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Authors: Shae Scott

Tags: #Romance

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BOOK: The Rise of Emery James
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On paper that might make him sound boring, but he was anything but. He was dynamic and charming and whenever I was with him I felt like I was experiencing every moment of my life. Later, as I got older and things had felt less fulfilling, I'd always chalked that feeling up to being young. The carefree spirit of someone who didn't know anything about the real world yet. But sitting here with Cole, just for a few minutes I can already sense it in him again. I can already feel the pull of him and I am starting to realize that maybe it was more than young innocence.

"I thought maybe you would have gotten married and moved off to the city by now," I say. I had glanced at his left hand earlier and there was no ring, no line where one had rested, but as the words leave my mouth, I remember that dad rarely wore his. He said it wasn’t a good idea to wear it at the construction site. Maybe Cole feels the same way. I hold my breath hoping my assumptions are correct.

He shrugs, laughing, "Too busy for all that. Besides, we're practically next door to the city these days with the way things are growing. Most of our work is in OKC now. So it's the best of both worlds. I like the quiet here. I like having a little bit of small town in my life," he admits.

"It feels strange being back here. It's different, but so much the same," I say thoughtfully.

"I doubt it will ever change all that much."

"Probably not," I agree.

"Man, I can't believe I'm sitting in Emery James' kitchen again," he says, his smile warm and genuine as if the moment has finally caught up with him.

I feel my breath catch at the name. "It's Forrester now, actually," I say quietly. His smile falls instantly and I see the shadow drift over his eyes, that look of pity that I hate so much.

"Right, sorry. I'm really sorry to hear about your husband," he says evenly.

I nod, taking in the sentiment and letting it comfort me. "Thanks," I say simply. I hate the awkwardness that hangs between us, so I quickly change the subject.

"So, what did Dad have to bribe you with to get you to come over and help me?' I ask.

Cole laughs, a sound that makes my stomach flip. "Not necessary. I told you, I would have found an excuse to come and see you."

"Well, I appreciate the help. And the company," I admit.

He gives me a warm smile, "You're more than welcome. What do you say we tackle a few more boxes?"

I nod as he reaches for the box he'd abandoned earlier. It feels good to have him here, something that surprises me a little. And so I let him help.

 

Cole

 

 

SEEING EMERY JAMES AGAIN
was like finding your favorite sweatshirt after thinking it was lost forever. The one that you'd worn so long that it was practically molded to you, a second skin, an extension of your identity. The lucky one. The one you could slip on and feel instant comfort. Like home.

Emery had always been that kind of presence in my life. Up until the day she'd left for college anyway. Back then the separation had felt temporary. I never imagined that she would fade out of my life completely.

Or so suddenly.

She was my first love. We were easy together. Looking back on it now, I can see how unique we were. We didn’t have the typical young love story. It wasn’t filled with unnecessary drama. We didn’t break up just so we could make up. We didn’t scream or test each other the way some of our friends did. We were happy to be happy. We understood each other in a way that most teenagers just can’t. At least that’s how it felt to me back then. We were solid. We didn’t need big declarations or dramatic promises about a future that felt too big or too foreign to grasp.

We simply enjoyed each other. She was the person I was closest to and I told her everything without hesitation. We had fun together. We were partners in crime, exploring every corner of our tiny town, making up rules as we went along. And we loved. Shit, we loved in that way you only can once. The first time. Where everything is new, an exploration of every sensation, daring to cross every line that you find yourself up against.

But at the time, it never felt epic. Not like it does when you watch those cheesy teen TV shows or movies. Not that I watch them, but I endured enough of my sister watching them to know that they didn't mirror my real life. We were so much more than that. We didn’t need loud, not when we had real.

I've always thought real was better than epic any day.

I knew how different that was, even then.

So when it was time for us to head off to college we did the logical thing. We broke up. I don't think either of us wanted to end things, but we both knew that living in different states would put a stress on us that we wouldn't likely handle. So, when she had suggested ending it for the sake of keeping things good between us, I'd agreed.

Even though it hurt like hell.

Turns out, first loves create the biggest heartbreak.

I had this fantasy that we would spend college getting to know ourselves as adults and be stronger for it. That we'd come back together like no time had passed. It felt inevitable. I held onto it. It was the only way I could watch her walk away without putting up the fight I’d wanted to.

So I let her go. I told her to go see the world.

Even when my calls went unanswered, I still believed we’d find each other again.

Until her dad told me she had gotten married.

Just like that.

Married. To someone else.

That had been a wakeup call.

But that's young love right? It burns bright, but fast, and then you only have it as a memory. Emery James has always been my favorite memory.

Now she's back. Back in Darling with no husband and it would feel like a second chance if she didn't look so sad. So lost. She's a shadow of who she used to be and it throws me for a loop. I search her eyes for the spark I remember, but all I see is the brave face she's putting on, and the vacancy there in her eyes is enough to rip my heart out.

I have to keep reminding myself that she just lost her husband. Of course she's going to be devastated and lost. Just because I didn't know him, or any part of the life she had with him, didn't make it any less real to her.

As selfish as it sounds, I'm glad she's back. I've missed her. I've missed seeing her face. Just spending a little bit of time with her that I have reminds me of the piece of me that has been empty since she left.

I don’t know the polite thing to do in this situation, but I know that I want to see her. I know she’s going through hell right now, but the idea of staying away from her feels impossible. When it comes to Emery there has always been a pull, one that I've never really been able to walk away from. Besides, she could probably use a friend and while a part of me wants to remember the times when we were so much more than that, I'm happy to take on that role now if she needs it.

I know I'll be back there tomorrow. I also know that I'll keep coming back until I have everything in that house tended to. Not because it all needs fixing, but because now that Emery's back I realize that every part of me wants to be where she is.

 

 

Emery

 

AFTER A WEEK OF
being back home I'm starting to settle in a little. The sense of limbo is fading.

Between Dad and Cole, I’ve had company every day. They help me fill the quiet.

Dad even helped me pack out new furniture online when I realized that the stuff I brought with me didn’t feel right. When I say he helped, I mean he sat on the couch beside me, watching TV while I showed him options on my iPad. But the fact that we did it together is a milestone compared to where we've been for the past six years.

I know that one day I'll have to talk to him about everything that happened. But I'm happy that day doesn't have to be today.

And then there’s Cole. When he'd left that first day saying he'd be back to fix up a few things for me I hadn't really expected him to. Honestly, I'd thought he had shown up out of some sort of morbid curiosity. Now that he'd seen what had become of me there was no reason to drag it out.

I was wrong.

He showed up the very next evening, his tools in hand and the best smile I'd ever seen on his face. Sometimes Dad is here and helps him out, other times he just floats around the house and the yard sprucing up the place, attending to things I didn’t even know needed tending.

I like to watch him and he lets me sit nearby and hand him tools. We don't talk much, but the silence is nice. It feels nice to have him around. Probably because he represents a time in my life when I was happy. When I had things figured out for the most part. When I had the confidence to believe that I'd figure out the stuff I didn't.

Tonight, though, it's just me and dad. After dinner I let him have control of the remote while I stare at the television without much interest.

"I see that Cole got the screen door fixed," Dad says as he settles on an episode of Forensic Files. I smile, remembering how he and I would often watch a marathon of this show on a rainy Sunday. I used to tell him that if I ever got married I would make my husband vow not to kill me if he ever decided he didn't love me. I'd watched this show enough to think it wouldn't be a bad idea. Turns out, vows are easily broken.

"Yeah, he's really gone out of his way to help," I agree.

"He's a good man."

"It's cool that he still works for you after all of this time," I say. I've been dying to pick his brain about Cole, but I haven't wanted to be nosy or, worse, come across as inappropriately interested.

"Hell, he practically runs the thing some days. Gives me time to play hooky," Dad laughs. He's put in years of hard work in that business and it's nice to know that he has someone he can trust with the place so he can get away. It occurs to me that it was Cole who had been running the ship while Dad had been in Connecticut with me.

"He seems to enjoy it from what I can tell," I offer.

Dad smiles, giving me a sidelong glance. "It sounds like ya'll are getting along."

I shrug, "Cole and I have always gotten along.”

"He'll be a good friend to you," Dad says. I nod as I roll the idea around in my head. Having Cole around fixing the house has been really nice. I guess part of me just assumed he'd fade away once the job was done. But maybe Dad is right. Maybe he and I could be friends again. I could use a friend. That is if I can remember what it's like to have one. The thought leaves me feeling hopeful. Like maybe coming home was the right decision.

 

 

I'VE BEEN THINKING
about what dad said. About letting Cole be a friend. He used to be my best friend. He used to be a whole lot more. I’m not sure how to go about being his friend. At least, how to be just friends. We have so much history that I'm afraid it will be awkward to ignore everything that we once were.

Then again he hasn't shown any signs of awkwardness this whole time, so I'm probably just being paranoid. I'm thinking about this too much. It doesn't have to be difficult or weird. We can be friends.

He mentioned that he would come over this afternoon so I spend the morning making chocolate chunk cookies and an apple pie because it was always his favorite. I've been cooking a lot since I came back. I never cooked much for Gabe. He wasn't into southern cooking and well, that's what Nana taught me. Most of the time when he was home we would go out to stuffy restaurants and he'd spend the entire time talking to other stuffy suits who were dining at the nearby tables. It was always so cold and impersonal.

Now that I'm back, it feels good to dive back into Nana's old recipes. It's relaxing and it calms me. I'll never be able to perfect them the way that she did, but it still makes me feel closer to her. It’s as if I can feel her here with me. Sometimes I get the urge to just start talking to her while I cook. But then I feel like a crazy person and stop myself. But it would be nice, to just tell her everything I've done since she's been gone. To apologize to her for everything I haven't. But she's not here. It's just me and my memories.

I take the pie out of the oven and let it cool on the counter. Even I have to admit that it looks pretty. I pull out my phone and snap a picture of it and smile. Nana always took pictures of food. The family photo album is full of pictures just like this.

BOOK: The Rise of Emery James
12.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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