***Disclaimer: Lexi McCurdy is a guest post on A New Look On Books – click here to learn more about her – and has given permission to share her work of fiction, Roses, with viewers today as a Valentine’s Day special. ***
Roses by Lexi McCurdy
For the first time I was confident in myself. I was in love with Max and I wanted everyone to know it.
Four years together and yet it still felt brand new.
It was my 25th birthday, which we decided would also serve as an early Valentine’s day celebration too. Max brought pink roses this time. He knew I hated the color pink and yet he brought them anyways. He showed up while I was still getting ready, my dress wasn’t even zipped yet. He was all put together, that leather jacket, faded with time and love, pulled on over his dark gray button down shirt. His hair was slicked back behind his ears. It was almost to his shoulders now. God I loved and hated that hair.
It was perfect for our nights together. But sometimes I wanted him to cut it all off.
“Happy birthday my love,” Max’s deep voice made the fact that I was holding pink roses disappear. I smiled as he kissed me gently, pulling the door closed behind him.
I blushed as a shiver ran down my spine from the cold air that had made its way inside, “thanks Max. These are very… pink.”
I grimaced as he wiggled his eyebrows, “I know. You’re welcome.”
I rolled my eyes. He was cocky as always. Sometimes it was endearing, sometimes it was annoying. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it tonight seeing as it was my birthday and he should’ve gotten me flowers that were to my liking. I took them to the kitchen, my bare feet barely tapping against the floorboards as I walked. I felt Max’s eyes on my back as he followed me. I put the flowers in a vase that I had already filled with water.
“Well don’t just stand there. Be useful and zip me up,” I waved my hand over my head waiting for him to come and assist me.
Max snorted, but I heard his heavy footsteps make their way towards me. Then his cold fingers brushed against my back, “usually you’re begging me to take your dress off.”
Max’s lips pressed against my neck before I could even think of a response. I shivered against his touch. Four years together and he still gave me butterflies. My heartbeat picked up, my own hands started to shake as he kissed up my neck, his breath tickling my skin.
“If you want to take me out to dinner,” I could barely form a sentence as his hands touched my hips. The cold seeped through my dress, “we can’t get distracted.”
Max’s teeth grazed the skin on my shoulder. I had to bite my lip to suppress my moan, “what if I want to distract you?”
I giggled, “as much as I love you, as much as I love this, I am also starving and you promised me food.”
His nose pressed against my shoulder and his laugh hit my skin, “yes. Yes. Don’t worry, I’ve got an exciting night planned for after dinner. I know you, food always comes first.”
He winked and I couldn’t help but laugh. God if I could’ve froze that moment I would’ve lived in it forever. Me and him standing there in the kitchen, those stupid pink roses on the counter. I wish I would have let him distract me.
I wish we would’ve left that restaurant late, or taken a different way home. I wish I could have changed everything that had happened that night. But that’s the thing about wishing. No matter how hard you wish it will never come true. You can’t change the past, you can’t undo something that has already been done.
That’s probably the hardest thing I’ll ever have to accept. There was nothing I could’ve done. Nothing I could’ve changed. It all happened too fast. It all happened on time.
“Luca,” Max’s voice stopped me as I slipped on my shoes. He was smiling when I turned around and looked at him. He stood in the doorway, looking at me with those big puppy dog eyes. I let out a slow breath and I felt the air in the room change. I smiled back at him, “I wanted to give you your present now. Instead of at the restaurant.”
I raised an eyebrow, “okay?”
He cleared his throat and fiddled with his pocket, “I love you, Luca Malcolm. Even when you’re hard to love, there’s no one else I’d rather be with. I’d rather fight with you than get along with anyone else. And I know you’ve always said you’re happy with the way things are. But, well.”
He knelt down on one knee and my breath caught in my throat, my chest squeezed tight, “I don’t see or want a future without you, Luca. You’re my rock, my love, my life. Will you marry me?”
My eyes filled with tears as I covered my mouth with my hand, in shock. I never thought this moment would come, this moment would ever be real. And yet here was this man who I loved with all my heart proposing to me. I couldn’t believe it, and yet I couldn’t deny it either. I nodded my head slowly, my head taking a moment to catch up with my heart.
“Yes. Yes, oh my god. Yes I’ll marry you.”
His smile was blinding. I jumped into his arms as he stood up after pushing the beautiful vintage ring onto my left hand. It fit perfectly, as if he had been planning this whole thing for longer than today. I kissed him as his arms wrapped around me, my hands framing his face. I laughed, tears falling down my cheeks. I was happy. Happier than I had ever been.
“I love you,” I whispered, “so much, Max Moten.”
“I was,” he paused as I kissed his mouth, then his nose, then his cheek. His laugh vibrated through his chest into me, “going to wait for dinner. But then the light was there, the roses beside you. It just felt right, to do it here, in our home.”
I smiled, his arms tightening around me, “I love you. I can’t wait to be your wife.”
Max’s heartbeat mirrored mine as I pulled away. I brushed my nose against his as he slowly lowered me to the ground. Max kissed me hard once more before he pulled back and laced our fingers together. The perfect birthday. At least that’s how I thought I would remember it.
It was a dream I never knew I had come true. A dream that turned into a nightmare in the blink of an eye.
“We have to get going if we don’t want to be late,” Max’s dimple pressed against his chin as he continued to smile.
I sighed happily, my diamond ring sparkling as I grabbed my bag off the counter. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if I tried. I never thought I could be so happy, so in love with life. I went from a cold and bitter person, closed off and wishing love would never try to find me again. To finding a man who saw me. Who looked at me and for some reason thought I was worth all the trouble in the entire world.
I held Max’s hand as we drove down the quiet street, the sun already starting to set so early in the winter’s evening. There was snow on the ground, but it was warmer than a few nights ago. My birthday was weird that way, in the middle of winter. It could be snowing or it could be slightly warmer. Max drove slow, just to be safe, as we made our way to my favorite little italian restaurant in town.
Max spoiled me. He had a good job working with his friends. He told me he prefered to spend his money on me than spending it on himself, than spending it on anyone else. So he took me places, he showed me the world. He showed me what I never knew I could see. Places I never thought I could go.
I grew up with two little sisters and a father that checked out the moment our mother died. She died and we lost our money and our father lost his spirit. So Tessa took over, she took to providing for us, when it should’ve fallen to me. But I was selfish and I was cruel, so I did what I always did. I pushed my sister’s away. Because if my father could check out that easily, then so could they.
Max grew up without a family. His mother never knew his father, who left the moment the night was over. She abandoned him on the doorstep of a firehouse and he was floated from foster home to foster home until he was old enough to venture out on his own. Then he met his brothers, Adam and Ryan. Not brothers by blood but brothers by choice. He found a home for himself among the wreckage of his life.
Maybe that’s why we fit together. My family has been torn apart by grief, he never had a family to call his own. Maybe two broken souls finding each other is the perfect remedy to mend the hurt inside of us.
I leaned into his side, holding up my hand, “Max it’s beautiful. It’s perfect,” I whispered softly, “I love it. How did you find it?”
He kissed my other hand, the one holding his, “your sister helped me. We went to a lot of pawn shops, antique stores. We called out of state and even overseas. It took a lot of searching. Hell I’ve been looking for the past two years.”
My heart stopped, “what?”
Max laughed as he pulled into a parking spot, “I knew I wanted to marry you the moment you agreed to that first date. I didn’t want to scare you, so I waited. Then when Tessa told me your love of old things I started small. The stamped locket, those shoes you always wear. I knew then that I had to find the perfect ring. An old one, with a story to come with it.”
When he mentioned the locket I instinctively touched the pendant that never left my neck. It was stamped with a beautiful vine like pattern and inside were Max’s initials beside mine and the day we started dating officially. It was the sweetest thing I had ever received and I cherished it above everything else. If I had to take it off it never went far. I loved old things and Max had found the perfect old thing when he bought me this locket.
“No story will be as beautiful as that one,” I whispered softly, brushing my nose against his. I let out a breath and kissed him softly. He shut off the car and ran his fingers down my cheek.
“Lu. If you keep doing that we won’t make it inside,” he whispered, his eyes still closed as he nibbled my jaw.
I giggled, “maybe that’s my plan, sweetheart.”
“Hey that’s my line,” he opened his eyes and smiled, “don’t worry there will be plenty of time for that later. First I feed you. Then we dance. Then we go home,” he wiggled his eyebrows and opened his door. I never wanted this night to end. I never wanted to lose this moment, this feeling. I knew it was fleeting, I knew it would never last.
But for one night I knew what it felt like to fly. To fall in love all over again.
Somehow we got free wine with our food. Someone saw my ring and then we were telling the story of getting engaged. The wine poured and we drank more than we should have. We laughed and ate food, we talked to the people around us. Time seemed to be a figment of my imagination. Before I knew it Max took my hand, dragging me out onto the dance floor. He was steady on his feet, his hands solid on my waist. He pushed hair off my neck and leaned in to kiss me.
“You’re beautiful,” he whispered.
I didn’t have time to reply, to even thank him for the words that never seemed to lose any meaning whenever he whispered them to me. He spun me around quickly, making me giggle as he dipped me down. My cheeks were fMaxshed, but my heart was full. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders as the song changed and we danced slowly together.
“You’re sure you want to spend forever with me?” I asked as I took in a breath and steadied myself in his arms. His grip was loose but firm as he held my hips. I ran my fingers across his scalp. Max leaned in like a cat would when you scratched their ears.
He laughed, a sound I would spend forever trying to produce, “Yeah. I think I am.”
He leaned down and kissed me. I still had to stand on my tiptoes to reach his mouth. His arms were tight once they wound around my waist and I couldn’t help but remember all the moments he would pick me up and hold me close as he devoured me. God I loved this man. I would spend forever trying to understand what I did to deserve a love like him.
Max pulled back, something flashing in his hands. I watched as he brought it up and then his fingers pressed a flower in my hair, right behind my ear. I had no idea where he had gotten it, but it was a pink rose. Exactly like the ones he brought me. The stem scratched my skin as it situated itself behind my ear, “you’re beautiful, Luca. I don’t know how I got so Maxcky, but I did. I love you.”
I brushed my nose against his as I traced my fingers down his cheek, “yeah. I think I might just love you too.”
We swayed together as the wine coursed through our system. Max was warm, so was the air in the room. I smiled as I took in a deep breath, pulling myself closer. I laid my head on Max’s chest and closed my eyes, imagining the rest of our lives together. This moment was just the beginning. I could spend forever in his arms, in this moment. I was happy, safe, content, and in the love of my life’s arms. I felt his lips on the top of my head, it was sweeter than anything I had ever felt before.
And even though it was far too good to be true, I let myself believe that my happily ever after was finally coming true.
There was blood on my engagement ring. It’s the first thing I noticed as the lights brightened and the room became clear and my eyes adjusted to the hospital’s waiting room. Not only was there blood on my ring, but it was covering my hands too. There was blood all over me, my dress was ripped, my hair was a mess. I’m sure there was blood in there too.
My appearance was nothing compared to the mess of my emotions. The chaos inside of my head. In the ambulance they said I was in shock. I could barely tell them my name let alone look at anything other than Max laying there bleeding on their bed. My hands shook as I continued to stare down at them.
It wasn’t my blood, I was aware enough to know that. The blood that covered me was not my own, although it felt like it could be mine. It belonged to the one person who’s life meant more to me than my own. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to stop myself from replaying the accident yet again.
The waiting room was empty save for me. The quiet unsettled me as I sat there staring at the doors, waiting for them to open. I opened my eyes and looked at my hands yet again. The light cut across my ring, scattering patterns across the waiting room ceiling. No one was telling me anything, no one had come out from that back room in what felt like hours. I shivered, pulling the sleeves of Max’s leather jacket closer to me.
It still smelled like him. It smelled like home.
I didn’t like to cry. But my body was tired of fighting. Tears gathered in my eyes, my throat felt like it was made of glass. My fiance, my best friend, the love of my life, was on the other side of that door. And I had no idea if he would live or die. I had no idea what was happened to him.
All I knew was that when the ambulance arrived they took one look at him and I knew it wasn’t good. Their faces paled and they started to talk in numbers and riddles that meant nothing to me. I was assessed, but Max was the priority.
I looked at my left hand, trying to keep it together. I realized as I sat there that the ring had little roses on the side, outline in black with a little diamond in the middle. Roses. I couldn’t help but smile, even when he wasn’t, he was here. My throat closed up, Max was a pain in my ass. But he was my pain in the ass. He loved me, for some reason the roses on the side of this ring made it even more real.
When we first started dating he thought it was weird, the fact that I hated flowers as much as I did. Maybe that’s why he was so hell bent on bringing me roses. Because I wasn’t the kind of girl he usually dated. I didn’t want flowers or fancy dinners. I didn’t want to be spoiled with gifts every other day. I just wanted someone who would be there when he said he would. Someone who realized that when I pushed them away I really wanted them to force their way through my walls.
Max proved time and time again in the last four years he could be both. The guy who brought me flowers and the one who stayed even when I was convinced he would walk away. No matter how much we fought, we always found our way back to each other.
The first sob escaped my throat the moment the lobby doors slid open and my little sister walked in. She didn’t stop walking until she was right there in front of me. Tessa wrapped her arms around me as I finally fell apart.
“Luca we got here as soon as we could,” she hugged me tightly, then slid down so she was on her knees at my level. Her bMaxe eyes, the ones we both got from our mother, met mine. Her hands were warm against my knees.
I hiccuped, “I don’t know what’s happening. No one has told me anything.”
Ryan sighed, “okay, let me see what I can do.”
I nodded as Tessa stayed in front of me, trying to comfort me and yet give me space. Her hand brushed my ring and she smiled, “he finally did it.”
I couldn’t help but smile myself, “yeah. Before dinner. But then we were driving home and he swerved. I kissed him, we were happy and celebrating. I had a little too much wine and he was excited to get me home. There was ice and I shouldn’t have distracted him. The truck came out of nowhere,” I stopped as the memory played, I choked, “we spun, then the car flipped. They said I was Maxcky to get out without a scratch.”
Tessa slid into the seat beside me, “he’s strong,” she pushed my hair behind my ear, “he’ll find his way back to you, I know he will.”
I closed my eyes willing off the tears, but they wouldn’t stop. My little sister kept touching me and I wanted to scream, to tell her to stop. I didn’t want touched, I didn’t want to be here. I wanted this all to be a dream. But I knew it wasn’t and that made it worse.
“Are you sure you shouldn’t be back there getting checked out?”
I shook my head, something tickled my scalp, “no the paramedics said I was fine. Just superficial wounds, nothing major. I’m fine. They need to focus on him, on Max.”
A noise came from the back of Tessa’s throat, but I ignored it. I reached up to push my hair out of my face. That’s when I caught my finger on something. I pulled and then a rose fell from my ear into my lap. There was blood on the light pink petals, it was crushed. But even in the middle of all this chaos it had survived. My heart squeezed and the world tilted on itself.
It was as if a little piece of Max was here with me. His jacket. This rose. My ring. My heart hurt but I held onto the little shred of hope I had in my hands.
“Where did you get that?” Tessa’s voice cut through the humming inside my head.
“Max,” I lost air as I said his name.
He put it behind my ear while we were dancing what felt like hours ago. I could see it all happening as I sat there, my heart hurt. He told me I looked beautiful and that the pink matched my black dress. I told him he was full of shit, laughing as he spun me around. It felt like a lifetime ago, when we were celebrating our engagement. When life seemed like a dream instead of this nightmare.
But it had only been a few hours at best. Hours since we laughed and kissed. Hours since I knew what my future held. Now I had no idea what would happen when the doctors finally walked through those doors.
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to breathe as I pushed my arms through the sleeves of his leather jacket. He couldn’t be broken. He would be okay, they would fix him. People got into car accidents all the time. He would survive and we would live happily ever after. I refused to believe anything else.
“They said he’s in surgery,” Ryan broke the spell of the floor I had been focusing on to keep more tears from falling, “he’s pretty bad, Luca. Broken leg, a few broke ribs. Apparently he took most of the collision. He’s got swelling in his brain, which they’re concerned about..”
I bit my lip, “but is he going to be okay?”
“They aren’t sure yet. They said the doctor will find us when he’s out of surgery.”
I nodded, looking away as Ryan sat down beside his girlfriend and wrapped his arms around her. It wasn’t fair, that they got to lean on each other and I was left to wait to hear if my love, my life, would walk out of these doors again.
It felt like days later. The sun had set long ago, the cold was coming in through the sliding doors. We were the only people left in the waiting room, the quiet was even more unnerving than before. I could hear the ticking of the clock above us. The lights flickered every three minutes. Someone was tapping their foot on the tile floor. Tessa was falling asleep, her head on Ryan’s chest. I blew out a breath as the doors finally opened.
“You came in from the car accident?” The doctor asked, his eyes glancing over me. The blood all over me clearly gave him the answer before I could.
I stood up and met him halfway into the waiting room. Ryan was there beside me. I all but leaned on him for support. “Yes.”
He nodded, pulling off his hat, “okay well your boyfriend is Maxcky. He had a lot of bleeding but I believe I stopped all of it. There’s a lot of swelling in his head, but that will have to heal on it’s own while he’s sleeping. Now he’s got a broken rib, a fractured calf, a shattered ankle, and a sprained wrist. We’ve fixed everything we could in surgery and set him up in a few casts.”
“But he’s going to be okay?”
He nodded slowly, “Time will tell for sure. But he’s out of surgery and resting. You can go back and see him if you’d like.”
My chest expanded, as if knowing he was on the other side eased the pressure that had been building inside of it. I all but ran to the doors once the doctor told us which room he was in. Ryan and Tessa followed behind, letting me go into the room first.
I had known Max for a long time now. We had only been dating for four years but he had been in my life for longer than that. It took me a moment to process what I saw when I opened the door to his room. I had never seen him so vulnerable, I had never seen him so broken. He looked like a little boy laying on the bed, his leg elevated up in a cast.
“Maxc,” my voice broke as I took the chair beside his bed and took in a deep breath. I picked up his hand and kissed the back of it, “you scared me. You promised me forever, I’m holding you to that promise.”
Ryan let out a sigh as he came into the room and Tessa held him while he tried to hold himself together. I took in a deep breath as I watched them come around to the other side of the bed. I wanted to crawl in and curl up beside him. But there were so many casts, so much damage I didn’t want to hurt him. So I wrapped my arms around his forearm and kissed his shoulder.
I was ready to settle into this spot until he opened those brown eyes of his.Roses
It was the tenth of February and he brought not one, but a dozen, to my door. I always hated roses, but for some reason I loved the white ones in his hand. Whenever I think back, that’s how I see him. Standing there holding a dozen roses with a smile on his handsome face. I guess in my head he’ll never fade. Him standing there with those stupid roses. That crooked smile that pushed the dimple into his chin. The way he made my heart flutter. The fact that he knew he could make my knees weak by combining all the moves.
I still don’t know how he knew it was my birthday.
But nothing could wipe that smile from my face. The one he always knew how to bring forth.
It took him three months to break me. I have no idea how he did it. Maybe it was because he refused to take my no as an answer. Maybe it was because he wouldn’t stop coming around every time I thought I had finally gotten rid of him. Either way he managed to do what no one else had ever done. He won me. And once he broke me, I gave him everything.
Before I knew it four years flew by and I couldn’t see anyone else but him in my future. I didn’t want anyone else but him in my future.
Roses became our thing. He brought me roses and somehow the girl who once hated flowers fell in love with flowers from him. They made me feel classic. Max with his leather jacket over his button down shirt. Me with my sweetheart dress that made his eyes linger. God we were my idea of perfect.
It was amazing; while it lasted.
I never thought time would change, I never thought anything would happen to break us.