Page 106 of Hopeful Hearts

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The days leading up to Sophia's leaving slipped through Brodie’s fingers like quicksand. He had tried his best to prepare himself, but now the time had come to say goodbye. He felt as unprepared as a parent on Christmas Eve.

“What is all this?” Sophia’s eyes grew wide when she stepped inside her front door.

“Just a little reminder, in case you forget about me.”

“I’m not going to forget my own husband, silly.”

She moved through the sea of photos hanging from the strings of enough red heart-shaped balloons to fill their entire living space. Each balloon had a different picture of them. There was photo after photo, each one with a date scribbled on the back and some with a funny or sweet caption, too.

“This is so cute. I love it.”

Each memory came flooding back as she studied the photos of them together. Some from the past year, but most were from before. When she was well and they had been carefree. Somehow, the memories were so much more important now. It mattered that he knew her before she was the person she was now.

Sophia smiled at how much she loved the girl she was and how happy they had been together. She wasn’t sure she loved the woman she had become, but she was determined to find a way to. Then she could give her full self to the man who had been by her side through it all, the way he wanted and more than deserved.

“Did you do all of this yourself?”

“I may have had some help,” he smiled.

“My mum?” It had Mel-the-photo-queen written all over it, but she was surprised that her mum had agreed to have any part in a goodbye gesture. They hadn’t exactly been on speaking terms since Sophia broke the news.

She knew her mum wouldn’t agree with her going, but she thought she might have at least accepted it was what Sophia wanted.

In fact, the opposite had happened, and it bothered Sophia that she had fallen out with her mum right before she was due to leave. It meant their last few days together were tainted with animosity and an awkward feeling whenever the subject came up.

Emmet had promised to have another talk with her about things and her dad said she would come around in the end, but Sophia wasn’t so sure that she would.

“It’s so thoughtful. I’m taking these photos with me. Maybe not the balloons, though.”

“I’m going to miss you so much it hurts.”

“I know.” Sophia gulped down a lump that was forming in her throat. Her chest squeezed and warm tears formed in the corners of her eyes. “I’ll be home before you know it,” she croaked out.

“Don’t. This is not a day for getting upset,” he warned.

“I know I have no right when I’m the one that’s leaving, but it’s not going to be easy for me, either. You make it really hard for me to say goodbye.”

“This was supposed to make it easier.”

“Epic fail,” she rolled her eyes, and he chuckled.

“I thought about throwing you a leaving party, but I thought you’d prefer something more intimate.”

“In other words, you just wanted me all to yourself for the night.”

“Damn straight I did.” Brodie wrapped an arm around her waist and led her out to the back porch and they dropped into their swing seat together.

Pulling her legs up, Sophia rested her head on his strong shoulder and looked out toward the horizon. The sky was aqua blue, twinning the water below and making them both seem endless as long as they remained together. Powerful and strong, yet soothing and gentle at the same time. Much like their love for one another. Brodie represented the rocks that graced the edges of the bay, solid and unbreakable. Except he had almost broken, and it had been her that had done that to him.

Unintentionally, she’d scarred his heart and however much she loved him for all the years to come, Sophia knew that some scars cannot be healed; yet, in time, they can fade.

There was so much love between them that even with their scars and after everything they’d been through, they still had so much hope. Their shared vulnerabilities made them stronger than ever before and there was so much before.

So much love and laughter. So many beautiful memories Sophia would cherish forever, but she knew she’d been clinging to those memories for so long with all of her heart and it was time to make room for some new ones.

A million thoughts whirled around her head as she tried to envision what the future would look like for them. She couldn’t even picture what it looked like for her, but not knowing suited her just fine.

Sophia had come to accept that she didn’t need to have it all figured out. She could simply be and trust the universe had a plan for her. A complicated, scary as shit, beautiful plan for her, and she was excited to embrace every part of it.