Eight years ago
“Senior prom!” I exclaim, looking over at Jacob in his suit with the white rose pinned on his jacket lapel. We just left my house where we must have taken a million pictures. “Can you believe it? In just a few more months, we will both be in our own little apartment off campus.” I smile over at him, and even in the dark, I see his blue eyes shining at me. Leaning over, I kiss him and can still taste the punch on his lips.
Jacob and I have been two peas in a pod for as long as I can remember. Every memory, good or bad, was always with Jacob by my side. It also helped that our moms met one day at the local coffee shop and became best friends. We had sleepovers way before we knew what sleepovers were. He was my best friend, and if I’m going to be honest, I fell in love with him when I was seven and he carried me inside after scraping my knees. I never looked at him in any other way until grade seven when he started dating Becky Statson, and I suddenly went from liking her to loathing everything about her.
The old saying “you don’t know what you have until someone else has it” is one hundred percent the truth. I waited with bated breath while they dated. When they finally broke up, I confessed my feelings for him, and we’ve been a couple ever since. He was my first kiss, my first everything, and I knew that it would only be a matter of time until we got married. Growing up in a small town meant everyone expected us to get married right out of high school, so even our parents were surprised with our decision not to get married right away.
We pull up to the school, and he parks in his regular parking spot. The music from inside seeps out, and the disco ball and lights can be seen flashing in the windows. People go in and out, and some hang around outside. Jacob gets out of the car and walks over to my side, opening my door. His hand reaches out to help me, and then he closes the door. I thought he did this to be romantic, but he told me he did this so he can pin me to the side of the car and make out with me. I did not care in the least. “You’re going to crush your flower,” I say right before he pushes me into the side of his truck and his lips meet mine. “It’s a stupid flower anyway.” My hands go around his neck, and just like all the other times he kisses me, he leaves me smiling and my stomach fluttering. “You owe me a dance, Mr. McIntyre.”
“Well, Miss Barnes, let’s go, so I can give you your dance and then we can go, and I can show you my surprise.” He grabs my hand and walks away from the truck and toward the school.
“I’ve seen that surprise already.” I look at him and laugh. “It’s a nice surprise. It’s just after the first fifty times, it’s not really a surprise anymore.” He just shakes his head, and we are about to walk up the steps when we hear someone call Jacob’s name. I turn to see Savannah wearing her regular clothes. She looks sad, like she’s been crying, and I’m suddenly concerned for her.
Savannah, Jacob, and Beau have been best friends since birth almost. Savannah’s mom worked for Beau’s mother as their housekeeper. Beau and Jacob just grew up in the same circle since Jacob’s father was the sheriff, and Beau’s father was the mayor.
“Hey.” I smile at her. We are friends, but it’s only through Jacob.
“Hey,” Savannah says, and she walks closer to us. She is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. With long legs and perfect hair, you would think she was a model. “I was wondering if I could talk to Jacob.” She looks at me, and I look at Jacob. I know he always protects her, and the bond they have is more sister and older brother than anything else.
“I’m going to head in,” I say. “Come and find me.” I kiss his lips, and he just smiles at me. Walking up the steps, I head into the school and down the hallway toward the gym where the party is at. I see a couple of people I know and stop to talk to them. I enter the gym with the music blaring, and balloons are everywhere. The overhead lights are off, but the DJ has some lights flashing from white to blue to red. I wave to a couple of people and then finally find my friends, who greet me with hugs. We take pictures and joke and laugh. I really don’t know how long I’m in the gym when the whispers start.
“I think she’s pregnant,” one girl whispers, and I look around and try not to feel like they are looking at me.
“You think she knows?” another one says, holding her glass of punch and taking a sip, trying not to stare at me. My neck suddenly gets warm and dread fills me, but I have no idea why. I look around and see eyes focused on me but they dart away once I look at them. Making my way through the people in the gym, I walk down the hallway again back outside, and I see Jacob and Savannah over to the side talking near a tree. Their conversation seems heated, and my feet feel like they are stuck in concrete blocks. No matter how fast I want to run to him, they seem to be going farther and farther away.
Walking down the steps, I spot Beau walking up the steps. He’s wearing a blue suit with a white shirt and a blue bow tie. His black hair is perfectly cut and coiffed to the side. His blue eyes almost look black with the darkness around us. “You clean up nice.” He smiles at me, and his whole face lights up. I roll my eyes and pick up my dress so he can see my worn cowboy boots that I’m trying to hide.
“You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t …” Beau starts saying, almost laughing.
“Take the boots off her feet.” I finish the sentence for him and push his shoulder jokingly.
“Where is the mister?” he asks, and I point at the tree where Savannah and Jacob are. Something about their conversation makes me feel uneasy. I walk past Beau and make my way over to them.
“You can’t seriously be saying this,” Savannah says in a tone that makes me want to get there faster. “I can’t.”
“Hey,” I say when I finally get close enough to them to see that Savannah is crying. “Is everything okay?” I look at her, and then I look at Jacob, who avoids looking at me. “What’s going on?” I ask. My stomach suddenly falls, and I don’t know why. It’s like my body knows something bad is coming and is preparing itself, but my brain doesn’t know. Neither say anything, nor do they make eye contact with me. My hands start to get clammy, and my heart feels like it’s beating out of my chest. “Jacob.” I say his name, and he looks up at me with tears in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” he says. I don’t know if I understand what’s going on. “Kallie.” He takes a step closer to me, but my instinct is to take a step back. “I can explain.”
My mouth gets dry, and the lump in my throat makes it hard for me to swallow. “Someone better say something and something fast,” Beau says when he sees me start to shake, coming over to me and holding me around my shoulders. He shouldn’t be the one holding me, it should be Jacob.
“Say it.” The words come out softly as my head starts to spin, and I try to wake myself up from this bad dream. This has to be a bad dream. This can’t be happening, not to me.
“She’s pregnant.” He repeats the words I heard whispered in the gym. I wait for him to continue, wait for him to tell me that what I’m thinking isn’t true. I wait for him to tell me anything. This is Jacob. He wouldn’t do this to me. He wouldn’t hurt me like this, not the Jacob who holds me during scary movies and brings me ice cream when I’m not in a good mood. Not my Jacob. “I’m so sorry.”
“Oh my God.” My knees buckle, and Beau’s hold on me tightens to make sure I don’t hit the ground. But he can’t stop the roiling of my stomach, and I put my hand to my mouth to keep from being sick, but it doesn’t help. I get sick right here in front of them. Jacob tries to take a step to me, the tears now streaming down his face. “No!” I shout at him, holding up my hand to stop him from approaching me. Beau squats down beside me and hands me a handkerchief from his pocket. Grabbing the linen handkerchief, I hold it over my mouth.
“Kallie, let me take you somewhere, and I can explain,” he says, but I just shake my head, not listening to the words, and then I look at her. The woman who I accepted as a friend, the woman who I never expected would do what she just did. The woman who has taken away everything that I thought I knew.
“How could you?” I ask, and she just sobs in front of me, holding her hands folded in front of her.
“It’s not what you think,” she says, and I laugh bitterly, but the sob rips through me.
“You’re wrong,” I say. “It’s worse than I think.” I then look at Beau. “Can you take me home?”
“Kallie.” Jacob steps forward again and puts his hand on my arm, the same hand that just held my hand, the hand that made my stomach flutter every single time he touched me. Except this time, it’s like he’s burning my skin, so I jerk my arm away from his touch. “Please let me explain.”
“You slept with her while you told me you loved me!” I shout at him, the tears leaking out of my eyes faster than I can wipe them away. I don’t even notice the crowd forming around us. “You slept with her while you made plans with me about the future. Our future.” My voice grows even louder.
“Kallie.” Beau says my name softly, and I look at him.
“You knew.” Pointing at him, I say, “You had to have known. You guys are the three musketeers.”
“No,” he says, shaking his head. “I didn’t know.”
“I don’t believe you,” I say, and then I look back at Jacob. “I hope she’s worth it.” I turn and make my way through the crowd. Out of nowhere, my brother’s truck turns the corner of the school parking lot, and he pulls up to the curb right where I am. I don’t know how he knew, but when he stops at the curb, I open the truck door. “How did you …?”
“Beau,” he says, and I nod my head while he drives off with the sound of Jacob shouting my name in the background. “He can’t find me,” I say to him, and he just nods. I lean my head on the truck door, closing my eyes and letting the memories of Jacob fade away.
When you find out that your fiancé is arrested for swindling over ten million dollars from his clients, you do what any sane woman would do. You escape reality and go undercover, trading in your city-girl Louboutins for country-pumpkin cowboy boots.
It wasn’t a forever change—it was temporary. I only had to stay here until things back home got straightened out, or so I thought.
CaseyI was riding horses before I was walking, or at least that was what they told me. I always knew I would take over the family farm. It’s in my blood.
Country boy at heart, the minute I saw her dragging her luggage up the gravel driveway I knew she was out of my league.
I shouldn’t have started anything with her, because I knew she was just passing through.
I couldn’t stop it, I fell in love with her. Even though I knew, in the end, she would leave me.
I’m the one who broke up the golden couple. The woman people still whisper about, point at, and give dirty looks to.
Did I sleep with the prom king? No. Did I sleep with the town's golden boy on vacation from college? Yes.
Did I believe that he was going to marry me? Wholeheartedly.
Did he? Not even close. He got engaged right in front of me and then his father threw two hundred dollars at me and told me to take the trash out.
So, I raised my son in a town where people love him because they think that his father is the sheriff.
It was going great, everything was working out till my lie got out.
I was getting ready to take over the mayoral office from my father, who was my hero.
Until I heard the secret he hoped would stay buried forever.
My brother has a son, not just any son but a son with the woman who was my best friend.
The woman I secretly have loved from the moment she stood up to me and broke my nose in kindergarten.
I need to protect her and in order to do that, we need to get married.
Too bad her nightmare is my dream come true.