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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(49) by Samantha Young|
“But you came back,” she argued. “You were in shock, but you’ve been here every second since.”
“Braden talked me into it,” I confessed. “He had to shake some sense into me. And as he did that I realized that I can’t protect myself or the people around me from bad stuff happening. And apparently, bad stuff follows me around, so it’s probably going to happen again sometime. When it does, I can’t guarantee I won’t go off the deep end, and I just can’t do that to Braden. His life would be unstable with me and after that bitch wife of his put him through hell, he deserves someone who can give him peace.”
“Joss, you’re talking as if you’re some mental case. You’re not. You’re only problem is that you won’t face what happened to your family and start dealing with it.”
I slammed my head back against the couch. “You sound like Dr. Pritchard.”
“You’re seeing a therapist? How did I not know this?” she slapped her hand across my arm.
“Hey.” I winced, pulling away from her.
“This is what I’m talking about.” Ellie was angry; her eyes flashing just like Braden’s did when he was pissed off. “I’m your best friend and you didn’t tell me you were seeing a therapist. Does Braden know?”
“Yes,” I answered like a sullen teenager.
“Well that’s something at least.” She shook her head in disbelief. “You have got to start dealing with your family, Joss. I think if you do that, everything else will start to feel not so big and overwhelming. And you’ll realize you can take each day at a time with Braden. You don’t have to protect him from being with you. He’s a big boy, and clearly he knows a lot more about you than I do, and miracle of miracles he still wants to be with you.”
“Funny. You really do sound like Dr. Pritchard.”
“In all seriousness, Joss, I think you need to stop playing around.”
“I’m not playing.” I studied her carefully though, catching something in her face. “What? What is it? What do you know?”
She took a minute, almost as if she wasn’t sure she should say whatever it was that was on her mind. Suddenly, I got this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Adam and I went out for lunch today.”
“I know. I was in here, staring at a manuscript I haven’t touched in days.”
“Well.” Ellie couldn’t meet my eyes. “We met Braden for lunch and he brought the new manager of Fire with him.”
Her eyes flicked up to me and I tensed at the concern in them. “His new manager is Isla. Isla is a five foot ten, stunning blonde who also happens to be smart and funny.”
I think I felt my heart plummet into my stomach.
“Joss, they seemed into each other.” She shook her head. “I didn’t want to believe it, but they were flirting and Braden was… was very attentive. They seemed… close.”
Jealousy is a horrible thing. The pain of it is almost as consuming as heartbreak, and I would know because I was feeling both at the same time. I felt like someone had ripped open my chest with their bare hands, removed my heart and lungs, and replaced them with a bunch of rocks and stones. I stared at the Christmas tree, my mind whirring. This was why he hadn’t been around lately.
“Joss?” Ellie touched my arm.
I looked at her, determined I wasn’t going to cry. I gave her a sad smile. “I guess I was right all along then.”
Ellie began to shake her head.
“No this is good.” I stood up, needing to be alone. “I broke up with him because he deserves to find someone decent and normal. And now I don’t have to feel guilty about it because I was right all along. He doesn’t love me. You’re not into someone else after just breaking up with the love of your life, right? This is good.” I moved towards the sitting room door and heard Ellie scrambling out of her seat.
“No!” Ellie hissed. “That’s not what it is, or why I told you.” She followed me into the hall but I wasn’t really listening since I had a lot of blood rushing in my ears. “Joss, I told you so you’d stop messing around and just be with him again. Listen, I may-” I slammed the door in her face.
“Joss.” She banged on it.
“Shit,” I heard her mutter and then her footsteps faded away.
I tried. I really did. But when I curled up in my bed, I couldn’t stop the tears.
“Ellie’s surgery is tomorrow.”
Dr. Pritchard nodded. “You’re nervous?”
I nodded, my stomach churning. “Her surgeon has great credentials and he’s really confident that this is fairly straight-forward for brain surgery, but I’m still worried.”
“That’s only natural.”
I exhaled slowly, the exhale turning into a small smile. “I’m booked onto a flight to Virginia at the end of January. I’m flying out there after Ellie’s two week recovery at home.”
Dr. Pritchard eyebrows hit her hairline. “Oh? What prompted this?”
Ellie’s bravery and Braden moving on. “Braden’s met someone, just like I wanted him to. But Ellie is really the one who gave me the courage. She’s been really brave about everything and we were sitting talking last night, and there she is with this huge surgery ahead of her and she’s worrying about me, worrying that if I don’t start facing up to my past, I’ll never get better.”
Dr. Pritchard gave me a sad smile. “Ellie convinced you in one conversation to do what I’ve been trying to get you to do for almost six months?”
“I guess you needed to be diagnosed with something scary and be really brave about it so I’d feel like the worst kind of coward.”
“I’ll need to add that to my repertoire.”
I laughed, that laughter trailing off into tense silence. “I’m scared,” I finally admitted. “I have my family’s things in storage. I’m going over to visit their graves and maybe finally do something about all that stuff.”
“You never told me you kept all of their things.”
“Yeah. Put it in storage and pretended like it didn’t exist.”
“This is a really good step you’re taking, Joss.”
“Yeah. I hope so.”
She frowned now. “Braden’s met someone?”
I ignored the pain. “It’s what I wanted.”
“Joss, I know you told yourself that, but still it can’t be easy to see him with someone new so soon. Especially after chasing you and promising you that he wouldn’t give up.”
“It just proves me right. He doesn’t love me.”
“And he’s definitely seeing this new woman? There’s no misunderstanding?”
“Not according to Ellie.”
“Then a trip to Virginia might be exactly what you need right now.”
“Oh it’s not a trip.” I shook my head. “Well, it is and isn’t. I’m thinking of moving back permanently once I know Ellie’s going to be okay. I’m going to shop around for a place when I get there and come back to Edinburgh and sort out my affairs…”
Dr. Pritchard shook her head. “I don’t understand. I thought Edinburgh was your home? I thought Ellie was your family?”
“Ellie is my family. She always will be.” I smiled sadly. “I can’t watch him be with someone else,” I admitted. “He was wearing me down all right. You, Ellie, him. All of you were wearing me down about it. You don’t think I know chasing him off is irrational?” I found myself raising my voice. “I know it’s irrational. I couldn’t stop myself—it was like someone else was inside me, pushing him away because I was so terrified of losing him.”
“Joss,” the good doctor’s voice was soft, soothing, “Irrational, yes, but understandable. You suffered a lot of loss as a young girl. Braden knows exactly what you were doing. That’s why he wasn’t giving up.”
“He gave up at the sight of the first long pair of legs that came along.”
“That’s really why you’re leaving?”
“I know I sound like a crazy person. One minute I’m adamant I don’t want to be with him, and as soon as I find out he’s with someone else, I freak out. Thing is, nothing’s changed. Except now I don’t want to be with him because he clearly doesn’t love me the way I love him. It’s always been the thrill of the chase with him.”
“Well, I’d have to have Braden in to speak with him to have an opinion on that, but I do think you need to communicate with him. You need to tell him this before you leave for Virginia, or you’ll always wonder, Joss. Do you know what’s scarier than taking a risk and losing?”
I shook my head.
“Regret, Joss. Regret does awful things to a person.”
We all went to the hospital for Ellie. Even Hannah and Dec. When they came to take her down for her surgery we all took turns reassuring her. Lastly, Adam gave her a long sweet kiss that would have melted even the most unromantic heart. It sucked that something as major as brain surgery had finally made him step up to the plate, but life was like that sometimes. Some of us needed a swift kick-up the ass.
We sat in a waiting room even though the doctors told us we should probably go home and come back in a few hours. None of us wanted to leave. I sat next to Elodie, Hannah on my other side. Clark sat across the room, watching Dec play his Nintendo on silent. Braden sat on Clark’s other side with Adam on his right. We barely spoke. I got coffee for everyone and soda for the kids. I took Hannah on the hunt for some sandwiches and tried to ask her about the latest book she was reading, but neither one of us were feeling it. Dec was the only one who ate all of his sandwich while the rest of us just nibbled, our stomachs too full of nerves to make room for anything else.