Do YOU believe in fate?
This is a true love story; one I really wanted to tell. It’s a story about overcoming tragedy and circumstance. It’s about learning to heal through the heartache when you would rather hide from it. Sometimes you find yourself when you find each other. Lily and Cooper meet and nothing is ever the same.
Going Home Again
Sometimes people drift into our lives like a feather blowing in the wind, landing right in our laps. There’s really not a clear explanation for it other than maybe fate; at least that’s what my daddy used to say. He was always writing poetry and more often than not he would have that faraway look in his eyes, almost as if he’d discovered a secret but just couldn’t put it into words. I caught him staring out the kitchen window one night. He was still, almost too still, like he had gone someplace else, someplace in his memories. Some place I couldn’t go. It was a place that he only shared with my mother. I’d watched him from a distance, afraid to make a sound for fear that it would startle him. He deserved to be happy, even if it was only through imagined what-ifs. I was very careful not to disturb his happy place.
My daddy was my heart when I was growing up. I didn’t really remember my mother, she died was I was very young. I saw a woman in my dreams, though, with brown hair and brown eyes, like me, and she was always wearing a smile. I think it was a memory of my mom. It was what I liked to believe anyway. I was only three years old when she died. I know it was hard on my daddy. He truly loved her, and it was because of my daddy that I’d always held on to the idea of love. I mean, real, unconditional love. He still wrote my mother poems even though she had passed away twenty-three years before. I wanted a love like that. I wanted a love that completely transported me from my kitchen to wherever my love was, just by whispering their name over my lips or drinking in a sweet memory. I wanted it, but I was also scared to death to get it. That kind of love completely enveloped you and it was rare, so it also scared me to think sometimes that it could never happen to me. What a tragedy that would be. I just continued waiting, hoping, and praying that true love found me.
“Are you okay? You seem like you have a lot on your mind.”
My thoughts were interrupted by the kind older lady sitting next to me on the plane. I had barely noticed her at all since I apparently had been staring out the window since takeoff.
“Oh, yes, I’m fine. Thank you. I guess I do have a lot on my mind. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“It’s okay, dear, you weren’t being rude. I just wanted to make sure everything was all right with you.” She smiled warmly.
“Thank you, but I’m fine.” Her eyes were soft and a light blue. Her gray hair was fixed neatly in a bun. She wore glasses and seemed to be knitting a scarf, or maybe it was socks? No, wait, did people knit socks? Okay, so I couldn’t tell what she was knitting but it was nice having someone ask me if I was okay, even if it was a total stranger. But the truth was, I lied. I was not okay. I was dying inside, but I absolutely would not break down in front of a bunch of strangers. I’d wait until I got back home – my childhood home. I could fall apart there.
Ever since I got the call about my daddy’s accident, I found myself thinking about the things he used to say to me. I guess I’d been trying to bottle up my memories of him and keep them as fresh in my mind as possible, allowing myself to be consumed by his words, trying desperately to remember some the poems he used to write.
If you see her
Tell her we’re ok
Tell her she’s everything I am
She’s everything I say
If you see her
Tell her I’ll make her proud
Tell her I’m no longer lost
I’m no longer under a cloud
If you see her
Tell her she’s still mine
Tell her I’ll love her forever
And one day we’ll be better than fine
If you see her
Tell her that even though we are apart
Tell her I love her so
And that she is still my heart
I memorized it when I was very young. My daddy would say those words out loud like a prayer, kneeling beside the bed every night as far back as I could remember.
A bit of turbulence shook me out of my thoughts once again and the kind lady was still looking over at me. I casually looked out the window again. I was alone. I am alone.
Oh my God, I’ll be all alone from now on.
For some reason, I chose that moment to realize that I was absolutely and completely alone now. Tears began streaming down my face and I wiped my tears with my sleeve. Then, the kind lady offered me a tissue.
“Here, dear.” She patted me on my shoulder. “Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll be okay. Do you want to talk about it?”
I couldn’t hold it in anymore and words started pouring out of my mouth. “My daddy died in a car accident and I’m going home to bury him. He was my only family and I’m all alone.” I was sobbing now, and the fattest tears I’d ever cried streamed down my face almost like a faucet had been turned on with no way of shutting off.
“Oh, hon, I’m so sorry to hear that.” She pulled me over and held me, rubbing her hands up and down my back to try and comfort me. “There there, let it all out.” She even began moving in a sort of rocking motion.
I was trying to be so strong before, holding it all in until I could be alone. But I felt like my heart would burst and tears would spill over.
I cried on her shoulder for another minute or so, and then sat back up.
“I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean to do that. You don’t even know me.”
“It’s okay, dear. Really. I’m glad that I could be here for you. My name is Ms. Sophie. What’s yours?”
Sniffing, I said, “Lily. Lily Grayson.”
“Well we know each other now. Where are you from?” She was the grandmotherly type. She seemed so natural at caring about people.
“Why, we’re practically neighbors, hon. That’s where we live – or I guess I should say where I live. My husband died two years ago.” She looked sad for a brief moment, then perked back up. “I tell you, sweetheart, I believe it’s fate that we met on this plane. Do you believe in fate, Lily?”
“My daddy did.” I smiled faintly and was about to say something about me personally, not knowing if I believed in fate or not when she interrupted my thoughts.
“Seems like your daddy knew a thing or two.”
“Yes, ma’am, I suppose he did.” I decided I would just leave it at that.
“Where will you be staying?”
“Home. I mean the house I grew up in, for now. It’s really too big for just one person, but I haven’t decided what I plan to do with it.”
I still had a lot to sort out when I got back to town. I left my job in Colorado when that call came in. Nothing seemed important anymore. My corporate ladder climb to the top seemed so inconsequential suddenly, and all I wanted to do was go back home and be in the place that I had the fondest memories and be near my daddy. I needed to be near him and I didn’t feel like I could be near him if I stayed in Colorado. I walked right into Mr. Levin’s office and told him I had to go. He didn’t realize I meant permanently. I don’t really know myself if I even realized I meant permanently when I said it. The further I got away from my office, however, the more I realized I would not be going back.
“My daddy had always hoped that I would move back. I want to honor his wishes.”
“I’m giving you my number and I want you to call me when you get settled. I feel like we were meant to meet each other, Lily. I understand you have no family, so when you find out the funeral arrangements you call me. I would like to be there. Will you do that?”
“You’re so sweet, Ms. Sophie. Thank you. You really don’t have to—”
“Oh now stop. I want to. You seem like a sweet girl. Let me do this.”
She was looking at me in such a motherly way, I consented. “Okay.”
The plane landed and Ms. Sophie and I got off and waited for our luggage together at baggage claim.
“My grandson is picking me up. Let us give you a ride. It won’t be any trouble, and in fact, I won’t take no for an answer. You will come.” She smiled warmly, making it hard to refuse her kind offer. Normally, I would never do this – get into a car with strangers — but she didn’t feel like a stranger somehow.
“Thank you very much. You’ve been so kind to me. I want you to know I appreciate it.”
“I know you do, dear.”
It wasn’t long before her grandson pulled up to get us in a sporty little black car. I couldn’t really see him through the tinted windows. He got out and walked around behind the car to open the trunk, and I think my heart may have skipped a beat or two. I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone who looked like him. He was muscular, but not in a body builder kind of way, more like an athlete, lean. I could tell that by the t-shirt he was wearing and the way his muscles stretched taut behind the fabric. It hugged his body, almost revealing what was underneath. He had dark brown hair that had sort of a messy I don’t care look, but he could totally pull it off and still strangely look professional. His eyes were dark, and with his tanned skin, it was almost like looking at a work of art. His strong jaw and soft lips worked beautifully together to form the most amazing smile, showcasing one dimple on his left cheek. He was unbelievably gorgeous, and not in some Hollywood pretty boy sense, but in a real world masculine, boy next door sense.
“Cooper, this is Lily. We met on the plane and we got to talking. Turns out we live close to each other. I told her it wouldn’t be a problem if she rode with us and we could take her home.” She wasn’t asking, really, simply letting her grandson know what the new plan was going to be. Then she turned to me, “Lily, this is my grandson, Cooper Hudson.”
He looked at me and smiled. For a moment I thought I was standing in quicksand. I must have looked like an idiot just standing there staring.
Get a grip, Lil! I practically willed myself to step forward to say something, anything.
“Hello, (clearing my throat), it’s nice to meet you.” I flashed a weak smile and quickly looked away.
His smile transformed into a playful grin, perhaps amused by my reaction. “Hello, Lily. It’s nice to meet you too. You must have made a huge impression on my grandmother. She doesn’t normally give people she doesn’t know rides anywhere.”
He glanced over to his grandmother and gave her a quizzical look. She raised her eyebrow and shot him a look of her own. Obviously they had these non-verbal conversations mastered. I was starting to feel uncomfortable. There seemed to be an awkward silence between them, and I was thinking maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I started to ponder if I should go back inside and rent a car, but then Cooper moved towards me, grabbed my bags, and put them in the trunk.
After stowing our bags he looked at his grandmother and then shot a look over to me, “Ladies, shall we go?”
Cooper motioned for me to come to his side of the car, and after he moved the seat up, I climbed into the back seat.
“Do you have enough room back there?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you.”
Ms. Sophie got in the front passenger seat and closed the door, and then Cooper pushed his seat back and climbed in, readjusting his rearview mirror. I looked up and saw his eyes and quickly looked back down.
Crap! Why was I feeling so self-conscious around this man? Jeez. I could have sworn I heard him chuckling. Great, he’s laughing at me. That’s just icing on the cake.
On the way home I tried not making eye contact with Cooper’s reflection anymore. I started thinking about my daddy again and how empty the house was going to feel when I got there, and a lump in my throat started to form. I started to feel pressure on my chest again and before I could do anything about it tears pricked my eyes. I felt a single tear roll down my cheek. Trying not to turn into a bawl bag in front of people again, I quickly wiped my tear away.
“Lily, are you going to be okay by yourself tonight?” Ms. Sophie asked, seemingly genuinely concerned for me.
“Yes ma’am. I’ll be fine. Really.” I gave her a reassuring smile and she seemed to accept my answer.
“You have my number, so you call me if you need anything.”
“Thank you, but it won’t be necessary. I can do this.”
She looked at me in the warmest way possible. “I have no doubt in your ability to cope, but there is no point in doing something hard alone if you don’t have to.”
Cooper was quiet after he got in the car but I felt his eyes on me the whole time. The last thing I wanted to do was look up to verify my sixth sense, so I kept my head down unless I was speaking to Ms. Sophie. Other than Cooper asking me directions to my house, we really didn’t say anything to each other.
We pulled up into my old driveway and Cooper put the car in park and got out. He pushed the seat forward and extended his hand out to help me. The moment we touched I felt something. Call it an electrical current, a bolt, a surge of heat, a rush of charged particles— call it whatever you want, because it was all of those things— but it was something else too, something more. I tried to play it off and hoped he didn’t notice my odd reaction, but my immediate response was to pull away. I know that must have seemed odd, so I took his hand again and tried not to act like some stupid teenage girl. I prayed that I could just get inside the house without falling on my face. I was not having the best day. In fact, this entire week had been one giant nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from.
I climbed out of the car and he stared at me with a puzzled look. I sighed internally and walked towards the trunk so I could get my bags and they could be on their way. I’d inconvenienced them enough. He slowly followed me, popped the trunk, and carried my bags to the door, waiting for me to find the key my daddy always hid on the porch so I could let myself in.
Ms. Sophie called out to me from the car. “Remember, Lily, call me when you get settled.”
I gave her a nod and waved goodbye. I opened the front door and Cooper set my bags down inside the entryway.
“Thank you for the ride home and for your help, I… I appreciate it. You and your grandmother are very kind.” I forced myself to look him in the eye.
“You’re welcome, Lily. It was a pleasure.” His face was warm and his voice compassionate. He held out his hand again for me to shake and I panicked. Not wanting to seem rude I extended my hand out and shook his. Just like before, I felt it. That foreign feeling invaded my senses and was completely outside my realm of understanding, and it terrified me. He had a strange look on his face and I just wanted to disappear. I pulled away again and shoved my hands in my front pockets.
“Well, I’d best be going.” The look on his face was unreadable and I tried to imagine what he might have been thinking. He shoved his hands in his front pockets as well and walked back to his car, glancing back towards me before getting in. He paused for a few seconds, then climbed back into his car and they drove away.