Destiny Ever-changing
Author: Tasha Ivey

Chapter 8
Brooks - Clearing The Air

Brooks:

 

Will keeps looking at me inquisitively as I pull my truck up behind Laura’s car. I’m not sure how I’ll explain the situation with Laura. He’s been my best friend as long as I can remember, but I don’t know if I can be entirely honest with him. Do I tell him the truth about my attraction to her, or do I just blow it off as if it’s no big deal? I do know that it’s time to be honest with her, though. If I’m going to keep running into her, it’s time she knows that I’m not the gardener . . . and that I’m engaged.

I can’t let Will be the one who lets the cat out of the bag, so I send him inside. Laura and I engage in some very awkward conversation; although, thankfully, she’s much more interested in how I returned her necklace rather than why I did it. I confess that I followed her for her safety, and she seems satisfied with that. She thanks me and begins to leave, but I can’t let her go without revealing the truth to her. If I don’t tell her now, I may never do it, and that will only lead to more problems and wounded pride.

I’m relieved that she agrees to walk with me. “Are you okay with walking on the beach? You’ll get sand in your shoes.”

She stops dead in her tracks, yanks her white canvas tennis shoes off, and hurls them toward her car. “What shoes?”

I can only laugh, but deep down that coy smile she gives me is driving me insane. We stroll through the backyard to the gate, and I lead her down the stairs to the sand. We walk for a few moments as I search for the right words to say, but I just can’t seem to find a good way to start. I haven’t been entirely honest with her, but I haven’t exactly lied. To me, though, an omission is almost as deceitful.

“Was there a particular motive for asking me to walk with you, or did you just need an exercise partner?” she asks with a grin.

This is it. There is no turning back now. “Yes, there is a reason, Laura.”

“What is it?” she slows her stride and gazes at me.

“I have some things to explain to you, and I’m ashamed that I didn’t clarify some of these things when we initially met. I didn’t think that we would meet again, so I didn’t really feel the necessity of going into all of the complicated details of my life.”

Laura stops at the water’s edge, letting the shallow waves wash over her feet. “I’m listening.”

“First of all, I’m not a gardener,” I admit as I join her by the water. “I own that house. I don’t believe in having someone do the yard work for me when I’m entirely capable of doing it myself. In fact, I enjoy doing it.”

She faces me with a rueful look on her face. “I’m so sorry, Brooks. That is completely my mistake for making that assumption. How embarrassing! I can’t tell you how ashamed I am.”

“No, please, don’t be. I could have easily told you when I was changing your tire, but I was in a dreadful mood. I didn’t feel like explaining myself, so I just overlooked it.”

“So, you own that house,” she confirms. “But, what about that ‘Joshua’ person?”

“You don’t miss a thing, do you?” I laugh nervously. “That’s another part of what I have to tell you.”

I turn to her. “I am Joshua. My full name is Joshua Brooks Tucker, Jr.”

Her eyes meet mine, and I see her cheeks flush. She remains silent.

“I should have told you that from the beginning, I know. I probably would have if I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my own problems. I’ve been really self-absorbed lately, and I shouldn’t have gotten you mixed up in all of it.”

“Wait a minute. If you are Joshua, then that woman is your—”

“Fiancée,” I finish her sentence as I nod.

“Wow,” she appears surprised.

“Again, I should have let you know, Laura.”

She attempts to conceal her dejection and turns back toward the water. “Oh, it’s fine! Don’t worry about it. You don’t owe me any explanations. It’s my fault for drawing my own conclusions; it’s a bad habit of mine.”

“But I do owe you an explanation, Laura,” I say as I kindly touch her arm.

“No, really, it’s fine,” she says as she jerks her arm away. “I should be getting back home. I’m sure my Nana is waiting on me to get there, so she can start dinner.”

She starts making her way back to the stairs. I don’t know whether to stop her or let her go. I know that I’ve disappointed her, which tells me that I’m not the only one who felt some kind of spark between us. I know it’s best to put an end to this now before feelings progress any further, but I don’t want her to think that I intentionally led her on.

I run toward her. “Laura, wait!”

She spins around, crosses her arms, and waits for me to catch up with her. “Brooks, like I said, you don’t owe me anything at all. It’s not like anything happened between us. We’ve only spoken to each other twice. It was just a simple misunderstanding on my behalf and now you’ve cleared everything up. That’s all there is to it.”

“No, there’s more than that. There’s so much about me that you don’t know; there is a reason behind the madness.”

“Brooks, I get it,” she fumes. “You’re engaged, you’re obviously not a poor gardener, and you clearly have some issues. Who doesn’t? All I know is that I made some poor assumptions about you, which led to an entirely inappropriate regard for you. Nothing happened. No one is hurt. Let’s just end this conversation before someone is, okay?”

Just as she turns to storm off, I grab her wrist and whirl her around to face me. “I didn’t mean to mislead you, and it’s obvious to me that we have some mutual feelings toward each other. That is why I knew I had to clear the air with you.”

“Mutual feelings?” she says, trying to appear oblivious. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

I can’t believe I’m about to say this. “Laura, you’re gorgeous. The very first moment I saw you, I was drawn in like a moth to a flame. I have seen many beautiful women in my life, but the way that you carry yourself and your personality is unlike any woman I’ve ever known. The way your cheeks blush when you are embarrassed, your shy smile, your nervous laugh, the way you speak to me like you’ve known me forever . . . there’s so many things about you that I find so attractive. But—”

“Ah, I knew there had to be a ‘but’ after all that,” she said, her cheeks glowing a fiery red. 

I shake my head. “No, it’s not what you think. The ‘but’ is that I knew I shouldn’t feel that way. I can’t let myself feel that way right now. I don’t want to get into all the dreadful details, but just know that I wouldn’t be in the situation that I am in right now if I had a choice in the matter. It’s so easy to forget all of my problems when I’m near you. It’s like I’m someone else when you are around. I want you to be my friend, Laura. Please, say that you’ll still talk to me after this.”

“I don’t know, Brooks. Okay, I’ll admit that I have been somewhat attracted to you, too, and I really can’t believe that I just told you that. To be quite honest, I was a little excited that I had a reason to come here and see you again. I enjoy being around you, but I’m afraid of what will happen if we continue to see each other. I don’t want to come between you and your future wife.”

I look down and start nervously pawing at the sand with my toes. “Unfortunately, there isn’t anything that will come between me and Jacqueline, no matter how hard I try.”

“Why is that?” she says looking confused.

“Nevermind,” I say. “Maybe I’ll explain all of that someday. Just tell me we can be friends. Please, Laura.”

“Okay, fine,” she agrees. “Even if you weren’t engaged, I don’t need to complicate my life any more than it already is right now. I have been through enough lately.”

Instinctively, I wrap my arms around her and squeeze her tightly, and, to my surprise, she does the same. I have never felt anything like this before when hugging someone. Every part of my body that she is touching feels hot and tingly, and her body fits mine like a puzzle piece that was once missing. Her head rests perfectly at my shoulder, and I can feel her moist breath on my neck. I take in a deep breath, and I can smell the sweet, lavender scent from her hair. I almost forget that we just had the “let’s be friends” talk until I feel something warm and wet fall onto my neck. Pulling her back away from me, I see that her eyes are glistening.

“Gosh, Laura, I had no idea that I had upset you that much.”

“No, it’s not that,” she shakes her head and wipes her eyes, forcing a smile. “I guess you’re not the only one that needs a friend right now. It just felt good for someone to hug me. It was nice.”

I put my arm around her shoulder. “I thought so, too. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

“Wow, could you make it sound any cornier?” she laughs.

“Hey, if you can’t be corny with your friend, who can you be corny with?”

She playfully slaps me on the arm. “You got me on that one.”

“How would you like to meet one of my other friends, friend?” I ask.

“Sounds good, but what’s with all the ‘friend’ business? I do have a name, you know. It almost sounds like you’re trying to convince yourself.”

I wink at her. “Maybe I am.”

I guide her back up the stairs, and I can’t help but to feel euphoric. I was worried about what her reaction would be, but I think it ended well—as well as it possibly could under the circumstances. How strange is it that I feel such a strong connection with a woman I barely know? The conversation that we just had is one that you would hear from people that have known each other for at least a few weeks. Not two days.

Once we make it through the yard and toward the back door, Will meets us on the deck, flashing a devilish grin.

“Will, I want you to meet a new friend of mine, Laura Carey. She just moved into a house a couple miles up the road.”

“Laura, it’s a pleasure,” Will says as he turns to me. “I’m hurt, man. I thought I was your only friend, but I can definitely see why you upgraded. If I could fill out a shirt like—Ouch!” He yells after I elbow him in his side.

“Please excuse my friend,” I beg. “He has a habit of making himself look like a complete jackass.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, I think,” she says. “It’s nice to meet you, Will.”

Will smiles and nods while rubbing his ribs.

“I’m going to have a glass of lemonade,” I announce. “Would anyone else like some?”

“Sounds good,” Laura says.

Will nods. “Sure.”

“Laura, you can have a seat anywhere here on the deck, and I’ll bring it right out. Will, I could use some help getting it ready.”

Will eagerly follows me inside, anxious to get me alone. “Okay, Brooksey, spill the beans.”

I knew this was coming. “I know I have some explaining to do, believe me, but it’s nothing serious. Just let me explain everything after she’s gone, okay?”

“Sure, buddy, but I just have to know one thing.”

I hand him the tray of lemonade and glasses. “What’s that?”

“Has Jacqueline met your friend, Laura?”

I shake my head as I grab a package of cookies. “No, not yet. Why?”

“Just asking,” he says. “But it doesn’t look like you’re going to be able to hold off on that introduction for much longer.”

I look out the front windows and see Jacqueline’s car coming up the drive. “Oh, no. How exactly am I going to explain this?”

“Leave it to me,” he laughs. “I’ll take care of the introductions.”

“Not a chance. It had to happen sometime, so I guess now is as good of a time as any. Finish getting this stuff on the tray and grab an extra glass, will you? I need to warn Laura.”

“You got it,” he says, still chuckling.

I rush outside to where Laura is sitting. “My fiancée just pulled up.”

“Oh, okay,” she stands up. “I can leave.”

“No, I want you to meet her. It will explain a lot about what is going on with me. Just don’t take anything she says seriously. She can be a bit . . . rude.”

At that moment, Will comes out with the tray of lemonade and cookies, and Jacqueline is trailing behind him. She doesn’t see Laura right away.

“I’m so pleased you made it, Will. Poor Joshua is absolutely miserable here without all of his friends. He just follows me around like some lost puppy, so I’m relieved you’re here to take him off my hands.”

“Hey, I’m happy to help,” Will says as he winks at me.

She turns toward me with a mischievous smile. “Sweetheart, whose car is in the drive? It looks familiar, but I’m sure I don’t know anyone that would drive such a primitive, hideous thing.”

“That would be my car,” Laura says boldly and stands to greet Jacqueline.

“Oh my! I didn’t know anyone else was present. Please don’t take any offense to my comment. The car is simply not my taste.”

“No offense taken,” Laura says with determination. “I like my car just fine.”

“Jacqueline,” I interrupt before my fiancée gets crude. “This is Laura Carey. She just moved in down the road a couple of miles. She is the one who had the flat tire yesterday that I changed. She came by to thank me.”

“Which house?” Jacqueline says insolently, obviously more concerned with Laura’s status than with politely introducing herself.

“Actually, it’s my grandmother’s house. I’m going to be staying with her for a while. It’s a little white house about two miles down the road, just before you come to the public beach area.”

“You mean the one with all of those gaudy flowers?” Jacqueline offensively inquires.

With a spiteful smile, Laura fires right back. “Yes, that’s the one. I can see how it can be a bit difficult to see the beauty in someone . . . er, I mean, something so presumptuous sometimes.”

Jacqueline doesn’t have anything to say about that. “Joshua, I have several bags in the car. Bring them in for me. I am exhausted, and I need to lie down.”

She storms inside, and I can’t help but smirking. Jacqueline has met her match.

“Sorry about her, Laura,” I apologize. “She doesn’t have a tactful bone in her body.”

Her annoyance melts away to a sweet smile. “No worries. I can handle her.”

Will, meanwhile, has quite enjoyed the spectacle. The whole time the two women were talking, he sipped his lemonade and intently listened to every word.

“I’m shocked,” Will beams. “Most people would have run away with their tail tucked between their legs.”

“Thanks, I guess,” she says, standing up. “I guess I need to be getting home. I think I’ve had more than enough excitement for one day.”

“I agree with you on that one. It has certainly been an interesting afternoon. I’ll walk you out to your car.”

We take off around the house, and I walk her up to her car and open the door. “I’m glad we had the chance to talk, and I’m even more glad that I’m going to be seeing more of you, friend.

Laura laughs melodically. “There you go trying to convince yourself again.”

“Guess so. It’s probably going to take a lot of convincing on my behalf, I’m afraid.”

“Yeah, right,” she exaggerates. “You hardly know anything about me.”

I whisper to her flirtatiously. “See, that’s where you’re wrong. I know more than you think; besides, a guy can learn a lot from seeing a girl’s taste in panties.”

She immediately gasps and blushes. “You are never going to let me forget that, are you? Those aren’t my taste anyway.”

“I know, I know. You don’t have to explain. I’m just messing with you. I know they were a gift; that was the box that I saw your name on.”

“So humiliating!” she exclaims, hiding her face in her hands.

I pull her hands down. “You’ll be laughing about it with me someday.”

“I seriously doubt that, but we’ll see,” she says.

Her shy smile suddenly fades and her eyes dart over to me. “What’s wrong, Laura?”

“I should get going. It’s going to be dark soon, and I know my Nana will be wondering where I am. Maybe, I’ll see you around.” She buckles her seatbelt and starts her car, waiting for me to let go of her car door.

“Sure, I hope so,” I say, trying to figure out her sudden change of demeanor. “Take care and drive safe.”

I shut her car door, and she immediately pulls out of the drive. I watch her car speed down the road until I can no longer see her. I turn to walk back toward the house to find Will, and I suddenly understand what altered Laura’s mood. Jacqueline was standing in the front door glaring at me. As I approach the house, she opens the glass door.

“Can I talk to you?” she snaps. “Like, now!”

I walk up the porch to meet her. “What?”

“I don’t know what kind of trick you are trying to pull, but it’s not going to work. If you think you can flaunt some little whore around our house and hope to get me to call the wedding off, you’re dead wrong. You can sleep around on me all you want to; I don’t care. Do you really think I’m actually faithful to you? Actually, go ahead and cheat on me. That will give me more ammunition and more alimony in the long run. Just remember, my dear, I’m in this for financial security, not for you. No matter what you do, we will be married.”

Without giving me any chance of rebuttal, she goes back inside, slamming the door behind her. I think it’s somewhat entertaining that she is under the impression I brought Laura here to try to make her jealous; that’s exactly what it did, too. I could probably invite her over every day to really get to Jacqueline, but I wouldn’t dream of subjecting Laura to her more than I have to. It would be nice to have her around every day, though.

I’m pleased with how our talk ended and that she’s willing to continue talking to me. She was right that nothing has happened between us, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. However, I can’t help but feeling like something has happened between us. I mean, we met only yesterday, and we’ve spoken a few times for a very short while. On the contrary, I can’t seem to justify the strong connection I have with her, and it seems that she feels the connection, too. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

Will comes around the corner of the house. “There you are! Is she gone?”

“Is who gone?”

“You know I’m talking about Laura. Quit playing stupid.”

I smile as I walk back toward the deck, and he joins me. “She just left.”

His mouth turns up at the corners. “You’re sleeping with her, aren’t you?”

“No! I just met her yesterday, and you may have heard that I’m engaged! Where would you get that idea?”

“I saw the way you two were looking at each other, so I just assumed. I’ve known you for a long time, and I’ve never seen you look at a woman that way. If you’re honestly not sleeping with her, then what is going on?”

I recline on my favorite lounge chair, and Will sits across from me on the deck railing. I feel somewhat like a psychiatric patient as I tell him all the details of the last two days—from the moment I first met her, up to our “friend” talk this afternoon. I decide to tell him even how I feel an unexplained bond with her. He knows that my marriage with Jacqueline is being forced, so it’s not likely that he’ll criticize me for being attracted to another woman.

“Will, all I know is, I can’t let myself get any closer to her, but I can’t let her get any further away either. Does that make sense? I know that nothing can ever happen between us, so I have determined that the best thing to do is to be her friend.”

Will sits at the foot of my lounge chair. “Hey, no one can blame you for feeling this way. Not with everything that you’ve been thrown into lately. I think it’s only natural for your subconscious to resist your imminent marriage, so maybe that’s all this is. Maybe, you don’t have any genuine feelings for her at all.”

“You know, I didn’t even think of it that way. It would explain an awful lot. Why else would I be so strongly attracted to someone I don’t even know? That has to be what is going on. Wow, I knew you were my best friend for some reason.”

“So, what are you going to do now that I have enlightened you?” Will puffs out his chest.

“I’ll tell you exactly what I’m going to do,” I announce as I sit up. “I’m going to set you up with Laura.”

He looks confused. “Excuse me?”

“Come on, man. She’s gorgeous and single, and you are . . . single.”

Will laughs deeply. “I was waiting for you to tell me that I’m gorgeous!”

“Seriously, isn’t that something a friend would do? And, I saw the way you looked at her when we pulled into the drive this afternoon.”

“She’s crazy about you,” he says. “Why would she agree to going out with me?”

“It’s not like I’m setting you up on a date. We’ll have a cookout, and I’ll invite her. You can get to know her and let it go from there.”

His smile fades, and he looks at me seriously. “Are you sure that, if anything happens between me and Laura, you won’t be jealous or upset? I wouldn’t want to ruin a twenty-year friendship over a woman.”

“Are you kidding?” I ask, teasingly shoving him. “It will make me happy if you’re happy.”

He shoves me back. “If you say so. I won’t lie, though. She’s smoking hot.”

“I haven’t noticed,” I say, jokingly shrugging my shoulders as Will snickers. “How about we have a cookout when my sister gets here? I can invite Laura over then.”

“I like it,” he nods. “Now, where are those steaks we’re going to grill? I’m starving.”

We spend the rest of the evening without even a subtle mention of Laura or Jacqueline. We grill our steaks, toss a football around down on the beach, go for a swim, and play pool for a couple hours. It’s nice to hang out with Will to get my mind off of the problems that have been plaguing me.

Even though we haven’t mentioned her, the mere absence of Laura afflicts me more than anything else; I can’t wait to see her again. I thought I had everything figured out, but it seems that I am only fooling myself. Setting her up with him could possibly make my feelings for her subside—or make them worse.

 

 

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