The Layover Whitney G.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Copyright © 2016 by Whitney Gracia Williams. This title was previously published as “My Last Resolution: A Novella” Copyright © 2015 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior permission of the author. Cover design by Najla Qamber of Najla Qamber Designs
Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page The Layover Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 A Letter to the Reader A Sneak Peek of Reasonable Doubt
For Tamisha Draper. How you put up with me as your BFF I’ll never know... Thanks for keeping me in line (Or trying to...LOL)
Prologue Eleven. Not ten. Not twenty. Eleven. Ever since I was a little girl, my mom would force my sister and me to list our resolutions at the end of the year. She’d tell us to fold them up and carry them in our pockets as a reminder, and to make sure that the last one (“lucky number eleven”) was the most important one of all. I never understood the purpose behind those resolutions, and in the early years, I’d do it just to make her shut up. I’d write things like: “Stop telling Mom that she gets on my nerves.” “Learn how to dropkick the boy who always pops my bra straps.” “Steal better snacks from the cafeteria at lunchtime.” Yet, as the years passed and I entered high school, I started to take them a little more seriously: “Lose lots and lots of weight by the summer.” “Try to work on my writing every day.” “Stop trying to fit in so much and just be myself.” And I always looked forward to writing that number eleven. Although it was supposed to be a goal, mine was more like a dream: “Find a real life bad boy, make him fall in love with me, and live wild and carefree together for the rest of our lives.” Unfortunately, I didn’t find him in high school. That “lots and lots of weight” took way too long to lose, and the lames that came shortly after were only interested in having sex. Very, very bad sex. My real life bad boy stormed into my life during my senior year of college, in the form of a sweettalking, former womanizing, ultimate-alpha-male-sweetheart named Adrian Smith, III. After preventing me from nearly walking into a moving bus, he told me I was “the sexiest woman [he’d] ever seen,” and the rest was history. Our love affair was fast and frantic, uncontrollable and overwhelming; it was so reckless and volatile that it almost became an obsession. I fell in love with him after only a few weeks, but I knew he was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. He was my dream. My number eleven. After we graduated college—when things began to slow down and settle, we decided to stay together for the long haul. We had separate goals and aspirations, so we promised to strive for them while still hanging onto each other. Unfortunately, that’s where the nice version of my story ended. My life with Mr. Bad Boy became more of a tragedy than a love story. And at the end of last year, I did something I hadn’t done in years... I changed my number eleven.
Chapter 1 Fuck it. I can’t do this shit anymore... I roll over in bed and look at the man who’s sleeping next to me. My current boyfriend and winner of America’s Top Asshole Award: Adrian Smith, III. He’s honestly a vision—chestnut brown hair, perfectly chiseled jawline, and a smile that can charm any woman into doing whatever he wants. He’s gorgeous, even when he isn’t trying to be, but for the past few months (Okay, okay...years), I’ve hated the very sight of him. “Something wrong, Paris?” He opens his light brown eyes. “No.” “Are you sure?” No! “Yeah, I’m sure.” “Are you still upset with me about the grad school thing?” “Why would I be upset about the grad school thing?” I try my best to sound as nonchalant as possible. “Aw. Come here, babe...” He sits up and motions for me to lay against his chest, but I don’t move. I’m not interested in cuddling and I am beyond upset. “Okay...” He sighs. “I know you’re mad right now, but I think you’ll see where I’m coming from six months from now. I have your best interests at heart and you know it. I always do.” I tune him out and focus on the broken clock that stands across the room. I’ve heard this speech so many times that I can spit it out verbatim: “I know how much you sacrificed for me all those years and I appreciate it, but...” There’s always a “but”... “And that’s all I’m saying.” He leans over and kisses me once he finishes his speech, breaking me out of my thoughts. “Why aren’t you happy about getting engaged anymore? I haven’t seen you smiling in a while.” “I am happy about getting engaged.” I lie, wincing at the very thought of being married to him, of accepting the gaudy ring that’s sitting on top of our dresser. “Good. You should be even happier now that I’ll have bigger paychecks coming in. Soon, we won’t have to be like every other struggling couple.” “I can’t wait...” I suppress a major eye roll. On the surface, he and I have always been like “every other struggling couple”: Our apartment is sparse—decorated with only necessary furniture, our savings account holds less than five hundred dollars, and we’ve spent more time apart than we have together over the past three years. That’s all part of our promise though. At least it was... While I worked three jobs to put him through law school, he studied all day, every day, and eventually graduated at the top of his class. The day he received an offer from the top law firm in Nashville—three months ago actually, he was supposed to tell me that it was my turn. That it was my turn to go to graduate school, my turn to study and pursue my ambitions, while he supported me. But he didn’t. He didn’t say a word about it, and when I mentioned the old promise we’d made, he looked confused. He said that a “real writer doesn’t need to go to writing classes,” that he’d actually heard a famous writer
say those very words. He said the most successful writers “are the ones who write from real life experience and not from what they learn in some classroom.” It took controlling every muscle in my body not to lunge at him, so I resorted to doing the only thing I could do: Cry. I told him that I understood his thoughts, but I wanted to go to graduate school. I’d already been accepted to Vanderbilt and agreed to go. His response? Laughter. “Tell them that your future husband is a lawyer now and you don’t need them. Law school and writing school are two different things and you know it. One makes money and one doesn’t. That’s just how it is, but I still believe in your talent. Trust me, things will be much better for us this way.” Much better for us this way... Everything is always “much better for us this way.” His way. “You there, Paris?” He kisses my cheek, bringing me back to the present. “Can we go back to bed now?” “Yeah.” I force a smile and lie down, wondering how long it’ll take him to go to sleep. The second his soft snores begin, I slip out of bed and tiptoe into the bathroom. I look at myself in the mirror and flinch, knowing that the heavy bags under my eyes are from more than working late every day. Frowning, I unclip the photo that’s hanging on the wall. It’s always been my favorite picture of us: We’re laughing at each other in an onslaught of winter wind, smiling as our hair flies high above our heads. And in the background is the bus stop where we first met. This is the picture that I always pick up whenever I’m frustrated. It reminds me of the “us” that I remember, the “us” that I loved. I stare at it for a few more minutes, waiting for that flash of feeling—that “This is just a rough patch, it’ll get better” thought that’s supposed to click into my mind. It doesn’t. All I can think about is the fact that we haven’t had a two-sided conversation in years. We haven’t had sex in forever, and smiling? I honestly can’t remember the last time I smiled to myself, let alone with him. I place the picture where it belongs and look into our bedroom, making sure that Adrian is still sleeping. Then I decide to do something that I’ve dreamed about doing for years: Leave. I walk over to my closet and grab my largest purse, quietly stuffing it with whatever I can get my hands on. I make sure I have my wallet, my laptop, and my cell phone, and I rush out of our bedroom. The second I make it into the kitchen, I stop. I have no idea where I’m going. No idea what I’m doing. I consider saving my dramatic exit for another day, but my eyes catch the ivory invitation that’s hanging on our fridge:
You are cordially invited to the (Shhh! It’s a secret!) engagement party of Paris Weston & Adrian Smith, III. Cocktails will be served at 6 p.m. sharp, and the unsuspecting bride-to-be will arrive at 7 p.m.
My blood begins to boil. That damn engagement party is something I definitely don’t want to do—something I begged him not to do, but he’s done it anyway. And he told me all about the “big secret” weeks ago, telling me that I should, once again, trust him about this: “Just pretend that you don’t know anything about it when you walk in, okay? Oh, and make sure you smile really big. The ring is two carats, so that practically guarantees a smile from you. Could you also do a little gasp once you actually see the ring? I want all my colleagues to know that you’re impressed with my selection.” Enraged, I snatch that stupid paper from behind its magnet and rip it to fucking pieces. Then I calmly pick up each and every shred and throw them into the trash can. (Adrian is a neat freak...) Nonetheless, I quickly find my rage again and stor...