Finding Perseverance(98)

By: T. E. Black

His breaths are labored as he closes his eyes for a moment. When he opens them, a fire burns in his irises. It’s obvious he’s pissed, but guess what? So am I.

“You drive me insane! I swear, I’m going to be committed to an institution before I hit forty.”

“Likewise,” I clip, harshly.

“What do you want from me? Please tell me, because I can’t keep up with your moods anymore. I love you. I’ve told you time and time again that you are what I want! Why can’t you trust me?”

“Excuse me?” I question, baffled. “Trust?” I point my finger at my chest. “I’m sorry. I trust actions, Rook. People can say whatever they want, but when Luke asked if you were coming back, you didn’t tell him no. You told him, and I quote, ‘we’ll talk about it.’”

His face softens at my words. “Leigh, I told him that so I could talk to you about it first. I wasn’t going to make that choice without you. That’s what couples do, they talk about things before making decisions.”

Isn’t that what I had thought he meant? My anger cools a bit, but I still can’t quite let it go. “Fine. You want to talk about it. Let’s talk.” I cross my arms over my chest. “The way I see it is—if you want to leave, then leave. If you want to stay, then stay.”

The moment the words leave my mouth, I regret them.

Why do I have to be such a bitch?

Because I’m still scared he will end up hating me if I ask him to stay, that’s why.

Rook strides toward me, only stopping when he’s close enough for me to touch.

“Do you want me to stay?” He strings the question out as if he’s strumming an acoustic, long and slow and deep, coaxing me to be truthful.

A lump forms in my throat as I stare into his beautiful, green eyes. Reflected back at me is a woman I hardly recognize. The woman mimicking my movements looks nothing like she should. She’s jaded. She looks used, sad, and angry for no goddamn reason.

She looks selfish.

I hate her.

“Answer me. Look me in the eyes and say it, Leigh. Tell me you want me to stay here with you. Tell me you love me. Tell me not to go.”

Sweat beads on the back of my neck, sending a freezing chill through my entire body. This moment is all I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been debating the answer to his question since the moment Sarah lead me out the back door of the bar to where he was waiting. The weight of the decision I knew I’d have to make has been crushing me.

If I tell him to stay, I know he will. I know he’ll take me right here on the table we stand by and tell his trainer and career to fuck off. Wouldn’t it be selfish to take away everything he’s worked for only so I can be happy?

Ten years ago, I made the decision to let him go. The only thing that has really changed between then and now is that now I’d be asking him to walk away from years of hard work. Back then, he wouldn’t have lost anything tangible.

I can’t ask him to leave it all behind.

He will hate me if I tell him that.

His walking away should be his choice.

Not mine.

My stomach rolls.

I can’t tell him to go.

I can’t tell him to stay.

I can’t choose.

I have to choose.

My time’s up.

“I can’t.”

Chapter Forty-Two


Being able to pack all my belongings into a tiny, black duffle never ceases to amaze me. It’s amazing how little someone can actually live on when they don’t have a choice. I came here with ten outfits, some basic toiletries, a phone, and a charger. I’m leaving with the same number of items in my bag but so much more inside of my heart.

This apartment, this bar, this town, this entire city has more memories for me than any place else ever will. But I can’t stay. I can’t bare to stay when I know how much it’ll hurt me. Even living in a city of thousands, I would still be too close to the one person who I can’t bear to be without.

I know she lied when she told me she couldn’t tell me to stay, but I didn’t push her. She made a choice, and although it isn’t the one I want, I respect it.

It’s been two days since she told me she wanted me to leave for California. And, for two days I’ve been debating if I should listen to her. I know Ryleigh O’Donnell like the back of my hand, though. Asking her the same question six times over would have given me the same answer. She would’ve stood firm on her choice, because, for whatever reason, she probably thinks she’s doing me a favor by setting me free. She’s incredibly wrong.