***Disclaimer: Lexi McCurdy is a guest post on A New Look On Books – click here to learn more about her – and has given permission to share her work of fiction, Roses, with viewers today as a Valentine’s Day special. ***
Roses by Lexi McCurdy
“I remember when Max met you, seven years ago. God he was in love with you the moment you kicked him in the shin. He told me you were the girl he was going to marry,” Ryan’s eyes were filled with tears as he looked at me, “I told him he was crazy, since I had known you for longer than a day and I knew you weren’t the marrying kind. At least not according to Tessa. But Max likes a challenge. You were his biggest challenge yet.”
I smiled, “he never did give up. I was so mean to him too, he never let that scare him. He told me he would prove to me he was worth it.”
“Did he? Prove that to you?”
My eyes were bright when tears as I looked at Max’s brother from across the small room, “no. I knew after that very first date he was too good for me. And yet. He never looked at another girl.”
Tessa wiped away a tear as I looked away from Ryan. That was the truth. Max never needed to prove to me he was worth it. He proved that on our very first date. He proved to me he was out of my league and yet for some reason he only wanted me.
It took me four years to truly believe I was worth it. That I was worthy of him.
I squeezed Max’s hand three times, something he used to do whenever we were together in the early days and I was afraid of people seeing us. He would squeeze my hand to reassure me that everything was okay, that we were supposed to be together. A tear slipped down my cheek, I waited for him to squeeze it back. But he didn’t move, his fingers didn’t even curve around mine. He looked so vulnerable, so pale and injured that my chest squeezed tightly.
I needed him. I never let myself admit that I did, but I didn’t want to go on without him. I wanted that wedding, I wanted a house with a fence and little ones that looked more like Max than me running around in the yard. I wanted to spend forever rolling my eyes at his stupid jokes and wondering why he puts up with my moods.
There were a million ways to say I love you without ever uttering the words. I didn’t realize it until that moment but every day Max said the words without saying them. Proving to me yet again that I didn’t deserve him.
But that didn’t mean I loved him any less.
“You should wear mom’s dress,” Tessa was staring at my hands. They were still covered in blood, I needed to wash them. I needed to change, but I didn’t want him to wake up alone. I wanted to be here when he opened his eyes again, “when you two finally set a date.”
I laughed, “well right now that is the last thing I’m worrying about. I’ll marry Max naked if I have to,” Ryan’s cheeks fMaxshed as I looked at my sister, “I just want to marry him.”
“Well that would be one hell of a wedding ceremony,” Tessa smiled as I looked back down at the man I loved laying there on the bed. I took in a deep breath and reached up, pushing a few strands of hair away from his face.
The room was quiet for a few moments, the three of us sitting there waiting for the man we loved in different ways to wake up and tell us all to stop crying. I knew he wouldn’t want us to cry, he would tell me to man up, be the hard girl he had tried so hard to break, because he wasn’t going anywhere.
I let out a slow breath, “one of our first nights together Max told me how he met you and Adam,” I brought my eyes up to Ryan’s and felt my chest squeeze. My sister’s boyfriend raised his eyebrows, “he said that until that moment he never met anyone he wanted to be friends with. He was rowdy and angry as a child and then you came along and gave him a run for his money. You gave him a black eye and Adam gave him a cracked rib. He said he knew it would last after that.”
Ryan laughed, “he was this big kid who shouldn’t have looked as big as he did. He was awkward and cMaxmsy. He thought he would bully us and I made him think twice about laughing at the skinny kid who looked like he couldn’t hold his own.”
“He loves you,” I said softly as I leaned into his shoulder, “he’s never uttered a bad word about either of you. You’re his brother. He calls you family. I know he wants you there for our wedding, for our life. I can’t see it happening without you or Adam or Tess or Elain.”
Tessa leaned into Ryan and he kissed her temple, “don’t worry. Max already has it all planned out. He doesn’t want to do it without your family either.”
I nodded, “he’s always been my family, with or without this ring.”
I let out a slow breath as I brought our clasped hands up to my forehead and leaned against his warmth. His hand was still bigger than mine, his skin was still a shade darker. I just wanted him to open his eyes and tell me everything would be alright. I wanted him to be the strong one, like he always was.
Time seemed to stretch on forever. Tessa was falling asleep on Ryan’s shoulder. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open, but I didn’t want to fall asleep until he was awake. I knew that the chances of him waking up soon were slim to none since he had been hurt so badly. I sighed, closed my eyes and holding onto him. The machines kept beeping, his chest kept going up and down with each breath he took.
I counted each breath he took. It passed the time, it helped ease my fears. He was still here with me, on this earth. Even if his eyes were closed he was breathing. He was breathing on his own. There were no tubes helping him take in air. That was a good sign. At least that’s what the nurse kept saying. That and the swelling in his head was going down. The doctor said he would wake up faster once the swelling was down.
I was almost asleep when his hand moved. I had let go of his hand when it got warm and sweaty. Instead I crossed my arms and laid my head on the bed. My neck was stiff and my body was sore and I was exhausted. I felt the bed move and my heart soared. The sun was starting to come up, it was a new day. A new day to erase the nightmare that I had been living in for the past however many hours now. I sat up faster than I should have, my body groaned.
Despite the circumstances, I couldn’t help but smile when his eyes fMaxttered and I knew he was coming around.
“Lu?” Max’s voice was soft and scratchy. He opened his eyes slowly. His hand started to move around the bed, searching for something. He smiled weakly when his fingers once again found mine. I gasped, all but crawling into his arms as he opened his eyes.
A sob escaped my throat, “I’m here,” I said softly as he sat up and I wrapped my arms around him. I was gentle, but Max’s lips found mine before I could be sure this wasn’t a dream, “I thought I’d lost you.”
He smiled as he pulled away, the tips of his fingers grazed my cheek, “never, Love. Forever, remember?” He touched my ring and I smiled.
“Forever,” I agreed. I closed my eyes and shook my head, “do you remember? The accident?”
He shook his head, “barely. I swerved so they wouldn’t hit you. We rolled. It was cold. I remember darkness. But I heard you,” his deep voice got smaller, “begging me to stay. I held on to that voice, I held onto you.”
A tear slipped down my cheek, “I didn’t think I’d would ever get to tell you I love you again, Maxc. Because I do. I love you so much.”
“I know,” he kissed me again as the door opened, “but I love hearing you say the words out loud.”
The nurse smiled when she saw Max awake, I pulled away but he held me in place there beside him. I kissed his temple as she checked his vitals, “I’ll go get the doctor, we didn’t expect you to wake up so quickly.”
I held onto him, afraid he would fall back into that restless sleep again if I let him go. I never expected to need him, to miss him as much as I did when he was hurt. I took in a deep breath as he brushed his fingertips up and down my thigh, as if he took couldn’t bare not to touch me now that he was finally back with me. I kissed his cheek, trying to be positive.
Max sighed, “well this might sound weird but I’m tired.”
I pressed my hand against his forehead and he leaned into it. The nurse stopped checking his vitals and nodded, “it’s probably the medicine. I’ll get the doctor and be right back.”
She disappeared out the door as quickly as she had appeared. Tessa was still asleep, but Ryan opened his eyes and smiled when he saw Max awake, “Maxc. You had us all worried you giant prick.”
He laughed, then winced as the vibration hit him, “well I couldn’t let Lu get all the attention,“ his thumb touched my ring once again.
I squeezed his hand and this time he squeezed mine back, “I love you,” I whispered softly as he kissed my temple.
“I love you, sweetheart. I’m sorry you worried,” he sighed as he leaned back against the pillows and blew out a breath, “just preparing you for the rest of our life together.”
I glared at him as the doctor came in, “if you do something like this again I’ll kill you myself.”
He laughed and it was the best sound in my world, “I wouldn’t put it past you, love.”
They promised me that he was out of the woods. They even said they would release him soon. He was talking and smiling, he even held me before he fell asleep the first night. It looked like we were going to make it to the other side. The doctor couldn’t believe he was awake and alert, that his injuries weren’t giving him more problems. Everyone said his recovery was truly a miracle.
But then it all fell apart overnight. One of the machines woke me up, beeping loudly and wildly. Max was pale, coughing up blood. He was sweating and breathing heavily.
The doctors rushed in before I could process what was happening and pushed me out of the way. His brown eyes held mine before they took him away. I held that stare, praying it wouldn’t be the last time those beautiful hazel eyes looked into mine.
Snow fell as I stood there beneath the oak tree.
The ground was already cold where we buried him. All I had to remember our life, our laughter, our love, was a tiny dash between two dates. It was so small and yet his life had been so big. All I had left of the beautiful man whom I loved, who had fallen in love with me, was his ring. The ring I refused to take off my finger.
His promise of forever. I guess our forever wasn’t as long as I believed it would be.
I still don’t truly understand what happened. When they told me he was gone I collapsed. I woke up and they told me my body had shut down with the news. They told me I was in shock and that I needed to rest. I fell apart, I demanded to see my fiance. Tessa was the only one who thought it was a good idea. She took me to see him and then she’s the one who told me what the doctors were too afraid to tell me.
I held the roses be had brought me for my birthday. They weren’t fresh anymore, some had wilted. The cold bit into my fingers, I couldn’t see for the tears in my eyes. I took in a breath and laid them gently on the dirt pile in front of his grave. It was easier now, to stand there and look at his stone. It wasn’t as world shattering as it had been the day of the funeral. When Tessa and Ryan were the only ones who held me together.
It wasn’t hard to let go of the future we were supposed to live together. The wedding, the idea of marriage, I let those things go when they told me he didn’t make it. I let the future I never knew I wanted dissolve as quickly as it had appeared. Because I didn’t want that future with anyone else.
What I couldn’t let go of was him.
He came to me at the end of my world. When I thought life was over. When I thought love would never find me again. He had been the light at the end of a very long tunnel. My knight in shining armor if you will. Max came and saved me. Even when I didn’t want to be saved.
Now I would never be able to give my heart away again. Because he had taken it with him.
Everyone had given me space at the funeral. They let me grieve as we buried him, but now they started to worry. Tessa refused to leave me alone now that everything was said and done. She followed me home and held me while I cried. She stayed that night and now she wouldn’t leave. She made me dinner, she forced me to get up. To shower, to get dressed. My little sister forced me to live when I didn’t remember how to live without him.
Fourteen days. I had survived fourteen days without him. I just had to learn how to live the rest without him now too.
I pulled his jacket closer to me, it was too big to do it’s job and keep me warm. But I wore it because it was the last thing that still smelled like him, like home. It was the last piece of Max I had left to get me through the day. To remind me of the happiest moments in my life, wrapped up in his arms.
Tears filled my eyes as I held the locket in my hand, my wrist resting against my neck as I held it close. I would never let Max go, I would never forget the way he made me feel. He made me feel like I was the most beautiful girl in the world, like I was the only girl in his entire world. He taught me that love could be real, that love could be all consuming. He taught me that even at the end of the world there was someone waiting there to save you.
“You changed me. You made me into a girl I barely recognize, the girl I always wanted to be. You loved me for who I was, even when I was cold and hard. I used to wonder why you bothered, no one ever cared to stick around as long as you. When you didn’t leave, when our first fight didn’t scare you away I started to wonder if maybe I finally found someone worth giving it all to. I gave you everything, Max. Every piece of my heart is yours. You took it with you and now I don’t know how I’ll ever find it again. Because I don’t want someone to replace you. I don’t want someone else to love. I just want you.”
The snow kept falling as I let out a breath, “god this feels like a cruel dream. I mean, I keep thinking I’ll go home and find you waiting for me. I turn the corner and wait to see you standing there holding a dozen fucking roses. God I hated roses. But I loved the ones you’d bring me,” I sighed, “I’m so mad. You left me, after you promised me forever. You forced your way in, you’re the first person I wanted a forever with. The only one. God I loved you. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving you.”
A tear fell down my cheek, “I love you. I hate you. Because I don’t remember how I ever lived without you. I don’t know what I did, who I was, before I was yours. Max,” my voice broke. I shook my head, “I wish I could go back and change it. I wish I could’ve asked for one more glass, or danced with you a little longer. I wish.”
I stopped, the quiet surrounded me. I’d never hear him laugh, or listen to his boring stories again. What I would’ve give to be annoyed with him one last time, “it doesn’t matter. Wishing won’t bring you back. Nothing will bring you back.”
I brushed my cold hand across my eyes and shook my head. I had no idea how to even begin to move on without him. God I missed him, every day it felt like I lived with a knife inside my chest. I missed the stupid fights, the stupid moments. I missed the life we had made together.
But I knew I would do it all again. If only to learn a real love, to find a true love. I would rather have loved him for four years than to have never loved him at all.
“I won’t forget you, ever. I wish I could go back and tell you that in person. I wish I could look into your eyes and memorize every color, every sparkle that made you, you. If I had known it wouldn’t last. That you wouldn’t make it. I would’ve held you tighter, I would’ve kissed you longer.”
Another tear slipped down my cheek. I ran my hand over the stone. My ring clicked against the cement. The cold hit me straight down the middle. It numbed the pain that would never go away. I would have to learn to live without him, I knew time would never completely heal the break inside my heart.
“I wish they could’ve met you,” I whispered as I pressed my hand against my stomach, “I wish you could have met them. I don’t know how I’ll do it without you. I never wanted this without you.”
I had to figure out how to become someone I never thought I’d be. But would do it, because Max would want me to be strong. Especially now, since there was a piece of him still inside me, one that would grow. One that would one day smile at me they way he used to. I knew it would shatter my heart when it happened.
If that was the price I had to pay, then I would. To carry him inside me. To remember what it was like to be happy. To let his love consume me. To pass on the things he taught to me to someone who was the last piece of his soul.
I took in a deep breath and closed my eyes, making him one last promise. I spoke the vows I never knew I already had written, to the cold stone grave. I tried not to dwell on the fact that he was suppose to be my future. Instead we were given a tragic ending to our love story.
“I promise to remember you, to always love you. I promise to smile, to laugh the way you taught me to,” I smiled despite the ache in my chest as I opened my eyes, “your child will know you. They will love you as fiercely as you would’ve loved them. As much as I will always love you.”
I ran my finger over his name, tucking my beautiful brown eyed boy back inside my heart. Where I would carry him for the rest of my life.
“You used to bring me roses. Now it’s my turn to bring them to you.”