Chapter 3 - Part 1

“Karsyn stops by sometimes,” Myles mentioned over burgers at lunchtime a few hours later. At the mention of his brother’s name, she kept her face averted from his direct gaze to hide any visible reaction.


The thought of coming face to face with him unsettled her. What would he say? How would he react to her staying with his brother?


“Maybe it would be better if I go stay with my parents,” she mumbled, putting her half-eaten burger back down, having lost her appetite—which was probably a good thing, as she was sure the plate of food contained like a gazillion calories. 


She still hadn’t worked up the courage to call her parents and tell them she had split with Charlie. That would entail going into all the reasons why things hadn’t worked out, and she wasn’t ready to open up about it yet.


“It won’t be that bad,” he murmured, covering his French fries with more ketchup. “And maybe it’s time to call a truce between the two of you.”


He had hurt her and she had hurt him; their reasons were irrelevant. She didn’t know if there was any way to bridge the divide between them. While she was ready to apologize for her part in it, she wasn’t sure Karsyn was ready to take responsibility for his part.


Thinking back to it filled her with turmoil. When Karsyn had caught her with Charlie, his best friend, he had cut both of them from his life like they had never existed, but in all honesty, she had lost him well before that. 


“I don’t think that’s going to happen.” She shook her head before taking a sip of her soda.


“Let’s see,” he murmured optimistically. “Now that Charlie isn’t in the picture, maybe it’s time.”


The conversation between them died down a bit, leaving Jessica in a contemplative silence. She didn’t want to discuss Karsyn with his brother.


“I need to start looking for a job,” she said, hoping a change of subject would lighten the mood. 


She wasn’t very qualified, only having done some odd work at the office for Charlie’s family construction business. She knew how to type, but other than that she didn’t know much else. Despite her lack of skills, she remained optimistic.


“You can help me out at the garage,” Myles offered, playing with the label on his beer bottle.


“Really?” she questioned.


He nodded. “My organizing skills when it comes to paperwork is dismal.”


That was nothing new to her. Unlike him, she felt right at home finding the best filing system for paperwork. It had been one of her tasks when she had worked for Charlie. 


“You sure?” She studied him. If it was a genuine offer, and it would give her a way to get back on her feet. 


He smiled. “Yes.” He mentioned a salary he could pay her, which was more than she could have hoped for.


“Thanks,” she whispered, a little overwhelmed at his generosity. It would help make the insurmountable task of becoming independent more attainable.


“Trust me, you won’t be thanking me when you see the mess you’ll need to sort through.” He winked, easing the seriousness in their conversation. “The job is yours for as long as you need it.”


It made her wonder how she had survived the last year without him and his friendship. She had clung to Charlie to get her through when she had been unable to cope.


She had a place to stay and a job. In one day, she had managed to sort out most of the issues that had been hanging over her since deciding to break things off with Charlie.


“You’ll need to organize a way to pick up your stuff,” Myles reminded her.


She frowned. It was something she wasn’t looking forward to having to do. She wasn’t in a hurry to have another run in with Charlie, but she had to get her stuff. There was no way around that.


“I’ll try to call him later to schedule a time to pick up my things.” She would rather have her teeth pulled than have to face Charlie again, even though she knew it was better to get it over with.


“I’ll come with you,” he offered when he noticed her visible reluctance.


“I’m sure I can do it on my own.” She shrugged. “You’ve done so much for me already.”


“Like I said before, you’re family. That means I’ll do everything I can to help.”




“If the roles were reversed, you’d be doing the same for me.”


He had a point. If he had needed anything, she would have done everything within her power to help. 


He stilled before setting his beer on the table. “Things can get ugly and I want to make sure Charlie doesn’t do something stupid.”


“He wouldn’t.” Charlie had a heart of gold. She didn’t believe for a second that he would make things more difficult for her.


“Unlike you, his heart is broken, and trust me when I say that can make him do something he wouldn’t do otherwise. Besides, if there are two of us, it’ll go more quickly.”


She frowned. “How do you know I’m not heartbroken?”


He shrugged. “I know you, remember?” 


It worked both ways. They had been friends for so many years that they could read each other. His offer was hard to turn down. The quicker she moved her stuff out the better. All of the furniture was Charlie’s, so her things mainly consisted of clothes and some personal items.


“How did things get so complicated?” She sighed, propping up her chin with her hand. She felt like she needed some decent sleep; the lack of it was making it difficult to feel like she could cope with anything.


“Life happened.” 


His words brought a tidal wave of regret sweeping through her. Would there ever come a time when she could think back with a fondness at her memories, rather than with a suffocating sadness at all the mistakes she had made?


“So when does Karsyn usually stop by?” It would be good to know when to make herself scarce. At some point she would have to see him, but with everything going on it would be easier to delay it as much as she could. 


Myles studied her. “You can’t avoid him forever.”


“I know.” She held his gaze.


“You guys need to put to bed whatever happened between the two of you.”


Jessica bit her lip nervously. As close as she was to him, she had never revealed what had torn her relationship with Karsyn apart, even if he might have. It hadn’t been her proudest moment. 


“Especially if you’re going to be living here and working at the garage.” 


He was right, but that didn’t make it any easier. Just the thought of seeing Karsyn again made her hands clammy and her heart speed up. 


“I don’t know if we can get past what happened,” she replied cautiously. Things had been such a mess. Even now when she thought back to what happened, it filled her with such turmoil. Both of them were responsible for their parts in it, but she didn’t know if he was ready to make peace like she was.


Maybe if they had been stronger, things wouldn’t have ended the way they had. But there was no point in hanging on to what-ifs. There was no going back and changing it. All she could do was hope for the best going forward.


“What happened between the two of you?” he asked, his long fingers playing with the neck of the beer bottle.


“Karsyn never told you?” she asked, surprised.


He shook his head. “He told me it wasn’t any of my business. What happened, Jess?”


She felt relieved that he didn’t know. It wasn’t something she was proud of. It was the first time he had ever point-blank asked her about it. He had been so good to her, but it wasn’t something she wanted to share. 


It wasn’t the only thing she was keeping from him. There was something much worse than what had ended her relationship with Karsyn. She had never told anyone about the dark secret she kept. 


“It’s complicated.” A way of sidestepping his question without giving him an answer. “Besides, I’m pretty sure he’ll stop coming around when he discovers I’m staying here.”


He shrugged. “That’ll be his choice.”


“Look, I don’t mind finding somewhere else to stay. The last thing I want to do is cause trouble between the two of you.” In her mind, she was already trying to come up with an alternative.


“No. I offered you a place to stay, and the offer still stands. Karsyn will get over it.” He straightened in his chair. “Maybe this will be the push he needs.”


She lowered her gaze. “The past has a way of holding on so tight it’s suffocating. Some days I can barely…breathe.”


“We can’t stop living because of what happened.” His voice was soft. “Even when it feels impossible.”


When she looked up she saw the deep sadness in his eyes that told of the same pain she carried. She reached across the table to cover his hand with hers and she gave it a sympathetic squeeze.


“I’m here if you ever need to talk,” she offered, knowing how all-consuming the grief could be. Hers was compounded with the guilt of the secret she kept.