A long time had passed since I ran into Matthew at The Brightmore. Jace and I had been spending a lot of time together. He became my protector, my best friend. He still didn't know my greatest secret...or so I thought. One morning, he told me he had a gig at The Brightmore and he wanted me to come and support him. I politely declined. I hadn't had another Matthew run in and I didn't want to push my luck by going to one of his old stomping grounds. Jace looked irritated. I knew he was angry because he always did everything I asked him to do but I couldn't do the same for him. "Why are you afraid you'll run into Matthew again?" he said bluntly.
My heart skipped a beat. So many emotions went through my body in just a few seconds. Shock, fear, worry, and anger. I stuck with anger. "How dare you assume you know anything about me," I yelled at him. "Oh like what? Your real name is Everly?" he pushed back.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I lied. Jace snickered. It wasn't light hearted. It was malevolent. "I'm not stupid. I've known since your reaction to him at The Brightmore. I told you I had a gig the next day but I actually went to the library and did some research on him. He has a wife who went MIA a few years back. I saw her pictures," he softened and briefly hesitated. "I'd know those blue eyes from anywhere," he said looking up at me.
"Just...stop!" I yelled. I would have to leave town. I wasn't safe here anymore. Jace had put the pieces together. It didn't make sense. Jace had known for months. Why didn't he bring it up before?
"Jace," I started slowly. "I'm going to pack my stuff and I'm going to leave town. I need to go say goodbye to my family. I haven't spoke with them since I left home. If you are going to tell Matthew, please give me a head start," I plead with him. "Lily!" he said, his voice filled with surprise. "You haven't talked to your family in years? Why? Is it because you are afraid of Matthew?" he questioned. I didn't answer, I just looked down. After a long pause I looked up at Jace. "You don't know what he's capable of. He will kill me. He will kill my family. He can never know about me."
Jace reached across the space between us and grabbed my hand. "Lily, I would never do anything to hurt you. I promise," he said softly. "Your secret is safe with me. You never have to worry about Matthew. I'll make sure he never hurts you or your family ever again." I began to cry. "Lily you have to talk to your family. They are probably worried sick. They'll forgive you but you have to give them a chance," Jace said sadly. "You don't know how lucky you are to have family," he said with his voice filled with remorse.
I spent the next few days terrified. I wanted to run but part of me believed Jace. He knew all that time and never told Matthew who I was. I thought about what Jace had said to me about my family. Would they forgive me? I guess there was only one way to find out. I went to the library to check my e-mail. Of course there were updates from Nancy and Kylie. I e-mailed Nancy first. It was quick. I told her I was okay and no longer with Matthew. I apologized for the way I treated her before my wedding and I promised more information in time. I sent Kylie the same e-mail. Within minutes I got a response from Kylie. It was frantic and desperate. She pleaded for more information and a chance to talk to me. I sighed and logged off the public computer. I still needed a little more time.
After the library I headed to the local market. I was so grateful for Jace and his advice that I wanted to get him something to show my appreciation. I had been working overtime at the bar so I had a little extra money in savings. I went in and made my purchase.
I had one more stop to make before I went home and with a heavy heart, I made my way to the Dance's house to visit with Leah. I pulled up to the pink house and rang the doorbell. Jennifer had informed me a few days ago that they would be moving to a new neighborhood. They promised to keep in touch but I knew I wouldn't be able to afford a visit for a long, long time. They wanted to get Leah out of the city and into a more suburban area.
Jennifer greeted me at the door and I immediately scooped up Leah into my arms. She had my blonde hair but she had Matthew's brown eyes. The shape of her face was so unlike mine. I looked at her and saw Matthew. My heart was filled with so much love. How could something so perfect come from something so ugly.
I played with Leah for a few hours, falling madly in love as the minutes ticked by.
I knew my time was limited so I snuggled with Leah, and to my surprise, she hugged me back. I felt sad for all the things I would miss in her life but I knew I had made the right choice. Leah was loved and she would grow up to be a happy, well adjusted little girl.
I said my goodbyes to Leah and Jennifer whisked her away to the nursery for her nap. I spent a few minutes talking to Jennifer and Matthew. With tears in our eyes, we said our goodbyes. Jennifer promised letters and pictures and I promised that I would visit as soon as I saved up the money. I left their home with a weird mixture of sadness and relief. I knew my daughter was in great hands.
I went home and found Jace in the living room. He had just finished working out. I tried to ignore the feelings I had as I looked at him in his athletic gear. Without a word, I handed him a box.
He looked at the box before ripping it open. "A guitar pick?" he said, obviously confused. "You know I get these for free at the bar," he said with a smile. I walked behind the couch and retrieved his real gift.
It was a used guitar I bought at the market. I saw the look of shock on his face as he picked up the instrument for the first time. Jace had been practicing at the bar because he couldn't afford his own guitar. Now he could practice wherever he wanted to.
"Thank you," was all he said, but it was all he needed to say. The look of joy on his face as he strummed a few notes on his new guitar was all I needed. I listened to him play a few songs in the living room. Everything felt so right...so perfect. I felt invulnerable. I guess that was my first mistake.