“Do you want to talk about it?”
Claire had told me dozens of times since they “adopted” me into their family that I really needed to start sharing my feelings. Said it would kill me one day to keep them all bottled up. I’d laughed at her then, but started opening up more and was surprised to find how much better I felt when I did. “Um, sure, I guess.” I watched Brandon’s patient expression for a few minutes to make sure I wasn’t going to break down in the restaurant. That must have been why he brought us to the back. “I’m angry. Not just for myself, but for the baby. It’s one thing to leave me, it’s another to leave him. Even if he were to say he still wanted to be in his life once he was born, I’d always worry that he’d just hurt him in the end too. I want him to have two parents that love each other and love him. You understand that more than anyone.”
Brandon simply nodded.
“I’m upset that he did this, but I don’t know why I am. From the beginning, I knew Chase wasn’t the kind of guy to be in a relationship, and then after that stupid weekend with him, I kept pushing him back because I knew one day he would leave me. From the first day I met him, we’d push each other away and he would ignore me for long periods of time. His family told me it was because I was with you, and he couldn’t stand to see us together. But I didn’t know that until you and I had broken up, and even then wasn’t sure I believed it.” I knew I shouldn’t say this next part, but it was like I couldn’t stop talking now that I’d started, I had wanted to talk to Brandon about everything, and apparently I was going to do it now, “I regretted that weekend with him instantly, I couldn’t believe I’d done that to you. I was so in love with you,” I choked up a bit and had to clear my throat and take a calming breath to continue, “and for some stupid reason I was in love with him too. I always had been, and hated it. I wanted him out of my mind, out of my heart and out of my life.
“All I wanted was you. But I messed up, I gave in and took that chance with him even though I knew it would eventually hurt both you and me. When you came back from Arizona, I promised I would never do anything against you again, that I would love you and try to be worthy of your love too. Unfortunately, as you noticed, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. It would drive me crazy, thinking about you and our future, thinking about how much I couldn’t stand Chase, and then of course how much I loved him despite my hate for him. I would go around and around, but I knew what I wanted, and it was a life with you. I had just started to realize I wouldn’t get over him until I had my closure with him, but a part of me was afraid of what would happen when I saw him again.”
Brandon was still silent, but his eyes were shining with tears he was working to hold back.
“Then I found out I was pregnant, and I knew it was my punishment for what I’d done to you. Like the universe didn’t want me to get away with what I’d done, and my conflicting feelings, without paying for them. I had to tell you immediately, I already hated keeping that weekend from you, I wasn’t going to be able to keep this from you too. You deserved to know before he did, you deserved to hear it from me in the beginning, rather than see the evidence and put two and two together. And you deserved to have a little time to try and move on with your life before I told Chase and you had to see us together.”
“The time didn’t make a difference Harper.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “I have been wondering something though, and after hearing you just now, I’m more confused than ever. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
“I owe you every explanation.”
He ran his hands over his face and curled one over the other’s fist, resting his forehead against them. “I understand that you love Chase, and when we were together you loved both of us, but you wouldn’t take that next step. I was fine waiting as long as you needed, I thought you weren’t ready, and then all of a sudden you’re pregnant with Chase’s baby? Why was it okay with him and not me? And then after, you still wouldn’t be with me, but you’re saying you wanted a life with me, not him. I just don’t understand.”
This was going to hurt him, “I hadn’t been ready, and then that night with Chase happened and it clicked. I remember thinking this was exactly why I had never been able to take that next step with you.” Brandon flinched and mashed his lips together, “I’m sorry Brandon! I’m so sorry, I’ll stop. I was just trying to be completely honest with you.”
“No, keep going. I need to know this.” He watched me study his face, trying to figure out if I should continue, “Harper, please, don’t hold anything back.”
Taking a deep breath I thought back to where I’d ended, “Well, um, after you came back, I couldn’t bring myself to go there with you. I already knew that you were who I wanted to be with, but I kept telling myself I couldn’t do that to Chase, and was afraid that if I were to be with you, it would just be to clear my conscious. None of that was true, a huge part of the reason I couldn’t bring myself to have sex with you after I’d been with Chase, was because you were still under the impression that I was a virgin, and you’d been so patient with me. Then that one night, I was ready, and Scarecrow called and you got hurt. That’s why I was so frustrated on the ride over, I’d finally decided I was ready and I still couldn’t be with you. I took it as a sign that I should wait. I figured then that unless you knew the truth, I couldn’t tell you I was ready. And obviously, I didn’t have a clue how to tell you, or if I could tell you. Then all of a sudden it didn’t matter anymore, I had to tell you what happened, and I knew it would crush you.”
“I wish you knew how sorry I am.”
“Why are you telling me this now Harper? Is it because of what Chase did?”
My stomach twisted thinking of him and Trish, “No, I’ve wanted to talk to you about all this for so long. But I didn’t know how, or if I could and didn’t think you’d ever give me a chance even if I tried. And honestly, I think Chase has been making sure we don’t see each other.”
“Why? You’d already left me for him, you guys are having a baby together.”
I shrugged. Brandon knew why, I just didn’t want to have to say it out loud. “Have you been seeing anyone?”
“No.” He snorted, shook his head and looked towards the other tables before back to me, “I don’t know how you never seemed to realize this, but I was madly in love with you Harper.”
“I did know that.” I said softly.
“I’ve never loved anyone that way, I know it was early in our relationship, but I knew I was going to marry you someday. I’ve dated plenty of girls, and held long relationships with a few, but none that ever could be compared to you. That’s not something you just move on from, no matter how badly I want to.” He took a deep breath as his face fell and stayed silent for a while, “I still can’t see my life with anyone but you. I still love you Harper, baby included.”
Why did he have to say these things to me? This would be a bad conversation to have at any time, but now, after what just happened with Chase, it’s dangerous. If I didn’t put an end to this conversation now, I’d be running into Brandon’s arms in just a couple minutes. I can’t give in to the white knight syndrome, not that a relationship with him would ever be that. I love Brandon. But I hurt him to be with Chase, and now Chase hurt me. I can’t just go back to Brandon because Chase dismissed me. I’d be like a ping pong ball, bouncing back and forth to whoever is most convenient at that time.
“I love you too. I hope to someday marry someone as amazing as you. You are going to make someone extremely happy Brandon, and I’m sure I’ll hate her because she got you.” I smiled at him softly, “My reason for moving to San Diego was to get away from my life and to find out who I am, and I haven’t even given myself the chance to do that. I met you just weeks after moving here and fell in love with you instantly, I was afraid my feelings for you were so strong only because you were my first kiss, first boyfriend, and first love…but we both know that’s not it. What we had, was something rare. I screwed that up and almost immediately went into a relationship with Chase. I need to find out who I am outside of a relationship, before I can ever attempt another one. And you need to find someone who will treat you better than I did. You need to move on Brandon.”
I got out of the booth and pulled my purse straps onto my shoulder. Brandon stood too and hesitantly brought me in for a long embrace. I tried to memorize the feel of his warm arms around me, his muscled chest moving against my head with every breath he took.
“In order to start this, I need to stop running from everything and everyone. Can you please take me home? I need to talk with Mom and Dad, and confront Chase. If he’s even there.”
Brandon’s smile was sad when he let me go and led me out of the restaurant. Other than a quick call to Konrad to see if he could catch a ride with him after he dropped me off, the ride to Mom’s was silent. It wasn’t completely uncomfortable, we were both just too lost in our own thoughts to even try to have a conversation. After pulling into the drive and getting out of the car, Brandon scrounged around the back until he found my phone and handed it back to me. We were still silent for the few moments we stood there glaring at Chase’s truck before heading towards the front door.
“Will you promise me something Harper?”
“That really depends on what it is.” I answered honestly.
His sexy smirk was back for a second before his face grew serious, “If you guys move past this, please don’t go back to him just because he’s the father.”
I looked deep into his green eyes and hoped he saw the truth in my response, “I promise.”
“I’ll wait out here for Konrad, I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to see Chase right now.”
“Thank you for everything Brandon, I’ll see you later.” I hugged him and let him cup my face for a few moments before walking in the door.
“Harper?!” Bree’s concerned voice reached me before I saw her round the corner and crush herself to me, being careful not to touch my stomach, “I’ve been so worried about you.”
“Wasn’t Brandon talking to you?”
“Yes, but that’s not the same.” She pulled away and I noticed her tear streaked face.
“I’m sorry Bree, I really just needed time to myself for a while.”
Konrad came up behind her and kissed her on the cheek, then pulled me into a soft hug and kissed the top of my head. “Is he outside?” I nodded, “I’ll take him back then, I’m sorry this is happening Kid.”
I lightly laughed, “You know, since I’m having a baby, I’m not sure you can keep calling me Kid. Besides you’re only two months older than me.”
Bree and Konrad both rolled their eyes at my failed attempt to lighten the mood. They kissed quickly and she grabbed my hands as he walked out the door. “You ready, or do you need more time? He won’t bother you if you do.”
“No, I need to do this.”
We walked into the living room, and I almost chickened out when I saw Chase sitting on the couch. He lifted his head when he heard us come in and started to stand but Robert held him down. His eyes were puffy and red, and his cheeks were still wet. Robert tried to smile warmly at me, but it came out more of a grimace, and Claire looked like a wreck. She wrapped her arms around me and began crying. It took me a minute, but after recounting Bree’s worry that I wouldn’t come back, I realized why everyone else was upset too. Mom and Dad thought I would leave and take their grandchild with me.