Before jamaica lane, p.35
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.35

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
 
Page 35

  ‘I love you, Nate. Do you love me?’

  I knew it was over when tears glimmered in his eyes. ‘I never meant to hurt you, babe. ’ His voice was thick with emotion.

  My own tears spilled quicker. ‘I guess that was good-bye. ’

  21

  I found myself in a staring match with the bird outside my window again. I didn’t know what it was, but it was tiny. Some kind of tit probably. He or she had brown feathers, a white neck, and this really cool jet-black Mohawk. We’d been staring at each other on and off for the last few days.

  I’d decided it was a ‘he’ and named him Bob.

  ‘Hey, Bob,’ I whispered, my chin resting on the back of my couch. He was sitting on my window ledge, his neck moving in tight little jerks from me to the world outside. ‘It still hurts today. ’

  He stilled, cocking his head at me.

  ‘Yeah. Are you sick of me yet?’

  His head cocked to the other side.

  ‘I’ll take that as a yes. Don’t worry. ’ I heaved a sigh, feeling my lips tremble. ‘I’m sick of me too. ’

  That awful night Nate had walked out of my apartment for the last time, I’d been somewhat hysterical. I couldn’t stop crying, and no matter how hard I attempted to squeeze my arms around myself I couldn’t numb the pain.

  It was a singular kind of pain. A pain I already knew well.

  Loss.

  Somehow, somewhere, maybe even long before we started a physical relationship, Nate had crept inside me until he flowed in my blood and rested in my breath. He’d become integral to a life that I looked forward to living each day, and the knowledge that I would no longer hear him laugh, or feel his lips on mine, or feel complete when I looked in his eyes, was insufferable to my body. It reacted as if someone had ripped off a limb or removed a vital organ. I’d felt something similar upon losing Mom, but with Nate it was different in that he chose to leave me. That added a different hurt to the pain – a sting, like a paper cut across the heart.

  ‘Does it sound melodramatic to you, Bob?’ I whispered, dry-eyed from having cried an ocean’s worth of tears in the last few days.

  Bob looked away as if he was bored.

  ‘Yeah, that’s because you’ve never been in love. Don’t do it. You might as well put yourself through a meat grinder. ’

  The crying jag that first night was so bad I had to call in sick to work the next day. I managed to pull myself together enough to go in on Thursday, but my colleagues knew right away that something was majorly up. I was quiet – not sullen, but just trying to keep the pain in lockdown. As soon as I got out of there I headed straight home, ignoring texts from Jo and a call from Joss. When Dad called, I answered. I didn’t convince him I was okay, but I convinced him to let me have space. Friday was much the same. Saturday I stayed home all day, only taking time to answer Ellie’s text about going to the bar that night. I was in no state of mind to go anyway, but the knowledge that Ben might be there put me in full panic mode. I told her I was sick and couldn’t make it.

  Jo called. I ignored her. Finally she sent me a text.

  If you don’t answer i’m

  coming around. Cam spoke

  to nate. Cam thinks you

  guys had a fight. Are you

  okay? Xoxo

  I sucked in a teary breath and texted her back.

  I’ll explain later. I’m not

  feeling well. I’m in bed.

  Xoxo

  Okay. Let me know if you

  need anything. xoxo

  I didn’t do that.

  Instead I wallowed on my couch for the rest of the night and well into Sunday morning.

  When Dad called again to ask me if I was attending Sunday lunch with the Nicholses, I made my excuses. He started to get a little more concerned.

  I wouldn’t know how concerned until my attention was ripped from Bob the bird at the sound of a key turning in my lock.

  My heart jumped in my throat. For one second the fleeting hope that it was Nate absolutely paralyzed me.

  The sight of Jo’s worried face was like a big-ass rusty nail popping my balloon.

  ‘What –’ I cut off as Jo walked in, followed by Ellie and Joss.

  Jo waved a key in her hand. ‘Uncle Mick called and told me he was worried about you. He gave me his spare key. ’

  ‘Aren’t you supposed to be at lunch?’ I pulled my nightie over my knees while smoothing my other hand through my ratted hair. I was a mess. My apartment was a mess. There were empty food packets all over the kitchen counter, dirty plates on my coffee table, crumbs on my hardwood floors, and a musty smell that could only be the result of a human inhabiting one space for too long.

  Shrugging out of their jackets, the three of them stared around at my place and then at me, little matching furrows appearing between their brows.

  ‘Okay, first things first. ’ Jo quickly began tidying up my mess while I watched, blinking stupidly as Ellie helped and Joss wandered into my kitchen to switch on the kettle.

  Five minutes later the place looked marginally better, although it still needed cleaning. Jo sat down on the couch next to me as Ellie kicked off her shoes and curled up beside her. Joss put a tray of tea, coffee, and biscuits on the table and settled into my armchair.

  They all stared at me, waiting.

  I immediately burst into tears.

  So maybe I wasn’t completely dried out.

  Tears shimmered in Jo’s eyes and she gently pushed my legs aside so she could pull me into her arms for a hug. ‘I totally smell,’ I sobbed. ‘I’m so sorry!’

  ‘Ssh. ’ She shushed me and rubbed my back soothingly.

  After a while my tears subsided to sniffles and Jo eased me back, tenderly tucking strands of my unwashed hair behind my ears.

  ‘Do you want to tell us what’s going on?’

  I lowered my gaze. ‘I think you know. ’

  She sighed. ‘Nate. ’

  I looked up at her, my gaze flickering to a concerned Ellie and Joss. ‘It started as a favor …’

  Tuckered out from telling them the whole story, I slumped back on the couch and stared at the ceiling. ‘I feel like if I move, all my insides are going to fall out. I hate it. I hate him for making me feel this way. ’

  ‘Liv’ – Joss leaned forward, elbows on her knees – ‘I want to be able to tell you that he’ll come around, because it sounds like he’s going through what I went through. But I can’t tell you that. I don’t know how he feels about you or what it was like between you. I do know that if I didn’t love Braden so goddamn much I wouldn’t have come around. I just wouldn’t have. So without the one hundred percent certainty that Nate is as crazy about you as I am about Braden, my advice is to move on. I know you probably want to punch me for saying it, but I can’t help but feel it’s the best advice. ’

  Ellie’s eyes filled with sincerity and sympathy. ‘I agree, sweetie. I think as much as it hurts, you’re going to have to start moving on. ’

  I looked at Jo, but she wasn’t looking at me. She was sipping her tea quietly.

  Too quietly.

  ‘Jo? What do you think?’

  ‘The girls have a point,’ she replied.

  ‘Jo?’

  Sighing heavily, Jo met my eyes. ‘Cam and I have been suspicious of the two of you for weeks. I saw how you are together. It was … it’s special. ’ She gave me an almost apologetic smile. ‘I’d like to believe that there’s a chance for the two of you. I don’t know … maybe you should just give him time to miss you. ’

  Ellie smirked at Joss. ‘Didn’t Braden have a similar plan?’

  Joss rolled her eyes. ‘Yes. ’

  ‘And did it work?’ Jo asked.

  ‘Well … yeah … but –’

  ‘But Joss is right,’ I whispered. ‘Nate might miss me at first but not for long. He cared about me. He didn’t love me. He told me he didn’t love me.


  ‘So …’ Jo’s eyes dimmed with disappointment.

  I shrugged, the tears threatening to fall again. ‘I guess I better buy a giant-ass bandage to wrap up my insides … I’ve got to find a way to move on. ’

  Musical therapy. My first attempt at moving on.

  Creating a playlist on my iPod Nano, I decided that the independent musical roars of Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Aretha Franklin, and other ladies who refused to be broken by an ill-fated love affair might just be the best way forward.

  At work that Monday I went all out with my hair and makeup, wearing my favorite skinny jeans and purple silk blouse. It was part of the therapy. If I wanted to feel good on the inside, I had to start with the outside.

  Since I was splitting my morning between the office and reshelving the reserve section, I approached Angus to ask a favor.

  He looked down at my iPod with a frown. ‘You want to what?’

  ‘It’s just in the morning. When I’m working front of house in the afternoon I’ll of course take the earbuds out. ’

  Angus searched my face before taking the iPod none too gently out of my hands. ‘What are you listening to?’ His thumb moved over the screen quickly and as he scrolled through my playlist his features softened with understanding. When he looked up at me his blue eyes were concerned. He handed the iPod back to me. ‘Okay. Just for this morning. ’

  ‘Thank you. I appreciate it. ’

  I turned and started to put the buds in my ears when Angus said my name. I looked back at him as he asked, ‘Was it anyone I know?’

  My heart turned over in my chest. ‘It was Nate. ’

  And since Angus knew how close I was to Nate, I wasn’t surprised when he blanched and whispered, ‘I’m sorry, honey. ’

  I smiled sadly back at him. ‘You’re a great boss. You know that, right?’

  ‘Best ever,’ he agreed softly.

  A while later, with Pink singing ‘So What’ in my ears, I was tucked in the back of the reserve section shelving new articles and taking out ones that were no longer being used. While I concentrated on doing my job and letting the female vocalists’ words of wisdom seep into me, I tried my hardest not to sing out loud.

  That’s probably why I didn’t catch his approach out of my peripheral and why when I felt a hand clamp down on my shoulder I got such a fright that my knees gave out. I caught the end of my shriek as I yanked my earbuds out in midfall.

  Ass on the floor, I gazed up at my frightener.

  Ben stood over me, struggling not to laugh. ‘Olivia’ – he reached out a hand, his shoulders shaking with mirth – ‘I’m so sorry. Let me help you. ’

  So far beyond the point of being mortified at this kind of thing now, I let him pull me to my feet. ‘It’s okay. ’ I beat at the dust on my jeans. ‘We’re not usually allowed to listen to music and now I know why. ’

  He grinned. ‘I am sorry. ’

  I gave him a tired smile. ‘No, you’re not, but I wouldn’t be either. It was funny. ’

  Still smiling, beautiful green eyes twinkling, Ben shifted the strap of his backpack as he stared at me. Not too long ago, being the focus of his attention would have put butterflies in my belly, so it was to my chagrin that I discovered … nothing. I felt absolutely nothing when I stared at him.

  My shoulders slumped.

  ‘I went to that bar on Saturday, but I didn’t see you or your friend there. ’

  ‘I’m sorry. I was sick. ’

  ‘Oh. ’ His brows drew together. ‘I hope you’re feeling better. ’

  He was so nice. So, so nice. And so cute.

  ‘I am, thank you. ’

  He glanced nervously over his shoulder, and then turned back, taking a step closer to me. ‘Look, I would really like to have dinner sometime. With you. ’ He smiled, all rugged and handsome. ‘Can I have your number?’

  It was impossible. I’d broken up with Nate only a week ago … if you could call it breaking up. My heart was in tatters. Clearly all my sexual feelings had fled when Nate had. And … you know … I’d only just begun musical therapy. I needed to give it some time to kick in and start working.

 
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