Chapter no 19

It Ends with us

“It’s been six weeks Mom, you gotta get over it.”

My mother sighs into the phone. “You’re my only daughter. I can’t help it if I’ve been dreaming about your wedding your whole life.”

She still hasn’t forgiven me, even though she was there. We called her right before Allysa booked our flights. We forced her out of bed, we forced Ryle’s parents out of bed, and then we forced them all on a midnight flight to Vegas. She didn’t try to talk me out of it because I’m sure she could tell that Ryle and I had made up our minds by the time she made it to the airport. But she hasn’t let me forget it. She’s been dreaming of a huge wedding and dress shopping and cake tasting since the day I was born.

I kick my feet up on the couch. “How about I make it up to you?” I say to her. “What if, whenever we decide to have a baby, I promise to do it the natural way and not buy one in Vegas?”

My mom laughs. Then she sighs. “As long as you give me grandchildren someday, I guess I can get over it.”

Ryle and I talked about kids on the flight to Vegas. I wanted to make sure that possibility was open for discussion in our future before I made a commitment to spend the rest of my life with him. He said it was definitely open for discussion. Then we cleared the air about a lot of other things that might cause problems down the road. I told him I wanted separate checking accounts, but since he makes more money than me, he has to buy me lots of presents all the time to keep me happy. He agreed. He made me promise him I’d never become vegan. That was a simple promise. I love cheese too much. I told him we had to start some kind of charity, or at least donate to the ones Marshall and Allysa like. He said he already does, and that made me want to marry him even sooner. He made me promise to vote. He said I was allowed to vote

Democratic, Republican, or Independent, as long as I made sure to vote. We shook on it.

By the time we landed in Vegas, we were completely on the same page.

I hear the front door unlocking so I flip onto my back. “Gotta go,” I say to my mother. “Ryle just got home.” He closes the door behind him and then I grin and say, “Wait. Let me rephrase that, Mom. My husband just got home.”

My mother laughs and tells me goodbye. I hang up with her and

toss my phone aside. I bring my arm up above my head and rest it lazily against the arm of the couch. Then I prop my leg over the back of it, letting my skirt slide down my thighs and pool at my waist. Ryle drags his eyes up my body, grinning as he makes his way over to me. He drops to his knees on the couch and slowly crawls up my body.

“How’s my wife?” he whispers, planting kisses all around my mouth. He presses himself between my legs and I let my head fall back as he kisses down my neck.

This is the life.

We both work almost every day. He works twice as many hours as I do and he only gets home before I’m in bed two or three nights a week. But the nights we actually do get to spend together, I tend to want him to spend those nights buried deep inside me.

He doesn’t complain.

He finds a spot on my neck and he claims it, kissing it so hard it hurts. “Ouch.”

He lowers himself on top of me and mutters into my neck. “I’m giving you a hickey. Don’t move.”

I laugh, but I let him. My hair is long enough that I can cover it, and I’ve never had a hickey before.

His lips remain in the same spot, sucking and kissing until I can no longer feel the sting. He’s pressed against me, bulging against his scrubs. I move my hands and shove his scrubs down far enough so that he can slide inside of me. He continues kissing my neck as he takes me right there on the couch.

• • •

He took a shower first, and as soon as he got out, I jumped in. I told him we needed to wash the smell of sex off of us before we had dinner with Allysa and Marshall.

Allysa is due in a few weeks, so she’s forcing as much couple time on us as she can. She’s worried we’ll stop coming to visit after the baby is born, which I know is ridiculous. The visits will just grow more frequent. I already love my niece more than any of them, anyway.

Okay, maybe not. But it’s close.

I try to avoid getting my hair wet as I rinse off, because we’re already running late. I grab my razor and press it under my arm when I hear a crash. I pause.

“Ryle?” Nothing.

I finish shaving and then wash the soap off. Another crash. What in the world is he doing?

I turn off the water and grab a towel, running it over myself. “Ryle!”

He still doesn’t respond. I pull my jeans on in a hurry and open the door as I’m pulling my shirt over my head. “Ryle?”

The nightstand by our bed is tipped over. I move to the living room and see him sitting on the edge of the couch, his head in one of his hands. He’s looking down at something in his other hand.

“What are you doing?”

He looks up at me and I don’t recognize his expression. I’m confused by what’s happening. I don’t know if he just got bad news or . . . Oh, God. Allysa.

“Ryle, you’re scaring me. What’s wrong?”

He holds up my phone and just looks at me like I should know what’s happening. When I shake my head in confusion, he holds up a piece of paper. “Funny thing,” he says, setting my phone on the coffee table in front of him. “I dropped your phone by accident. Cover pops off. I find this number hidden in the back of it.”

Oh, God. No, no, no.

He crumbles the number in his fist. “I thought, ‘Huh. That’s

weird. Lily doesn’t hide things from me.’ ” He stands up and picks up

my phone. “So I called it.” He tightens his fist around the phone. “He’s lucky I got his fucking voice mail.” He chunks my phone clear across the room and it crashes against the wall, shattering to the floor.

There’s a three-second pause where I think this could go one of two ways.

He’s going to leave me. Or he’s going to hurt me.

He runs a hand through his hair and walks straight for the door. He leaves.

“Ryle!” I yell.

Why did I never throw that number away?!

I open the door and run after him. He’s taking the stairs two at a time, and I finally reach him when he’s at the landing of the second floor. I shove myself in front of him and grab his shirt in my fists. “Ryle, please. Let me explain.”

He grabs my wrists and pushes me away from him.

• • •

“Be still.”

I feel his hands on me. Gentle. Steady.

Tears are flowing and for some reason, they sting. “Lily, be still. Please.”

His voice is soothing. My head hurts. “Ryle?” I try to open my eyes, but the light is too bright. I can feel a sting at the corner of my eye and I wince. I try to sit up, but I feel his hand press down on my shoulder.

“You have to be still until I’m finished, Lily.”

I open my eyes again and look up at the ceiling. It’s our bedroom ceiling. “Finished with what?” My mouth hurts when I speak, so I bring my hand up and cover it.

“You fell down the stairs,” he says. “You’re hurt.”

My eyes meet his. There’s concern in them, but also hurt. Anger. He’s feeling everything right now, and the only thing I feel is confused.

I close my eyes again and try to remember why he’s angry. Why he’s hurt.

My phone.

Atlas’s number. The stairwell.

I grabbed his shirt. He pushed me away.

“You fell down the stairs.” But I didn’t fall.

He pushed me. Again. That’s twice.

You pushed me, Ryle.

I can feel my whole body start to shake with the sobs. I have no idea how bad I’m hurt, but I don’t even care. No physical pain could even compare to what my heart is feeling in this moment. I start to slap at his hands, wanting him away from me. I feel him lift off the bed as I curl up into a ball.

I wait for him to try and soothe it out like he did the last time he hurt me, but it never comes. I hear him walking around our bedroom. I don’t know what he’s doing. I’m still crying when he kneels down in front of me.

“You might have a concussion,” he says, matter-of-fact. “You have a small cut on your lip. I just bandaged up the cut on your eye. You don’t need stitches.”

His voice is cold.

“Does it hurt anywhere else? Your arms? Legs?”

He sounds just like a doctor and nothing like a husband.

“You pushed me,” I say through tears. It’s all I can think or say or see.

“You fell,” he says calmly. “About five minutes ago. Right after I found out what a fucking liar I married.” He places something on my pillow next to me. “If you need anything, I’m sure you can call this number.”

I look at the crumpled up piece of paper by my head that holds Atlas’s phone number.

“Ryle,” I sob. What is happening?

I hear the front door slam.

My whole world comes crashing down around me.

“Ryle,” I whisper to no one. I cover my face with my hands and I cry harder than I’ve ever cried. I am destroyed.

Five minutes.

That’s all it takes to completely destroy a person.

• • •

A few minutes pass.

Ten, maybe?

I can’t stop crying. I still haven’t moved from the bed. I’m scared to look in the mirror. I’m just . . . scared.

I hear the front door open and slam shut again. Ryle appears in the doorway and I have no idea if I’m supposed to hate him.

Or be terrified of him. Or feel bad for him.

How can I be feeling all three?

He presses his forehead to our bedroom door and I watch as he hits his head against it. Once. Twice. Three times.

He turns and rushes at me, falling to his knees at the side of the bed. He grabs both of my hands and he squeezes them. “Lily,” he says, his whole face twisting in pain. “Please tell me it’s nothing.” He brings his hand to the side of my head and I can feel his hands shaking. “I can’t take this, I can’t.” He leans forward and presses his lips hard against my forehead, then rests his forehead against mine. “Please tell me you aren’t seeing him. Please.”

I’m not even sure I can tell him that because I don’t even want

to speak.

He stays pressed against me, his hand wrapped tightly in my hair. “It hurts so much, Lily. I love you so much.”

I shake my head, wanting the truth out of me so he’ll see what a huge mistake he just made. “I forgot his number was even there,” I say quietly. “The day after the fight in the restaurant . . . he came to the store. You can ask Allysa. He was only there for five minutes. He took my phone from me and he put his number inside of it, because he didn’t believe I was safe with you. I forgot it was there, Ryle. I’ve never even looked at it.”

He breathes out a shaky breath and begins nodding with relief. “You swear, Lily? You swear on our marriage and our lives and on everything that you are that you haven’t spoken to him since that day?” He pulls back so he can look me in the eyes.

“I swear, Ryle. You overreacted before giving me the chance to explain,” I say to him. “Now get the fuck out of my apartment.”

My words knock the breath from him. I see it happen. His back meets the wall behind him and he stares at me silently. In shock. “Lily,” he whispers. “You fell down the stairs.”

I can’t tell if he’s trying to convince me or himself. I calmly repeat myself. “Get out of my apartment.”

He remains frozen in place. I sit up on the bed. My hand immediately goes to the throbbing in my eye. He pushes himself up off the floor. When he takes a step forward, I scoot back on the bed.

“You’re hurt, Lily. I’m not leaving you alone.”

I grab one of my pillows and throw it at him, like it could actually do damage. “Get out!” I yell. He catches the pillow. I grab the other one and stand up on the bed and start swinging it at him as I scream, “Get out! Get out! Get out!”

I toss the pillow on the floor after the front door slams shut. I run to the living room and dead-bolt the door.

I run back to my bedroom and fall onto my bed. The same bed I share with my husband. The same bed he makes love to me on.

The same bed he lays me on when it’s time for him to clean up his messes.

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