More than Exist(51)

By: Bethany Lopez

I felt his words, as surely as I heard him, and I knew he was right. Ricky would want me to be happy, and I knew that, because if the roles were reversed, I’d want the same for him.

I was crying freely now, so Luke pulled me in his arms and held me until the last of my tears subsided.

I pulled back and allowed myself to get lost in his blue eyes for a minute, then I wiped my face and asked, “How did you get so smart?”

He gave me the grin I was hoping for and said, “I was born that way, I guess.”

I allowed myself a chuckle, happy to have the mood a little lighter, but knowing I wasn’t off the hook.

“Everything you said was right … Ricky would want me to be happy, but even though that’s true, I still feel the guilt, and think I’ll need to resolve that at my own pace. I appreciate your patience and understanding, I truly do, but I want you to also promise me that if the wait begins to be too much, and you want more than I’m able to give , that you’ll tell me, so you can move on.”

This time when Luke opened his mouth to argue, I stopped him with my next sentence. “You and Matty deserve happiness too.” I took his nod as acceptance, and finished it off. “I’d love to stay, and work for you … At least until I’m comfortable being more than your employee. I’ll be honest with you too, even though I don’t want to get your hopes up and then find that I can’t be what you want, but I’m falling for you too. And, I think it goes with out saying, that I’m in love with your son, and it would be an honor to be his stepmom. I’ll be honest with you, and I’ll talk with you about what I’m feeling. I won’t run again, and if I feel the urge to drink, I’ll let you know. I promise.”

Luke’s face blossomed with hope, happiness, and love, and I thanked my lucky stars that I’d fallen into his arms crying in that strip club in Vegas. Who would have guessed that one crazy, unbelievable moment, led me on a path to finding myself again.


I walked in the sun, over the grassy hills, reading the names and quotes of the fallen as I made my way through the Veteran’s Cemetery, to Ricky’s grave.

I touched the gravestone lovingly before I bent to lay the flowers I’d brought in front of his name.

“Hey, baby,” I said softly as I sat on the velvety grass. “I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve come to visit. I’ve missed you.”

I looked around, noting a few other people scattered throughout, but saw for the most part, we were alone.

“I won’t be able to see you as much as I’d like, but promise to come out whenever I can. Just know, you’re always in my heart, and you’ll always be with me in spirit, no matter where I am.”

I pulled out the necklace from under my collar, and fingered the wedding ring that had been Ricky’s gift to me.

“Do you remember when you proposed?” I asked with a soft chuckle. “You were so nervous, even though you knew without a doubt that I’d say yes. Your hand shook when you put the ring on my finger, and I thought you were the best man I’d ever met. I’ll never forget that, Ricky, or anything else. I want you to know that just because I’m moving on with my life, doesn’t mean I’m leaving you behind.”

Luke had been patient, as promised, but that hadn’t stopped him from wooing me at every turn. He’d spent the last year proving how much he wanted me. Sometimes he’d show up with flowers, or stop by to teach me to ride in the middle of the day. Really, once he really laid on the charm, my resolve didn’t stand a chance. And his charm, combined with Matty’s unconditional love and Hank’s obvious acceptance of me in to his family, had been impossible to resist.

“We just flew in for the day, and when I leave here, we’re driving to Vegas, where we’ll be married. Luke’s best friend Jones is flying in to be his best man, along with Matty and Hank, and Ginger will be my maid of honor. I hope you’re okay with me getting married again. I know in my heart that you would be, and that you’d like Luke … He’s a really great guy. But I can’t help but feel worried that I’m betraying you in some way. I hope you don’t think I am.”

Just then, the wind kicked up, and I smiled when it fell like a caress along my cheek. I looked over to where Luke was leaning against the rental car, waiting, then back at Ricky’s headstone.

“I know you understand, and I want you to know that I’m happy. I love Luke, his son, and the baby we’ll have together,” I cradled the nonexistent bump of my belly and smiled serenely. “I know I scared you when I lost control, but I promise I’m happy now. I’m no longer lost, and I finally have the ability to do more than exist. I’m ready to live.”

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