Someday when you leave me
I bet these memories
Follow you around - Nicole
“Come on, I want to show you a place.”
Nicole held her hand out, an infectious smile spread across her face. She watched as Waverly’s cheeks flushed pink. A voice whispering Nicole’s deepest desires as her heart stuttered at the possibility that Waverly liked her as more than a friend too.
“It’s going to take a minute for us to get there, but the view, Waves, but it’s worth it. I just need you to trust me.”
Waverly placed her hand into Nicole’s. A warmth spread from those tiny fingers through her body causing the adrenaline rush to leave her warmer than usual. It would be easy enough to shed her red buffalo plaid flannel shirt once they reached their destination. Then she’d be left in just a white t-shirt, which suited her just fine.
“I do, Nicole. Trust you that is.”
Waverly’s voice was softer than it had been, warmer. It was a liquid flow of honey coating over Nicole, calming her shaky nerves until they were at ease. Nicole flicked the light on, leading them away from the overlook where so many others would spend their time watching the town below. She turned to look behind her making sure Waverly still following, still trusting. She found a warm smile and a second hand clasping onto hers. They turned down between two trees, their trunks almost touching, climbing over the underbrush until they reached the crevice Nicole had been leading them towards, formed by two rocks that had fallen years ago. Leaning against one another unmoving for centuries. The base was a much larger, solid boulder supported by the mountain. The weight of the other two rocks holding it firmly in place. Nicole started to work her way through the crack turning to catch a glimpse of concern on Waverly’s face.
“I promise Waves, there’s more room on the other side. It just looks daunting right now. Once we’re through this rough area, things will be fine on the other side and you’ll be happy you made it through.”
Waverly looked up at the sky as the clouds began to lose their color. Night was starting to approach and though Nicole’s light had led the way, Waverly found herself afraid until she reached her hand out again resting into Nicole’s.
“Take me there.”
With that Nicole pulled her forward, her body pressing flush against Waverly’s ensuring she didn’t fall while following the narrow path. It was roughly three feet to the other side, but when Waverly ducked into the crevice, the remaining light cut off from her, she couldn’t help but shudder. Nicole wrapped her arms around her, guiding her until she could stand again.
Waverly took her first step onto the rock as the sun dropped below the horizon draining the previously vibrantly colored clouds of their color. A navy velvet began to paint the sky as the little town below started to illuminate. She could see the lights of the gas station on the outskirts,easily identify Main Street by the glow of peach colored lights lining it. She could see the neon glow in the distance of Pussy Willows and the soft lights lining the roof of Shorty’s. She stepped forward, stopping to check her footing before continuing out to take in more of the view.
Nicole stood back watching in wonder as Waverly absorbed the view she normally reserved for herself. When she found this spot, Nicole swore it would only ever be hers. Now she was here, offering it to someone who meant everything to her. Someone she wanted as more than a friend but had been too afraid to say anything. Someone who had turned to stare at Nicole with stars in her eyes and a smile crossing her face.
“Nicole, it’s beautiful.”
“Yes, the view is.”
Nicole’s eyes had not wondered from Waverly once. She knows the other view. This one is one she wants to stay lost in. Waverly’s blush is fairly hidden by the lack of light, but Nicole sees it. Sees the way those hazel eyes dart away before returning to hers with something flickering. A small flame that she feels returned in her own soul. She knows what she wants, but instead offers the explanation of why here, tonight.
“It’s the place I run to when I need to clear my head and be away from the world. You can sit down here for hours. You can hear anyone at the overlook, but they can’t see you. It’s solitude when you need it. Comforting even. When you came to me earlier today saying you needed a distraction, this was one of the places I thought of, but you seemed to want something more lively. So I saved it, until now.”
Waverly walked back to Nicole smiling, her arms crossed as one hand rubbed her bare arm. The tank top had felt wonderful as they rode in her Jeep with the top off throughout the day, but now as the evening took on a new chill, she found herself needing a little more. As if on instinct, Nicole rolled her shoulders back, shedding the warm flannel shirt she had grabbed as they had left her house. Waverly had declined to grab an extra shirt. A decision she still did not regret as the warm flannel covered her shoulders. She snuggled into the scent of vanilla dipped donuts as Nicole wrapped it fully around her. Her arms embraced Waverly as she worked to make sure the shirt wasn’t hung on anything and kept Waverly warm.
“You always just know what I need don’t you?”
Waverly asked, a smirk starting to cross her features. She wanted more. Something she had sensed throughout the day Nicole wanted as well. It had been the perfect day of just being in each other’s company through back roads and dusty trails. Stopping at the stonehouse to cool off in its shadow. Nicole indulging her as she quoted Shakespeare from the broken second floor window.
But now. Now Nicole was offering a piece of herself to Waverly. A precious spot she had hidden from the world. In return, Waverly wanted to show her exactly what Nicole meant to her.
She turned in those arms, her hands leading Nicole’s down to her hips where she held them before reaching up. Her arms circled Nicole’s neck watching as a breath caught in her throat. No doubt she wanted this as well. Waverly pushed up, her eyes fascinated by Nicole’s lips. A tongue darted out wetting those lips as she closed in. She felt Nicole lean down, a magical pull between them bringing together two scared people wanting the same thing.
As their lips touched, Waverly pulled against Nicole’s neck begging her not to stop. Nicole’s hand moved to the small of her back bringing their bodies flush to each other. Nicole pulled back causing a small whimper until she sat down on the rock. She took Waverly’s hand pulling her down into her lap. Their lips connected once again.
“It’s a lot safer this way.” Nicole whispered into the kiss. Waverly understood, between the wind and the kiss causing her knees to weaken, sitting was definitely the smarter option. She nuzzled into Nicole’s chest, her head resting right below her chin absorbing the warmth radiated. Nicole wrapped her arms around her dropping light kisses to her hair.
“Fear is a powerful thing. It can stop you from pushing through to find the beauty on the other side.”
Nicole whispered the words as a light kiss hit right above Waverly’s ear. “Thank you for trusting me to keep you safe.”
Waverly giggled the words tickling against the shell of her ear. “Thank you for always pushing me to see the beauty on the other side.”
Two years later...
Waverly walked down the familiar sidewalk in front of the library where she had spent most of her time growing up. Always a bookworm, always studying. She smiled at the bottom of the steps seeing that luckily, like most of town, this building had not changed. She walked into the reception area pausing to wave at her former high school teacher. She approached the old wooden desk with a determined smile on her face.
The woman in her fifties turned around to ask, “Can I help you?”
Waverly waited, a smile plastered on her face until the woman turned, adjusting her glasses to fully face her. “Waverly?”
At this acknowledgement, Waverly bounced a little on her heels excited that one of the people she still remembered fondly from Purgatory had not forgotten her. “Yes Mrs. Shaw it’s me.”
“I never thought I’d see you come back through those doors again. What brings you here? Family visit?”
Waverly took a gulp and nodded, “You could say that. I’m getting married at the chapel just outside the pine barrens in the next two weeks. I wanted to hand deliver your invitation.”
“Oh honey that’s so sweet. Who’s the lucky person?”
“James Hardy, well he goes by Champ.”
The older woman’s face dropped, the surprise morphing into disappointment. A moment of uncertainty filled the space between them elongating the seconds of silence into an infinite moment Waverly had not come there expecting.
“Well.” The woman’s face was quickly schooled back to a warm smile, her eyes searching Waverly’s as she continued. “Mr. Hardy is a very lucky young man. I seem to have heard that name before, but not locally.”
Waverly smiled, “Definitely not local. His family owns and operates a vineyard. It’s a small operation started by his grandfather Herb.”
“Ah yes, I’ve read about his family in the social news of the Ontario papers. Such a striking young man.” The older woman’s eyes wandered off again focusing on something in the distance, just behind Waverly. Just outside the glass doors. Her mouth parted just slightly before she turned back to Waverly once more. “I will make sure to mark my calendar to be there for the event. I wouldn’t dare miss the wedding of the only person who spent as much time here as I have.”
Waverly let out a small laugh as her eyes darted around the room. The old books had been her friends while learning new languages or researching family history. It had been her place of solace away from home when things were too much. Her eyes landed on a table in the back. The light from the window illuminated the dark wood causing it to shine a lighter color as if new. A memory started in her mind of sitting at that very table, studying. The chair in front of her occupied. She shook her head, quickly erasing the thought process to something else completely. “This always was a home away from home. Thank you for always opening the doors even when they weren’t supposed to be.”
Mrs. Shaw simply nodded. “Everyone needs some peace and quiet. Everyone needs a safe place to run to Waverly.”
As Waverly walked out the door, Mrs. Shaw took in a deep breath before releasing it in a long stream of air. She looked down at the invitation, opening it to the perfectly swirled gold lettering. She read the names again. James Hardy. The party animal of Ontario caught with numerous flings and accused of squandering a chunk of his family’s wealth before he was cut off. The basic sum of it, or at least according to the papers, had been grow up or never see another dime. Mrs. Shaw wondered if Waverly had any clue what she was up against or more importantly, why a playboy like him?
She glanced back out the same door she had just seen the flash of red pass by. The flash she almost instinctively thought would walk through those same doors Waverly had just entered. Just like she had years before. Instead, as it had been the last two years, Nicole had just walked on by. She had hoped she stalled Waverly long enough to give her a head start. That type of fight would have been deafening and though she had been a stickler for quiet her entire life, Mrs. Shaw would have let that one play out. It was long overdue.
With the last hand delivered invitation finished, Waverly decided to head back to the hotel where she was finishing the preparations for the arrival of Champ’s family. There had been a lot of ideas in the beginning of where to have the ceremony. The original was at the vineyard where Champ’s parents had said their vows. It was quickly shot down by Champ himself. He didn’t want to repeat someone else’s day. Especially not the people who had withdrawn his allowance.
When his mother gently suggested somewhere in Purgatory, Waverly’s mind had first went to Gus and Curtis’s ranch. The place she would spend spring out in the fields with flowers blooming all around her. The smell of impending rain chasing her back inside. Her feet hitting the clay until she reached the back porch. Curtis would always be right behind her heading in from whatever field he had spent the day working in. If not the field, she’d hear the garden gate creak as he left behind his prize winning tomatoes for their natural watering. It was where she had planned to have her dream wedding.
Every time she had tried to picture the two of them there in front of family and friends, she couldn’t. The image, blurry, wouldn’t clear up in her mind. So instead she remembered the historic church in the pine barrens. It wasn’t perfect, but at least it reflected her love for history and delighted Champ’s family.
“We have the third floor completely booked for Mr. Hardy’s family.” Robin, one of her friends from high school quietly murmured as he continued typing. Waverly smiled watching his brow furrow as he continued glancing at the list and back to the screen. “Just to make sure I need to put his aunt at one end of the hall away from his mother correct?”
Waverly laughed, “Yes. They love each other dearly, but also can’t agree on anything. The closer their proximity to each other, the more fighting the rest of us will hear.”
Robin smiled back, “Yep I know what that’s like.”
“Guessing this is not your first time dealing with family drama.”
“Not at all. Since this place was bought and refurbished, we’ve become a bit of a tourist destination to escape for family gatherings, meetings, you name it. For whatever odd reason, people like the idea of being away from everything they know to come here for a weekend or week depending. Being the manager, means dealing with every little situation that could arise. From forgotten toothbrushes to new room arrangements due to breakups.”
Waverly stared at the lobby, brought back to the original ambiance of the hotel's western hayday with quite a few upgrades along the way. The piano in the corner was closer to a baby grand than an upright used in saloons. Yet the wallpaper, the sconces on the walls, everything had the original feel to it. Luckily the rooms did not. The upgraded showers had left Waverly feeling like a new person after her drive here the night before. She had almost been ashamed to rent the rooms for Champ’s family, but it was the only hotel in town. She had scoured the website for hours before she called and talked to Robin. He assured her it was not the rundown building they remembered from their younger years that should have been condemned years before. Her arrival had changed her worries into delight. Maybe this would be better than she had anticipated.
“Let’s just go over a few more things and we’ll be set. I know you like to have things perfectly planned.”
Waverly rolled her eyes at the statement, a smile still pulling at the corner of her mouth. “Some things never change do they?”
Robin let out a small chuckle. “You had an entire notebook of exactly how our science project was to be assembled and explained.”
“So?” Waverly challenged.
“We were ten Waverly. It was a volcano with baking soda and vinegar.”
“We needed a village to make it look realistic.”
This time Robin rolled his eyes before continuing.
“The night everyone arrives, we’ll be serving his family’s wine and hors d'oeuvres
while Jeremy plays a selection of soft jazz tunes I sent you the list to last week. As long as there are no objections to that, the next night is the rehearsal dinner…”
“It’s not really a dinner, we’re just having one final moment before the wedding. We’re going to have our last dance as a couple, let the family’s mingle with one another, wine again of course.”
“Of course” Robin laughed.
“Then I’ll return to the ranch with Gus and Curtis and two days later I will be Mrs. James Hardy.”
“Alright it sounds like we have everything setup. Jeremy has the playlist you sent over for the last dinner and how you want the last dance announced. If there’s anything else at all you need Waverly, just let me know.”
“You’ve already been too kind Robin. I threw everything at you and you were perfect.”
She could see the light blush at her words. “Honestly Waverly, I’m just doing my job.”
“Then I’m finding the owner. You sir, need a raise.”
If she had blinked, Waverly would have missed it. The momentary floundering of Robin’s thought process. His lack of witty return she had grown accustomed to during their phone calls and emails. She didn’t though. He recovered well, she had to hand him that. “I’ll pass the word on. Now, you, Waverly Earp, have way too much to do. Get some rest and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Waverly turned heading towards the elevator, pressing the button. It had been a long day of finalizing the logistics of the perfect wedding. She looked around the room one more time, her eyes landing in a series of paintings along the wall. They looked so familiar, yet she just couldn’t place them. “Hey Robin, who did end up renovating the hotel?"
Robin’s eyes never left the screen in front of him as his reply came. “An investment company came in and saw the potential and bought a few properties in town so they could make it all inclusive. Which is why Shorty’s is providing the booze. Except the wine of course.”
Waverly nodded, distracted by the doors dinging open. She quickly stepped inside giving a quick wave to Robin as the doors closed behind her. Robin waited until he heard the tell tale sound of the elevator reaching other floors. Only then did the tension fall from his shoulders. He had rehearsed that line so many times. It seemed she had bought it. He had begged for the paintings to be taken down as he thought they would be a dead giveaway. There was only so much hiding one guy could do in a small town. He had been made to promise that anything she wanted, she got. So far, he’d been able to keep that promise and hide an identity.