Chapter One: History in Romance
Mackenzie lay sprawled across the laminate flooring of her Toronto apartment, the sun pouring in through the living room window, casting rays of warmth across the floor. A navy blue, leather bound photo album was spread out in front of her, and she propped herself up on one elbow as she flipped through the pages absent-mindedly, studying each photograph for only a moment before moving on again. She barely gave the photos any real thought. She smiled loosely at a photograph of her and her younger sister Emily, when she had been sixteen and Emily had been twelve. The photograph had been taken shortly before her mother had remarried, perhaps only months shy of the wedding itself.
Their parents had divorced shortly after Emily's sixth birthday. Mackenzie had been ten at the time, and had taken the divorce much harder than her younger sister, who was really too young to understand what was truly going on with their parents. Mackenzie had always been a Daddy's girl, tagging along everywhere with her father- to the store, to the park, and occasionally to his job as an insurance broker, when her father allowed it. Her mother, Carla, had been working full time as a real estate agent, and she often had to work odd hours to accommodate for house showings and viewings. This left Mackenzie alone with her father and sister a lot during the evenings, and the bond that she had developed with her father had been incredible. She heard the horrible names that her mother called her father when the two of them got into their fights- lazy, workaholic, unfeeling. As a child, she had resented her mother for even thinking of saying such things about her father, someone that she had thought to be flawless at the time. It wasn't until much later that she would see just how right her mother was- that her father only cared about looking out for number one, in the long run.
Eventually, the fighting between her mother and father had become unbearable, and her mother had requested a divorce. Mackenzie had always pinned the distance between them down to the time they both invested into their jobs- time that might have been better spent on their family. While Carla was always busy showing houses during the evenings, her father would work long hours in the office, sometimes resorting to calling in his older sister, Debbie, to go and pick the kids up from the after-school program they both attended. Their parents hadn't really been able to spend much time together, and they had eventually grown apart. By the time Mackenzie was halfway through the fifth grade, her parents had legally divorced.
The divorce had been tough. Her father had been her role model and her best friend, but after the divorce, he had picked up and moved back to his hometown in Alberta. He'd promised the girls that he would keep in touch, and that he wouldn't let the distance change their relationship, but it had been a promise that he had been unable to keep in the end. At the age of twenty four, Mackenzie now spoke to her father three times a year- on each of their birthdays, and on Christmas Day. She hadn't actually seen her father since her high school graduation, which he had attended with his second wife, Karen. Now that Mackenzie was old enough to understand the circumstances behind her parents divorce, she understood that maybe her father wasn't as amazing as she had mapped him out to be in her young mind. As she grew older and spent the odd week or two at her father's in the summer, she began to see that her mother had been right about him; his career was truly his main priority.
Her mother had dated on and off in the years following the divorce, having only one or two serious relationships over the course of five or six years. Mackenzie had always figured that her mother would never find anyone that meant quite as much to her as her father had, but she had been proven wrong when her mother met Daniel, a widowed man of two children- aged ten, and four at the time of their meeting. Mackenzie and Emily had been introduced to the family of three after her mother's sixth date with the man, after she claimed that things were becoming more serious.
Daniel Murray was a nice man- a bit clueless, maybe, but friendly nonetheless. He had dark brown hair that had begun to grey, and hazel brown eyes that were always pleasant and happy to see you, no matter what you'd done. He had gained a bit of extra weight around the middle since the wedding, a telltale sign of his aging body. He was a small scale lawyer, handling mostly local cases, and he had lost his wife to breast cancer shortly after his youngest daughter's second birthday.
Daniel's oldest, Mitchell, was ten years old at the time of the marriage, and was a mirror image of his father at his age. He had the same messy brown hair, the same sparkling green eyes. In terms of personality, he had inherited the same unnerving arrogance about him that his role model, Michael, had mastered. He was a prankster- his favourite targets being the women of the house. He was a smart kid, but he often let it go unnoticed in favour of his humorous side, the side that seemed to earn him more respect from his peers. The blending of the two families had held a more significant impact on Mitchell, for he had gone from being the oldest, the ruler of the house, to second in line. He had been stuck in the role of a middle child, unfamiliar territory to Mitchell. He had adjusted well, as well as a ten year old could be expected to adjust. Sure, he had showed a little more defiance to his older stepsisters than Emily, but Mackenzie had always understood. If she had been thrown from her role as the oldest unexpectedly at that age, she probably would've felt a little bit threatened too. Nonetheless, Mitchell had never held any resentment towards the girls for thwarting him in age.
The youngest of Daniel's children, Brittany, was only four when her father married Mackenzie's mother. She had never had a real feminine influence in her life, being only two years old when her mother had passed away, and so she took to Abby like peanut butter took to jelly. Abby was more of a mother to her than her own mother had been, not on purpose, of course. While Mackenzie was certain that Brittany's mother had been a very loving and supportive woman at one point in Brittany's life, this was not a time frame in which Brittany had a strong recollection of, and for all intents and purposes, she referred to Abby as her mother. She was twelve years old now, just entering the seventh grade, and she was the sweetest little girl Mackenzie had ever met. She was a brilliant artist with talent way beyond her years, and her personality was as sweet as sugar. Unlike her brother, she had taken after her mother, with long blonde hair that she often wore in two braids, and shining blue eyes that could capture just about anyone's heart.
Her own sister, Emily, was twelve when her mother married Daniel, and had taken well to the remarriage. Like Brittany's faded memories of her mother, Emily had never really gotten much of a chance to get to know her father, and therefore took to Daniel quite easily. Being a former soccer champ, Daniel had helped coach Emily's soccer team, and the two of them could often be found in the backyard having a one on one match of real blood-and-guts soccer.
In looks, Emily took after their mother, whereas Mackenzie took after their father. Emily had strawberry blonde hair, cut just above her shoulders so that it would stay out of her way when she was playing soccer with her friends, on the occasion that she didn't have a hair elastic tied around her wrist- as if that ever happened. She had blue eyes and a well rounded face, with a larger nose that was spotted with freckles, a trait that she despised in herself.
Mackenzie was the opposite. She had dark brown hair that fell past her shoulderblades, usually straight, and while she had inherited the dazzling blue colour of her father's eyes, they were in the shape of her mother's eyes, perfectly spaced, wide and curious. She had a slender build that had been perfect for her interest in dance as an adolescent, and her long, toned legs were a trait that all of her boyfriends felt the need to compliment her on.
The six of them had blended together quite naturally, almost like they had been living together their entire lives. Brittany looked up to her older stepsisters as though they were her own flesh and blood, begging them to do her hair, trying to copy their every exact move to a tee. Mitchell took it upon himself to make the girls feel welcome by showering them with a series of pranks and practical jokes, which were just innocent enough to be cute, and just frequent enough to be slightly annoying. And while Emily and Mackenzie had pretended like his playful attitude was a nuisance to their attempt at settling it, it had been sort of nice to know that he felt comfortable enough to treat them like he treated his own sister- with innocent, affectionate pranks and jokes. Besides, it wasn't like they'd ever had a brother around the house; it was sort of nice to have someone to threaten and bicker with.
But just as they had begun to settle down into a predictable little family, neat and organized, peaceful and just right, the way Mackenzie liked it, things had been turned upside down once more. Only four months after her mother had married Daniel, a seventh addition had been added to their family. When her mother and Daniel had sat the four of them down to explain that they were going to add a new addition to the family, they had received mixed reactions from the children. While Mitchell and Emily had been certain that their parents were planning on getting them a puppy or a kitten, Mackenzie had naturally assumed the worst. She had been fully prepared to go into a full-blown argument with her mother about how bringing a baby into the picture this early on wasn't exactly a good idea, that while she would love a baby brother or sister, it was just too soon.
In the months to follow, she would wish that she hadn'tbeen wrong, and that her mother really had been planning for a baby. Because the truth, well, the truth had ended up bringing her more trouble than a baby ever could've entitled. Hell, when the truth broke, there had been nothing but chaos amongst not only the children, but within Mackenzie's mother also.
As it turned out, Daniel's first wife, Abby, had been married before the two of them had ever met. When she was only eighteen, she had become pregnant by her high school sweetheart, a man named Dennis Holden. Being young and naive, the two had rushed into a shotgun wedding, taking off for a weekend without telling anyone, and coming back with the apparant blissful news that they were married and expecting. Needless to say, Abby's parents had been outraged. They had threatened to cut her off if she didn't put the baby up for adoption, claimed that she was just too young, and that the two of them just didn't understand the consequences of having a baby so young.
Abby and Dennis had not taken their warnings to heart. Stubborn and set in their ways, they had moved in together in a dingy, one bedroom apartment smack in the middle of downtown Toronto, where Dennis had lived until he was thirteen. Dennis had taken on a full time job as a supervisor at a local warehouse, and Abby had taken a desk job as a secretary at a doctor's office, knowing that the job could only last until she gave birth.
It was in the middle of a snowstorm that Dennis Holden received the phone call that his young wife had gone into labour during a visit with her older brother, a visit during which she had tried to make amends with her family. Her brother had called an ambulance, knowing better than to try and navigate his own way through the slippery, unplowed streets in the middle of a snowstorm. And while Abby's brother had had enough sense to stay off the roads, Dennis Holden hadn't had so much luck. In a rush to get to his wife's side, he'd landed himself upside down in a ditch, his small car having been no match to the blizzard conditions against him. He had been killed on impact, only hours before the birth of his first and only son, Michael Thomas Holden.
Despite all prior drama, Abby's parents had flown to Ontario the moment the news broke, and had waited until after the birth of her son before telling her of the accident. They had feared that the stress and despair the news would bring her would harm the baby. Once Michael was safely in the nursery, oblivious to the fact that he had already outlived his young father, Abby's parents had broken the devastating news to her. They had been forced to deliver a message that no parent would ever want to deliver- that Abby had become a single mother before her son had even been born. They had offered her everything that they could think to offer- they'd let her move in, they would support her financially, but they both knew that nothing could ease the emotional roller coaster that their daughter was about to embark on. Nonetheless, Abby had agreed to move back to Nova Scotia with them, knowing that it would be easier to get over her loss with her parents at her side.
And while Abby was naturally heartbroken and devestated, she had tried her hardest to raise her son with no resentment, to pretend like she didn't blame him at all for what had happened to her late husband. But for those who had been there, for those who had witnessed her mothering first hand, it was obvious that everytime she looked into her son's eyes, so identical to his father's, she was reminded of the price she had paid for him to be here. As guilty and awful as it made her feel, she could not help but resent her young son for everything he stood for. Deep down, she knew that her husband would still be here if she hadn't gone into labour a day sooner or later. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew that each year, on a day that should be reserved for the passing of another year in her son's life, she would only ever remember the bad that that fatal day had brought her.
And while Abby loved her son very deeply, she knew that her parents had been right all along; she was too young, too immature, too naive to try and raise a child so young. Perhaps with Dennis she might have managed okay, but alone, she couldn't bear it. And so she had reached what had perhaps been the most heart wrenching and difficult decision of her young life. Knowing what was best for her son, she had entrusted him to the care of his grandparents shortly after his first birthday, promising herself that she would stay involved in the child's life once she had her own life under control.
She had gone back to university, aiming for a degree in teaching. It had always been her dream to be a teacher, and with Michael under her parents constant care, she now had the time and freedom to persue that dream. There was never a day that passed that she didn't feel guilty for what she felt was abandoning her son, but deep down she understood that it was for the best. She didn't have the financial or emotional means necessary to raise her son, and her parents... well, her parents were naturals. Her father was a doctor who worked night shifts at the local hospital, and her mother worked at a local clothing boutique during the day. It had worked out perfectly. Abby had made visits back to Ontario as frequently as she could, but plane tickets from Toronto to Halifax weren't cheap, and she didn't want to transfer out the University of Toronto until her program was complete.
Daniel had come into the picture shortly after Michael's fourth birthday. The two had met at a mutual friend's get-together, and it had been history from there. They had been together for only a little over a year when Daniel proposed to her, claiming that he just couldn't wait any longer to start on their life together. And while Abby had held definite reservations and concerns regarding marriage- seeing how her first marriage had ended, she had agreed to give love a second try. Shortly after Michael started kindergarten, the two were married, and Abby was pregnant again with her second child, and Daniel's first.
It was shortly after Mitchell's birth that things had begun to spiral out of control. Having secured a full time teaching position at an elementary school in London, Ontario, Abby now had the financial means necessary to take care of Michael herself. With Daniel in the picture, she knew that she may be able to give Michael the affection and love that she had been unable to give to him while she had been grieving the loss of his father. Throw in the fact that Daniel had found them a four bedroom house in the suburbs of London, and Abby felt that she was more than ready to take her son back into her own care.
But it hadn't worked out that easily. After five years of having Michael to themselves, it was an understatement to say that Abby's parents had been a little more than reluctant to give him up. Things might have been different if Michael had been moving down the road, or across town. But Abby and Daniel lived in Ontario, a far cry from Nova Scotia. They had been given over five years with the little boy; they had watched him grow, taught him everything he knew. It would be a heartbreak to give him up now.
Abby had been fully prepared to fight her parents on the matter, to claim that Michael was her son and that nothing they could say would make her change her mind. It had only been when she'd gone to speak to her parents face to face that she had realized what tearing Michael away from his grandparents would mean. When she'd tried to explain to Michael that she wanted him to come back to Ontario and live with her and his new little brother, she'd been met with a full fledged tear storm. Before she knew what was happening, Michael had gone into a tirade about how he just couldn'tleave Dartmouth. Grampy was going to teach him how to play hockey come wintertime, he explained, and he just had to prove to that stupid Ellis Thompson that he could too play a sport. He'd gone into detail about how he wanted to go to sleep-away camp with his best friend during the summer, and how he just swore he was going to kiss Morgan Benson by the time he hit second grade. He had claimed that Grandma was going to maybe let him get a dog next year, and how it was his turn to take home the class turtles next month.
And while Michael's problems seemed trivial and childish, something that he could easily forget about after a month or two in Ontario, Abby saw something in her son's eyes that changed her mind. While he was ranting and raving and crying and sooking, she saw the same familiar gleam in his eyes that had once belonged to his father. Whenever Dennis had been truly happy, it would be evident by the look in his eyes. You could always just tell that he was happy, that he was content with the way his life was going. And while Michael rambled on and on about his grandparents and his friends, and about the plans he had for the next year or two, Abby realized that her wish for her son had come true. She had left him in his grandparent's care so that he could live a happy childhood, and that was exactly what they had done for him. They had made him happy, and who was she to ruin that?
And so she had gone back to Ontario, back to her new home and her new family. It broke her heart to do it, but she left her son in her parent's care for a second time, knowing that she was doing what was best for everyone. She had put the extra effort she had never given Michael into Mitchell's life, and eventually into Brittany's. She had been the best mother unimaginable, right up until her death shortly after Brittany's second birthday. She had remained in Michael's life, though their visits had not been frequent; a week with the Murray's here and there, a trip back to Nova Scotia every once in a while. The last time that Michael had ever seen his mother was at his grandmother's funeral, when he was twelve. He hadn't made contact with his stepfather after his mother's death, and it would be two years before the Murray family would hear from him again.
Which brings us back to Mackenzie's calm and peaceful life with the Murray family. Things had been going great, right up until the day that their parents had sat them down for that dreaded conversation. Daniel had explained, with a certain waver of sympathy in his voice, how his ex-wife's father had recently passed away, having outlived his wife by four years. Mackenzie really hadn't understood how this would amount to a new addition to the family until the whole ugly truth had come out. The story had been news to both Mackenzie and her mother, who had never been filled in on the fact that Daniel had a stepson in Nova Scotia.
Cue Michael Holden, age sixteen. He had been neutral to the decision to move to Ontario- not really caring one way or another where he went. The social worker had reached the decision that Michael was to go to his stepfather, a man that he hadn't even had contact with since his mother's funeral.
Michael was only four months older than Mackenzie. He was handsome- broad shouldered, tanned, with shaggy brown hair that fell around his eyes in a sexy sort of untamed way. His hazel eyes matched those of his late father's, and he always had a way of penetrating you under a stare that could make any girl's heart melt. His chest was toned, and he had a six pack that most guys would die to achieve. Mike was a hockey player, the school's newest star athlete- and he was quick to remind you, just in case you forgot his place in the social ladder. His head had been filled with a well deserved arrogance, and his pride was evident in his every stride, his every word. Popularity was something that came natural to him, but he tried to keep to himself a lot, choosing to stick to his close circle of friends. He was a bit of a dating God, desirable to women to say the least, and if there was one aspect of popularity that he welcomed with open arms, that would be it. He dated lots of girls, but he was famous for just that- dating. He was never one to get much into serious relationships, not until he'd met his match a little later.
Nonetheless, his transition into life in Ontario had been quite easy. Michael seemed like the sort of guy who would fit in just about anywhere he went, and their local high school was no exception. From day one, girls fell all over themselves under his stare, guys idolized him, and teachers naturally hated him for his slack and unorganized ways. He couldn't give a damn about school; caring about his grades would take away from his focus on sports. While Mackenzie was a scholar, he was her total opposite. Popular and well-known, sporty and uncaring. He was everything that Mackenzie hated in a guy, and yet he had accomplished it so naturally, so easily, that she had to admire him for his sauve and charming personality.
Still, the only thing that the two of them had ever had in common were their stubborn attitudes, and their good looks. And at the age of twenty four, Mackenzie was still as gorgeous as she had been when she met the Murray's at the age of sixteen- tanned skin, a slim waist, and a cute and innocent smile were enough to make any guy fall for her, though she was not often quick to return the feelings.
Running her thumb over the photograph of her and her sister one last time, she flipped the page again, her eyes falling on a photograph of all five of the children in the Murray-Wallace household, smiling brightly for the camera as they sat around the table for Brittany's seventh birthday party. She only lingered on the photo for a moment further, before flipping the page again.
As she laid eyes on the next picture, she felt the familiar clench of her heart that always seemed to take place whenever she came across one of these painful reminders of her past. Sitting nestled between the see-through covers of the page was a photograph from her high school graduation, a picture of her and her grad date. They both looked deliriously happy, dressed up in their very best, with matching smiles that could only stem from experiencing one of the most amazing days of your life. The matching look of affection in both of their eyes was quite obvious, and despite her initial nausea, Mackenzie could not help but smile at the memory of her graduation day. She had been dressed in a floor-length, pink ball gown, with a beautiful design of intricate sequens lining the puffy layers of the gown. Her hair had been curled into perfect ringlets that fell past hr shoulders, and a butterfly clip pinned a section of her bangs back off of her forehead.
A smile graced her lips in the picture, perhaps one of the most genuine smiles that she had ever displayed in her entire lifetime. She could not remember exaclty why she had been so happy; maybe it had been because high school was over with, or because it was their graduation night. Or maybe, the more likely of the options, she recognized, it was because she had been in the arms of her boyfriend of two and a half years. He was standing behind her with his arms wound tightly around her waist, his chin resting lightly on her shoulder. Her head had been leaned back to lay against his own, and they'd both been wearing wide smiles for the camera.
Her heart gave a nostalgic pang as she gazed at the picture, at the image of the man she hadn't seen in over a year now.
Michael Holden. It had always been a complex relationship, of course; not many people had anticipated that the arrival of Daniel's long lost stepson would bring so much trouble. And of course, no one had expected the two to fall for each other. But then, why wouldn't they? A sixteen year old, hormone driven boy not attracted to a gorgeous female of the same age? Of course not. The two didn't share any real family bond that should set them apart; Michael was Brittany and Mitchell's half brother, sure, but he didn't even have a blood connection to Daniel. He was Daniel's stepson, and certainly of no legal relation to the Wallace family. Michael was in no way, shape or form to be considered a brother to Emily or Mackenzie, and so why shouldn't he be allowed to fantasize a little about the eldest of the two?
Not everyone had seen it that way, of course. Those who didn't know the family particularily well had just assumed Michael to be Mackenzie's stepbrother, which of course, he wasn't. When their relationship had first become known to the public, they had faced a fair amount of ridicule and taunts from those who didn't know better. Michael's reputation had been far too bold and well known to be harmed by innocent gossip and ridicule, but Mackenzie, not used to slander and sneers outside of the academic clique of the school, had taken the rumours a lot harder than he had. She'd never really had to deal with anyone talking about her, having lived in the shadows for much of her high school experience.
Nonetheless, they had gotten through it all together. By the time senior year rolled around, they were one of the school's top power couples, the kind that everyone admired and invited to their parties. Mackenzie had become popular by association, simply by being Michael Holden's girlfriend.
Turning her eyes back to the photo album in front of her, she let out a nostalgic sort of sigh. Honestly, if someone had told them moments before or after that photograph had been taken that they weren't going to last much longer after that, they would have laughed in your face, thought you crazy. They would have told you to get your fats straight; that they loved each other and that this was never going to change. As hard as anyone tried, no one could ever understand the complexity of their relationship. Nobody understood how the two of them could always know what the other was thinking or feeling, without even being in the same room. They were wrapped up in their own little world, too concerned with their love for each other to think of much anything else. They were truly in love, and nothing that anybody said or did could possibly change that, in their opinion.
But something had happened to change all of that. Something had finally torn down the barrier that had separated them from the outside world. After a four year relationship filled with nothing but love, trust, and a fiery passion for one another, they had called everything off. They had never explained the full story to their friends and family; they had filled a few select people in on the truth behind the breakup, but most people were still clueless as to why they had ended such a strong relationship after such a long period of time. They had given almost everyone the mere excuse that they had grown apart, and while no one was dense enough to truly believe this, they had grown to accept the answer, knowing that they were never going to get the truth out of the pair. They hadn't wanted to go into the real story with everyone. The truth was that their breakup had been bitter. It had involved a lot of cruel words, a whole lot of tears, and a great deal of yelling on both of their parts. The truth was too painful for them to talk about, even after four years apart.
Sighing, Mackenzie ran her thumb across the glossy finish of the coloured photograph, before closing the photo album sadly. Deep down, she knew that a small part of her would never quite get over what had happened four years ago. While she tried to limit the time she spent around her ex to a minimum, he was difficult to avoid. Their paths had crossed at least once or twice over the past four years, for seeing each other was unavoidable. They tried to remain civil with one another, for the sake of those around them, but they both knew that it was best not to speak at all if they didn't want an argument breaking out. It was amazing how such a powerful and seemingly flawless romance had turned into such a strained and bitter relationship between the two. Everytime she allowed herself to remember Michael and all that they had been through, she couldn't help but wonder where they would have been today, had things gone differently.
Mackenzie placed the photo album delicately back inside her box of old belongings, lifting a black velvet jewellery box out instead. Dust particles lay gently woven within the velvet, and Mackenzie coughed a little as she blew gently on the lid, blowing some of the dust away. Her nostrils tickled slightly as dust filled the air around her, but she ignored the sensation as she lifted the lid of the box, revealing the item that she had never been able to bring herself to throw away. The diamond engagement ring that Michael had given her years ago still looked as new as it had four and a half years ago. With trembling fingers, she lifted the ring from its cushion of a throne, twirling it loosely between her pointer and middle fingers. Flipping it over into her palm, she examined the enscription that had been etched into the inside of the ring in cursive. The lettering was small, for there had been a lot to fit, but her eyesight still allowed her to read it perfectly fine.
'Love Overpowers Everything.'
She remembered Michael's exact words as he had slipped the ring onto her finger, only moments after she had accepted his proposal.
"It's a good thing I love you so much, because this ring is a promise of forever," he had told her, with a shaky smile plastered onto his lips. She had smiled back at him through tear filled eyes, because she had truly believed him. She had honestly put faith into the idea that Michael was ready for a commitment as huge as marriage. Now, she mentally slapped herself for once being so stupid, so young and naive.
Mackenzie sighed as she rolled onto her back, lifting her hand into the air slightly so that the rays of sunshine hit the ring at just the right angle, making it glimmer and sparkle like new. A pained sort of smile curved onto her lips, and she squinted slightly as she examined the ring at every which angle.
"Forever doesn't last that long these days, I guess," she whispered.
I know that was probably a lot to digest, and I know paragraph upon paragraph of description can be boring. I promise the next chapter will be more interesting, and that this is information you need to know for the story. Next chapter is in Michael's POV. Reviews are appreciated, and next chapter is ready!