Collided Book 1
Collided Book 1
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I thought I’d found “the one.”
Jackson is Rich, handsome and amazing in bed. Everything a girl could want right? Well, if only he didn't have a wife.
So now I’m done. I'm supposed to be. But then I meet Alex, the scorching hot bar tender who becomes not just my friend but my best friend. Did I mention he's hot, has a body to die for and is my biggest fan? He's everything a girl can want, but this girl is done with love. If only I could convince my heart to stop beating so fast when he smiles at me, and my body from craving his touch.
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I want Madison the moment I lay eyes on her. But I’ve got my work cut out for me because someone before me broke her heart and destroyed her trust. She's my friend, that's all she wants but I'll do everything I can to convince her that we should be more. I need us to be.I’ve got to prove that not only am I different, that we belong together. I feel it in the marrow of my bones. She’s my soulmate and I’ll do whatever it takes until she believes it too.
I thought I’d found “the one.”Rich, handsome and amazing in bed. Everything a girl could want right? Well, if only he didn't have a wife.So now I’m done. I'm supposed to be. But then I meet Alex, the scorching hot bar tender who becomes not just my friend but mybestfriend. Did I mention he's hot, has a body to die for and is my biggest fan? He's everything a girl can want, but this girl is done with love. If only I could convince my heart to stop beating so fast when he smiles at me, and my body from craving his touch.
“So you just left?” my sister Melissa asks her face somewhere between bewildered and irritated. I don’t know why she’s annoyed. I’m the one who just left my house in the middle of the night with a few things stuffed in a bag and now is in her little sister’s kitchen, having to explain what happened for the second time.
“What else was I supposed to do? There was a ring! A ring he was going to propose with, and what then? I tell him, ‘Hey, I like you but not in that way, and oh, are you insane? You’re going to propose to me, the girl who you had to practically force into moving in with you? That’s smart!’”
She lets out a peeved sigh and rubs her temples with a slight shake of her head.
“I know. I couldn’t believe it either,” I say sarcastically, but my hands are slightly trembling as I stuff one of her homemade biscuits into my mouth. It’s sweet and fluffy and tastes like a piece of heaven in this little version of hell I’m sitting in. Melissa has been cooking since she could reach the stove, and she turned her passion into a lucrative catering business. The taste of these cute little biscuits almost makes me forget the screwed-up predicament I’ve landed myself in.
“I can’t believe you,” she says with a self-righteous huff.
“You can’t believe me?” I ask in disbelief.
“You just left. You didn’t talk to him! You didn’t explain that maybe you aren’t ready; you just ran out like a five-year-old having a tantrum?” she asks, her big green eyes narrowed in on me. Such a contrast from the stark blue eyes that I hate to see staring back at me in the mirror.
“It wasn’t exactly like that,” I say defensively, feeling the color drain from my face.
“No, Maddy, that’s exactly what it was like because this is what you do.” She stands from the table like she’s about to declare war.
“I’m not ready…” My voice is shakier than my hands were when holding that ring earlier.
It was beautiful.
“This wasn’t some one-night stand you just get to block out the next morning. This is a man you’ve lived with for months and who loves you, and after invading his privacy, might I add, with a Dear John letter, you disappear?” she screeches. I don’t want to correct that it was a Dear John text.
“What should I have done then, take the ring, feign excitement, and leave him at the altar?” I fire back. God, I get so tired of her self-righteous bullshit, but since I want to use her guest room as my home until I get my life together, I swallow my indignation.
“No, you were supposed to woman-up and let him know that you’re still dealing with a whole lot of shit—that I thought you had gotten over a long time ago, but apparently you have not—and you need time to deal with things. You do this calmly, genuinely, maturely…not like a fucking teenager!” I suck in a breath and lock my eyes on my hands. I’m too embarrassed to look at her.
“Yet, I’m just guessing you’re not going to do that,” she says furiously.
“I can’t talk to him right now. I don’t want to hurt him.”
This I mean, and it’s more genuine than anything I’ve ever said in my life. She shakes her head again in irritation.
“You think this—leaving and sending him a shitty text—isn’t going to hurt him?” she asks sharply. “Not to mention he’s one of Greg’s good friends. Jesus, Maddy!”
I scowl at her.
“That’s what this is about? You’re worried about what Greg’s going to say?” I fire back. Of course, this is about her long-time perfect boyfriend, who sort of is the reason that me and Ryan are together. That should have been my first huge red flag. She huffs and throws a kitchen towel down on the counter.
“Of course not. This is about doing the right thing!”
“I’m just not ready, okay!” I bark back, and she throws her head back in frustration.
“How many times are you going to do this?” This time her tone is gentler but still sharp, like one of her carving knives.
“Do what? This is the first time I’ve been proposed to that I know of!” I joke lightly, trying to ease the tension in the room. But she’s not backing down.
“Terry!” she says, putting up a finger.
“Terry was not like this at all. We dated for three months, and he got super clingy and weird…” I explain.
“Marcus.” She’s holding up two fingers now.
“Marcus wanted kids. You know that’s nowhere in my future anytime soon.”
“Clint…” She’s holding up three now, and I’m starting to feel panicked. I don’t need this shit right now. I came here to get away from the panic, the nervousness, the dread…and she’s making it worse.
“Clint wanted different things than I did!” I yell. Which is the truth. He wanted a commitment, and I wanted anything but.
“And now, Ryan. I thought when you hit a year, you were growing up and outgrew whatever commitaphobia you had, but I was wrong.”
“Jesus, I came here for a little support, some sisterly advice, not to get lectured into feeling like a selfish bitch!” I shriek at her, folding my arms across my chest, fighting the tears behind my eyes. Her expression eases just a tad. She walks over to me and puts a hand on my shoulder.
“I know you don’t mean to hurt people, but you are. You can’t keep doing this. If you do, you’re going to wake up old and alone, and I don’t want that for you. I love you, but you can’t keep making these stupid decisions based on one selfish prick’s choice to abandon us.”
“This isn’t about him,” I murmur pointedly, but she rolls her eyes knowingly.
She gives me a sharp look but then lets out a yawn.
“I’ve got an early morning baby shower I have to set up for. You can have the guest room since you’re virtually homeless now.” Her words are harsh, but she relents, giving me a soft kiss on the cheek and wordlessly leaving the kitchen. It’s just me and the biscuits now, and they don’t taste as good as they did earlier.
My eyes are heavy, but I plow them open. It’s freezing, thanks to Mel’s preferred room temperature being frigid bitch. I grab my phone and see ten missed calls and four unread texts from Ryan. I throw my head back onto the bed and wish for sleep, but with the beaming sun penetrating the room through Mel’s large picture windows, it’s hopeless. I let out a deep breath and open the text messages.
The first is a Hey babe, where'd you go.
Mads, what's going on?
You went through my stuff?
And I assume when he inevitably notices that most of my important things have disappeared, the phone calls begin. I don't know what to say to him, which is the reason I left. It's not that I'm afraid of conflict because I had no problem conflicting the hell out of my ex when I found out he was banging his coworker.
It's explaining to Ryan that there's nothing he can do to fix it. To fix me.
It's not as if he had no warning. I let him know in the beginning that I had issues, specifically with trust, and unlike most girls who say that fun is all they want and they don't need commitment, I really meant it.
He just didn't believe me.
Yes, I feel terrible. Ryan has a routine, one he's followed every day since I met him. Up at 5 am to go for his run, shower/sex time depending on his mood, light breakfast, and out the door. It took some getting used to being with someone so organized. I'm the total opposite. I do freelance graphic design work because I can't stand routine, and I value my freedom over anything. I can't imagine being locked down in an office 80 percent of my life. I crave spontaneity, but Ryan provided the structure that I needed, even if it was boredom-inducing most times. I know Ryan cares about me. I think he thinks he loves me, even if I'm not quite sure men are capable of truly loving anyone but themselves.
I take the phone in my hand, inhale a deep breath, and brace myself as the phone rings in my ear. It only takes two before he picks up.
"You found the ring.” The disappointment in his voice causes my stomach to clench. I nod and squeak out a “yeah.”
“I wasn’t going to give it to you now. I was going to wait until the right time. I know how you can get. You weren’t supposed to see it.”
“But I did, Ryan,” I tell him, wishing that I didn’t.
“I’m not trying to rush you into anything. You should know I’d never do that to you.”
“It’s a good thing I saw it, Ryan, even if you don’t think so. We’re on two totally different paths, and it just reminded me of that.”
“I don’t care! I love you, and I just want us to be back on a path to each other.” Tears fill my eyes, and I bite my lip.
“There’s never going to be a right time for me to see it, Ryan. If you knew me, you’d know that,” I say quietly.
“With me?” he asks snappily.
“With anyone. It has nothing to do with you.”
“Our relationship, a year and a half, has nothing to do with me?” he asks, anger replacing the hurt in his voice. And I’m glad. Anger, I can deal with. Pain and hurt that I caused…I can’t.
“You knew, Ryan. I always told you…”
“You told me? I thought you’d get over whatever issues you have! I thought I showed you how much I cared, that I’d never be like the guys who hurt you. I thought I was breaking through the fucking cement walls you keep up, but I was wrong then, huh?”
“I never meant to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“You don’t mean to. You didn’t want to. But you have. How fucking selfish are you right now?”
“Don’t say it.” His words are surrounded by angry laughter.
“I’m sorry we wasted so much of each other’s time. Sorry that I thought we could build a life together.”
I’m quiet. I deserve this. I deserve his anger, to feel him seething, realize his pain. It’s the least that I can do even though I want to hang up and hide from it. I fight the urge, but then I realize I don’t have to. He’s hung up.
I type a long text trying to explain why I am the way I am. How I wish I could change who I am and not feel the way I do and how sorry I am, but then I erase it because it doesn’t matter and will probably just make things worse. He needs space and time, and maybe if I’m lucky, we can be friends, or perhaps I should just shoot for him, not hating me. I throw my head back into the soft down blanket that Mel probably spent a boatload of money on. She loves luxurious things and has ever since we were kids. She was one of the only twelve-year-olds I knew who actually understood why the thread count in sheets mattered.
When our sperm donor left, things got rough for us. We were able to stay in our middle-class suburban home in our neighborhood, but my mom had to work most of the time. We had been used to her working as a nurse in a family clinic near us when she and good ole Dad were together. It was part-time, so she was able to drop us off at school and pick us up. Mom cooked us breakfast and dinner every day and never worked weekends or holidays. She was always with us.
After he left, she had to get a better-paying job at a hospital, which meant better pay but working a ton, especially nights and weekends. It didn’t put us ahead but made it where we weren’t drowning with losing my dad’s income.
Melissa, who is just a bit younger than me, my Irish twin, never quite adjusted to the financial constraints we were under, but I adjusted. I would always rather have had my mom around more than having her gone all the time to make sure we had the latest new jeans or $ 300-bed linen. She did what she thought was best, and I have no idea how hard it must have been to raise two girls on her own.
She did a good job with us, I think. We turned out okay, aside from my commitment issues, which really have nothing to do with her, and we could have turned out a lot worse. Mel has a super successful catering business that is even more impressive considering she’s only twenty-two, though she acts like she’s forty sometimes. She just bought her own condo, has good credit and manages to maintain a steady boyfriend—Greg—who’s an okay guy even if he’s sort of a pretentious snob. Me? My business is doing pretty well. I make enough money to buy something comfortable for myself…well, if I was good at saving, which I’m not. But when you’re a freelancer, money tends to fluctuate, but thankfully in four months, it’ll be three years of working on my own.
It’s sort of how Ryan and I met. I had forgotten to send Uncle Sam his cut of what I pulled in for about a year. When Melissa found out and blew a gasket, she asked Greg, who is some type of stocks guy, if he could save me from federal prison time…which, of course, I wasn’t facing then. She was completely dramatic as always, but Ryan came in and got me all setup and official. He did save me and had a pattern of doing things like that…cleaning up my messes, so to speak. I think it was one of the reasons I stayed with him so long…not because he did the hard things I hated to do when it came to life, sorting bills, doing laundry, and paying my taxes. Still, I knew with him I was safe…as safe as I could ever feel, at least. It didn’t matter that the sex wasn’t amazing. It was nice enough.
I didn’t leave because he never gave me butterflies or that I was so comfortable I sometimes took him for granted. Letting Ryan go wasn’t to hurt him. It was to save him from me because this would always have been inevitable.
I guess I am pretty screwed up. Well, at least I’m not on drugs…yet.