TRUE LOVE WAITS…About 15 Years
NOBODY’S FOOL was inspired by (but not based on!) my son’s relationship with his high school BFF. I loved the idea of best friends turning into a romance. Through all the stops and starts since they met at age sixteen, their love has endured. I started this book the year they graduated high school, but I couldn’t finish it until I knew how their story would end. I asked my son to draw up a timeline of their bumpy road, some of which even he has trouble remembering. What follows is excerpted from what he wrote. Their wedding is this fall.
Freshmen Year: The first time I saw her she was running for student council, and the football team seemed to think highly of her. I remember blonde hair, black dress, black boots, and an incredible smile. I was wary of girls. I became shy after making a few cry in elementary school, and I didn’t like when they cried. I would never approach this girl, and we didn’t get introduced. She sat right behind me in history class, and her locker was right next to mine. She didn’t acknowledge me, and I wasn’t focused on trying to have a girlfriend anyhow.
Sophomore Year: I can’t tell you specifically what day it was, when I picture it it’s sort of a dream-like memory in a foggy high. Let’s put it this way – I was walking on clouds afterwards. It must have been the first week of school, in English class, and I happened to glance across the room over my right shoulder, when I caught her eyes. She smiled and I got punched in the face with a feeling I had never experienced before. And one I would never get again. Was she already looking at me? I don’t know, and I didn’t know at the time. She smiled at just about everyone, my specially directed smile included. I walked out of that class knowing that I would have to take action. I told my three closest friends exactly that as soon as the class was over. I’ve never forgotten exactly what it looked like or how it felt.
Oddly, besides a very short three-day dating period that Spring, we were just friends. I don’t remember disliking the situation either, I think I thought no one else would be as close to her as I was. We dated other people, all younger than us. I never saw her boyfriend as a threat and my girlfriends hated her for sure. There just wasn’t anyone that had what we had with each other.
A problematic senior year: My best friend never wavered in her loyalty, as out of control as I was, that I remember. I never had to wonder if she’d be there. She made her uniquely ethical approach ever so clear. She didn’t approve of many of the things I was doing. She was the little angel on my shoulder and I didn’t listen well. Even with all that, and even though she had a boyfriend – we went to Prom together. Only fitting I suppose – and maybe the only purely happy memory I have of that period in life. After graduation, I went off to school at FSU and Erin went to Argentina.
A family member’s devastating car accident: Erin spent her 21st birthday in the hospital with my family during our darkest hour. Somehow she was always there for the worst of things. She’s never once complained that her birthday was marred by that night.
Christmas break 2003: She was single and after what seemed like endless effort and patience – our relationship took a long awaited turn two nights before she was to return to school in early January, 2004…the first kiss.
Erin’s visits to Naples and my visits to Gainesville were always preceded with that anxiousness that one feels when they can’t stand being away from the other.
Visiting Mexico: Erin was up with me the whole time, again she never wavered. And again she got to see me at my worst. I was pretty much uselessly ill the entire trip, but so long as I didn’t eat or drink I was ok. We still managed to get out and about together, sightseeing and just walking around. More than once we were asked if we were honeymooners. Oddly, our memories of that time are fond – like being sick was secondary, somehow we still really enjoyed each other.
She was always there…good times or bad. My fault or through no fault of my own, she never wavered or complained
September 2005 The Break Up: She chose the separate ways option. I was heartbroken, and when I say that I mean it. Of all the pain, obstacles, and challenges in my life to that point and all of them since (there is much more)…losing her at this particular time was the most devastating event I have ever dealt with. Call it depression or whatever else, I could barely keep back the tears at any point during any day. There was no more fun in life, nothing mattered. I tried to push through and cover it.
I was making progress everywhere in life but I had lost my best friend, the love of my life.
We eventually got back together in early 2007 – and as happy as that made me we never resolved any of the issues we had.
I began dating someone new – whom I did love, but Erin was always the measuring stick and no one ever lived up to her. I would never have with someone else what I had with Erin.
December 2009. I was single again and I found out that Erin was “in love” with someone we’d gone to high school with and it caught me completely off guard. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some hope this was when we’d give it another shot. Oddly, almost subconsciously I knew she still loved me as I loved her. Once in summer 2009 in an email exchange she mentioned still recognizing my cologne in public or the smell of my brand of cigarettes. I knew she remembered those things for a reason. Just like the memories I had, just about everywhere around town I remembered by time spent with her.
I came to the realization that I had to accept the fact that I may never have Erin back in my life.
Valentine’s Day 2012. That night also happened to be the first “date” Erin and I went on and we consider that our “anniversary”…I think because it was the culmination of a long road to being reunited. We knew this was it, hell we were heading towards 30 by now. The first time we kissed again I found myself crying in the middle of it. I think she did too, but it’s sort of a hazy memory for me. It was a surreal moment that I had hoped would come for so many years, but had doubted and questioned too.
Those last few pieces were in place. The remaining problem? I was sick. What had begun as looking for answers to in 2011 had gone from bad to worse, to impossible. I was exhausted, I never slept well and pain was constant. Erin was there. She was always supportive.
We looked at engagement rings on a Sunday in October of 2012, and without her knowing I had put a deposit on a ring that day as she stood across the store watching it sparkle.
Tests revealed what was thought to be a tumor on my Thymus gland, Luckily the tumor wasn’t a tumor, but my thymus was the size of an egg instead of a dime. (Removing it required major surgery and a long recovery.)
Months passed but eventually I started to feel better and better – more and more energy, less and less pain. My muscles were more relaxed, a little more each day. It continued for a few months – and by summer I was physically normal again.
Will You Marry Me? I don’t really remember what I said, I just remember her pushing her hand into the ring. I think she did that before I finished speaking, I guess the answer was a foregone conclusion after the previous 15 years.
I have the energy to live life again, and I worry less and less about being sick and look forward more and more to spending the rest of my life with Erin – the way it was supposed to be. I know what I know about life because of how many things I did wrong. Time and again I had to learn the hard way. But the one thing I did right was trust that feeling, even during periods when it was buried in the very bottom of my soul, that she loved me as much as I loved her.
Two hours later, Court wondered what had he gotten himself into. What had he been thinking? That he could prove to himself he was immune to Jolie? Ha! He was about as immune to her as he was to a bee sting. All she had to do was touch him and he reacted. It was a full-time job pretending not to.
Because he and Jolie seemed to be categorized as a couple—and why wouldn’t they be when he’d insisted on escorting her everywhere—they were now in the process of being tied together for the three-legged race.
Jolie was doing the tying, and Court swore if her fingertips brushed the inside of his thigh one more time, he was going to toss her down in the grass and show her just how much he wasn’t over her. He wished he’d worn jeans instead of cargo shorts. He needed all the protection from Jolie he could get. He looked down as she adjusted the tie around their ankles. The soft curve of her spine, the glimpse of skin where her T-shirt and jeans didn’t quite meet at the waist, the silk of her hair that brushed against his knee.
Note to self: Reunion picnic and related activities? Bad idea.
“Okay! Everybody ready?” Erin Miller called through her blow horn. As former student body president, she had put herself in charge of the reunion from start to finish.
Twenty or so teams lined up on the line she’d created using Caution Wet Paint tape. A similar tape marked the finish.
Jolie slid her arm around Court’s waist and flashed him a quick smile. He drew his arm around her back. Why had he said yes to this game? The last thing he needed or wanted was to be this close to her. Bound to her.
Liar, his subconscious argued. You’re enjoying every minute of it. He was. Too much. He wanted to be close to Jolie almost as much as he wanted to prove that he didn’t. Maybe he could just split himself in half. That worked out in Solomon’s court, didn’t it?
“Ready!” Erin called. “Set! Go!”
He and Jolie set off as planned, steadily moving in sync. He shortened his strides to match hers. They weren’t the fastest team, but they weren’t falling down, either. Several teams who had started off stronger had already tumbled to the ground together, disqualified.
Erin, in her usual nitpicking style, had laid down hard and fast rules. If even a knee touched the ground, they were out. Both partners had to remain upright from start to finish.
The competition literally fell away as they got closer to their goal. “Almost there,” Court encouraged. Somehow, they’d been thrown off their rhythm. The binding was chafing his calf. He tried to make an adjustment, but didn’t do it in time.
As they reached the goal line he felt Jolie’s balance go. Tied together as they were, with her weight pulling at him, the fastening bit into the skin of his leg. He took one last stumbling step before he went down on the far side of the line. Without even trying he broke Jolie’s fall. She ended up on top of him, laughing. She glanced down the length of the track. “It wasn’t pretty. But I think we won.”
Speech escaped him so he just nodded while he absorbed the sensation of Jolie atop him. Without thinking, he curled his fingers in her hair, pushing it back away from her face, memorizing the texture of it, his mind a million miles away. “Great,” he finally answered.
“Our winners are Court Harrison and Jolie Kramer,” Erin blow-horned from about three feet away. “Let’s give them a big round of applause.” Half-hearted hand clapping was offered from the other competitors. Those not involved clapped slightly louder.
“You two can get up now,” Erin said, not bothering to lower the blow horn. “Game’s over.”
She’s home to make amends. He’s out to get a little revenge. But the heart he breaks could be his own.
Jolie Kramer walked away from Court Harrison and never looked back even though Court had been her biggest fan since childhood. Now she’s returned for her ten-year high school reunion, older, wiser and ready to make amends for breaking Court’s heart.
Frustrated because after ten years he’s still hung up on her, Court has vowed to himself that he can leave the past and his feelings for Jolie behind. He’ll give her a taste of her own medicine, make her fall for him and he’ll be the one who walks away.
Court’s plan works a little too well, however, because when Jolie confesses her love for him, he doesn’t believe her. At first. Only after she discovers he set her up, does he realize her feelings are real and he’s lost the one woman he always wanted.
When Court comes up with Plan B, Jolie can’t resist the career challenge he issues as well as the opportunity for payback. Court’s gamble pays off when Jolie realizes there’s no joy in her success without the one person who always believed in her.
Twitter: @barbmeyers and @ajtillock
When not writing fiction, Dr. Seuss-like poetry or song lyrics, I disguise myself behind a green apron and supply caffeine-laced substances to addicted consumers for a world-wide coffee company.
Check out my Braddock Brotherhood connected series of funny, spicy, sexy contemporary romances published by Samhain Publishing.
Under the pen name, AJ Tillock, I venture into off-the-wall comedic fantasy with The Forbidden Bean, the first in the GRINDING REALITY series.
I am still married to my first husband, have two fantastic children and one almost perfect dog. I’m originally from Southwest Missouri, and now reside in Central Florida.