Behind me, the blue and purple twilight of the approaching night blended into the perfect seamless blue of Lake Michigan. The picture before the boat was no less stunning. The pinks, lavenders, and gentle oranges set the lake ablaze with color. I closed my eyes and remembered taking this same trip less than two months ago, and the images were still just as stunning. A glorious sun over pure unadulterated blue water.

My two month trip was coming to a close, finally. I had gone to visit family in Maine to get him out of my mind. My broken heart had been my only companion. Sometimes I honestly thought it was a different person. It carried enough pain for six people's lifetimes in those few months.

The rhythmic swell beneath the boat and the breathtaking beauty of the sunset amazed me now just as it had when I could only see one face in my mind. A face that I didn't expect to see. It wasn't even Jesse either—I had barely thought of him this trip, even though he was the cause for me to take it in the first place.

Now as the gentle mocking of the boat lulled me into a thoughtful trance, I thought about what I would be coming home to. A dark, empty apartment would be waiting for sure. My goldfish was at my neighbor's house, so I didn't have the luxury of his company, and it wasn't as if I could call my friends at one a.m. Although I didn't doubt they would be awake; I just wasn't sure if I wanted their company.

For the entire length of the trip I only thought about one person whose company I truly missed. Not seeing him was like a thorn in my side. It hurt to not be near his infectious good mood, because it was one thing I could always count on when I was near him. He was my number one go-to guy, my everything, my best friend. No one else could top his spot on my totem pole.

Jacob. The name crossed my mind like a cool breeze on a warm summer day, leaving a trail of butterflies in its wake and stirring memories like leaves in my mind. It had been two months since I had said goodbye. Two very long months. It had been too long since I had seen his smile or heard his rumbling laugh.

The look on his face when I pulled away from his little farm house was stuck in my mind, seemingly immovable the entire length of my trip. It was stuck in my mind the entire time. His expression was so full of longing and desperate sadness; it made my stomach clench just thinking about it. He was desperate for me to stay. He wanted to fix me, he just didn't know how. But I desperately needed to forget about the last three years of my life and find myself again.

The day my Camry left Wisconsin, I was swamped with an entire range of emotions that made it impossible to think coherently. At first I didn't recognize them at all. There was a hallow, gaping hole in my chest and an incomplete feeling that overwhelmed my mind and my heart. They seemed so familiar, but it couldn't be what I thought it was. That was impossible after him. The him Jake was trying to help me move on from.

I was halfway to Milwaukee when I knew just what it might. "It" was a little something called falling in love with a perfect person. I had to pull over to the side of the road, rendered incapable by the sight of his face in my rearview mirror and the agonizing pain in my chest. Why was I leaving him behind? I didn't know the answer, but my heart was breaking just thinking of him.

Tan gravel dust swirled around my car as I pulled to the shoulder. My hazards were blinking, and the steady clicking noise was grating on my nerves. Cars behind me passed by, oblivious to my emotional breakdown. Suddenly the tears started and they wouldn't stop. How could I have been so foolish? I knew I needed him, he had always known, and I was still leaving him, terrified of the demons in my closet.

If I was truthful with myself, I knew exactly why I was leaving him. It had nothing to do with him, but I also knew that he couldn't fix it, no matter how much he wanted to. Jesse had screwed me up more than I liked to admit. Just seeing his face in my mind made me nauseous. Jesse Clark is the definition of asshole. I needed to mend my broken heart on my own. And family was always the best cure.

Jesse's heartbreak held enough power to make me drive halfway across the country, leaving everything behind for two months. I I guess you could say that I needed to find myself again. To remember how to be just me again. Not Jesse and Elisa. Just me. Just Elisa.

When my tears were finally starting to dry, leaving trails of salt on my face, the letter fell in my lap as I pulled the mirror down to see how bad I looked. The brilliant sun beat down on it, making me squint at the sudden flash of whiteness. It was obvious the letter was Jacob's. Simple but perfect for the occasion. That was a testament to his farm boy upbringing.

The smudged envelope sat in my lap, staring at me, testing me to open it. Of course I did, but I hesitated. My hands were shaking so bad I had difficulty opening it. I was scared of what I would find. What if it was a goodbye forever? Telling me that I had leaned on him for too long, and this was the last straw. I was more than wrong.


I love you. With everything I own and everything in my soul, I love you. Sorry for the dirt on the envelope. I know how you like things clean, but I just changed your oil and finished chores. I miss you already, and you aren't even gone. I think I miss your cooking the most. How will I feed myself? Just kidding. I'll survive.

This will be my last contact with you until you return. I want you to realize that this isn't something that is going to fade. Love like this doesn't change. If I never hear from you, even after you get back, I'll know that I was wrong about this. About us.

I need to know that you are healed before I can let myself breathe fully. He messed with your heart. I know that, and I'm ready to wait. But I feel like I am holding a glass flower that is ready to break with the slightest disturbance. It's fragile, like you are now.

I promise I will wait for you to be back before I let go. Although I'm not sure if it will be that easy. I doubt it. Already I'm too caught up in you to just let go. This is no fling, and I know my feelings won't change.

I've loved you since that day I met you at the fair.

I will forever.


I clutched the letter to my chest in desperation. He said he would wait. I would have to trust him, and learn to trust myself, before I could come back home and fall back into his arms. I needed him to know that I was all his before I could let him love me, and I needed to know that I was ready for that commitment—I couldn't break his heart. He was too much of a gentleman to take advantage of a screwed-up girl. Something Jesse couldn't have done.

Then again, Jacob wouldn't have done any of the things Jesse had done to me. That I knew without a doubt. Jake wouldn't have cheated on me with my sister, and dumped me on our three year anniversary when I happened to walk in on them. It was a shock to say the least. I walked in to his apartment, ready for dinner at Olive Garden, and I found him screwing my sister who at least had the decency to act ashamed.

When I ran into Jake's barn in a dress and heels, gasping for breath in tears, he jumped out of the cow pasture and wrapped me in his arms, not complaining as another wave of tears him me. He smelled like fresh cut hay, cows and his smell; fifteen minutes of breathing in his scent calmed me down enough to allow him to ask me one question.

"Whose ass am I kicking for you, babe?" This only brought on another wave of tears. My hair was flying around my face, the brown curls not wanted to stay in place. I pulled off my heels and let him drag me to a hay bale where he sat me down. My makeup was running in streaks down my face, and I knew I was a wreck. "I'll kick the bastard's ass. What did he do?" It took me an hour to be able to say it in a complete, coherent sentence.

He was there for everything after that. He held me during the three a.m. crying sessions when I felt as if I couldn't go on; he gave my strength on days I felt completely hallow; and the moments when I felt like I was missing a part of my soul weren't as difficult with him there. Being in love as much as I was and being broken so completely was almost impossible to move on.

Ever since that night, I lived in his spare room in his house. His parents were only too glad to take me in, and the farm hands love the fact I could cook, unlike his mom. The spare room connected to Jake's through a little door in the corner. That little door was a blessing. I can't recall a night that I wasn't in his room, pressed against him in the little bed, listening to his deep, even breathing and feeling the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest. But his sure, loud heartbeat always calmed me more than anything.

I never realized just how much that must've drove him crazy. Having me lay there so close, but so fragile and untouchable. He loved to make fun of my stuffed pig and my flannel pajama pants, but I could always tell there was something beneath that smile. I could only imagine. Anger at Jesse for what he did to me, anger at himself for not protecting me, but his love for me must've trumped every time.

The boat rocked suddenly bringing me back to the present, effectively pulling me out of memory lane; the Milwaukee skyline glowed like a fire of lights on the horizon. My phone began buzzing like crazy, telling me that I had service again. Message after message popped up on my screen, all from my boss, Jeff.

He was asking me to stay the night in Madison so I could pick up some paperwork in the morning. Dumb boss. I wanted to tell him to stuff it, but of course I said yes, because he sounded so frazzled. Then again, he sounded like that all the time; a psycho soon-to-be divorced wife will do that to you. He avoided Madison like the plague in order to avoid seeing his ex. Don't get me wrong, I love the job Jake found me at the fast rising supply company when I was in high school, but at this moment, they couldn't have chosen worse timing to put me back on the clock.

I responded a quick yes by text, too frustrated to call, and placed my Blackberry back in my purse. I had long ago stopped waiting for Jake to call. My head fell back on the comfortable headrest, and I ran my fingers through my brown hair, shaking it loose from its ponytail. If I stopped at MC Equipment headquarters they'd be surprised that one of the top employees would come dressed in sweats pants and a large Harvard sweatshirt.

Being back on the job would cost me one more night without telling Jacob the truth; I couldn't even call him. Our non-spoken agreement made sure of that. I knew I shouldn't take it out on Ed for making me start work again. He really did need the help, and I would be passing through anyway. Logic didn't seem to be on my side today. Ed didn't know that my love life was in a critical state.

It took all of the two months I had to really be positive that I was finally over Jesse and know that I could give my heart to Jake without any worries. I was surer than ever. The ship's crew was moving around the deck, helping passengers getting ready to dock and get off the boat.

I walked out to the back deck to get one moment of peace before the boat's chaos began. The sky that was moments ago a faint purple was now pitch black. More time had passed on this boat ride than why I had thought. Stars shone brilliantly through the blanket of darkness.

Speakers inside the cabin told us that the captain was thanking us for riding with the ship and wishing us all a pleasant evening. I rolled my eyes. My night was already far from perfect. Then a solid thunk rocked the ship as the boat hit port. Thank goodness, I thought.

I grabbed my back from my chair and began walking down the narrow stairs toward my car. My Toyota was the first car to get out, so I had a short wait until I could feel my car fly down the road for an hour and a half. Driving was a cure unlike anything else I could do. It was a perfect night for driving. Calm, clear and simply wonderful.

The vehicle hold down below reeked like exhaust from multiple cars. I couldn't take a full breath below without gagging. It reminded me of Jake's old GMC truck. That old truck was the best vehicle I had ever driven, even compared to the new Toyota I had now. The steel walls of the hold seemed confining, and I was urging the door to move up.

Just thinking of that old truck sent my stomach in knots. All the nights lying out back watching the stars in the truck bed wrapped in comforters from the barn. It made me remember how much I missed him, but the question that still lingered was would hi miss me. Two months is a long time to wait for anyone, but the little voice in my head told me he had waited longer before. I shook the thought from my head.

The gate opened, and I sped off the boat, rolling the windows down to breath in the fresh scent of the lake. Goodbyes were officially in order now that I was back on Wisconsin soil. Goodbye to lazy nights on the Atlantic beach, to lobster at every meal, to doubts and insecurities. They melted away like snow in summer now that the road was before me.

I could feel the highway flying from under my car. Flashes of white and yellow and red signaled food and gas, but I had a full tank and didn't want to stop. Eventually though, my stomach demanded food so I grabbed a bag at McDonalds. Greasy food and ice cream helped me go back into focus. Just a little longer to go.

Country music blared loud from my speakers. Jason Aldean was my superstar crush, and he was a constant on car rides. Jake had gotten my hooked after nights spent lying awake listening to music in his room. The low acoustic guitar and the twang of his voice relaxed me enough so that my anger flew from my muscles.

The sign came up like a flash of hope. Ten miles until Madison. The sign was a green reminder of how close I was to home. It was all familiar from here now. I could make it back to the farm with my eyes close.

It was almost midnight, but I drove to MC Equipment just to see if I could pick up the files and parts now instead of waiting. It was a slim chance to have someone actually be there, but I wanted to try. As I drove by on the street, I saw that a light was still on inside, shining on a relaxed, tired-looking secretary on the third floor.

The corporate office was a huge glass and steel structure that cast an imposing shadow upon the street below during the day. However, tonight the building seemed dead, apart from the secretary and a couple of janitors and a few very stressed employees.

I pulled up to the front, my car hid from the searching silver moonlight that seemed to search every crevice of the city, hidden or no. It soon threatened to be overtaken by dark, ominous clouds, seeming to bring the promise of rain with them.

My Nike sneakers made soft slaps against the pavement as I walked to the door, and I realized how my sweatshirt looked so out of place in the summer heat. Friends always made fun of my tendency to wear sweats, a sweatshirt, and sneakers in the hottest season of the year, but in the middle of winter I was in a sports bra and shorts.

The steel doors didn't give way beneath my push. I gave a gentle knock and waited for a janitor to open the door. He barely gave me a second look before opening the door. Immediately behind the door was a large desk manned by a professional looking woman who gave me a fleeting glance and set a loaded manila folder on the desk. Back on the clock.

"Just have them in the mail but Thursday at noon. Make sure to pass that along or the contract is voided completely, and the whole process will have to start over. None of us really want that, because it is a very long and difficult process and your company won't receive any equipment until we have the contract on file."

"Yes, ma'am. I will relay the message. Thank you for having these ready at this hour." She just nodded already immersed in whatever was on her computer. I grabbed the thick manila folder and walking back out, sliding the file under my seat. My car started with a gentle purr and the flashing clock told me it was 12:13. I needed sleep. A sleep deprived me was never a good thing.

The Red Alley Hotel was a small establishment off the belt line, and it seemed like the perfect place for me to crash at for the night. It was a little building less than fifty meters from the highway. I didn't really care about noise; I would be out like a light. It was cheap and I would only be staying for a few hours. They were probably used to people using it this late at night for a few hours cheap entertainment.

I parked my car beneath the harsh glare of the street light that illuminated the entire parking lot like a football stadium. Not really caring, I stuffed some sweats and a tank top in my bag and headed into the quiet lobby. Inside which I found a very unenthused teenager looking at her phone and smacking some gum.

"Fifty a night for a single. Room one-oh-nine is open down the hall," she said with a thick Brooklyn accent. She slid a large gold key over the counter and looked at me, expecting a credit card. I handed her a hundred dollar bill and she looked at me suspiciously.

"I just went to an ATM before I came here," I explained. She said nothing, but the expression never left her face. A couple of odd jobs around Maine gave me some checks to put into my checking account, providing me a decent bit of cash I hadn't been expecting. She passed a receipt and my change and disappeared into the back room.

I grabbed my key and walked along the dingy hallway to the room she told me. It looked like any other cheap hotel room. Cheap paintings and furniture, polyester bed coverings and an out-dated TV were the first things to register. Nothing overly scary. Thank goodness.

As a fell back onto the bed, I pulled off my sweats and shirt from that day and just laid there in my boy shorts and sports bra. I let my mind wander to Jake again. My fingers were having a hard time not reaching over to grab the phone and call his all too familiar number, but I stopped myself because it was hay time. That meant he would be exhausted and swamped with work. The work on the farm never stopped.

I grabbed a photo album from my bag and began flipping through the pictures. There were pictures of Jake and I on sitting on a tractor, partying on his twenty-first birthday, holding our animals together on the farm. Then came my favorite, Jake and I were attempting to ride a cow in the pasture. We were ecstatic and having a great time. It was the best day of my life. Two weeks before I left for Maine.

The air conditioner was turned on freezing, and I felt like I was being turned into a living ice cube. I crawled under the covers and buried myself in the pillow, shutting the album and burying it back in my bag. It seemed like too much effort to walk over and turn the AC off.

Eventually beneath the bluish glow of the invading streetlight from the lamp outside and listening to the noise of the beltline, I crashed and became oblivious to the world around me. I fell to sleep hard and fast, not knowing what my dreams would bring me.

They were nothing good.

It was our three year anniversary. I had a bottle of red wine in my hands and a bag of our favorite take out. Beneath my stiletto heels, the carpet seemed to sink, burying my toes. My ID card slid into his apartment door smoothly without complaint. I barely opened the door when I heard the noises coming from inside the little apartment.

There were noises that sounded so familiar and so disgusting. Someone was having sex in his apartment, and the voices sounded so very familiar. I pushed the door open, and my body froze. My mind stopped working seeing his body pressed over hers, no clothing and no boundaries. Her blonde hair spilled over the pillow, and her tan skin was covered with a sheen of sweat. Amelia. My sister. My only sister.

The glass bottle hit the floor like a brick. It shattered in millions of little pieces all over the floor, and the wine spread like blood on the floor, pooling in a large puddle. The air was filled with the smell of General Tso's chicken and fried rice. That and the sight before me made me close to vomiting.

"Amelia? Jesse? Wha… How… Never mind. I'm gone. Sorry for interrupting. Thanks for the anniversary present," I said and slipped from the room, leaving everything on the floor. I could hear them asking me to stop, begging me to wait so they could explain. I didn't wait. Everything in my life was falling apart. If I stopped I would lose it.

Tears were pouring from my face, and even in my dream I knew what was coming next. I knew what he would come out and tell me. Jesse would come out and wrap me in a blanket. I turned around waiting for him to come out. It wasn't Jesse in this dream. I could feel the scream coming from my lips before it reached my ears. Jacob was standing there in the familiar red blanket, and behind him Amelia came out in Jake's favorite sweatshirt. The one with the cow on it. I had bought it for him at State Fair last year.

"Elisa, stop. Don't move please. I didn't mean it. She came over and she… Things got out of hand baby," Jake said full of remorse.

"Don't try to say I seduced you. You're the one that called me," Amelia screeched, and the tears kept pouring out more and more. Why did she have to say that?

"Jake, this isn't supposed to be you. Why, Jake, why?" My words bubbled up without control; this was not how it was supposed to be. It was all wrong.

"I'm sorry babe. I meant to tell you sooner, but maybe this is best." The same words Jesse said coming out of Jake's mouth. It made me sick.

"Why is this best? So you can humiliate me for no reason? Did you ever care for me? Like really care for me?" I sobbed not being able to hold it in any longer. The hallway lights seemed too bright and harsh for the tiny hallway, and they only illuminated Amelia's smirk more when Jake/ Jesse spoke again.

"Maybe at one point, but I haven't been in love for a long time now, Elisa."

I woke up gasping for air, my tears becoming uncontrollable. It was only a dream. He would never do that. Never. It was one fifteen, but I needed to call him. The gash that had been gone from my heart was now ripped open like a chasm.

My fingers desperately reached over to the phone and began dialing the number I knew so well. I was shaking so bad that it took four tries to dial the right number. I cradled the phone to me, desperate to hear him. For him to tell me that none of it was true. I didn't even care that it was one a.m. He had fallen asleep on a tractor before.

"Eh." Was the response on the phone when I heard him pick up the phone. Just hearing his voice calmed me down.

"Would you leave me? Would you cheat on me? Would you be another Jesse?" I said fast into the phone. I rested my head against the head board waiting for him to answer me.

"Elisa?" He asked with a slur. He was drunk. "No. I wouldn't."

"Why are you drunk, Jake? Everyone knows you don't handle whiskey well," I told him with a watery smile.

"I thought you weren't coming back. I waited until late then I realized you didn't want me, so I hit the whiskey. It helped a little," he admitted, not fully coherent. "I missed you. I need you now, Elisa. It's not the same without you in my life. Everything about you makes me a better person. But I understand if you didn't come back."

"I had to pick something up for work, Jake. I wanted to come back, but it was too late. I was exhausted."

"Did you miss me?" He asked suddenly after a moment of silence. "Because even when I knew you were halfway across the country I couldn't stop thinking of you. I kept looking at the door going crazy. They all called me obsessed on the farm. There were times I imagined you coming in at night. Then I began to think I was going crazy."

"I missed you more than anything. Do you know how bad I wanted to pick up the phone every night and tell you what I was seeing and feeling? But you said in that letter that we weren't supposed to call each other. I didn't have enough control left not to."

"Elisa?" I waited for him to continue. "I love you."

"I love you, too, Jake. I'm coming home now. I miss you too much."

"See you soon." The line went dead. I scrambled out of bed, not really awake. All my stuff was quickly thrown into my bag, and I was out of the door faster than I thought possible. I threw me key on the counter and the bewildered looking girl came out to stare. I didn't care.

I climbed in my car and started it. Then I flew out of the parking lot onto the belt line. My old Toyota was going so fast that I was in Platteville in about forty minutes. It was a miracle I wasn't picked up. My wheels soon found themselves on that old familiar drive to Jake's house. I could feel the texture of the road change to gravel as I began bumping over the drive.

Soon I was out of the car and at the front door. I knocked and waited as patiently as possible. Alicia and Arnold came to the front door, both looking tired and distraught. They just stared at me, and eventually Alicia motioned me in as if this was a regular occurrence.

"I need to see Jake," I whispered quietly. I stood there wrapping my arms around me. I suddenly felt nervous.

"He missed you like crazy you know. Every night he couldn't sleep because you weren't there," Arnold said quietly. He wasn't cracking any jokes, and it was one of the few times I had seen him serious. "We are going back to bed. You know where to find him. Talk to you in the morning, Elisa." They walked out of the living room back to their room.

Bear came up and began nuzzling my hand. I reached down to pet him absentmindedly. "Where is he, boy? I need to find him right away." His black fur was thick and smooth beneath my hands, and I buried my face in his neck.

"He's right here." I looked up to see Jake standing there. My heart almost stopped. He was in his normal pajamas. Sweat pants and boxers. His tall frame was coated with muscle, and his hair was cut close to his head. But everyone who knew Jake knew that I wasn't his looks that got him places, it was his smile that was currently nowhere to be seen.

"You're back." He said it as a statement. I didn't say anything in response to that. "I did a Bloody Mary hangover fix. But I let out the banana and apple trick. I'm not a nauseous drunk. Thank God." I nodded. I had seen him drunk more than once.

"Can we get over the small talk, Jake. It is killing my nerves," I said into Bear's fur. Now that I was here I was finding it difficult to look into his eyes. I didn't know what I would see if I looked into them.

"Look at me, Lissa." I kept my face buried. "Girlie, just look at me." Jake pulled me up and turned my face toward his. His hands pulled me toward his bedroom, and I followed powerless to stop him—it wouldn't have mattered because I didn't want him to stop. He laid me down on his bed.

I closed my eyes for a moment memorizing this feeling. His body pressed over mine, his arms holding my head. The sensation of his fingers entwined in my hair. Months without this had been insanity. How had I lasted this long? The emotions running through my body were more than just happiness. It was ecstasy.

"I love you," he said earnestly, and my heart soared thousands of miles above the ground. I was going to respond but he put a finger to my lips. "Shh. I am going to kiss you now. Is that okay with you?" I just pulled him down lower for a response. Our lips met and everything fell away. The noises, the people, the memories. His hands ran over my cheek bones as light as feathers.

"How did we last this long?" I asked breathlessly. He just shook his head. "Don't let me go again, Jake. Even if I say differently." His lips were still smiling when they reached mine again. We didn't fall asleep until seven that morning. The light was streaming through the blinds like a brilliant wake up call to the rest of the farm.

That's how we started our Facebook official relationship. Lying in a bed with three dogs piled on us, and that is how Alicia and Arnold found us. He just nodded and left, but Alicia stared at our sleeping forms. She could finally stop worrying about the two of us. Things were right for once, and I finally found my happy ending.