Chapter 28 The Final Chapter
A few days later I found myself back at the house where I had first woken up after this whole ordeal began. In the time that I had been away, the guys had improved its condition greatly. There was no remaining evidence of the bloody fight that had taken place there. The only reminder was the ghost-like image imprinted in my memory.
Blue and yellow flowers flooded around the exterior of the home. The grass was neatly tended to and a healthy green. Inside had been completely redone. Most of the old furniture was gone, being replaced with woodworking done by the triplets.
Upstairs the rooms had been rearranged seeing as Silas would not be coming back. Alan would be living in my old room since I would now be sharing with Josiah.
The walls of our room were repainted a soft, light lavender. With the dark wood furniture and deep green carpet, the feeling was more romantic and woodsy than super girly. The curtains and accents were a dark violet giving the tiniest hint of formality, but all in all, it was a relaxing atmosphere.
"Hey," a voice sighed after our bedroom door opened. I looked up from the closet of clothing that had been brought in or made for me.
"Hey," I replied back as Josiah came to sit beside me on the floor.
"You liking everything?" he asked with a slight nod towards the closet.
"Yeah, I guess." I mean, they were clothes. I could wear them. He nodded.
"While you're here, you're going to have to start taking classes as well. As a part of my family, you'll be expected to know how to cook, sow, knit, and so on. Some supplies will be brought in so you can make whatever you want to wear."
My eyebrows shot to the top of my forehead.
"Okay," I managed to scrape out.
Instead of just signing up for a marriage, it looked like I had signed up for a whole new lifestyle that went with it. The situation did not bother me. In fact, I was rather excited to learn, but it did shock me.
"So have you talked to Oliver, then?" I asked quietly. We had generally avoided bringing him up.
"Don't worry. It'll be taken care of."
My stomach twisted. "What does that mean?"
His eyes met mine for a moment before he looked away with a slight grin. "I want you to talk to him."
"You heard me. He's your best friend. If you love me like you say, you'll talk to him and sort this out."
"Oh no, don't you dare try and pull that 'if you love me' crap."
"I'm not pulling anything. I'm telling it like it is. If you want this marriage, you will make it happen."
I pulled my legs to my chest and rested my chin on my knees. "What am I supposed to say to him?"
Josiah shrugged before leaning back on his elbows. "He's your best friend. He'll understand."
That sounded ridiculous, and my expression let him know it too. "Are you serious? You think he'll understand that I am leaving him for his worst enemy? Someone that he almost died to protect me from?"
"Look, are you marrying me to spite him?"
"Then he has nothing to be offended about. You fell in love with me. It's natural to want to marry who you love. You're loving me and wanting to marry me has nothing to do with him. If he gets his panties in a twist and takes it personal, screw him. You are not trying to hurt him, so he shouldn't feel hurt. And if he does, don't beat yourself up over it. It's not your fault he's an idiot."
He gave my face a brief look to see my frown of confusion. He took a deep sigh and rolled his eyes before turning to face me.
"Look, it's like you said, what matters? Heart motive or the action? Your action may hurt him, but in your heart you really, genuinely care about him. I can see that. If that's not good enough for him, and he makes you feel like you should give up the love of your life just to keep him from getting offended, then he's not worth your feelings. Do you get what I'm saying?"
I slowly nodded. "He shouldn't be offended because I'm not trying to offend him?"
"Right. It's one thing to stab a friend in the back on purpose, it's another to do it on an accident. If he's as good of a friend as you both claim him to be, he'll understand the wound is an accident."
"I still don't like the idea of stabbing him though."
"Well, then, I guess I better call off our wedding."
"And you'd let me go? Just like that?"
"Hell no. I'd make you both miserable. Didn't you find that out last time?"
I groaned and lightly beat my forehead against my knees. God, I was confused. At the touch of Josiah's hand against my cheek, I lifted my gaze to look at him.
"Chin up, kiddo. You'll be okay." I raised an eyebrow of disbelief. "What?" he chuckled.
I shrugged. "It just seems like our whole relationship was spent with you trying to make me feel weak and like crap. Now you are trying to make me feel better."
He grinned widely. "Love does strange things to a person."
'Ain't that the truth,' I scoffed mentally.
"Only once you've experienced weakness can you appreciate true strength. All I have wanted to do was to push you to your limits so you know you can trust me whenever something gets to be too much."
"Like right now?"
He nodded. "Like right now. Whatever happens, I will be there for you, not to replace you but to support you."
"What about love me?" I asked softly. My eyes barely able to meet his piercing gaze.
"Yeah. I always be there to love you too."
With that he gently pressed his lips to mine for a second before an awkward cough sounded at the door. We broke apart to see a surprisingly stoic Oliver standing at the door next to an amused and slightly blushing Noah.
"Well, I will just go then," Noah said with a wink in my direction.
I did not want to know what my thoughts were let alone have him know them. Oh well.
Josiah stood and with a hand helped me to stand as well. Turning his back on Oliver, who was still looking emotionless, he asked quietly, "Do you want me to stay?"
Oh, did I? Yes, yes I did. Except, not. If it was any other best friend, I would want him to stay. If it was Oliver and any other guy, I would want that guy to stay. But Oliver and Josiah together? Nuh uh. No way.
I gently shook my head and raised my eyes to plead for him to just go and not cause a scene. He smiled gently and kissed my lips a little longer than I would have deemed necessary. Especially since I perceived a kiss to be completely uncalled for in that moment. Oh well.
I do not know how they did it, but they managed to pass each other by without killing each other. Josiah gave me one final glance before turning the corner and exiting my view. My gaze immediately transferred over to Oliver who was staring at me intently. He still had not indicated any emotion which left it up to my imagination to decide how he was feeling.
I fell onto the bed with a groan.
"Oliverrrrr," I whined. He hated me. I knew it.
"Is that your way of saying you want me to go kick Kendrick's ass for kissing you, or. . . ?" His voice trailed off leaving me a blank to fill in.
I kicked my feet against the bed and hit my fists against it a couple times while groaning. Why did I have to explain it? Why couldn't he just know?
"Do you hate me?" I asked after a moment.
"That depends," he replied. I looked up from the comforter to see him sit on the ground besides the bed. Once he was settled, he returned my gaze. "Have you done something that deserves being hated?"
"Well, no. . . . probably. . . Yes. . . probably. . . I don't know," I whined again.
"Well, why don't you tell me what you did, and then I'll decide and let you know." I gave a raw, humorless laugh into the bed. "Do you want me to hate you?" he asked after I was silent for a moment. I again turned my head to look at him.
"No. I don't know. It's just, I don't want to hurt you, but I feel like I am going to hurt you. And the only way to make myself feel better about hurting you is to have you hurt me. And if you hated me, then I'd feel pretty freaking hurt, but then at least we'd be even."
"We'd be even? So are you saying you hate me?"
"No!" I shouted and slid off the bed to sit next to him. "But I'm afraid you'll feel like I do."
"Because of what you did?"
"So what did you do?"
I picked at the soft, thick carpet and avoided his gaze at all costs. "I fell in love," I mumbled.
"Does this have anything to do with those kisses you shared with Kendrick?"
I nodded and tried to secretly wipe away a few stray tears. Yup. I was officially the world's worst person. I heard Oliver take a deep, ragged sigh and run his fingers through his hair. The wall resounded with a thump as he leaned his head back against it. We stayed like that for a few minutes until he was brave enough to break the silence.
"What do you want from me, Poppy?"
I leaned back against the wall, but I still avoided his gaze. "I want you to be happy."
"When you're going off to play happily ever after with him?!"
"I. . . " I started, but finished by throwing my hands in the air with a sigh. What was I supposed to say? "I fell in love with him, Oliver. I don't know what you want me to say or do."
"So you expect me to back down from our arrangement? Live a life unable to be married while you marry him?"
I groaned. "I. . . I'm sorry. I forgot about that 'back down' rule. I don't know. I'll back down or something and just not marry Kendrick. Then you can get married—"
"Who am I supposed to marry?"
I shrugged. "I don't know," I mumbled. Again silence flooded the room for about five minutes. I could feel the anger radiating from Oliver. His emotion was strong enough to be words unspoken.
"What do I have to do to get you back, Poppy? Do I have to force your body to turn on itself? Do I have to kidnap you?" I turned toward him with a crushed face. "Don't look at me like that. It worked for Kendrick. Maybe it'll work for me. C'mon, Poppy, do I have to act like an asshole? Is that it?!" he shouted.
I shook my head as tears fell down my red cheeks. "No!" I shouted pathetically back. "You don't. You're not Kendrick. That's one of the things I love about you."
He laughed and shook his head. "Just not enough to marry me, right?" He stood and clenched his jaw. "You know, I came here for you, because I thought you wanted to get away. If I had known you would only. . ." his voice broke off as he turned to leave. "Doesn't look like it matters anyway."
I tried to prevent it, but a sob escape my lips. I did not want him to go, but after what I had done, what right did I have to call out for him to stop?
I lifted my head and hurriedly wiped my eyes to try and see him. For the first time since I had seen him today, his expression was soft and his gaze compassionate.
"I'm not mad at you, and I don't hate you. You are still my best friend, okay? But I do hate Kendrick, and this whole situation is only making me hate him more. I am beyond pissed at him. I am sad to lose you, but I am not mad at you. Okay?"
Hope fluttered into my stomach. Before I could think, my body was jumping up from the floor and running towards him. I flung myself at him and encircled my arms around him. I held him as tightly as I could, afraid that at any moment he would take back what he had said. His arms gently wrapped around my back and held me close to him.
"I do love you, Oliver, I really do, but if we got married, I would always wonder 'what if' about Josiah. You deserve better than that. At least this way, I'll always be wondering 'what if' about you."
He gave a small laugh. "That sounds like the kind of relationship he deserves." I gave a small chuckle. "Don't worry about the arranged marriage thing. I'll find out how to make it work. One of the perks of political power," he said with a sad smile.
"Are you going to be okay?" I whispered.
He nodded. "Oh, you know, I'll just have to bury myself in Kleenex and chocolate wrappers when I get home with a romance movie marathon, but I think I'll make it." My eyebrows furrowed in concern. "Seriously, though, I think I had better go. Seeing you right now is a little painful, and if I end up seeing Kendrick, I may not be able to be as passive as before."
I gave a half smile. "Go ahead and punch him. Break his nose for all I care, as long as it makes you feel better. We all know he deserves it, if not more."
Oliver lifted his lips as his eyes shone brightly. "You're serious about that, aren't you? Man, you two will make one heckuva couple. I can tell you that."
I shrugged. "Like I said, he deserves it. Besides, you're my best friend. It's me and you always."
"I appreciate that, but I'm going to need some time to get over this. I wanted to be the father of your children, not 'Uncle Oliver' to Kendrick's kids. I don't see how we can be friends when you're with him. You will be a couple, Poppy. The two become one. I won't get you without him, and I'll never want him."
"So are you saying this is the end?"
He brushed my bangs back. "I'm only saying what I know. I don't know when our end is, so no, I am not saying that, but if it is, then I want you to know that I love you."
I nodded sadly. "I love you, too."
His eyes darted to my lips. He couldn't. . . he inched forward, but I turned my head so he kissed my cheek instead. God, that was painful.
"Right," he sighed angrily. "I guess that's the way it is now. You'll turn away from me for Kendrick."
"It's fine. I'm going to go, but maybe I'll see you around."
I looked back in his direction to see his back retreating down the hall. After he disappeared from my view, I curled up on my bed desperately wishing I had a soft, teddy bear to cling to.
I mean, don't get me wrong, it is wonderful to have a boyfriend to lie next to, but there are times when a girl needs something even cuddlier. Josiah was great, but right now I did not want to look at him.
My relationship with Oliver sucked, and who else could I blame? My heart could not be at fault. It did not know that Josiah was the enemy. It could not be blamed for love. But Josiah? Duh. He was the one who wiggled his way inside. He introduced himself and charmed my poor, defenseless heart. And now, everything was screwed up with Oliver.
I know. I know. If I was so torn up about Oliver, then why didn't I break it off with Josiah and go after Oliver? Well, I do not know. I do not know why I felt the pull towards Josiah, but I did. Maybe he manipulated it, but I cannot force myself to believe that. He promised to no longer change my feelings. I believed him.
Maybe it was the fact that Oliver was perfect, too perfect. I do not know how we could draw any closer together.
Maybe it was because I always saw him as a friend first, even if intimate feelings followed.
Maybe it was because Josiah was such a nut that I was enticed to try and figure him out. I do not know. Thank God for feelings, though, because if I had to use my mind to figure this out, I would be a goner.
So my sweet, fragile heart, please do not lead us astray. Because if this ends up being the wrong choice, it will be your dear, little life to pay.
"Did it go that bad?" I hear Josiah ask as he entered the room.
"Uhhh. Not right now. Can you please leave me alone?" I pleaded.
"Sure," he sighed. It was barely a moment later that I felt the bed sink under his weight.
"Mmmmmm," he sighed. "I love it when you call me by my first name."
"And I would love it if you gave me some time alone!"
"Really? I thought you loved me."
"I do, but that does not mean I do not want some alone time."
"Well, shut up, and let's have some alone time together."
I rolled my eyes. "I can't believe you just told me to shut up. Gosh, what a charmer," I smiled sarcastically.
"Hey, my charms worked on you, didn't they?"
That immediately wiped the smile from my lips. I grunted in reply and tried to relax into the bed which was not easy to do since Josiah was drawing designs with his finger on my stomach.
"What are you doing?" I asked after a moment.
"Shhhh. I'm writing you a love letter," he whispered in a tone that was surprisingly serious. I lifted my head to look at him. After a moment, he returned my gaze. "What?"
I shook my head. "Nothing. You've just changed a lot. That's all."
He gave me a crooked grin. "Not at all. You're the one who's changed. You became a part of my family, and what can I say? I love my family." A small smile came to my lips as he pressed a quick kiss to my stomach. He then reached up to my ear as he placed his hand gently on my stomach. "And I can't wait to start ours."
I laughed and pulled his hand away, but held it in mine. I watched as I entwined our fingers. His hand was like mine in every way, only more: slightly more tan, slightly larger, rougher, everything. He watched me as I stared transfixed at our two hands.
I do not know why, but I loved seeing them together. Something about it was so romantic to me. Josiah settled deeper in the bed beside me and wrapped his free arm around my waist as I continued to study his hand.
"I'm sorry," he whispered after a few minutes.
I turned my face towards him with a shocked, confused look. His gaze was focused on our hands, but his expression told me that he was far away in his mind.
"When baby birds first start learning to fly, the parents will stray from the nest so their babe will leave it as well. The first few times, the baby bird will actually fall to the ground and have to hop or be carried back to the nest. In some acts of tough love, the parent birds will actually push their child out of the nest. It may seem cruel, but it's for the best. I never wanted to make you feel weak. On the contrary, I wanted you to need me, for us to become one like a bird and its wings are one. I never wanted you to feel crippled. I wanted you to know that with me, you could fly."
When he finished speaking, he finally shifted his gaze slowly to my eyes. He truly made me feel wanted. He did not often say it, but his actions always expressed it. And as I was beginning to find out, he always backed up his wanting with love.
I slightly leaned towards him and captured his lips slowly with mine.
All this time I had been experiencing something new with him. I had thought it was being locked away in a cage. I thought he was trying to limit me, but I was wrong.
With all the bumps and bruises, I saw it now: I had been learning to fly. I just didn't know what I was doing at first. I have never before had to use those parts of my heart, body, or mind.
Oliver rarely ever flapped his wings. He never left the safety of the ground. At least, he never did when I was around.
Josiah, he pushed me to newer heights, to greater distances, and I know we are not even close to being finished yet.
Oliver was a good choice, a safe choice, but Josiah? He was the right one.
After all, what's the point of having wings if you never learn to fly?
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