Page 23 of Dirty Promise

7

I packed my things for Peru before I left for Savannah. The only thing left to do when I get home is grab my stuff and leave for the airport. I finished my Emma audio book, which I loved. I suspect Jane Austen is on the path to being my favorite author. I decide to try something different for the long flight to Peru. Since this is a hiking trip, I swing by the bookstore and pick up a copy of the memoir, Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.


It’s late by the time I pull up to my house. The streets are empty, the sun is going down. My own bed sounds so fantastic. When I pull up to my parking space, I see someone sitting on my front porch. His back is to me, so I don’t recognize him at first, but when he turns to look at me, my heart explodes in a riot of tremors.

Max.

The whole time I was in Savannah, I didn’t bother wearing makeup—though I bought a ton of it—or did anything more with my hair than putting it up in a sloppy bun. I didn’t think it mattered. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone. Now I’m scurrying to smooth down my hair. My stomach sinks and I search for an escape route. I’m not ready to face him right now, not while I’m half asleep and looking like I’ve spent a week sleeping under an overpass. I suppose I could take off and keep driving. It would be one hell of an asshole movie, but it would keep me from having to deal with this right now.

But I can’t do that. He’ll think he did something wrong, or that I’m mad at him. It’s not fair to him.

Shit. I look like a homeless person. I’m not prepared for this. Seeing him though …

The longing I feel is overwhelming and I realize just how much I miss him.

When I get out of the car, he stands up, but doesn’t say anything. Just stands there, hands in his pockets, watching silently as I walk toward him. I take slow, tempered breaths, trying to appear calm. But in my blender of a mind, I’m scrambling to find something to say to him.

“What are you doing here?” I ask him.

His cold stare cuts me right to the bone, voice an indignant monotone when he says, “When I didn’t hear from you for several days I got worried and went to your job. The manager told me you were in Savannah and that you were supposed to be getting back today.”

Had he been waiting on my porch for me all day? I want to ask but I’m afraid of my own voice. If I talk, I might break down.

He continues. “She also told me you were leaving for Peru and Scotland in a day or two. Were you planning on telling me?”

Straightening my shoulders, I try not to appear as pathetic as I feel. “No,” I say.

He scrubs his face with his hands like he’s trying to hold in his anger. I hate seeing him this way and want to hug him or kiss him to make him feel different, but I don’t know if that’s a good idea, so I stay where I am.

“Why the hell not?” he says. “I thought you were lying in a hospital somewhere, or dead.”

I’m taken aback by the anger and frustration in his voice. I assumed he’d be annoyed by the ghosting, but I figured after a week he wouldn’t care. He would’ve been off with some new girl, having amazing sex, and I’d be a distant memory.

I feel the pressure of tears on the backs of my eyes. I try desperately to hold them in. But as I stand there under his scrutiny, I can’t. The only thing I manage to do is wipe them away as quickly as they fall.

“I saw how busy your schedule was at work and I didn’t want you to have to put your life on hold for me while I went trapesing across the globe. But it’s something I have to do for my best friend,” I say.

His shoulders lose their stiffness and there’s a sorrowful look in his eyes when he says, “Shouldn’t you have let me decide what I wanted? If I want to put my life on hold, that’s my choice to make, not yours.”

My tears fall faster. It’s impossible to keep up with them. “I didn’t think you would care. I just assumed you would’ve moved on.”

My purse feels like it weighs a million pounds. Everything feels heavy, my shoulders, my head. Maybe it’s because I’m exhausted from traveling, or maybe it’s all the guilt I feel that’s weighing me down. Seeing him this upset makes me realize what a mistake I’ve made. I honestly didn’t think he’d care this much. I just want to collapse and curl into a ball and cry. All those emotions I’ve been bottling up are finally starting to break loose at the most inopportune time. I really didn’t want an audience when it happened.

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