So I have entered the first three chapters of the latest book I am writing.
Titled Hard To Love
It is of course the roughest draft but it is getting it down that is most important. Thought I would share it here with you.
Titled Hard To Love
It is of course the roughest draft but it is getting it down that is most important. Thought I would share it here with you.
Lauren Miller is a young woman having the time of her life in L.A with her boyfriend Matt when things go tragically wrong. They get into fight and then a horrible car crash and Matt dies before they make it to the hospital.
Lauren lives with survivor’s guilt for months only to realize that she can’t handle living in their apartment anymore. It brought back to many painful memories so she moves back home to Portland, where her mother lives. When she returns, she finds herself easily returning to old habits. She starts hanging around her childhood friend Cassie and the ‘rich crowd’. She takes the job offered to her by her old boss at the restaurant, whom her mother called the instant she learned Lauren was moving home. What she didn’t bank on was falling for one of the town’s most eligible bachelor, also arrogant rich kid Mason Foster, who only cares about what new car he is driving and whether or not his shoes are from Testoni.Lauren then begins to think she is losing her mind when the ghost of her dead boyfriend appears randomly to her as she just starts to let go of the pain.
Lauren tries to hide her feelings for Mason, who is openly sweet to her, only when no one is around, yet she finds it hard to resist him. Some dramatic events unfold and Mason is put in a position to admit his feelings, but instead he skips town. Lauren finds herself confused and broken over a guy who secretly cared for her. His older brother Nick is happy reap the benefits of his absence. Thing is he doesn’t need to put on the charm to steal her heart. She sees a side to Nick no one else has ever seen.When Mason returns to Portland unexpected, the drama begins. Who will Lauren chose? Will Nick just give up? Will Mason finally admit his deep feelings for Lauren? Will Matt her dead boyfriend stop appearing in her times of despair?
The rushing water spilled over the rocky cliff above, crashing over and over at the bottom of the river bed. Mist clouded the air covering the trees, slowly turning to frost, leaving signs that winter is near. It’s loud soothing roar silenced the calm dense forest that surrounded me. Drowning all the thoughts cluttering my mind, filling me with tranquility, like the sound of a heart beating. I open my eyes for the first time since I had arrived and thought, I’m home. The giant trunk beneath me was covered in moss giving a cushion like feel against my back. Bits of clouds can be seen through the canopy above but the rain had yet to begin.
I feel nothing, other than the mist of the river below, enveloping me. Tears begin to trickle down the sides of my face, landing in my hair. I feel empty inside.
“Time to go, darling.” A voice broke the silence that filled my head. I sat up frightened, looking around only to find that no one was there. I could have sworn that I heard his voice.
“Matt?” I whispered, wishing so much that he was here. He was the only one who could make me smile, make me whole again.
What was I thinking of course he wasn’t here, he was dead. He was dead and it was my fault. Tears flooded my eyes again as I thought about that horrible night.
The night that changed my life forever.
“You have got to stop blaming yourself.” The voice replied.
“Matt?” My head spun around and this time, I saw him. He was sitting a few feet away from me, looking handsome as ever.
I don’t know how it was possible but it was. “What—I don’t understand, how are you here?”
“This is not how I wanted you to live out the rest of your life, Lauren.” He appeared suddenly closer.
“I don’t know what else to do,” I started to cry. “Nothing is the same anymore.”
“Of course it’s not, sweetheart. You need to start over. Make a new life, new memories.” His head tilted slightly.
“But I miss you.” I squeezed my eyes shut my body shaking as I sobbed. I knew in my heart that he wasn’t actually there, I was hallucinating or hyperthermia was setting in.
I deserved nothing less.
Then he spoke again, “I know.” He stood tall, a shadow casting down on me. Then he jumped off the log and landed perfectly safe on the forest floor below. “I will not be able to move on to the other side, if you don’t stop thinking about me.”
“A-am I going crazy?” I scoffed.
“No.” he said with a smile. His eyes sparkle in the scattered light.
“Then how is it that we are talking right now?” my lips trembled.
“I never thought it possible but when you heard me, I realized it was.” He smiled.
“I’m sorry, Matt.” I sobbed into my hands.
“I know, darling.” He held out his hand for me to take it.
“It should have been me. It was my fault.” I shook my head, burying my face in hands. Memories of the crash filled my mind.
“Stop talking like that. You lived because there is a plan for you.” He said moving closer to the log. The drop was far, reminding me that he was not really here with me.
“What sort of plan would involve you dying and leaving me heartbroken without you?” I cried looking away.
“Only you will know that.” He waited.
“You are a good person, Matt. You didn’t deserve to die.” I stood. “I—I—” My voice trailed.
Matt’s head slowly turned away then he disappeared.
“You can’t be here.” Another voice said.
My head shot up and I saw a man dressed all in black; black pants, black shirt black boots and a black leather jacket.
He stood with one foot on a large rock and his arms folded, staring up at me.
I focused on him.
“Why are you here?” I retorted wiping the tears from my cheek.
“My family owns this land, so I am allowed to be lost in it.” He replied pulling out a silver flask. He studied me for a long moment. “You on the other hand are trespassing.” He added.
“I used to come here all the time when I was a kid. I don’t remember it being own by anyone.” I replied climbing my way down off the log.
“Well, I guess you were wrong.” He screwed the lid off took a long haul then re-screwed the lid. “You should go.”
“Who owns the forest?” I said walking towards him, brushing my hands off.
“Who are your parents?” I asked, annoyed.
“The Fosters.” He sighed then stuff the flask in the inside pocket of his jacket.
“I didn’t know the Fosters had a son.” I said, my brow furrowed.
“There is a lot people don’t know about the Fosters.” He said with a roll of his eye. “See ya.” He started walking away.
I waited for him to disappear through the dense forest before calling out to Matt, disappointed when he didn’t return.
When I came to the old gravel parking lot outside the forest, I saw a car that was not their earlier. I scanned the area, seeing no one else around. But, as I got closer to my car I noticed someone lying against the side of the other car. I rushed over kneeling in front of him.
“Hey.” I recognized him from earlier when he asked me to leave the forest. “Are you okay?” I asked slapping his cheek.
“Owe, why are you touching me.” He shuffled away hitting his head against the door of the car.
“Sorry. I thought that you were hurt or worse dead, but it turned our you’re just drunk.” I huffed shook my head and sat back on my legs.
“What was your first clue, that I was still breathing.” He snapped and rubbed his cheek.
“For now.” I snarled and stood up, folding my arms. “Sorry to bother you.” I turned and made my way over to my car, glancing back at him before opening the door.
He was trying to get to his feet, unsuccessfully.
I sucked in a deep breath, went against my better judgment and helped him. “Do you need a ride?” I asked holding my hand out offering my help.
“From the girl talking to herself in the forest, I think I’ll pass.” The driver side window was down so he used the frame of the door to haul himself up.
“I wasn’t talking to myself.” I muttered under my breath.
“Then who were you talking to?” He replied. I didn’t expect him to hear me.
“Do you want a ride or not? I couldn’t care less either way.” I didn’t mean it but I said it anyway. I often don’t think before I speak. His glassy blue eyes stared me down. Instantly my eyes found the ground to avoid his stare.
“That’s not very nice.” He replied stumbling forward. When I looked up again, attempting to give him one of my annoyed glances, his smirk made my heart jumped a little in my chest.
“Last chance offer.” I said unlocking the doors.
“Fine, I can’t find my keys anyway.” He smirked, planted his hand on the roof of my car and bent over slightly trying to open the car door. I scoffed then walked around the back of the car.
“How much alcohol can you fit in that flask?” I mumbled as I pushed him out of the way to open the door for him.
“Not enough.” He stumbled forward, his face hovered so close to mine that I could almost taste the alcohol on his breath.
“Get in.” I stepped back grabbing his arm and pulling him with me.
“No need to be pushy.” He said pulling away. I walked backwards as he attempted to get in the front seat. I shook my head and twirled the keys around my finger then walked back over to the driver side.
“Where do you live?” I asked starting the engine. I stretched my arm over the back of my seat to see out the window as I backed up.
“Over on Skyline Road.” He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger. My mouth gapped. Anybody who was somebody lived off of Skyline Road. My best friends from did as well.
“Are you new to the area?” I asked, not remembering him from my childhood.
“Nope, lived here my all my life.” He replied resting his head back on the seat. “I’m pretty sure we established that already.”
“I just don’t remember you.” My cheeks burned.
“I guess I didn’t make much of an impression then.” He scoffed and turned to look out the window. I watched him as he fumbled with the button that locked and unlocked the doors.
“Are you wanting the window open?” I tried to hide my smile as I reached across his lap to get the window down. He chuckled then hung his arm out the window.
“We moving yet?” He asked slowly turning to look at me again. I rolled my eyes restraining my tongue from lashing out at him. He was rude but there was no reason for me to be.
“Why are you like this?” I asked, again not thinking first.
“Why are you driving a stranger home?” His head shot towards me and the glare was hard.
“Better than the alternative.” I shrugged.
“Which is?” He shifted in his seat so his body was turned towards me.
“You driving home drunk, ending up dead or killing someone else, that which would haunt you for the rest of your life.” I said all in one breath.
“You sound like you have experience in that department.” He turned away. I turned up the radio not wanting to talk anymore. He tapped his thumb against his knee as I drove.
I turned down Mills road hanging a right leaving only a few blocks before reaching his street. When I turned down Skyline Road he reached over and turned the radio down.
“You can drop me off here.” He said talking off his seatbelt.
“I can drop you off at your house.” I replied.
“I don’t know you and I don’t want to find out that your stalking me.” He stated. I gasped in disbelief at his remark. I slammed on the brakes causing him to bump his head on the inside roof of the car. I shook my head biting my tongue.
“You’re welcome.” I put the car in park and unlocked the doors. He rubbed his head turned and glared at me again before opening the door to get out, without even saying thank you.
After he passed the front of the car I put the car in drive and squealed past him and turned around. I was so furious that I wouldn’t have felt bad if I hit him. I flipped him the bird before disappearing down the street and honestly didn’t care if anyone saw me, least of all him.
When I got home an hour later I pulled the car into the garage and shut it off. I didn’t get out right away. Images of seeing Matt in the forest came back and I wanted it to last a bit longer. Then the light in the garage turned on breaking me out of my thoughts.
“Lauren?” My mother stood at the doorway that led into the house.
“Yeah mom it’s just me.” I sighed and got out of the car. My mother pushed the button on the wall to shut the garage door.
“Why were you sitting in the car?” She asked hugging me.
“I just got in, I was just thinking that’s all.”
“About Matt?” She rubbed my back. I held my breath unable to speak so I just nodded my head. She hugged me again then kissed my forehead. “It will all right dear.” She gave me a sympathetic smile.
“I know mom.” I gave her a thinned lipped smile.
Since the accident, all she kept saying was how everything would be all right. It had been a year, I didn’t feel all right. I slipped off my boots by the front door then made my way to my room.
“Oh by the way I spoke to Mrs. Peterson and she said any time you are ready you can have your old job back at the restaurant.” Her smile was bigger this time.
“Oh,” I sucked in a breath and tried to smile. “Uh—thanks.”
Falling back into my old life was not something I was interested in. I didn’t want to move back home but with Matt gone I couldn’t afford anything on my part time salary working at the diner in Los Angeles. My freelance photography pretty much went nowhere. I Figuring with Matt’s salary I didn’t need it worry about making a lot of money. We had plans to get married and buy our own house in Hollywood. Matt always told me to strive towards my dreams. Being happy at what you do for a living was what he believed in and he did that every day.
He was an editor for a big production company in Hollywood. He and his team of editors had been nominated twice for an award since he took the job.
Things were moving forward just as he always dreamed.
Moving back to Portland was a big adjustment. It was nice to be around my mother again, she had been pretty alone since dad died three years ago.
“She is expecting you to stop by this week.” She said with a nod before walking away.
“Okay.” I breathed then turned and walked up the stairs.
I shut my bedroom door and flopped down on my bed burying my face in my pillows. I just wanted to lie here and not move for a week or two. Having done nothing the past year but wander around like a different person in my skin. Life was so empty without him. The silence and pity party didn’t last long, my cell phone started ringing a familiar ring tone from my purse. Forcing myself out of bed to grab my phone..
“Hello Cassie.” I couldn’t help but smile. I had promised her I would call when I got in town.
“Hey Girl.” She said smiling. “You were supposed to call when you got here.”
“I know.” I sighed. “I got a little sidetracked.”
“That’s okay, tomorrow you are all mine and no complaints on the arrangements.” She stated.
“Promise.” I laid back on the bed. “I can’t wait to see you.” Cassie had a way of helping to forget my problems. We hadn’t seen each other since Matt died. But we talked on the phone frequently. I knew all about her world travels and exotic flings.
“Good. See you around ten.” She said before hanging up. I glanced at the clock on the bedside table. It was still early enough to make it to the restaurant tonight before Mrs. Peterson closed for the night. I knew I would have no time tomorrow once Cassie picked me up for the day.
When I pulled up to the restaurant it was half past nine. The parking lot was practically empty. I took the first spot by the door and made my way in. The only waitress on the floor greeted me.
“Hey there darlin’ what can I do for you?” She asked.
“Actually, I was hoping to speak with Mrs. Peterson, is she still around?”
“She sure is, who should I say is callin’,” She asked.
“It’s Lauren Miller.” I replied. She nodded then turned away. I took a seat at the bar and waited. The bartender smiled and offered me a drink. “I’m good, thanks.”
“Lauren, I heard you were back in town!” Mrs. Peterson squealed as she came around the corner from the kitchen area. I stood and walked towards her open arms. “It is so fantastic to see you, you look terrific.” She hugged me tight. Mrs. Peterson and my mother had been friends for years. So she was up to date with the events of my life. “So sorry to hear about Matthew. It’s such a tragedy he was such a sweet boy.” Her lips screwed. It funny how everyone remembered Matt when he lived here but I never met him until college. Well at a college party, that is. He was two years older than me so that was more than likely the reason I never met him before then. I smiled remembering the first time I laid eyes on him.
“Your mother mentioned you moved back home.”
“Yes, temporarily.” I said mumbling I hope under my breath.
“Well don’t you worry your pretty little head you can work here again until you get back on your feet.” She hugged me again.
Mrs. Peterson was a childless, widow who had a lot of love to give. My mother, told me back when I started working at the restaurant the first time, not to ask if she had any children because it was a sore subject. Mrs. Peterson had always wanted children but was baron, according to the doctors. Her husband never wanted to adopt and didn’t believe in paying someone to carry their child for them either. He was a God fearing man and believed whole heartedly that if it was meant to be it would be. I can’t say that I believe that theory myself, but to each his own.
“Thank you so much Mrs. Peterson.”
“No problem dear.” She smiled widely. “So how’s Monday work for you?”
“Sounds perfect.” I nodded. That gave me four days to get my stuff together and unpack my clothes. It was time to start acting like this was my home again. “Thanks again, see you Monday. Have a good night.”
“You too dear. Tell your mom I said, hello.”
“I will.” I waved as I walked out the door.
My mother was already in bed by the time I got back to the house. As quietly as I could I made my way up to my bedroom. Unable to sleep I unpacked my clothes putting them away. Finding my IPod among the mess, slipped the headphones on as I crawled into bed. Sleep was hard to come by lately and noise seemed to drown out my thoughts. The nightmares had faded months ago, but occasionally they flashed back and were as vivid as the day it happened. I closed my eyes resting my hand on my chest, IPod in hand. At first, as I drifted the first thought was of the forest, the sound of rushing water filling my head. Then his spoke to me over took the sound of the music playing loudly against my ear drums. I sat up looking around the room. My heart thudding hard against my rib cage. The tears effortlessly falling from my eyes. Stretching across my bed I opened the bedside table drawer and took out a bottle of prescription, sleeping pills. It had been months since I had needed them but today after seeing what I saw and hearing—I had to remind myself it wasn’t real. The pills would take it away. Pouring out letting two dropped in the palm of my hand and a bottle of water to wash them down with. I closed my eyes, saying in my head, ‘not real’ over and over. I laid back down against the pillows turning up the music.
The next morning Cassie woke me up out of a dead sleep. I had forgotten how well the pills worked. It was just after ten when I focused on the clock by my bed. I rubbed my face apologizing. “I didn’t realize how late it was.”
“I can’t believe you slept in this long.” She flopped down on the bed next to me. “Whatever happened to the girl who was up at the crack of dawn no matter how late we were out drinking.”
“Age caught up to me.” I joked.
“Nah that’s not it.” She turned on to her back. “Get dressed we’ll go get breakfast at the club then go shopping.”
“Yes we need dresses for the masquerade my parents are throwing for Halloween.” She clapped her hands excitedly. “Remember those back in high school.”
“Yes.” I smiled.
“Nothing.” I shrugged. “It just seems like nothing has changed here except for me.”
“Well L.A will do that to you.” She screwed her lips.
“I don’t have money to spend on a dress for the masquerade.” I said dragging myself out of the bed.
“Don’t worry about it.” She hopped off the bed.
“Ah don’t you dare say it. We are shopping and you’re going to stick your pride where the sun don’t shine, because you are my best friend and I have not seen you in a year.” She scooped me up in her arms spinning me around to face the mirror on my wall, her cheek against mine. “We are going to show these old folks what it means to party and you are going to like it!” She walked me to the bathroom. “Hurry up.”
Locking the door behind me, I turned and stared at myself in the mirror. The puffiness under my eyes was proof to my tear filled night. I fought with the tangles in my hair giving up and tying it up in a ponytail. Scrubbing my face with cleanser and patting it dry I swiped a toner on my face adding a bit of cream dabbing under my eye wanting the bags to go away. “Nothing a little foundation couldn’t hide.” I whispered.
When I walked back into my room, Cassie had raided my closet picking out clothes for me. A pair of dark skinny jeans, cream coloured circular hem sweater, black and beige flats. “So glad you have such classy taste.” Cassie giggled sitting cross legged on the bed.
“Thanks.” I shrugged. I changed into the outfit grabbing my bag before heading down stairs.
“Morning girls.” My mother stopped us as we got to the main floor. “I have coffee and scones on if you’d like.”
“Thanks mom but we are going to the club for breakfast.”
“Okay girls, have a good day.” She smiled hugging herself. I turned and walked towards her kissing her cheek before leaving. That put a smile on her face. Mom use to be such a social butterfly when I was kid but ever since dad died she didn’t want the members at the club to treat her different just because she was a widow.
“Everyone is going to die when they see you.” Cassie said and turned off the alarm on her car.
“I doubt that.” I scoffed.
“Are you kidding me, you were all everyone talked about since the last time you came to visit.” She said crossing her arms. “Just because you don’t live on Skyline Road doesn’t mean you are not noticed.” She rolled her eyes at me. “You should meet my cousin Mason you’ll love him, most girls do. He should be there this morning.”
“Shush and get in.” She shut her door and started the car.
Hesitantly I climbed in the front seat. It had been a year since Matt died but I was not ready to start seeing anyone else. Especially not some rich kid who probably has never known what it feel like to lose something or someone. We pulled up to the front of the country club, the valet walked around the front of the car nodding at Cassie as she got out, he handed her a tag then got in the car. Cassie linked her arm with mine and we made our way in through the front doors. It was as busy as I remembered. Incoherent chatter filled the halls and dining rooms until I entered then it felt as though everyone stopped talking to stare up at me.
Cassie ignored everyone and walked through with her head up and my arm in hers. She reached a table where her mother and father were seated.
“Cassie.” Her mother spotted us first. Cassie let go and walked around to hug and kiss her mother then her father.
“Mom, dad you remember Lauren Miller.” She introduced me and it felt as uncomfortable as it did the first time I met them fifteen years ago.
“Yes of course, how are you dear?” Her mother asked leaning over to shake my hand.
“Very well, thank you for asking.”
“How was L.A, Lauren?” Cassie’s father asked, making light conversation.
“An experience.” I said with a smile. There were three other people sitting at the table. I recognize the woman but couldn’t place who she was.
“This is Abigail Foster,” Abigail smiled and nodded, “her husband Spencer, and that is Mason.” Cassie’s mother introduced. I smiled nodding at who was paying attention to me.
“Mason!” Abigail tapped him on the shoulder. “My son the social butterfly.” She scowled at him. “If only he was as good at finding a job as he is at being social.” He had been leaning over the back of his chair speaking with a girl at the other table.
“What?” He frowned turning towards me that’s when I gasped and practically jumped out of my seat.
“We have company.”
“We always have company, its nothing new.” He scowled wagging his brow.
“Manors Mason.” She tapped his leg. He rolled his eyes.
“Hi.” He barely looked at me when he greeted.
“Hi.” I stuttered. Everyone was looking at me funny.
“Have you met before?” Cassie asked looking over at me. Mason glanced my way and stared for a moment trying to place me.
“Sort of.” I said biting my bottom lip.
“Do tell.” Cassie leaned in.
“Oh right the girl who talks to herself.” He pointed at me then snapped his fingers as he remembered. My mouth dropped, that was how he remembered me. I crossed my arms and scowled at him.
“I was not talking to myself.”
“Well, I saw no one else around.” He joked.
“I’m surprised you remembered anything considering the amount of alcohol in your system.” I snapped back.
“Lauren!” Cassie cupped her hand over her mouth. Mason smirked then leaned back in his chair, his eyes locked on mine.
“Funny, you would know considering you practically kissed me.” The grin on his face widening. He was a real piece of work. My eyes watered and I could feel the sting on my cheek as they turned red.
“Will you excuse me, I suddenly don’t feel hungry.” I threw the napkin from my lap on to the plate. “It was nice seeing you again Mr. and Mrs. Harper. Nice meeting you Mr. and Mrs. Foster.” I turned and walked away.
“That was real nice Mason.” Cassie got up from the table.
“What has gotten into you, Mason?” his mother scolded. He ignored her by turning around, continuing his conversation.
“My son has been rather unruly lately,” Abigail apologized as she took a sip of her tea.
“Lauren wait.” Cassie called out as she got closer. “What was that about?” She grabbed my arm.
“Nothing.” I pulled free. I didn’t fit in back then I won’t fit in now.
“That was not nothing. Did you really try to kiss him?”
“NO!” I blurted. “He was drunk Cassie, so drunk he could barely walk. I offered him a ride home even though he had been such a jerk beforehand. I can’t believe you are related to him.” I said shaking my head.
“Yeah well you can’t pick your family.” She chuckled.
“Well at least you can’t tell you are related, at least you have that going for you.” I laughed.
“What gives me away? The colour of my skin?” She smiled. “He is rather pale in comparison.” Her smile was picture perfect. Cassie was one of the most beautiful girls I had known. Her dark skin and green eyes were head turners. Cassie’s mother was born in south Africa but her family had moved to America when she was just a girl. Raised in a strict family with good morals and amazing education. She grew up an amazing woman, people respected her and it showed. “I like Spencer a lot better than I do my uncle Robert.” She replied. “Mason is just like his father.”
“His father I remember. My dad use to golf with him.”
“Yeah, I am surprised you never met him before.”
“I honestly didn’t know they had any children. I don’t remember anyone ever talking about him.”
“He has always been a bit of a trouble maker.” Cassie replied. The valet returned with her car.
“Where do you want to eat?” She asked climbing in the driver seat.
“We can go to Parkrose waterfront, where I will be working again.” I shrugged.
“Mrs. Peterson gave you your old job back?”
“Well I think my mom talked her into it.”
“Oh she loved you like you were family.” Cassie smiled then started driving.
We were greeted by the host right away, she seated us by the front window.
“Your waitress will be right with you.” She smiled handed us our menus then walked away.
“So what is the plan for the rest of the weekend?” I asked reading the menu. “I don’t have to start work until Monday, so you have me for the next four days.” I said looking over the top of the menu.
“Four days, hmmm I’m sure we can get into a lot of trouble by Monday.” She laughed. I nodded with a smile, distraction was exactly what I needed right now.
After breakfast we drove to the boutique where Cassie buys all her party dresses. The masquerade dance was for charity for the local children’s hospital. Every year at Halloween the Harper family organized and planned the charity ball. When I was a kid my parents used to attend the masquerade every year. I knew my mom would donate again as she always did but whether she could attend is unknown.
“So any ideas on what you would like to wear?” Cassie asked.
“No.” I shrugged. It had been three years since I had been to one. I had gotten used to casual wear and occasional gown when I went with Matt to his events.
“Well my family are all wearing a shade of blue. So blue is not going to do, how about red.” She spun around with a beautiful strapless gown. The bustier top had a lacy diamond crusted design over the dark red satin. The skirt of the dress billowed out slightly a wave like ruffle pinned by a faux diamond button on every layer.
“This is gorgeous Cassie.” I gasped holding it in my hands, quickly peeking at the price tag. “It’s too much.” I handed it back.
“Shush up, if you like it its yours.” She handed the dress to the sales woman helping us. “We will need some accessories to match. She said. The sales woman nodded and gestured for us to follow. Cassie picked out a pair of red and white jeweled dangle earrings, a short layered beaded necklace, black and red bangles and a wraparound beaded bracelet to match the necklace and a little black diamond studded clutch purse.
“The shoes and the mask we’ll have to go to other stores for.” Cassie placed everything on the counter.
“What about you?”
“Oh, I have had my dress for over a month.” She smirked.
I nudged her with my shoulder smiling, feeling the sting on my cheeks. I hated feeling out of place in her world. My parents weren’t poor, we were middle to high class but since dad died mom had faded away from all the glamour and parties. New people were in town and most didn’t know the name Miller. I never wanted my parents help when I left for L.A. I wanted to prove to them I could dot I on my own, even though I never did. It if weren’t for matt I would have moved home after six months of living there. Just the thought of him brought tears to my eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Cassie said as she turned and noticed my glossy eyes.
“I’m okay.” I smiled and wiped the tear that managed to escape.
“You sure, we can forget shopping and go straight to drinking?” She smirked.
“I’m fine.” I laughed. The sales woman eyed us.
“Good because since we have the dress with us it will be easier to find shoes and a mask.” She grabbed the dress by the hanger flattening out the plastic wrap protecting it. She handed me the bag with the accessories inside. She hung the dress in the back seat and I put the bag on the back seat. Cassie drove up the block to a coffee shop where we sat inside for a bit.
“You want to talk about it?” She asked taking a seat.
“I said I was fine.”
“No, you’re not and stop lying to me. I’m your best friend remember I know when your smiles are real.” She reached out to cup my hand in hers.
“I just miss him that’s all.” I sighed.
“I know, but I’m sure he wouldn’t want you to be so miserable all this time.” She sipped her coffee.
“He doesn’t.” I said with a sigh. “I know he would want me to move and I think the first step was moving back here.” Fiddling around with the paper cup in my hand avoiding looking at her.
“Good, because tonight there are going to be a ton of guys at the club and I am so pushing you towards all of them.” The grin on her face widened.
It was after twelve and we had stopped by three shoe stores before we found the perfect set of black and red velvet skyscraper heels. I instantly fell in love. Lunch came next and this time we ate at the harbour front diner. They made the best fish and chips in the state. It was after two by the time we were back to shopping. There was only one store in town that carried the masks we were looking for. Cassie spoke to the owner as I browsed around for something that caught my eye. Just as Cassie called out to me I found it. The perfect mask. It look like a crown with narrow diamond crusted around the eyes, a hint of black mixed in with the red and sheer material to tie it around my head.
“I found it.” I spun around holding it. Cassie nodded approvingly. Her smile made me smile.
“Well we have at least eight hours to kill.” Cassie sighed as she sat in the driver seat. “I thought it would be harder to shop with you, usually you are more stubborn.” She giggled as she turned to look at me.
“I am trying harder to be more pleasant to be around.” I laughed. “We can just hang around for a bit or sleep.”
“Sleep, what are you an old lady?” She playfully slapped my leg. “The fall colours are really starting to kick in at the Portland gardens.”
“Oh I could take photographs.” I gasped excitedly. “Can we stop at my house for a minute?”
“Absolutely. I don’t think I have seen your face light up like that in a long time.”
“I haven’t taken any photographs since Matt died.” I looked out the window as I finished that sentence.
“Then the garden it is.” She said grabbing my hand in hers and giving it a squeeze. “How do you feel about lobster for dinner?”
“Sounds terrific.” I smiled.
It was starting to feel better as time passed, being home again. I never realized how much I missed Cassie until today. “I really missed you Cassie.” I leaned over and hugged her.
“I missed you too, I am more than thrilled to have you back.” She stretched her arm around me. “Oh you will get to meet Charlie tonight.”
“Who’s Charlie?” I asked, my eyes squinting slightly. Cassie dated frequently. She never dated anyone longer than two weeks. Like most of the people who lived on Skyline road.
“He’s my boyfriend.” She said joyfully. “You are gonna love him.”
“How long have you been dating him?”
“About a month.” She pulled out of the parking spot and started driving down the street. “He is gorgeous, nothing like anyone I have ever dated before.”
“A month, huh.” She noticed my surprised expression.
“What? You think you’re the only one that can find true love.” She snapped.
“No, you always told me your motto was to never get attached. Heartbreak was too painful.” I quoted.
“Well I still believe that but Charlie—he is so devoted to me I couldn’t imagine him leaving.” It was nice to see Cassie this excited about a guy. It was better than bouncing around from one guy to the next, which is what she was known for, prior to now.
“I’m happy for you, I am sure I will love him.” I said and looked over to smile at her.
When we arrived at the garden I couldn’t keep from snapping pictures right away. The bright reds and oranges were incredible against the deep green foliage that were late in changing. An hour was spent just walking through the trail through the forest to a botanical garden with ponds and amazing sculptures made from bushes. It felt as though we had entered wonderland I have expected to run into the mad hatter, with my luck that would be who I would meet. Cassie pointed out the giant mermaid sculpture the flowers left blooming were red and orange mums framing her face. It was an amazing sight.
“They call it mosaiculture, it has spread all over the world. It’s quite remarkable.” Cassie pointed out.
“To say the least.” I was in awe of the beauty that engulfed us.
“There is a really beautiful waterfall, it may be a little cold to be near the mist but it would be great for pictures.”
“Speaking of waterfalls,” I began as I followed her over the bridge through thick green and red foliage. “Do the Foster’s really own the land where we use to picnic.”
“Yes.” Cassie rolled her eyes. “The park closed down when there was a drowning accident and the Fosters were sued again.”
“There was a drowning,”
“Yeah, after you it seemed to happen a lot. More than I ever remembered.”
“Yeah don’t you remember?” Cassie stopped walking to look at me. I shook my head staring out at the water. “It was horrific.” She replied. “That year I think the dam had been damaged due to the hard winter we got and the tide was a lot higher than usual and when you went into the river you slipped went down the rapids into the big pond you hit your head pretty bad.”
I rubbed the scar on the side of my head. Flashes of that day came back to me. “A boy saved me.” I looked up at her.
“Yeah, he was given a medal from the mayor for his bravery.” She nodded. “I can’t remember his name, I think it was—”
“Matthew.” I smiled. Cassie’s head jerked in my direction.
“No… could it have been?”
“Only one way to find out.” I shrugged and screwed my lips.
“We’ll go there right after we are done here.” Cassie said.
The old newspaper archives at the city hall library would give me the answers I needed.
The librarian led us to the isle we needed, and Cassie started with the tribune first while I searched the Portland star. She found it first.
“Here it is.” She said tapping me on the shoulder. I moved over to her table leaning closer to the screen. The picture was in black and white but those eyes were unmistakable.
“It was him.” I gasped covering my gaping mouth. The picture included his parents as well as the mayor.
“I don’t believe it.” Tears filled my eyes. “I don’t know if this makes me feel any better or worse.” I covered my face with my hands.
“Why would it make you feel worse? It was fate that brought you two together.” She said taking me in her arms.
“It was my fault he died, Cassie.” I sobbed like a baby on her shoulder.
“Don’t be silly.”
“It was.” I sniffed back the tears. “We were fighting the day of the accident. I had accused him of cheating and showed up at his work late one night. I couldn’t have been more wrong and he was furious with me. He drove through the red light and a transport truck t-boned us.”
“I’m sorry Lauren.” Her eyes widened, she just stared speechless. “What made you think he was cheating?”
“My friend, Billie.” I shook my head regretfully. “She said he had been working awfully late recently. She got me worried for nothing. But I couldn’t help but wonder, he didn’t call to cancel plans with me. Forgetting we had a date or a dinner with friends. He also bailed on me when we were supposed to go home for thanksgiving dinner with my mom. I hadn’t seen her since dad died and I was upset when he forgot.” I sat back in the chair resting my head in my hand. “So I decided I would show up at his work and catch him with whoever he was with and boy was I embarrassed when I walked in on his meeting with the producers and his editing team.”
“What I didn’t realize was that while they had their meeting they had also celebrated with a bottle of champagne and when we crashed they said he had alcohol in his system. They tried to blame it on him.” The tears were effortlessly falling now.
“It’s not your fault.” She hugged me.
“If I had not shown up he would have taken a cab home.” I cried. Cassie just held me as I cried. I wouldn’t have known what to say to that either. For the past year I had blamed myself for his death. If he hadn’t been driving that night, then he would have still been alive.
“I understand why you blame yourself but honey, it is not your fault and if Matt was here right now he would tell you that.” I tried to smile and stop crying but it didn’t happen. “Enough of this sad song, we need to get you in a better mood.” She said and kissed my cheek. We put what we had taken out away and turned off the microfilm reader.
Lobster was the last thing I was interested in eating if anything at all. I suggested eating dinner with my mom since I needed to go home and change anyway. Cassie decided she would go home too.
“I’ll be back at nine to get you so you better not be asleep.” She chuckled as she leaned over to give me a hug.
“I won’t I promise.”
“Wear something sexy.” She wagged her brow.
“I will.” I sighed. I waved her off from the porch then went inside to spend time with my mom.
It was eight thirty and I was struggling with my outfit. After the third outfit I decided on something simple but cute. I pulled on a pair of jeans, can never go wrong with jeans. Slipped on my favourite black suede six inch heels and my over the shoulder hot pink top. I brushed my hair again then straightened it before adding a hint of light pink shimmer shadow and blackest black mascara. Lastly a high sheer rose gloss to my full lips. All in time for Cassie to arrive.
Cassie showed up in a jet black jersey turtleneck dress with knee high boots. She looked as amazing as ever.
“I didn’t realize you were going to wear a dress. I feel so under dressed.” I said hugging my arms.
“Don’t be silly. I’m only wearing this for Charlie, he loves my long legs.” She said with a giggle. I nodded following her out the door.
When we arrived outside the Gravity club the line had already started and ended around the building. I huffed disappointed we would have to wait. Cassie glanced at me as she got out of the car.
“What’s wrong doll face?”
“I didn’t realize it would be this busy already.”
“Oh honey we don’t wait in line.” Her head flung back as she laughed. Cassie held out her hand to take mine as she led me to the front doors. The bouncer smiled at her and unlatched the velvet rope. She gave him a big smile handed him some cash as she slipped past him.
“You paid him to get in?” I whispered leaning closer.
“No it was a tip, Charlie owns this place.” She replied. “Come on let’s see if he is here yet.” She pulled me along behind her slithering our way through the crowd. We stopped at the bar along the way, where she ordered us both a martini. She turned around to face the crowd her eye scanning the faces. I accepted my drink from the bartender with a smile. As I turned I spotted Mason on the other side leaning forward on the wood bar, he looked up from his drink and glared at me. I ignored his hateful stare and nodded before turning around.
“Your cousin is here.” I sighed.
“Yeah he frequents this place.”
“Does he have a problem?” I asked.
“No.” She laughed then waved at someone. I followed her stare and spotted a very handsome man with dirty blonde hair and ice blue eyes.
“Hello gorgeous.” He said walking over and hugging her.
“Babe, I want you to meet my very best friend, Lauren.” Cassie introduced. Charlie smiled and reached around her to take my hand in his.
“Pleasure to meet you Lauren. What a lovely name by the way.” He smiled. “I haven’t heard from you all day, I wasn’t sure you would show up.” He leaned in and kissed her.
“Sorry I was out with Lauren. We shopped for her masquerade gown today.” Her shoulders rose with excitement.
“How very interesting.” He gestured a gag, I laughed and she playfully punched him in the stomach. “I’m sure it was fun. Look I’m up in the booth if you want to join me. I have some friends from out of town here tonight that I’d like you to meet.” He wrapped his arm around her neck pulling her away.
“Sure.” She reached out for me to follow but I shook my head. I wasn’t in the mood for small talk, maybe after a few more drink.
“You go, I’m going to have another drink then see if I find anyone I know.” I said.
“George,” Charlie called out to the bartender. “Drinks for her are on me tonight.” He said pointing me out. The bartender nodded then handed me a glowing pink bracelet.
“I won’t be long.” Cassie mouthed as she walked away. I smiled and waved. I sipped the martini and scanned the crowd for a familiar face. The one that stood in front of me was not what I was expecting.
“Are you stalking me?” He smirked and crossed his arms. I looked him up and down, noticing his expensive black polo shirt with a tattoo like design on one side of his chest, dark denim jeans and black boots.
“Are you drunk again?” I retorted.
“Funny,” this time his lips parted when he smiled and I noticed his perfect set of teeth to go with that sexy smile. What was I thinking. I shook my head and looked away from him. He pushed his way through the crowd to my left so he could lean against the bar beside me.
“Are you here to pester me or is this considered trespassing.” I mocked. It was childish I know but he was a jerk and needed to be reminded of his rude behaviour not that I thought he actually cared that he had hurt my feelings that day. I turned to the bartender waiting to make eye contact then ordered another martini.
“My own words being against me, ouch. So tell me does that trick actually work for you?”
“I’m here to have a good time Mason, please find someone else to bother.” With a roll of my eyes I turned just as George my personal bartender for the night finished my martini and placed it on the wooden bar. I thanked him with a smile then walked away from Mason.
“I’m impressed.” He said following me.
“With what my good memory or that fact that I am still tolerating you right now.” I turned to face him almost spilling my drink on my shirt. I huffed and stared him down. His smile was starting to irritate me.
“Well it is definitely not your good memory.” His lips screwed into a smile and his tilted his head forward, he fingered a strand of hair by my cheek. My mouth parted but no words would come out. I glanced over his shoulder to find Cassie coming towards us. I pushed past him to meet up with her. Maybe wandering around alone was not a good idea after all. She led me up a set of stairs to a glass shaped room. I turned and of course the one person I didn’t want to make eye contact with I found, watching me.
“Was that Mason you were talking too?” She asked grabbing a seat next to Charlie.
With a nod I replied, “Yes.”
“Sorry I didn’t think he would come up to you.” She winced.
“Hello again, Lauren.” Charlie looked up at me with a big smile. I nodded and smiled back. I sat next to Cassie who seemed to fit in anywhere. Listening to them chat about their summer trips, places they have seen. Places I would never see in my lifetime. I scolded myself, no pity party tonight, with a deep inhale I let out a long slow breath letting go of my thoughts. I looked down at the dance floor at the moving bodies. Sitting here listening to them talk was boring and reminding me of the pity party going on in my head. In standing everyone halted their conversation.
“I think I want to dance.” I said then gulped the rest of my drink.
“You sure?” Cassie stood next to me.
“Oh yeah.” I tried to hide my annoyance.
“I’ll be back in a bit.” Cassie leaned down to kiss Charlie.
I danced my way down the stairs, not caring if anyone was watching me. Cassie grabbed my hand and let me lead her to the middle of the dance floor. You were dancing unless you were in the middle in a tangled mess of bodies around you. I let the music take over my body, my eyes closed and I could feel Cassie next to me singing to the song.
Then a spin of slow songs took over, giving me the cue that it was time to get a drink. George remembered me, giving me a wink as he caught my eye. Moments later I had a drink. Cassie joined me ordering a few shots of tequila, twice. One of my favourite songs came on and I squealed grabbing her arm, dragging her back to the dance floor. Girls were jumping and singing their arms waving in the air. The alcohol was beginning to numb me. Sweat slowly dripped down my neck. Cassie waved at me to get my attention she gestured needing water, I waved her off and continued dancing.
It wasn’t too long after she was gone that I felt someone come up behind me and wrap their arms around my waist. I didn’t care, he smelled good, a good sign he had taste so I let my body go with the flow, stretched my arms behind me running my finger through his short hair. My eyes were shut to keep from the room spinning, drinking was not something I did often. When the song ended, I slowly turned to face him balancing myself with his hand. The smile on my face disappeared when I locked eyes with him. His sexy little smile was starting to get on my nerves.
“Mason.” I gasped looking away and folded my arms.
“Lauren is it?” He smirked.
I shook my head.
“God why don’t you just go away.” I slapped his hand away. “Are you wanting me to yell at you, is that what you like?”
“Maybe.” He smirked.
“Ugh, stop smiling.” I walked away.
“Why, don’t you like my smile?” He grabbed my arm turning me around.
“That’s the problem, I like it a lot.” I regretted it the moment it left my mouth. His top lipped twitched as he started to smile again.
“There you are!” Cassie walked in front of Mason.
“I think I need to go home.” I said finishing another drink.
“Are you sure?” Cassie pouted.
“Yes.” I glared past her and she turned to find Mason.
“What’s your deal cuz?” She asked placing her hands on her hips.
He smugly replied, “Nothing.” But he wasn’t looking at her he was still watching me. Cassie eyed him a little longer then turned to face me.
“Let me just tell Charlie.” She touched my arm.
“I can take her home.” Mason interrupted. Cassie craned her neck to look at him.
“You’ve been drinking.” She said.
“I’m fine Cass, I’ll just walk.” I replied.
“No you won’t. Not alone.”
“I’ll walk with her.” Mason replied.
This time my eyes widened. Why was he doing this?
“You sure?” Cassie turned to face him again.
“Yeah, it will be a nice walk.” He replied.
“I’m not that far from here.” I said.
“I know.” He smiled.
“Now who’s stalking who.” Again, not thinking before speaking. Cassie tried to hide her laugh. Mason just smirked again not taking his eyes off me. “Sorry my brain mouth thing is on delay.” I twirled my finger in the air around my head.
“I’ll call you tomorrow.” Cassie said hugging me.
The highlight of my night was not walking home with Mason Foster, the spoiled rich kid that I did not remember from childhood. The walk was awkward and silent most of the way. I wasn’t even sure why he wanted to take me home. “I’m good from here.” I stopped walking turning to face him stuffing my hands in my back pockets.
“I’ll make sure you get to your door.” He tucked his hands behind his back swaying a little, side to side.
“Really, I’m fine.” I laughed.
“I’m sure you are.” He started walking again nudging me to follow.
“I don’t get you.” I replied.
“What do you mean?” He asked glancing my way.
“Well, when we first met in the forest you were less than friendly and now you are—”
“Sexy?” He chuckled.
“I was going to say charming but you’re still a pompous ass.” I said rolling my eyes.
“I’ve got to keep it interesting.” He looked up at the starry night. “I’m sorry that I was such a jerk the other day.”
I added, “And at breakfast and at the bar tonight.”
“And at breakfast this morning, and earlier tonight.” He stopped walking as did I. “I—I’m not normally like that.”
“That, I find so hard to believe.” I laughed. When I looked over at the house next to where we were standing I realized it was my mother’s house. My heart sunk a little, disappointed that this was ending already. “Thank you for walking me home.”
“My pleasure.” There was that smile again. I felt the breath in my throat come to a complete halt. He stood there his eyes locked on mine and for a split second I thought he was going to kiss me. “I’ll watch you in.” He turned slightly facing the driveway. With a nod I walked past him.
“Night.” I looked back.
He smiled and nodded. “Night.”
Once inside I locked the door and peeked out the window to see if he had gone. He stood there a moment longer until I turned off the patio light then he started to walk away. My heart was racing so fast I hadn’t noticed until I was alone.
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