And I was jealous as hell.

If I could stop watching this, it would help. But I was punishing myself. Why, I wasn’t sure. The universe had chosen to punish me by giving me life. That should be enough for any one person.

I wondered if Willa felt the same. Her mother hadn’t wanted her for eleven years, and now she was back here, unwanted again. We had that in common. Children born to those who hadn’t wanted us but kept us all the same. If anyone could understand me, it would be Willa. She’d be able to truly get what I was feeling. She’d felt similar.

But she deserved more. I was damaged. I’d never be good for her. It was time Willa had a chance at something better. Wishing I could be that didn’t help either of us. I had to let it go.

People Make Mistakes

CHAPTER 35

WILLA

The entire lunch he’d watched me. Why? He was avoiding me like I was going to cling to him and demand marriage over a kiss. If he was so scared of getting near me and my suddenly turning into Crazy Girl, then why was he watching me? It was annoying. It messed with my head, and I was thinking agreeing to go to that dance tonight was a bad idea.

The blue dress I had worn to homecoming last year at my school hung on my closet door. So many memories went with that dress. They all had Poppy in them. We had fun that night. It was before the pot smoking had started and the drinking. Life had been safe then. Easy.

Why had we thought getting high was better? Why hadn’t we stayed that way? We’d had fun back then. We had laughed and enjoyed life. But we’d let one guy into our world, and it had changed it all. Forever.

I wasn’t sure I could wear that dress. Not again. I sank down onto the edge of my bed and stared at it. The desire to shove it back in my closet and curl up in bed was strong. I couldn’t though. I’d said yes when Asa had asked me to the dance. I hadn’t thought about it. I’d just said yes.

He was too nice for me to tell him no now. I liked him, and he seemed to like me. Then I had to go to this dance. But first I had to go to the game and watch him play. Lifting my eyes back up, I looked at the only dress I owned that was remotely appropriate. But I just couldn’t wear it.

Sighing, I threw myself back on the bed and closed my eyes. I had three hours to get ready before Nonna would have to take me to the game. I wouldn’t see Asa until afterward, seeing as they didn’t go home on game day. He was with his team right now. My other option had been to ride with Ivy, and I’d opted out of that offer. She was nuts.

A knock on my bedroom door was brief before Nonna opened it on up. There were no locks on the interior doors of the house. There never had been. When I was younger, I hadn’t cared. Now I liked my privacy, so it kinda sucked.

“You decide on what you’re wearing?” she asked me.

I glanced back at the dress and frowned. “No.”

Nonna followed my gaze, then walked into the room a little ways. “That the one you wore last year?”

Nodding, I looked away from it again. I hadn’t been able to throw it out. Wearing it was too painful, but it was a memory of Poppy. I couldn’t part with it.

“I’ve got a few of your mother’s old dresses packed away. I might can alter them a little if you find one you want to wear.”

I hadn’t realized Nonna had kept anything of my mother’s. They weren’t very close. “How bad are they?”

Nonna smiled and shrugged. “Not bad. Fashion hasn’t changed too much in the last sixteen years. You were one when she wore two of them.”

That was probably my best option. I stood up and nodded. “Then let’s go do this.”

Not once in my life had I ever been inside my nonna’s closet. I’d slept in her room as a child when I was scared, but I never got in her closet. She opened it up and motioned for me to come to her. “There’s a couple in here that I think will fit just fine.”

I wasn’t so sure about this, but I was going to be open-minded. At least no one would have on the same circa-2001 dress. I walked over to her as she pushed her clothing aside and reached to the back of the closet near the wall.

The first dress she pulled out was a pink chiffon with a ballerina-type skirt. I was sure that was all the rage back in the day, but I wasn’t feeling it. I crumpled my nose and shook my head. Nonna chuckled. “I wasn’t a fan of it back then, either. But your mother had to have it.”

If this was my mother’s taste in high school, we weren’t going to have success.

Next Nonna pulled out a cream baby-doll-style dress that was strapless and had an overlay of lace. It had a timeless look. Almost 1950s or earlier. I loved it. I reached for that one and held it up to me in front of the mirror. It fell a few inches above my knees. The only problem was I had no shoes for this.

“If you like that one, I have a pair of gold ballet flats your mother wore with it. She wore a seven then, like you.”

“You still have them?” I asked, amazed.

Nonna nodded. “Yes. I thought one day you might need to use her things, so I kept them. Looks like I was right.”

Again I wished that my nonna was my mother. She was a much better one than her daughter. I hadn’t been a regret for Nonna. She had wanted and accepted me from the beginning. My mother made sure to remind me over and over that I had ruined her teen years.

“Thanks.” I tried to mask the emotion in my voice. It was a simple thing, keeping clothes I might need to borrow one day. But she had done it for me. That made it special. I didn’t feel special often. Nonna had always been the one to give me that.

She smiled at me as she held out a shoe box. “Go on and get ready for your night. It’s time you enjoyed yourself a little. Living in regret and guilt ain’t healthy.”

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