Title: He Lived Next Door
Author: Portia Moore
Release Date: May 31st 2017
There are ugly truths
and pretty lies.
When I lost them
I chose neither.
I wrapped myself in silence.
My husband, my best friend, became a stranger who gave up.
He moved next door, and everything changed.
You think you know this story,
but you don't.
Be careful what you ask for because the answer may not come the way you think.
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Five Years Ago
I knew I was in love with her the second I heard her voice.
It was meant to be. Fate that Jax left his book at our apartment and I felt like not being a jerk-off and brought it to him, fate that I arrived early to his class and stepped in the lecture hall out of boredom, and fate that I came in at the exact right time to hear her words. Words I’d replay in my mind well after today.
“You can’t know someone’s story without reading the pages of their book.”
They were so simple, but they imprinted on my thoughts. Her voice replayed in my mind even when I wanted to shake her from it.
It was a moment.
The moment, the slice of time in life, when you know, its existence will change the course of every moment after.
I stay the rest of the class. I want her to speak again. I’m anxious as others ask questions and the professor drones on, everything that comes after is unimportant, and each person that speaks does so with words that aren’t as eloquent as hers; their voices aren’t as beautiful. I’m about to risk looking like a crazy stalker and walking right down to where she is when the professor ends class. When Jax comes out I corner him and ask him about her. He looks at me as if I’m crazy, so I run toward the crowd of students leaving his classroom. He grabs my arm to stop me.
“I heard her say it in your class and you don’t know who she is, so I have to find her,” I tell him manically.
He lets out a frustrated groan because he knows I’ve gone from zero to a hundred. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does, that’s it. I’d run through a wall. We’ve been best friends since our sophomore year of high school, so he knows when there’s no stopping me and he might as well jump on board.
I hurry down the hallway, trying to catch her even though I have no clue what she looks like. The hall is flooded with students leaving their classes. I rush out the main door and stand by it, hoping she’ll be talking and I’ll recognize her voice. I search each girl’s face as they pile outside. Some smile at me and I make sure to give each one my best charming smile in case it’s her.
“You’ve lost it.” Jax chuckles, and when I don’t answer, he looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind.
Maybe I have lost my mind, because you’re crazy to come to a dead stop on one of the busiest streets in Chicago—not to mention on a Monday, where even a slight stroll can get you trampled or knocked over.
“I’ve got to find whoever said that,” I tell him again.
He covers his face as I search through the crowd. “I told you I could just ask at my next class.” He sounds annoyed but slightly amused.
“No, you’ll only half-ass it.” I wave him off, and he nods in defeat.
“You didn’t even get a glimpse of what she looked like. She could be dog-faced, man.”
I give him the middle finger and weave through the crowd of people. But the voice is gone, disappeared into a sea of conversations and street noises.
“Ugh!” I yell in frustration, gripping my head and avoiding people rushing to their next destination.
It’s a cold day here in Chicago, and being close to the lake has made the cold wind bone-chilling. That makes it worse for me, since people are not only in a hurry to get where they’re going, but to get off the street to somewhere warm. Panic creeps up my chest. What if I never find her? It’ll drive me crazy.
“I’ve got to find her,” I tell Jax again, feeling anxiousness course through me. I look around and spot a mailbox and newspaper box. I slither through the crowd and climb on top of it. “Attention, everyone, attention, please! In…”
I turn to Jax and ask his professor’s name. He tells me, begrudgingly.
“In Professor Garrison’s class, who said, ‘You can’t know someone’s story without reading the pages of their book’?”
Of course no one says anything.
“You can’t know someone’s story without reading the pages of their book!” I yell again.
I get a couple of glances and giggles from the crowd, but most people keep walking. People in downtown Chicago are accustomed to outrageous, outlandish behavior, and most don’t pay me any attention. I shout it again, and soon Jax is shouting it with me. Even if he is shaking his head in disdain, he’s used to my ridiculousness, and what’s a friendship if you can’t be ridiculous together?
“If you said that, I have to talk to you,” I shout, and I sound desperate even to myself but I don’t care, I have to know her.
We shout together, this time garnering more attention. After about five minutes, I look at Jax, whose face is red from the cold. I begrudgingly get down off the mailbox.
“We’re done, Jax,” I tell him.
He looks completely relieved. “What were we just acting like two maniacs for?”
“You know me. I’m an idiot sometimes.” I sigh in defeat.
“Uhm, I think you guys were looking for me maybe?”
It’s the voice! My blood warms up, but I hesitate, because I’m almost afraid to see who said it, whose voice grabbed my heart and didn’t let go. Am I really ready to hand it over to someone? I haven’t even let a girl borrow it, but this girl stole it and had it in her keeping before I’d even seen her face. Jax is facing her already and his eyebrows are raised, his smile big and goofy as it always is when he sees a cute girl, and I know she’s not a ‘dog-face’.
“This guy here, actually,” he says begrudgingly, patting my shoulder.
I take a deep breath and turn around. My heart slams against my rib cage. She’s beautiful, totally and completely. Her cheeks and nose are red, but the rest of her skin is flawless, not one blemish. Long blond hair pours from underneath her hood. Her eyes are big and bright and the color of honey, and her lips are exactly how I imagined them, perfect, plumped and curved into a grin. Next to her is an older woman who has to be her mother. They have the exact same eyes, and her mother’s hair is just a tad darker. She looks annoyed and skeptical, her gaze darting between Jax and me.
“Say something, Romeo,” Jax says in my ear before giving me a hard elbow to my ribs.
“You, you said that, what I was yelling earlier?” I ask even though I know it was her.
She nods nervously. Her pink lips have a gloss over them and they’re pursed, lips I imagine kissing a thousand times. There’s a hint of a smile on them, and I’m praying she doesn’t smile fully because it might stop my heart.
“What do you gentlemen want?” her mom chimes in. She sounds completely irritated and that should scare me out of what I’m about to say next, but it doesn’t.
“I-I had to know whose voice said those words because I fell in love with it.” I feel her mother scowling at me, but it doesn’t matter. She smiles, and I have to remind myself to breathe. Our eyes lock, and she stares into mine, studying me. I want to be her open book.
“Do you guys want money? Is that what this is about? Because there are much easier ways,” her mother interjects angrily.
“We don’t want any money, ma’am. If we were paid to do this, I’d have made sure he came up with a much better line.” Jax is trying to lighten the mood using his easygoing charm, but I don’t even know if it’s working because all I see is her.
She glances at Jax briefly before her eyes return to mine.
She stretches her hand out and I take it, gripping it in both of mine. I feel it, what my dad said I’d feel when I met the one. It’s a culmination of excitement, euphoria, and fear all wrapped up in one, traveling to every part of my body, making me light and dizzy.
“You have to let me take you out,” I say, realizing how desperate I sound.
“What if she’s married, young man?” her mom asks.
My heart drops. Why wouldn’t she be married? She’s beautiful and smart. She looks about twenty, but still, I know it’s possible.
“Then my heart would be broken.”
She rolls her eyes, but Chassidy squeezes my hand.
“I’m not married.”
With her words, my face breaks into one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever experienced. She blushes, her skin turning the color her nose and cheeks are from the cold. I want to make her blush like that every day.
“Let me take you out,” I say.
She’s smiling, but I can tell she’s still skeptical.
“Anywhere you want, whenever you want. You can even bring your mom,” I say, gripping her hand tighter, and she laughs.
“You bet I’d be there if she considered going anywhere with some man she met off the street, even if he does look like you.”
She has a special sort of talent to make a compliment sound like an insult.
“Mom,” Chassidy says tightly, her smile disappearing into a hard frown.
“I can vouch that he’s not crazy… even though he has a tendency to do crazy things,” Jax adds.
“What’s your name, Prince Charming?” Chassidy asks. The rough tone she used with her mother is gone, back to the voice that caused all of this calamity.
“Bryce, but you can call me whatever you want,” I tell her, finally letting her hand go.
“Bryce what?” her mom asks pointedly.
“Daniels, ma’am,” I tell her mother, whose eyes look as if they’re going to set me on fire. It’s surreal how much they look alike but how hard and angry her mom seems compared to her daughter.
“Just exchange numbers so we can get out of this Godforsaken weather,” her mom demands.
I frantically search for my phone, and Jackson hands me his. She tells me her number, and I put it in his phone and call it, and hers lights up. As soon as it does, her mother takes her arm and starts to pull her away.
“It was nice meeting you Bryce,” she says over her shoulder, throwing me a smile I’ll never forget.
“You better have been worth this,” her mom snaps at us before they join the herd of people.
“What the hell was that?” Jackson asks.
I just smile, staring at her number in his phone. “That was my future wife.”
I'm obsessed with blowing kisses. I guess that makes me a romantic. I love books and cute boys and reading about cute boys in books. I'm infatuated with the glamour girls of the past: Audrey, Dorothy, Marilyn & Elizabeth.
I'm a self-confessed girly girl, book nerd, food enthusiast, and comic book fan. Odd combination huh, you have no idea...
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