Begin Again

Page 7

"It's good to see you man," Grayson said. He took a pull of his beer but kept his eyes trained on me. I knew that look. He was trying to read me, see how I was doing since the last time he saw me. He had nothing to worry about but I didn't say it.
"Yeah, you too. You ready to be a married man?"
He chuckled and grinned widely. "I was ready the day Hunter was born, but Huntley wanted to wait until she graduated, so I told her we'd do it soon after."
"Speaking of Huntley," I said, taking a pull of my beer. "Where is the bride-to-be? I was hoping to see her."
Grayson looked down and shifted uncomfortably. That only meant one thing. I wasn't going to like his answer.
"She's with - "
"Demi," I said, finishing his sentence.
"Yeah," he replied. "Something about a girls night."
"Or she's avoiding me," I said.
Grayson sighed and pulled his hands through his hair, a clear sign of both frustration and resignation. I felt bad for the guy. He was caught between his fiancé and his best friend, albeit unintentionally.
"Huntley cares about you," he began. He finished off his beer and put the bottle down before sitting back into the chair. "And I don't think you should take her behavior personally. She's just trying to make sure Demi is going to be okay being around you again after everything that happened."
"Like you're doing with me," I stated.
His smile was crooked when he replied, "Exactly."
My chest tightened thinking about Demetria, and how much she must've been hurting for Huntley to feel the need to side with her. A mixture of guilt, anger and self-justification swirled in my chest. Next to my grandparents, Demetria was also my only family and I was never able to imagine a life without her. But then I made a choice and ended up leaving her behind. I destroyed her, and in the process tainted everything that we had. It was something I regretted every day and being back home with the possibility of seeing her made me nervous. I'd been thinking about it for days and I couldn't decide if she'd be willing to let me fight for her.
"The ranch is looking good," Grayson remarked, breaking into my thoughts.
"I'm anxious to see how much progress they've made with the building," I replied. Grayson and his brother, Jeff, each bought a third of the ranch I inherited after my twenty-second birthday, and they'd agreed to help me fix it up. My grandparents still lived in the old farmhouse I'd grown up in and as soon as the new house was done, they would move in. I hadn't decided what I wanted to do with it yet, but we'd agreed it would always stay in the family. Hunter dropped off my lap and ran around to where Grayson was sitting. Grayson picked him up and he settled against his chest. Seeing Grayson with his son made the ache in my chest a little more real. I wasn't jealous of Grayson, but I wanted what he had - an amazing woman to come home to every night and children who made up the most perfect parts of us. I wanted that with Demetria, I always had. I always would. But in the same breath, I worried that it would never happen for us and I blamed myself. I'd walked away.
"I'd better get going," I said. "Looks like you need to put the little monster to bed."
Grayson smiled and looked down at Hunter. He'd dozed off at some point.
"I'll wait for Huntley to get home," he replied. "She should be back any minute."
Just then the sound of a lock echoed and boots clicked on the hardwood floors. I looked up just as Huntley appeared at the door, and stood to greet her. Her smile was warm as she approached me, but I could see indecision swirling in her eyes . Could I blame her for being cautious with me? I'd broken her best friends' heart and I probably would've felt the same if I were in her shoes.
"Hey Brody." She hugged me and I was once again reminded of her grace. I wasn't her favorite person, I hadn't been for a while now, but she still treated me as if I were a friend. I returned her hug, replying, "It's good to see you again."
When she pulled away, Grayson appeared at her side and bent his head to kiss her. I looked away, feeling somewhat uncomfortable with their display of affection. It was a painful reminder of what I'd had and recklessly thrown away for something that no longer meant anything to me. I cleared my throat, and their heads whipped up as if remembering that they weren't actually alone.
"I'm going to take off," I said. "But I'll see you again tomorrow."
"I'll walk you out," Huntley said. I nodded, bumped fists with Grayson while he cradled a sleeping Hunter, and made my way out their home. I was dying to know how Demi was doing but I was almost sure I'd forfeited that right. In the end, my need to know outweighed everything else. I turned to face Huntley, and found her regarding me. It was both a knowing and probing gaze.
"How is she?" I asked, letting it slip out before I lost my nerve. Huntley's eyes pinned me and her lips thinned into a straight line. She was wondering whether or not to tell me and I hoped to God she took enough pity on me to tell me what I wanted to know.
"I honestly don't know," she replied quietly, taking two steps closer to me. Her eyes lowered for a minute, and when she brought them back to me I could tell she wasn't lying. "Some days it's hard to tell, really. She does a pretty good job of hidin' things. Too bad I know her better than that."
I brushed my hands through my hair, and my chest deflated with a heavy sigh. I could read between the lines.
"That bad, huh?"
"Why do you suddenly care?" Huntley asked, anger lacing her usually sweet voice. I was caught a little off-guard by the strength of her tone.
"I've always cared," I replied quietly, silently pleading that Huntley will believe me.
"You have a really funny way of showing it, Brody. You left without a word, and she had to deal with…" Huntley clamped a hand over her mouth quickly before finishing her sentence. Something in the way she said that didn't sit well with me. Not at all.
"Deal with what?"
Huntley remained quiet, and I watched her eyes glimmer with unshed tears. "Deal with what?" I asked again, my tone harder and more persistent than before. I stepped closer and Huntley's hand shot up to stop me.
"I can't," she whispered. "I've already said too much."
"Huntley, please - "
"It's not my story to tell," she said quickly, interrupting me.
"Then why bring it up?"
"Because I want to be pissed at you, Brody," she huffed. "It's been a year and you're only now asking how Demi is doing. To top it off, you decided to bring your fuck buddy with you to our wedding. What is the matter with you? Don't you care about Demi at all anymore? It's bad enough she has to see you this week and now she'll have to deal with seeing you with someone else."
I wanted to tell her she was wrong, that I'd called Grayson every day for three months after I'd left to find out if Demetria was okay. What she didn't know is that Grayson stopped telling me. He'd even started ignoring my calls until I'd stopped asking altogether. It killed me. Huntley's words only ripped open the old wound all over again. Leaving me with nothing but the guilt I'd carried in my heart all this time.

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