He looks like he wants to say more. His eyes dart back and forth between mine, and his hands tighten around my face. There's so much pain in his stare. Another loss for him. Another thing that's being taken from him and there's nothing he can do about it.
The words I yearn to hear don't materialize, and I'm left with a giant gaping hole in my heart. It's like the air has been sucked from my chest. I hurt all over, but it's not his fault. It's mine. I'm too weak to let go. Too weak to ignore Troy's threats and do what I feel is right.
What is right? Is it right for me to give up my future for this man?
I hate that I'm doing this to him. Our time together has been great, but I'm not ready to give up on my dreams. The city calls me, just like the farm calls him.
Ryder's hands fall off my face, and he bends down, picking up my phone off the floor. Handing it to me, he gives me an awkward smile. “Here. I'll help you finish packing.”
We pack the rest of my stuff in silence, and he brings the bag downstairs for me and puts it in the car.
Standing at the driver's side door, I say, “We can keep in touch, you know. It doesn't have to be like last time.”
Smiling with thin lips, he shakes his head. “We live different lives, Jenna. You and I both know that neither one of us wants to be let down waiting for a phone call that will never come. I've done that already. I can't do it again.” Stepping in closer, he pinches my chin and lifts my head higher. “At least we always have this, and that's better than nothing.”
Kissing me slow and soft, his hand glides up into my hair. He tilts my head so he can kiss me deeper. There's more to his kiss than just a simple goodbye. I can feel it. The sensation passes through my chest, and down into my belly. It spreads all through my muscles like an electric surge until I'm left breathless.
Pulling away, his hand untangles from my hair and he takes a long step back. “Good luck, Jenna. I hope it all works out.” Ryder turns, walking away with his head down.
Dropping into the front seat, I close the door. My hands are shaking as I grip the wheel, and the tears are pouring from my eyes.
I don't understand why this hurts so much, but it does. My heart feels like it's tearing in two. As if he drove his hand inside my chest and squeezed the life right out of me.
I don't have a choice. I can't lose everything.
Pulling out of the driveway, I look in the rear-view mirror one last time.
Ryder is in the background, his hands on his hips, watching me as I go.
“I'm sorry.” I speak the words out loud, but only I can hear them.
He's right, we are two different people. It was never meant to be.
I watch her pull away and my heart sinks instantly. It's literally hurting, breaking apart into a million pieces as she disappears from my life again. My stomach twists tight like corded rope. This isn't what I want at all.
I should have done more. I should have told her exactly how I feel. I'm a fucking idiot for thinking she'd ever want to stay on her own.
I'm a fucking mess.
She came back to me out of nowhere. An unexpected but welcome surprise, only to run away again for a life that isn't hers. Jenna isn't made for a world of concrete and lipstick. I just wish she could see in herself what I do.
A vehicle pulls in my driveway a few minutes after she's gone, but I don't wait outside to see who it is. I walk inside my house, pour myself a drink, and down it all in one swig. I'm tempted to pour another one, but it's only mid-day and I still have work to do.
Hopefully the alcohol dulls the pain a little.
Slamming the glass on the counter, I wipe my lips and let out a scratchy breath as the alcohol burns my throat on the way down. It warms me slightly, but it isn't enough to fully erase the serrated blade slicing through my chest.
My eyes shift to the window, watching the road and wishing to see her come back. It's a flightless wish. She's fallen victim to the world Troy has dangled in front of her face like a worm on a hook.
The fancy cars, the glamorous apartments, expensive clothes, and lord knows what else that he's given her over the years. It's all for show, none of that defines you or gives you true happiness. Like a peacock spreading its tail feathers, it's a superficial reality. It's not real, none of it is.