Promise Me Ever After

Prologue - Georgie

 

Russ: Can we talk?

Russ: Are you at the apartment? I’ll come back.

Russ: You have to let me explain.

Russ: Georgie, it can’t end like this.

My phone sat on the coffee table, along with an almost empty packet of cigarettes, between a pile of wedding magazines and the notebook that held all the plans for the restaurant. I’d only just switched the thing back on and it bounced across the table, vibrating with messages - most of which were from Russ who I wanted to ignore - from what constituted one of the worst nights of my life.

Like fuck was I going to let him explain. Catching him balls deep in some random woman on the new sofa we’d chosen together was the only explanation I needed. We’d argued, shouted and sworn at each other until he’d finally left after I’d yelled at him I never wanted to see him again. He’d cheated on me and I wanted nothing more to do with him.

Pale morning sunlight streamed through the window catching facets of the tiny solitaire diamond on my engagement ring, which still lay under the sofa where I’d tossed it last night. Another painful reminder of what I’d come home to.

I stretched, my body cramped and aching from how I’d been curled up on the armchair for most of the night — no way in hell would I sit on the sofa after they’d done that there. Reaching for the pack of cigarettes, I lit up. If Russ was going to shit all over me, he’d have to live with the consequences, including the flat smelling of smoke. Blowing a cloud up into the air, my phone rang. Expecting to see Russ’s contact details pop up, when I saw my sister’s name instead, a wave of relief washed over me.

“Hey, Darcy.” I put her on speaker.

“Omigod, Georgie, I spoke to Mum and she told me what Russ had done. What a complete arsehole!”

When Mum had called me last night to tell me about Gran’s death, I’d had to confess what I’d found when I got back after work. She had already sensed something was wrong when I answered the phone. Crouched down on the little patch of grass outside the shop near our apartment, I’d sobbed my heart out as I told her the whole sordid story.

Queen of the understatement, my sister. “That’s one way to describe him.” I rubbed my eyes, swollen and puffy from spending much of the night crying all my tears alone in the dark.

“What are you going to do?” Darcy asked.

“I don’t know. He wants to talk, but I don’t see the point. If he can’t keep his dick in his boxers this early in our relationship, what’s he going to be like in the future?”

The silent comment of ‘I told you so’ hung in the air. When I’d announced to my family that Russ and I were getting married at the end of October after knowing each other for less than six months, an air of shock and surprise met the news. It had been a whirlwind, and I’d got totally caught up in the heady emotions and heart rush of a brand new relationship. We’d moved in with each other after three months, buying a swanky new pad near the harbour together. So even if we weren’t bound together by marriage, we were by a hefty mortgage.

“Are you going to go ahead with the wedding?”

“I can’t even bring myself to look at that prick again, let alone get married to him.”

My heart ached at the decision, but I knew it was the right one. I couldn’t trust Russ, even if he came back and begged to be given another chance. In my book, if he cheated once, he’d do it again. I wasn’t going to be the doormat who accepted it and turned a blind eye. Deep down, there was a part of me which was pleased to have discovered it now before I had committed myself to him.

Darcy let out a sympathetic sound. “Oh, Georgie. Why don’t you come and stay with us for a while? Get away from there and take some time to clear your head.”

I didn’t answer her immediately, taking a last drag on my cigarette and putting it out on the saucer that was filled with spent butts.

Because I wasn’t the only Cavanagh sister about to be married.

Darcy’s own wedding to her university sweetheart was in the first week of December, six weeks after mine would have taken place. She and Fraser had been planning for years — although I knew Darcy had been planning her special day since about the age of five. I’m sure she still had all her scrapbooks where she’d cut out images from the old wedding magazines our mum would bring home from the doctor’s surgery where she worked as a receptionist. She knew how much Darcy loved them.

Although we’d grown closer while we were both planning weddings, trying to out-Bridezilla each other at every step, going to stay with her and having their final preparations shoved in my face felt too much to bear right now. Plus, I didn’t need to face her and Mum’s accusations of too much too soon.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said, vaguely. “I know I don’t want to be here.”

“You know there’s a bed whenever you want it,” said Darcy. “And you’ll be coming for Gran’s funeral anyway.”

“That’s true.” Maybe I should give it some thought. It would certainly put some much needed breathing space between Russ and I.

“Sorry, Georgie, I have to go. I’ve got an appointment at Blossom to chat about their wedding package plans.”

Of course she did. This wouldn’t be the first reminder of how she was still getting married and I wasn’t. I screwed up my eyes, wishing the banging in my head would stop.

“Call me whenever you need to, sis. Remember I love you.”

“Love you too. Thanks, Darcy.” I ended the call, then looked at my phone screen where there were yet more messages from Russ. Without even bother to read their contents, I deleted them.

I rolled my head around, hearing my neck crack from being in such an uncomfortable position for so long. My gaze fell on the stack of wedding magazines. I wouldn’t be needing them any longer. Standing up, I went to clear them off the table and put them into the recycling bin, then had a better idea.

Slowly, deliberately, I tore page after page off the spines before ripping the smiling brides and grooms into the smallest pieces I could. Grabbing a handful of the shredded pages, I tossed it up as high as I could, watching as the paper fell through the air like confetti. It wasn’t long before the laminated wood flooring was cover in squares of paper.

A sense of numbing calm swept through me as I tore up the last page and threw it around like the others before it.

My hand closed around my notebook with all my plans for a restaurant.

Russ might have destroyed my heart, but I wasn’t going to let him destroy my dreams.

 

Two and a half weeks later, I hung out of the window of my sister’s spare room sneaking a cheeky cigarette, trying to gather my thoughts after Gran’s funeral. It had been a simple service at the local church, followed by a small gathering in one of the pubs she used to go to when she and Grandad were younger. Now they were both gone.

After the wake, Mum and Dad had come back to Darcy and Fraser’s for a family meal before I went back to Bristol in the morning.

Since I discovered Russ’s cheating behaviour, I’d thrown myself into work, taking on as many extra shifts as I could which meant I didn’t have to be at home. A few of my closest friends at the restaurant had taken pity on my situation and let me sofa surf. I’d been living out of a bag for so long, I almost couldn’t remember what it was like to have my own space and a wardrobe for my clothes.

Despite my initial reticence to spend time at Darcy’s, I’d actually enjoyed it, even helping out with the wedding planning. If I ignored the disapproving noises my mother had made every time there was a mention of Russ, then all had been fine.

“Georgie, dinner’s ready!” Darcy called up the stairs.

“Shit!” I hissed and dropped the cigarette, watching it float down and land harmlessly on their gravel driveway. I grabbed a mint from the packet on the bedside table and hurriedly sucked on it to try and lessen any evidence that I’d been smoking. Sure, I was a few weeks off thirty, but that didn’t mean my mum wouldn’t tell me off for a habit she disapproved of.

Mum, Dad, Darcy and Fraser were already seated at the table when I got to the dining room.

“Before we start eating, there’s something we wanted to tell you,” said Dad.

I frowned and sat down. That sounded serious, so I reached for my wine glass taking a hefty swig. Mum and Dad exchanged a glance and I had a hunch something huge was coming.

Dad rubbed a hand over his jaw. “Georgie, we were thinking of giving Gran’s house over to one of the holiday lettings companies.”

“That makes sense.” I nodded. “I think a few of the other houses along that street are holiday homes too.”

“Yes, they are. But—”

“Oh, for goodness sake, Howard. Don’t beat around the bush.” Mum took over. “We thought that you could have it instead. After everything you’ve been through with Russ, it could be a good way to make a fresh start.”

My hand froze in mid-air as I went to take another slug of wine. I blinked several times, trying to understand what she’d said. They were giving me a house?

“And I don’t know if you’d be interested, but I spotted a poster in the window of Anna’s Kitchen for a front of house manager.” Darcy said, casually reaching for her knife and fork, but avoiding making direct eye contact with me.

What the fuck? Had they all been in on this ‘Rescue Georgie’ plan?

“It’s be great to have you here,” added Fraser, as if my family hadn’t dropped two massive bombs on me in the space of about two minutes.

The table fell silent as we all focused on eating some of the spaghetti Bolognese Darcy had cooked.

While I chewed on the pasta, I thought about what I’d just been offered. A house—potentially rent free—and a possible new job. It wasn’t a wedding, a husband and a restaurant I could call my own, but it was a damn sight better than what I currently had.

Could moving to Ealynn Sands be the answer to all my problems?

It was certainly worth thinking about.