I glance at my watch. “It’s been seven hours.”
He frowns, glancing away from the road, his hands sliding effortlessly across the steering wheel as he downshifts, the smooth motion reminding me of his hands across my skin, and the fact that we haven’t been together in almost three weeks. “Seven hours?” He checks his watch. “Wow. I…” he glances at his watch again, then at the dash clock to verify. “He must have been in Lee’s head longer than I realized.”
I look away from him, out the window. “Dr. Terra didn’t tell you what was involved in Lee leaving?” For you, I’ll do it. I’ll f**king kill myself inside of him. Lee’s words come back to haunt me.
“No. I mean… other than the fact that Lee had to accept it. The likelihood of success is much more possible if he is a willing participant.”
“So, he’s gone? Won’t ever be back?” My words behave. Come out level and unaffected.
“I’m not cured. He’s keeping me on medication… the same drug I’ve been taking the last few weeks. My chances of reoccurrence are high, especially if my emotions or stress get out of control. And I’m to avoid alcohol. You know that; you were there when he went through those rules.”
I nod. While Brant has been in full-day therapy sessions for the last few weeks, most of my participation has been behind the glass wall, watching the sessions and getting to eavesdrop on some of the instruction. Brant’s new life involves lots of rules. Lots of structure. Opposite of the life Jillian had him leading. Brant’s subconscious had created additional personalities to take over when his mind felt overwhelmed. When he was young, it was because his brain couldn’t handle the constant assault of his intelligence, the nonstop brain functions causing a short of sorts that resulted in another personality, one that was slower and stupider and emotionally unstable. When he was older, it happened when he was under extreme stress, or in strange situations, or anxious over something. It was no coincidence he had switched the night before his initial proposal to me. Or the days before a new product release or company merger. A risk that was only increased by the medications fed to him by Jillian. With the new rules, new structure, and the fact that he now knows of his condition, we are hoping for him to live a relatively un-switching life. One that doesn’t include any outside presences, including one troublesome sex machine I already miss.
I watch the ivy-covered walls of Windere move by, the garage coming into view, the slow stop of the car final. I feel his fingers cup the back of my neck, threading through the mess of curls that spill over my shoulders. “You okay?”
I turn and look into his eyes. See the man who I fell in love with before I knew of Lee. The man who, in Belize, I was prepared to marry. “Yes,” I whisper. “I’m good.”
He puts the car in park. Unbuckles his belt and leans forward. Pulls me forward until we are close. “I will be more,” he says gruffly. “I’m going to be everything he was too.”
I close my eyes. Try to calm my heart before I open them back. Find his eyes on me as soon as they do. “You are everything I need, Brant.”
“I will be,” he says, leaning forward until our lips are a breath away. “I promise you, one day I will be.”
Then he presses his lips to me and, for a moment, I taste Lee.
5 MONTHS LATER
I stand before a full-length mirror and do not see my mother. It is an odd thought to have on your wedding day, yet it is a happy notation. I turn, expensive hands rushing to adjust the train of my gown, the beaded edges that frame my back. I am beautiful, San Francisco’s most elite wedding planner guaranteeing that fact, every detail around me perfectly coordinated to pull off the most immaculate tiny wedding ever had.
There will be none of society’s elite here today. No fake smiles of the women I have pretended, for so many years, to like. We will be a small party of nine: Brant’s parents and my own, Anna and Christine, Brant and I, plus our flower girl. My relationship with Brant’s parents has changed. We aren’t close, Brant’s own relationship with them stilted from his years of isolation due to Jillian’s controlling hand. But the lines between them are mending, his family unit becoming less dysfunctional as time passes and trust grows. I turn, hearing the squeal of our flower girl before she arrives, a bundle of white careening around the corner and coming to a short halt before the mirror.
“Wow,” Hannah breathes, her eyes on the mirror. “You look beautiful.”
“Thanks sweetheart.” I hold out a hand and an attendant helps me down the pedestal stairs, where I crouch before the little girl. “You look equally beautiful.” I pick up her small hand and widen my eyes, impressed at her cherry pink nails.
“A lady did them.” She plops down on the carpet, unmindful of the mini Dior that christens her body. Gripping a thousand dollar jeweled slipper and ripping it off, she holds up her bare foot, wiggling the toes before me. “Look! My toes match!”
“Very impressive.” I smile. “Got your petal tossing technique down?” I pass her shoe back and watch as she pulls it on, a small pink tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth in concentration.
Task complete she looks up with a smile, jumping to her feet and making exaggerated tossing gestures, complete with mini jumps. “Yep!” she beams.
“Awesome.” I hold up my fist and she bumps a mini version with it, giggling when we ‘blow it up.’
“Where’s Mister Brant?” she suddenly asks, looking around.
I shrug, rising to my feet. “Not sure. Why don’t you go track him down and escort him to the garden? We don’t want him to be late for the ceremony.”
She nods solemnly, the importance of her task taken very seriously. “I’ll find him right now,” she promises, before turning and, with a peal of laughter, taking off through the open doorway.
I turn back to the mirror, straightening the line of the dress.
“She’s an adorable little girl,” the woman behind me says, her eyes meeting mine in the mirror.
I nod, smiling at the memory of Hannah aboard our jet, her hands touching every surface twice before the plane even took off. “She is. Always has been. Adorable with a side of demon,” I warn her. “Keep an eye on her; she finds trouble as quickly as hugs.” A timely crash sounds from the direction of the kitchen, sending the woman before me fleeing. I laugh, stepping toward the vanity and grabbing the final piece of today, the diamond studs that Brant gave me our first Christmas together, putting them on as I stare in the mirror.