Authors: A. M. Johnson
by A.M. Johnson
(A Forever Still Novel)
Blue Tulip Publishing
Copyright 2015© Amanda Johnson
All rights reserved.
Except the original material written by the author, all songs, and song titles contained in this book are the property of the respective songwriters and copyright holders. The author concedes to the trademarked status and trademark owners of the products mentioned in this fiction novel and recognizes that they have been used without permission. The use and publication of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction, names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2015© AMANDA JOHNSON
Cover art by Francessca Romance Reviews
To the underdogs… tell fate she can go to hell.
Every minute… Every second…
I am grateful for you.
HE CLIPPED NOTES OF THE PIANO
keys echoed throughout the high arches of the old church. The last of the guests entered through the large wooden double doors. They filed in like herded sheep, eager for a glimpse. The sweat trickled down my temple, and I felt as if I was suffocating. I pulled at my tie and collar with my index finger hoping no one could see how nervous I was. Nervous wasn't the right word. No… I felt sick… confused. I wasn't sure how I would make it through this. My panic started to rise, as did the bile in my gut, just in time for the quelling silence. The piano began playing the familiar tune as I turned anxiously towards the back of the church again.
She looked utterly phenomenal. The rise and fall of my chest was rapid, and my throat was like sand paper as I tried to swallow. The ivory gown wrapped around her body like a glove, and her thick dark hair fell over one shoulder in silken waves. Her full lips were painted red and begged to be kissed. I was so lucky to witness this, to see her looking so beautiful, so ethereal. I couldn't wait to touch her, to wrap my arms around her and tell her how much I loved her. She beamed. Her smile engulfed all my senses.
My father, who had been like a dad to her, guided her down the long aisle to her future — her happily ever after. Her pace was quiet and elegant, taking her to the place where her life would begin… and where my life would be destroyed.
"She looks… spectacular." I heard the groom murmur as he watched her approach.
I pulled all my suffering together and slapped him on the back in a friendly gesture just like any good groomsman should do. "She's all yours, brother." The pang in my stomach twisted and when he turned to look at me, I saw the trust, love, and joy in his eyes. He was the one that deserved her. He was good for her. I let myself grin. For once my smile felt genuine; she was happy with him, and that's all I ever really wanted for her anyway. In the end, it's all that mattered.
Three Years Later
HE HEAT OF THE MID-MORNING SUN
burned the bare skin of my chest as I rolled onto my right side: groaning, still half asleep, trying to escape the oppressive rays. The swift movement just intensified the train roaring in my head. My cotton tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and my lips felt like leather as I tried to lick them for relief. The sick taste of morning breath, alcohol, and whatever bar fly I brought back here last night coated my taste buds and made me feel nauseous. A small feminine hand snaked its way across my rib cage, and my body went rigid. I never allowed them to stay the whole night. I must have been really wasted last night.
"Mmmm… hey baby." The woman's voice sounded too fucking high pitched for me this early in the morning. "Last night was—"
"Was last night," I interrupted. I quickly moved away from her unwanted touch and sat on the edge of my bed resting my elbows on my knees. I pinched the bridge of my nose to contain the anger, the ever present self-loathing, from boiling over. I was such a screw-up. I was sitting here buck ass naked with a strange woman in my bed.
This shit has got to stop
. I felt the mattress shift as the weight of the woman was removed. She was silent, thank God. I was afraid to look at her, but I knew I had to acknowledge her. Otherwise, she'd never leave. I chanced a glance over my shoulder and cringed. Don't get me wrong. She was a total smoke show. Tall, thin, big ass fake tits I could get lost in, but she wasn't
. She was the opposite. Always… always the opposite.
"Don't look at me like that. You don't get to look at me…
" she screeched as she pulled her skanky dress, which hardly covered that spectacular rack, over her head. I inwardly sighed. Like I gave a shit if I ever saw this chick again. I stood up, found my boxer briefs, and quickly pulled them on noticing the condom wrapper on the floor. My eyes raised to the ceiling in a desperate thank you. At least I wasn't
Yeah, this shit has got to stop
"Look…" I struggled to remember her name.
Her face scrunched up into a very unattractive pout. "Seriously? My name is Rikki… God, you're an asshole." She grabbed her bag from my dresser.
I couldn't help myself, I laughed. "I'm an asshole?" My laughter was full force now. I mean, who the hell does she think she is? She just screwed a complete stranger, and I'm the jerk? Double standard. Her glare was as sharp as a knife. The red blood shot of a rough night crowded her blue eyes.
. My laughing abruptly stopped. I never banged chicks with blue eyes… those were
"Get the fuck out!" my voice rasped. She stood there in fear or shock; I didn't really care. I made an effort to calm my breathing. "Please… just get out," I said in a much softer tone as I sat on the bed, dropping my heavy head into my hands.
I couldn't do this to myself anymore. It had been three years since she'd gotten married. Most guys would've moved on by now, but most guys never had the promise of a girl like
. He did though, and
was his now. She was in such a good place with him. They made each other better, and she deserved a man like him, a man like my friend. I let my body fall back on the bed, the dark navy blue down comforter taking me within its soft depths while I scowled at the ceiling. Rikki had left without another word.
My best friend, the girl I thought I was going to marry, married someone else. I inhaled a deep breath. Generally, if I were being this big of a pussy, I'd go pick a fight with my roommate Seth. He doesn't put up with my shit and would, for sure, pop my stupid ass in the jaw. But last night was
birthday, and I'd allowed myself one night of misery no matter the consequence. Now, as I lay in my bed with last night's regret still lingering on my sheets, I would let the memories of her wash over me and let them ruin me one more time.
The classroom was so full. My momma told me not to worry. She said I'd make friends. My hands were sweaty, and my stomach was turning inside out. I noticed the boy sitting next to me was picking his nose. I moved my body away from him so fast. Yuck! My momma said picking your nose was disgusting. I thought so too. Suddenly, my shoulder bumped the person next to me.
"Hey, watch it!" she said as she shoved me.
"Sorry." I turned and looked into eyes that were the prettiest blue I'd ever seen. "Whoa!" I said without thinking.
"Whoa, what?" She looked at me like I was a dummy.
"Your eyes remind me of these really cool glass marbles I have." I smiled.
"My eyes look like marbles?" Her voice sounded hurt.
"Well… yeah. You see, I have these
"Just shut up. You're such a—a… big… mean… jerk!"
"I wasn't… I mean… I think they're pretty." I smiled, hoping she wouldn't call me names again.
"You think marbles are pretty?" She turned her head to the side and looked at me like I was a dummy again.
"Sure do!" I made my smile wider. She smiled back.
"Well, thanks… I guess… I'm Elizabeth."
"I'm Todd." My mouth reacted to her smile and pulled into its own giant grin. I had just met the prettiest girl in the whole wide world.
The memory had my mouth turned up into a lopsided smile. Even then, she was just beautiful. Kindergarten… we were so far away from that now. It had been over a year since I'd spoken to Lizzie. She still sent me text messages on special occasions, and, sometimes, she'd send me pictures of her daughter as well. Liz was always trying to keep me tied to her in some way. I'd known Elizabeth Haddington my whole life. She was Elizabeth Bryant now. She had married my old roommate Sawyer. They had a baby together, and she was now living a life with her own family. You would think my dumbass would have gotten over it, but how was I supposed to do that when all I'd ever wanted was her. I had shared everything with her. She lost her parents tragically when she was young and lived with my family and me for hell's sake. We grew up together; we were into all the same things and hung out in a close-knit group of people. Hell, I lost my virginity to this chick. She was everything I ever wanted and more. She was my purpose, even if I wasn't hers. It hadn't felt like three years had passed since I moved to Salt Lake, but thinking about her like this brought it all rushing back.
My chest was so fucking tight. This was it — this was our end. We never even had a chance. My head felt heavy as the blood from my pounding heart rushed through it like a rogue wave.
"I need to know… are you happy?" I closed the gap between us leaving just enough space so that I could attempt to breathe when she twisted the final turn of the knife in my heart.
her voice was laced with pity. I didn't need Liz's pity. I needed her love, I needed her lips on my mouth, her body perfectly connected with mine, her small hand wrapped up in my palm, her laughter always filling the air, and her smile every goddamn morning when I woke up. I needed her. Just her. But she was Sawyer's now, and he loved her just as much as me. I had to step back to catch my breath. The space between us was weighted with so much pain and regret… I couldn't stand it.
"I never wanted to hurt you," her voice was tight from holding back her tears. She loved me — just not like I needed, never ever how I needed. I had created this illusion. I had to make it better… I had to let go. I watched as she broke in two when I told her I was leaving for good. The vacant feeling in my heart as I watched her cry for the loss of us was more than I could handle. I closed the distance that was quickly building between us. I was only moving an hour away, but we both knew what was actually happening. There wasn't one part of me that wanted to stay here and watch her be happy without me; I was such a selfish asshole.
I pulled her tiny frame against my body and completely enveloped Elizabeth with my arms, resting my head on the top of hers, and inhaled her sweet gardenia scent one last time. I could feel her cool tears soak through my shirt.
"Oh God, I'm going to miss you so much." She struggled to catch her own breath as sobs shook through her body. She had no idea how much I was going to miss her — this moment had entirely shattered me.
"It's only an hour away. I'll still see you. I'll come watch you guys play with whoever you get to play guitar." I tried to smile, lighten the mood by bringing up our band that was now short a member. I didn't want her to see that she had ruined me. I couldn't do that to her.
"You won't be ten minutes away anymore. Distance, no matter how far, changes everything, and, besides, I can't do the band without you. You know that. I would never replace you."
"You already have," my voice was so quiet I hoped she didn't hear.
"What did you say?" She looked up into my eyes. I prayed the mask I always wore held tight.