Made for you the best mi.., p.21

Made for You (The Best Mistake), page 21

 

Made for You (The Best Mistake)
 


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  He wanted all or nothing, and he was done waiting.

  That kiss had been a good-bye.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  Routine is the path to your future.

  —Brynn Dalton’s Rules for an

  Exemplary Life, #37

  I look like a freak.”

  Brynn sat back in her chair and set her distal end cutters on the tray before peeling back off her latex gloves. She tried for her most reassuring smile, but the truth was, she was bone tired. Tired of painstakingly attaching metal to misshapen teeth only to get petulant complaints in return.

  “You don’t look like a freak.”

  Abby Cornwell’s fourteen-year-old face scowled up at her, and Brynn felt a pull of sympathy. Between the thick glasses, the frizzy hair, the acne-ridden skin, and now the mouthful of metal, Abby hadn’t exactly hit the adolescent jackpot.

  It will get better, sweetie.

  Except sometimes it didn’t. Even when you did everything right, there were no guarantees. Because having straight teeth didn’t bring happiness. Apparently, neither did creating them.

  “You look great,” Brynn said, leaning forward and giving Abby’s arm a quick squeeze.

  Abby gave her an oh, please look that was apparently written into the female DNA to develop around the age of eleven.

  “Well, yeah, okay, braces suck,” Brynn heard herself say. “But I promise that one day you’ll realize there are a lot more important things in life.”

  “Yeah, yeah, I know. My mom tells me all the time. Looks are passing, but brains and kindness are forever…all that crap.”

  Good mom.

  “Your mom’s right,” Brynn said.

  “Easy for you to say. You’re perfect.”

  Brynn leaned forward and gave her a little wink. “I work hard to make people think so.”

  She escorted Abby to the reception desk to wait for her mom, knowing that nothing else she could say would make Abby hate her reflection any less, but silently sending up a prayer that life would be kind to the girl. That she would be happy instead of perfect.

  Brynn swung by the staff fridge to grab her yogurt before heading to her office for a quick break. She glanced at her watch and winced. She felt like she’d been here for hours, but it wasn’t even half past ten.

  “That’s probably the tenth time I’ve seen you check your watch today,”

  Brynn gave Susan a wan smile as she peeled off the yogurt top and dropped it in the trash before sitting on the corner of her desk.

  But Susan didn’t let up. “Never known you to be a clock-watcher, everything okay?

  No. No, everything’s not okay.

  Brynn shrugged. “Having a little trouble settling back into the daily grind.”

  Susan folded her arms and tapped plain fingernails against her forearm. “Interesting choice of words. Watching the clock, taking long lunches, leaving the office as soon as possible in the afternoon…referring to your job as a grind?”

  Brynn raised her eyebrows at Susan’s detailed assessment. “If you’re concerned I’m not pulling my weight, just say so.”

  “Oh gosh, it’s not that,” Susan said with an exasperated wave of her hand. “I know you’d never give less than your best to your patients, and to the practice. But ever since you got back from vacation…”

  At the concerned look on her partner’s face, Brynn’s yogurt started to taste sour. “I thought the break would help, ya know?”

  Susan nodded slowly. “It should have. I know I felt better after getting away for a few days, even though it was for unhappy circumstances.”

  Brynn gave a sympathetic smile. “I’m sorry about your mom. But she’s doing better?”

  Susan shrugged. “As well as can be expected, I guess. But yeah, she’ll make it. We’re grateful.”

  Immediately Brynn felt awful that she was moping around for no good reason while Susan actually had a reason to be down, and instead she was going about her business happily and professionally.

  “Well, I just wanted to see if everything was okay,” Susan said. “I know you just came through a rough breakup and all, so if you need to talk…”

  “It wasn’t really a breakup since we were never together,” Brynn muttered.

  Susan tilted her head. “What do you mean? Weren’t you guys together for like two years?”

  Ohhhhhh. She was talking about James.

  “I was kind of…seeing someone over the past few weeks. Casually,” she rushed to add.

  “A rebound!” Susan said with a grin. “Sexy!”

  “It was sexy,” Brynn admitted. “And then it blew up in my face.”

  “Aha, I knew it was guy issues that were getting you down.”

  Yeah, if by “guy issues” you mean your worst enemy telling you he’s been in love with you since forever and then promptly disappearing and not returning any of your phone calls. Yeah, that had gotten her down all right.

  Even worse was that nothing else in her life seemed to get back to normal either. She was barely doing her job, all of her old friends were boring, and worst of all…despite the fact that her life list had returned to its status on her nightstand, she hadn’t once opened it.

  Didn’t want to open it.

  “I’m a mess, Sue.”

  “It’ll get better, I promise. Guys have a way of making us…crazy. But it’ll fade and you’ll feel right again.”

  She smiled at her friend’s well-meaning advice. Even though she knew she was dead wrong.

  Brynn didn’t want to go back. But she didn’t know how to go forward either.

  * * *

  It wasn’t that Brynn had never been on a bad date before. She’d had her fair share. But she’d never been on a bad date that should have been great.

  Like many little girls with romantic inclinations, Brynn had spent a fair amount of her younger years daydreaming about her future husband. He’d be tall, naturally. Dark, personal preference. Handsome, that was a given.

  He’d also be smart, successful, and kind, but never boring.

  James had almost made it. Minus the boring part. And considerate and kind weren’t quite the same thing, but he had been a good guy.

  But Michael Alden?

  Oh baby—he was literally the stuff of fantasies. Her fantasies.

  She even prided herself a little in branching out from her doctor/lawyer dating pool. Granted, he was CIO of a pharmaceutical company, which meant he mostly worked with doctors. But still.

  Take that, Will Thatcher. I’m not such a creature of habit.

  She could change it up.

  She could be different.

  She could be open-minded.

  Case in point, Michael had a dog. Brynn was not a dog person. At all. But was she writing Michael off just because of that? No, no, she was not.

  And yet she wanted to go home. Badly.

  “Is everything okay? You seem a bit quiet,” Michael said as he topped off her wineglass with a delicious Pinot Noir.

  “Sorry,” Brynn said sheepishly. “Long day.”

  They were all long lately. Ever since that awful showdown with Will, her days had somehow become an endless string of the same old coffee, the same old commute, the same old workday. Same salad for lunch, same problems, same triumphs…

  She half listened to Michael as he told a story about how his nephew’s space shuttle drawing looked disturbingly like male genitalia. And even though she laughed in all the right spots…even though the anecdote was genuinely entertaining, it was all…wrong.

  He was wrong.

  The hair was too dark. The eyes weren’t the right color. His shoulders weren’t quite as broad as she might like.

  And he didn’t excite her.

  Her heart starting to pound, she quickly put him through her Future Filter. That mental game she played with every potential partner where she fast-forwarded five years to the point where they had wedding bands and family trips to Disneyland and a homemade-ice-cream maker for special treat days.
She could see it all.

  And she didn’t want any of it. Not with him.

  Oh my God, oh my God.

  “Are you all right?” he asked, looking alarmed as she put a hand over her suddenly tight chest.

  Maybe. Probably not. Could be a heart attack.

  Or perhaps, more appropriately…an attack of the heart.

  Oh my God, oh my God.

  “Would you…excuse me, just for a sec—”

  She was moving away from the table before she’d even finished the sentence, weaving around the white tablecloths on her way to the ladies’ room.

  She burst into the first empty stall and braced her hands on the wall, not once stopping to consider that her palms were resting on germ central. Her face was hot and it was getting increasingly hard to breathe.

  Brynn slowly turned and lowered herself to the toilet seat before pressing her hands to her flushed cheeks.

  Very slowly, very carefully, Brynn let herself go into her Future Filter again. Let her picture herself in five years as the new Brynn.

  No goals. No bullshit. No rules. Well…fewer rules.

  There were still wedding bands and children. But the husband wasn’t a brunet, and the kids weren’t the tidy, well-behaved, matchy-matchy-clothes type of children.

  They were blond, and wild and mischievous.

  Just like their dad.

  And they would still do Disneyland, but they would do other crazy stuff too. Unexpected stuff like running through the mud on a random Tuesday morning, and having food fights. With nonstaining ingredients, of course.

  But there would be no white couches, and probably too many age-inappropriate horror movies, and the kids would only have to have goal lists if they wanted to. If any of them took after her, they probably would.

  And they would be happy.

  She would be happy.

  With the wrong man, who was so damn right it made her literally ache inside.

  The man she’d thrown away because she was still trying so hard not to be Dumpy Dalton that she’d become a complete shell of a person instead.

  A rough choking noise escaped her throat, and she heard two friends at the mirror falter in their conversation, but she didn’t care.

  She’d pushed him away. Thrown Will aside like he wasn’t fit to take out her trash, when really he’d done nothing but love her the way she needed to be loved.

  She gave a watery snuffle as she realized that her little epiphany was starting very much the way this crazy journey had begun—with her crying in a bathroom stall feeling sorry for herself.

  Which was pathetic, because the only one who had made a victim out of Brynn was herself.

  Starting with that stupid list and a lifetime of pointless, self-inflicted expectations.

  Brynn glanced down at her feet. She was wearing the same boring nude pumps as before, and this time she knew they were all wrong.

  The black leather clothes had been all wrong too, but that was okay.

  It was time to discover the real Brynn Dalton.

  The version of herself that Will deserved.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  Spontaneity is overrated.

  —Brynn Dalton’s Rules for an

  Exemplary Life, #7

  Where’s Will?” Marnie asked, setting a platter of avocado crostini in front of them. “These are his favorite. He’s usually here by now.”

  Brynn nearly opened her mouth to answer her mother’s question. To tell Marnie that she didn’t give a flying bat where Will Thatcher was because the guy was an irrational jackass who seemed to think that just because she slept with him, she was supposed to be fawning over him.

  But then she realized that her mother hadn’t been asking her—nobody ever thought to ask Brynn about where Will might be. Because nobody knew that Brynn had seen parts of Will that Sophie never had. Intimately.

  Stop. Thinking. About. It.

  Sophie snagged a piece of avocado off the plate and slurped it off her thumb noisily. “Will moved to Boston.”

  Dimly Brynn heard the sound of shattered wineglass, absently noting that shards of wineglass would be hell for someone to pick up.

  It took several seconds to realize that it was her wineglass that had shattered.

  Marnie came bustling over to fuss over the broken glass, but Brynn’s eyes never left Sophie’s face.

  “What do you mean he’s moved to Boston?” Chris asked, looking nearly as stunned as Brynn felt. “We just saw him last Sunday and he didn’t say a word about it.”

  Sophie shrugged and explained that he’d simply had a new work opportunity come up, and made a last-minute decision to move to Boston.

  Brynn wanted to shake her sister. Why was there not more detail? Like when would he back? What was he doing there?

  And why?

  “He’s sorry he didn’t say good-bye,” Sophie was saying.

  Brynn had thought she’d known just what a selfish, thoughtless prick Will was, but looking at her parents’ wounded faces, and the unmistakable sting of hurt on Sophie’s, made her livid.

  The Daltons had always treated him like family.

  Apparently he didn’t think of them as the same.

  “Well, that’s just…just….I don’t know what to say,” her mother sputtered, speechless for once.

  Me neither, Brynn thought.

  “He said he’ll be back someday, Mom,” Sophie said gently. “And I’m sure he’ll come visit.”

  Marnie gave a little head shake and went back to tossing the salad, her motions more violent than before. Brynn’s dad had turned back to the baseball game, but he too looked crushed. Probably because nobody else in the family could talk Mariners stats the way Will could.

  Brynn finished picking up the last of the big chunks of wineglass before absently getting the broom and sweeping up the worst of it.

  Blindly, she turned to the sink, her eyes fixed unseeingly on her parents’ backyard landscaping.

  She didn’t know how long she’d stood there with the water running before her sister came over and put a hand on her arm.

  “You okay, Brynny?” Sophie asked.

  No. Not even close. And I don’t know why.

  “What? Oh, sure,” she heard herself say. “Did Will say why?”

  Sophie shook her head. “Nope. Maybe he just wanted a fresh start.”

  But why the hurry?

  “Brynn, the water?” her mother said.

  “Oh, right,” she muttered, returning to the task of washing her hands.

  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her mom and sister exchange a puzzled glance. She couldn’t blame them. She should be thrilled to have Will out of her life. Or at least indifferent.

  Instead she felt…confused.

  And maybe a little bit broken.

  * * *

  Telling Michael Alden that she had feelings for someone else had been surprisingly easy. And freeing. And as she drove home—drove toward Will—she sang at the top of her lungs, feeling the best she had in weeks. Months. Forever.

  She’d thought that she’d been seeking freedom after James had ditched her, but that had merely been fear causing her to move away from something.

  It was nothing compared to the euphoria of moving toward something.

  Moving toward someone.

  Brynn slapped a hand over her mouth as a little giggle escaped.

  I’m in love with Will Thatcher.

  The thought felt…right. No, it felt wonderful.

  “I’m in love with Will Thatcher.” Felt even better to say it out loud.

  She rolled down the window, and yelled it again just because she could, not caring that nobody else on the freeway could hear her. She only needed Will to hear her.

  As she exited the freeway, she let her mind flit back through the years in a sappy, heart-thumping montage of the two of them. Will punching her prom date right before pictures, and her throwing a punch in his face in retaliation. And then he’d asked her to dance that one last
dance, and she’d been so mad, and yet that too had been right.

  Will letting the air out of her tires. Just so he could help her afterward.

  Her sneaking into the boys’ locker room and cutting out the crotch of his favorite jeans.

  Her knocking on his door that night three years ago.

  That moment when she’d found out that he’d moved to Boston.

  The moment that she’d learned he was back.

  The moment she’d learned that he’d come back for her.

  Brynn mentally cursed the slowpoke speed limit on her street, but just because she was done following all the rules didn’t mean she wasn’t going to follow some.

  As she crawled closer to her house, it took her brain several seconds to register what she was seeing.

  “No,” she whispered. “Oh God, no, please. Not again.”

  Brynn careened into Will’s driveway before spilling out of her car, not noticing that she lost a shoe as she burst through the open front door.

  “Hello?” she yelled. “Will, what the hell!”

  A male face appeared at the top of the stairs. Not Will’s. “Who the hell are you, lady? I don’t think you’re supposed to be here.”

  She turned wild eyes on the burly stranger. “There’s a moving truck out front. Why is there a moving truck?”

  The guy rubbed his greasy hair as he moved aside as two other men scooted behind him carrying a mattress.

  “Put that down!” she shrieked. “Where’s Will?”

  “The guy who owns the place? Never met him. Hired us over the phone and told us to pack it all and move it.”

  This couldn’t be happening again. Not when she’d finally figured things out. Not when she’d finally gotten it.

  “Moved where?”

  The guy rolled his shoulders and stared down at her, taking in the missing shoe and the fact that she was now literally tugging on her hair.

  “Don’t know that I should tell you that. Who’d you say you were again?”

  “I’m his friend. Neighbor. I’m his girlfriend,” she said, everything running together in one big burst of panic.

  “Riiiight,” he said, leaning down to pick up two enormous boxes like they were Kleenex. “Well, we respect our clients’ privacy, and if your ‘boyfriend’ didn’t tell you where he was movin’ to, I don’t think that I should either.”

 
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