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Blake didn't know why, but he was outside her door in the pouring rain. He had been walking when he heard some commotion coming from her house. He could hear the fainting sound of yelling; she was arguing with that bastard of a husband. He listened and gritted his teeth, wishing for nothing more than the opportunity to break down the door and kick his ass. Didn't that idiot realize how lucky he was to have her? That she was everything you could ask for. She was amazing. But she was married with someone who didn't know that. But maybe not anymore. At least that's what he heard from his friend. This idiot was cheating on her, supposedly. Everywhere he saw the two together, they would be arguing, or she might have tears in her eyes, but try to fight them back, before storming off, leaving the idiot to chase her with empty apologies. He never saw the two of them during their happier times, but there was a time when they didn’t fight all the time, when she didn’t look like she could break down at any minute. Those times happened apparently. All he knew was that when he showed up, about 3 years ago, was that it changed. It seemed like she was determined to make it work, though.

He shook his head, coming back from his thoughts. He took one last look at her house, before walking away.

The rain was still falling down when he got to the local bar. It was his nightly ritual; the pain from his divorce was still raw and this was the only thing to ease it.

"What will it be? The usual?" The bartender asked when he sat himself down in a barstool and put his hat down on the counter. "Yes sir.”

"Coming right up."

When he got the shot of whiskey, he downed the harsh liquid in one gulp, He looked around, noticing nothing out of the ordinary. It was full, like always, with an old jukebox sitting in the corner, playing some song from the 80s with a few young couples dancing clumsily along. "You want another one?"

"Sure."
He heard the door open behind him, and looked over his shoulder. He almost choked, eyes widening at the sight of her walking in, eyes looking down and her blonde hair all wet. She sat down near him, ordering her drink. "What's someone like you doing in a place like this?" The words tumbled out his mouth, and she turned her head, looking straight at him. "What do you mean? How do you even know if I don't come here often?" She raised an eyebrow.He gave her a small smile, "Because one, I know you, and two, I would've seen you in here before. I've become a bit of a regular here."
"Oh. I guess you're right," She said, as she reached for her drink, "Who knows, I might start coming here more often." She sounded bitter, and almost sounded like she could break down at any minute. "And why is that?" "I think you know already. We are friends, right?"
"Why tonight then?" She offered no response. He got serious, "What did that idiot do this time?" She laughed dryly, shaking her head. "What hasn't he done? No, this time it was me." He frowned, "Okay... What did you do?" "Filed for divorce." It was a bad time to take a sip, because for the second the time that night, he nearly choked. "You divorced him?" He said when he recovered. "Well one, I caught him cheating again, and two, I'm getting tired of giving and giving, and getting nothing in return. I tried to make it work, we both went to counseling. I tried to fix it, but no. He kept going back to his old ways. “I’m tired of this kind of living." He kept quiet, all of it sounding too familiar.
"And sometimes he's got me thinking it's my fault."
"It's not."
She looked at him, a questioning look in her eyes.
"It's not your fault. You're not the one who jumped into other beds. You're not the one who pushed him away, not caring about what he felt.  You're not the one who didn't try at all. He did those things. Don't let him get to you.”
The corners of her mouth curved. "I forgot. You've been here before."
"And letting them think it's your fault doesn't help. It only made me go nuts." She smiled softly, but it faded, as she stared at her now empty glass. "This does help the pain. Sort of." "What is it that you're drinking anyway?" "It's just beer. Nothing fancy." "You take me as someone likes cocktails.” “Only for special occasions, which are happy ones.” He grinned. “Would you mind if I bought you another one? I might buy myself one, now that I think about it." She smiled, which made him grinned. "I don't mind." "How's your farm doing?" Gwen turned the conversation away from her current situation. Just thinking about it made her feel nauseous. "It's doing alright. What about that store? Business doing alright?"
"Mhm." She worked in a small general store, but it wasn’t exactly her dream job.
"But you don't like it there. Or here, do you?" Blake was grinning, whether it was from the drinking or just being with her, he didn't know.  She laughed, "I mean, I grew up here. My family stills lives here. I love my family, but one of my brothers and my sister, they all left this place. Sometimes I feel like I'm gonna go crazy at any moment in this boring town."
"And try your luck in the city?"
She shrugged, "Maybe. Who knows?"
"You sing nicely. Maybe you can make songs for some record label."
"That's the beer and whiskey talking."
"Actually no, it's not. I'd say it sober, I'd say it drunk; you're a good singer and writer. You also have a good eye for fashion. Well, compared to me, it's noticeable." He said gesturing to his simple black shirt and jeans.
"Thanks. You don’t dress to bad yourself, you know.”
He grinned, ears turning red. “Aw shucks, I’m touched,” He said jokingly.
They went quiet, and she looked over to the corner where there were still a few couples dancing.
"It must be nice to be in love. To be with someone who wants you back." He glanced over there, the ghost of a smile on his face. The jukebox was playing some sappy love song, but it was catchy.
"Yeah, it must be nice."
A new song started playing and it wasn't as sappy. More of a song to dance to then just sit and listen to it.
"Come on." She stood up, grabbing his hand and pulling him off his seat.
"Woah, what are you doing?" He laughed nervously, as she walked them to the corner. More people were dancing now, so they just blended in. "Let's dance," She said, standing on her toes in order to say it in his ear. "Oh. Alright then." His voice still had a nervous edge to it, but it wasn't soon before long that they were both grinning, laughing, and dancing, like all the other couples around them. Except they weren't exactly together; were they? He found himself getting lost in her dark brown eyes, the soft touch of her hand, that killer smile; the way she would look away for a second, laughing in disbelief before looking back. It was cute. She was stunning. It'd be so easy to just lean down and- Blake stopped. "I can't do this. I can’t be with you." She frowned, "What do you mean?" "We both just went through a heartbreak. I don't want to risk going through that again, and I don't wanna break your heart." He started moving back towards the bar, pulling out his wallet to pay for their drinks.
"Blake, what are you talking about?" She followed him, and was now touching his shoulder.
He stood still, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. "I’d scare you away.” He opened his eyes again, taking one last look at her, before turning around and heading towards the door. His feet were dragging. It wasn't easy. But he finally opened the door and went back into the rain, leaving a confused Gwen standing there. She said nothing as she went back to her barstool, sitting down.
"What's gotten into him?" She chuckled nervously, clutching her glass but not taking a sip. "We're just friends. It doesn't bother me. I'm not in love, and he shouldn't be either. We don't want a rebound or a fling." Her voice was shaky, stuttering a bit. Besides, they had known each for a while. That's all it was.

 

Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue

And so my heart is paying now for things I didn’t do

In anger unkind words are said that make the teardrops start

Why can’t I free your doubtful heart, and melt your cold, cold heart?

 

It was a new song playing, but it sounded like an oldie. She just stared at the glass in front of her, the sorrowful lyrics drifting from the jukebox. The place was crowded, so no one noticed when she buried her face in her hands, trying to stop the tears from falling.

When the bartender came by, he noticed, gave her a sympathetic look, but thought it’d be best to leave the lady alone.

 

 

 

It was a few weeks before they ran into each other again. She was working in the store, straightening some things on a shelf, when she heard the door open. She turned her head to see who walked in before quickly looking away. No one else in the area was that tall. She ducked her head, trying to hide. He looked over her way, for a second. He looked away, lowering the brim of the cap on his head. He headed straight for the hardware aisle, giving no other indication that he noticed her.  When she thought she was in the clear, she straightened up, and couldn’t help but peer over the top of the shelves to look.

He glanced up and noticed her looking at him. He couldn’t help but smile to himself. He shook his head, smile slipping off his face. He grabbed what he was looking for and turned to head to the register. No one else was there so she had to go over there. That’s all?” She asked him, gesturing to the box of nails and the box of screws, along with a hammer. “I thought you already had a hammer.” Her nonchalant tone surprised him, but he went along.“Yes ma’am. I couldn’t find my old hammer, so I had to get a new one.” She nodded, face still emotionless. Her silence was unnerving. He rubbed his neck, but then a bruise on her arm caught his eye.   “How’d that get there?” He narrowed his eyes, cocking an eyebrow. She didn’t say anything, only looking down, not meeting his gaze. “Did he do that to you?” He asked in a low voice, “I thought you said you were done with him.” “I still had to talk about the divorce papers. He grabbed me too hard. A nice gift, no?” He was scowling now, a fist balled up by his side. “Where is he now?” He turned his head towards the door, as if he expected to see him walking by.“How should I know? Besides, why do you care anyway?” He was taken aback by the bitter tone in her words. It offended him. “What do you mean, why do I care? I care because you’re my  friend.”“Then what was the whole thing at the bar about? Was it just the alcohol talking?” “No, it wasn’t,” He said quietly. “What?” She didn’t hear his response. “I said, it wasn’t,” He raised his voice.“Then why did you just leave, with no explanation at all?”  

 

“You want me to be honest?” He tilted his head, still scowling. “I was scared. The past few months of my life were hectic and it went to hell. I found out my wife was cheating on me and I got divorced. Last month was the darkest time of my life. I would do nothing but sit in my house, feeling sorry for myself, wasting my money on basically whatever drink I could get my hands on. That was my diet and nothing else. And what was I doing last night? Falling in love with someone else. I couldn’t help it. Someone who already was going through pretty much the same shitty situation and didn’t need my fucked up life to go along with it. I didn’t, and still don’t, even know if you feel the same. And you’re acting as if it was easy for me to walk away. It wasn’t. It was the hardest thing I’ve done in a while. So yeah, that’s why I left. You got your answer. Are you happy now?"

 

He didn’t realize that he was yelling. His hands were on the table, one clenching and unclenching and the other was shaking. There was a lump in his throat and he couldn’t talk no more, only looking down. He didn’t want to look up at her. He didn’t mean to yell or use her as an outlet for his pent-up frustration. “Sorry about that,” He said, his voice cracking, “You didn’t need to hear all that.” “You have nothing to apologize for.” Her hand reached out for his, and he flinched. “I needed to know that. I care about you, and I don’t want you feeling like you’re at rock bottom anymore.”He glanced up for a second, and was surprised to see her eyes shining with tears. He smiled in disbelief. “Why are you crying?” "I just listened to how your life’s been like. It kills me to know you went through that.” “A better question to ask would be why you ain’t running yet.” “Why would I run? You said it yourself. I’ve been going through ‘the same shitty situation.’” Blake said nothing else; he just closed his eyes and starting taking deep breaths. He heard her come around the counter and then he felt an arm go around him. He leaned into it, getting closer to her. When his breathing steadied and his body wasn’t shaking, he opened his eyes again. Blake’s arms wrapped around her; he was just clinging on to her.They stayed like that for a while, before he pulled away. She still had a concerned look in her eyes, and he looked at her, he gave her small, comforting smile. “I’ll be fine now. Don’t worry about me.” He said the last part looking at the bruise on her arm. He didn’t want to bring it up again, but he’d keep it in the back of his mind. Has she ever been loved right?  “So, I guess I’ll be seeing you around?” She asked, uncertainly. “Actually, I was wondering, uh, are you, um free tomorrow night?” He stumbled over his words, rubbing the back of his neck and going from looking right at her, to looking away in seconds. She nodded slowly. “So, a date?” She already knew the answer but she asked anyway. He reached out for her hand, holding it with both of his. “Let’s give it a try. You have the right to be nervous and unsure about it as I do. But I’m not gonna run and hurt ya like I did that night. You don’t have to worry about nothing.” She had her fears. But she could hear the same, uncertain tone in his voice. It was oddly comforting. Knowing they both didn’t know what would happen. But eventually, a shy smile played on her lips. “We can try.” She watched as a huge, dimpled grin appeared on his face, before he leaned in and kissed her cheek, causing her to turn red. “Alright then. I’ll come by your place tomorrow at 5,” He said, before turning around to walk away. “That sounds good.” She said, a lazy grin on her face, before she looked at the counter and realized something. “Blake! Hold up!” He was already out the door, so she had to run to catch up with him. He turned around, confused, before looking at what was in her hands. “Oh crap, I almost forgot about these.” This time it was his face that turned red, as he took the bag from her. “You’re lucky I caught you before you drove off,” She said, laughing. “Take care now.” She turned, and headed back into the store. He stood there, watching her go back in, before heading to his truck.

"Lucky indeed."

 

 

He frowned at his reflection. His hand went to his hair, trying to flatten it. The hair on the back of his head kept sticking up, and he gave up, choosing to just run a hand through his hair nervously, which messed it up slightly, making him fret again. "It’s alright, I guess,” He said, sighing. Better compared to the times he looked like a mad scientist, with his hair sticking up and tangled. Flipping the light switch off, he walked out the room. His eyes rested on the sunflower he picked earlier. He was walking around earlier when he saw it. For some reason, it seemed like the perfect flower. Now he picked it up gently, and walked out the front door, praying she’d like it. She hung up, slamming the phone. She didn’t release she was holding her breath, and breathed out slowly. Her eyes closed, as she rubbed her forehead. Maybe a while ago, she would’ve been happy hearing him want to apologize. Maybe even cried tears of joy, realizing he wanted to stay together like her. A while ago, but not now. Too late to forget everything that happened in the past few months and try to start over. The shitstorm that was her divorce was giving her a headache. She rubbed the bruise that was still on her arm, unconsciously, when she heard someone knocking on the door. Gwen suddenly remembered their date. The call distracted her and she almost forgot. She walked to the door, pushing stray strands of hair behind her ear. When she opened the door, she was greeted by his huge grin.

She forgot what happened just a few minutes before, and threw her arms around him and he responded by putting an arm around her and holding her tightly.“It’s so good to see you,” She sighed, looking up at him as they pulled apart. “The feeling is mutual,” He responded, but his smile faded slightly. “Is something wrong? You look upset.” Her smile slipped off her face. He didn’t need to know right now about the call. “It’s nothing, don’t worry about it.” He raised an eyebrow in disbelief. He looked like he was going to keep asking, but he remembered what was in his hand. “Oh, I got you this. I don’t know if you like these, or if ya even like flowers, but I was walking around, and saw it. I thought it’d be nice.” He said sheepishly, handing her the sunflower. It was a simple gift, but she couldn’t remember the last time someone gave her a gift, or even a flower. She smiled, looking at the sunflower then back at him. “Sunflowers are one of my favorites actually. Thank you.” He let out a big sigh of relief, “Now I know what to get you next time.” She smiled, before motioning inside. He flashed her a dimpled grin, before letting her take his hand and lead him inside.

 

“Do you still think about her?” He tilted his head, furrowing his brow. They ended up on her couch, watching a movie, with empty take-out containers in front of them. When she asked if they could just stay inside for the night, she seemed uncomfortable with the idea of going out. She also seemed distracted at times, like her mind was elsewhere, thinking about another time and place. She always came back to reality, but now she was back to thinking about something else. “Sometimes. It’s not like I want to, but thoughts about her pass through my mind.”
“Like what?” He shifted uncomfortably, scratching his head. “Before, when it was still fresh in my mind,” He started, referring to the divorce as ‘it’, “All I could think about was what she did, and why. Or if any of it was my fault. It takes two to tango, right? We both said ‘I do’; I thought she’d be the lady I’d stay with till I died. It didn’t work out like that. Now, I don’t think too much about it, unless I’m alone and thinking.” Now he was looking straight at her, still seeing that weird look in her eyes. “I don’t mean to bug you, but what’s wrong? You’ve been distracted since I got here.” “Like I said, it’s nothing,” She said, eyes darting away. “No, I think it’s something alright. Can you tell me about it? Whatever it is, it’s bothering you.”

Her eyes closed, as she sighed. When she opened them again, he was still looking at her with concern. Her hand was in his, with his thumb tracing small circles in her palm. “Before you got here, I got a phone call from him,” She finally said, her voice quiet. He frowned, cocking an eyebrow. “What did he say?” “He wanted to say he was sorry, even though I can’t count the number of times he broke my heart. He wanted to act like the years we’ve been together never happened and to just start over. He’s still living in the past,” She said, voice shaking slightly. The look of hurt in her eyes was plain to see now. “I don’t what it is, but I’m remembering it all when all I want to do is forget. I’m reminded that I’m insecure and broken, and I hate it.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. She hugged her knees, eyes shut.

 

He didn’t say anything, only moving closer to her so he could put an arm around her. She didn’t protest, instead leaning into it. He reached for one of her hands, taking it in his like he did before. "I know it’s hard to forget. It’s hard to forget someone who treats you like dirt and makes you feel like it. It’s hard to forget the arguments, the slamming doors, or how many times they broke your heart. But he isn’t here. He won’t come near here, I’ll make sure of that if that’s what you want,” He said softly in her ear. The look she gave him, tears in the corners of her eyes, was a mix of disbelief and wariness. “I know it’s hard to trust anyone after someone put you through all of that, but I want you to trust me. I’m not lying when I say I want to be with you. I was lonely before. I was thinking about her. But what I feel when I’m with you, well, I haven’t felt like this in a long time. I want you to feel that way too. I want to help you leave it all behind, so you can be happy.” His hand left hers and went to her face, wiping a stray tear away with his thumb. She shivered at the contact, but the gesture was calming. Gwen closed her eyes briefly. There was something about this man that felt unreal. It felt too good to be true, but when she opened her eyes again to meet his steady gaze, there was just the sincere look of a man wanting to help. He was telling no lies. Slowly, her breathing steadied, a sense of calm coming over her. She leaned her head on his shoulder, as her arms went around him, holding on to him. “Thank you,” Gwen said quietly, looking up with a small smile on her face. He returned the smile, before kissing the top of her head. This made her smile widen, and she nuzzled up closer to him. He glanced at the T.V, with the movie still playing. His grin widened when he remembered what scene was coming up. “This part is pretty funny. I think you’ll like it.”

 

He couldn’t get the image of her looking broken out of his head, even by the time the movie ended. He also did not want this night to end, even though a quick glance at the clock told him it was late. “So, I guess this is goodnight?” She stood up, a wistful look in her eyes. “You know, it doesn’t have to be.” An idea popped into his head. It wasn’t anything specific, but it was still an idea. “What do you mean?” “Come on, I’ll show you.” He offered his hand, which she took, looking at him curiously. He took her by the hand and led her out the door, to his truck. “What exactly do you have in mind?” She asked, as he opened the door for her. “Wherever you want to go, we’ll go there,” He said as he closed the door, still grinning. His grin was contagious. “So if I said I wanted to go across the country, we’d do it?” “I’d probably pack a few things and check to see if I had enough money first, but sure. I’m always up for a road trip.” She shook her head, laughing. “You really are something, aren’t you?” He looked over at her, shrugging. “So, where do you wanna go?” It was her turn to shrug, grinning. “Surprise me.”

 

“This night went better than expected,” Blake said, as he went around the front of his truck and helped her out. It was a nice night out in the city. Driving and walking around, laughing and talking. All night, a few heads turned when she walked by, looking her up and down, but they quickly looked away once they saw him with her. It made him grin, further reminding him that he was a lucky man. “I didn’t mean to keep you out so late. Sorry about that," He said sheepishly. She smiled. “You don’t have to apologize. I think I’ve made it clear that I liked tonight.” She had a point; just seeing her smile, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that she was crying earlier. You would only be able to tell that she had a good time. He returned her smile. “Good,” He said, before putting an arm around her, pulling her close.
They finally reached her door. “Well, here we are. You know, maybe we can do something again, or, I dunno, whatever you want to do, I’ll be fine with. But I, I’d just really like to spend time with you again.” He looked at her hopefully. “I’d like that. A lot, actually,” She said shyly, his arm still around her. “I can’t do tomorrow though. I’m visiting my brother.” “Oh, that’s fine,” He said, but couldn’t help feeling disappointed for a split second. “I got your number, and I think you got mine. I’ll call you, and we can figure out a time. Sounds good?” She nodded, and realized she had been staring. He realized too, and frowned and brought a hand up to his face. “Is there something on my face?” She turned red, and laughed. “No, there’s nothing on your face.” Except those ocean blue eyes and those dimples of his. And that beard that made her wonder what it would feel like against her skin.
 “You’re still staring,” He chuckled, a glint of amusement in his eyes, “I didn’t know I was that good looking.”  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare,” She said quickly, looking away, an embarrassed smile on her face. “I don’t mind, really. To be honest, I sometimes catch myself staring at you, so we’re even.” He winked, before pulling her into hug. It was a tight hug, but she still felt comfortable in his arms and liked the feeling.  

 

“Goodnight, darling.” He untangled himself from her, pausing for a second to just take her in. He wanted to memorize every detail of her face. Her dark brown eyes, her red wine lips, blonde hair, let down. It framed her face nicely. Their faces were inches from each other, eyes connected. It was like that night at the bar, when they were dancing. That time, he ran away, afraid. But here he was, leaning in and pressing his lips against hers. She seemed startled for a second, before melting into it. His hands went to her waist, while hers went to his shoulders and around his neck. It was a simple kiss, and only lasted for a bit, but it felt like it lasted longer.

They pulled apart, and stood there, gazing at each other. “We should do that more often,” She sighed, a dreamy look in her eyes. “I’m all in favor of that idea. I liked kissing you goodnight,” He replied, smiling like a Cheshire cat, “Helps that you’re always stunning.” This made her look down and grin, embarrassed. “You’re also cute when you’re embarrassed.” He might have gone on longer, but even he knew that 1 am was a good stopping point.
“I don’t want to keep you up any longer,” He remarked, “I better start heading off now.” He kissed her cheek, before turning around. "Oh, alright. Call me soon, okay?” She called out, as he started heading to his truck. “I will, I promise!” He yelled back. She watched him pulled out her driveway, and didn’t go inside until she couldn’t see his headlights anymore. Gwen smiled to herself.
“How did I get so lucky?”