Tied (Page 50)
And soon I’m going to have a niece. A tiny little person who will only know me as Aunt Holly. I can watch her grow up, experience new things with her, and celebrate all the milestones that I missed in my own life and in my siblings’ lives. She’ll never have to know that once I was stolen. She’ll never look at me with odd, fearful fascination like Lizzie does, still wondering how her dead sister is walking around. I blame my parents for that, and I’ve slowly accepted the growing distance between us. As Ty said, maybe in time that will get better but, for now, I have to make me better.
But going to New York means leaving Tyler. Not breaking up, but leaving our routine, and trying to build a new one. He says he’ll visit, but I know he won’t. He’s not ready to take that step yet. It’s that time thing again—he needs it to gain his confidence back. I’m not sure how happy we’ll be only seeing each other once or twice a month after we’ve been spending almost every day together. We both love our walks, our snuggles on his couch, our hanging out in his workshop, our long talks on his garden bench while Poppy and Boomer play around us. I’m afraid I’ll miss him so much I might be miserable living so far away. Zac suggested that Tyler move to New York too so we can both have a new start, together. But Tyler loves the woods too much. He would go insane in the city, with no forest to walk in and no mountains to explore on his motorcycle. He would be like a caged animal. He can’t live in a place where he will be so totally out of his comfort zone, and I would never want him to. And he could never bring a fox to live in the city. Rehoming Boomer is not an option.
I cross my bedroom and pick up the letter that came last week. I hold it and read it again, for the tenth time perhaps. I almost threw the envelope out when it came, thinking it was some sort of junk mail, but at the last minute I tore it open. My mouth dropped open when I realized it was from a publisher who wants me to write my story so they can publish it. Zac, Anna, and I had a conference call with them a few days ago, and they assured me it could be written by me, with the help of an editor, and they promised not to change my story or words in any way. They even offered me an advance for a surprising amount of money. All I have to do is sign the contract.
Do I want to write my story for the world to read? I’m not sure. I’m trying to get away from everyone knowing who I am and what happened to me. Publishing a book about it puts me right back in that place I don’t want to be in. And if I’m in a relationship with Ty, it puts him in that place with me, because I can’t write my story without including him. What I really want to write is children’s fairy tales, like the ones that filled my days with hopes and dreams. That’s what the world needs to read, not stories about little girls getting kidnapped. Anna suggested I approach the publisher with that idea, and I just might, once I get my thoughts together about it.
Another choice to make, on top of all the others.
I pull one of my old books out of my backpack and thumb through the worn, dirty, faded pages. In these stories, there aren’t any hard choices. Everything somehow magically works out. I turn to the last page, where the couple is walking happily in the distance together, and I touch them with my finger. Maybe the happily ever after just doesn’t happen, after all.
I inhale more smoke and turn the small ring over in my fingers. She’ll never see it or wear it. But I feel a strange sense of comfort knowing it exists. It took me weeks to make, melting down the coins from my jar and fabricating a band of thin, intertwining branches. The tiny carved copper birds’ nest, filled with three miniature blue gem eggs, took the longest. A tiny piece of forest that would have sat on her finger. A weirdly good engagement ring that will stay in my drawer for the rest of my life.
What am I doing?
She’s home packing right now, getting ready to move to a big city and start an actual new life. She has so many possibilities: she could be a model, write a book, go to college, make new friends. The sky she loves so much is truly the limit. I urged her to go and promised her everything would be okay, that nothing will change. Every word a sword through my heart and an utter lie.
I don’t want her to go. She’s my heart, my love, my best friend, my sensual angel with broken wings. We’ve only just started our journey, and I know we could go so far, all the way to forever…
But if I love her, I’m supposed to set her free. Isn’t that what we’re told? She’s choosing to go, and I can’t stand in her way. What can I possibly offer her? A life of hiding?
This, I tell myself, is the way it’s supposed to be. Because I’m a mess and she’s a mess, and together we’ll probably be an even bigger fucking mess because my life has been, and probably always will be, one disaster after another and I refuse to do that to her, or to us.
I know my role in this story: I’m supposed to let her go. She’s supposed to be the one that got away, the one I’ll dream about, fantasize about, and wonder about for the rest of my life. I’ve known that all along. I may be the hero, but I’m not the happily ever after.
I can’t let her be like the fox, afraid to go out and live, trapped with me in a little place of nothingness in the woods where time barely moves. She deserves so much more. She deserves to see the world that was taken from her and experience all the wonderful and beautiful things that life has to offer her. Being with me will only hold her back.
I’m going to let her go and watch her fly. I’ll watch her from afar. I’ll catch her if she falls. Every time. Any time. But I’ll step back into the shadows and let her be free to have endless choices without me and my issues holding her back.
And me? I’ll be happy knowing she’s happy. I’ll hang on to every moment, every memory, every touch, every kiss. I’ll remember how it felt to be so unconditionally wanted, loved, and accepted.
“What’s got you looking more fucked up than usual?” Tanner asks, punching my arm as he walks past me at my workbench and sits on the stool on the other side.
“Nothin’. Just working.”
He cocks his head at me. “Don’t bullshit me, Ty. You’ve been moping for days.”
“Shouldn’t you be at the shop? Or at your own house?”
“I took a few days off.” He pulls a knife from his ankle sheath and starts to clean his nails with the tip. “Darcy won’t answer my calls or texts. She doesn’t want me in the house.”
Frowning, I glance up from the belt buckle I’m polishing, and he’s got a dead serious look on his face. Tanner has been with his wife forever, and I’ve never seen them fight, or even raise their voices at each other. I guess while I’ve been hiding, a lot has changed.
“What happened?” I ask.
“I fucked up. Bad. And I have no fucking idea how I’m going to fix it.”
“I’m sure you’ll work it out. She loves you.”
He scrapes the knife along his nail. “I don’t deserve her love right now.” He blows out a deep breath. “I don’t want to talk about it. You havin’ a problem with that little cutie with the blanket? She’s a fuckin’ doll, Ty.”
I shoot him a warning glare and he grins back at me. “I know who she is, Ty. I wasn’t born yesterday. I think its cool. It’s about time you found someone to be happy with. Maybe now you’ll get your head out of your ass.”
“It ain’t gonna last. She’s moving.”
“Moving? To where?”
“To New York with her brother and his girl.”
“Why the hell would she want to live in New York?”
“To get away from everyone in this town who knows what happened to her. She goes through the same shit I do. Assholes staring and asking questions. She wants to go somewhere where nobody recognizes her. And her parents treat her like crap.”
“That’s a lame reason to move, isn’t it?”
“You don’t know what it’s like, Tanner. It sucks.”
“How do you feel about her moving?”
“How do you think I feel? I love her. I don’t want her to move. But I’m not gonna ask her to stay here just for me.”
He flips his knife up into the air and catches the handle. Someday I know he’s going to slice his fingers off doing that. “Did you tell her you don’t want her to go?”
“Why the hell not? You’re gonna let some beautiful chick that believes in magic blankets just walk out of your life?”
I shake my head at him, growing annoyed with this conversation. “Because I want her to be free to make her own choices. Because for ten fucking years she had no choices at all. That’s why. It’s the right thing to do.”
“Has it occurred to your dumb ass that maybe her choice is you and she just wants you to man up and tell her what you want? Maybe she needs to hear it.”
“Fuck you, Tanner.”
“I’m serious. Trust me on this; women want to hear what you want. I learned that the hard way. She doesn’t have to move all the way to New fucking York to get away from this town, Ty. As Pop used to say, use your fucking head. And for the love of fuck, tell her how you feel.” He shoves his knife back into its sheath and stands up. “I’m gonna go crash on your couch. Don’t fuck this up, Ty. You finally have a chance to be happy.”