“How could you, Lila?” he asks. “How could you lie to me? How could you keep me in the dark? You made a promise and then you betrayed me.”
I hug my sides, listening to the cocktail of pain and anger in his tone, unable to look him in the eye any longer.
I can’t believe Westley told him what happened—as far as I knew, his grandfather forced him into signing an NDA as well, threatening to cut him out of his will if he breathed a word to anyone about any of this.
“For ten goddamned years, I didn’t love another woman. I didn’t go on a single fucking date. I was obsessed with finding you, with making sure you were okay and finally knowing what happened. But all this time it turns out I’ve been chasing after an illusion. You never loved me. You wouldn’t have done this if you did.”
“You’re wrong,” I say. “I did what I did because I love you.”
“Justify it any way you want … at the end of the day, that’s not love. Lying is not love. Betrayal is not love.”
I can’t say his anger isn’t warranted, but I won’t stand here and take the misguided anger another minute longer.
“You need to go,” I say. “Before my daughter wakes up again.”
“Answer one last question for me,” he says. “And then I’ll never bother you again … why?”
“Why did I do it?”
“Yes. Why did you do it?”
“I didn’t have a choice,” I say. “Plain and simple. I didn’t have a choice.”
“So someone forced you.”
“In a way, yes.”
“Who?” he asks.
“I can’t tell you. Not yet.”
His hand runs through his thick dark hair, and he grabs a fistful. “I don’t understand.”
“Someday you will.”
“Do you remember that time when you asked me what my greatest fear was? And I told you I didn’t have an answer for you. Well, I figured it out about halfway through my sophomore year,” he says. “My biggest fear was losing you. But it turns out, I’d lost you long before I realized that.”
He shows himself out.
I hate that he had to find out from Westley.
I can only imagine his version of events.
There are two sides to every story. I can only hope someday I’ll get the chance to tell him mine.
I stop at the coffee shop on the square before hitting the road. My flight leaves in two hours and as soon as I get back to the island, we’ll be in full wedding prep mode for Whitley’s big day next weekend. I’m not exactly looking forward to breathing the same air as Westley for a whole fucking week, but I’m left with no choice.
“Coffee. Black.” I toss a five-dollar bill on the counter and tell the kid behind the cash register to keep the rest before moving down the line.
A little girl with dark pigtails and a unicorn backpack is in line ahead of me. She turns to glance up at me. She smiles, and I can’t help but notice her eyes are the exact same shade of amber-green as Lila’s.
“Hi,” the girl says.
For a second, I think she’s with the woman ahead of her, but that woman grabs two coffees off the counter and leaves alone. The girl’s in here by herself.
“Were you at my house last night?” she asks. “You look like the guy that was talking to my mom.”
“Are you MJ?” I ask.
Her face lights. “Yep. It’s short for Mary June. I was named after my grandma and great-grandma ‘cause I was born on Mother’s Day.”
She tugs at a gold chain around her neck, and I realize there’s something attached to it, like a pendant or something. Upon closer inspection, I realize it’s not a pendant at all—it’s an opal ring.
The very one I bought Lila from that antique shop in Rose Crossing the summer of ‘09.
“That’s a very nice necklace you have,” I say.
She toys with the chain. “Thank you. My mom gave this to me. She says my daddy gave it to her before I was born.”
PART THREE [ past]
I’m sitting at the edge of the dock when Westley finds me. Turning away, I dry my tears on the back of my hand.
“You okay?” he asks, sitting beside me.
Thayer left almost a month ago and Whitley left shortly thereafter, but Westley’s semester doesn’t start until the middle of September, so he isn’t leaving until this weekend.
“You miss him, don’t you?” he asks.
My heart flips. There’s no way he knows …
Thayer would’ve told me if he told Westley.
“I know about you and Thayer,” he says, voice low even though we’re the only two around. “It’s okay. Your secret’s safe with me.”
I say nothing. There’s nothing to say. Or at least there’s nothing I can say to Westley right now.
“If you want to write him a letter or something, I can take it back with me and mail it from campus.” I can feel Westley watching me. “I mean, is there anything I can do here? I have this thing where I can’t handle girls crying.”