Chapter 3 - Part 2

He was silent for a few moments before he pulled his hand from hers to pull it through his hair. “Talking about it doesn’t change anything.”


“No, it doesn’t, but it might make you feel better.” 


“And you? Have you talked about it with anyone?” He was far too perceptive for her liking. “Honestly, you look like you need a decent meal and a month’s worth of sleep.”


She withdrew her hands to her lap. “I’m not ready.”


The guilt was eating away at her little by little each day. 


“I’m worried about you, Jess.” He leaned forward, studying her closely. “There’s something going on with you that has nothing to do with Charlie or Karsyn but I can’t help you unless you tell me what it is.”


It wasn’t something that could be fixed, but he didn’t know that.


“I’m fine.” She tried her best to reassure him, giving his hand a comforting squeeze, but she could tell from his gaze he wasn’t buying it.


She decided she needed some space from his penetrating stare, so she rose. “I’ll do the dishes.” She carried her plate to the kitchen and, once she was out of his view, she took an emotional breath before placing her leftover food in the trash. 


“You gotta stop running away from difficult conversations,” Myles said from the doorway, startling her.


She busied herself with washing her plate, trying her best to ignore him. 


“Stop, Jess,” he said, but this time he was closer. He reached for her wrist, stopping her from her task.


“I can’t think about it right now,” she murmured, feeling her eyes fill up with tears when she lifted them to meet his. She released the plate.


“Don’t cry,” he whispered, pulling her into a hug, her wet hands going to his shirt. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”


She let out a shaky breath while she fought not to break down. She knew how much he hated emotional situations. There was so much pain, grief, and regret. Her secret ensured there was no moving past it. How could she deal with everything when she couldn’t forgive herself?


He pulled away to study her. “When you’re ready to open up, I’m here. I know how you feel. Out of everyone, I get it.” He leveled his eyes to hers to make a point.


She nodded and rubbed her temple. 


“You okay?” he asked, releasing her.


“I’m getting a headache.” It had been an emotional twenty-four hours. It was no wonder she was feeling overemotional and raw.


“Skittles.” He smiled.


She put her hand to her heart. The word brought a memory of both happiness and pain, making her momentarily breathless.


He reached for a bottle in the cupboard and handed them to her.


The glass bottle was filled with a rainbow of colorful Skittles. She smiled despite the ache in her chest, feeling lost somewhere in the past. “You still have them.” 


He gave a ghost of a smile. “Yeah. They still work.” He shrugged.


It brought back a memory of Dylan discussing how each different-colored candy had the power of medicine. He could tell which color Skittle she needed depending on her ailment. It was one of her fondest memories of the middle Shaw brother.


It was a childlike memory that filled her with more sadness. There was no color Skittle for what she was suffering from now.


“The first time Dylan told me about the Skittles, I thought he was kidding.” 


Out of all three brothers, he had been the most easygoing, which was very different from the reserved Myles or strong-willed Karsyn.


She opened the bottle and got two red candies, which she chewed before handing the bottle back to Myles.


“But they always seemed to work,” Myles said fondly, putting the bottle carefully back in the cupboard.


“I’m going to lie down.”


“Sure. Let me know if you need anything.”


She headed to her room, and as she passed Dylan’s old room, she paused. She touched the door, her fingers trailing gently down the wood. There were so many memories within these four walls, too many to count. Some had been good, but it was the bad ones that stayed the freshest in her mind. 


Staying here with Myles would bring all those memories back to the surface, and she wasn’t sure that was something she could handle. Letting out a deep, emotional breath, she staved off the accompanying sadness at the thought of the three brothers who had impacted her life, and all of whom she had lost in some way.


Sometimes she would think back to the time when things had been easier, when the thought of them didn’t fill her with sadness and what-ifs. 


Her hand dropped away, and she continued to her room. Once inside, she closed the door. 


She dragged herself onto the bed and curled up with her hands tucked under the pillow, which her head was resting on. Myles’ oversized shirt and shorts cocooned her while she wrestled with all the things she still needed to do to put her life back on track.


Her intent had been to sleep, but the sanctuary of bliss eluded her, making it impossible for her to remain still. She reached for her phone and sat up in the bed.


Spurred on by how getting her life in some sort of order was allowing her to build the hope that she would be able to put some things right, she dialed Charlie. Nerves tightened in her stomach while she waited for him to answer, but he didn’t. It clicked over to voicemail.


“It’s Jess. Please call me back…so I can schedule a time to come…by and pick my stuff up…” She rose and began to pace, unsure of whether to say anything else. 


“I’m sorry. I really am.” Confident she had said everything she had needed to, she ended the call. 


There wasn’t much else she could do other than wait for him to call her back. She sank back down to sit on the bed with her phone in her hands. 


It was probably time to call her parents and let them know. Her mother would never forgive her if she found out from someone else.


“Jess,” her mother answered when she rang her.


“Hi, Mom.”


“How are you?” 


Jessica paused. “Well…Charlie and I have split.” Then she waited for her mom’s reaction.


“Oh. I thought things were going well. You’d just gotten engaged,” her mother muttered. Her mother had been delighted with the announcement.


“It didn’t feel right,” she tried to explain, without going into all the finer details. 


“Well, if that’s the case, you made the right decision. The moment I met your father I knew he was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. When it’s right, you feel it.”


She nodded absentmindedly while she listened to her mother. Her mom had told her the story many times.


There had only been one person she had felt that way about. Karsyn. Her heart still felt that same way, even when he couldn’t look her in the eye the last time she had seen him. He probably hated her, but she still loved him.


But she was grown up enough to know that love didn’t always conquer all—and in her case, it wouldn’t. If she at least accepted that, it would make things much easier. 


“Jess?” Her mother’s voice pulled her from her thoughts.


“I’m here.” 


“You want me to make up your old room?” 


“No, that’s not necessary. I’m staying at Myles’ place.”


“Myles Shaw?” She sounded surprised.


“Yes. He said I could stay as long as I needed.” 


“Myles is a good boy.” He wasn’t a boy anymore, though. At the age of twenty-one, he was a young man. She remembered back to his bare chest when he had opened his front door. There was nothing boyish about his hard, defined chest and abs.


“He is,” she echoed. Currently he was her lifeline, the only thing keeping her afloat in the current storm she was battling.


“Why don’t you bring him over for lunch by us tomorrow? It’ll be nice to see him again.”


It had been a while since her parents had seen him. 


“I’m not sure if we’ll be able to make tomorrow. I’m hoping I’ll be able to collect my stuff from Charlie’s.”


“We can do it next weekend, then.”


She talked with her mother a bit more about her father and his latest visit to the heart specialist.


“I’m glad to hear everything is going well.” She welcomed all the good news about her father’s health. 


In a world where she had already lost someone well before their time, she knew how fragile life was. She didn’t take any time with her parents for granted.


It also made it more important to face Karsyn and reveal the secret she had been carrying for the last two years, no matter the consequences. It was something that could deeply affect him in a way she couldn’t anticipate.