Page 32 of For Lila, Forever

My entire life, I watched my mom chase guys away. Plenty of good ones, guys who were sweet and kind and crazy about her. She always found a reason to push them away as soon as shit got real.

I don’t want to be like that.


I don’t want to repeat her mistakes.

I want to enjoy this, I want to experience this with every fiber of my soul … come what may.

Chapter 19

Thayer

“Brought you something,” I say to Lila Tuesday night at the cottage.

She’s been here two weeks now, but we’ve got a long, hot summer ahead and she’s bound to get bored when we’re not together …

I place a stack of books on the coffee table in front of her. All of them are hardback first edition classics I took from my grandfather’s study. He won’t miss them. The man doesn’t read anymore. He says he has to use a magnifying glass and it ruins the experience for him.

“Where’d you get these?” she asks, examining the leather-bound spines. “Are these first editions?”

“Yeah. I didn’t know what you were into, so I grabbed a few different things.”

“Sylvia Plath … Charles Dickens …” she rattles off the author names as she sorts through them. “Thank you. So much. This is amazing. How did you know I was into reading?”

“Lucky guess …” I say, taking the spot next to her. My palms ache, antsy to touch her as soon as humanly possible.

“We used to have this hammock,” she says. “Mom set it up on the balcony of our condo. I’d go out there and read for hours … until the sun went down and I was forced to go inside or get eaten alive by bugs.”

Lila runs her hand over the cover of The Scarlet Letter.

“This is one of my favorites,” she says. “Did you know Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote this for his wife when she was dying? He wanted to make sure she was entertained when she was confined to her bed. Isn’t that the sweetest? He never left her side. He just wrote and wrote and wrote and kept the story going.” She offers a wistful smile. “That’s intense, right? A little over the top? I feel like that’s something you would do.”

She elbows me.

“Is that a bad thing?” I ask.

“Not at all.” Lila sets the book down before crawling into my lap.

“Wait,” I say between kisses. “I brought something else.”

She climbs off of me and I reach for the canvas bag at my feet, pulling out a stack of playing cards, a small chess set, a lighter and some candles, and finally two leftover slices of Junie’s salted caramel cheesecake that I stole from the kitchen after dinner.

“Thought we could make this into a date kind of a thing,” I say before rising and leading her to the kitchen.

I place the desserts on the table, followed by two plastic forks I brought along, and then I light one of the candles and set it between us.

“You’re too much,” she says as she digs into her piece.

We sit side by side in silence, the candle dancing between us as we finish our treat. When she’s done, she pushes her plate away and sighs a satisfied sigh.

“That was amazing,” she says. “This … is amazing. You are amazing. I wish we never had to leave here. It’s like nothing bad happens in this house. Ever.”

She rests her pretty face on the top of her hand and stares at the empty wall in front of us, lost in thought.

“You really like this place, don’t you?” I ask.

“Love it.”

“Then someday, when this is all mine, I’ll give it to you,” I say.

Lila turns to me, half laughing and half looking at me like I’m insane. “You can’t just give someone a house.”

“Why can’t I?”

“Is it even yours to give?”

“It will be. For whatever reason, Granddad’s leaving me the island in his will,” I say. “If you want this house? Consider it yours.”

“Thayer …”

Getting up from the table, I search through a few drawers until I find one filled with miscellaneous junk. I locate a black Sharpie and remove the cap, hoping it’s not too dried out to work, and then I proceed to scribble on the wall beside the table.

For Lila, forever.

Signed,

Thayer Ainsworth

May 25, 2009

“There,” I say.

“You’re insane!” Lila claps her hand over her mouth. “I can’t believe you just did that.”

“It’s yours now,” I say, pulling her against me as she stares at the writing on the wall. “Or it will be someday.”

Chapter 20

Lila

I duck into the cottage the next night, fully intending to spend some time alone with one of the beautiful books he brought for me last week, but the second I step inside, something catches my eye.

A flash of red just beyond the back door.

With my heart in my teeth, I immediately scan the room for a place to hide—assuming that someone’s lurking just beyond the back door. But when I manage to calm myself down a minute later, I summon the courage to peek out one of the kitchen windows toward the little brick patio off the back of the cottage.

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