© 2018 by Becky Monson

 

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Speak Now

(or Forever Hold Your Peace)

CHAPTER 1

 

Tonight’s the night.

 

Tonight Adam and I will finally get engaged. We’ve been together for two years, and it’s finally happening.

 

Adam Dubois. I am going to be Mrs. Adam Dubois. Bridgette Dubois. It has a ring to it, doesn’t it? And Dubois is French for . . . er . . . something. I should look that up, since it’s going to be my last name and all.

 

I take a deep breath as I look myself over in the mirror. I left my dark blonde highlighted hair down and slightly curled, as Adam likes it. Just enough eye makeup to highlight my gray-blue eyes (he doesn’t like a lot of makeup on me) and I’m wearing Adam’s favorite color, red. It’s a low-cut knee-length dress that hugs my curves perfectly. Just the cut of dress Adam likes.

 

I scored some fabulous nude patent leather Louboutin stilettos in a steal of a deal to go with it, and I wore them around Gram’s apartment all evening yesterday to break them in. I don’t want to get blisters on one of the most important nights of my life.

 

He’s been telling me all week that he wants to have a special dinner with me, to discuss something important. Little, subtle hints here and there. He’s invited me over to his place and said he will order in from our favorite Italian restaurant, the one with the amazing lasagna—the place where we had our first date. It truly is perfect.

 

I top off my look with MAC’s Russian Red. It’s my favorite lip color and compliments the look well.

 

“Well, I’m off, Grams,” I say as I walk out of my room, stopping by the front door to grab my favorite Coach hobo bag and heavy coat. It’s guaranteed to be a cold night, since we are smack-dab in the middle of February. Good thing there’s a subway entrance right next to Gram’s apartment, so I won’t have to spend too much time in the cold. Then, it’s only a two-block walk from the subway to Adam’s apartment.

 

“Have a wonderful night, my dear,” Gram says from her favorite chair, where she’s reading a book. She puts her Kindle down in her lap and looks me over. “Well, don’t you just look stunning,” she beams at me.

 

I do a little turn for her, and she claps her hands, saying, “lovely, just lovely,” as I spin around.

 

“Okay, I better go. Wish me luck.” I put my coat on and grab a thick scarf, draping it around my neck.

 

“Go get ‘em,” Gram cheers me on. “I can’t wait to hear all the details. Will I be seeing you tonight?” She tilts her head to the side inquisitively.

 

“Don’t wait up,” I wink at her and open the door. She gives me a little snort and shoos me off with her hand.

 

I take the elevator downstairs, walk the corridor to the front door, say a quick hello to the doorman as he opens the door for me, and step out into the frigid night air.

 

Down in the subway, I wait for the F Train which will take me from Carroll Gardens to the Lower East Side, where Adam lives. I wonder if we’ll live in his current place once we’re married. It would be fun for a little while, but the Lower East Side of Manhattan has a more single-lifestyle feel to it and might not be the best place to raise a family. Not that I want to rush into that. But I do think about it. I’m secretly hoping we get out of the city altogether. But if we had to stay—I know Adam loves it here—I guess we could end up in Tribeca or maybe Park Slope.

 

I know the subway ride is only fifteen minutes, but tonight it feels like hours. I just want to get to Adam’s place. My feet feel jittery. I keep shifting in my seat.

 

When I finally walk up the stairs from the subway and start the two-block walk to Adam’s place, the butterflies start. In fact, they are multiplying rapidly. I kind of feel like giggling, which is so not like me, and I try my best to stifle it. I’m pretty sure there’s a big, goofy smile on my face at this moment. Anyone watching probably thinks I’m high.

 

I reach Adam’s building and dial his apartment number from the call box outside.

 

“It’s me,” I say brightly as he answers. I hear the door unclick, and I open it and leave the icy night air for the warmth of Adam’s building.

 

In the elevator on the way to the fifteenth floor, I’m doing the fidgety thing again. I’m starting to annoy myself.

I wonder what kind of ring he picked out. I hope it’s the princess cut in platinum I hinted about. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll love it. I’ll wear it for years and maybe one day pass it down to our daughter to use as her wedding ring. It’ll become a Dubois family heirloom.

 

Okay, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. But I get to be a part of the Dubois family, and that is most definitely a benefit. I love his family as if they were my own, and I know they feel the same. I will have the best in-laws ever.

I’m excited to start a life with Adam. I honestly never thought I would find love again. Not after college. Not after the man who I thought was the love of my life walked away from me. It’s still hard to believe that was four years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago.

 

But I did find love again, with Adam. He’s really been an amazing boyfriend. It’s almost been two years ago exactly since we met at the deli near Gram’s apartment. I just happened to stop by that day, to surprise Gram with her favorite sandwich, and there he was. It was love at first sight. Okay, it was more like lust at first sight. But there definitely was an instant attraction. He later told me he felt the same when he saw me. He struck up a conversation, asked for my number, and two nights later we had our first date at what became our favorite Italian restaurant on the Lower East Side. It’s been pretty much bliss ever since.

 

I knock on the door to Adam’s apartment, and I hear his footsteps as he saunters toward it. I had pictured him waiting for me by the door (with a red rose, no less), since he knew I was coming up. I think I need to reel it in. My brain is on romantic overdrive.

 

“Hi, sweetie,” he says as soon as he opens the door. He reaches for me and pulls me into a tight hug. Pulling back, he leans down and gives me a quick kiss on the lips.

 

“Oh crap,” I say as we both start to reach for his mouth. Adam hates it when he gets my lipstick on his lips. He says it never comes off. I try to wipe it off with my thumb but have no luck.

 

Well, that doesn’t get us off to the right start. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem as put out by it as he usually is. Thank goodness. He grabs a balled-up tissue from his pocket and wipes off the offending Russian Red.

 

I look him over. He’s barefoot, wearing jeans and a ratty, old sweater. I’ve tried so many times to get rid of that thing, but he always seems to find it in my “discard” pile and puts it back in his “keep” pile when we’re cleaning out his closet. I’m somewhat taken aback by his outfit. I mean, I had figured he’d be wearing something nicer. I’m feeling ridiculously overdressed now.

 

I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is this night and what’s about to happen—not what he’s wearing or the fact that his thick, brown hair is a little tousled, not that, from the looks of it, he probably hasn’t shaved in about three days. Seriously?

 

I guess I won’t actually remember what he was wearing when I look back at this night. And if I do, it will end up being one of those funny stories you tell your kids.

 

He takes off my jacket and looks me up and down. “Wow, Bridge, you look fantastic.” He kisses me on the cheek, purposefully avoiding my lips this time.

 

“Well, you said you wanted to talk to me about something important, and so I thought I would get a little dolled up, just for fun.” I’m feeling a little ludicrous. Why couldn’t I go with a simpler look?

 

He looks down at his outfit and shrugs apologetically. “Sorry, I threw something on when I got home from work. It’s been a long day.”

 

“Poor boy,” I rub his cheek lightly with the palm of my hand. He pulls my hand away from his face—dang, I forgot he hates it when I touch his face. I’m zero for two tonight. Did I completely forget our last two years together?

 

“How’s business?” I say, trying to get some conversation going to cover up the fact that I’ve lost my mind and am dressed up like we’re going to the prom.

 

“Fine.” He shakes his head. “Just hard after losing Joey and Chuck.”

 

“I bet,” I say and grab his hand to comfort him. “You’ve had to do practically everything yourself.”

 

He scoffs at that. “Yeah, at least I have my brother.” We both laugh. Frank Junior is not much help with anything.

 

The export/import business Adam helps manage has been more than lucrative for his family. Fortunately, sporting goods and equipment don’t seem to take a downfall when the economy plummets. I guess people don’t give up their hobbies when things take a downturn.

 

Holding my hand in his, Adam guides me to the couch, and we take a seat. I angle my body toward him so I can see his face. I truly do love that face. Those high-arch brows and deep-set brown eyes. Adam is handsome—not model handsome—but handsome as in boy-next-door.

 

“You hungry?” he asks evenly, clearly not as unnerved as I am at this moment. How does he stay so calm all the time?

Just thinking about it makes all desire to eat go away. Even so, I nod my head yes, and we get up and move over to the table.

 

I had, of course, envisioned a table set with place settings and candles, but Adam throws down a couple of paper plates and some random nonmatching utensils. He then pulls out a brown paper bag from the oven (where he had apparently been keeping it warm) with Gaia Italian Café printed on the side of the bag.

 

“Bon appetit,” he says as he sets the bag down on the table between us.

 

I really need to work on not being such a girl. Who cares about that stuff, anyway? And come to think of it, I don’t think Adam even owns a candle. It truly doesn’t matter that my engagement dinner is on paper plates, and my future husband is wearing a scruffy, old sweater (gosh, I hate that thing). It’s all good.

 

We serve up our dinner, which consists of lasagna, salad, and garlic rolls. The exact meal we had on our very first date. This is, of course, the same meal we request anytime we order from Gaia. But it’s still romantic and thoughtful of him.

 

“So, you wanted to talk to me about something important?” I say, pushing my salad around the plate. I’m still finding it hard, with all of the butterflies, to find room to eat. Adam, on the other hand, is scarfing down his food like a ravenous homeless man.

 

“Yes, yes,” he says, wiping his mouth with his napkin.

 

He places the napkin next to his plate and reaches for my hand across the table. “Bridge, we have been together for two years, and these have been some of the best years of my life. You are an amazing person with the most wonderful qualities.” He looks me directly in the eyes.

 

Okay, now we’re talking.

 

“But,” he looks down at his plate.

 

Wait . . . did he say “but?”

 

He looks up at me, staring into my eyes. “But, I just don’t see a future for us.”

 

“What?” I take my hand away from his and grab the sides of my chair firmly with both hands to steady myself. Did I hear him right?

 

“Bridge, don’t be angry.” He tries to soothe me, seeing the reaction on my face. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and I just don’t think we are . . . meant to be.” He gives me a repentant look.

 

I sit there, holding myself steady on my chair, not moving. Not even blinking an eye. I think I might be in shock. Or maybe I’m having a nightmare. I close my eyes, willing myself to wake up. But I’m not asleep, and this is not a nightmare.

Adam is breaking up with me.

 

“I . . . I . . .” I don’t even know what to say. “Why?” is all I can sputter out. My bottom lip begins to quiver, tears welling in my eyes.

 

“Bridge, don’t cry. Please? I hate it when you cry.” He reaches for my hand again, but I don’t extend it to him.

 

“Then don’t make me cry,” I offer, hoping against hope he might realize he’s making a mistake. Because he’s making a huge one.

 

“I’m truly sorry. I wanted this to work. Believe me, I did. But it’s just not in the cards for us.”

 

“Not in the cards for us?” My voice rises, alarming Adam. This was definitely not the night I had planned out in my head. Complete opposite, more like it. I hate my girly overly romantic brain so much right now. Were there signs? How did I not see this coming?

 

I grab the napkin in my lap and ball it up, blotting my eyes as the tears begin to come quickly. “But . . . I thought we were going to get engaged tonight,” I say through what has become something like sobbing.

 

He curses. “Bridge, I’m so sorry,” he says with sincerity, running a hand through his hair, tousling it. “I thought you felt the same.”

 

Is he kidding? “No. No, I didn’t feel the same,” I say, pounding the table with my fist, my voice rising. “Call me crazy, Adam. But I thought we had a future. I actually thought,” I close my eyes and swallow, “I thought we were going to settle down and have a family.” I open my eyes, feeling the anger stirring in my stomach. “If at any point in this relationship I wasn’t feeling it, I would have ended it. But I’ve given you two years! Two years I can never get back.”

 

There’s a string of expletives going through my brain at this moment. But I hold myself back from rattling them off. Instead, I put my face in my hands and blubber as I realize what I’ve just said.

 

Two years, down the tube. Two whole years.

 

“Bridge . . .” I hear Adam’s chair squeak as he pushes back from the table and the shuffle of his footsteps as he comes around to my side. He puts his arms around me from the back and holds me. I keep my face in my hands as I continue to blubber.

 

“Bridge, I will always care about you. You have to know that. And I hope we can still be friends, because—”

 

“What?” I interrupt, looking up at him with what I’m sure are mascara-stained, crazy eyes. “Did you say friends? Did you actually say that?” I push his arms off of me.

 

“Yes, I want you to be in my life. Of course I do, Bridge.”

 

I stand up and turn my body around to look at him. “I have friends, Adam. I don’t need any more friends.” I practically spit out the word.

 

I look at him, his stupid deep-set eyes and his annoying thick, brown hair, and I decide right then and there that I’m much too proud to beg. So I stand up defiantly (albeit, totally acting), and without a word, I walk to the door, grabbing my coat, scarf, and bag. I swing the door open with full force and walk out.

 

“Bridge,” I hear him call from his door, but I don’t turn back. “Come back. Can’t we talk about this?”

 

But there is nothing to talk about. So I don’t say anything. I just keep walking.

 

~*~

 

I’m sure I look like a zombie on the subway with mascara running down my face. I don’t have any tissues, so I use my scarf to wipe my black tears. An old bum two seats down offers me his used handkerchief, which I politely decline and try not to gag visibly.

 

I’m not exactly sure how I ended up back at Gram’s place. I was on autopilot, blinded with feelings of despair and foolishness. How could I be so clueless? I need time to think. I need to reach back into my brain and do some analyzing. But right now I only have the capacity to feel sad and disappointed. I’ll do my overanalyzing later.

 

“Oh honey, what happened?” Gram says to me as I walk into the apartment.

 

“I . . . I . . . Adam . . . he broke up with me.” Really, it is more like “meeeeeeeeeeeeee” because I start blubbering again when I get to that point.

 

Through hiccups and snot and tears, I explain the whole crappy, sordid night to Gram as we sit on the couch. My coat is still on, my snot-filled scarf still around my neck. She rubs my arm and offers a sigh or a “hmph” or a “tsk” when it’s appropriate.

 

“Oh, Bridgette, I’m so very sorry,” Gram says, her eyes round with empathy. “You know, if he doesn’t see all that you are, then he doesn’t deserve you.”

 

I let out a big breath and give her a look of defeat. She’s going to pull out the sympathetic looks and words of comfort already? I really don’t want to go there yet.

 

“Thanks, Grams. I know you mean well, but I’m not ready to hear how ‘it’s his loss,’ or ‘I could do better,’ or ‘you’ll find someone better,’“ I say and look down at my hands, twiddling the ends of my scarf.

 

“Well, all those things are true.” She pats my shoulder. “But I’ll hold off on all that until you’re ready. How about a cup of hot chocolate to warm you up? I’ll put marshmallows in it, just the way you like.”

 

I actually stopped liking marshmallows in my hot chocolate when I was twelve, but I haven’t had the heart to tell her. “I’ll pass tonight, Gram. I think I’m going to go cry myself to sleep.”

 

“Yes, yes. Cry it all out. I will be here if you need to talk,” she says, sympathetically. It occurs to me that Gram has most likely been through breakups in her time. I seem to imagine the only person she ever dated was Pops, but I can tell by the look on her face she knows exactly what I’m going through.

 

I go into my room and shut the door. I take off my coat and dress, put on a tee shirt and sweats, and crawl into bed without brushing my teeth or washing my face.

 

I cry until I fall asleep.

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