Love letters, p.1
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No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events are the work of the author’s imagination.
Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental.
"A deeply moving story of true love, choices, and the power of memory, LOVE LETTERS reaches deep into in a woman’s heart, to that special place where her own memories of love from long ago might still be lingering. With delicate beauty and wisdom, Geraldine Solon weaves an unforgettable story of the everlasting power of true love."—Christine Lemmon, author of Sand in My Eyes and Sanibel Scribbles
For Arnel, Stefan and Kimberly
As Chloe Rogers put her car in reverse, she couldn’t stop looking at her princess-cut diamond. The sun through her window made the diamond sparkle. She turned on the radio, singing as she drummed her fingers to the beat.
“I’m engaged!” she squealed out loud, “To the most handsome man in the universe.” She closed her eyes remembering how Richard had knelt down and asked her to marry him earlier that morning at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Half Moon Bay. No sooner had she opened her eyes than she felt a soft bump and heard the sound of scraping metal.
“Oh no,” she groaned as she looked through her rearview mirror at a blue Ford Mustang. She pulled over towards the parking lot and saw a tall man with long hair wearing a t-shirt and surfing shorts got out and came across the parking lot toward her. Her heart beat quickly as he approached her. Why does he look so familiar?
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you. I promise my insurance will take care of it,” Chloe said as she got out of her car and followed him to his Mustang.
The man studied his car, his gold-blond hair blowing in the wind. “Hey, no sweat. I don’t have a single scratch on my car.”
Chloe caught her breath, relieved that no serious damage had been done.
“Let’s check yours.” They walked back to her car. “Just a scratch,” the man said, smiling.
Where have I seen that smile before?
She huffed a sigh. “Nothing to worry about then. I’m really sorry.”
“It’s nothing. I’m Josh by the way,” he said, extending his hand.
“Chloe.” She shook his hand.
“Chloe? Chloe Rogers? Is it you?” Chloe frowned, trying to place him. “I thought it was you, but I wasn’t sure. Remember me…Josh Goldman? It’s been ages.”
Chloe’s heart skipped a beat. Of course she remembered him. How could she forget her first love from sixth grade?
She was eleven years old when she developed a crush on Josh. She had scribbled the name Joshua Goldman over and over on her PeeChee folder. When he moved to Oregon she had cried buckets of tears. They had gone down to the beach and made a promise to love each other. Forever. He was the first boy to ever kiss her.
“Josh Goldman?” she asked, pretending not to remember.
“Yes, my brother and I moved back a week ago from Oregon,” he said, smiling.
A week ago and I never saw him? She remembered his smile, and how all the girls in school were crazy about him. “What brings you back to Half Moon Bay?” she asked, trying to stay calm.
“When we were in Oregon, our parents took Phil and me to Hawaii every summer,” Josh said, his eyes never leaving hers. “That’s where we learned how to surf. Last year, Phil and I decided to open our own surf shop in Half Moon Bay. Phil has qualified to compete in the Maverick this year.”
“You mean Phil Goldman is the professional surfer?” Chloe asked in surprise. “I never put two and two together. Wow, you must be so proud.”
“Yeah, and that’s why business should be great. Name recognition.” Josh tugged a strand of hair behind his ear.
“Don’t tell me your surf shop is the one that just opened up at the end of Main Street? Surfing Buddies?”
“That’s right. That’s our shop,” he said. “Phil and I put all our savings in this business, so it’s a win or lose kind of thing.”
“Unbelievable. I work at the other end of Main Street. I manage Brides Only.”
“That wedding store? I never thought to check it out. I mean it’s for –”
“Brides only,” Chloe grinned.
“Yeah, yeah, I mean, I totally wouldn’t be caught dead in that store.” He laughed.
He seemed like the same Josh – happy-go-lucky, exciting, adventurous, and never fearful. She remembered how he would knock on her window to give her chocolates at midnight, and would scramble down the ladder when he heard Chloe’s mother screaming at her door. He had taken Chloe for a ride on his bicycle around Half Moon Bay. He played baseball back then, but seemed more interested in car racing. Chloe wasn’t surprised that Josh and Phil got into surfing.
She was still deep in thought reminiscing about the good old days when he said, “Listen, we should get together sometime. I mean, now that I know where you are, I can pop in.”
“Of course,” she said, then immediately froze. Why did I say that? I’m getting married in four months. I shouldn’t be meeting Josh. But then she told herself to relax. He was just an old friend and there was nothing wrong with hanging out with an old friend. “Sorry about your car.”
“Hey, no sweat,” he said. “Besides, I’m glad it happened. Otherwise, we’d never have met again.”
Chloe’s heart skipped as she said goodbye and drove to work thinking about Josh.
She opened the door to Bride’s Only and rushed to the stockroom to try on several gowns. Richard had requested she begin making arrangements for the wedding. Chloe shrugged into a cream colored Vera Wang wedding gown with a fully beaded A-line cut. As she examined herself in the fitting room mirror she replayed the morning’s events. I can’t believe Josh is back in town…
After a few minutes she heard a loud voice and pulled back the curtain to see Nicole standing there. Her best friend was dressed in a black lace top that revealed her toned biceps and skin tight jeans with glimmering four inches high heels. Should she tell her about Josh first, or about Richard’s proposal?
“You’re never going to believe it, Nicole,” Chloe squealed. “After two years, I’m finally engaged!”
“To Richard?” Nicole made a face as she put her purse on the table closest to the fitting room.
Chloe inspected herself in the mirror. For five years, Chloe had managed the shop, and for those same five years she had dreamed of becoming the bride instead of just selling to brides. She turned for a side view of her dress and frowned. Now that her dream was finally coming true, why did Nicole have to spoil it for her? And why did Josh have to show up to confuse the issue?
“Would you quit giving me that look and let me know if a customer comes in?” Chloe said, peering through the half-open velvet fitting room drapes. “Maureen called in sick and Faye has a dental appointment, so this is the only time I can try on gowns. The shop is going to get busy later.”
Like many twenty-four year olds, Chloe Rogers had dreamed of her wedding day for as long as she could remember. As an only child, she would play make-believe using her mother’s clothes as she walked down the hallway of their ranch-style home. She tugged the clasps of the gown. Nicole should be happy for her. She knew if she told Nicole about Josh now it would only make matters worse. In sixth grade, Nicole had been so certain that they were right for each other. She wondered if Nicole would even remember him now.<
“How long are you going to take?” Nicole asked, shoving back a lock of silky brown hair that framed her wide-set brown eyes. “I have to go to work.”
“Finding the perfect gown takes time.”
Nicole grinned. “With your legs and that figure? Focus on your assets, Chloe.”
“I want to look perfect for Richard,” Chloe announced, struggling with the zipper.
Nicole clenched her fists. “I don’t know whether I should be happy for you or worried.”
Nicole had been Chloe’s best friend since second grade and would be her maid of honor; so of all people, she should be happy for her.
Chloe put her head through the curtain and frowned at her friend. “Why would you say such a thing?”
“You know how I feel about Richard,” Nicole said, rolling her eyes as Chloe shrugged out of the latest gown and handed it to Nicole, then put on yet another one. “How many more gowns do you need to try?”
“Will you stop complaining, Nic? Most of them make me look fat.”
“How can you say that when all the gowns look perfect on you?” Nicole asked and sighed impatiently. Nicole Simmons was the exact opposite of Chloe, but somehow they had managed to be friends despite their differences. Whereas Chloe had fair skin, long dark curly hair with a widow’s peak, and stood only 5’6” tall, Nicole was six feet tall and a beautiful African American.
“You’re only saying that because you don’t like Richard and don’t want me to get married,” Chloe said, exiting the fitting room. “Now tell me – what do you think?”
Nicole put her hands to her mouth. “Chloe…”
The Dior gown had long spaghetti straps with a simple lace design in front. The empire waist gave the dress an elegant touch, soft and flattering.
“This one is perfect,” Chloe breathed.
“You’re the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen,” Nicole said.
Chloe hugged her friend. “Thanks for being so patient with me. I told Richard that our wedding wouldn’t be complete unless we have it at the Ritz-Carlton hotel that overlooks the ocean. I can already see myself walking down the aisle, smell the fresh air, and hear the sound of the waves. Totally breathtaking.”
Each workday, Chloe met future brides trying on wedding gowns while chattering with their girlfriends. She had never met a bride who wasn’t excited about her wedding day. Chloe looked down at her dress and spun a circle, thrilled that she, too, would fulfill her dream of becoming a bride.
As she came to a stop she looked around at Millie Adams’ shop. Brides Only was known for its simple yet elegant gowns at a reasonable price. Fortunately, Millie trusted Chloe to run her shop, since she had other businesses to attend to.
Brides Only was a cozy and intimate shop that made customers feel at home. It originally sold only ready-to-wear bridal gowns, but with Chloe’s ideas, they had added purses, tiaras, little trinkets, scented candles, and other accessories.
Chloe pampered future brides as they entered the shop, most brought in through referrals. Though Chloe had two associates to assist her with the shop, it was she who the customers looked for each time they entered the shop. Something about her enthusiasm seemed to rub off on the nervous brides, reminding them why they were here.
She walked over to a rack of gowns and fingered them. The gowns were hung on high-quality, white satin hangers with bows in the middle. The purses were a variety of small satin and beaded purses in either white or off-white from top designers: Jessica McClintock, Carolina Herrera, and Vera Wang.
“Why do you want to have your wedding in Half Moon Bay at the Ritz when you’ve lived here your whole life?” Nicole asked. “If I get married, I’m flying to Vegas. I don’t want to waste time planning a wedding.”
“C’mon, Nic, you know how much the Ritz means to me. That’s where I met Richard, and it’s where he proposed to me this morning. You need to be more romantic.” She would never forget the day she met Richard. She closed her eyes, remembering. He was dashing in his gray Armani suit. While she watched the sunset from a corner table in the restaurant, he kept eyeing her from where he sat with a client. He finally approached her after his business meeting. She smiled at the memory then opened her eyes.
“Yeah, yeah.” Nicole pursed her lips.
Chloe suddenly grew teary-eyed. “Dad won’t be here to walk me down the aisle,” She sniffed. “And with Mom not talking to me, all I have is dear Greta.”
“I’m sure he’ll be watching over you,” Nicole said, patting Chloe on the back.
“I’m sure Daddy would have loved Richard,” Chloe said, looking down at the dress her father would never see. “I mean, you have to agree with me that Richard’s a good catch with his flawless fair skin, short dark hair, broad shoulders, and lean hips.” She turned her back to the mirror examining her dress. “Not to mention how hard he works.”
“But he’s busy all the time,” Nicole reminded her.
“I know, I know, but he’s so smart and decent with good family values. He and Dad would have gotten along great, don’t you think?” Chloe said as she hurried into the fitting room to change back into her work clothes. “Of course I don’t know what Mom will have to say about him.”
“I guess you know the answer to that one, don’t you?” Nicole grinned as Chloe exited the fitting room. “Suzanne will scrutinize every flaw she sees.”
“You’re right. Are you free this weekend?” Chloe asked, as she hung her dress on the reserve rack. “I want to start looking at flowers, invitations, and cakes. What do you think my theme should be?”
“Let’s talk about it this Saturday. I have to go now.” Nicole shrugged into her coat. “A makeup artist’s work is never done.” Nicole, known for her beauty tricks, appeared flawless, unlike Chloe who struggled to keep her makeup looking perfect. “It’s like painting a house,” Nicole had once told Chloe. “Simple maintenance.”
“All right, ciao,” Chloe said, and watched as her friend hurried out of the shop toward Hairworks Salon, just down the street.
Moments later, a customer entered the store and picked up the first dress that she saw. “Do you have this in a size eight?”
“Size eight?” Chloe said, inspecting the customer who was a size fourteen by Chloe’s estimation. “Let me check in the back.” Chloe examined the tag.
She left and came back with a size eight. “It’s your lucky day,” she said, eying the woman, then the dress.
“It’s not for me; it’s for my daughter. She’s getting married to husband number five.”
“Oh,” Chloe said. “Shouldn’t she be the one choosing her dress?”
The woman shook her head. “If it were up to her she wouldn’t even bother with a wedding dress.”
“Right,” Chloe replied. “Daughters can be temperamental,” Chloe said to appease the woman.
It had been more than two years since she and her mom had spoken to each other. What started as a small argument led to a shouting match after Chloe had blurted out that she was angry with Suzanne for spending time away when Chloe’s father was dying of lung cancer. It was Chloe who took care of her father. Her mom was so upset by her outburst that she never gave Chloe a chance to defend herself. The last thing she knew, her mother had walked out on her . . . a few months after her father died. Chloe had made a few half-hearted attempts to call Suzanne, but her mother had never responded. Who knows? Maybe it was better this way.
“Yeah, tell me about it.” The woman leaned in, her eyes on the one and a half carat diamond. “A pretty nice ring you have there.”
“My boyfriend proposed this morning,” Chloe said the thought now bittersweet knowing her mother might not attend the wedding. And her dad couldn’t attend. Her eyes misted over as she recalled his final days. Though she hated to admit it, he would have preferred she marry Josh, she felt certain. A flash of Josh’s smile entered her thoughts again.
“Are you sure he’s the one?” The customer grinned.
Chloe’s smile fell a
The woman handed her a credit card. “I better get going or else my daughter’s going to be looking for me.” Then she bent forward and whispered, “Just a piece of advice – make sure he’s Mr. Right.”
Chloe bristled. What was that supposed to mean? “Okay, do you want your receipt in the bag?” Chloe asked, wrapping the gown in linen paper.
“You can toss it inside.”
“Have a nice day,” Chloe said, handing her the bag.
The customer shrugged, grabbed the bag, and then walked to the door without a backward glance.
It was a cool January afternoon and the shop was now empty. Chloe had been overwhelmed by the morning rush without Faye and Maureen. Normally, they would display the gowns and arrange the new stock. For Chloe, selling gowns was more than providing the right dress and accessories to her customers. Most of them needed reassurance that their wedding was going to be perfect, and that’s what she gave them. She sighed, wishing she had been given the same reassurance.
Chloe looked at the other shops on Main Street through the window. She loved living in Half Moon Bay, just minutes away from the beach. She didn’t mind that it was cold and foggy most of the time. Half Moon Bay was where she had grown up and she had a lot of fond memories there.
Time to close up.
She balanced the bills, put the money in the safe, and then got her jacket and purse. After closing the shop, Chloe went to get gas before going home. On the way she passed Surfing Buddies to be sure she hadn’t imagined it. Josh was back in Half Moon Bay, but why? That was the question.
Richard came over that evening and they snuggled on the couch while she watched her favorite Lifetime Channel, and he made several phone calls, never once removing his blue tooth earpiece.
“Are you ever going to get off the phone?” This was supposed to be their time together. Yet it gave her time to think about Josh and why he had come back. She had been crazy about Josh. Everyone had teased her that they would end up married one day. And now?