I drop to my knees and dig through it until I find the black leather clutch I carried that night. I hold my breath as I open it, and the first thing I see is a long, thin jewelry box.
I’m an idiot.
I should’ve known he’d end up buying The Orchid for me, should’ve seen it coming a mile away. The first thing he did after not seeing me for more than a decade was try to buy me everything I could possibly want and more. It was as if somewhere in his mind he still had to prove to himself he wasn’t the poor kid. The orphan. The help. He had to prove to himself he could give me all the things my parents had made him believe I needed.
He’s been so focused on giving to me that I don’t think it ever occurred to him I might not want it. And it never occurred to me just how much he needed me to accept his gifts.
My hands shake as I set the jewelry box to the side then dump the purse onto the cold concrete floor.
Lipstick, loose change, and a few bills fall along with a blue ticket the size of a playing card.
“There it is,” Savvy says.
I lift the card that came from a fortune-teller machine, the machine I no doubt used thinking of my dead sister. And when I read it, I know exactly why I married Marston that night.
“Does that smile on your face mean you’re going to run and beg for his forgiveness now?” she asks.
I shake my head. “There’s something else I have to do first.”
Only after I left a message at their hotel claiming I had an “urgent matter to discuss” did my parents finally agree to meet me. They chose breakfast, at the country club, of course—their turf—and I came here right after dropping Cami at school.
“What was so urgent?” Mom asks after we’re all settled in a private dining room.
“Do you remember when I went out to Vegas for my twenty-seventh birthday?” I don’t wait for an answer before barreling forward. “I spent that night with Marston Rowe.”
My father grunts. “Never expected that kid to make a damn thing of himself.”
I straighten. “Well, he did, and I always knew he would. But that’s not what I need to tell you. That night, we got married.”
“What?” Mom squeaks, and Dad stays silent, nostrils flaring, his face going red.
“And since I’d taken my anxiety meds and had a couple of drinks, I didn’t remember it the next day.”
“How long have you known?” Mom asks.
I lift my chin. “Marston found out about my engagement to Julian and came to town to stop the wedding. That’s when I found out.”
Dad glares at me, anger and disgust in his blue eyes, but it doesn’t cow me like it used to.
I’ve spent so much of my life wanting those eyes to see me. To accept me and be proud of me. I never realized how freeing it would be to let go of that dream. “You married that punk at some walk-in chapel like a piece of low-class trash?”
There are so many words in that question that I take issue with, but I don’t bother to argue. “I did.” I swallow. “Because somehow, for that one night, I found the courage to give myself what I wanted without worrying about the consequences.”
“That’s right. You didn’t think about the consequences,” Dad growls. “Only yourself. Only ever yourself.”
“And he didn’t tell you?” Mom asks in a whisper. “He never thought to mention it until you were lined up to marry someone else?”
“He assumed I regretted it and was giving me space.”
“He was waiting to hold it over you when it served him best,” my father says, pushing out of his chair. “And now he can use it to embarrass this entire family—my surviving daughter, a teen mom and soon-to-be divorcee. No wonder Julian walked away from you.”
I don’t even flinch. His angry words are sleet against the walls I’ve put up around my heart—walls I’ve put between me and my parents in order to protect myself. I should’ve done it years ago.
“Everyone calm down,” Mom says. “Abraham, no one needs to know. This doesn’t have to mean anything. We’ll get our lawyers on it right away. They can see about expediting an annulment.”
“No,” I say, and now it’s my turn to stand. “I love Marston. I’ve loved him since I was sixteen, and I pushed him away because I thought loving him was hurting you.” I turn to my dad. This isn’t the man who scooped me into his arms the first time I fell off my bike or the one who stroked my hair when I couldn’t sleep. That man left us the first time Brittany’s cancer recurred, and if he hasn’t come back by now, he never will. Tears well in my eyes. “I cut Marston out of my life and told him not to come back because I was grieving and hurting, and I needed my dad.”