’d been myself the last few years,” I muttered. “If the circumstances had been different, if my head had been clearer, I wouldn’t have put up with him.”

I needed to believe that.

My mom’s death, her long, lingering illness had destroyed something within me. It had taken the fight right out of me. I’d wanted to crawl into a bubble, a safe haven, and at times, Jason seemed to provide that. It was only recently that I realized it had come with a price.

continued to listen as the automated voice led me through town and back out the other side. It brought me to the outskirts and continued to blurt out directions. I found myself driving to a more rural area. I turned on a wide, dirt road.

A glance at
my GPS told me I was only minutes away.

let out a sigh of relief even as I cringed. I contemplated pulling over and sleeping on the side of the road. In my haste, I’d left without my cell phone. I’d felt oddly vulnerable the whole trip, being without it. But I’d arrived in one piece. The only problem now was that I’d be showing up at Claire’s only hours before sunrise without having warned her at all.

The final turn had
me pulling into a long, winding driveway. A thick circle of trees enclosed what looked like a good sized yard. The glare of my headlights sliced across a small, yellow house. It was a simple ranch-style home, built in the fifties. Claire had gotten a great deal on it with the intention of remodeling. Or so my friend had told me.

If anyone could remodel a house to bring it back to perfection, it would be

was relieved to spot my friend’s silver minivan—a vehicle she needed for her business—in the driveway.

I wished again that I
’d been able to call ahead.

pulled up next to Claire’s vehicle and the unfamiliar one next to it, only taking the time to grab my small bag. My body ached and throbbed despite the amount of ibuprofen I’d taken over the last few hours. The night air was chilly, especially for this late in May. There was dampness in the air despite the clear, star-filled sky.

pulled myself from the car and my leaden feet made their way up the walk. My heart thudded. I hadn’t even talked to Claire since the funeral. Since the day, nearly six months ago, that she’d handed me the small business card with a few whispered words to go along with it.

wouldn’t blame her if she’d changed her mind. I was the worst excuse for a friend I realized, even as my finger lifted to push the glowing light of the doorbell.

my place on the front steps, I could hear the chimes. I grimaced, hating to be waking anyone at such an hour. Maybe I
just camped out in my car for a few hours, until the sun came up. Just as that thought was darting through my mind, the porch light above me blazed to life. The curtain on the sidelight was shoved to the edge of the frame.

’s familiar face, though clearly pulled from sleep, became instantly alert. The door flew open.

Zoey…” she said as her eyes swept over me. She looked like she wanted to throw her arms around me but thought better of it as she took in what I knew had to be a wretched sight.

“You said if I
ever needed somewhere to go,” I started. “No questions asked,” I finished hesitantly.

bit her lip, nodding as she stepped aside. “Get in here,” she finally said.

took a painful step forward. My whole body ached. If I felt this bad, I knew the bruising had to be worse by now. At least there was no blood. I’d cleaned that off when I’d stopped for gas. I’d gotten a startled, questioning look from the teenaged guy behind the counter but he hadn’t bothered to ask questions. Luckily, that late at night, I’d been the only customer. I’d used the restroom, purchased the painkillers and a coffee, paid for my gas and then I’d hightailed it out of town.

“What the hell?”
I heard a masculine voice say. The sound of the voice confirmed my earlier suspicion. It was Sean’s truck parked in the driveway. I hadn’t thought of this complication ahead of time. It was too late to think about it now. “Zoey?” he said in disbelief. “What the hell happened to you?”

waved him away. “Just go back to bed, okay Sean?”

couldn’t bring myself to look at him. I didn’t want to see the look of revulsion on his face. With my gaze averted, I could see his feet shuffling, as if unsure of what to do. I glanced at Claire who was giving him a pleading look.

“Okay,” he muttered. “Let me know if you need anything.”

She nodded and he left.

Zoey…” Claire moaned again and this time I met her eyes. I was humiliated by the pity I saw there.

promised, no questions asked,” I reminded her in a strained voice. My body felt heavy. I was exhausted beyond words. My heart hurt and even though I thought my well of tears had been depleted, they felt dangerously close to spilling again.

nodded thoughtfully. “I know I did. But I need to know one thing. Did you leave the asshole? For good?”

nodded and Claire pulled me into a delicate, careful hug. “If you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to talk. Just tell me what you need.”

I told her honestly as I hugged her back.

Relief, so palpable
I could feel it, coursed through me. Why, I wondered, had I waited so long?




The sunlight blazed through the gauzy curtains of Claire’s spare bedroom. I blinked into the light, realizing that in the dark, I hadn’t thought to pull down the blinds. I glanced at the clock. It was a little after ten. I was surprised and grateful I’d managed to sleep for such a long time.

carefully stretched as the pain in my body sparked to life. I was stiff and sore. I was sure at least part of that could be attributed to the long car ride. My head throbbed as I rolled into a sitting position. I sat on the edge of the queen-sized bed, letting my body adjust to the movements.

glanced around the room. It was, of course, tastefully decorated. Claire had clearly already made significant progress in her remodeling. I had noticed last night that the carpeting throughout the house was a warm caramel color. The walls of her spare room were a soft, subtle blue. The bedding held the same caramel tones but slate blue stripes ran through it, livening it up a little.

recognized the furniture from Claire’s bedroom in her childhood home—the headboard, dresser and desk. It was lightly battered but brought me an inexplicable feeling of comfort, of familiarity. Presumably Claire had gotten herself a new set now that we were officially adults and she was officially part of the working world.

I sat there, the silence of the house enveloped me. It was a Monday morning. Claire had offered to take the day off. I had refused to let her. She was self-employed, no paid sick or vacation days for her. I didn’t want her to lose income on my account. Besides, I’d assured her I’d probably sleep a good chunk of the day away.

And I had.

I got to my feet and padded out of the room.

A quick walk through the two bedroom hous
e was all it took to make it clear that Claire’s remodeling was complete. Or, if it wasn’t, I couldn’t imagine what she had left to do. Along with all new carpeting, the walls were obviously freshly painted. There were two bathrooms and the fixtures in both looked brand new.

BOOK: Forgetting Yesterday
5.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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