Page 112 of We Were Once

Sitting in the dark of my apartment with my back against the wall. I run my finger around the rim of a water glass. Looking up over my shoulder, Frankie and Hemsworth are enjoying the moonlight while I’m struck by a tidal wave of sadness. Like an old adversary, I remember it well. I lived with this feeling for years, unable to recall the life before it settled in my soul. I won’t give it freedom to regrow. No, that’s not a darkness where I want to live.

I get up and drain my glass before undressing and stepping into the shower, letting the water rain over me like the tears I used to cry.

When I drag my hand down my throat, the feel of his body wrapped around me is still so palpable. He caught me when I was falling . . . falling. I squeeze my eyes closed, wishing I could still feel his heartbeat against my side or hear the way he gulped so close to my ear.

I didn’t acknowledge how I felt protected, even cherished, in his arms, or how when I turned, the connection rushed my veins, and for those few seconds, I felt alive again. My knees went weak when he inhaled the scent of my hair as if he needed one last souvenir. As much as I want to forget how his hands on my body felt like he still loved me, I know better than to tangle my dreams in him again.

Joshua will always be my first love.

I just don’t have the energy to hold onto these feelings anymore. He’s moved past me. So maybe I need to give serious thought to what my mom and Ruby said. It was never a matter of filling holes he left behind. No. If I were to admit the truth, he’s still taking up space without paying rent.

It’s time to date. Maybe someone else can crowd him out from owning so much of my heart’s expanse.

The effects of alcohol are wearing off, and my mind clears. The only way to know if I can find a love that lasts a lifetime is by giving someone else a chance. That means instead of no, I need to start saying yes.

41

Chloe

“I’ve been dying to hear about your girls’ night out for weeks.” Julie sets her fork down, the metal clanging against the porcelain.

The nice weather had us choose a sidewalk café for our break. “It’s been a while since our schedules were in sync.”

“Tell me about it before you get a text and have to leave.”

I set my glass down after sipping the water. “I was set up. I thought it was a girls’ night in, but they had nefarious plans that included going out to a hot new restaurant. The only thing is they didn’t have reservations. It was still fun because we enjoyed the bar at Salvation instead. But let me tell you, we’re a bunch of lightweights and should have eaten more than a shared appetizer of poutine.”

Even though she’s met Joshua, there’s no need to mention him. Like Ruby, she’ll fixate on that one detail, and I’m not looking to relive that part of the night.

I take another bite of my salad when she says, “I heard that place is amazing, but yeah, you have to have connections to get a reservation or book way in advance. Good to know you could stay at the bar. Maybe I’ll see if Roger from admin can get me in. He loves to brag about his connections.”

“And he has a sweet spot for you.”

“I had sex with him—”

“What? When? I thought you didn’t like him.”

She shrugs unapologetically. “I blame the steak and wine. What can I say? He knows the way to this girl’s heart.”

Laughing, I say, “If it makes you happy.” I sound like two other people I know. Stuffed, I push my plate away and angle my face to enjoy the last bit of sunshine of the day. Looking back at her, I say, “It’s good to be outside.”

“Chloe? Chloe Fox. Wow, it’s really you.”

I look toward the sound of the male voice that’s fast approaching only to land on a face I never thought I’d see again. “Trevor?”

In a city of millions, Joshua Evans is literally served to me on a silver platter—three times. So Trevor League, sure. Why not? Though, I guess it isn’t that surprising since his family’s company is here in the city. But still . . .

Not looking much older than the last time I saw him, he might have broader shoulders and his hair a shade darker blond than he used to be. He always did know how to wear a suit. As for his personality—that’s where we had issues.

Even so, I can’t hide the scrubs I’m wearing, and I don’t bother to fix the scrub cap hair. Suddenly anxious, I start flattening the wrinkled cotton anyway like it will make a difference. I’m not sure why his presence has me falling into a role I once abandoned.

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