Camille was alone at a table for two, a perfect wooden square that set next to a window. The morning sun was pouring in, and as I approached, I noticed my soon-to-be sister-in-law was twisting a napkin in her tattooed fingers. When I took the seat across from her, she was still so worked up from whatever she was thinking about her attempted smile was crooked and pained.
“Hi, Abby,” she said, her voice sounding small.
Her head bobbed up and down in a quick motion. “Thanks for meeting me.”
“How did the doctor appointments go?”
She looked down at her hands, and put down the napkin when she realized it was nearly shredded. “Everything is healing. Trenton will have physical therapy for a while. He’s nervous he won’t be able to tattoo anyone again.”
“He didn’t break his hand,” I said.
“His wrist. A lot of his job is in the wrist.”
I frowned. “He will. What about you? How’s the head?”
She touched the angry dark red scar that ran along her hairline. “I still get headaches. Blurred vision sometimes. It’s okay, though.”
“I’m glad you’re both okay.”
“I know,” she began, hesitating. She picked up the napkin again, wringing it like it was her enemy. “I know you blame me. I can’t defend it, so I won’t. I’ve thought about the accident a hundred times and I would feel the same way you do. He’s already been in a horrible wreck with a previous girlfriend, and he was anxious about getting in a car with anyone else. So, naturally, when he gets in the car with me, I don’t stop; I don’t slow down or pull over; I keep driving—bawling, upset, and not giving the road my full attention.”
Her words caught me by surprise. It was like she’d read my mind, and that made me soften a bit. “Trent said no one could have missed the asshole who ran into you.”
“Trent says a lot of things,” Camille mumbled. She was touching one of her many tattoos Trenton had drawn on her. “My point is: I tell myself all those things, but I can’t take it back. I can’t blame you for being angry with me, because I’m angry with myself. But I can promise to be more careful and thoughtful, and to learn from my mistakes.”
Camille winced. “Wow, no wonder Travis married you. You don’t pull any punches, either.” I arched one eyebrow, and she wiggled like she was an ant under a microscope on a hot day. “What do you want me to say, Abby?”
“Are you still in love with him?”
“Yes.” A tiny gasp left her mouth, as if that wasn’t what she’d intended to say. “Abby,” she said, closing her eyes. “I love Trent. I’m in love with Trent, and I only want to be with Trent. Thomas and I are over.”
She frowned. “What if … what if Travis died?” I glared at her. She held up her hand. “Just hear me out. What if Travis died and years later, you came across someone who made you feel things you never thought you’d feel for anyone else but Travis? Maybe even stronger?”
“Right, but what if it wasn’t? That’s how I feel about Thomas and Trenton. Thomas is no longer in my life in that way, and he’ll never be, but I will always, always love him. When Trenton came around, I couldn’t not fall in love with him. Believe me. I tried.”
“So, you don’t want to be with Thomas?”
“What if Trenton hadn’t come into the picture?” I asked, crossing my arms on the table.
“Irrelevant, because he did.”
A waitress approached our table and sat down two waters. “Hi, I’m Shannon. Anything else to drink?”
“Coffee,” Camille and I said in unison.
“Easy enough,” Shannon said, turning for the kitchen.
“Camille, I want us to get along. I love Trenton, and he loves you, and that makes you family. I just…”
She looked disappointed, but not terribly surprised. “You don’t, and you can’t put your finger on it.”
“Well, maybe I’ll grow on you.”
“Surely. If Thomas and Trenton both fell in love with you, there must be something amazing in there somewhere.”
“Maybe I’m just spectacular in bed.”
I wrinkled my nose and she snickered, sitting back when the waitress brought our coffees.
Shannon pulled out a pad and pen. “Breakfast?”
“Pancakes,” I said, handing Shannon the menu. “Eggs over medium. No hash browns, or toast.”
Shannon nodded and then looked to Camille.
“Just bacon. Burned, please.”
“Done,” Shannon said, scribbling quickly before taking Camille’s menu. She turned on her heels, leaving us once again for the kitchen.
Camille poured half and half and sugar into her mug and then stirred, taking a small sip while looking out the window. She didn’t seem as upset as before. Not that we’d solved anything, but she obviously felt better talking about it.
“Here’s the thing, Cami,” I said. “If Travis did die—if I could fall in love again—the next man I fell in love with wouldn’t be his brother.”
“So, do you dislike me because I put Trent’s life in danger, because I was with Thomas, or both?”
“Both,” I said without hesitation.
Camille nodded. “Fair enough. But I can’t fix either of those things, Abby. Can’t you just be mad at me instead of disliking me?”
“I’ve tried,” I said. “I’ve also tried thinking it was because you’re the first girlfriend after me and I’m just not going to like any of you.”
Camille smiled. “So, you don’t like me, and I’m not special. You are a savage, Abby Abernathy.”
I grinned. “So I’ve been told.”
“What if I’d been first? What if Trenton and I were married, and you had just started dating Travis? What if I didn’t approve?”
I thought about her hypothetical question. My first inclination was to say I wouldn’t care, but that wasn’t true. I could ignore it, but not being liked by a wife already in the family—especially a new one—would bother me.
“What if,” she continued, “I held it against you for breaking Travis’s heart so many times, and for dating Parker when you knew he was in love with you—”
I pointed. “I didn’t know he was in love with me.”
“Bullshit. You are not stupid, so don’t pretend.”
“I thought I was a novelty. To be honest, I thought something was wrong with me. He actually told me once he didn’t want to sleep with me because he liked me too much. I was sure I’d been friend-zoned.”
Camille laughed. “I remember that. It would come to haunt him for months. But it all ended up perfect, right?”
I shrugged. “Pretty much.” I picked at my nails, sorting through my feelings. Camille made great points. She wasn’t half bad to chat with, but something was still bothering me. “Is there something you’re not telling me? Maybe something you haven’t told anyone, I don’t know. There is something that’s not sitting right with me, and I can’t shake it. If you’re not being completely honest with me, spill it, and we can start over.”
Camille’s eyes glossed over.
“Oh, shit,” I said. “What is it?”
“How? Are you psychic or something? I didn’t even know.”
I narrowed my eyes. “What aren’t you telling me? What aren’t you telling Trent?”
She leaned across the table, took my napkin, and held it to her face as she cried. “I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I, um … I was pregnant. The doctor said it was likely that I lost it during or just after the wreck. He gave me two choices: to wait for a natural miscarriage or a D and C.”
“What?” I asked, trying to process what she was saying. “You’re pregnant?”
“But it’s still … inside you?” I looked own at her stomach, unable to control the repulsed look on my face. I didn’t have kids and was an only child. The whole pregnancy thing was foreign to me.
“I had the D and C the first week of April,” Camille explained. “I haven’t told Trenton. He’s pissed about his appointment and how slow the healing process has been. I don’t want to put something else on his plate.”
“Cami, you can’t keep this from him.”
She shook her head. “I’m not telling him. He can’t do anything about it now.”
“You can grieve together.”
“I’m,” her bottom lip trembled, “I’m not grieving. I’m relieved. We’re in no position to have a baby.” She looked down, ashamed. “Maybe that’s what you’re sensing about me? That I’m selfish.”
I sat back in my seat. “Actually, you trying to carry this alone isn’t selfish at all. But it’s the wrong choice. You should tell him.”
Camille dabbed her eyes with my napkin, my attempt at understanding making her emotional. “I don’t want to see that kind of hurt in his eyes. You know how much he loves Olive. He will be such a good dad. But the worst part is, I’m afraid it will give him the idea that we should try again or something absolutely insane like that.”
“I don’t think he’s going to insist on impregnating you again right after finding out you’ve miscarried. So, you’re okay? No pain?”
“I’m still bleeding, but not as bad as before. It’s not something I’d ever want to experience again. Dr. Lee said there was a lot of blood, and I could develop scar tissue.”
“Ew,” I said, wrinkling my nose. “I’m sorry, the thought of you walking around with a dead baby inside of you is … icky.”
“Tell me about it,” Camille said. “And your compassion is about ten ticks too low. You should get that fixed.”
“God, I’m sorry. I’m … bad at this. Do you want a … a hug or something?”
Camille rolled her eyes. “No.”
I looked down at my hands, the guilt slowly settling in. She’d just told me she’d lost her and Trenton’s baby—my niece or nephew—and I was chatting with her about it as if it were something else to judge her for. “Camille … I don’t think it’s you that’s the problem. I think you said it earlier. I’ve done a lot of shitty things to Travis. Maybe I don’t want to be the only one. Maybe I need to focus on your failings so I can ignore my own.” The moment I said it out loud, the cloud of anger I felt toward Camille lifted. “How far along were you?”
“The doctor said six weeks at the time the baby stopped growing.” She breathed out a laugh. “That would mean I got pregnant the first time Trent and me were together.”
“You’re sure it wasn’t Thomas’s?”
That question stunned her, but she recovered quickly. “I’m sure. We haven’t been together since before Thanksgiving.”
“Pancakes with eggs over medium,” Shannon said, startling me. I sat back, realizing I’d been sitting so far forward my chest was touching the table. Shannon sat my plate in front of me, and then Camille’s. “Bacon … burned to a crisp.”
“Thank you,” Camille said, sniffing.
I carved my pancakes, and put a bite in my mouth. Camille just picked at her her crumbling bacon, touching tiny pieces on her finger to her tongue.
“What does that mean? About the scarring? Will that cause problems later?”
“I’m not sure, but you’re right. I should tell him. But, now he’ll be pissed that I didn’t right away.”
“Do it anyway,” I said. “Better to be late than not at all. And, Cami … I really am sorry. I know you guys weren’t ready, but that doesn’t make it any less sad.”
Camille took a bigger bite, and grinned while she chewed. “Thank you... Abby? Can we … can we start over? Can we just agree that we both messed up and probably don’t deserve the love we have, and agree to work our asses off to reverse that?”
“Oh, we deserve it. They’ve messed up, too. At least, Travis did. Plenty of times.”
Camille chuckled, taking another bite.
“Are you okay, though?” I asked. “ I mean really.”
“I’m okay,” she said with an appreciative grin. “This is exactly what I needed.”
I smiled back at her, for the first time feeling like we were on the same side. “Good. And,” I paused, making sure I meant it before speaking it aloud, “if you need someone to talk to after breaking the news to Trent, you can call me.”
“Really?” Camille said, her eyes glossing over again. She had friends, plenty more that she’d rather share this kind of thing with more than me. But, I was sure the gesture was making her emotional more than anything.
I nodded. The moment she’d told me her secret, the suspicion I’d felt vanished. I knew she was hiding something. Now that she’d come clean, that feeling I couldn’t shake was gone. Not many people would understand what it was like to be loved by a Maddox boy. We had to stick together. I shoveled another piece of pancake into my mouth, and smiled at my sister. We had a long life ahead of us. This was just the first day.
Thank you for reading Episode Thirteen of Endlessly Beautiful.
Some AWESOME, AMAZING NEWS: If you haven’t heard, Beautiful Burn has earned Romance of the Year from iBooks, and Kobo’s Best of the Year in Romance! To be chosen out of the hundreds of thousands of romance novels published in 2016, both indie and traditionally published, is an incredible honor!
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Sorry this episode was a bit late. We went out of town, and then decided to come home a day early. I thought all day today it was Wednesday, then when I realized I had a job to do, Babyspawn decided to poop all over the bathroom! #truestory
Hope you enjoyed this episode and you continue to read the continuation of Beautiful Disaster. I’m having a blast writing it!