It was unexpected, baby, but it was fate. It’s our unexpected fate, and I have no doubt in my mind that this happened at the perfect time, for us, even if it sucks knowing I won’t hold you in my arms for a while, I’ll carry the memories of last night with me every second of every day that I’m gone. And when I come home, I’m not sure I’ll ever let go of you.
Danielle Reid, you’ve burrowed your beautiful soul right into my heart.
Stay strong, my beautiful Dani-girl, and know that, wherever I am and wherever you are, I’ll be thinking about you. Know that, when I get home, there won’t be a second that passes that I don’t show you just how much you mean to me. I was a fool to push this connection we have away for so long, and for that, I’m sorry, but now, it’s you and me against the world and there isn’t anything that could take that feeling away from us now.
Remember, I’ll see you soon—every time I close my eyes.
When I finish reading the letter, my eyes are wet with tears, but this time, they’re tears of acceptance that I can and will make it through Cohen’s deployment, and when he gets home, it’s going to be him and me against the world.
And I can’t freaking wait.
Two months later
“DANI!” I HEAR LILA YELL up the stairs.
I smile to myself because I know what’s coming. The same thing that’s been happening every single Saturday at nine o’clock in the morning for the last two months.
I look at the red roses sitting on the corner of my desk and smile. I do the same when I pass the dozen on my nightstand, and then again when I reach the end of the hallway and see the other dozen that will be replaced today on the accent table right before the stairs.
For the last two months, like clockwork, I’ve gotten a delivery of a dozen red roses. There’s never a card, but I don’t need one. There is only one person who would send me such an extravagant gift every week. When the first delivery showed up, it was the morning after I had read Cohen’s letter, and it was the fortification I’d needed. The girls didn’t say much—not at first. Then, when it was clear I wasn’t going to jump off the deep end, they took me off suicide watch and started in with the questions.
I told them what I could without giving them the intimate details of Cohen’s and my relationship. We were together and would remain together until he got home. I explained to them that I wasn’t going to mention it to anyone else past them and Lee. I didn’t want to rock the boat. They don’t understand or agree, but for now, they’ve left that alone. I think part of me is still worried that this is a dream. That Cohen will return and either change his mind or realize that it wasn’t what he thought he felt. But also, I am selfishly waiting until I have his strength by my side before I tell everyone else.
And by everyone else, I mean my father.
“I went ahead and signed for you. That delivery dude is creepy as hell.” Lila hands me the flowers with a roll of her eyes. “I swear my brother has gone soft,” she mumbles under her breath as she walks away.
“Where are you headed today?” I ask while taking a big whiff of the flowers.
“I picked up a Saturday class for some extra credits.”
“Damn, Lila! Aren’t you worried that you’re going to burn yourself out one of these days?” Flowers forgotten—well, almost forgotten—I look over at her with concern. She’s been going hard for so many years that I really never stopped to think that maybe she might be pushing herself a little too much. “What’s the rush, babe?”
“It’s just something I need to do, Dani. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. I just keep picturing all the kids that need my help and I don’t want to give them anything less than one hundred percent.”
I give her a smile before placing the flowers on the table just inside the entryway. Walking over to where she’s picking at her nail polish, I wrap my arms around her and give her a big squeeze.
“You’re going to be awesome, Lila. You would be awesome even without all these extra years of school, but with them, you’re going to be unstoppable.”
She smiles but doesn’t acknowledge my words. “Do you want to catch some breakfast before you head off to meet Lee?”
“I’d like that. I feel like all I’ve been doing lately is working. Ever since Devon had to rush back to Los Angeles and he left Don and Mark in charge, things have been a little intense.”
We walk down the hall and into the kitchen. Lila plops down on the barstool as I go straight to the fridge and start pulling out the ingredients I need to make French toast. Lila doesn’t cook—ever. Not unless we want to be vomiting for weeks. The last time she tried to cook dinner for the house—when we had the brilliant idea that we should do a rotation so one single person didn’t have to do all the cooking—she started a small grease fire, burned noodles, and made cheese toast without removing the plastic film over the slices.