“Are you sure you don’t hate me?” I asked, my chin wobbling.
“I could never hate you. And I don’t want you to hate yourself.”
That was a big ask, but for the first time in my life, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could move on from the past.
“I love you,” I whispered. “I didn’t think I’d ever meet anyone like you or allow myself to feel this way.”
He stood and brushed a light kiss over my lips, lust and love flaring in his eyes. “Does that mean yes?”
My chin wobbled again, and more tears ran down my cheeks. “That means hell yes.”
One year later
Soon after Evan asked me to marry him, I pulled out the letters I’d written to the doctor and his family all those years ago. After I reread them, I’d cried for days. The teenage handwriting bringing back every painful memory.
Evan lit a fire on the beach, and we burned the letters together, the flames incinerating the guilt I’d carried for way too many years.
The next day, I sat down and started to write another letter. It wasn’t easy, and it took several days to get the words I needed to say down on paper.
Evan found the doctor’s address for me, and I mailed the letter never expecting to hear back, but a week later, I did.
The doctor said that he and his family prayed for me every day and that they’d forgiven me a long time ago. While I wasn’t a religious person, their sentiments brought yet more tears to my eyes. I kept their letter in the drawer by my bed and read it often.
My mind still wandered to the past and to the lost and unloved little girl I once was. If I had a time machine, I’d go back and hug her pain away. All she wanted was to feel loved and valued.
I gazed down at my daughter, Lily, who was busily grabbing her toes, and my heart grew tenfold.
Our little angel would never know rejection. We would love her so fiercely and so hard that she would never once doubt she was wanted and loved.
I still worked at Snack Attack but had taken Jenny on fulltime to allow me to spend time at home, and I still had the same truck having refused Evan’s offer of a new one.
I no longer felt guilty or ashamed about my past, and I used my experiences to talk to troubled teens through Evan’s foundation to show them there was another way. Screwing up in your teens didn’t mean you’d be a screw up forever.
Evan came up from the beach, droplets of water dripping from his tanned skin. I reached out and ran a fingertip down the rise and fall of his abs.
“Who would’ve thought that a year ago when you and I got naked in the shower, we’d end up sitting here as husband and wife with a baby.” I grinned up at him. “It’s almost time to put Lily down for a nap. We can celebrate our anniversary in the best way we know how.”
“And what does that involve?”
“I’m not talking dirty to you in front of our baby, but you can use your imagination.”
He wiggled his eyebrows. “If it’s anything like last night, I’m in for the ride of my life.”
And so was I, I thought, and so was I.