Releasing July 28, 2014
But today is a new beginning. Today is the day I will wake up with a renewed resolve and determination to do better … to be better … to be worthy. My name is Sara Preston, and this is my story about what happens after.
Hope Over Fear can be read as a stand alone novel.
“You Know Where I’m At” by Gavin DeGraw
“Sober” by Kelly Clarkson
I can’t steady the trembling of my hands. My insides shiver uncontrollably, and my heart hammers in my chest. A firing squad may be easier to face than what’s waiting for me behind my front door.
Walking slowly, I rub my sweaty palms on the legs of my skinny jeans. Taking a deep, cleansing breath, I try unsuccessfully to calm myself. “You can do this. He deserves an apology. You’ve made your bed, and now you must lay in it,” I whisper to myself.
I skittishly jump as he knocks on the door again. Out of time, I swing the door open before I have a chance to change my mind and pretend no one’s home. I’m done acting like a coward.
At first sight, Mason brings back old feelings that I have yet to deal with. His perfectly mussed blond hair and golden tan scream hot surfer boy. His navy blue shirt stretches tightly over his broad chest, and his worn blue jeans hang deliciously low on his hips. He still looks like my Mason, the beautiful man I’ve come to know and love.
Until I reach his eyes. The deep chocolate brown eyes that used to look at me with such love, hope for the future, and admiration have vanished. They’ve been replaced with cold, almost black eyes. Upon closer examination, there is one emotion apparent behind his icy stare … pain. Pain that is of my doing. Pain for which I must atone.
“Mason, thank you for stopping by. You look good,” I whisper, barely audible, even to myself.
“Hey Sara. I’d really appreciate it if we could make this quick. I have somewhere to be. You wanted to see me about …” Mason prompts, almost robotically.
I loathe myself for what we have become. This is the man who could finish my sentences; this is the man who I could have an entire conversation with and never utter a word. We were that couple.
Mason and I had been best friends for two years before our romantic relationship began, and we enjoyed the comfort those years of friendship afforded us. Most people begin relationships letting the other person meet their “representative.” You know what I mean—the perfect version of you. The “I don’t fart, I don’t burp, I’ll have the salad” version of you. Mason and I were the real deal from the jump.
Now, though, the ease and familiarity of our relationship has been reduced to uncomfortable murmurs and vacant eyes. I open the door wider and step aside to allow Mason entry, and he follows me into the living room. His familiar smell invades my senses as he brushes past. I have to swallow the lump in my throat at the memories it invokes. After sitting down on the sofa and protectively drawing a pillow into my stomach, my gaze shifts up to Mason shifting awkwardly across the room.
“Please, sit down, Mase. I promise, I just want to talk.”
He reluctantly strides over to the recliner and slumps into the seat. I have a speech all planned out in my head for this very conversation. I’ve recited it to myself hundreds of times over the past few months. Now that I have my chance to speak to Mason, my mind is completely blank.
“Well, I really, uh, want to clear the air … I mean apologize …” I stammer, almost incoherently.
Mason sighs loudly, grips the back of his neck, and shakes his head. “I really can’t imagine what could be left to say after what happened in Dallas. I don’t believe you left any room for confusion. Everything was crystal clear, Sara.”
“I would give anything to change that day, to go back in time and make a different choice. I’d give anything to take away the pain I’ve caused you. You were the center of my life for so long. You were my rock for so many years. And I feel like my actions have thrown poison on everything about us that was good and right, and I’m so… sorry, Mason,” I plead, a sob escaping.
Taking deep breaths, I try to steady myself. This is more difficult than I thought. I look into Mason’s eyes, and I’ll be damned if I don’t see sympathy radiating back at me. Guilt washes through my body as I register how kind and loving this man is. How dare I even ask for his forgiveness? I know I don’t deserve it, but I need it. To move forward with my life, his forgiveness is essential.
Mason leans forward in the recliner, placing his elbows on his knees, giving me a searching glance. “Look, Sara, I was angry at you for a long time after Dallas. Fuck, angry doesn’t even seem to come close to describing how I felt. I raged. I hated. And then things slowly began to change. Circumstances … changed. With time, I was able to gain a new perspective. I was able to lay that hate to rest. To look forward to the future. I needed to free myself from our past. You need to free yourself of it, too, Sara. I can finally forgive you. I can’t promise to forget, but I can forgive.”
After his words, Mason appears lighter … happier … free. I hope to feel the same someday, and I feel certain that today, this moment, is a positive step in that direction.
As relief washes through me, I can’t stop the words from pouring out of me, “Mason, I can’t tell you how much that means to me. My mom, our friends, your family—they can think whatever they want about me. But I can’t bear the thought of you hating me. It paralyzes me. I want so much for you to be happy. You deserve to—”
“Sara, please stop. I need to tell you something.”
Mason pauses, seeming unsure how to continue. His eyes cast downward, then he slowly lifts his gaze and meets my eyes. “I’ve been seeing someone. I hate to just blurt something like this out, but I thought it was important that you know …”
I do my best to play the gracious ex-girlfriend and plaster a smile on my face. “That’s so great, Mason. I hope she realizes—”
“I’m proposing to her this weekend. Please understand I’m not trying to hurt you, Sara. I’d rather you hear this from me. I feel like I owe you that,” Mason admits calmly.
I can’t quiet the humming in my ears. I can’t still the shaking in my gut. I can’t rid myself of the nausea that is threatening to engulf me. Is he still talking? As I digest his declaration, I’m not even aware of his presence.
You’ve got to get it together. This is what you want for him. This is what he deserves.
“How long have you been dating her?” I ask, attempting to hide my hurt and stunned expression.
Mason looks over at me with a goofy, lovesick smile on his face. “About six months. Her name is Natalie, and she works with me at the investment firm. We’ve been casual friends for a while now, but things just kind of progressed, and—”
“You’ve only been dating her for six months, Mase? Don’t you think that’s a little soon to be talking about marriage?” I blurt out before I can stop myself.
Mason is wearing an incredulous expression, and realization settles in my stomach. Who the fuck do I think I am to ask him those questions?
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked that. It was totally out of line. You don’t owe me any explanation. I’m so sorry …” I can’t seem to stop with the stammering.
“You’re right, I don’t owe you an explanation. But I’ll give you one anyway, just to alleviate any and all confusion,” Mason explains with a kind, but firm, expression on his face. “No, it’s not too soon. I knew within the first month of being with Natalie where we were headed. I didn’t have to convince her to love me. She just did. Do you know how fucking refreshing that was? To know that there’s someone in this world that adores me, to know that her day is better just because I’m part of it? Come to think of it, I guess you do know that feeling, don’t you, Sara?”
“This is happening. I don’t want to waste another minute of my life not being her husband to appease other people’s ideas on appropriate timelines. I hope that clears up the confusion and ends that line of questioning.”
Yep, I think I would like to take that firing squad right about now. His words cut right through me, because so much truth lies in them.
“You’re right, Mason. I didn’t mean to question your decisions. I’m so happy for you. You deserve great things … you deserve everything. You love with your whole heart, and I hope she knows how lucky she is,” I say, quickly correcting my error in judgment. “So how are you going to propose? Wait, no, please don’t tell me. That’s not something I need or want to hear.”
Mason gives me a sympathetic smile. He reaches over and gently squeezes my hand that is grasping my knee so tightly my knuckles are white.
“Thanks, Sara. When it comes to Nat, I have to admit that I’m the lucky one.” Mason begins to shift uncomfortably. “Look, I really need to get going. She’s meeting me for dinner downtown …”
“Of course, of course. I didn’t mean to keep you …”
I look into Mason’s now gentle brown eyes, and he smiles at me, standing to leave. “No worries … you know you deserve great things, too, right?”
The tears I have been fighting back are threatening to spill over, and I’m not sure how much more I can take. I nod and quietly walk Mason to the door, fighting for composure the entire way. I try my hardest to give Mason a winning smile. “Take care, Mason, and congratulations again …”
“You, too, Sara,” Mason says as he crosses the threshold. He hesitates for a brief moment, then turns to face me, “And by the way, we were gonna play Hangman.”
“That’s how I planned to propose to you … you know, before. Games and puzzles were kind of our thing.” Mason smirks, completely oblivious to the pain I feel at that statement.
“You know, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, you’ll always be my girl, Sara Marie Preston. You may not have turned out to be my forever, but you’re my girl just the same. Nothing changes that, okay?”
“Mason,” I whisper, completely lost for words.
Oh. My. God.
And with those parting words, he turns and walks to his car. He walks out of my life. I slowly, gently, close my front door. I lock the chain. I lock the deadbolt. I lock the doorknob. Then I slide down the wall, into a heap and allow the tears to overtake me. I allow myself to drown.
J.A. Derouen resides in South Louisiana where she lives with her husband, son (aptly nicknamed "The Professor"), and her furry friend, Scout. She has earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and nursing. When she's not writing or inhaling romance novels by the stack, she works as a women's health nurse. She’s been an avid reader and daydreamer since childhood, and she's never stopped turning the page to get to the next happily ever after.