A woman's journey towards freedom from heartbreak. Three chapters away from competion!
| Un-Break My Heart
The lights were off when Justin entered the apartment, signaling that Lexandra was fast asleep. His thoughts were jangled; part of him felt guilt, while still another felt relief that this last lie, was the last lie. He walked noiselessly down the hall, and entered his darkened bedroom.
Justin looked down at the sleeping woman whose black hair fanned out on the pillow, and briefly wondered again what he was doing. He shook his feelings of remorse away, though his eyes seemed to memorize every detail of the woman in innocent repose. His eyes traveled across her face, faintly outlined by the moonlight. Even in sleep she was beautiful. And he wondered why he realized this now, when he would never see her again.
He left the room, softly closing the door behind him, and grabbed the suitcase he had packed from the closet in his den. Taking the note he had written out of his pocket, Justin left it lying on the kitchen counter where Lexandra would be sure to see it in the morning.
He noticed the time, well aware that she would be waking in an hour. Up by five every morning, except Sundays. Unlike Shannon, the flight attendant he’d been seeing for almost a month now.
Hiding the affair had been easy. Lexandra rarely asked questions. She was constantly preoccupied, attending shows and working almost twelve hours every day. However, no matter how busy she was, Justin always had her complete and undivided attention.
But for some reason, that just wasn’t enough. Shannon understood him better, knew he needed the stimuli of being the one and only in her life. With Shannon, he came first, and work and responsibilities came later. And he liked that just fine.
Suitcase in hand, he left the extra set of keys on the counter next to his note, and quietly slipped out of Lexandra’s life.
As he started the car, he noticed the light suddenly turn on in the bedroom. He still had a chance, he realized. He had a chance to go in, and talk to her face to face, to explain things...
Lexandra sat up in bed, suddenly wide-awake. She thought she heard the front door close, and her heart beat wild with joy at the thought that Justin was finally home. Switching on the bedside lamp, she pulled on her robe and slippers against the chill of the early morning and hurriedly left the bed that had been so lonely without him.
The apartment was dark. Lexandra flooded the hallway with light to guide her steps as she made her way into the living room. Perhaps he was watching television, she thought. He usually did when he came home from work before going to bed. But her search of the apartment proved otherwise.
Shrugging slightly with resignation and disappointment, she switched on the kitchen light and began emptying the dishwasher. The clock on the wall indicated she still had an hour’s worth of sleep ahead of her, but going back to the empty bed without Justin’s arms to hold her, forced her to push the thought away. She hadn’t seen Justin in two days, and she missed him terribly.
She finished placing the dishes and set out to make a pot of coffee, when her clear gray eyes fell on the note lying on the tiled counter. Curious, she opened the letter, and quickly skimmed its contents. It wasn’t until she felt the blood drain from her face that she went back to the beginning and read every word.
She was pleased when her hands remained steady as she set the note back on the counter. Taking the coffeepot off its base she walked over to the sink. Her mind was clear as she looked at the carafe that she held, surprised to see the tears that fell mirrored in the glass. Consciously forcing herself to breathe, a sudden feeling of loss surged through her. Lexandra let the carafe fly across the room.
The sound of shattering crystal pierced the tranquil morning, then remained silent.
Her day was not going well at all. In truth, it had been the second worst day of her life. Lexandra reflected as she sat at the light at the busy intersection one block away from her apartment.
Her day had started quite normally. She awoke at five, ate a solitary breakfast, showered, and dressed for work. Leaving her apartment promptly at eight-thirty, she was at work by nine, and had her first bride to be at nine thirty.
And then the owner came in and asked Lexandra to come into her office.
“ Lexi, I don’t know how to say this except to just come out with it,” Susan began nervously. “I’m closing the store at the end of the month, I just can’t compete with ‘Tiffany’s’ anymore. I’m sorry.”
Stunned, Lexandra recalled Susan going over her severance pay, and other minor details, but the rest of the day passed in a blur.
Still sitting at the light, Lexandra suddenly realized that Susan’s speech had begun the exact same way Justin’s’ note had the day she found out he was leaving her. The day, which had constituted as the first worst day of her life.
The light turned green, bringing her out of her daydream, but before she could roll forward, she felt a thump, and saw the windshield crack as her head hit the corner of it.
Three hours later she obtained a free ride home, courtesy of the police department. Chauffeured by a disgruntled police officer with an attitude because her accident was now causing him to have to work overtime, she arrived home without further incident. Thankfully her horrendous day was now over.
Lexandra thanked the police officer for the ride, and shuffled into the building stopping to retrieve her mail. Juggling a bundle of letters and catalogs along with her briefcase and purse, she tried to open the door to her apartment. Dropping the keys, she cursed efficiently, and banged her arm against the railing of the stairs as she bent to retrieve the keys. Surviving the pain by setting her teeth, she managed to open the door and stumble inside.
As she set her belongings onto the coffee table, a small envelope slid out of the stack and onto the carpet. Lexandra bent down to rescue it, managing to knock over a crystal vase filled with fresh flowers, and hitting her head on the corner of the coffee table.
Cursing gracefully, she tried to read the postmark on the letter between the white spots that swam in her eyes. When they were finally focused, she hitched in her breath, and ripped the letter open. She didn’t realize she was screaming as she pulled out a newspaper clipping with a picture of a smiling bride and groom
It took over an hour for the tears to subside, and another hour before her headache went away, but Lexandra managed to collect herself. She soon realized that she was sitting in the water that spilled from the vase, and that her new silk suit was stained. Stumbling to her feet, she ignored the lump in her throat that came unbidden as her gray eyes fell on the wedding picture of Justin and his new bride, which he had so generously and thoughtfully sent her.
She shook her head against the memories that began to flood her mind and managed to strip off her suit without further damage to her already sore body. She wanted nothing more than to crawl into her bed and cry herself to sleep, but her heart demanded release. Sitting in only her underwear at her secretary desk, Lexandra pulled out a sheet of paper and began to write. The scratch of pen across paper was the only sound heard in the apartment.
“I’ve just heard word of your good fortune,’ she penned. ‘I hope the future you have always envisioned surfaces for you. Until Never, Lexandra.’
Satisfied, she carefully folded the paper thrice, and shoved it back in the original envelope along with the despised picture. She scrawled, ‘ Return to Sender’ across the front, and without bothering to pull on a robe, marched down to the mailboxes, stomped upstairs again, and drug herself to the closet sized bathroom where she carefully washed away all trace of her humiliation. She brushed her shoulder length raven hair and pulled it into a knot at the nape of her neck, then slipped into her pajamas.
Needing to find something to occupy her mind with, she switched on the radio and made a pot of mint tea. As she waited for her tea to brew, she pulled out her leather bound telephone book, thumbing through the neatly handwritten pages. She located her best friend, Callie’s new phone number in Nantucket and quickly dialed the number.
Callie herself answered on the first ring.
“Lexi! I am so glad you called, I was getting ready to call you myself!” Callie chirped in her ear.
“What’s up?” Lexandra asked as she poured herself a cup of the fragrant tea, hissing slightly as the hot liquid spilled, burning her hand.
“How would you like to come to Nantucket for a visit?”
“I’d love to, I’ll be there day after tomorrow.” Lexandra said quickly, pushing the cup away. She had a fleeting thought of ending up in a full body cast before the day was out.
Callie laughed, oblivious to her friends’ affliction. “That works for me, I have the entire week off, but there isn’t anything wrong is there?”
Lexandra snorted. “No, nothing’s wrong, unless being jobless, car less, and realizing that Justin is gone forever is a problem.”
“What are you talking about? Is this really happening to you?”
“I wish it was happening to my evil twin sister who probably deserves it, but no, Callie, unfortunately it has all happened to me in one day.” She cradled the phone on her shoulder as she walked to her bedroom and slid in bed.
“Did you wreck your car into the shop or something?”
Lexandra laughed, lying back against her nest of pillows. “Well, Susan is closing the store, and after that little tidbit of wonderful news, my car is now being repaired thanks to a tourist who thought a red light meant ‘go’.”
“Damn, well at least you’re not hurt. How did Justin come into the picture?”
“Oh,” Lexandra laughed flippantly, “Justin decided to be super sweet and send me a picture of his wedding day.”
Callie was silent for a second, giving Lexandra time to contemplate on the best means of committing homicide.
“Are you serious?” Callie finally said. Lexandra rolled her eyes heavenward.
“No, I’m trying out new comedy material on you, of course I’m serious!” She snapped.
“That scum sucking bastard! Are you okay?”
“I am just peachy, Callie. Just peachy.” Lexandra muttered as she rubbed her temples.
“You didn’t cry over him, did you, Lex’?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, no, I began dusting and sneezed so hard that tears came to my eyes. I swear.” She grinned at herself and then felt better that she could still laugh.
“Please don’t let him make you miserable anymore, what’s done is done, and everything happens for a reason, you know?” Callie said reasonably.
“I would love it if someone could give me the answer on what in the hell I’m going to do now? Cal’, to tell the truth, I have nothing anymore.” Lexandra sighed.
“Lexandra Durand, don’t you even begin talking that way!” Her friend snapped.
“No Callie, I meant here, in Suckville, U.S.A., not about life in general!” Lexandra explained, and mentally abandoned the idea of entering a convent. “All I mean is that I seem to be alone here, and now have no job, and no car. You and Aaron are living there, Hatch is on Martha’s Vineyard, and my Mom and Dad are living in Spain, what am I still doing here?”
“You stayed there because of Justin, remember? And he’s been gone for a long time, Lexi. What are you still doing there?”
“I guess I’m entertaining the idea that Prince Charming will come and sweep me off of my feet.” Lexandra replied, dryly. “If you’re invitation still stands, Callie, I think I’ll take you up on it.”
“Wonderful! Then you’ll leave right away?”
“I don’t see why not, I’ll call you back and let you know when and where to pick me up.”
“Good, I will expect a call back in one hour.”
“You got it, and, Callie?”
“Thanks for calling him a scum sucking bastard. I couldn’t have said it any better. ”
Callie laughed as Lexandra replaced the receiver. Feeling a little better, she lay in her bed, mentally running through a list of things she had to do. All she wanted to do now was close her eyes and let this day disappear, but she didn’t have time. Not if she was going to Nantucket in the morning. Resigned, she called her insurance company and finagled a rental car from them that they would deliver in the morning.
Sighing, she escaped her warm bed and yanked open her closet door. Nantucket was of course freezing this time of year, as was the rest of New England, so she tossed all of her winter clothes on the bed, shoving selected outfits into her suitcase. Packing several weeks worth of clothing into two suitcases, she then tackled the job of reorganizing her mess of the closet. The activity fueled her, driving away the memories that crept into the edges of her mind.
Lexandra called Callie back, as promised, assuring her that she would leave first thing in the morning, and then placed a call to her Godfather, on Martha’s Vineyard.
“Lexi! I was just about to call you!”
Lexandra smiled at his words. “Let me guess, you were thinking of inviting me to the Vineyard for a visit.”
“And how did you know that?”
“Callie called and asked me the exact same thing.”
“Callie always was a smart girl. So, when are you coming?”
“As a matter of fact, I’m leaving in the morning so I’ll probably get to the Vineyard in time for supper.”
“Wonderful, you’ll be seeing me first! Well, I guess I’ll make reservations at that Italian place you love so much.”
“While you’re at it, go ahead and order that pesto dish they have so it’ll be waiting.” She joked.
“I’ll see that it’s on the table when we sit down.” Hatch laughed. “Well Lexi, have a safe trip over, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Bye Hatch and thanks.”
“For being far away.”
“Uh, oh. Sounds like we’re going to have an all-nighter.”
“I guess so. Goodnight.”
Lexandra lay in the darkened room, willing sleep to come and force her into oblivion, but it was fruitless. Her memory flooded, emitting humiliated and wrenching sobs. Not since the day Justin left her had she shed one tear, but now she couldn’t stop. She wished she could hate him, as he apparently hated her, but she couldn’t. Not when she was so pathetically in love with him still.
Drifting off into strange dreams as the gray streaks of dawn filled the sky, Lexandra did not realize that even in her troubled slumber she continued to weep.
The morning was overcast and the radio predicted heavy rainfall for the afternoon. Hollow-eyed from lack of sleep, Lexandra flung the porcelain alarm clock across the room, and smiled in satisfaction when it shattered against the wall. The weather, matching her mood perfectly, put her in gear.
After a hot shower against the chill of the early morning, she tugged on a new black turtleneck sweater, and slid into her favorite jeans. Lexandra pulled her hair pack into its customary ponytail, shoved her feet into leather ankle boots, and grabbed her black leather jacket.
The rental agency had dropped off a new Chevy Blazer, and by six forty-five, Lexandra was on her way to Massachusetts. Living in Rhode Island, the trip was only a few hours, and she had given herself plenty of time to get there. Luckily so, because the roads were horrible. She tried to enjoy the snow-covered landscape as she drove, but the only thing she was able to focus on was the way her heart twisted whenever she thought of Justin.
She crawled along the expressway an hour away from Woods Hole, and finally made it with only a few minutes to spare before boarding the ferry. Within another hour, Lexandra was on her way across the ocean. The water was choppy, and only because of her father’s fishing expeditions, was she able to stand on her feet throughout most of the journey.
She stood at the bow, looking across the dark gray water, unaware that her eyes reflected the same colors as the sea. Shivering slightly against the cold air and even colder sea spray, Lexandra kept her eyes on the distant shape of Martha’s Vineyard Island, recalling happy times spent there as a child. She vaguely wondered if she would ever be able to find that happiness again.
Lexandra realized that she had been so lonely in Newport. After Justin left, it had been easier to deal with her heartbreak. She had been working nonstop, but her parents and Callie were always around to keep her occupied. Then Callie had married Aaron Hughes, and decided to move to Nantucket so Aaron could open a boating shop with his best friend, Dan Richards.
Then her parents decided to move back to Spain, her mother’s homeland. Her father had retired from his job as a police officer and decided to join the family business in Seville. Her mother had been anxious to go back for several years, and this was their dream come true. Lexandra was left with only her job to keep her sane, and now that was gone too.
They pulled into Vineyard Haven, and Lexandra searched the pier, looking for Hatch. Finally she spotted him, and raced down the gangplank. She was wrapped in a huge bear hug moments later.
“Lexi girl! You look divine.” Hatch bellowed, and laughed when she grimaced.
“Good Lord, Hatch. You must be going blind in your old age.”
"Nonsense, I feel like a twenty year old, now if you can tell me where to find one…?”
Lexandra laughed. “I haven’t seen one in a few years now. Are we going to stand here all night or are you going to feed me?”
They drove to The Homeport, and were soon seated at a relaxed pub style table in the casual atmosphere of the popular restaurant. The captain took their orders, and Lexandra settled back in her seat to relax.
"What a day. If I wasn’t starving, I’d go to sleep right here.”
Hatch clucked sympathetically. “So, are you going to talk, or are you going to keep me in suspense?” He asked.
“Where do I even start?”
“At the beginning, of course. I haven’t heard from you except the few times we’ve spoken over the phone. What’s happened to you, Lexi?”
Lexandra took a sip of the cappuccino the waiter set before her before answering.
“Well, I suppose someone could say that the time in their life when everything felt hopeless was only once. But, for me, it’s been twice.”
“Justin leaving you would be one.” Hatch said.
“Correct. Hopeless part two, came yesterday when I lost my job, and lost my car.”
Hatch leaned forward in his seat. “You’re not in any financial trouble, I hope.” He asked quietly.
“Of course not, Susan decided to close the shop, and to top that, I was hit from behind.”
“Since you’re in front of me and in one piece I would venture to say that thankfully, you weren’t hurt.”
“No, outside, I feel fine.”
Lexandra opened her mouth, and then just as quickly, closed it, as a new feeling of heartache engulfed her.
“He sent me a newspaper clipping of his wedding. “ She finally managed.
“That’s rough. Do you want me to put out a contract on him?” Hatch joked mildly. He was glad when she found a smile.
“Maybe tomorrow.” She tried to smile, feeling foolish getting emotional in the restaurant. And Hatch’s sympathetic look was embarrassing. Lexandra had always prided herself on the gift of turning her emotions off until it was suitable. She tore her eyes away from Hatch’s face and looked down at her hands.
“Well, anyway, that’s the story.”
“Okay, let’s review this.” Hatch said thoughtfully. “To begin, you can get another job, right?”
“Right.” Lexandra raised a delicately arched eyebrow at him, questioning his motive.
“And you can find a better man than Justin, right?”
“Wrong.” Lexandra announced firmly.
“Why?” Hatch demanded. Lexandra sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. “Because I love him.” She said weakly. “I don’t think I could ever stop loving him.”
“So, who says you can’t love someone, or something else, even though it’s gone?”
“I hate when you get philosophical.”
“Perhaps so, but I have a point.” He said, smugly.
“So you do,” Lexandra grabbed hold of the waiters’ hand as he passed and begged for a cigarette. Hatch wisely made no comment as Lexandra glared at him. “But that doesn’t make it any easier to stop feeling the way I do.” She continued.
“I think you can come out of mourning now.”
“I like to wear black.” She snapped, snatching the cigarette from the waiters’ hand.
“And you look like hell in it.” Hatch snapped back. Lexandra stopped fumbling with a pack of matches to sneer at him.
“An hour ago you said I looked ‘divine’” She grinned, and lit her first cigarette in almost a century. Hatch rolled his eyes as Lexandra took a deep drag and immediately began coughing.
He laughed. “I lied. You look awful.”
“ Thanks a lot. But I still don’t see your point.” She frowned with memory. “I can’t even sleep sometimes without thinking, what did I do? Why wasn’t my love enough to keep him? ” She confessed softly.
“And that’s your number one problem. Quit thinking that because things don’t always come out the way you hoped it would, is your own fault. Justin has moved on with his life, Lexi. Do you want to move on, or stay like this forever?”
“But where do I even start, Hatch? I feel like I’m all alone, and no one gives a damn.”
“Well, since I don’t mind pointing out when you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Your parents give a damn, and I give a damn, and Callie gives a damn, shall I go on?”
“I know, I know. So, any suggestions for the new and improved Lexandra Durand?” She tried to smile, and failed.
“In fact, I have several.” Hatch answered immediately. “Number one, your parent’s spent thousands of dollars on your degree, why don’t you put the degree to use and open your own shop? It’s always been your dream. And second, why don’t you move here?”
“Move to the Vineyard?” Lexandra asked incredulously.
“Why not? You said yourself that you have nothing in Newport anymore.” Hatch pointed out, reasonably.
“What are you’re other suggestions?” She asked slowly.
“Since Callie lives in Nantucket, why don’t you move there instead? It’s more of an actual town, instead of a resort, like here.”
“Next I suppose you’ll suggest that I move to Venus. At least they’d understand me there.”
“No, Venus is no good. Move to Mars instead.”
“Because there you might actually find a man.” He answered, dryly.
Lexandra spent the night at the Annex with Hatch. Through the night, they talked of her future as she finished off a pack of cigarettes when she was able to inhale them. Hatch, as usual, already had a plan worked out.
“With your savings, and the money for your car, you’d have enough to open a shop, and rent a cottage.” He said.
“Okay, and until such a time that I can find a rental, where do I live?”
“Simple, either here, or with Callie.”
“And supposing I was to move, do you honestly think I could afford to open a shop? I only have a little over ten grand in the bank.” Lexandra paced back and forth in the parlor while Hatch sat at a desk with paper and pencil and made notes.
“You can rent a space, and then buy it.” He replied, looking up from the scrawled figures on the paper. She stopped in mid pace to consider. “That’s true.”
“Very true. Think about it, Lexi. If all else fails, you could always move to Spain with your parents.”
“I know, and I adore it there, but….” Lexandra continued her tread across the tiled floor.
“No more ‘buts’.” Hatch ordered. “You’re thirty four years old, and I hate to break it to you, but time goes by fast. Before you know it, you’re sixty-five, and you think back and say to yourself, ‘ Boy, if only I could be thirty again, I would open up my own business, live on an island, and spend the rest of my life surrounded by my friends’.”
“That’s what you did, Hatch.” Lexandra smiled genuinely for the first time.
“And have you ever seen me mope, or feel sorry for myself?”
“Not that I can recall, but give my thirty seconds.”
“I’ll even the odds, and give you the rest of your life to do it.”
After sharing hot donuts from the small stand next to the pier, Lexandra kissed Hatch good-bye and hopped onto the ferry for Nantucket. They made plans to have lunch that weekend, and Lexandra eagerly paced the deck, anxious to see Callie and tell her of her plans. She was filled with the promise of hope. Hope, and a new life, which couldn’t be any worse than the one she was leaving behind.
A few hours later, as she sat in Callie’s cheery breakfast room nibbling on freshly baked cookies, Lexandra revealed that she was thinking of moving. Callie’s response was more than she had hoped for, and it strengthened her decision.
“Lexi that is the best news I’ve heard! Remind me to kiss Hatch when I see him.”
Lexandra smiled at her friend. “Watch it Callie, Hatch might kiss you back.”
“Who cares? Of course, you’ll be staying here with me and Aaron until we find you something else.” She hugged her friend fervently, and fairly bubbled with excitement.
“You need to close up the apartment, don’t you?” Callie asked when she sat down again.
“Yes, I was just thinking of that. Damn,” She rubbed her face wearily. “That’s going to be a pain.”
“So hire someone to do it for you. In fact, have the apartment manager do it for you.” Callie suggested.
“And what am I going to do with my furniture, and my clothes? I sort of need my clothes you know.”
“Simple, put the furniture in storage, and Aaron can pack the rest of your clothes and whatever else. He’s going to Newport this weekend on a job anyway, just make of list of everything you need.”
“Good Lord, then I’ll be in debt to him for the rest of my life!” Lexandra said.
“Well, he might just make you give up your first born.” Callie smiled.
“Since that won’t be happening any time soon, I guess I’m safe from Moses incarnate.” Lexandra laughed.
“Exactly. Lexi, I am so glad you’re moving here. I’ve missed you so much! And I can’t believe that you’re even smiling!”
“I have Vaseline on my teeth, an old Miss America secret.” Lexandra joked.
“It’s nice that you haven’t lost your sense of humor.”
“I’d like to lose my cynicism, but I have to keep at least one vice.”
Callie’s husband was finally convinced to do Lexandra the favor of taking care of the apartment.
“Just let me know what I have to pack, and I’ll ship it. I won’t have any room in the truck to bring everything back with me on Monday.” Aaron said.
“Thank you so much, I’ll have the list for you tomorrow.” Lexandra said.
“No problem. So, when will you look for a shop?” He asked.
“The sooner the better. You wouldn’t know of anyplace that’s closing would you?”
“In fact, I noticed a little corner store in Post Office Square that had a ‘For Rent’ sign on it.” Aaron said. Callie came in to the dining room at that moment with a bowl of salad.
“Oh, you mean the one next to the realtor’s office.” Callie said as she set the salad on the table. Lexandra jumped up to help her bring in the rest of the dinner, but Callie waved her away. “You’re our guest today, Lexi’. You can start your chores tomorrow.” She joked. “That shop is cute inside. Until today it was a Nantucket Basket shop. The Square is only a twenty minute walk from our house, so it would be convenient if you find a rental here in Siasconset.”
“That would be great, this area is so pretty.” Lexandra said.
While they ate Callie’s homemade lasagna, they made plans to look into the shop the next afternoon. Lexandra helped Callie with the dishes, and then slipped upstairs to shower again, and get ready for bed. She was brushing her teeth when Callie came in the guestroom, now Lexandra’s bedroom, and brought hot cocoa.
“What’s this for? A pajama party?” Lexandra asked as she came out of the bathroom.
Callie laughed. “Something like that. I just can’t believe you’re here to stay!”
"To tell you the truth Callie, I keep thinking I’m going to wake up from this totally weird dream to find myself back in my apartment in Newport.” Lexandra smiled as she sat Indian style on the bed and sipped the cocoa.
“Well all I can say is, good for you. I know this Justin business has been a nightmare for you, but that’s in the past, and now it’s time for the future.” Callie said firmly.
Lexandra hoped her heart had heard the words, and would take heed.
“This is absolutely perfect, Callie!” Lexandra gushed as she stood in the middle of the showroom. The realtor next door to the little boutique was very happy to show Lexandra the inside of the store, and she stood quietly to the side while Lexandra looked around.
The shop wasn’t large, but the location was perfect, nestled in the front of the shopping center. French doors led customers from the street into the front showroom, while a large picture window would hold a vast display. Dressing rooms would have to be built in, but the rear of the store held two small office rooms, with a kitchenette connecting them. The windows in each office offered a view of the marina, and of the lighthouse.
“Would the owner be willing to settle on a price due to the construction I would need?” Lexandra asked, whirling around to face the realtor.
“Ah, I don’t see why not.” The woman stuttered. Lexandra looked at her, coolly. “Well, are you going to find out for sure?”
“Right away, Ms. Durand.” She scurried out of the shop and into her own office.
Callie watched Lexandra bully the realtor with amusement. When Lexandra wanted something done, she did it, and buying a boutique was hardly going to be an exception.
“You don’t have to scare the woman half to death, you know.” Callie grinned.
“I was tired of her hovering in the corner, so I gave her something to do.”
“So, you are going to buy it?” Callie asked. Lexandra looked around the store again, and nodded. “Yes, I think so. This feels right, Callie. So, do you know anyone who does construction?”
As usual, Lexandra threw herself into her project with her heart and soul.
Subconsciously, she believed that thinking about anything other than her heartache would make her get over things easier. Nevertheless, upon waking in the morning she would find her pillow still wet with tears she’d shed during the night.
Aaron had made good on his promise and a week later, Lexandra was settled in. Her clothes and personal belongings were now stashed in her bedroom on the third floor of Callie’s saltbox style Nantucket home. She relocated her bank funds to a branch in Boston, and found an investment advisor who put her fears at ease when he informed her that buying the store was a smart move.
Aaron’s business partner, Dan Richards was a moonlighting construction worker, so Lexandra commissioned him to remodel the boutique. She consulted with interior decorators, but Callie finally convinced her to remodel herself.
“Look, you know exactly what you want, so there’s no reason to pay someone else to do it.” Callie counseled matter of factually.
Hatch also gave her ideas, and for weeks she agonized over wallpaper samples and swatches of carpet. The time passed quickly, keeping busy slowly healed her betrayed heart, and Lexandra surprised herself by settling into Nantucket life.
Lexandra would breakfast with Callie and Aaron mornings before both left for work, Callie to the hospital where she was the emergency charge nurse. Lexandra would spend the rest of the morning placing phone calls to Hatch for advice, and then to the employment agencies in an attempt to hire a salesclerk.
Mid morning, she would stroll along the streets of Nantucket, and venture into shops, getting a feel for the business side of the island. Being February, many shops were closed, but she met many of the island’s small business owners, and through word of mouth, was collecting a steady stream of clients. She enjoyed her solitude on these morning jaunts, and afternoons, she lunched either alone, or would catch the ferry to the Vineyard and see Hatch.
In March, winter still had a strong hold over New England, and it rained or snowed for days on end. The island seemed to halt, and except for the ferry, everything closed. Aaron ventured to his shop once a week and only Callie worked as normal. Lexandra was impatient with the weather. Because of it, Dan had to stop work on her store, and it was only half finished. She lamented, and finally worked on final decorating decisions.
Towards the end of the month, the employment agency called and set Lexandra up with an interview with a potential employee.
The day of the interview, which Lexandra held in her store office which she had insisted be completed first, was bright and sunny yet still very cold. Lexandra made a pot of coffee, and set out Callie’s homemade muffins. She had dressed in a dove gray suit, and had pulled her hair into a casual knot.
The woman Lexandra was interviewing arrived promptly, and Lexandra smiled as she came into the office. She was about ten years older than Lexandra, with rich mahogany hair that was held back with an antique clip. She was dressed smartly in a violet wool suit and ivory silk blouse.
“Good Morning, my name is Helena Morris.” She smiled, speaking with a distinctive German accent, and shook Lexandra’s hand.
Lexandra liked her immediately, offering her a cup of coffee and a muffin, which the woman refused.
Lexandra sat down behind her mahogany desk, as Helena took a seat in a sea green silk Queen Anne style chair.
“Fist off, I’m going to dispense with formality,” Lexandra smiled. “I need a sales clerk, and I see that you ran your own business for several years, so you’re hired.”
Helena looked at her for a moment in astonishment, and then grinned.
“I have a feeling I’m going to like you.” She laughed. “Since I’m hired, what exactly do you need?”
“Well, a sales clerk, first of all, and second, a manager. You are now both.”
“Okay, now my most important question is, what is the salary?”
“Commissioned sales, and for being my manager, how’s twenty dollars an hour?”
“I think I love you.” Helena laughed, and then helped herself to a muffin.
“Good, I’m planning to open in June, and if you’re willing to start work tomorrow, I’ll make you my assistant decorator and forewoman.”
“Excellent, what time tomorrow?”
“Perfect. Would you like a cup of coffee, Ms. Durand?”
“It’s Lexandra, or Lexi, whichever you prefer, and I would love a cup.”
Helena poured for her, and for the next few hours, Lexandra showed her the decorating selections she had made. Helena discarded a few, made suggestions of her own, and in the course of the afternoon, Lexandra had found herself more than an employee, she had found another friend.
The next morning, she found Helena in her office with a fresh pot of coffee on, and several thick binders of decorating materials. They spent the rest of the week deciding on the interior of the store, and Lexandra was thrilled with the final choices. The construction crew finished the office across from Lexandra’s that weekend, and by Monday morning, Helena was a permanent fixture in the shop.
“What are you going to call the store, Lexi?” Helena asked one afternoon in late May while Lexandra was updating the accounting books. Lexandra looked at Helen blankly, and then groaned.
“I forgot all about that.” She admitted. What with the construction, and decorating, Lexandra hardly had a free moment to herself, let alone worrying about details.
Helena smiled secretively and quietly left the room. She was back in minutes with a slab of marble.
“I figured you’d forget, so I took the liberty of ordering this.” Lexandra walked around to the front of her desk to read the sign Helena had picked.
‘Lexandra’s Dream’ was written across the creamy marble in black script.
Lexandra glanced at her friend with a look of surprise.
“Well?” Helena prompted.
“I love it, but where did you get that idea from?” Lexandra asked. Helena grinned.
“Callie and I thought of it to surprise you. I even ordered business cards.”
Lexandra looked at the sign again, and a slow smile appeared on her lovely face. Fighting back a sudden urge to cry, she laughed instead, and impulsively hugged Helena.
Lexandra hung the sign herself on a black metal chain over the shop’s French doors, and grinned with delight when she realized her store now had an identity.
Callie walked in a while later. “It’s perfect! I knew that name would fit.” She smiled.
“Thanks Cal, what are you doing here? I thought you were at work.” Lexandra said.
“I took off early; I thought I’d take you to dinner.”
“Wonderful, let me tell Helena to close up when she’s finished.”
They walked to the Brotherhood of Thieves, Lexandra’s favorite restaurant. They opted to sit outside, as the weather had turned warmer and a cool wind blew.
Callie shifted in her seat, and Lexandra asked if anything was the matter.
“Well, now that you mention it…” Callie admitted.
“What’s wrong, Callie? Did I do something?” Lexandra asked, guiltily. She seldom spent time with Callie anymore, the shop was taking up all of her time now.
“Lexi, I’m kind of pregnant.” Callie announced unexpectedly. Lexandra looked at her with wide eyes as the words registered in her brain.
“You’re what? No, wait, I heard you…Oh my God, Callie! That’s wonderful!” Lexandra shrieked, and hugged her. Callie smiled and laughed. “I just found out, that’s why I wanted to see you.”
“I assume that Aaron knows, of course.”
“Oh yes, I called him. We’ve been trying for over a year, you know. But that’s not all.”
“You’re having twins?” Lexandra ventured to guess. Callie laughed and shook her blonde head.
“No, I don’t think so, but now Aaron wants to build a nursery.”
“That’s cool, so where will it be?”
“Where you’re room is.” Callie said slowly. Lexandra closed her eyes and groaned.
“ I’m sorry, Lexi, I know you’re just now going to open your shop, but we wanted to let you know so you could start looking for a place now.”
“Thanks, at least I get a few months notice.”
“Exactly. So, what day are you opening?”
“Next week, believe it or not.”
“It’s about time, I think. I can’t believe you’ve been for almost six months already! How are you, Lexi, really? Are you happy?”
“I really am, Callie. I can’t thank you and Aaron enough, for all you’ve done for me. I’m completely excited for you too. Are you still thinking of ‘Caroline’ for a girl, and ‘Michael’ for a boy?”
“Definitely, I’ve had those names ever since I learned where babies come from!”
Lexandra smiled, while inwardly she cringed as her heart tightened. She hadn’t consciously thought of Justin in several days, but there he was, mocking her in her memory of the time they discussed having children. He had wanted two, while Lexandra would have happily settled for one. They’d joked about names, deciding on Jim Beam and Captain Morgan as a potential list.
Now, she tried to listen attentively while Callie chatted about her plans for the nursery, and tried to block the image of Justin’s handsome face haunting her memory.
The morning of the grand opening for ‘Lexandra’s Dream’ dawned bright and beautiful. Lexandra dressed carefully in a powder blue silk sheath, and black strappy sandals.
She walked to the store and left the doors open as she went inside. Lexandra smiled as she viewed the interior with a critical eye. The walls were decorated in ivory colored satin paper with framed watercolors of the Sound, and Lighthouse. The plush carpet was sea green, matching the fabric of the comfortable overstuffed chairs scattered throughout the shop. Cherry wood tables held crystal vases filled with fresh flowers, and bridal catalogs were arranged neatly upon the tables.
The front counter was a deep polished wood, and a brand new laptop served as a register. The gowns were hidden behind satin curtains, and two dressing rooms provided the customers with luxurious privacy.
Satisfied, Lexandra walked into her office, made a pot of coffee, and set out a china coffee set on the console table in between the offices. She set out cups and saucers on the tables in the showroom, and on silver platters she placed an assortment of cakes and Italian style cookies from the bakery down the street.
Helena breezed in a few minutes later, and found Lexandra in her office.
“Morning!” She sang out, and gracefully sat in a chair in front of Lexandra’s desk.
“Good Morning.” Lexandra smiled, and handed Helena a wrapped gift.
“A ‘Thank You’ gift.”
“Whatever are you thanking me for?”
“Because without you, I would have gone insane in a matter of weeks. Go on, open it.”
Helena unwrapped an exquisite burgundy leather portfolio stamped in gold with a gold pen, engraved with ‘Lexandra’s Dream’.
“It’s beautiful, Lexi! You do have inspiring ideas.”
“It’s nothing, but I did have to get one for myself.” She laughed, and pulled out a dove gray portfolio.
“At least we’ll know whose is whose.” Helena laughed. She left for her own office, and at ten sharp, they opened for business.
By the end of the first day, they had over a dozen orders placed for bridal gowns, and bridesmaid dresses. Lexandra was surprised at how well they did, considering that only three of the customers actually lived on Nantucket. Since Lexandra only carried sample gowns in an array of traditional, classic, and modern styles, all of the dresses had to be ordered.
They celebrated with champagne in Lexandra’s office, and then Helena left for home. Lexandra stayed behind to finish placing the orders, slipping off her shoes, and pulling her hair back into its customary ponytail. It was a peaceful moment after a crazy day. She worked quietly for an hour, then closed the store, and walked home.
Lexandra bolted upright in the darkened room, breathing heavily. The last remembrance of a dream faded from her memory as she struggled to catch her breath. Justin’s laugh. She had dreamed of his laugh, but she couldn’t remember anything else.
She lay back against the pillows and closed her eyes again, but this time, sleep refused to let her forget. Lexandra threw back the covers, and pulled on pair of heather gray shorts, and her black Nike’s. Soundlessly, she went outside through the back door and stepped into hard packed sand. The roaring surf sounded loud in her ears, as she took off running across the beach. The early morning sky was still pitch black and scattered with bright stars as Lexandra raced on, running from her memory and her heartbreak.
She kept on until she gasped for breath, and nearly collapsed from exhaustion.
Lexandra fell to the sand on her knees, looking up at the sky that was just beginning to lighten, and felt a strangled sob burst from her. Damn Justin to hell, she thought angrily. She damned him for everything that she refused to let herself feel anymore. Hot, furious tears streamed as she finally let the dam burst. She just wanted to forget him, and go on with her life. It was not too much to ask. He was her own personal demon that refused to be bested, no matter how busy she was, or how much she refused to think of him. It was Justin. And would always be, Justin.
The sun was rising when Lexandra finally began to jog back to Callie’s. She was no longer crying, and her heart felt strangely empty as she threaded her way across the sand. She was looking out towards the sparkling water, lost in her thoughts, when a dog ran towards her. It was a floppy eared silver Weimaraner, behind him ran an older gray haired man.
The dog jumped up, placing his large paws on Lexandra’s shoulders and eagerly licked her face clean.
“Max!” The man yelled as he approached. Lexandra was laughing, as the dog began running in circles around her.
“I’m so sorry, Miss, Max got off of his leash again.”
“He’s fine, really. He’s beautiful.” Lexandra said sincerely. She had always been a dog lover, and just in these few seconds, found herself falling in love again with this floppy eared hound.
“He’s up for adoption if you’re interested.” Lexandra gave the man a quizzical look, and bent down to rub Max’s ears, who growled contently.
“Well, Max was a present from my daughter for my wife, but after he shed his puppy coat, it turns out that my wife is allergic to him.”
“So put your wife up for adoption.”
“Sometimes I’d like too. Say, you wouldn’t be interested in a dog, would you?”
“I’d love to have him, but I’m in the process of trying to find a home for me.”
“Where are you staying now?”
“With a friend, she lives down the beach here.”
“Well, ma’am, I don’t now if this is what you would call fate, but I live right here," He pointed to a small cottage behind where they stood. " The wife and I are in the process of moving back to upstate New York. I don’t suppose you’re in the market for buying?”
“It depends on the price, Mr.…?”
“Sorry, forgot my manners, Bruce Williams.”
“Pleased to meet you, I’m Lexandra Durand, now that we’re friends; I think I’d like to hear you’re offer Mr. Williams.”
“Call me Bruce, come on up to the house, and I’ll show you around.”
“Okay, come on, Max!”
Max ran through the doggie door that entered the Williams’s kitchen. Lexandra met Millie Williams, who bade her have a cup of coffee and breakfast of homemade blueberry pancakes. During breakfast, Bruce told his wife about Lexandra’s predicament.
“We’d love it if you’d take Max. He’s a wonderful dog, but unfortunately, my allergies disagree. As for the cottage, it’s not very large, so if you have children, they won’t have very much space.”
“I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that, no children, no husband.”
“Well, in that case, finish your pancakes and I’ll give you a tour.”
The Williams’s hadn’t lied when they said the cottage was not large, but Lexandra fell in love with the two-bedroom house. After the tour, Lexandra was poured another cup of coffee, and Max stretched out on her feet.
“Well, I am definitely interested, Bruce. What’s your price?”
“How’s this, because you just opened up your business I know you don’t have much income, only outcome so far, right?”
“Millie and I are moving at the end of the month, and I need to do something with it, so here’s my suggestion. You and Max move in, by July first, what you pay me in rent will go towards the purchase price, then when you start getting income from you’re shop we’ll get papers drawn up for the purchase.”
“It’s a deal.” They shook on it, and by the time Lexandra left, she felt freer than ever since arriving in Nantucket.
Callie had just set a pot of coffee on the table when Lexandra jogged in the kitchen door.
“Hey!” Callie said, surprised. “Where’d you run off too so early?” Lexandra beamed as she told Callie all about her good fortune.
“That’s wonderful news, Lexi!” Callie smiled.
“I know, I can hardly believe it. So, neighbor, will you still feed me every now and then?” Lexandra laughed.
“Of course, but only if you’ll leave the dog at home.”
Lexandra sat in her den, lost in thought as she watched the fire dance. Max lay across his own chair and snored contently as the night fell. It had been six months since Lexandra moved into the cottage, and the evening was her favorite time of the day. She had decorated the house over the summer, and it was a perfect portrait of her.
The den was painted soft beige with splashes of pale blue, while the overstuffed chairs were covered in breezy linen slipcovers. She did not own a couch, had no need of one, scattering comfortable chairs around instead. The rest of the cottage was decorated in much the same way, creating a cozy, lived in atmosphere. The fireplace roared, blocking the sound of the pounding waves just outside her back door, and Lexandra found herself contemplating.
The shop was doing exceedingly well. It surprised, and delighted her to know that her shop was a success. She had decided to go to a bridal show in Madrid in the spring, leaving Helena with a newly hired salesclerk, to mind the store. Her trip was less than three months away, and she was anticipating being gone over a month, giving her a chance to see her parents in the southern part of Spain.
Hatch had agreed to dog sit, Max, much to her surprise, as Hatch was not overly fond of animals, but she was glad Max would not have to be boarded while she was away.
Everything she had ever dreamed of was now in effect. A successful career, a new home, friends who loved her. Yet, she hated to admit even to herself that a small part of her remained lonely. She was delighted with Callie’s new baby, Caroline, who was born just weeks ago. A miniature version of her best friend who had already won her “Aunt Lexi’s” heart. Seeing her friend’s metamorphous into the role of motherhood awoke longings inside of her that she thought she had buried down deep inside.
Facing the fact that time was quickly slipping away, Lexandra found wondered if there was something wrong with her. Dating was a foreign concept; she just didn’t want to go there. Helena scolded her frequently for not going out, but she had no time for mating rituals.
In truth, she just didn’t want to bother. Her mind knew that Justin was never going to reappear, and somehow her heart was freeing itself from the hurt. But deep in her soul, she was unable to forget. And being unable to let go meant being forever tied to the memory of a man she once loved and would love forever.
Yet she looked wistfully at her friends’ lives, comparing them with her own existence. She was grateful her mother heard about the bridal show being held in Madrid. She could mix business with an overdue vacation, and try to figure out where she would go from there.
“Hatch, please remember that Max loves the beach, so you need to let him run around for awhile.” Lexandra instructed. The flight attendants had just announced the New York City flight, and Lexandra hurriedly gave Hatch a list of reminders as they made their way to the gate.
“Lexi, I promise I will not take him to the pound, now get on the plane, already!” Hatch said, exasperated.
“I know, but I need assurance. I’ll call as soon as I get settled in the hotel, and give Max a kiss for me.” Hatch laughed and kissed her himself as she was whisked to the departure gate.
“Bye!” She yelled over her shoulder, and followed the other passengers to the waiting plane.
The Iberian plane wasn’t large, but the seats were comfortable, so Lexandra propped a pillow behind her head and closed her eyes. The nine-hour flight from La Guardia would be taking off in a few minutes, and Lexandra was more then content to sleep through it. She settled into her seat, letting the dull drone of cabin noise lull her to sleep.
Justin lay in the slightly swaying hammock as the night fell. His eyes were closed to Shannon’s voice, as she flung open the patio door and stalked inside. He sighed, shaking his dark head at the latest argument, the latest accusation. Shannon would be in their bedroom crying now, waiting for him to go up and hold her, and tell her that everything was okay.
Well, it wasn’t. And he was damn tired of trying to convince himself otherwise. He reached in his pocket and took out the crumbled letter he had received exactly two years ago yesterday, reading again the forced niceties that Lexandra Durand’s pen had scrawled. Justin could picture her in his minds eye, her glorious black hair streaming across her shoulders, her back ramrod straight in the desk chair, and her lips pursed in concentration while she willed herself not to cry.
It was her own fault, he reasoned with the guilt that lay in the pit of his stomach. Her fault that she’d been too busy with her career to spend time with him. Her fault that he’d found comfort with Shannon on one of the domestic flights. He scowled at himself after that one. No, he was forced to admit that Lexandra was innocent of the last.
Justin hauled his tall muscular body out of the hammock with resignation. The only reason he was placing blame on Lexandra was his ego. As he walked around the backyard, pulling weeds that weren’t there just to give him something to do, he thought back on his wedding day. He remembered standing there in his Hawaiian shirt while Shannon breezed down the beach in a white bikini top and grass skirt, looking every bit the blonde bombshell she was.
It had been Justin’s accursed ego that had ripped the wedding picture from that Sunday’s paper, his hurt pride that had him writing Lexandra’s address on the envelope. He wanted her to know he didn’t care that she hadn’t even tried to contact him. He wanted to hurt her, as he imagined she had hurt him when she never even tried to convince him not to leave her.
Get a grip! He told himself fiercely. He had never given Lexandra the chance to try, not by leaving in the middle of the night like a coward.
He had seen her once in Boston with her friend Callie. He still didn’t know why he had felt compelled to follow her, but he did. She was just as lovely as ever, he had recalled with a stab of regret. Justin had turned away just as Lexandra had left a shop. She had walked right past him, so close; he could have reached out and touched her arm.
Even now, lost in his reverie, Justin inhaled deeply as he remembered how her perfume attacked his senses when she breezed by him, disappearing into the backseat of a waiting taxi.
Justin shook his brain clear and slowly walked back inside his house to pack for his early morning flight.
“What the hell are these, Shannon?” Justin fumed as he flung the legal jargon filled documents onto the kitchen table.
“What do they look like? I didn’t realize I was going to have to marry your job when I married you.” Shannon snapped as she glared at him from across her breakfast.
Justin snorted contemptuously. “That’s great. I get a promotion, and you turn into static cling.”
“Go to hell!” She shrieked. “All I wanted was for you to be home every now and then, but your damned job is always calling you in. Fly to Hong Kong, we need more security on the domestic flights; more’s needed on the commuter flights, now it’s transatlantic.”
“I come home and stay home when I can!”
“For five minutes! What happened to having a baby, huh? It’s hard to get pregnant when you’re in Boston and your husband’s in India!”
“I thought we agreed….”
“You thought! I want it all Justin! I want the husband, the kids, the dog, and the damned white picket fence!”
“Well sweetheart, good luck to you. I’m late for work.” Justin scrawled his name across the pages of the divorce papers, and slammed the door on his way out.
The walk through the breezeway was nowhere near a mile long, but Justin felt as though he had been walking forever. He looked forward to the flight, a chance to see a new country, and hating to admit to himself, glad for the chance to get away.
“Justin, wait up!” Turning, he found a grin for his best friend and partner on these transatlantic flights. His partner for the last two years jogged up, barely winded under the weight of the two large duffel bags he carried.
“Whew, thought I wasn’t going to make it. The damned flight from D.C. took off late.” Al Logan explained as they walked together to the waiting plane.
“I figured, same thing almost happened to me coming in from Boston.” Justin remarked, impatiently hoisting his leather weekender onto his other shoulder.
“You okay?” Al asked. He knew his partner better than anyone, and was quick to notice when something was wrong. Justin shrugged noncommittally.
“Shannon?” Al ventured to guess as they passed their bags over to the flight attendant who would conceal them in one of the first class alcoves.
“As usual.” Justin sighed and offered a weary smile. Al whistled through his teeth.
“Sure, divorce papers and Rice Crispies make a great breakfast.” Justin replied solemnly.
They went in to chat with the pilots who were conducting their preliminary flight checks, then went over the passenger lists with the head steward. Justin gave the list a quick glance, while Al nosed into the small galley asking about the dinner menu for the flight. Justin chuckled, his first laugh of the day, as his partner pestered the flight attendant about dinner choices.
“Take off in five guys.” The co-pilot told them.
“Why don’t you take first class today, Al. I’ll take coach.” Justin said as the stewards made their last sweep of the plane before take off.
“You sure? You got stuck coach last week.”
“It’s cool. Go ahead; I know you dig the hot towels.” Justin grinned. Al laughed and grabbed his briefcase.
“That’s okay. You deserve to be spoiled a little; I’ll see you when we land.”
Justin waited until Al was seated and he received the thumbs up sign before entering the first class area. He read his seat assignment, performed a quick sweep of the aisle, then caught Al’s eye, and gave a short nod by way of signaling all appeared well.
He checked the lavatory, and then nodded at the head steward who disappeared into the cockpit.
Justin approached his assigned seat, throwing a quick glance at his seatmate who appeared to be asleep. He settled into his seat and propped his briefcase against his legs, keeping it within easy reach. Wrapping the seatbelt across his lap, yet not fastening it, he settled back and waited for takeoff.
Justin thumbed through the in flight magazine as the flight attendant made her rounds. He asked for a soda, and then leaned back in his seat as the flight attendant reached across to tap his seatmate’s shoulder. He wasn’t paying any particular attention to any of the passengers, but suddenly he jerked as if burned when the woman seated next to him sleepily declined the offer of a beverage.
He waited until the flight attendant had left before turning to look fully at his seatmate who was fast asleep again. He studied her intently, his blue eyes widening slightly as recognition overtook him. There was no mistake, he would know her anywhere. He caught the scent of her perfume, the same perfume that had haunted him since the last time he had seen her.
Justin shook his head against memories that flooded his mind, and contented himself with watching her breathe. Lexandra had not changed much in the year since he had last seen her, and he entertained the thought of upon her wakening, feeling her arms thrown around him, thrilled at seeing him again. He remembered her throaty laugh, her soft voice, and wondered again what in the hell he had been thinking when he left her.
His daydream was broken when Al next to him.
“Man did I get hosed.”
Justin looked up at his partner, shortly forgetting who he was, so absorbed was he in his daydream.
Al laughed, “Yeah something’s wrong! I get stuck with a cross between prehistoric man and a walrus, and here you are with Sleeping Beauty in the flesh.”
Justin shook his head and smiled as Al sauntered back to his seat. Justin continued to observe the lovely woman that had stolen his heart many years ago, content just watching her, knowing she had no idea he was even there. His cellular phone rang, startling him, and he quickly answered, making sure the sound did not wake her.
Lexandra woke slowly to the ringing of a phone and the sound of a murmured voice. It took her a few minutes to remember where she was. She looked out of the window, startled to see that the plane had already soared above the clouds.
Reality was slowly returning, and she stretched her neck, which had become stiff.
Justin sighed into the phone as Shannon’s voice screeched through. He muttered apologies, and then sighed with relief when she hung up on him.
Lexandra thought her ears were possibly going insane. Gradually she had become aware of her seatmate talking, and she thought the voice sounded familiar. Turning her head slightly, her heart tripped, and she stared, wide eyed, as her gray eyes locked with Justin McCoy’s unforgettable ice blue ones.
Lexandra bolted upright in her seat.
“Hello Lexi.” Justin smiled. Lexandra just stared.
“I never thought I would have the power to render you speechless.” He joked, then immediately wished he had not when he saw Lexandra’s lovely eyes turn as hard as steel.
“I assume it’s too late to change seats.” She managed through clenched teeth.
“I’m afraid so, I guess we’re stuck with each other.” Justin replied, half-serious.
“Then would you mind becoming invisible?” Lexandra snapped, and turned her head towards the window .
“That’s not in my job description.” He studied her profile as she looked out at the clouds.
“Oh, are you working for the airlines now? I am so impressed.”
Justin rolled his eyes at that. “Look, ‘Lex, if we have to sit next to one another, can’t we pretend to get along?” He knew he deserved whatever missiles she would invariably launch.
“I would prefer that you jump off the plane without a parachute, but if that’s not an option, why don’t you just be quite instead, you’re giving me a headache.” She knew she was being a bitch, and reveled in the knowledge. She wanted to make him feel the pain she herself had felt for the last few years.
“Fine, Lex.” Justin snapped, abandoning the ridiculous fantasy of reason.
“So, what are you doing these days?” Justin asked to her profile a short while later. She had not spoken a word, except to ask the flight attendant for a rum and coke. Lexandra did not drink as a rule, and she pointedly ignored his raised eyebrows.
“Taking classes.” She muttered.
“Oh? In what?” He asked, thrilled that she was actually conversing.
“The nomenclature of homicide. “ She replied shortly, and was glad when he did not ask anything else.
Lexandra smiled to herself as she tasted her drink, and immediately wished she had not. Justin could not help but laugh at the face she made as the bitter liquid filled her mouth.
“Your new image needs practice.” He said jokingly.
“Your old one needs replacing.” She retorted as she coughed.
“Are you still living in Newport?” Justin asked, ignoring her remark.
“You do realize that I have absolutely nothing to say to you.” Lexandra turned to look at him fully, looking away again just as quickly. She had forgotten the way his incredible eyes seemed to be able to look into her very soul. Mildly, she wondered if she could get drunk and pass out on one sip of the vile liquid in front of her.
“Well, we can still have a polite conversation, can’t we? I want to know what you’ve been doing these past couple years.” He said reasonably.
Exasperated, Lexandra sighed. “Will you promise to leave me alone?”
“Sure.” He grinned.
“Then what do you insist on knowing?”
“Where you live, what work do you do, do you have a boyfriend.”
“I live on Nantucket, I own a store, and no.”
“Really? No boyfriend? Huh. ” He mused.
“Jesus.” Lexandra sighed, rolling her eyes.
“What?” Justin asked innocently.
“If that’s all you wanted to know, then why ask about anything else?”
“I was just curious to see if you’d found anyone worthy to take my place.” He shrugged, grinning boyishly. It was that kind of charm and ego that first made her smitten with him. But that was then.
“Actually, I have.” She smiled sweetly, enjoying the surprised look on his face. “His name is Max.”
“I thought you didn’t have a boyfriend.” He spat the words.
“Then who the hell is ‘Max’?”
“Oh, someone very special, we live together you know.”
“You’re living with Max, but he’s not you’re boyfriend?”
“Oh no, we’re more like very good friends, if you understand.”
“Are you sleeping with him?” He managed to choke.
“Every night.” She smiled brightly. She was beginning to enjoy herself.
“So, like, who is he to you?”
“My, aren’t we getting nosy.”
“Well?” He demanded.
Lexandra could not help but laugh then. Justin stared at her, rage and jealousy coursing through him, not caring that he had no right to feel anything.
“Max is my dog, moron.”
“Oh.” He managed to reply, turning away from her , feeling ridiculous. Lexandra laughed until tears came to her eyes. Finally, she managed to control herself.
“Okay, I’m sorry.” She smiled. “Truce?”
Justin shook his head and laughed.
“Truce.” He agreed, and they laughed together, easing away a little of the tension that had built.
“It’s good to see you, Lexi.” He said, meaning every word. Lexandra merely nodded her head, not sure how to reply. Her body was floundering with mixed feelings, part of her wanting to rage at him for her sufferings, and part of her damning fate.
“I haven’t forgiven you, you know, but I really don’t want to spend the rest of the flight fighting.” Lexandra commented finally. Justin’s look of profound relief made her wonder.
“Good, because I’ve had enough of fights to last me a lifetime.”
Lexandra gave him a sideways glance. “Is there trouble in paradise?”
Justin snorted. “You mean Paradise lost.”
“Oh.” She was not sure what she was supposed to say. It was not any of her business. She turned to the window again, at a loss for words and feeling as though she had stepped in treacherous waters.
Taking a deep breath, Justin summoned up courage to say what he needed to say.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you, if I did. It wasn’t my intention.”
She blinked away sudden tears, not trusting herself to answer, and shrugged noncommittally. She waited, thinking he would say something else, but it was obvious he had said all he was going to say.
“You did.” Lexandra answered softly, keeping her head towards the window. She felt Justin shift uncomfortably in his seat.
Lexandra snorted, turning to glare at him as her heart screamed for its chance to defend itself.
“Is that supposed to make everything better?” She seethed. “You didn’t make me fall and skin my knee Justin, you broke my heart.”
“What do you want me to say?” He asked listlessly, for he had no more fight in him. Lexandra raised a delicately arched eyebrow and laughed.
“A lot more than, Oh Lexi, I am so sorry I walked out on you, Oh, and if I hurt your feelings I didn’t mean it.” She mimicked harshly. Justin rolled his eyes, regretting he said anything. Lexandra shook her head, and swallowed the rest of her drink, ignoring the burning as it went down.
They remained silent for a while, each lost in their own thoughts as the plane soared through the blue sky. Lexandra took out the brochure for the bridal show, making a list of the designers she particularly wanted to see. Justin glanced at the brochure, wanting to talk again, but of noncommittal subjects.
“Going for a bridal show, huh?” He stated finally. Lexandra nodded without looking at him.
“What’s the name of your store?” He asked when it became apparent she was no longer going to converse. He knew her well enough to know that she would happily give him the silent treatment until eternity.
“Lexandra’s Dream.” She replied, a tone of pride in her words.
“Think it’ll come true?” Justin joked, then wished he could swallow his tongue when to his horror he saw tears come to her eyes.
“ I was only kidding, Lex’.” He apologized, feeling like a complete ass. He was lashing out at her because he was pissed off at his wife, and he was sorry.
Lexandra cursed her tears, cursed him, and cursed everything as she wiped her eyes.
“ Do me a favor Justin.” She said softly.
“ Anything.” He said quickly.
“ Jump off the plane and into a burning high rise.” Lexandra stood up, kicking his legs out of the way as she stalked off into the restroom.
Justin lay back in his seat, closing his eyes to the world. First he left her, then he hurt her, now he insulted her. Was there no end to her trials with him?
In the midget sized bathroom, Lexandra dabbed her eyes with toilet paper, then began to cry again.
Damn him to hell, she thought angrily. The anger replaced her tears, her pride reared, washing over her like rain.
he freshened her eye makeup, ran a brush through hair, and setting her chin at an angle, dared Justin to make any more smart-ass remarks as she gracefully sat down again.
“ I…” Justin began,
“ Shut up Justin. The only thing you can do now is just shut the hell up.” Lexandra said firmly, looking him square in the eye.
“ I call a truce again.” He offered weakly. Lexandra snorted.
“ When hell freezes over we’ll be friends, until such a time, call your wife if you need a woman to talk to.”
Justin winced at her words, her tone. He had gone too far, and she was putting him in his place. Neatly and efficiently. That was her way. Nevertheless, he had to try something.
“ I don’t suppose you’d let me buy you dinner as a peace offering.” He asked.
“ My, be seen carousing with a married man? Then again, if you’re very pretty wife doesn’t mind you hanging around an old, well, ex-girlfriend…” Justin cut her off this time. “ Don’t Lexi. Don’t go there.”
Lexandra laughed harshly. “ Why not, what will you do? Break my heart, leave me… Shall I go on?”
“ No, trust me, you’ve made your point.”
“ I know.” She said, smiling fully for the first time. Justin shook his head, and couldn’t help but laugh.
“ Peace?” He grinned. She shrugged good-naturedly, and went back to her brochure.
“ How long will you be in Spain?” He asked, tentatively.
“ A few weeks.”
“ Would you be willing to have dinner with me while I’m there?”
“ No.” She replied firmly.
“ Need you ask?”
“ I guess not, but I will anyway. Why won’t you have dinner with me at least?”
“ Justin, when you left, was it because you were having an affair with that girl you married?” Lexandra challenged gently. His eyes widened, but he looked down when he replied.
“ Yes.” He said softly.
“ Then why would you think I would go anywhere with you?”
“ Because I would like to talk on neutral ground, not while I’m working.”
“ Well, you haven’t shut up since take-off.”
“ Funny Lex’.”
“ Besides, I really don’t want to know about the past. That’s why it’s called the past. I’m going to Spain to work, not socialize with past boyfriends.”
“ At lease some things haven’t changed.”
“ No, I guess they haven’t. If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get back to work.”
“ You really don’t need to freshen up, you look great.” Justin commented.
Lexandra closed her eyes, and snapped the compact shut. They had landed.
“ Don’t.” She said softly.
“ No I mean it.”
“ Justin, stop it.”
“ What’s the matter with you? I was giving you a compliment.”
“ Please don’t. Look, we had a nice conversation, and it’s been really nice seeing you again, but I don’t want anything from you.”
“ What are you talking about?”
“ I’m not going to be around much while I’m here, so, let’s just let bygones be bygones, okay?”
“ No, not okay. Why are you doing this?”
“ I have to.” She stated simply. “ I have to say goodbye now. It’s my turn to say goodbye to you.” She was lying to herself, and she knew it.
“ I won’t accept this. I’m not letting you get away that easily. I still owe you an explanation, I…” She cut off his words with a wave of her hand.
“ You owe me nothing Justin. You’re partner is looking for you, you better go.”
“ Lexi, at least tell me where you’ll be staying.”
“ No. Goodbye Justin.”
Justin looked at her one last time, but she had turned her head to the window again. As if in a daze, he collected his briefcase, and left without another word. Lexandra waited until she was sure he was gone before giving in to silent tears.
Lexandra collected her bags, wasting no time. Hurriedly, she went outside of the terminal and hailed a taxi. She lay her head back as the taxi pushed its way through the streets and tried to relax.
“ Hey, so did you get a phone number?” Al joked as they walked off the plane.
“ I’ve always had her number Al. That was Lexandra.”
“ Damn. You let her get away?” Al shook his head in shame.
“ She didn’t give me much choice.”
“ No, I meant you left her for Shannon? Justin, you know you’re my best friend, but I have to tell you, you’re a freaking idiot.”
“ I know.” Justin sighed.
“ So, what are you going to do about it?”
“ I guess nothing. She made it quite clear she didn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“ Can’t say I blame her, but are you going to do something, or let her get away?”
“ What am I supposed to do? I’m not going to stalk her.”
“ Foolish, foolish boy. Follow my lead will you?”
Lexandra dumped her luggage onto the floor of her hotel room, and sank down on the King sized bed. Laying back, she closed her eyes, wanting to sleep and to forget everything that had happened on the flight across the ocean, but it was impossible.
She decided to take a cool shower and freshen up, suddenly feeling the urge to go out into the city streets. She changed into a simple white cotton T-shirt and black Capri style pants and fixed her makeup. Lexandra grabbed her purse, and room key, then went down to the hotel lobby, and asked the concierge directions to the nearest bank so she could exchange American dollars for the new Euro.
Receiving directions to the Plaza de la Castellana, which was within walking distance, she set out into the sunny streets. Walking at a leisurely pace, she peered into shop windows along the way, and sighed with pleasure at being back in her mother’s country, which she had not visited in several years.