It feels like a claw is clutching around my heart, squeezing it, cutting it to shreds. “But don’t you see that she’s trying to drive us apart? She’s been spying on me and now she found one little reason why you shouldn’t marry me.” Which still doesn’t make any sense because she rewrote the will. Does that mean she’s changed it yet again? Probably. Definitely.
“Broken trust is not a little reason,” he hisses through his teeth. His brow furrows deep and he closes his eyes. When he opens them again, there’s resolve. “I thought I’d found the one person I could trust completely, that I could give my heart to without hesitation. But obviously, you aren’t that person. You’re about as different from that person as they come. Hell, you’re worse than any of the women I’ve dated.”
His words puncture that small bubble of hope I was still clinging onto. “Can’t you see that this is all a stupid detail? I was going to tell you after the party—I had promised myself. I didn’t want to tell you before because I was afraid you’d act this way and that you’d pull the deal on me. Fuck! This isn’t even about the deal for me anymore. This is about us. I love you, Michael. Please, don’t do this.”
“I can’t be with someone I don’t trust!” he yells. “It’s what drove my parents apart. All the games, the lies, the secrets. I can’t and I won’t live that way, you hear? And when I confessed to you what I had done, you had the opportunity to do it too, but you chose not to.”
“I was going to…”
“Now we’ll never know.” He shakes his head and his hand hits his temple. “I can’t talk to you right now. I need to cool off before I lose it.” He reaches over me and opens my door, the freezing air immediately clamping hold of me. “Please leave.”
“Well, it’s not like you were completely honest with me either,” I say. “You went to see a stripper! You forgot about that detail, didn’t you? You sent her emails and told her you wanted to be with her when you were fucking me!”
“You are so messed up, Scarlett. Just leave or I’ll pull the entire deal, too!” he shouts.
The tears are coming like a flood now. I can’t hold them back. I take my diamond necklace off and give it to him.
“Keep it,” he says. “For your father’s chemo treatments. I won’t be getting involved anymore, but fortunately for you, I’m not a heartless snake.”
I get out of the car, but before I close the door, I say, “Thanks for taking the blow for me. I know I didn’t deserve your protection up there on the stage tonight.” I drop the necklace onto the car seat and close the door.
Michael drives off in a hurry, tires screeching, and my shoulders start to roll with the sobs as I watch the only man I’ve ever truly loved drive off into the cold and snowy night.
I squeeze my eyes together, the tears running down my face, the unforgiving air burning the wetness into my skin.
Michael. Oh, Michael. Why did I screw this up?
I toss and turn all night, listening to the wind howling outside, and the sound of the shutters as they beat against the house. Damn Michael. He’s so two-faced. What makes him think what he did was any better than what I did? Who is he to judge me? And what’s worse, he won’t even talk about it or let me explain myself.
I am trying to avoid admitting to myself that it is indeed only my fault. I have failed miserably at life—again. I don’t want to face the fact that, due to my duplicity, all the dreams I had such high hopes for over the past few weeks have dissipated into nothingness.
No, it’s even worse than nothingness.
Because I have the wonderful memories of Michael and me, and that’s far worse than nothing. If I had nothing, I wouldn’t have anything to mourn.
I have no one else to blame but me.
The woman. The liar. The stripper.
I’ve been up since 5:00 a.m., sitting and crying on my cold kitchen floor.
At 8:01 a.m., there’s a knock at the door. Could it be Anne? No, she wouldn’t be home yet, although I would love to see her. For a second my stomach clenches. It couldn’t be Michael, could it?
I wipe my tears, open the door, and there stands a UPS guy in his brown uniform.
He does a double take on me, probably seeing how my eyes are red and how I have mascara stains running down my cheeks.
“Are you…” He reads the label on a white box. “…Scarlett Samantha Hansen?”
Immediately, I know it’s from Michael, that jackass. I nod.
“I have a package for you. Please sign here, Miss,” he says, handing me a rectangular electronic device.
I sign the brown whatever the hell that thing is and he hands me the box. I shut the door behind him. Strange, there’s no return address on it, but only Michael would deliver something to a Scarlett Samantha. I roll my eyes. I open the box and inside it there’s a card and then another small, flat, white box. I open the card and read it.
Dear Scarlett Samantha,
I wanted you to have this necklace. Please do with it as you please. I suggest you sell it and use the money to pay for your father’s chemotherapy treatments.
Sincerely, Michael Manning
I plop down in a chair by the kitchen table. That’s the absolute last thing I want to do: take the man’s charity. Make him think I need him. Especially since he dumped me. Especially since he’s being so fucking petty. I have to talk to someone about this. I pull out my phone and text Anne, hoping she is available and not already on her flight or going through airport security.
Hey, got a minute to talk? I need some advice, and I am humbly seeking your counsel and wisdom, Scarlett.
Not even a minute later Anne replies.
Yeah, of course! I’m waiting at the airport for my flight. Call me.
I call her right away, and it doesn’t even ring once before she answers.
“Hey, you!” she says.
Her tone of voice is chipper, and it makes me happy, knowing she had a good time with her parents.
“Hi. How was your Christmas?” I ask.