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CHAPTER SEVEN

Isaac decided to spend the week with me while Taylor and Natalie were on their honeymoon, since he knew they wouldn't be working in the studio. I had already scheduled a trip up to Bloomington, Illinois to see my parents during that week, and Isaac decided he wanted to tag along, since he hadn't seen them in years. I called my mom to see if that was okay.

"Hello honey, how was the trip with the Hansons?"

"Fine Mom, just fine. I have so much to tell you! I'm still planning on driving up tomorrow, but I wanted to ask if I can bring a friend."

"A friend? Sure, honey. Is it Linda from school?"

"No, Mom, it's...it's a guy."

"A guy? A 'boyfriend' guy or a 'friend' guy?" she prodded.

"A...um, well, a 'boyfriend' guy, Mom."

"Ree! That's wonderful! Tell me all about him!"

"Well..." I looked at Isaac, wondering what I could or should tell Mom. He smiled and mouthed, "Tell her, it's okay." I continued, "Um, you know him."

"And?..."

"It's Isaac, Mom."

"Isaac? Walker and Diana's Isaac?"

"Yes, Mom." My family was one of the few that wouldn't go "THE Isaac Hanson?" instead.

"Isn't he a bit young for you?" I knew that was coming.

"Mom, he's 21, he's not too young for me. We're both past the age where that matters anymore. And Mom, I want to keep this quiet for a while, he's a celebrity, and I don't want this blown out of proportion. Only you, Dad and Mel can know, okay? Well, Mel knows already, you don't need to tell her...anyway, I'll see you tomorrow afternoon."

***

We pulled into the driveway. Isaac was visibly nervous the whole drive up; he'd been very quiet, hardly talking and barely singing along with the radio. He finally spoke as I turned the car off. "Are you sure about this, Ree? I mean, I was always the geeky kid next door. How are they going to take me as your boyfriend?"

"Isaac, you'll be fine. If they didn't like it, Mom would've said something right away, and Dad would've called me last night. And besides, I'm 26, I don't have to care what they think anymore."

***

After our dinner out with my mom and dad, we went back to their house. Mom whispered something to Dad as we walked into the house, he nodded, and Mom asked me to come into the living room. I could tell she wanted to talk to me about something; the formally-decorated living room in their house wasn't used for anything but social visits and family discussions. Dad and Isaac stayed inconspicuous, hiding in the family room watching television while Mom delivered a bombshell.

"Um...honey...I heard from Vanessa the other day," she said as she sat down on the loveseat.

I sat on the chair next to the loveseat. Vanessa was Jamie's mom. "Really? How is she?" I managed to say, a lump developing in my throat.

"She's fine, I suppose," she replied, not making eye contact with me. "Honey, please come sit next to me," she said, scooting over on the loveseat and patting the empty spot next to her, and I moved next to her. "Aria..." Oh shit, she's using my full name. "Aria...she hadn't wanted to tell you or us sooner, she didn't have the strength. About a week after Jamie died, he got a call from a jeweler," she said, stressing the final word in the sentence.

"Yeah?" I responded, not getting her.

"Honey..." She turned to me and took my hand. She always did that when she had something difficult to say. "Honey," she repeated, "they wanted him to pick up something he had bought...a ring. An engagement ring."

I'm not quite sure what I was feeling at that second. It felt like someone reached into my chest and simultaneously clawed at my stomach and my heart. I felt the chicken piccata from dinner churning in my stomach. And I couldn't cry. I didn't cry. At least right then. I did, however, feel that I had to say something, while all these old feelings about Jamie came flooding back.

But I didn't say anything, so Mom continued. "And...well...honey, Vanessa was just wondering what you would've said."

And at that time, I was, too. Mom didn't know much of what had happened between Jamie and me those last couple weeks before the accident, other than I had broken it off with him. I felt that she finally had a right to know. Without looking Mom in the eye, I spilled. "Mom...Jamie and I weren't on the best of terms then, you know that. We'd been fighting a lot, mostly about our future...mainly I wanted to settle down and he didn't. About a week before the accident, we had a huge fight, and I basically told him that if he didn't want to settle down, if he didn't know I was the one after four years together, that he didn't know if he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, that it was over." I felt like I was going to throw up.

Mom pressed. "I know, honey. But what would you have said if he had asked?"

I didn't know. I honestly didn't know. Why did Vanessa have to tell Mom about this, and why did Mom feel that she had to tell me? She was being so unfair...it had taken me several months to get past the whole thing...yes, we had broken up before he died, but I had invested over four years of my life in him, and I just couldn't shake that right away. I'd finally been able to get past Jamie...and the past week certainly had been an unexpected whirlwind of confusing, mixed emotions...and now a wrench was thrown into what little was left of my personal tranquility. That's when the tears began. "Mom...I told you, we'd broken up--" I sniffed gently.

"But he showed he wanted a committment," she replied sweetly. "Isn't that what you wanted?"

"At the time, yes...that's why I broke it off, an 'all-or-nothing' type of thing. But...oh God, Mom...I miss him." By now I was sobbing, and my mother was holding me tight as I stained her light blue blouse with my tears and mascara. "Mom, I'm so confused," I managed to say aloud after a few minutes.

"Honey, you can tell me."

I sat up straight and wiped my nose with the tissue Mom handed to me, anger just beginning to well up inside of me, and my thoughts becoming more random and incoherent. "I'd just put this whole thing with Jamie behind me, and now you throw this in my face, right when I'm just beginning what I think will be a very promising relationship with Isaac. And last night, something really bad popped into my head."

"What, honey?" she said, her arm still around me.

I started sniffling again. "You know how I say everything, good or bad, happens for a reason?"

"Mm-hmm?"

"Well..." I sniffed again. "Well...I...I thought that I was glad, just for a second, I thought that I was glad that Jamie was gone, because now I'm with Isaac. But...Mom, I don't know what I would've said. Maybe yes, maybe no, I don't know." I realized that, thinking back to the wet rag I was at that time, even after standing up to Jamie and kicking him out of my life, I still probably would have said yes...and that made me mad at myself. Rage soon took over the shock inside me, as I was crying so hard that I could barely get the words out as I took my anger out on Mom. "And why did you feel like you had to tell me about this now, or ever, for that matter?" I shouted as I stood up. "That is so not fair, Mom! I don't care if Vanessa told you, but you sure as hell didn't have to tell me, especially when I bring Isaac here as my goddamn boyfriend! It's just not fair--I know how much you and Dad liked Jamie, you've never made a secret of that. But why now, Mom? Why now?!" I shouted, throwing my fistful of snotty tissues at her and running upstairs to the guest room where Isaac and I had put our suitcases, slamming the door so hard a picture on the wall fell to the ground.


On to Chapter Eight
Back to Chapter Six


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