I fell apart in a way I’d never experienced in my life.

I shook, I screamed, and a part of me died.

But Tristan held me, making sure not all of my soul disappeared that night.

Chapter Eighteen


I waited two weeks before I could face Tristan again. I was embarrassed, ashamed of the way I’d broken down in his room, but when he called me over to talk about the possibility of me doing the interior design for his home, I felt as if I had to suck up my fears.

“Are you okay? You seem off,” Tristan said as he walked Emma and me through his house. I was still so extremely uncomfortable with what I’d done, the way I’d fallen apart in front of him.

“No, I’m fine,” I said. “Just taking everything in.” I gave him a fake smile he saw straight through.

“Okay, well, you can do pretty much anything you want with the place. There’s the living room, dining room, bathroom, my bedroom, and the kitchen mainly. And I would love for the study to not look like a complete mess.”

I walked into the study, where boxes were stacked on top of boxes. His desk was covered with items, and as he walked Emma and Zeus out of the room, I stayed paused, staring at a receipt partially hidden under some paperwork. I picked it up and read it.

Five thousand white feathers.

Overnight shipping.

I opened one of the boxes on his desk and my heart skipped as I saw more bags of feathers. He hadn’t found the white feathers at Mr. Henson’s shop. He’d ordered them. He’d ordered thousands of them, just so Emma’s heart wouldn’t be broken.


“You coming, Elizabeth?” I heard him shout. I closed the box and hurried out of the room.

“Yup, I’m here.” I cleared my throat and gave him a smile. “What about your shed? I asked, catching up to Tristan. “I can fix that up for you too.”

“No, the shed is off limits. That’s…” He paused and frowned. “It’s just off limits.”

I narrowed my eyes in understanding. “Okay…well, I think I’ve got everything I need for now. I’ll draw up some different ideas and make some boards with fabrics and colors for us to go over together later on. I better get going.”

“You’re in a hurry.”

“Yeah, well, you know.” I glanced over at Emma, who was playing with Zeus, living in her own world. “Emma has a sleepover tonight that I have to get her ready for.”

Tristan stepped closer to me and spoke softly, “Are you angry with me? For the night you came over?”

“No.” I sighed. “I’m angrier with myself. You did nothing wrong.”

“Are you sure?”

“Truly, Tristan. You held me when I needed you the most.” I smiled. “But maybe it’s best we don’t use each other to remember anymore… Obviously I can’t handle it.”

He frowned and looked at the ground, almost as if he were disappointed, but within a second he held his head up and gave me a small grin. “I want to show you and Emma something.”

He led us to the back of the house and held the back door open. I listened to the nightly crickets chatting amongst themselves. It was a comforting sound…peaceful even.

“Where are we going?” I wondered out loud.

He nodded toward the darkened woods as he picked up a flashlight from the back hallway. I didn’t ask any more questions. I grabbed Emma’s hand and walked beside Tristan. We walked into the night and he led us deeper into the woods.

The skies were star-filled and the sweet, wet spring air greeted us as we stepped in and out of the shadows between the trees. The branches swung back and forth as we pushed our way through the woods. “We’re almost there,” Tristan insisted.

But where?

When we reached it, I knew instantly that it was where he wanted to take us, just based on the beauty. My hands covered my mouth to keep from making any sound. There was this odd fear that if I made a peep, all the beauty would vanish. A small river flowed before us. The stream was quiet, as if all the creatures who traveled by the small waves were resting peacefully. Across the river lay what seemed like an old stone packhorse bridge. Through the cracks of stones flowers were growing, making the view perfect under the moonlight.

“I found this place with Zeus,” Tristan said, walking over to the bridge and taking a seat. “Whenever I need to clear my head, I come here to refocus my mind.”

I sat beside him, took off my shoes, and slipped my feet into the chilled water. Emma and Zeus splashed in the water joyfully, freely.

He turned and gave me a smile that made my own lips turn up. Tristan had a way of making people feel worthy just by the way his smile and eyes met their face. I wished he smiled more often.

“When I first moved out here, I was angry all the time. I missed my son. I missed my wife. I hated my parents, even though I shouldn’t have. For some reason I found it easy to blame them, as if it was their fault that I lost my wife and son. It felt easier to be mad at them than to be sad. The only time I didn’t feel angry was when I came out here and breathed with the trees.”

He was opening up.

Please stay open.

“I’m glad you found something that can make you feel a bit of peace.”

His eyes danced across me, and a knowing smile found his lips. “Yeah. Me too.” He ran his fingers against his beard, which was growing in fast. “Since we aren’t using each other anymore, you can use this place if you want. To help you find peace.”

I smiled. “Thank you.”