“But Dad…” I felt sick. I felt like I would throw up any second. “Ma left…”
“We should go follow her. We should go get her back… We should go—”
“Stop!” he hollered, slamming his hand against the counter as he turned to stare my way. His eyes were red and filled with emotions. “Go to bed, Jackson.”
“But Dad!” I cried.
“Bed!” he snapped once more, his anger throwing me off. I’d never seen Dad angry, especially with me. He took a breath and looked at me. I’d never seen that look in his eyes before. He looked so…broken. He frowned, turning back to his glass, and sighed. “Just…go to bed, son.”
I headed to my room and flopped onto my bed as Tucker leaped up beside me and laid down. “Go away, stupid dog,” I grumbled, tears still falling from my eyes. He nudged himself closer to me and snuggled under my arm as my chest continued to hurt. “Just go away.”
But still, no matter what I did or said to him, he stayed.
Good boy, Tuck, I thought to myself, holding him closer. Good boy.
In the dark, vacant foyer sat five pieces of mismatched, tattered, and torn luggage. They each held a part of me within them. The purple suitcase was from our first trip to Paris, our honeymoon. We stayed in a tiny hotel room where we could touch both walls if we stretched our arms out. We spent many drunken nights in that filthy little room, falling deeper in love as each second passed by.
The floral suitcase was from our getaway after my first miscarriage. He surprised me with a trip to the mountains to help me breathe. The city air was stiff, and my heart was broken. Even though my heart remained shattered at the high altitude, the air was a bit easier to take in.
The small black suitcase was the one he packed for me when I landed my first grown-up job as a teacher. He also used it for the trip after my second miscarriage; that time, we went to California.
The green one was from my cousin Tina’s wedding in Nashville when I twisted my ankle and he carried me around the dance floor as we laughed all night long. Last but not least, the tiny navy one was from when he came to my college dorm to stay overnight. It was the first time we ever made love.
My heartbeats raced as I leaned against the living room wall, staring at the packed bags from a distance. Fifteen years of history in five pieces of luggage; fifteen years of happiness and heartbreak stolen away from me.
He hurried out of the bedroom with a duffle bag on his shoulder. His body brushed past mine, and he glanced down at his watch.
Gosh, he looked handsome.
Then again, Finn always looked handsome. He was much better looking than I was, and that wasn’t me having low self-esteem. I thought I was beautiful, with every curve and extra pound that rested against my hips, but Finn was just more beautiful. Every couple had someone who was prettier, and Finn filled that role.
He had these crystal blue eyes that shone whenever he smiled. I loved when he wore the color olive because his eyes had a hint of jade in them. His dirty blond hair was always buzzed super short, and his smile…
That smile was what had made me fall in love.
“You need help?” I asked. “With the luggage?”
“No,” he said sharply, not looking my way once. “I can handle it.” His body was tense, unwelcoming. I hated how cold he was being, but I knew I’d made him that way. I had kept him at a distance for so long, and then he had let go.
He wore the yellow polo I despised. It had a rip under the arm and a nasty stain on the bottom that wouldn’t come out no matter how hard I tried to scrub it out. I blinked once, trying to capture that ugly shirt in my mind.
I’d miss it even though I hated it so much.
I sighed as he dragged the suitcases. When he packed the last one in his car, he came back into the house and glanced around the foyer as if he was forgetting something.
He was forgetting me.
His hands raced across his head as he grumbled, “I think that’s everything. We should get down to the bank to sign the papers. Then I have to get back on the road to Chester, and I guess you do, too.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Okay,” he replied.
Chester, Georgia, was home to us. It was the small town where we grew up, fell in love, and promised one another forever. Finn had been down there for the past eight months since taking a resident position at the hospital. It was eight months ago when he asked me for a separation. It had been eight months since he said we should put the house on the market. It had been eight months since he walked out of my life, and I hadn’t heard from him until our house sold in Atlanta.