Marry Me Baby, Evergreen Grove Book 4.5
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Since I retired from boxing, I’m fighting to keep my life off the damn ropes.
Lately, one thing after another’s falling apart. First there’s the road-trip on Valentine’s weekend that coulda gotten me and my girl both killed. Then came the unspoken secrets that put so much distance between us.
My love for Michelle is everything that keeps me human. I can feel her slipping away. I’ve got one last shot. A desperate proposal.
And it’s all about to go wrong.
She’s distant lately. We both are.
The stress of this trip, I guess it’s chipped away at us both. Having it over and done sure as hell hasn’t brought the relief I expected. Having it happen the day before Valentine’s Day didn’t help.
Want to spice up your relationship? Knock on a stranger’s door. When he pulls out a shotgun, run for your lives. Now that’s excitement.
For my part, trying to face up to my past has fractured my attention. Way more than I expected it would. The things it’s brought up for me—the memories and the feelings—I’ve needed some time to sort it all out.
Michelle’s a good sounding board. I know she is. But I can’t be that guy who’s leaning on his girl all the time. If I want her in my life, she needs to know she can lean on me, yeah?
I tell myself we’ve both been worried about how this trip would turn out. Still, I get the feeling there’s something else. Something my girl isn’t telling me. That’s got me even more worked up than the gun-waving boxer we left back on his porch.
You’re a paranoid sonafabitch, that’s the problem.
I don’t respond to her murmurs of consolation because I’m busy getting us the fuck out of a town that’s unbelievably even smaller and more backwoods than our own home town of Evergreen Grove. Back home, if Michelle nicks her pinkie cooking dinner the county sheriff will stop by to make sure the little lady is holding up okay.
Some days it all gets to be too much. I like it there, but everyone needs a break from people getting into their business.
Right now… I just want to get away from this place. Away from Billings’s crazy eyes. I can still see ’em staring back at me. The ghosts I recognized behind them linger in my head. Make it hard to breathe.
We passed a sign on the way into this insane little town, that both time and horror movie sets forgot. It read, “Miller Pond: Step into the Past.” Shoulda known then we were headed for trouble. When that shell of a man we’d come to talk to stumbled out through a banging screen door with a shotgun in his hand and a whiskey bottle cradled in the crook of his arm, I knew it was game fucking over.
Step into the past? Sometimes the past needs to be exorcised. Billings is living proof. Then again, so am I.
I’d give that sign the finger now, as we pass it heading out of town, but it would mean letting go of either Michelle’s hand or the steering wheel.
“No,” I finally say to my girl, squeezing back at her fingers. “Jesus. I’m sorry. Shoulda known this trip would be a waste. I worried he might not want to talk to us. Didn’t think I might get us both shot.” The weight of her indigo eyes drills holes in the side of my head. Thinking. Or maybe judging.
Did I really think it was a good idea to bring her here?
I fucked up today. Had to have her by my side. In the end, who knows what might have gone wrong.
To think Michelle dropped everything. Cancelled plans. All for what? We got less than nothing. Nothing but more worry than I had before I started. She’s saying a lot with her silence right now, but I can’t make out the words.
I never was any good at losing. The old me would have gone back to our hotel and drowned my sorrows in a bottle, but I’m trying to be a different man for her. So what do I do when the new man is up such a shitty creek, he’s jonesing hard for his old ways?
“I don’t think he was actually going to shoot us,” she says. “He was a scared, confused old man. We were strangers. He didn’t understand why we were there, and I can’t blame him for wanting us to leave.”
“Michelle, he wasn’t exactly an old man. He was in his forties. That’s gonna be me in a couple of decades.”
She shakes her head. “No it— Okay. I thought he was much older, but no. You take care of yourself and you’re healthy and—”
“Baby. That man’s either fucked from too much alcohol or from getting his bell rung in the boxing ring. Maybe both. If you think me and him got nothing in common, then you hitched your wagon to the wrong horse.”