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 Light in Mourning

 Mourning 2

by

Adriane Leigh

To my girls: Your shining eyes and bright smiles bring me so much joy every day.

1

I glanced at the screen of my phone before whipping it across the interior of the Jeep. I heard it land with a thud on the seat. Second time today the crazy bitch had called me and I was so over it. So fucking over it. Apparently, she didn’t understand what had happened between us was a one-night-only kinda deal. Don’t get me wrong, not that I wasn’t flattered that she wanted an encore, a repeat performance—that wasn’t even to say I wouldn’t have been interested in the past—but it was a different time. This was now, and I wasn’t interested.

I’d been back in North Carolina for three weeks. Three weeks of living on my boat. Sleeping on a lumpy bed and showering in a too-tiny boat shower. Three weeks since my closest friend Gavin had dropped me here with a pat on the shoulder and a despondent look on his face. I didn’t want his pity; I didn’t even want to see his face. There was only one face that played on repeat in my head; one beautiful smile, one pair of deep brown eyes that flashed when she laughed. In the past month, there was only one face I saw when I was buried deep inside someone.

Scratch that.

All fucking summer there was only one face I saw when I was buried inside someone and hers was the only face I could bear to see in the flesh right now. Everyone else looked at me with a flash of pity. Drew tried to talk to me, tried to reassure me, tried to make me understand, but there was no understanding.

Georgia had left.

Georgia had promised it would only be a few days. Fast-forward an entire fucking month without a single call. She was fucking haunting me, and now, here I was, docked on the North Carolina coast because I couldn’t fucking get away from her no matter how hard I tried. And truth was, I shouldn't have been surprised. This is exactly what had happened to my dad when my mom left—he'd collapsed into himself. Isolated and pushed all thoughts of happiness away. I understood his coping mechanism now, it's exactly what I was doing.

When I'd returned to Jacksonville a month ago after the hurricane had driven us out of North Carolina, I'd walked into my apartment with a lighter step than when I’d left.  I'd had faith that it wasn’t over for Georgia and me. We may have had a rough summer—fucking and fighting, stolen glances and heartbreaking moments at the beach house, but we’d grown much too close to let this be the end. I felt her in my bones. She’d been tattooed on my heart.

And then a fucking week went by.

I called her over and over. I sent texts. I'd talked to Georgia's best friend, Drew, to make sure my dark- haired girl was okay. I grew more worried. Finally, after two weeks of nothing, knowing she was alive and well, and just back with Kyle, I threw my hands up. I tossed in the towel, got torn-up drunk, and made a call I never should have made.

Sophie.

Sophie-fucking-Watkins, the very woman I’d been escaping this past spring. She’d tried to call me off and on all summer, sent me random texts and pictures of herself nearly fucking naked and I’d ignored every single one of them. I’d ignored them because there was only one woman I could focus on all summer. Through it all—all the ups and downs, the back and forth, the lies and truth—she consumed my every waking thought.

So when I'd been rip-roaring drunk that night a few weeks ago and made the stupid-ass decision to send Sophie one little text, she’d replied immediately.

I fucked her that night. All night.

I fucked her, trying to fuck another girl out of my system. She was wild, uninhibited, and nearly crazy. Scratch that—completely fucking crazy—but it was hot. It was just too bad my drunken brain had morphed her long blonde hair into chestnut brown, her bright blue eyes into the deepest shade of melted chocolate I’d ever seen. What I was unable to ignore were her high-pitched moans, so I cranked the music on my iPod dock and drowned those out too.

My entire fucking body ached for Georgia and I was looking for an escape. Something to fill the void. To feel like myself again; not someone completely fucking shattered by a woman who hadn't chosen me.

I woke up that morning, tangled up in Sophie, and immediately hated myself. I heaved a desperate sigh and she stirred. Just as her eyes fluttered open, I locked my gaze on her and told her it was time to go. Pain passed across her eyes before they hardened. She called me an asshole and climbed out of bed, throwing her barely- there red dress over her head and stomping out of my apartment.

Fast-forward to fucking now and the crazy bitch hadn’t stopped calling.

She called me every single fucking day.

It felt like a rewind of this spring. Sophie riding my ass, and not in the good way. So once again, I found myself in need of an escape. The need to escape Gavin’s worried glances, Drew trying to console me about Georgia, and the crazy ass blonde who wanted a repeat. I treated Sophie like shit, I knew that—I’d used her—but what pissed me off more was that she wanted more. She had no self-respect and still wanted more after I’d kicked her out of my bed the next morning. I knew I was fucked up, but I couldn’t help it because someone had fucked with my head, left her mark, and walked away.

Walked away for fucking ever.

When Gavin brought me back to this little beach in North Carolina, I wasn’t sure what my plan was. He was worried because we had a new account we were trying to land with a Fortune 500 company. I reassured him I could work from my boat. He knew that, but he’d been worried nonetheless.

Turns out, he was right to worry. I did the bare minimum, we had conference calls when needed, and I did the very least required of me. The rest of the time, I sat on the deck of my boat and watched the world go by, watched summer fade into autumn, the tourists slowly thin, and my mind replayed every single moment Georgia and I had had together this summer.

I thought about getting a dog. Was a boat a place for a dog? I’d seen it plenty of times, but I wasn’t interested in a puppy; I wanted a calm, loyal old dog. One that would always be there no matter how much I fucked up. So I went to the local animal shelter and told them what I wanted. An old dog was my only requirement.

They steered me to a sad-looking golden retriever and I knew he was perfect. Charlie was his name. A perfect name to play skipper on my boat.

And Charlie was a perfect boat dog. He livened up a little when I walked him out of the shelter. Our first stop was the pet store for some supplies. He sauntered in somberly, wandered across to a cute little poodle, mounted her, and gave a few half-hearted thrusts. The owner of the perfectly coifed female glared at me as she jerked her dog away. Charlie looked up at me. I shrugged. “I get you. Gotta give it a shot, even if they are out of your league.” Charlie wagged his tail once before lifting his leg on the corner of an aisle and pissing on the floor. Fucking fantastic.

So there we were, Charlie and me in the front seat, Sophie blowing up my phone, Gavin worried about where my head was, Drew sending me a text every day, asking how I was doing, and all I could think about was a mass of wild brown hair and a beautiful smile I’d had all summer and had been ripped away from me.

“Whadya say we take a ride, hey, old guy?” I gave Charlie a scratch behind the ears as he sat shotgun with

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