If I Had You, page 8
“Just random thoughts,” she says with a soft laugh. “Usually brought on by random memes I find on Facebook. You should try it sometime.”
“Nah, I’m good without all that stuff.”
She steps back and sticks out her tongue playfully. “You know, one day your kids will be on ‘that stuff’ a lot.”
She uses her fingers to quote me before whirling away with a sigh when I merely shrug because social media just isn’t my thing and never has been. Darcy was bugged by it, too, because I never wanted my pictures on the Internet either, not even when she assured me just her family and friends would see them.
I figured if they want to see us, they could come to our house. Apparently, that was unreasonable. Not sure how considering our families had never been more than twenty minutes away by car, tops.
Trailing her into the living room, she sits down on the couch and pats the seat beside her, waiting until I’m comfortable before straddling my lap.
Her hands find the edge of my button-down and slip beneath it to touch her cool hands to the hot skin below. Smirking as I suck in a breath, she asks, “How was your weekend?”
With the exception of the time she spends with us, which has only been a few hours here and there for two months now, we don’t talk to each other when I have the kids. It’s alone time with the kids until we’re married and something I’m glad she’s never had a problem with.
“Good. The kids had a lot of energy as always. I don’t remember having as much as they do when I was a kid.”
“I bet you did.” Her hands roam higher as mine rest on her bare thighs, just beneath the edge of her cotton shorts, and she giggles. “You can be pretty energetic yourself; I’ve had the aching body to prove it quite a few times.”
“I do aim to please.”
She smiles, getting as close as possible to rest her head on my shoulder, and nips at my neck. Then, she whispers in my ear, “How about you aim to please right now and slide those hands a little higher so the real fun can begin?”
God, I love this woman.
She’s random and funny and is a teacher at the elementary school. She knows my children come first, and she’s beyond patient when things don’t go according to plan. She’s independent, sexy, and isn’t clingy.
I’m lucky to have met her and even luckier she wants to marry me.
Hell, I want to marry her.
Our wedding is in two weeks, and part of me is thrilled because I love everything about her.
Then, there’s another part of me that, for just a moment, wonders whether I’m making a mistake I can’t take back; that marrying Jen closes the door on Darcy and me forever.
But, the reality is, the door is already shut, sealed and cemented over.
I need to accept it. Have to.
Because the girl I fought for, had a family with, and built my life around is married to someone else and having his child. There is no us, not anymore, and never will be again.
My future is sitting on my lap and nuzzling my neck, waiting for me to respond to her question.
So, instead of brooding any longer, I make my future wife hold on tight as I stand up and carry her toward the bedroom to pleasure her until neither one of us can move.
My parents leave the room to take their seats in the chapel, giving me a few moments alone before taking my place at the end of the aisle.
Five minutes until our wedding begins and Jen becomes my wife. Hard to imagine, even two years ago, when I thought marriage would never be in my cards again.
Yet here it is, a second chance, and I’ll do my damnedest to make it my last.
There’s a knock at the door as I walk toward it to head to the chapel, and after straightening my tie, I swing the door open with a smile.
Only it disappears at the sight of Darcy standing there with reddened, watery eyes, her lips wobbling with the effort to suppress any further emotions from spilling forth.
The part of me that continues to love her wants to ask why she’s upset. I don’t, because she’s not mine to comfort anymore, and the last thing I need to do right now is touch her when I’m about to marry someone else.
She merely stares at me as if she’s unsure, in a way she hasn’t been since our teens, until I feel forced to ask, “What are you doing here, Darcy?”
“This is real,” she whispers, walking past me into the room and over to the window, standing there without elaborating.
Against my better judgment, I shut the door, lean on it, and release a hard breath while crossing my arms over my chest. “Darcy? Answer me.”
“This is real,” she repeats while turning to face me and swiping at the tears sliding down her cheeks. “This life. This pregnancy.” She inhales, deep and shuddering, as if her heart is breaking right this second, and lets it out slowly as her sorrowful eyes finally meet mine. “Us being no more because of me.”
“What?” I shake my head and push off from the door, striding toward her. “It wasn’t you, it was me.”
Her eyes flash as I stop a few steps away from her. “Don’t lie to me. You never condoned lying so don’t you dare. Admit the truth, Zach, right now.”
She knows? That isn’t possible.
“Darcy, I don’t know—”
Tears flow down her cheeks once more. “Stop it.”
There isn’t a chance in hell that I’ll say what she wants to hear now.
She wanted out to the point she believed my lie, and now we’ll both live with that forever. We both deserve to be with someone loves us as much as we love them.
I glance back at the door and then meet Darcy’s gaze with a stern, “Jen’s waiting on me, Darcy. I need to go.”
She doesn’t let me go, though.
Before I can move or push her away, she steps forward, throws her arms around my neck, and presses her soft mouth against mine.
Two weeks of waking up in this life and wondering if it will ever end; needing it to end.
I’ve pieced together most of my life so far from searching through things, mostly on Facebook and in a few old notebooks, and don’t really like what I’ve found.
I kept the pregnancy and Zach graduated. He worked full-time and went to school part-time while I finished high school after giving birth to Gabriel.
Zach ended up dropping out of college to work full-time in construction, while my parents paid for my school and I went full-time.
We got married just before I entered my senior year and apparently I studied abroad for a semester in Paris, which is where I met Oliver.
The idea we met abroad is weird to me. How had that happened? Oliver hadn’t gone abroad in my real life where we met as freshman. And neither had I, obviously.
Since that moment, I’ve been bothered by the idea Oliver’s life is radically different here because he met me later. And because we hadn’t clung to each other to our detriment, he’d had to put himself out there, hence the improved confidence.
Either way, we stayed friends after the experience abroad and out of all the jobs he applied to before meeting me, he ended up taking the one with the best offer after graduation.
A job that put him within thirty minutes of where I lived with Zach and our son, in our hometown rather than across the country where I saw him in the bookstore that day.
There’s nothing telling me how Oliver and I went from being friends to being married, though. I still have no idea, and now my ignorance of these facts is starting to bother me.
I’m going to ask Oliver after work tonight and hope he doesn’t think I’m crazy. A part of me believes he won’t — I can tell he isn’t sure what to make of me. Every day, he’s giving me funny looks and asking me if I’m all right when I say or do something that seems strange to him.
But even if he does think I’m insane, I can’t keep on being clueless about this whole situation.
I’ve had plenty of free time, too. Apparently, I have a Bachelor’s in Marketing and haven’t worked
My mother hasn’t been around much, and when she is, neither of us really seem to have much to say to each other. She eats with us when the kids are here and leaves for the whole weekend to stay with her boyfriend when they’re not.
I’ve yet to meet him and can’t decide if I even want to because while my father and I had our differences, I loved him. Seeing my mother with anyone else might hurt, a bizarre idea all on its own considering everything that’s gone on between us.
As for Zach…he picked up the kids this morning while remaining short but polite with me and then left after saying he would see me on Sunday. He did the same last weekend — barely speaking to me and trying to leave with the kids as quick as he could, making me wonder what I did.
The way he acts has convinced me we’re not together because of me, just like in my real life.
Can’t get anything right, it seems.
Sighing, I head downstairs to change over the laundry from the washer to the dryer, start another load, and hope Oliver comes home soon.
Oliver’s face is a mix of astonishment and disbelief as he sits beside me on the couch later in the evening, trying to process everything I’ve just finished telling him.
The longer he stares at me saying nothing, the more I want to fill the silence, take it all back out of anxiety and fear he’s thinking his wife has lost her mind.
“So,” he finally says, drawing the word out while extracting one hand from where they hold mine to rub his chin and then he clears his throat. “You don’t know anything at all?”
Blinking, mostly because I can’t believe he’s so calm, I bite my lip and shake my head. “No. Well, I’ve managed to put a few bits together, but anything about me and you…”
“Ah.” He nods and lifts a knowing brow. “Just us, or Zach and the kids, too?”
“Only what I could gather from Facebook and the box in the attic.”
“All right.” Covering my hands again, he smiles and lifts them to his mouth, kissing the back of one of them before he says with a laugh, “Let me fill in the blanks for you, then.”
My relief is palpable as I ask, “You don’t think I’m crazy?”
“Surprisingly, no.” He smiles when I lift a skeptical brow. “It explains a lot, especially the reaction at seeing your mother…and staring at me as if you don’t know me at all most of the time. Am I really that different?”
Easy. Too easy. This must be a dream, but I’m gonna go with it. “Here, you are the man you could be there if you believed in yourself more. I’m not sure what to think about the role I’ve played in that.”
He shakes his head and gives my hand a squeeze. “I don’t think you should blame yourself for what others choose to do or how their lives ended differently. In my case, by the time I met you, you were already a mother. Confident, beautiful, and outgoing. You didn’t need me or anyone else, which is one of the things I love most about you.”
My heart beats faster at his words, tears springing to my eyes at the love shining in his eyes and words.
That sounds so lovely…for a moment, I wish this one as my real life and the other nothing more than a nightmare. Of course, it isn’t, and I let the tears fall then because for the first time ever, I think the choice I made at sixteen wasn’t the right one.
And Oliver, the husband who loves me no matter what form I’m in, wraps me in his warm and comforting embrace while I finally let myself feel the weight of the decisions I’ve made and the resulting consequences.
We stay that way for quite a while.
“You changed our relationship,” Oliver informs me later in the evening after I’ve stopped crying and we’ve eaten dinner. “You were married to Zach when we met, a boundary I always respected.”
Not off to a good start since this is inching toward everything being my fault. “But you had feelings for me?”
“Yes, something I never admitted, however, and we began spending less time together as things got busier in our lives.”
“Okay. I wasn’t happy about that, was I?”
“No.” He laughs. “You were pissed. That’s when I realized you perhaps felt more than friendship for me, too. So, I used work as an excuse to stay away even more, because I didn’t want to be blamed for breaking up your marriage.”
“I see. What happened?”
“The trouble started in January of 2013, shortly after you discovered you were pregnant with Abby. Zach began working more, having problems with all sorts of projects while expanding his business, and since you were working as well, he hired someone to assist with helping around the house. That seemed to ease things for a bit, at least when it came to household stuff, and you two spent more time together.”
He shifts in his seat next to me on the couch, his hands in his lap as he sighs and continues when I nod.
“It was shortly after your Fourth of July party that you called me crying. You two got into an argument, and you asked me what to do. When I suggested you two should get marital counseling, you had the most bizarre reaction — cussed me out, told me there was no way you were going to do that, and hung up on me.”
“What? That’s crazy.”
“Like I said, bizarre. From the moment we met, you were crazy about him. Proud of the way you stood up to your parents and had Gabriel against their wishes, and the fact you two made it more than a couple years when they thought you wouldn’t.” He shrugs. “I don’t know what happened, but after a few weeks of not talking, you called me to say both of you were in counseling after all. When you said we shouldn’t see each other for a while, it became clear you finally admitted your feelings for me, and I agreed staying apart would be best for us both.”
His whole expression takes on a sadness as he looks up at me and reaches over to take my hand in his. “We didn’t speak again until the day you went into labor with Abby. You were hysterical, saying you couldn’t get ahold of Zach, and you didn’t want to go to the hospital by yourself. So I came to get you, took you to the hospital, and when it came time to have her, he still hadn’t arrived. You cried and begged me to stay in the room until I relented. He didn’t arrive until hours after she was born and you blew up on him even after he explained there had been an emergency on one of his sites.”
My heart hurts just listening to this. After seeing Zach with his kids, I can imagine how much missing his daughter’s birth hurt him. He never would’ve done it deliberately. “Wow. A perfect storm, huh?”
“Yes. I’ve never seen you so angry in all the years I’ve known you. But that wasn’t the final straw. That came a few weeks later when I visited you and the kids at your insistence. We were watching TV with Gabe while Abby slept in your arms when Zach walked in, took one look at both of us, and walked right back out.”
He blows out a breath, making it clear the bad part is about to come, and says, “You handed me Abby, got up, and went after him. A good ten minutes later, you returned with tears streaming down your face and walked right past me into the kitchen without saying a word. Zach hadn’t returned, so I put Abby in her swing, left Gabe watching the movie, and came to see why you were crying.
“When I entered, you were sobbing into your hands. Eventually, you looked up and simply said, ‘He cheated on me.’ That was it. He moved out the next day and when you filed for divorce, he gave you everything you wanted.”
It wasn’t the explanation I’ve been expecting. All the thoughts in my head rearrange with this new information as he stares at me, waiting for a reaction, and finally, I shake my head because this doesn’t make sense. “That’s not possible. Zach hates cheaters and liars.”
“You never questioned it.” He glances away as if considering why I hadn’t before gazing back at me and releasing his hold on my hand. “Frankly, neither did I, but our feelings got in the way of a
“Obviously, since it wasn’t even seven months between the divorce being final and us getting married.”
“Your idea.” He laughs at my gasp and leans in, kissing my mouth before smiling against them, then backs away again while my lips tingle. “You went back to being the woman everyone knew and loved after he left. No more sadness or anger, and a month after the divorce, you asked me on our first official date; said you weren’t going to waste time. And I didn’t say no because you were the woman I loved and desired. Still are.”
I smile, then bite my lip and frown. “I don’t understand. With everything you’ve told me, why are things suddenly so hostile between me and Zach, then?”
“You disapprove of Jen because he’s only known her for a year and they’re getting married on Sunday.”
Something inside me shifts at this news, but there isn’t any pain, just sadness. An ‘oh’ of acknowledgment and acceptance because of course he would move on and find someone else, just as I had.
And suddenly, I question everything — from this life and the real one.
Here, Zach’s marrying someone else and I’m with Oliver, pregnant.
There, I’m with Oliver and pregnant too, while Zach’s divorcing his wife.
Does that mean Oliver and I are supposed to be together, not me and Zach? At least, not for longer than the time we managed to spend with each other in both?
Or are our lives a reflection of choices we’ve made that we now can’t take back without hurting others?
I don’t know, but this whole situation is made worse by the fact that I’m not this Darcy, and the one I am has unresolved feelings for Zach.
But, what can I really do?
After all, he’ll be somebody else’s husband come Sunday.
“Are you all right?” Oliver’s question cuts through my thoughts, and when I nod, he stands up and holds his hand out to me, completely oblivious to the uproar inside my head. “Let’s go to bed. We’ll talk more in the morning.”
VIOLET HAZE SERIES:
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