After I overeat, I grab an hour nap then shower and dress for my party on The Juniper before we set sail for a week of port jumping around Italy.
“Happy birthday!” Everyone cheers when I step on board wearing a short blue cocktail dress, complements of Juni and Stella McCartney.
“Nice shoes.” Juni shakes her head before sipping her champagne.
I glance down at my silver Birkies and shrug. “Hmm …are these not the ones you bought to go with the dress?”
“Funny girl.” Holding her glass out to the side, she pulls me in for a hug and kisses both of my cheeks. “You look beautiful. Always.”
I get a little teary-eyed when I see hers fill with tears.
“Darling …” Zach pulls me in for a hug. “Twenty-two years. I’m just so happy we’re celebrating another year of you.” His emotions bleed through his words. I don’t think either one of us will ever forget the day he saved me, the day he gave me a second chance at life.
“I love you,” I whisper just before he releases me. “Thank you,” I say to both of them. “I love Hell and High Water.”
Zach slides his arm around my mom. “You’re welcome. Don’t ever stop living.”
I nod, taking a glass of champagne that’s offered to me.
“Presents. There are more presents.” Juni jabs her thumb toward the front of the yacht.
“I don’t need any more presents.”
“Not from us. They’re from everyone else.”
I follow them to the front of the mammoth yacht where a crowd of people mingle around small tables, music drifting from the large speakers. Their friends shower me with celebratory hugs as I make my way to a chair surrounded by more presents.
“Crazy …” I grin at Juni. She’s still so teary-eyed. Must be hormones.
I open one elaborate gift after another, reading cards, extending heartfelt thank-you’s, and feeling loved, overwhelmed, and still a little sad and empty.
“There’s one more.” Zach stops me just as I start to stand. He hands me a small box.
Zach shrugs, taking a step back. I glance around. Everyone is leaving.
“What’s going on?”
“It’s a very personal gift.”
I lift an eyebrow. “Personal?” Oh my god … my mom has tears sliding down her cheeks. “Mom?”
She shakes her head, backing away from me. “It’s fine.” She smiles.
“Love you, darling.” Zach winks just before taking my mom’s hand and leading her away.
I’m alone with a personal gift as the sun sets over the beautiful blue water. I pull the gold ribbon and unwrap the blue paper that matches my dress. It’s a wood box. My fingers ghost over the smooth surface with a tree carved into it. I open the lid. It’s filled with postcards—from Bodhi.
The top one is from Helsinki, Finland.
I’m in Finland. My parents were going to travel here for their twentieth anniversary. I’m still mourning the loss of my father. The fact that I just said that means I’ll never actually mail this postcard to you.
I’m a mess. How’s that for honesty? I don’t know what happens next in my life. So, I’m taking a page from your book and just trying to “live.”
Today I hate you. The fact that I just said that means I’ll never actually mail this postcard to you. The grieving process is painful. Today I feel like blaming the world. I guess this means that I still think of you as my world. What do I do with that?
I guess I’m still a mess. Trying to live, but it still feels like I’m not really alive at all.
That one hurt. Today I hate you. Tears fill my eyes. I’m certain my heart is squeezing them out.
Today I met a woman at a coffee shop. She made me smile. It felt good. I bet you don’t want to know this, so I’ll never actually mail this postcard to you. She gave me her phone number. I’m not sure if I’ll call her. If I don’t plan on staying here long, it seems pointless. But I’m supposed to be “living,” so maybe I’ll get the courage to do it.
As I set this one aside, I choke out a sob.
Prague, Czech Republic
Did it take you long to choose my dad over me? Were you planning on telling me? Or did it just come out when Bella and I were arguing? Did you think blaming you was going to make things right between Bella and me? I’m certain Bella will take her hatred for me to her grave.
I wish you wouldn’t have said anything. We were always a dream, but I liked that dream. You ruined that. Sorry, it’s just my truth right now. Looks like I won’t be mailing this postcard either.
I wipe my eyes and look around. It’s still just me. This feels like a very cruel birthday gift.
Today I miss you. It might be because I spent the day in the hotel bed. I’m not feeling so well. I think I picked up something on the plane. Your name on my skin doesn’t make it easy to forget you. Who am I kidding? You are the most unforgettable moment of my life. And that means a lot because I’ve had some very important moments in my life.
I should send this postcard to you, but at this point I don’t know if we can really ever be an “us” again.
A new round of tears come hard and fast as I cover my hand with my mouth. Love—he signed this one Love, Bodhi.
Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Today I didn’t grieve my father. It was a truly good day. I also forgave someone for something they did that changed my life forever. It was a long time coming.
I forgave myself.
Not living my life to its fullest is not fair to my father, and it’s not fair to me. If I get the chance to be a father someday, I hope I can love my children the way my dad loved Bella and me.
I hope you’re happy.
“Oh my god …” I whisper, looking all around as my heart pauses because the last postcard has a picture of Positano, Italy. I’m in Positano.
I forgive you for taking my heart. I forgive you for ruining me for any life that doesn’t include you.
Thank you for doing what I couldn’t do. I suppose it’s true that if you really love something, you’ll set it free. You set my dad free. You set me free.
I guess that means I don’t love you as much because I can’t set you free. And no matter how much I try to hate you—I will always love you more.
My tears blur the ink, so I swipe them away and move the box before I can’t read his final words.
It’s funny … I write on these postcards for you, but I never say a word about the places I’ve visited. I’m not sure I’ve taken a single picture. Nothing I’ve seen has come close to taking my breath away like you do. The world is a big place. You could get lost, forgetting where you came from, not caring where you go.
Not me. My travels have taught me only one thing … every place I’ve been has simply been a place without you.
SafetySuit, “Never Stop”
“Where are you?” I yell, setting the box aside and jumping to my feet. I turn in circles, looking at the other yachts and the people on the pier.
When I don’t see him, I take off running toward the back of the yacht, pushing and shoving my way past Juni’s and Zach’s friends.
“Henna?” My mom tries to stop me. Her tears are gone, replaced with a wrinkle of confusion because I’m clenching my fists and gritting my teeth.
Am I mad? No. I’m livid.
I run off their yacht and down the way to Hell and High Water. Stopping, I let more tears fall as Bodhi comes into view on the back of my yacht. He’s dressed in a blue suit with a white and gray tie. I hate him for looking so incredible.
“No.” I shake my head. “You can’t be part of my life when it’s convenient for you. Christmas? My birthday? No. Not okay. You sent me a fraction of the postcards that I sent you.” I run my hands through my hair, releasing a painful laugh. “Hell, you didn’t even send them to me. You were too fucking chicken to say all the words that needed to be said, even if they hurt.”
“Henna …” He steps toward me. “I’m sorry.”
I continue to shake my head. “Nope. Not good enough. Your favorite line has always been I don’t deserve you. Well, guess what? You’re right. You don’t deserve me.” Turning, I stomp off. I have no clue where I’m going, just away from Bodhi Malone.
“Jesus, Henna …” He chases after me.
I speed up my walk, but my dress is tight, constricting my stride.
“Wait!” He grabs my arm.
I don’t turn.
He steps around me, positioning himself in front of me. “What will it take?”
This pisses me off more. I brush past him.
Again, he grabs my arm. “No!”
I clench my teeth, fighting back the emotions that have plagued me since the day I met Bodhi Malone. I fell so fucking hard for him; I’m certain it will be impossible to recover in this lifetime.
His hands grab my face. “Anything. I will do anything. Do you want me to swim after your yacht? Beg? Plead? Promise my life to you in blood? Lasso the moon and capture the stars?”