Authors: Sofie Hartwell
“I didn’t want to take any business calls then. We had just gotten married, for God’s sake. I wasn’t hiding anything. I just didn’t think it was appropriate to take a call.” He seems slightly upset.
“What about when you went to San Francisco? Was that all business?”
“Yes. I told you. I was invited to be a speaker and I stayed a couple of days to do some networking.”
“But when I brought you to the airport you said someone was keeping you sleepless at night. I thought you meant you missed Christina and that you wanted to spend some time with her in San Francisco.”
“Emma, do you really think I’m such a jackass? I wanted you to respond, but you said nothing, so I thought you weren’t ready to have a real relationship with me.” I could plainly see the hurt in his eyes.
I look down in shame. My instincts were so off.
“Did you really think I was in love with Christina and then making love to you on the side? My God, Emma. “
“Jake, you’re a wonderful guy, but I was confused. I was too insecure about myself, about where I stand. I couldn’t think straight. I’m sorry.”
“I would never do that to you. Never. You should have known better than to think that of me.” He sounds disappointed and I can’t blame him. I’ve behaved so stupidly.
“Jake, when did you realize that you had feelings for me?”
“When you were about to turn eighteen, I had just come back from Italy. Do you remember that?” I nod.
“I came to see you and Charlie straight from the airport. I gave you the earrings and you hugged me. When you did that, I became aware of you as I’d never been before. I think that was the first time I felt drawn to you, although I didn’t put a label to it then. After that, Charlie just started to get worse and worse. I was there when your escort came to pick you up for the prom. I wasn’t happy that you were going.” At this point, he runs a hand through his hair, his eyebrows close together in thought. “Whenever I would see you at the hospital, I tried to keep a distance because I had this uncomfortable feeling I couldn’t put my finger on.”
“When Charlie asked, how did you really feel?”
“I was wary of how you would react, but I felt so protective of you… So I knew then that it’s not just the friendship or the family ties. I wanted to be part of your life. And, of course, I wanted Charlie to have peace of mind.”
“Why did you accuse me of those things when we were at the view?”
“I don’t know. I suddenly felt jealous. I thought you were playing with me. I thought you were sexually active and just, you know…” he doesn’t continue, embarrassed by his thoughts.
“Had the hots for you?” I tease him. “I did, but you’re the first man I’ve ever felt that for. Now I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve had a giant crush on you for ages.”
“Really?” He’s grinning now.
“Yes, since I was sixteen! Everyone else was in love with the football jocks and the popular guys. However, you were the one I wanted,” I jab my finger at his chest.
“What about Matt?” he asks in all seriousness.
“What about him? Surely you didn’t think I was attracted to him?” I open my eyes wide in disbelief.
“He obviously liked you, and he’s a personable man.”
“I like him, but there are no sparks there,” I say truthfully.
“Emma, I didn’t know what to think. I wanted you to grow up and see if you could learn to love me. That’s why I fought the urge to touch you or even get too close to you. But when Matt asked me so casually if he could drop by again to see you, I lost my temper. Here I was, reining myself in because I didn’t want to frighten you with my feelings, but you were apparently flirting with other men. Then you went out with him as if you were goading me further.” He seems distressed, just talking about things.
I touch his hair affectionately. “Jake, you have nothing to worry about. You know that. Wait, were you purposely staying at work so you could keep away from me?”
“Yes. Don’t get me wrong. There was a ton of work, but I welcomed it. I got involved with the minutest things – things I would have gladly delegated before. The staff were getting pretty bothered with my hands-on approach, though they probably chalked it down to nerves because of the deadlines. I just wanted to spend more time at the office so I wouldn’t come home and be tempted.”
“Tempted. To touch you. God knows the last thing I wanted to do was send you running away. Remember Thanksgiving when you got drunk? You said you wanted me and I wanted so much to sleep with you then. But, I couldn’t. I wanted our first time to be perfect. And I didn’t want it to be just a physical experience.”
“I was thinking then that you had changed your mind because you remembered Christina.”
“Too many wrong assumptions.” He sighs deeply. “I was so possessive of you. The few times we went out, I was like a possessed man when I would see other men looking at you.”
“But nobody even gives me a second glance. It’s all in your imagination,” I chide him.
“Emma, you are so blind. You’re so damn beautiful. How could you not know that?”
“Oh, Jake. But now you know exactly how I feel when you’re talking to another woman or even smiling at one.” I pause. “I have a confession to make.” I eye him warily, in anticipation of his response. “I read your text message from Christina. About meeting in Beverly Hills. I shouldn’t have, but the green-eyed monster prevailed.”
“Is that why you got those ridiculous notions in your head?”
“That and the fact that you never explained what you were doing. You also never told me how you feel about me.”
“And I had to tell you? You couldn’t feel? You actually thought I was cheating on you?”
“You have to see it from my point of view. You never gave me much information. In fact, you didn’t say anything. The first time we almost made love, you stopped so abruptly and accused me of being easy.” I flash my eyes at him, daring him to contradict my statement.
“It wasn’t like that at all. I was unsure of how you felt. I wanted our first time to be consensual. I wanted to know for sure that I wasn’t just some notch on your belt.”
“A notch on my belt? You were completely off-track then.”
“I guess. Don’t think for a moment that you’re the only one who’s been insecure in this relationship. It’s a two-way street.” He continues, “You were really going to leave me, weren’t you? You packed your bags, wrote me this meaningless letter, and returned everything I gave you. When I think about what could have happened if I hadn’t come back earlier than expected…” He sighs deeply. “Don’t ever do that to me, Emma. You may as well kill me,” he says softly.
“Jake, I did pack up, but when I went to your room to return the gifts and leave the letter, I saw you had printed our wedding photo.” I bite my lip and say, “I also saw the necklace in the drawer. You see, I accidentally saw you looking at it when you thought I was in the shower. When you didn’t give it to me for Christmas, I knew for sure that you were going to give it to Christina.”
He smiles ruefully. “I was going to give it to you on New Year’s Eve.”
I wrap my hands around his waist. “I’ve been so stupid.”
“No more than I,” he says.
“You know, I changed my mind about leaving. I went to Charlie’s grave. I was so confused by what I had seen. I don’t know how, but I felt like he answered my question. So I returned home because I wanted to fight for you. I wanted to fight for our marriage.”
He looks at me with such tenderness. “My sweet, sweet Emma. All my life I thought love was an illusion. But the day you became my wife, I finally understood what I had been missing. You never had to fight for anything. You are everything to me.”
I look up at him and he showers my face with gentle, soft kisses. Our lips meet in an intoxicating, heart-wrenching way. And when our eyes lock, we see the promise of tomorrow.
“You look like a goddess tonight, Em. Everyone’s talking about you and Jake.”
As usual, Paige uses her brand of hyperbole. It’s the Murphys’ New Year’s Eve party and Jake and I are here to celebrate. I’m wearing the same gown I wore for the Christmas party, but this time with the necklace Jake bought for me. Paige is somewhat right. Before leaving, I did a last-minute twirl in front of the mirror, and I noticed a sparkle in my eyes and a rosiness to my cheeks.
She asks, “Has everything been resolved?”
“Need you ask?”
“No, not really. I can see how happy you are. If only you had listened to me about talking to him first,” she says with a sigh.
“I know. You were right about everything. Especially about the communication bit.”
“Emma, you deserve to be happy and, clearly, Jake is who you’re meant to be with. I mean, I don’t believe in soul mates, but you two are as close as you’ll get to the definition of the word.”
“Speaking of soul mates, your Mark is a really great guy. You look like the perfect couple.”
“You mean ‘Beauty and the Nerd’?”
”He’s a good-looking guy and you’re just as intelligent as he is, so who’s the beauty and who’s the nerd?”
She laughs. “Are you trying to deflate my ego?”
“It doesn’t need boosting, that’s for sure.” We get each other’s sense of humor.
She looks at me for a couple of seconds. “How does it really feel – to be married and so in love?”
“I can’t describe it. Nothing eclipses the feeling of knowing you are loved by the one you love. If you ask me, the beautiful thing about being married is that you’re committed to one another for a lifetime. Charlie was the ultimate matchmaker after all.” I briefly look across the room to where Jake is busy talking to a group of Dr. Murphy’s colleagues. Damn, my husband’s so achingly handsome.
Paige acknowledges my words. “I am happy for you both. If only I had a brother like yours. Let’s just hope the universe has a great plan for me,” she remarks.
“Ladies, am I allowed to join in?” We both turn around to see Jake. I must be the envy of every woman in this room. He is so elegant and dashing.
“I thought you were having fun talking about stock portfolios with the other men?”
“Yes, but it’s a lot more fun to hang around with the beautiful ladies,” he says like a true gentleman.
“Now I know how you won my best friend’s heart. Okay, time for me to disappear,” she says to both of us with a wink.
“You two seemed to be having an intense conversation,” Jake says.
“We may have been,” I say coyly.
“Should I ask?”
“Love, happiness, and Charlie’s perfect plan,” I simply say.
“No wonder you had the most sublime expression on your face.”
“Did I really?” For an answer, he plants a light kiss on my forehead.
Just then, the crowd gets excited as they do the countdown to midnight. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three…” His hand clutches mine.
“Two, one…Happy New Year!” Everyone is giddy as the clock strikes twelve.
“Happy New Year, my love,” he tells me.
He dips low to kiss me adoringly on the lips.
“Our first kiss this year,” I say, savoring the memory.
“There will be many more firsts in this and the coming years,” he assures me, his wide blue eyes staring deep into my soul.