I'm Getting Married? To My BOSS?!
"Oh," I touched my forehead gingerly, trying not to aid the pounding happening to it.
I looked around my apartment, untouched for months. I was a complete stranger in this place. I was different when I left, hurt and broken definitely, but now I had become someone entirely different from that girl. Too bad I was still hurt and broken.
How I returned to my apartment last night, I couldn't remember. I could barely see when I reached my car. My tears made me hazy and I don't remember being able to see the road clearly.
I looked at the clock.
"Seven in the morning. How long did I even sleep?" I mumbled to myself. I got out of bed because I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep anymore.
I cried for hours lying in my bed…on my sofa…on the floor. How? How did this happen? How! I asked myself that question for hours, yet I still hadn't come up with an answer.
I suddenly remembered it was still a workday. Thursday I think? I looked at my phone to confirm this.
I sighed and sat down at the table in my kitchen.
"How do I go to work now? Do I have to quit?" I spoke to no one. I let my head droop. I had no energy left. I was wiped out after last night.
I jumped at the strong knock at my door. "Who in the hell could that be at seven. I swear to god if he came here I will butcher him." I stormed towards the door and looked through the eye hole.
"Mike," I whispered and then slowly opened the door. No doubt Mr. Perfect had sent him.
He looked at me up and down, "Holy shit, you look good."
I glared at him, "Don't."
"Well, you look better than he does that's for sure," he mumbled as he forced himself in.
"Yeah, right," Sarcasm, how I love you. You are the one constant in my life.
"No, I'm serious Valerie," he turned around, "He looks like fucking shit."
My heartbeat started rising. Could he have really told the truth about how he felt?
My brain spoke up, no! Don't listen to that bullshit.
He sighed and sat down.
"What, did he tell you to come here?" I crossed my arms.
"No, I care about you too so don't be a bitch."
"Really?" I asked him forcefully, "Are you coming here to lecture me about what I did wrong? Please tell me what it is I did wrong? Break his heart? Take his money? Be mean to his parents?"
"Alright alright, calm down." He patted the seat next to him.
I sat down at the love seat next to the long sofa.
He sighed again, "Val…I've got to tell you something."
I laughed, "What? You were in on it too?" I joked bitterly.
He remained silent and I whipped my head towards him.
I stood up again, "No."
"I am sorry. He confided in me." As if that summed up his explanation.
I stayed silent. I thought about the time he took me to Linden Briscoe, "No, you are just as guilty. You did his bidding."
He looked down, probably is shame. Good, he should.
"I can't believe this…I can't believe you. I knew he had told you about the contract. But I can't imagine you would keep the fact that all of this was staged to yourself. I thought you cared about me more than that."
He stood up, "Of course I care about you! You're like my fucking sister, how could you say that?"
"Mike, you lied to me! Everyone I know has lied to me!" I yelled at him, "What do you want me to say? 'Oh, who fucking cares, let's hug?'"
He rubbed his head in his hands, "I want to make you feel better. I want to help fix it."
I sat down in defeat, "I don't know what to do Mike. I can't believe this happened. How it happened. Why did I let myself fall in love with him. Why did I say yes. What do I do?" I started crying again. I swiped at my tears angrily, "I hate this, I hate crying. I hate him for making me hurt this way," I tore through my tears. The sofa dipped under Mike's weight as he sat down next to me. He put his arms around me and pulled me into him.
I must have cried for a long time and then fallen asleep out of exhaustion because the next time I woke up it was one pm.
"Oh shit," I sat up.
"What is it?" Mike came around the corner and into my view.
"Oh, you're still here," I mumbled, rubbing my sore eyes, "I had work today…"
"I called him," Mike said softly.
"I have to quit now," I mumbled back dejectedly.
He sat down on the coffee table in front of me, "No, you don't. You love him. I know it will take some time to forgive, but don't you want to try?"
"No," I looked him in the eyes, "No, I don't want to try. I am done getting hurt."
"But, without the bitter, the sweet ain't as sweet," Mike put his hand on my knee.
I just shook my head.
We sat in silence for a few minutes. I stared at the ground while I am sure Mike stared at the top of my head.
But then he spoke up, "I called mom."
"Oh…Mary," I said softly.
"She's-" But a knock stopped him briefly, "here."
I stood up, "What? Here?" I walked to the door and opened it.
"Oh, Val!" Mary brought me in for a big hug. I melted in it, I missed her so much. But the comfort just brought me to tears again.
"I'm sorry," I said pulling away and wiping away the tears.
Mary shut the door behind her, "You're not the one who should be sorry." She looked at Mike Sternly.
"Mom, I know." Mike replied, but he walked away into the kitchen to give us privacy.
We sat down at the sofa, "Tell me everything, dear." She put her hand on my knee and waited patiently for me to start.
So I told her about the dinner at Linden Briscoe. How Zach came into my apartment, into my life, asking me to be his fake girlfriend. From Katherine, to Rosy, his parents, his house, and finally to us. Zach and I. How he betrayed me and lied to me.
She didn't speak about Zach next, but brought up something I didn't want to think about, "And your parents?"
Oh, them. I avoided thinking about them. Which wasn't hard, considering how many people I was upset with. "What parents?"
"Valerie, have you spoken to them?"
"Nope." I replied.
"And they haven't tried to talk to you?" Mary asked confused.
"Of course they have. I have eighteen missed calls from them." I started ignoring my phone the moment I left Zach's house.
18 missed calls from my parents. 23 from Zach's parents. 3 from Rosy. 5 from Ann and John. 50 from Zach. And loads of voicemails that I deleted in bulk.
"I can't look at them and not think about this. How they sold me for some stocks."
"Valerie, they care about you. They love you, they thought this would be good for you. You know they didn't do it for the money."
"You're right," I scoffed, "It was also for the social circles. My mother can attend all the tea parties and my father could proudly hold his head high and say he is connected with the Valencio's."
Mary shook her head, "Fine, let's forget them for now. Let's talk about Zach."
"What's there to talk about? He lied."
"He wasn't in a much better situation than you," Mary pointed out.
That was true. His relationship with his parents was so good, but that didn't mean his parents didn't force him to do things. They threatened his place at the company- the thing that is the most important to him.
"What kind of life would we have lived anyway?" He would have worked it away. I would have spent most of my time waiting for him at home.
"You can't tell me he was still the same when he was with you?" Mary asked, not believing it.
"No, he was completely different," Mike sat down on the love seat, "He even skipped days of work to be with her."
"That was just to make the scam work," I said thinking about the days we went shopping together or just spending the day at his house.
"Well, it's not a scam anymore," Mary said as she shifted to make herself more comfortable, "He looked like shit at work today. Everyone could tell something was wrong. Especially since you weren't there."
"He can deal with that. I don't care about the gossip." I crossed my arms again.
"Val," She said softly, "You have never been in love like this. Don't let it go."
I shook my head, what could I say? No, I had never felt love like this. I had thought I loved Mike all those years ago, but I had come to understand I just needed support from the tragedy happening around me.
"You have the next few days off. Think about what you want to do," Mary said standing up, "You could be happy with him. Or you can live the rest of your life moping around for losing him."
"I thought you were supposed to be on my side." Leave it to Mary to be a hard ass.
"I am." She retorted while grabbing her purse, "Let's go Mike. She needs to think."
"But I don't want Mike to leave," I said standing up with him.
Mike rolled his eyes at me, "Mom is right Valerie. She's right about not babying you too. You're a grown woman who has been through rougher times than this. You have a chance at happiness. Don't throw it away." He gave me a kiss on my cheek and a small hug.
He waited for his mom to go out the door and then turned around, "I'll be back tomorrow. Call me if you need anything, Lil."
I felt my heart thump at the nickname Hunter used to call me. Hunter.
I walked into my room and opened the first drawer of the dresser. Right on top laid a picture frame of a young man. Hunter.
I love you, Hunter. I miss you.
He would know what to do.
But I put the frame back in and shut the drawer. I laid down on my bed and cried myself to sleep.
The next few days went similarly. Mike and Mary came and went. Spoke to me as if I was a child and chided me for behaving this way. Nevertheless, comforted me just the same. Made me food and held me while I cried until I was too exhausted to do so anymore.
The newest change was on the third day of ignoring my phone; I heard a knock on the door. Still wearing my pj's from two days ago, I put my tub of ice cream next to my beer bottles and stood up to answer the door.
My parents stood at the other side of the threshold.
"Oh, it's you."
"Valerie," My father said softly, "We're sorry."
"If that's all-"
My mother cut me off, "No, that's not all. We are done with you ignoring us." She pushed her way in and my father followed.
"I really don't want to talk to you right now." I shuffled after them.
They sat down anyway.
"We have some apologies to give," She said after a few moments, "Things changed after Hunter passed away."
"No! I don't want to talk about him." I spoke loudly and quickly. I didn't want to think about Hunter anymore. I didn't want to live in that guilt , the sadness.
"We have to," Her father said, "We never did before. That was wrong of us…for you…for him."
I stayed silent.
"We thought that if we stayed quiet about it life would go on normally. We could still be the happy family that we were before. That his ghost wouldn't haunt us every day," her father continued, "But by the time we saw that it didn't and it never would, it was too late. You were too far from us. We never shared our grief together. We cried for him every day. But we wanted to be strong for you. We saw you close off a little part of you day by day. And when Mike left, it became even worse. We didn't know what to do, with all the changes happening we wanted to keep things the same for you. But we know now that it was wrong. To shut off his memory, behaving like he didn't exist in front of you. We're sorry, pumpkin."
I stayed silent still.
"You don't want to say anything?" He asked, "I know you're angry at us. You have every right to be. But please believe that this whole thing wasn't for money. We didn't take any. Returned it as soon as we got it. Even the stocks."
I looked up at them, "You didn't."
Martha, my mother, spoke this time, "Every penny."
Could they have really? My head spun with all the talk of Hunter.
"I hated that you acted like he didn't exist. I hated you for that. He was the most special person I knew. The strongest person I knew. And when he died, you acted like it was no big deal. Your own son." I shook my head, relishing in the relief I felt from finally talking about all this.
"I know," my mom said, "We cried every night in our room, but we were cowards when it came to you. We thought if we confronted this, it would be worse. We tried to keep the impact minimal because we knew how much you loved him. You would have given up your life for his."
"Yes," I said quietly, "I would still."
"We would too. For both of you," my dad said softly, "We love you. We never said it enough. I love you, pumpkin."
I felt tears fall down my cheeks. Then my dad's arms were around me.
"If you love him…really do, don't give up," he said into my ear.
My mom joined in the hug too, "I love you, Valerie. You are the perfect daughter. Do you know, without you, I would have died right along with Hunter."
"Mom…don't say that," I said astonished.
She stepped back and wiped some tears away, "You were our rock. Every day we saw you take control of yourself, your life. You stored everything away inside and acted like nothing was wrong. You stayed strong, not for us I know, but for the future. You kept hope and I fed off that. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be the strong one for you, but I failed so horribly. Please forgive me, Val."
I hugged my mom, "It's okay. It's over, mom. I love you both. And I understand now," I said softly. And I did understand. I couldn't blame them for how they grieved for Hunter. They didn't do the best job after, but they did the best they could. I couldn't hold that anger anymore. I had to let go. I had never stopped loving them, but there had always been a caution sign saved just for them. I knew I was letting it go now. It felt so relieving to let it all go. To know that Hunter mattered to all of us; that his memories remained happy ones.
"So you spoke with your parents," Mary said as she sat on the sofa.
Mary had come over the next day after hearing the news I spoke to my parents.
I nodded, "It's better now."
"Oh, I'm so glad for you," She touched my hand. She knew all the struggles.
I nodded again, unable to speak.
My parents stayed for a long time after. We spoke about Zach and the whole situation. My dad went out and brought food back. While he was out, my mother and I poured our hearts out. We made up a lot. I had my own share of apologies for both of them and was glad I had the opportunity to tell them so. We watched TV, ate dinner, and sat together as a family after a very long time.
But, even then the heart ache that started once again after they left couldn't be stopped. I cried myself to sleep again.
Mary squeezed my hand and brought me back to the present.
I sighed, "I feel a lot better. But…" I trailed off referring to Zach.
"Call him…go to him. Tell him how you feel," Mary urged.
"I can't," I choked out, "How can you not be on my side?"
"Val, I am on your side. He loves you. He's a monster unleashed at work. He doesn't spare anyone. He looks like the walking dead, I tell you. He thinks you hate him. He thinks you don't love him. And the realization has dawned on him that he may have to live with that knowledge forever," Mary shook her head, "He is lost without you."
"I-I can't believe that. I don't think he loves me." I chewed my lip. I did love him, Mary was right. But I couldn't believe that he loved me. Why would he do that to me?
Mary just shook her head again. Before I could reply, there was a knock on the door.
"I've never gotten this many visitors before," I muttered while walking to the door.
Ah, almost done! Can you believe it?! In the home stretch baby!
Just want to thank everyone who has read the story and stuck through the long waits and stretches! Also, for the encouragement and support to a complete stranger. It seems words can pull two people who don't know each other together. Thanks everyone!
Let me know your thoughts!