Broken Pasts
Author:C.M. Stunich


“Are you coming?” Jamie asked as she stood outside my bedroom door. She had on a thick, red coat with black fur around the hood and on the edges of the sleeves. It looked good on her, not so good on me.

“Do we have to wear matching coats? Aren't we a little old for that?” I asked as I compared her made-up face to my own. I'd chosen to go au naturel. It'd been five years since he'd died, but I wasn't beyond getting a little teary. I mean, I was lucky that I wasn't traumatized beyond belief.

“Speak for yourself,” she said as she turned on her heel and started out the bedroom door and into the hallway. Immediately, shouts began to emanate from the living room, something about how grape soda doesn't go well with white sofas. I didn't want to know. I looked at myself in the mirror, locked gazes with the Theresa McMaster from five years ago and tried to see if I had changed. I had. There was no doubt about it, and in my opinion, it was for the better. I was stronger now, more sure of who I was and who I wanted to become. I was growing and changing everyday, finding new reasons to smile, leaving behind regrets and indecision.

“Do we really have to do this?” Jamie asked as she came back in the room and found me staring at myself. “I mean, we can go to the park without visiting his grave, you know.”

“I know,” I said as I plucked at the edges of the red coat and wondered if I should wear black, but then, I wasn't in mourning, I was just paying my respects to a man I had once thought I loved. “But this is the right thing to do. I want to visit him.”

“You always get all emotional,” she said, hands on her hips and a frown on her face. “Are you going to be okay this time?”

“I'll be fine,” I said thinking of the gunshots and the blood. “It was a long time ago. I'm okay now, really.”

“You better be,” she said. “Because if you're lying to me, I'm going to kick your ass.”


I marched up the cement steps with Rhea dragging her feet behind me, groaning.

“This is fucking stupid,” she said, and I couldn't help but remember all of Jamie's teasing over the years. Teenagers really were monsters from hell. “I didn't even the know the guy.” Jamie smacked Rhea in the back of the head with her purse.

“Quiet. You did, too, and he was important to your mother.” She paused. “Well, for a short while anyway.” She paused and glanced over her shoulder at her sons, her husband, and the baby daughter clutched in his arms and shook her head. “I can't wait till Alice is a fourteen year old brat.” Rhea rolled her eyes and stuffed her earbuds in her ears. Loud music accompanied the rest of our climb until we were standing at the foot of a stone obelisk.

It was a lonely place to be, even with the sun shining bright and cheerful in the sky and the birds singing from every available tree in the park. I laid a bouquet of pink carnations on the grass in front of the headstone and tried to smile.

“I'm sorry you died because of me,” I said while the others milled around behind me, desperate to get out of this place of death and start our hike. Only Jamie stood beside me, one hand on my shoulder for support while I wondered what might've happened if things had been different. Tears pricked my eyes and I blinked them away.

“Don't go there,” Jamie said, and I nodded. There was no reason to. Fate had intervened, thrust her wicked hand into my life and things had turned out all the better for it.

“Am I running late?” a voice asked from beside me, and I turned with a smile to find my husband with a little hand clutched in each of his.

“Nope,” I said. “You're right on time.” I kissed my fingertips and placed them on Gary Harper's grave. I'd killed a man, yes, but I'd had no other choice. He'd threatened me, and it had put Nathaniel's life at risk. That was unforgivable.

“She was starting to get emotional again,” Jamie said in a singsong voice as my boys pulled their hands away from Nathaniel and raced right around me, straight into her arms. Auntie Jamie was their favorite. I'll admit, I was a little jealous.

“You shouldn't go there,” Nathaniel said as he wrapped his hands gently around my neck and raised my lips to his, soft, tentative, perfect.

“That's fucking gross,” Rhea said as she scowled and moved away from us. Nathaniel wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me against his warmth, holding me like the world could fall away, and it wouldn't matter. He wouldn't let it take me, not then, not now. I belonged to Nathaniel Sutherland and he belonged to me.

“You don't have to worry. I'm here. I promise that I'll always be here.” And then he kissed me like he couldn't get enough, would never get enough. I kissed him back and hoped that he never did.

Never once did he break that promise.

"Never Ross wants to be loved. It's that simple, but it's not that easy."