As the days turned to weeks, Brian’s recovery progressed quickly and I had no choice but to finally face my fears. I’d set up an appointment and visited the lawyer earlier that day. I was still trying to process the shocking truth of it all as I sat quietly at my parents’ gravestones.
I’d known that between their insurance policies, pension plans, and the sale of our house I’d been left a significant chunk of money, I just hadn’t expected it to affect me so much. It felt so final walking out of the lawyer’s office with a large check in my hands. It was a life-changing amount of money and just as I was starting to get things figured out in my own head, I knew it was going to change everything. It would change where I lived, how Knox viewed me…even what I did for a living if I chose… and unease churned inside me. I wasn’t good at change.
Knox and I continued talking every few days – surface level stuff – he’d fill me in on the boys and I’d give him Brian’s progress report. We never talked about us. I never told him how I missed him with every ounce of my being, and he felt more distant than ever. As hard as it was to imagine, I wondered if he’d slipped back into his old ways.
I was planning to return to Chicago while Brian stayed behind for physical therapy for his leg. No longer living on a few dollars a day meant I could rent a car and drive myself home.
I huddled into my coat as the chilly air swirled loose strands of hair around my face. The bitter temperature and icy barren ground matched the somber tone of this reunion with my parents. I tucked my mitten-covered hands into my pockets as I filled them in on Brian. I talked out loud, the sound of my voice my only company. As I told them about the events of the past few weeks, I realized that my parents had liked Brian and viewed him as a good match for me because he’d always treated me well and protected me. Knox protected and took care of those he loved, too. And he made me happy. At the end of the day, my parents would have wanted me to be happy. It wasn’t lost on me that my lack of attraction to Brian was because there was nothing to fix. He was a perfectly nice, well-adjusted man from a normal, nice family. But it didn’t matter the reasons – the attraction wasn’t there and it never would be. I had to believe my parents would have accepted that.
Knox had been right about one thing – one day I would forgive myself and move on. Today had proven I was capable of that, in small doses. But he’d been wrong about himself not fitting into my life. Being near Brian produced no spark, no electricity, and I missed the warmth that Knox created in me. I knew that by the end of this week, I’d be more than ready to get back. I was even considering changing up my punishing routine – volunteering fewer hours a week, taking more time to take care of myself and enjoy the little things in life. If I’d learned only one thing on this trip, it was that life was short and could be ripped from you at any moment.
I was also starting to feel guilty for not acknowledging his handwritten I love you message left on the window for me. He was still healing and that was his way of trying. I needed to acknowledge his efforts and progress, not act like a spoiled child who needed everything her way.
If my parents were really out there somewhere listening to this, I wanted to think they’d understand that Brian would always be a constant reminder of what I’d lost. Brian was my past. Knox was my future.
Digging my cell phone out of my coat pocket, I dialed Knox.
Seeing McKenna’s name flash on my phone made me ridiculously f**king happy. I rounded the service counter at the hardware store where I was working and headed for the stockroom, tossing the pair of pliers I was supposed to be price checking onto a shelf. The customer would have to wait.
I ducked into the dusty stockroom and closed the door behind me. “Hey, angel.”
“Hi,” she returned, her voice whisper-soft.
“Everything okay over there? Brian?” As much as saying his name grated against my nerves, the guy had gotten pretty messed up in that accident, so I didn’t want to be a complete ass**le and not ask how he was doing. Still, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me insane with jealousy that McKenna had put her entire life on hold – put us on hold – to tend to him and stick by his side. I couldn’t help but feel she’d chosen him over me.
I wished I’d had the balls that morning to take her in my arms and tell her I loved her. But instead I’d taken the pu**y way out and scrawled it onto the window. There was a good chance she never even saw it. I sent her away into the arms of her very male best friend without even telling her how I felt. Basically I was a jackass.
“Brian’s doing fine. I think he’s annoyed at the slow pace of his recovery with his leg and his mom’s constant hovering, but considering how things could have turned it, he’s very lucky.”
“And how are you?”
She hesitated for several seconds before answering. “I realized some things this week.”
“And what’s that?” I wasn’t religious, but I prayed to God it wasn’t that she’d figured out Brian was the better choice for her and she was staying in Indiana.
“My parents’ accident wasn’t my fault. It was the damn reckless, irresponsible drunk driver.” Her voice wavered ever-so-slightly and she took a moment to compose herself. “I was talking to Brian’s mom Patty after the accident and it all just hit me. My actions that morning may not have made a difference in the outcome. And for years I thought maybe I should have been with them. But I see now that I wasn’t meant to go then. I’m here for a reason. I’m here to do good in the world.”
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