“That doesn’t sound like something you would do, Chapel.”
“I don’t feel like me anymore.”
I saw the moment his heart broke for me. His expression softened and head jerked slightly before he looked away briefly and swallowed hard.
“Will this… make you happy?”
The question was simple enough, but I seemed to hold the answer heavily in my heart. It hurt to think about the answer much less say the words.
“I don’t know, but I hope so. I haven’t been happy since that night.”
This was the first time I’d admitted to being unhappy and that made me sadder. My eyes sealed shut as I released a shaky breath, trying my hardest not to cry.
I wasn’t happy.
And knowing that truth made me feel so ungrateful.
How could I allow something as fickle and temperamental as romantic love to have such power over me? There were people in far worse situations than mine and they seemed to be in a better headspace than me. Here I was with a broken heart, and it felt like my world had been tilted and on hold for the last three hundred-plus days. I felt so weak allowing heartbreak to keep me in this condition.
What was it about me that made me value love so much that everything else had taken the back burner? Was that a sign I didn’t love myself enough? No, that couldn’t be it. No matter how much I loved me, there was also the desire to be loved romantically. One shouldn’t and couldn’t replace the other. My time alone had just proven that.
I could hear that light-skinned girl from that video that went viral yelling for me to stand up, but dammit… Nova’s betrayal had chopped me at myknees. Maybe if he would have told me in a different way, in a different place, it would have been different. Easier. And it certainly didn’t help to see him with the woman he’d replaced me with.
How was something that was meant to make us feel so good hurt so damn bad?
Jerry scooted his chair around the table and sat closer to me. He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me close while I wiped my eyes.
“Happiness is contentment, confidence, and acceptance of ourselves, what we have, and what we’re doing. Who we are. I don’t think you can be happy and find healing seeking revenge and trying to hurt others, even if they do deserve it. And theydodeserve it. Love and hate can’t dwell in the same space, the same temple.” He paused and lifted my head from his shoulder by my chin. “Your temple is too sacred to be filled with such strong hate, however, if this is what you have to do to release it, I support your decision. I’m hoping, though, that we can come up with something that’ll help you release it in another way now that you’re back home.”
I licked my lips because they dried quickly after parting. I’m not sure what I was expecting him to say, but that wasn’t it. Leave it to Jeremiah to accept my bullshit unconditionally… Making me feel right even when I’m wrong. For a while, all I could do was stare into his almond-shaped eyes. They were so beautiful—my favorite place to get lost.
Maybe if I had Jeremiah in Dallas with me, I would have been able to focus on healing and closure, but I didn’t. And all I could focus on was the pain and how love for Nova wouldn’t let me go. Regardless, I couldn’t say I felt like there was a chance I’d change my mind about getting even. All I could do was tell him, “We’ll see.”
Jeremiah gave me a small smile as he wiped the last of my tears.
“I’m glad you came back in time for the meeting Monday. I didn’t want to make her the interim designer, but Allegra and Nova outvoted me. You know I will always be most loyal to you.”
“I know, but I appreciate you reminding me of that. Hearing that Allegra was cool with her taking my position does come as a surprise, but I’m sure she did what she thought was best for the business.”
“Either way, I’m glad you back. I missed my partna. Shit ain’t been the same without you here, Chap. I really did miss you.”
Hearing him express his feelings was the boost my energy needed after talking about Nova and my plans zapped me of it. I gave him a kiss on the nose and hugged his neck as I always did, and Jerry chuckled as he placed a kiss to my neck. For some reason, the gesture made me shiver as my arms covered with chills. Releasing him, I cleared my throat and crossed my arms over my chest to hide my hardening nipples, grateful for the distraction of Darron walking over with my fried green tomatoes. At the sight of Jeremiah, Darron sucked his teeth and made me laugh.
I was truly, truly happy to be home… and I could only pray this feeling would last.
The Next Afternoon
Jeremiahand I spent most of yesterday walking and talking on the beach about everything and nothing in between. Certain topics had been off limits, and Nova, relationships, and work were at the top of the list. I had a cleaning company to clean my townhome in preparation for my return, and I was glad I did. All I had to do yesterday when I got back home was unpack the few bags I’d brought with me from Dallas. On the off chance I wanted to go back, I had my furniture stored in a unit there.
I was careful about letting people know I was back in town. The first person I called was my best friend and told her to pull up on me. She didn’t ask any questions, Allegra simply agreed, and I was grateful for that. As time neared for her arrival, I looked around the setup I had prepared once more. There was plum wine and a nice-sized charcuterie board waiting for us on the island that separated the kitchen and my living room. I had a low Jhene Aiko playlist going in the background, because listening to her daily was a part of what had kept me sane.
My favorite chocolate-scented candles from Yankee Candle were lit and emanating the sweetest, decadent scent. For some reason, I was a little nervous about seeing Allegra. Seeing Jerry was easy. Would she be just as happy to see me? Well, yes, she would… but would she be upset? Of course, she would. We hadn’t talked in almost a year. I couldn’t blame her for how she felt. I just prayed she was happier about me being back than she would be upset about me leaving to begin with.
The doorbell rang, and I quickly scurried over to the front door to let my best friend in. When I opened the door, my mouth dropped as I gripped it tightly. With wide eyes, I gasped before squealing and reaching for the tiny bundle in her arms.