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Authors: Shae Scott

Tags: #Romance

The Rise of Emery James (8 page)

BOOK: The Rise of Emery James
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"But I'm not the same.”

"Was he not good to you?" He asks the question and I swear my heart stops. Everything around me takes on a fuzzy dream-like quality. I might pass out. I'm not ready for this.

I start to get up. I need to walk away, to escape to my own corner, but his voice stops me. "Wait." My eyes snap back to his, unwillingly. His gaze feels heavy, restricting the breath I try to pull into my lungs. He holds me still with his eyes alone. He's searching for answers I haven't given him. He's looking for something and I'm so afraid of what he’s going to find.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked you that. It's just. . .I watch you sometimes and it's like you're afraid of doing something wrong. I don't want you to be afraid around me." He's so sincere, even through his strained voice. It's as if the words are being pulled from him.

"I'm not afraid," I say stubbornly. I want him to leave. I can't have this conversation right now. I can feel the sting in my eyes, threatening tears I've refused to cry. But he keeps going, laying it all out on the table.

"I'm not him. You don't have to be perfect. Not for me." His words send a physical ache through me. That simple statement shattering something deep inside. It's like he's forcing a mirror in front of me, forcing me to look at who I've become. I've done so well at pushing it away to deal with later, but later is catching up with me. Somehow, without even trying or even realizing he's doing it, he's making me see every change. He’s making me feel them. He makes it hard to hide, even from myself.

He looks so sincere as his hands reach across the table to take mine. My heart stutters as he squeezes them. The comfort that his touch gives me is a total contradiction to the chaos in my heart. It's exhausting, to be pulled in so many directions. Pulled by unseen forces, obligations and expectations. All things I've put on my own shoulders, but don't quite know how to put down.

I feel like I should pull my hands away, but I don't. I like it too much and right now that wins out over everything else. It makes me want to confide in him, to let him make it better. It makes me want to take a moment to hand it all over to somebody else just so I can breathe in deep. Just long enough that I can steady myself in the quiet.

“I don't even know who I am," I say, the words slipping out before I can stop them. They spill out into the space between us and as soon as they do I want to yank them back and stuff them away.

But there is no judgment on his face as his thumb traces a slow, delicate path across my hand. "You'll get there. You've been through a lot. I'm sure I don't know the half of it. But I know you, Emery. I know the girl hiding there behind everything. Take your time to heal. You'll find your way back," he says. His words are quiet, but firm and I want to believe him. I want to believe that all this confusion will someday make sense, but believing requires faith and I’m not sure how much of that I have left.

 

Emery

 

 

HEALING IS A RAW
process. I never knew before, because I never took the time to do it. I’ve always just slapped an emotional Band-Aid on it and went on my way.

The Band-Aids don't stick anymore.

After Cole left last night I sat in the dark and cried. He didn't mean to open up all of the wounds, but he did. He’s always seen me so clearly. Even the parts that I try to hide. He did the same thing last night with his questions about Gabe.

I know he worries that Gabe hurt me. I’ve seen the worry etched in the lines on his face. The questions are there behind his eyes. But Gabe never laid a finger on me. I was never afraid of him physically. But looking back now, I can see that the pressure he put on me, the pressure I put on myself, to be perfect for him and his family. It changed me in a way I never fully grasped until he was gone.

It's as if the whole situation just chipped away at me until I'd lost my foundation. I spent so long teetering on the pedestal that Gabe built for me that I never once realized how far I would fall when I didn't meet his expectations. Trying to please everyone, changing who you are to fit into some mold. . .it's exhausting. And it's lonely. I've been both for a very long time.

The whole conversation with Cole has left me in a funk. One I just feel too fragile to crawl out of. I spend most of the day drinking coffee and sitting at my kitchen table trying to write a list of things I need to do to get out of this hole I am in.

Dad makes lists. He always has a check list for whatever project he’s working on. Hell, he even had one to bury my husband. Surely I can come up with one for how to find myself again. Maybe if I have a list I can start to make some kind of progress. I’ll have something to focus on.

By the time the sun starts to set I have one thing written on it.

1. Get over it!!!

I roll my eyes, crumble up the paper and throw it away. I shuffle through the cabinets looking for something for dinner and decide on cereal. I wonder if Cole is having Cereal tonight. Probably not. He’s out of town with Dad until tomorrow, meeting about a potential build, so I'm on my own. It's just as well. I'm not much company.

Cole is right. Cereal is lonely.

Outside the wind picks up, so I turn the tiny, kitchen TV on and find the news. According to the rainbow colored radar filling the screen, it looks like a big storm is headed this way.

I used to love storms as a kid. The wind and thunder never scared me. Instead my parents had to drag me inside out of the downpour so I wouldn't get hit by lightning. It fascinated me. Sometimes I would make up stories about why God or Mother Nature was angry. In my mind, a violent storm was their way of venting out their frustrations.

Once I finish my cereal, I wander outside to smell the coming rain on the air. It's one of my favorite things, the way the air feels just before the storm hits. Now, when it feels like I've been fighting against my own storm for so long, it takes on a different feel. Almost like I have become a part of it. Like we know each other’s secrets.

It doesn't take long before the sky opens up, large drops pounding against the deck. I step back and watch them from the safety of the covered porch, the wind whipping against my t-shirt. I should go in, but there's no one here to make me. So I stay.

The storm is really roaring. It's almost a little scary, the way the wind whips through the trees, bending the branches back and forth, testing their limits. I stand still, watching, completely mesmerized, waiting to see how much it takes for them to snap. To completely buckle under the pressure. The strain. Those limbs weren't built to withstand this kind of battery. Surely they won't make it through this violent storm, not out there fending for themselves, with nowhere to escape to.

These limbs may as well be my own.

It’s as if their fate is mine and this storm is a test of my will. If the branches break, then what hope do I have?

I watch.

I wait.

Secretly willing them to hang on, because if they make it through, then maybe I will too.

I can feel the spray of the rain as it blows onto the covered patio, but something keeps my feet planted on the creaky, old boards beneath me. Something holds me still as the storm rages on.

The past two months have felt like a storm. Each day brings another wall of wind and rain to push through. It’s hard. Coming home. Starting over. Facing a past I ran away from. Every day is hard. It tests my strength and some days, I just feel weary. I'm afraid that I'll never get a grip on everything. I'm afraid I'll never be able to put everything in order or start to sort it all out. It feels like I'm going through the motions, lost and broken, stumbling through, just hoping to find my way out. Riding out the storm. Waiting for better weather.

It's the night that gets me the most. The darkness. The quiet. It opens up the door to doubt and memory. It welcomes in every question, every regret and I want to shut down. I want to hide from it, but it never goes away. It just sits, waiting for me to deal with it. Waiting for me to decide to take control.

What if I can't?

What if I'm not built to withstand it?

Just like that branch.

It's still holding on.

So far so am I.

But I'm not sure how long either of us will continue to do so.

I'm so lost in my thoughts that I barely hear the soft mewl over the roar of rain and wind. But it pierces through the angry snarl of the storm and pricks my ears. I still, listening harder. When I hear it again, a pathetic sound of something in the darkness, I descend the steps into the rain. Shielding my eyes, I try to peer through the drops of water. Finally, I hear the sound again. Whipping around, I see the source of the tiny little noise.

A tiny, orange tabby kitten is sitting just beneath the line of shrubs, looking drenched and pitiful. He can't be very old at all and with his hair plastered to his little body he looks as lost and broken as I feel.

"Oh my gosh," I say. I move towards him carefully, so that I don't scare him away. He doesn't move. He simply looks up at me with sad, confused eyes as if hoping I'll help him. I kneel down and scoop him up in my arms and hold him close to my chest. He begins meowing instantly, a constant barrage of kitty chatter as if he needs me to know just how he got here. I talk back to him in soothing words as I carry him inside and out of the weather.

He's still talking to me when I grab a bath towel and wrap him up in it and set him on the table to get a better look at him. He really does look quite pathetic. Like he's been through hell to get here.

I know the feeling.

"Hey there little guy, it's fine. You can stay here where it's warm. I won't send you back out there in all that mess," I say softly. He stops his tiny monologue to study me. I smile at the expression on his face, I'd swear he's trying to figure me out. After a moment he lets out a tiny meow and then head butts my hand so that I will pet him. I do as he asks and am immediately rewarded with the vibration of his purr. It seems like I have a new friend.

"Are you hungry? I can try and find something for you to eat. I might even have some tuna or something around here. What do you say? Shall we scrounge the cabinets?" I ask him. He doesn't answer, simply continues to rub his tiny orange head against my fingers as if any trauma he faced outside has been completely forgotten.

If only it were that easy.

I carry him with me as I search the cabinets for something he might like. I'm pretty sure I have some tuna somewhere and it's probably the closest thing I have to cat food. When I finally find the food I put him on the floor and set to putting it on a saucer for him. He dances around my feet, tiny and insignificant in size. He can't be more than ten to twelve weeks old. He's just a baby.

He makes quick work of his dinner as I watch, wondering where on earth he came from. I should probably make some flyers and try and find his owner. After all, there could be some little girl out there missing her kitten. But part of me hopes that he doesn't belong to anyone. It's silly, but this little stowaway is already claiming a little piece of my heart. It's like he's given me a purpose or something. It sounds a little crazy, but I feel like I should go with it.

When he has finished eating and drinking the water I slid next to his food bowl, I pick him up and carry him to the living room with me. I curl up on the couch and put him in my lap. His eyes are already heavy. I'm sure he's had quite the journey today. And now that his belly is full, he is finally content. To him, his whole world just got a little brighter. Just like that. One accidental turn and he's ended up in the right place. He's found a home.

I watch him drift to sleep and realize I'm pretty damn jealous of this cat. It's was all so easy for him. Then I notice the tiny nick on his ear and the dirt caked in his tiny paws and I remember, just because he's made it here now, doesn't mean he didn't fight like hell to get here. Maybe we're a lot alike. Both fighting to find our way home.

I'm going to keep this little guy. He deserves a happy ending.

"What will I call you?" I wonder out loud. He moves to curl up on his side, burrowing deeper into my lap and I smile. "Maybe I'll just call you Journey."

BOOK: The Rise of Emery James
9.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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