Our story started like the fairytales you grew up reading, but it doesn’t end like them.
I was fifteen when I realised I was in love with Cole. He was the foster kid who wore scruffy clothes and never had any money. He was the bad boy, the fighter. The boy who took all the dares—and won. He was the boy that scared me but excited me at the same time. He was the boy I shouldn’t have wanted, but, of course, he was the one I wanted the most.
In the beginning, he was mine. And I was his.
Cole and Evie. Evie and Cole.
But then a lie was told. Lies break people. And broken people shatter into little pieces of tortured pasts and fractured futures.
And then our fairytale beginning morphed into a story of heartache and sadness, instead of happiness and hope. A story that ended with lost love, friendship, and a never-ending cycle of what ifs and if onlys.
Our ending broke me. Shattered me. Destroyed me.
When a story ends like ours did, is it any wonder I never wanted to start a new one again?
Eight years ago
Scorching hot tears streak down my freezing cold cheeks and snake into the corner of my mouth as I walk over the sleet-covered field. When my eyes land on our tree, I suck in a big breath and pull it deep into my lungs, hoping it’ll be enough to suffocate the ball of dread that’s swirling around in my chest.
This used to be a place full of happy memories…the place where I played tag with my brother and best friend until long after the sun had set, the place where I grew from a girl into a young woman, and the place that I ran to when I needed to escape. It’s also where I met Cole for our first date. And where I’m standing now is the exact spot where we shared our first kiss.
But the memories I used to love and cherish are now tainted with anger that boils so fiercely within me that I know I’ll never set foot in this place again after today. It’s something else that he’s ruined for me and something else I hate him for.
I look up and watch the branches of the oak tree bend and whine in the wind as if crying out for me to not do this. I touch the trunk where our initials are carved into the middle of a heart and cough out another huge sob. Cole and Evie won’t be forever. Not now.
I tip my head back, letting the ends of my hair tickle the bottom of my spine, and stare at the angry clouds through the bare branches. The icy-cold rain pelts me from every angle, soaking right through my thin coat until it settles deep into my bones. It pours down my face and mingles with my tears as if it’s trying to hide them for me. I want to shout out that it’s useless, that nothing can hide my tears. I should know because I’ve been trying to hide them every single day for the last five weeks.
I turn when I hear footsteps. The sight of him in a suit momentarily stuns me. It’s far too big for him and looks a little cheap, but he’s still incredibly handsome in it. I’ve never seen him in a suit before, and I can’t get over how much it ages him. For just a few seconds, I let myself imagine my hands pushing the jacket over his shoulders and then unbuttoning his shirt.
“You came,” he says in a voice that’s so familiar to me, I cling to it like a child clings to a comfort blanket.
I shake my head to try and dislodge the images that are whirling through my mind. I’m not supposed to be thinking of him like that. “Yes,” I answer.
“I didn’t think you would.” When he steps closer, I notice that he has tears falling down his cheeks too. “How was the funeral? I wish I had been there. I wanted to be there.”
“Don’t,” I say. “I don’t want to talk about it with you.”
He nods, looking sad. “I’ve missed you so much,” he whispers, reaching his hand out for me. “The last five weeks have felt like five years.”
I take a step back and collide with the trunk of the tree. Hurt flashes across his face.
“I’m confused and I’m hurting,” I blurt before he takes another step towards me. I want to tell him the truth, but I’m scared. I’m scared he won’t understand.
“Confused about what, Evie?”
“I love you,” I breathe, wiping away a fresh set of tears with the back of my hand. “But now I hate you, and I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive you for what you’ve done.” The ball of pain that’s lodged itself in the centre of my chest cracks and starts to bleed down into my stomach, filling it was so much hurt that it makes me feel sick. And then my heart breaks all over again as I see his bottom lip tremble.
“No, Evie,” he whispers. “Please don’t say that.”
“I’m so sorry,” I sob. “I’m sorry, Cole.”
He shakes his head, causing the damp strands to flick across his forehead. “No,” he repeats, “I’m sorry. If only—”
“That’s it,” I interrupt. “That’s what we’d be saying for the rest of our lives, and I can’t live like that. I won’t live like that.”
He swears and pushes his fingers through his wet, dark hair. His skin normally looks tanned and clear, but today it’s pale and blotchy. His light brown eyes that usually sparkle and shine at me look dull and lifeless. He looks like crap.
“I don’t ever want to see you again,” I whisper.
Anger flashes across his face as he drops his hands from his head and looks down at me. “So this is it?” he snaps. “The last three years have meant nothing to you?”
“They’ve meant everything to me…everything.”
He takes a deep breath and slams his fist against the trunk, just above my head. “You won’t even visit?”
I flinch as bits of bark tumble over my shoulders. “I can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?” he questions, raising his eyebrows at me.
“It wouldn’t be good for us,” I say. “You must be able to see that.”
He steps forwards, completely eradicating any distance that I’d created between us, and cups my face in his big, warm hands before I have a chance to protest. “What I see is a girl who is so broken she’s shattering into a thousand pieces right in front of me. She’s so fragile that I daren’t even touch her, but I have to. Because this is my last chance, isn’t it, Evie?”
He gently skims his thumb across my cheek. I nod and then look away from those desperately sad eyes of his. “Yes.”
“You know what the worst thing about this is?” he spits.
I peel my eyes from the ground and blink up at him through the rain. He’s always been handsome, with a face that I could stare at every single second of every day. But right now, when I’m on the brink of never seeing him again, I can barely look at him. “What?”
“I want to kill the man that did this to you,” he growls.
I want to kill him too. “You did this,” I whisper.
He can’t mean… “You’re not going to—”
He shakes his head. “No, I’m not. There are people that need to see that someone is punished. I know that, understand it, and even respect it,” he says. “They need to see justice has been done, and right now, I think you’re one of those people.”
I look deep into his eyes, but I don’t answer him. How could I? I’m supposed to love him, no matter what. But he’s right; I need to see him suffer for what he’s done.
“I deserve it,” he says. “But nothing they do will compare to how much it’s going to fucking hurt to let you go. I’m going to let you go because you deserve better than me. You deserve a life, and more than anything, you deserve to be happy.”
Before I can say or do anything, Cole buries his hands into my hair and crushes his lips against mine. They’re soft and considerably warmer than my lips, and they’re a mixture of everything I love about him and everything I hate.
He places the palm of his hand against my back and then slides it down to the bottom of my spine. He pulls, forcing me to press against him where I fit like we’re two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and I wonder if anyone else will ever come close to making me feel so whole.
He tears his mouth away and then presses his cheek against mine. I feel him shuddering as the sobs vibrate through his whole body. “I’ll always love you,” he whispers into my ear. “It’ll only ever be you, Evie. Please don’t ever forget that.” And then he pushes away from me, turns around, and walks across the grass until he reaches the waiting car. Without looking back, he opens the rear door and climbs in.
The pain in my chest explodes and my knees buckle as I watch the car disappear around the corner. I crumple to the cold ground, curl into a ball, and let the rain soak me as I scream out his name over and over again.