Still Us

By: Lindsay Detwiler

What if the one you left behind won’t let go of your heart?

From the first time they locked eyes, Lila Morrow and Luke Bowman had a special spark. Their first kiss sealed their fairy-tale romance… until everything fell apart.

After their breakup, Lila moves back in with her family. The twenty-nine-year-old veterinarian’s transition to a life without Luke isn’t as easy as she expected. With the help of her wild Grandma Claire and her high-heel-loving sister, Maren, she starts to play the field… but she isn’t sure she’ll ever stop loving the curly-haired man from her early twenties.

Luke Bowman’s life began when he met Lila Morrow—and in many ways, it ended when she left him. Drowning in regrets, Luke is determined to give Lila the space to be happy. The sexy, singing roofer quickly realizes, however, he really shouldn’t have let her go.

Luke and Lila’s love story ended, and their individual boxes have been packed. But as they explore the single life and the dating world, both realize sometimes the love you leave behind is exactly what you need to be happy.






To anyone who has ever loved and lost

And to my husband, the love I never want to lose





Chapter One



Lila



As I stand in the barren kitchen, the dusty room screams at me of broken dreams, shattered promises, and final goodbyes. I let my fingers dance over the faux marble countertop one last time, thinking back to the first time I’d envisioned our lives melding together in this room.

On that day—a summer day, sun shining as if promising a fresh, new life—I’d ambled in on his arm, picturing all the Italian feasts, candlelit dinners, and takeout food we’d share in here. I’d touched the smooth countertop with my perfectly polished fingernails and felt the warmth we’d experience here, together.

We’ve had our dinners. We’ve made our memories and experienced the warmth. But now, this room has been sucked clean, a chilling quality left behind reminiscent of a mausoleum. Now, there’s nothing left but the lemon scent from our scouring efforts and the frosty feel of knowing it’s over. I’m not leaning on anyone’s arm. I’m standing here alone, biting at my chipped black nail polish. I wonder what the earlier version of me would have said if she could’ve seen this train wreck coming. I wonder if she’d have still smiled, still wrapped her arms around him, still whispered sweet nothings in his ear as he leaned her against their new faux marble countertop, as they prepared to move in and start a new life.

It doesn’t matter now. That girl, that couple, is long gone.

The wooden floor creaks under my feet as I make my way to the living room. My footsteps echo in a way that sounds unnatural, the emptiness of the rooms foreign to my ears. Glancing around, the bright rectangles on the faded walls remind me of where our memories used to hang. Now those photographs have been sealed away in boxes we’ll both remember but try so hard to forget.

What happened to us?

I traipse by the furrows in the carpet left from the plaid sofa I inherited in college. I pause, seeing him in the corner, still fiddling with the final box as if the layout of tools within their cardboard home is actually important.

As he silently repacks the box over and over, I can’t help but wonder if he’s stalling, like the sealing of the final box is a permanent admission we’re through.

But putting off the last box won’t put off the final parting. We’ve said our goodbyes over and over again. From the first box I loaded in the U-Haul to the dance over what mugs were whose, we’ve maneuvered the painful division performance. Piece by piece, we’ve unglued our papier-mâché lives back into a cryptic, individualized version of us.

We’ve reclaimed our furniture and rearranged our lives. There’s one final walkthrough with the landlord, a final division of our security deposit, and we’ll be loosed from one another for good.

Luke finally resigns from his task, pulling out the roll of tape.

“Shit,” he exclaims as he’s wrapped up by the cheap, sticky tape.

Instinctively, I cross the room to help him like I have so many times.

I hate the tension between us as I grab the roll, use my nail to pry the last end loose, and slap on the final nail in the proverbial coffin of our relationship.