This is chapter two of HITCHED. If you haven’t read chapter one yet, you can find it here.
Hope you enjoy!
Thursday, Chapter Two
A man hauling a large suitcase barrels into me. “Move or get run over,” he says. No excuse me. No I’m sorry. Just move. Out of defiance, I keep standing there, daring him to knock me down.
“Sassy one, ain’t ya?” He passes by me and gives me the all-over glance lecherous men do so well. My skin crawls, but I place my hand on my hip and give him my best, ‘don’t fuck with me look.’
He walks away.
When he’s gone, I jump out of the way and continue to stare at the doors.
God, how many times have I walked through airport doors? A hundred? Maybe five? So many, I can’t count them anymore.
And yet, I am stuck on this one set of doors.
From the way my heart clenches and squeezes in my chest, it’s entirely possible I’m having a heart attack. A cold sweat breaks out along my hairline and dampens my underarms. My legs barely hold me steady.
Here I am, attempting to pick up Fletch, and I’m falling apart.
I can’t let him see me fall apart. I can’t. I need him to see me as I’ve always been: pulled together and a rock.
He can never know how badly he’s hurt me.
With the back of my hand, I wipe the sweat off my forehead before placing my hand over my racing heart.
Calm down, Ellie. It’s just Fletch.
Except it’s not. It’s years of memories slammed into two years of fantasies – the kind where Fletch realizes he messed up and comes back to me.
How am I going to get through a weekend with him?
Ugh. I’m still standing outside the doors, terrified of what waits for me on the other side.
The tank top under my see-through blouse sticks to me and highlights my breasts. I yank at it, hoping to loosen it a bit so my C-cups aren’t on full display. I don’t want to send the wrong message to Fletch.
But maybe I should have dressed up more? Or maybe I should have run a brush through my humidity-plagued hair? Maybe I should have come dressed like I don’t care?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that my nerves are shot, and a slightly sick feeling keeps creeping up from my stomach into my throat.
I shouldn’t feel like this. I’m over him. I have been for over a year now. But, well, it’s just… Fletch. He’s inside, and I haven’t seen him in two years. Not since the lost days after his Dad’s funeral when he walked out of my apartment and got swallowed up by the business world.
Sure he called from time-to-time, but eventually, it all stopped. He forgot about me, and I became part of his past, after being so much of his present.
With a deep breath, I push through the revolving doors, my suitcase pulling along behind me, and pause when I exit the other side.
The baggage claim is chocked full of people, and I can’t press through the crowd. It’s like every flight let out at exactly the same time, and now everyone is standing around, waiting for the luggage to arrive.
I doubt Fletch has ever had to wait for luggage.
I doubt he’s ever flown commercial. Well, except for that one time, on Spring Break when he was trying to be normal.
Much of Fletch’s life has been him trying to be normal. It’s never really worked.
Sigh. He could have made this easier if he’d flown on his private jet, but no. He had to fly into Logan and have his secretary beg Brady to beg me to give him a ride to the Cape.
He couldn’t even call himself.
I scan the massive room before double-checking the overhead board to make sure I’m in the right spot.
When I lower my head, Fletch stands just a few feet away from me. He has his phone attached to his ear, and he looks older, more mature than when I saw him last. He looks like the guy who’s plastered all over the business and gossip magazines I pretend to ignore.
But escaping Fletch has been hard because apparently the world is fascinated with him. Hell, Barbara Walters even named William Fletcher Colson one of her “World’s Most Fascinating People.”
And to think I used to date him.
With my awesome Jell-o legs, I close the short distance between us. Fletch doesn’t notice me until I’m nearly on top of him.
Then he blinks, like he’s seeing an apparition.
I let go of my bag’s handle and hold out my arms for a hug – because that’s what my friends and I have always done, but Fletch holds up a finger and continues to talk into the phone.
There’s not going to be a hug, so I awkwardly drop my hands to my sides.
The luggage begins circulating, and Fletch is still talking on the phone seemingly oblivious to the fact that we’re in an airport waiting for his stuff.
When I tap my foot impatiently, he finally looks at me. His eyes don’t leave mine, and I begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. I flick a few stray hairs out of my eyes. I know I look like a hot mess with my humidity hair and damp tank top, but his staring is excessive.
So I return the favor and run my gaze up and down his no longer lanky body. Fletch wears jeans and a fitted t-shirt that shows off his new, more muscular physique. Time may have passed, but his taste in clothes has remained the same.
Funny how that happens.
He hangs up the phone and sticks it in his jean’s back pocket. “Hi,” he says.
The years apart aren’t melting away with each passing minute. Instead, they seem be growing more and more insurmountable. Nasty things bubble to my lips, but I swallow them away. I promised Brady I’d be good, but now, faced with a long car ride, I don’t know if I can. I want to know why he abandoned me. What did I do to deserve it?
Fletch stops staring at me and turns toward the conveyer belt of luggage. “Just let me grab my stuff, and we can go.”
I drag my foot across the linoleum floor, and my cheeks flush red. “My car wouldn’t start, so I had to take a cab. I’m sorry, but do you think we could get a rental?” I hate asking him, but there’s no other way.
Fletch nods his head. “Not a problem.” He whips his phone out and pushes a button. “Sharon?” he says. No hello. No greeting. Just an authoritative voice. “Can you book a town car for me out of Logan to the Cape? I need it now.”
He hangs up and gives me a half-smile, the kind that used to melt my heart. But not today. Nope. I’m one-hundred percent immune to that smile.
“We should have a car in the next couple of minutes.”
“Wow,” I say with the annoyance I’ve been trying to tap down. “It must be nice to be you.”
I cross my arms. I won’t go there. Not tonight when we have a long ride ahead of us. But at some point Fletch is going to have to deal with what he did to me. To us.
Fletch grabs his nondescript black luggage from the conveyer belt and motions toward the door. “We should wait outside. The car will be here any minute.”
He’s being so nice. Like nothing has changed between us.
And it pisses me off.
He walks toward the exit, and I jog after him, my suitcase rolling along behind me. “Why’d you come?” I blurt.
“Why’d I come?” Fletch pulls up short, and I nearly bump into him. “Because my best friend is getting married, and he asked me to be here.” He turns toward me. “I’m the Best Man, if you didn’t know.”
“A best friend you haven’t made any real time for in nearly two years. When was the last time you saw Brady?”
Fletch blinks hard. “Maybe a year ago? I don’t know. I’ve been busy running a company and all.”
“Well, I do know. It was when he flew out for your dad’s funeral. It’s the last time most of us saw you.” Except me, I add mentally. I got you for a few more days.
“I see Cal all the time,” Fletch says, landing the hundred-ton elephant next to my feet. “She makes an effort.”
Gut punch. “And the rest of us don’t?”
“I’m not having this conversation here.” Fletch turns away from me, and walks out the door into the humid late afternoon air. I follow along because where else would I go? I need a ride to Brady’s, and I don’t have enough money to get a car of my own.
We stand on the curb, waiting, not speaking. This is going worse than I’d imagine.
“How’s your boyfriend?” Fletch sounds flat. Like someone has taken all the air out of his lungs.
I eye him suspiciously. On a list of top ten things I don’t want to talk to Fletch about, Michael hovers around number two. Probably because Fletch and I never officially broke up. We more or less faded away, the distance between us growing greater until there just wasn’t an us anymore.
So I guess, in some ways, Fletch is still my boyfriend. That is, if you need an official breaking up – which we never had.
God this is going to be a terrible weekend. I wish Michael were here, if not for the company, than as an excuse to stay away from Fletch.
“Why do you care how my boyfriend is?” I say. “And how do you even know I have a boyfriend?”
“Brady,” Fletch says. “He has a big mouth.”
That he does. For the past two years, Brady’s kept me abreast of important Fletch information. But not who and if he’s dating.
No. I didn’t want to know that.
Besides, that’s what gossip magazines are for.
“How’s Jenn Asher?” I ask, spouting off the name of an actress he’s supposedly been seeing.
“I don’t know. I’ve only met her once, at a fundraiser.”
My heart pumps harder. Fletch, it seems, is single. I, however, am not.
A sleek black car pulls up to the curb, and a man in an ill-fitting suit jumps out.
Fletch nods, and the man hurriedly takes our bags and places them in the trunk. Fletch opens the car door for me, and I slide in, to the far side. He folds himself into his seat, his long legs bent at the knees.
“I know I should have said this earlier, but you look great, Ellie.”
His compliment strikes me across the face, and I recoil. “Really, Fletch? We haven’t spoken in years, and you want to talk about how I look?”
He hangs his head in the sheepish way I know all to well. “What do you want from me, Ellie?”
The words coming rushing out. “An apology. An explanation. Something.”
He leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees and his head on his hands. “I’m sorry. I should never have disappeared.”
The hurt that’s been sitting in my heart spills out. The love I had for this man is messy, and it flows through me like molten lava. I turn inward, focusing on my breath.
That love may never come back.
“Ellie,” Fletch says, reaching across the seat and taking my hand. My body wants to fold into his, but my heart – oh my fragile heart – it wants to curl up on itself and lock all the love away. “Let’s just make it through the weekend, okay?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know if we can. There’s been too much damage.”
Fletch settles back into his seat and drops my hand. “I knew this was a bad idea. I told Brady I should just fly to the Cape.”
I turn away from him, and stare out the window, watching the city rush past us.
He didn’t even want to ride out with me. That was all Brady.
I keep the tears inside.
Fletch can’t hurt me anymore. I won’t let him.