Love Always, Sneak Peek, PART 2
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
Hi friends. I'm back with a bit more of the sneak peek for Love Always,. I hope you enjoy it! There's still some tweaking to be done, but it will give you an idea of what's next for Leila.
***SPOILER ALERT***DON'T READ this if you haven't read Carried Away!! Read Carried Away first!!
“Broody? What do you mean broody?” Halley, my oldest sister, asked me, except that it came out in huffs and puffs because we were running, if you could call what we were doing running, our new nightly route around the giant block at East High. Hal moved back to town with her fiance, Jack, after graduating college in May, and even though she was living in an apartment now and not back at home with me, mom and Brad, we made a pact to work out together. Originally it consisted of her coming back home and us working out in the basement to some lame videos, but recently, for reasons I only just now explained to her, we’ve been running around East High instead.
“He just always has this contemplative look like he’s deep in thought about something,” I replied, also huffing and puffing. I am not, in any way, shape, or form, a runner. The fact that we are spending our evenings running should be enough to explain to her how hard I was crushing on Ethan. With his dark hair, unsettlingly deep eyes, pouty lips, and those muscles....
I’m not like a stalker or anything, it just wasn’t that difficult to find out where he lived because I'd seen him get into his car before and his license plate is Ethan89. After regularly driving past what I now know is his house on my way to work, I realized it was pretty close to Hal’s apartment, so it wouldn’t be weird or awkward if he saw us running over there. Not that he even knows who I am. Besides, since we started this over a month ago, we’ve yet to actually see him while running by. I’m probably getting a little ahead of myself anyway....
Me: What do you wanna do for Prom? Do you already have a group for us to go with? Do we need a party bus?
Leo: I’m taking Katrina to prom.
Me: …… what?
Leo: She needed someone to go with. And I didn’t think you’d wanna go to another “High School” dance Leila…
Ever since I moved back home from State at semester, things have just been going progressively downhill for Leo and I, and now this? He is taking someone else to prom, while we’re dating… When was he going to tell me about this? I hope I can still return the dress I bought.. What a dress it is, too! It's the color of pearls, covered with sequins and lace, and fits me better than my own skin. It makes me look like I'm glowing and I’ve been working my butt off, so it looks damn good on me. I haven’t even told him about it yet because I wanted to surprise him. What the hell?!
I guess I should have seen this coming. I could feel Leo starting to pull away the same way I pulled away from him at the end of my senior year, but this time it felt different. When I did it, I immediately realized it was a mistake and worked my butt off to get us back to where we were. Everything was wonderful after that. He even bought me a promise ring. But this time, with him pulling back, it felt more final and I didn’t know what to do to get us back to where we were.
After he told me about prom, every time we were together, nothing felt right. Our conversations felt forced and awkward. We’d lay together watching a movie on the couch and just fall asleep, nothing more. I can’t remember the last time we strolled hand in hand around his property and made our way up into the tree house to fool around. Anytime we did connect, it was rushed and nothing we ever did was romantic anymore, the way it used to be. He used to be so romantic.
How do you get your heart and your mind to agree? I loved Leo and I wanted to do whatever I could to make it work. Even though my mind was telling me it wasn’t working, even though I could feel him slipping away, my heart kept telling me we were meant to be together.
Prom came and went, and I did my best to ignore everything about the whole situation, except for the fact that I was stuck with a $450 dress hanging in my closet that they wouldn’t take back because they had made one tiny alteration for me. Leo still didn’t know about it. After prom, and after he promised me that he didn’t do anything with Katrina, I still don’t know if I believe that, things got a little better between us. I kept reminding myself how I was feeling at the end of my senior year last year, and I figured he was feeling that way, too, so I tried to give him some space.
Things seemed fine until his graduation party at the end of June. I was supposed to go up north to St. Germain with my dad’s side of the family for vacation, but I stayed home so I wouldn’t miss Leo’s party. I would drive up to the lake on Sunday by myself to meet my family. Leo kept telling me I didn’t need to do that, that he didn’t mind if I missed his party, but how could I skip his graduation party? It was such a big deal.
When I got to the party, the room was packed. There were navy and white balloons everywhere and tables lined up along the wall with poster boards full of pictures. As I made my way into the room, I bumped into a few of Leo’s friends that I knew and stopped to talk to them a little. I hadn’t spotted Leo yet, but I finally saw his brothers sitting at a table near one of the posters, so I assumed he was over there somewhere.
I had finally made it through the sea of people and spotted Leo standing up by his poster board, when someone else, an older man in a Badgers hat, went up and started talking to him. I didn’t want to interrupt, so I quickly said hi to his brothers and then went over to sign his guest book. Instead of signing my name, I wrote “ISLY” for “I still love you”, which is what he wrote in my guest book last year after he showed up completely wasted to my graduation party, which was after I stupidly told him we needed to take a break. It was the dumbest thing I’d ever done, and I worked so hard to make up for it. Thankfully he was forgiving and we ended up back together and better than ever. What I would give to still be in that place.
A steady stream of people kept coming up to him, so I just sat in one of the chairs and waited for it to die down. I kept glancing over to see if he was looking at me, but I never met his eye. When the crowd finally died down some, like when all the old people left, I made my way up to him. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him and told him congratulations. He did hug me, but he pulled away from my kiss. Maybe he was embarrassed, I don’t know. “Thanks for coming,” he said. “What am I, your grandma?” I replied. “Thanks for coming” sounded like what you’d say to all the people here when you really meant “Thanks for the check, you can go home now.” It didn’t sound like something you’d say to your girlfriend of nearly two years.
I turned and looked at all the pictures on his poster board. He was such a cute little boy and I often envisioned us having a little boy that looked just like him. There was only one picture of the two of us on his board. It was candid and I didn’t remember ever seeing it before, but I loved it. He was clearly saying something to me and I was laughing, like head rolled back, mouth wide open, hair falling behind me LAUGHING. It reminded me of how happy we used to be, and he must have noticed me staring at it.
“What?” he said.
“Look at this picture of us. I’ve never seen it before. I love it.”
“Me too, it’s my favorite.”
“What were we doing?”
“I don’t remember exactly what I said, I just remember the way you laughed, it was the first time you let completely loose in front of me.”
For a second I thought I might cry, but that was interrupted by another party guest making his way up to Leo, so I returned to my chair.
After another forty-five minutes, the party had died way down. There were mainly just Leo’s classmates and other high school students there now, along with the parents and siblings of the hosts. I was getting tired and I had to get up early to drive to the lake, so I went to get Leo to walk me out to my car.
“I can’t leave my party.”
“I’m not asking you to leave, I just want you to walk me out quickly. I’m gonna be gone for a week and I’d like to say bye to my boyfriend.”
“Seriously?” I said, and I grabbed my purse off the table where his brothers were sitting and watching this disaster play out in front of them, and hurried out of the room before the first tear fell on my face. When I got out into the fresh air, I began twisting the ring on my finger as I walked to my car. I had just made it to the driver’s side when I saw Leo running across the parking lot to catch up to me.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“What is happening to us?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why did you give me this ring?” I asked as I held my finger up to him, displaying the promise ring he had me pick out last summer in a total Sweet Home Alabama moment. “Does it even mean anything anymore? Actually, don’t answer that.” I started to get in my car, but turned to look at him when he spoke.
“Okay, well I gotta go back inside.”
“Umm, okay. Bye.. I’ll see you in a week..”
He leaned in to kiss me quickly and I couldn’t resist the urge to throw my arms around him and pull him as tight to me as I could, desperate for some little hint that things would ever be the way they used to be. He hugged me tight for a second and then headed back inside.
It’s a good thing it was dark out, because I sat in the parking lot and cried for a good fifteen minutes before I was capable of driving home. Maybe a week apart would be good for us. When I got home, mom and Brad were watching a movie in the tv room, and Katie was reading a book at the kitchen table. Brad moved in with us a couple months ago, and Katie is here when she’s not with her mom, sometimes on weeknights, but usually every other weekend.
She looked up at me when I walked in and asked if I was okay. “Yeah, I’m fine, just super tired. Goodnight,” I said as fast as I could, then scooped up Mol and ran downstairs to my room before I burst into tears. I quickly changed into pajamas and brushed my teeth, then I hit play on my CD player and let George Strait sing me to sleep with our song on repeat.