I hope you’re all having a great start to the week! I’m really excited about how The Day to Remember has turned out. The extra week has given me some time to perfect it, and I can’t wait for you to all read it soon! So mark your calendars! August 26 is just around the corner!!! 🙂
As promised, here’s another TEASER from The Day to Remember. This is unedited and continues from the last teaser. This is a much longer teaser compared to the previous ones, so I hope you’ll enjoy it! The previous teasers can be found here: Prologue, Chapter 1, part 1, and Chapter 1, part 2.
“Emma, can we talk?” Brandon whispered as he leaned over the partition of my workstation.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I heard myself say. I felt my heart breaking all over again as I looked at him. I quickly looked away from him as I tried to think over the pain that pierced through me at the sight of him. I had told myself that I would be strong, that I would brush him off the minute I saw him again. Yet, now with him just inches away from me, I felt my resolution falter.
“Emma, you don’t get it—”
“No,” I interrupted him, still unable to meet his eyes, “Brandon, we’re at work. Just don’t. I just can’t do this, especially not here.” I looked around. Katie and Steve seemed to be engrossed in their work.
“Emma, I just want to talk,” he said with a strained voice. The heaviness in his voice caused me to pause. I looked up at him and finally looked into his eyes for the first time since he broke my heart. He looked tired and full of pain, and for a brief moment, my heart ached at the idea that he was also hurting.
“I can’t—” I whispered, almost pleading.
“Emma,” he interrupted me, “she’s my ex.”
I watched Emma’s expression change from pain to understanding and the tension in my body eased slightly. I needed her to believe me.
“Your ex?” she asked softly as her brilliant emerald eyes twinkled with moisture. God, she was so beautiful. I reached over and gently brushed away a tear that was rolling down her cheek. Her skin was warm and soft. I looked at her pink supple lips and I desperately wanted to kiss her.
“Yes. I should have told you when I spoke to you on the phone, but I really had no idea why you were upset. Desiree didn’t tell me anything. It didn’t dawn on me until you ripped me a new one and called her my girlfriend.” I looked at her and smiled.
“I didn’t ripped you a new one,” she retorted and she made a face, and I chuckled. I felt relieve that she was talking to me again.
“Wait, how could you have thought I would just run out randomly? What did you think I was upset about?”
I thought about it for a moment. I didn’t want to tell her what I really thought. I didn’t want to admit that I thought that Des had told her something about our past, about our history—something I didn’t want Emma to know about. Des and I had a long and complicated past, but it’s all in the past and I wanted my future with Emma in it. If she knew everything about Des and me, I wasn’t sure how she’d react. I didn’t want her to think less of me, and I definitely wasn’t about to risk losing her over it. I looked at Emma and smiled. “I really didn’t know why you were upset. That’s why I kept stalking you with all my calls, texts, and the drop-by,” I teased, avoiding her question.
Emma smiled and I knew she wasn’t quite convinced, but she kept quiet. Thank God, I wasn’t ready for this conversation. That was one of the endearing qualities that I loved about her. I knew she was insightful, but she knew when to ask a question and when not to push it. I wasn’t perfect, and one of my biggest pet peeves was being pushed to answer something I wasn’t ready to answer.
“So are we okay?”
“I’m not sure, Brandon. I think I need time to process this,” she said softly.
“Oh.” I felt disappointment twist at my stomach and my muscles tensed. I wanted us to get over this awkwardness already. I wanted everything to go back to how it was before Des ruined everything. I looked at my watch. “Well, it’s 11:45 a.m. If you’re up for it, we can go grab lunch in 15 or even 45 minutes if that’s enough time for you. We can talk more about what happened and I’ll let you know why Desiree is in town.” She looked at me and I saw the spark of interest in her eyes. I smiled. I planned to tell her about Desiree; I planned to tell her everything she needed to know and nothing more.
The sky had cleared since this morning and the sun was shining overhead. A few white, puffy clouds floated lazily through the sky. The autumn air smelled fresh and crisp, soothing the tension I felt inside. A gentle breeze blew past us as we walked down the pier, causing Emma’s long, blonde hair to dance gently with the wind, brushing against her face like thin strands of gold thread. I looked over at her, and without thinking, I reached over and brushed a few strands of her hair behind her ear. It felt natural—like something I was born to do. Even in this moment where things were uncertain between us, I felt connected to her, almost like an invisible string that permanently connected our souls to one another. I was happier and more carefree when she was near. She felt like home—my home. She smiled up at me, and I felt my heart beat faster. I knew she was nervous, and I felt the same nerves too. I wanted our discussion to go well. I wanted her to look at me in that sweet, endearing way that only she could do. I wanted her to continue to fall in love with me. I wanted—no, I needed her innocent and unadulterated love. She gave herself to me like she’d never given to another man; I was her first. I wished I had been able to give her the same. But I couldn’t; I no longer had that to give because it was given to Desiree many years ago.
“What are you thinking?” Emma looked at me, and there was a hint of worry in her eyes.
“Nothing. Not much.” I gave her one of my smiles, hoping it would relax her. “I was just thinking that’s a nice spot for our lunch.” I gestured to an empty bench that faced the water with a view of the Bay Bridge. It had turned out to be a nice day out, so we had decided to get some sandwiches from a food truck and find a nice spot outside to talk.
“Sure,” she said as she smiled at me. I could never get tired of that smile.
“Emma, I don’t want things to be awkward between us,” I said as we sat down on the bench. I faced her and held her hand with mine. “I really care about you. I really hope you know that. You have no idea how miserable I’ve been since you ran out of my place Saturday morning.”
“So why didn’t you run after me,” she said quickly. She looked away from me, and it killed me that she was still hurt, that I was the one who caused that pain.
“I tried. I …”
She looked at me in confusion. “What do you mean you tried? How exactly did you do that?” There was an edge of bitterness in her voice, and it frightened me that she may not forgive me.
“I tried to go after you, but when I got down to the lobby, I saw you leaving in a cab.” Guilt filled me as I explained the half-truth. I had gone looking for her that morning, but Des had first stopped me. She said that Emma would be fine and that she probably left because something had come up. I hadn’t believed her, but somehow Des convinced me to stay a few minutes longer to catch up with her. She complained that I hadn’t seen her in months and with our history, she deserved more from me. She was probably right. Des deserved more, and I have been filled with guilt knowing that I couldn’t give her what she wanted. When I finally got to the lobby 10 minutes later, I thought Emma was long gone. I was surprised to actually catch her getting into that cab. Had she been waiting for me to chase after her? Was that her intention?
“So …” Emma interrupted my thoughts. “Is she really your ex?”
“Yes. Absolutely,” I said with conviction. “We are not together anymore.”
“So why did she stop by that morning? Does she do that often?”
I could sense the jealousy in her voice, and a part of me was thrilled to know that she was jealous. It meant she still wanted to be with me. “No, she doesn’t stop by often—actually rarely. She lives in LA. I didn’t know she was in town this past weekend and I wasn’t expecting her to stop by unannounced. She shouldn’t have done that. I’m not sure exactly what she told you, but she’s not my girlfriend. I hope you believe me.” I looked at her expectantly, hoping we could put all this behind us.
“I do believe you,” she said softly as she looked up at me. Our eyes locked and I felt the undeniable attraction between us.
I leaned down and gently kissed her soft, sweet lips. “I’ve missed you,” I whispered. “I’m really sorry she stopped by and said what she said to you. I don’t like seeing you hurt. I would do anything to take it back if I could. I hate that I’m the one that caused you any pain.”
She kissed me back and whispered, “I’m scared, Brandon.”
“Of what?” I didn’t understand her statement and fear shot through me. Was she not going to take me back? Was she lying when she said she believed me?
“I was really hurt when I thought that she was your girlfriend—that you loved someone else. I felt stupid and embarrassed that I was the other woman. And that really hurt. I’m scared because I know that if you can cause me this kind of pain now, I’m not sure I will survive the pain you would cause when I fall harder for you. And I will fall harder for you if I continue to see you.”
My hand reached for her face and I pulled her closer to me. The visible pain in her eyes gnawed at my heart. “I don’t want you to be scared to be with me. I would never intentionally hurt you, Emma. I really want this to work between us. Desiree is a part of my past and I can’t change that, but you are who I want to be with—my present and my future. Just give me a chance to prove that to you.”
There were tears in her eyes and she looked up at me with a look of hope and gently nodded. Relief washed through me and I pulled her into my arms and she buried her face into my chest. I embraced her tightly and kissed her forehead. “Thank you,” I whispered. “You mean more to me than you know.” I meant it. I hadn’t known it at the time, but I had fallen in love with her during the first night we met. I couldn’t explain why, but there was something about her. I felt myself gravitate towards her. Her pure innocence and sincerity drew me in and made me want to stay with her forever. I felt carefree when I was with her. I wanted to be a better man for her. And above all, she made me laugh. I couldn’t remember the last time I truly laughed before meeting her.
“Brandon?” Emma looked up from under my arms. “Can you tell me something?”
“Of course.” I felt my body stiffen at her question.
“Can you tell me about her?”
“About Desiree?” I didn’t feel like delving into the past, and this was not the conversation I wanted to have right now.
“Yes.” She looked at me tentatively. “I just want to know a little more about your relationship with her. I just don’t understand why she would just show up at your place unannounced. I need you to help me understand your relationship with her.”
“I understand. I really do,” I said, trying to stall as I thought about what I wanted to tell her. I wasn’t ready to tell her everything, and she didn’t need to know everything. “Well, Des and I were high school sweethearts.” I paused before admitting, “And we were each other’s first love,” I began. I saw the unease in Emma’s face at those words. “It was puppy love,” I explained. “We were young and were there for one another during that time. But when we graduated high school, I moved to Boston for college and she moved to LA. We tried to stay together, but we grew apart.” I paused and looked at Emma. She was deep in thought, and I wished I knew what she was thinking.
“How long were you guys together for?”
“We started dating at the beginning of our junior year in high school. We did the long-distance dating thing all through college, but I’m not sure that counted. We broke up a number of times and barely saw each other. We also casually dated other people between each break-up.”
“When was the last time you guys were together?”
I thought about my answer before saying, “We officially broke up shortly after we graduated from college. Our relationship during college was rocky. We were long distance the entire time, and with summer internships and studying abroad, we never saw each other for more than a week or two at time.”
“So when was that?”
I wasn’t sure why she wanted to know the details, and I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. “Um, about three years ago.”
“So why was she in town? I still don’t get it.”
“Emma, I really don’t want to talk about the past. I want to talk about us and our relationship.” I wanted her to drop this line of questioning. I wanted her to see me the way she did before Des showed up.
“Brandon, I need to know. I’m sorry if I’m prying, but please see this from my perspective. I’ve had one of the worst few days of my life after the best night of my life with you. I need to understand why your ex would just show up at your place and tell me she’s your girlfriend. You owe me at least that.” I could hear the hurt in her voice, and feelings of guilt and fear washed over me. I wanted to tell her everything, but I was afraid that if I did, she would never look at me the way she used to—like I was the perfect man who could do no wrong, like I was the one for her. I wanted—no, I needed her to look at me that way.
“Emma, I do want to tell you everything—”
“So are you admitting that you’re not telling me everything?”
I took a deep breath. How am I going to explain this? “No, that’s not what I was saying. Emma, please understand that I do have a long history with Des. She was there for me when I went through a dark period of my life during high school. Well recently, she was going through some things of her own, and I knew I needed to be there for her. She didn’t have anyone else to turn to.”
“Oh,” she said quietly and her expression softened. “What dark period of your life? Is she okay?”
I looked at her with pleading eyes. I wanted this to be a happy lunch for us, not something so heavy. I didn’t want to think about my past, about a time when I was at my lowest. But I knew I had to tell her. If I wanted to keep Emma in my life, I had to fight against my urge to close her out and share my pain with her. I took both her hands and squeezed it. She looked at me with concern and love, and I realized how much I needed her in my life—how much I needed her innocence and love. “This was not how I had wanted to tell you about this part of my past. I haven’t shared this with many people. Actually, I haven’t told anyone who didn’t already know because they were in my life during that time.” I paused and looked at her, and the reassuring look in her eyes made me feel more relaxed. I took a deep breath before continuing, “I lost my mom when I was 16.” My heart twisted in pain from saying this out loud, from admitting it had happened. It had been almost 11 years since I’ve lost her, but time had not made it easier. Time had not healed those wounds.
“Oh, Brandon. I’m so sorry,” Emma whispered softly and I saw the sadness in her eyes. She pulled me into her arms and hugged me, and I felt myself melt into the security of her embrace—into the security of her pure love, a place where sadness did not exist. “What happened?” There was no pity in her voice, but just unadulterated concern and sadness, and I felt my feelings for this beautiful woman deepen.
“She died from breast cancer.” I felt a surge of emotions surface inside me. “The doctors discovered the lump the year before she passed away, but at that point, it was too late. The cancer had spread to other parts of her body, and the doctors said it was terminal and that she only had up to a year to live.”
“That’s awful.” Tears welled up in Emma’s eyes, and it pained me to cause her more tears.
“Yeah, it was,” I whispered as I thought about my mother. “My mom was one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known. Everything good about who I am today was because of her and how she raised me. I wish she knew how much she meant to me.”
“Brandon, I’m sure she knew,” Emma said softly as her hands rubbed my back.
“She had convinced my dad not to tell me right away about the cancer. She didn’t want death to be what our family thought about during her last days with us. She wanted us to think only about love. She gave me so much love during the last year of her life while she was in pain, and I didn’t even know. I didn’t know until they rushed her into the hospital due to internal bleeding. I didn’t know until the last week of her life that she was dying. I didn’t even get the chance to show her how much I loved her.” Tears blinded my vision as I relived the darkest days of my life. I felt Emma’s gentle hands brushed against my cheeks as she pulled me into her embrace. I buried my face into the contours of her neck and hair and inhaled her comforting scent.
“I’m so sorry, Brandon. I’m sure she knew you loved her very much. She sounds like an amazing person.”
“She was. Losing her was the hardest thing I’ve gone through. My dad tried to be there for me, but he was going through his own grief over my mom. I went into a deep depression and shut the world out for a very long time.”
We remained silent for awhile as I relived those memories in my mind.
“So, was that when you met Desiree?” Emma asked tentatively. I could hear the discomfort in her voice when she said Des’s name.
“We had just started dating a few months before my mom passed away. She had refused to let me shut her out and was there for me. For the longest time, she was the only one I really spoke to outside of school. In a way, she saved my life.”
“I see,” Emma said softly. I saw the anguish in her face.
“Emma, this is why I didn’t want to tell you about this so soon. Des was there for me and I will always be indebted to her for not giving up on me when I was at my lowest. Recently, she was going through some tough times of her own, and I wanted to be there for her. I do still love her and care about her, but as a friend.” I emphasized the last word, hoping that Emma could understand and accept this. “Emma, there’s nothing you need to worry about between Des and me.”
I leaned down and kissed her lips. “She may be an important part of my world, but I want you to be in the center of my world. You’re the first person I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thought on my mind when I fall asleep.”
“I’m not sure what to say. This is a lot to take in.” Her face was a mixture of emotions that I couldn’t quite understand.
“I know,” I said with a nod. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you this sooner, but we haven’t known each other for that long and I wanted you to get to know me for me, and not me with my past.”
“I understand. And I’m sorry I didn’t let you explain things sooner and just ran out. I was just so hurt when I saw her. She’s gorgeous, she showed up unannounced at your place on a Saturday morning, and she said she was your girlfriend. There was no reason for me to doubt the truth of her words.”
I felt a wave of anger for Des and the mess she had caused. “Don’t apologize. There’s nothing you should be sorry for. I’m sorry you had to meet her that way. I didn’t realized she told you she was my girlfriend. She kept denying she said anything. We broke up three years ago. I know it’s not an excuse, but she’s going through a lot right now. We dated for eight years, and sometimes, I’m not sure if she has completely accepted the fact that we’re not together anymore.
“Yeah, it doesn’t seem like she has,” Emma agreed. Her voice was even, and I could tell she was trying to hide her feelings from me.
“Hey,” I squeezed her arms lightly, “that doesn’t matter. I told her about you and she knows that we’re together—at least I hope we’re still together.” I looked at her for affirmation.
She nodded with a reassuring smile, and I felt a huge weight of anxiety lift from my shoulders. I was relieved that we’re finally moving on from this misunderstand.
“Hey, I’m really sorry for putting you through all this. I know I caused you a lot of pain. I want to do something special for you.”
“Oh? You don’t have to. Just don’t hurt me again, and I’ll be happy.” She gave me a small smile that masked the pain I could see I had caused.
Man, she was too sweet and forgiving. I pulled her in for another kiss—this time, our lips lingered and we explored each other with a rushed eagerness. I almost forgot how much I missed her lips; they were soft and sweet, and instantly, I wished the pier was not full of the lunch crowd rush walking past us.
“What are you doing after work today?” I asked brightly. I wanted to show her how much I cared about her. I wanted to plan something romantic for her. I wanted her to know how sorry I was to have caused her so much pain.
“Honestly, I haven’t thought that far ahead. When I got up for work today, this wasn’t how I anticipated the day to go,” she giggled as she shook her head.
“Well, I hope it’s better than what you had anticipated.”
“Definitely,” she laughed.
Then her expression immediately changed and became serious. “Don’t hurt me again,” she said in a serious tone as she gently hit my arm.
We both laughed. “I won’t. I promise.” I kissed her again, trying to reassure her that I meant it, trying to reassure myself that I wouldn’t. I would not be able to live with myself if I did it again. I pushed away those thoughts and smiled at her. “Well, if you’re free, can I stop by after work? Let’s say 7 p.m.? I need to pick up a few things, but I can pick up some dinner and we can hang out. How does that sound?”
“It sounds nice,” she smiled—a smile that put a smile on my face. “Just one problem,” she continued.
My body tensed. “What?”
“I’m not sure I trust you with food, so don’t bring over dinner. I’ll cook.” Her playfulness made me laughed and it was this same playfulness that I loved and felt at ease with.
“Deal. Even though you almost burned down my place last time with that au jus sauce, I’ll put my life in your hands and let you cook,” I teased back.
We smiled and looked at each other in silence, and for a brief moment, I felt like the world seemed to slow down for us. The hubbub of other people on the pier became muffled and distance, and all that mattered was Emma. Emma and me. Together.
I heard my phone go off in the bedroom as I stepped out of the shower. Maybe it was Emma, I thought with a smile. Emma had texted a few times after work to figure out what we’d be having for dinner. I was pretty sure we had decided on some curry butter chicken thing. I think I’ve had that once at an Indian restaurant. She also mentioned some grilled asparagus with cheese or something. I’ve had grilled asparagus and enjoyed it, but I didn’t have the heart to question her about the cheese part, or about grilled asparagus with Indian food. Maybe I should stop by McDonald’s on the way there just to be on the safe side.
I shaved and slapped on some after shave before getting dressed. I wanted tonight to be special. I’ve already picked up the things I needed on my way home. I hope she’ll enjoy everything. I loved her genuine surprise and joy when I planned our first night together on the terrace. I was surprised at just how happy her reaction had made me.
Just then my phone went off again. It must be Emma again. I looked around for my phone, trying to remember where I last left it. I followed the sound, and finally found it in the breast pocket of the suit that was laid out on the leather recliner next to my bed. I quickly picked up the phone and answered before it could go to voicemail. “Hey, sorry, I couldn’t find my phone,” I said breathlessly. “Sorry, I think I’ll be a few minutes later, but I’m heading over now. Don’t eat all the curry butter chicken.” I laughed.
My laughed came to an abrupt stop when I heard the voice that came from the other end of the phone.
“Were you expecting someone else?”
“Oh, hi Des.” Why was she calling?
“Wow, don’t try to sound too excited to hear from me,” she said flatly.
“I’m sorry, Des. I’m in a hurry. What’s up?” I tried my best to sound patient.
“In a hurry? Let me guess? Are you going to go see that girl?”
I felt annoyed by Desiree’s dismissiveness. “If you mean Emma, then yes, I am. I’m dating her, Des. I’m happy. I hope you can understand that.”
There was silence on the other line.
“Des? Why did you call? Do you need something?” I tried to keep my voice even, devoid of my growing irritation.
“Well, I was just letting you know I’ll be heading back to LA tomorrow and wanted to call to say hi and see if you wanted to grab breakfast before I left town.”
“Des, I have work tomorrow. You know that.”
“I do, but you’re also the boss, you don’t have to be there right on time. Consider it a breakfast meeting.”
I sighed. Des was always a persistent person. It was that same persistence that had saved me those many years ago when I tried to shut everyone out as I mourned over my mother. The persistence that had saved me from falling too far into the abyss of the depression I had been spiraling down towards. And for that, I was thankful. “Okay, Des,” I sighed, “Just a short breakfast.”
“Awesome!” she said excitedly, “Oh, and I have some exciting news to share!”