Tied (Page 51)

As he walks out, Poppy comes running in and sits at my feet, wagging his tail expectantly.

“All right, all right,” I mutter.

I spend the next week putting a plan together with Tanner’s help. By some miracle, the first part falls into place with incredible ease, as if it was meant to be. Now, I just need the second part. I text Lukas, my tattoo artist, who’s the king of all things artistic:

Ty: Hey you up for a custom illustration?

Lukas: Hey man 🙂 A tat, or…?

Ty: An illustration on paper. A few of them.

Lukas: Sure. Whatever you need, stop by tomorrow night. Late like you usually do.

Ty: I’ll need it fast. Within a week if possible. I’ll pay ya extra.

Lukas: I can do that. Is this for the girl you told me about at your last session?

Ty: Yeah

Lukas: No charge then. But bring her with you for your next ink. I’d like to meet her.

Ty: You got it. Thanks, bro.

32

Holly

My apartment looks incredibly lonely with my and Feather’s things all packed up and piled in the living room. Tomorrow she’s moving in with Steve—she’s packed twelve boxes of stuff—and I’m waiting for Zac to pick me up in his rented truck and take me to New York to begin the next phase of my life.

I have three boxes and two bags of clothes on hangers. As I examine our piles of belongings, it feels very depressing that my entire life, everything I own, fits into just three cardboard boxes.

I’m excited and nervous about the move. Anna has raved endlessly about New York, sending me links and pictures to all the things we can do and see, like museums and aquariums and art shows. New York looks fascinating, busy, and noisy—easy to get lost in. I guess, in some ways, I want to be lost just as much as I don’t want to be. I want to blend, to not stick out. To not be noticed.

People don’t understand when they ask me what I want in life and I answer that I just want to feel safe, warm, and loved. And to see the sky every day. I don’t want money. I don’t want things. I don’t want fancy clothes or cars.

I want my prince, with his beautiful blue eyes and his crooked smile and his messy hair and his scarred-up, inked arms and his crazy grinning fox and my fuzzy white dog and long walks in the forest and Christmas trees and kisses that take my breath away.

Most of all, I want him to ask me to stay, to live in the woods with him in a storybook house surrounded by pretty flowers and wildlife. I want to watch him work and see his smile every day and drink bubble tea. I want to lay in the grass with him and hear his beautiful raspy voice tell me what all his tattoo’s mean. But no matter how hard I hoped, he didn’t ask me to stay.

A knock on the door startles me, and I figure it’s probably one of the other residents coming to say goodbye, or maybe Dr. Reynolds. I cross the room and open the door, but no one is there—but there’s a large rectangular box on the ground. I look toward the other apartments and across the parking lot, but I don’t see anyone. I pick up the box, close the door behind me, and carry it over to the kitchen counter. I don’t have a knife, so I have to rip it open with my fingers. Inside is another white satin box with dried flowers with smiling faces sprinkled on top of it. Cocking my head with curiosity, and with a fast-beating heart, I open the lid, push aside purple tissue paper, and find a brand new leather-bound fairy-tale book with a beautiful illustration on the cover of a two-story cottage, dotted with velvety moss and flowery vines, surrounded by a thick forest, flowers, and hovering hummingbirds. In the distance is a small white bridge over a river.

It’s titled The Story of Us in gold flourishing script and has gold metal embellishments on the corners.

It’s breathtaking.

I turn the page, and there are no words, just a colored illustration of a blond girl walking through the trees with a little white dog at her feet.

Tears spring to my eyes, and my hand covers my mouth as I look over to the next page, which has a man with long blond hair, also walking alone in the woods, with a red fox running in the distance.

Oh, my. It’s us.

I turn the page, and now the couple is walking together, holding hands, and on the next page, they are sitting on a blanket, having a picnic. I turn to the next page, and it’s a winter scene, with snow falling over a decorated Christmas tree in the woods and a white dog and red fox playing with a red bow. Swallowing over the lump forming in my throat, I turn to the next page. Here, the couple is lying in the grass, with puffy white clouds in the sky. On the adjacent page, the girl is sitting in a field of smiling flowers, and the man is watching her from the side. I turn to the last page, and the man is on one knee, proposing, and the girl is smiling down at him.

And on the very last page, they are on a motorcycle, and she’s wearing a white wedding gown, the veil trailing behind them in the wind as they head down a winding road toward the little cottage pictured on the front cover. The white dog and fox are waiting for them on the porch. Five words are typed above them in the clouds, in ornate script: believe in your fairy tale.

Tears fall down my cheeks as I hold the fairy-tale book made of us. My heart hurts as I turn the last page over and find a handwritten note:

Holly,

I’m not a prince. I don’t have a white horse.

But I have a bike. And a ring. And a new house in the woods,

in a town where nobody knows us.

I’ll start to go out. With you. I promise.

I have Poppy and Boomer.

I’m a good weird.

I have all the love in the world for you.

We can fill in the words together.

Meet me outside, and I’ll take you to our happily ever after.

Love always,

Ty

I can’t move. I have to force myself to breathe.

Is this real?

I blink several times, but the book is still in my hands. I close my eyes and count to ten, then open them. It’s still here. I read the note again. The words are the same.

Holding the book against my chest, I slowly walk to my front door and swing it open. And there he is…leaning against the seat of his motorcycle, smoking a cigarette. He smiles when he sees me, a real smile, the one I live to see every day, and he slowly swaggers over to me.

My heart gallops in my chest like a wild pony at the sight of him. My prince.

“Tyler, I—” He grabs my face and kisses me, long and slow, dizzying me, making me forget my own name and everything I wanted to say. I wrap my free arm around his neck and hold onto him tight. I don’t know much about life and love, and how it’s all supposed to work, and I still have so much to learn and experience. But I do know that I want to do it all with this man.

When we finally part, he takes a deep breath, reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a tiny box. “I love you,” he says with throaty emotion. “I don’t want you to go. Ever. I thought letting you go was the right thing to do…but I can’t. And I really don’t think you want to go. We’ll go slow. Or fast. Whatever you want. I found us a perfect house. Away from the assholes of this town. I even had a skylight put in the bedroom.”

I smile and burst into happy tears. I’ve never heard him talk so fast and excited. “Ty…I love you so much…”

He flips open the box and pulls out a small ring. “Poppy wants to know if you’ll marry me…when you’re ready?” Taking my hand in his, his eyes meet mine as he waits for my answer.

“Yes,” I whisper, smiling ear to ear. “That’s all I want.”

He gently slides the ring onto my finger and lifts my hand to his lips. “Now you’re my princess.” His crystal blue eyes sparkle with promise. “I’m here forever. No matter what life throws at us. We’ll never be lost or alone again.”

My heart feels like it’s going to burst when I see the beautiful little birds’ nest on my hand. Before I can ask, he answers me. “I made it from my coins. There wasn’t enough to buy one. I fucked up the tradition.”

I laugh and circle my arms around his waist, resting my head against his chest, right over his heart. “You didn’t fuck up anything. It’s perfect and I love it. I’m never going to take it off.”

He strokes my head and hugs me with his other arm. “I texted Zac. He’s not coming. He was pretty sure you would say yes.”

“Weren’t you sure?”

“I was hoping.”

“So was I…you have no idea.” I hug him tighter.

Touching my chin, he coaxes me to look up at him. “I have a really good idea what hoping feels like.” He bends down to kiss the tip of my nose. “I can’t wait to show you our new house. Poppy, Boomer, and my bed are already there. We’ll do the rest together. I’ve been texting with Feather. There’s a guest room with her name on it.” He takes a deep breath and takes my hands in his. “I have to stop hiding. I need to fix things with my family. I hope you’re okay with this…but Feather set up a housewarming party. Next week. Zac and Anna are coming, and your grandma. And Feather and Steve. And my family. Your parents haven’t answered yet…but hopefully…”

I nod, letting my excitement over bringing our families into our life push the disappointment about my parents to the side. “Oh wow…I would really love that. I think they will, too.”