Authors: Lauren Pacaccio
My thoughts were interrupted when Braden started talking again. "Make sure you tell them that I am so sorry for missing the next couple of nights and to save any left overs that are made." He chuckled.
I smiled, "I will, I will."
We talked a bit more, but then he had to go to start on some work at home for the next day.
"Um," I said, right before we hung up, "I need to tell you something."
"Yes?" he said, already a little distracted, probably looking at whatever he was about to start working on.
I decided that the conversation wouldn't end if I was to tell him about Hunter and I knew that he would want to talk about it. And I knew he had a lot to work to do if he planned on getting there in a couple of days. I sighed, "I love you."
"And you know I love you, Paisley. Good night, sweetheart. Sweet dreams." And then he hung up. He must have had a lot of work to do.
"Well, that sounded like a sweet conversation," I jumped. I hadn't realized that anyone was listening. Especially not the person who scared me.
"What are you doing in here?" I asked.
Hunter wandered into my old room and sat on the bed. This was oddly familiar and I didn't like it. He was making me remember the first time he came up here. The awkward tension was here just like that first time. Except, he sat proudly on the bed instead perching awkwardly like the first time.
"Well, I've been helping your dad with his car while I'm in town and he gave me a place to stay for the time that I'm here."
"Why aren't you staying with your parents?" I asked, getting up to grab a sweatshirt. I was in a tank top and shorts, my normal sleep wear. But, I was feeling very naked in front of him.
Hunter rolled his eyes. "That shows how long it's been since we've actually spoken to each other." He looked at me, sadly. I rolled my eyes.
"That was the only way I could get on with my life. How could I get over you if we talked to each other every day? But, anyways, that doesn't answer my question. Why are you staying here of all places?"
He put on his cocky grin. I could see some of his perfectly crooked teeth when he said, "Well, first of all, I want you to know that I had no idea you would be here. Second of all, my parents moved out of the house like a month into college. I was their only kid, so once I was out of the nest or whatever, they decided to get a place just for them. They're in Florida now. In a condo or something. So, I had nowhere else to go. No place I could afford anyways. Traveling around the world sort of drains the bank account."
I gave him a look that pretty much said, "You? World traveler? Yeah, okayyyy."
"No, seriously," he said, holding up his hands defensively, "I know I told you about my dreams of seeing everything. And, I practically have. But…"
"Drainage of bank account," I said, cutting him off, "Got it."
"Exactly. So, your dad is paying me a little for helping him with his car. And then, he said that I could stay here while I work to get some money under my belt. And while I'm here, I just have to help around with whatever I can," he smiled.
I nodded at him. I was impressed. He had always told me how he would travel the world, but I never believed him because he said he would always be with me. And, as much as I would love to travel the world someday, college had to come first. I pictured us lying on the bed together. He was lounging about and my head was on his chest. We would talk about the future and how we would always be together. I snorted.
"What's that all about?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing," I said, chuckling just a little, "I was just thinking about the past."
"Yeah," he said, scooting closer to me. I hadn't realized that he was already pretty close already until that moment, "Every since you ran into the kitchen, hands raised in the air, I've been thinking about the past a lot, too."
He put his face really close to mine. "You don't look any different to me, Pay. I don't think you've changed a bit."
I studied his face. Same tanned skin. Same bright blue eyes. Same little freckle right by his bottom lip. There were a couple more lines by his eyes, from smiling, I'm sure. His voice was a little deeper, but not much.
"You haven't changed either," I said, whispering. And just like that, the spell was gone. He rolled his eyes, ran his hands through his hair, and backed up a little.
"Yeah," he said, "you would say that."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I said, hurt by his tone.
"Oh, nothing. It's just that," he got up off the bed, "never mind."
"No, tell me, Hunter. Why would I say that? Since you obviously know me so well. I mean, we haven't talked in years, but of course, you know me all too well, right?" I was standing up then. Something inside me was pissed. I don't know what it was.
"Good Lord, woman," he said, holding up his hands once again, "Forget about it. I didn't mean anything by it."
I huffed and rolled my eyes, "Sure you didn't," I was talking quickly, "Hey, could you like…I don't know. Leave? Get out? It's been a long day of driving for me, to find one of my ex-boyfriends is staying in my house, and then, my boyfriend isn't even going to be here for another couple of days. I'm really not in the mood to start off where we were four years ago."
Hurt flashed across his face, "Boyfriend, huh?" he said, nonchalantly.
"Yes, boyfriend," I crossed my arms in front of me. I almost whipped out the ring so I could exclaim that not only was I with someone but I was engaged to someone. But, not yet. "His name is Braden."
"Braden? Really? What a gay name," he said, laughing. "Braden. Nice pick, Pay."
I got pissed again. "You don't even know him, Hunter. And quit calling me Pay. It's Paisley. And for your information, Braden is an amazing guy."
"Oh, really?" He said, starting to get an angry face, "Did this amazing guy take you out to the football field at midnight on y’all two year anniversary? Have y'all broken up and still gotten back together so many times that you can't even count? Did he tell you he loved you after standing outside of your window, tossing pebbles at it? Was he your first time? OH WAIT, he couldn't have been," he was almost screaming now, "because that was ME."
"Get out, Hunter," I said, calmly but loud, "Now."
"Fine, fine. Tell baby-Braden I said hello next time you talk to him, will you?" He waved cockily as he slipped out of the door.
Gosh, I felt like I was 18 again. Tears were falling down my face. I didn't understand why or how he got under my skin so easily after 4 years. It was like no time had passed at all.
Except it had. I had fallen in love with someone else. Hell, I was getting engaged to someone else.
I grabbed my phone. "Hello?" Braden.
"Hey," I said, sniffling, "I'm sorry. I know you're busy."
I heard shuffling of papers, "Paise? Are you alright?" He sounded so concerned.
"Um, yeah, I'm alright," I said, wiping the tears away. My voice was heavy with my tears. "I um…I just…Hunter is here."
There was a couple of seconds of silence, "Hello?" I said, thinking I had lost the call.
"Um," Braden said, sounding different, "yeah, I'm here." He took a deep breath. "What did he do?"
"He pissed me off. Apparently, he's staying here for a while until he gets back on his feet. My parents decided not to tell me for whatever reason."
"Why is he staying at your parents' house?"
"His parents moved to Florida. And as much as my parents hated me being upset by him, they always liked him as a person, so I guess he knew that they would help him out in a heartbeat."
"Okay," he said, calming down. "So, he just said something to upset you?"
"Yeah," I said, feeling stupid for calling. "I'm sorry I called. It's just that you're the only person who can calm me down when I get upset."
Braden sighed, "First of all, Paise, don't ever apologize for calling me. Second of all, from what you've told me about Hunter, he's not a good guy.
He probably knows that. And you probably looked so happy when you walked in that it cut him to the bone because he knows he's not the person making you happy. If he felt even a little of what I feel for you right now, I can completely understand how he would be feeling right now. I can't imagine ever loosing you. And he lost you. Personally, I feel bad for him."
I chuckled, "Oh, yes, because I'm God's gift and all."
"Paisley, if you even knew how amazing you were," Braden said. I could see him lounging back on his couch, closing his eyes like he always did when he talked on the phone.
"If I'm amazing, it's only because of you."
"And on that cheesy note, my dear, I think I'm going to get back to work. But only if you're sure you're alright?"
I nodded while saying, "I'm alright. You're right. He's just an asshole. Don't stay up too late. I love you. Good night."
"Good night, Paisley Almost Abernathy."
I woke up the next morning. It was the first time in a while that I had actually slept in. I loved my job, don't get me wrong, but sleep was also great.
I sat up, a little disorientated. Then, I remembered that I was back home. I also remembered why I was there. I smiled and hopped out of bed. I went to the place where I had unpacked all my jewelry and got my ring out. It was absolutely beautiful. It was silver, which matched the other jewelry I liked to wear.
It had just a simple band and a diamond that was a very decent size. I'm sure it costs him a pretty penny considering when you looked inside the band, it said, "Tiffany & Co."
I had no idea what I was going to do with myself for the few days that I was going to be without Braden. When we weren't at work back home, we were almost always together. I was either at his apartment or he was at mine.
We hung out with friends, we hung out with just each other; we did everything together.
I put my ring on for a second. It was so beautiful; I just wanted to wear it all the time. But, I couldn't…not yet. Soon, but not yet.
My phone started ringing. I ran to it. Braden.
I smiled and answered, "Well, hello. You have perfect timing." I said.
"I do, do I?" he asked in a flirtatious voice.
I laughed. "You do. I was just looking at my ring, thinking that I missed my soon-to-be husband."
"Oh, Paise, I like that. 'Husband.' I really like that. And I miss you, too. I wish I was there. What are your plans for the day?"
I thought for a second, "Well, I just woke up. So, I'm not really sure. But, I'm sure it will be a boring day, especially since you aren't here."
"Alright, well, I'm about to have to go back and brainstorm or whatever. These meetings are totally pointless."
I frowned, "I'm sorry, Bray. I wish I could be there to help you get through it. But just keep thinking: only a couple more days, and we can tell my family the great news. And then, we can tell everyone else." I heard him sigh.
"You're making me want to leave right now, babe. I'll be there, soon, though. I promise." I heard some footsteps coming from his end. "And there is the Nazi himself," Braden whispered. "Listen, Paisley, I gotta go, but I love you. Have fun and I'll call you later."
"I love you, too, Bray."
"Mr. Abernathy, I think it's about time for you come back and talk with the rest of your co-workers."
"Have fun," I said, laughing. Braden snorted and whispered his good bye and hung up.
I was still looking at my ring when there was a knock on my door.
"Paisley, honey, are you decent? It’s Daddy.”
"Um," I said, slipping the ring off my hand quickly, "Just one second, Dad!"
"Okay," he said, a little muffled on account of the closed door.