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|Before Jamaica Lane(On Dublin Street #3)(26) by Samantha Young|
‘Fucking ruined too,’ I whimpered, my eyes filling with more tears.
I whirled around to face Nate, and whatever he saw in my eyes made him stop in his tracks.
‘Liv, are you okay?’ he asked gently, taking a slow step toward me.
‘I ruined it!’ I yelled, flinging an arm out toward the turkey. ‘It’s f**ked! What’s the point in me baking the f**king pie if the bird is f**ked? I wasted my time chopping onions for the mash but there’s no point because the roasted potatoes are burnt. You can’t have Thanksgiving with just one kind of potato, Nate.’
‘Babe, come here.’ He approached me as though I was a wounded animal. I was so confused by his behavior that I let him curl a strong hand around my arm and pull me toward the sitting room. Realization that he was taking me out of the kitchen sank in and a misdirected rage tore out of me.
‘No!’ I screamed, trying to pull away from him.
‘Jesus, Liv, calm down,’ he ordered through gritted teeth, grabbing hold of my other arm for better purchase. ‘Calm down and tell me what’s going on.’
‘Don’t!’ I tugged my arms, and when that didn’t work, I tried to force him away from me, tried to knock him off balance. ‘Get off! I have to fix it! I have to fix it!’
‘Liv,’ he whispered, fear in his voice now. He shook me hard, so hard I stopped, wide-eyed, as his hands gentled and cupped my face. I stared into his dark eyes and what I saw in them frightened me.
I was acting like a crazy person.
My face crumpled as the familiar agony ripped through my chest. My body shuddered, hard, while I sobbed. ‘She’s not here to fix it.’ I fell against him, trying to catch my breath.
His arms slid around me as I cried and in that moment I felt like his arms were the only thing keeping my insides from falling out.
‘She struggled,’ I whispered, taking a deep breath, trying to find calm through the tears, ‘but she fought through it. Every Thanksgiving.’ I relaxed at his murmuring words of comfort, my head moving with the rise and fall of his smooth breathing. I let the rhythm take hold of me, and slowly my own breathing returned to normal.
When I finally became aware of my surroundings again, I discovered I was lying on the couch with Nate. He’d settled down on it and taken me with him so I was tucked into his side, my head still resting on his chest and my right hand clutched in his left.
‘I’m sorry,’ I croaked out, my eyes swollen, my cheeks burning with embarrassment at my meltdown. Truth be told, I’d been going into a meltdown for the last few weeks as Thanksgiving approached. Much of the tension I was carrying had been coiled up tight as I tried to keep my meltdown from my father.
‘Don’t be.’ Nate reassured me. ‘Why today, Liv?’
‘It’s Thanksgiving back home,’ I told him in a hushed voice, afraid somehow that if I spoke any louder I’d become hysterical again. ‘No matter how sick Mom was, she always fought through it for Thanksgiving, trying to make everything normal when it wasn’t.’ My mouth trembled as fresh tears spilled down my cheeks. ‘She was my best friend. My soul mate.’
‘Babe.’ I heard the pained empathy in his voice and took comfort from it.
‘She died five years ago today, on Thanksgiving. It’s the first year since her death that I haven’t visited her grave.’ I cried harder. ‘I don’t want her to think I’ve forgotten her.’
He held me tighter as I continued to cry, soaking the already wet fabric of his shirt.
‘Liv …’ Nate squeezed his arm around me. ‘Babe, she wouldn’t think that for a second.’
‘I was with her through it all, Nate.’ I wiped a hand across my snotty nose. ‘I missed out on being a kid, I left school, I did it all to help her fight. And we didn’t win. Her life … gone. My teen years … gone. It should have meant something. It should mean something.’
‘It does mean something. She taught you to fight no matter how hopeless things look. That’s a lesson not many people can impart to their kids, but she did. She taught you to be brave, Liv, and she taught you life is fragile. People say that all the time, but they never really understand until one minute they’re laughing with someone they love and the next they’re crying over their grave. I get it. I get it because Alana taught me about it. I think about her every day, and she knows that I think about her every day. I don’t have to visit her grave for her to know that.’
Confused and concerned, my heart pounding harder than before, I wiped at my cheeks as I lifted my head from Nate’s chest to look into his eyes. ‘Alana?’
Grief I’d never seen in his eyes before, telling of a loss so deep I felt it seep from him to me, darkened them to pure black. How he’d managed to hide it all these months I would never know. ‘Did Cam tell you we’re from Longniddry?’
‘It’s just a wee place outside of Edinburgh. A pretty place on the coast. Cam, Peetie, Alana, and I grew up together. We were all best friends until we turned thirteen and a kid I didn’t like asked Alana out. I got really mad at her and we got into a fight.’ He smiled softly, remembering. ‘I hated fighting with her. She was the gentlest girl. If you fought with her, she’d cry, and that just made you feel like shit. So we fought and she cried and I kissed her to say I was sorry.’ He shrugged, then laughed hollowly. ‘That was it. We were together. Childhood sweethearts.’
I swallowed past the massive lump in my throat, the pain inside me expanding for Nate. ‘You loved her.’
Tears shimmered in his eyes, making the breath catch in my throat. ‘Aye. She was my best friend.’
He was silent a moment and then his eyes caught mine, and our connection only intensified as he replied, ‘Cancer. Lymphoma. She was just about to turn seventeen.’ He glanced away and his arm tightened around me again. ‘I stayed with her through every stage. Every dashed hope, every failed treatment. And I really believed that we’d beat it. That if I just kept breathing for her she’d make it.’ I heard the catch in his throat and tensed against him. ‘She was special, Liv. Pure. In the end the only thing that got me through was the belief that she was just too good for this place. When she died two days after her eighteenth birthday that was all that got me through. She was just too good for this place.’