“No,” I murmured. “This can’t be happening.”
“I know it’s a setback, Marla,” Patrick tried to comfort me. “But like I said, it’ll work out perfectly in the end. That is, if you choose me.”
“Patrick, I love you and will choose you,” I whimpered. “But the fact that the other is Riley Block is terrible. About two years ago, he left me brokenhearted. Oh, that stupid anthology! And they couldn’t have thought of a better title!”
Patrick stood there, staring at me. I knew how stressed out he would be if I told him I had been in love before, and now I was feeling more tears in my eyes.
“You knew Riley?” he asked dryly.
“We were best friends,” I supplied. “Then I fell in love with him, but I love him platonically too. When I told him that I loved him, he totally panicked. On the first day of school last year, I tried to talk to him, but he blew me off. I’ve never talked to him since.”
“How do you feel about that?” Patrick seemed disappointed.
“For a few months last year, I was depressed. But then I started hanging out with Sophie a lot more, and everything in my life changed. Then I met you, and I couldn’t be happier.”
“Glad to here it,” Patrick made an attempt to smile. “But it will be more difficult because you do have an emotional attachment to Riley.”
“Patrick, I’m going to choose you!” I cried, throwing myself at him. “I love you. Sure, I loved Riley, but I don’t feel anything like that for anyone else but you. We’re forever.”
“The temptation will be strong, Marla,” he told me. “Are you sure you’ll choose me? Because if you don’t, I’ll have to die.”
“There’s no way I wouldn’t choose you,” I promised him. “And besides, Riley could have a change of heart and not kill you if I did choose him, which I won’t.”
“No such luck in that department,” George said all of a sudden. Patrick and I turned to look at him.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked, even more worried than I had been.
“In every evil family, there is a most evil member,” George began. “And Riley would be that one. If you chose him over my son, he’d kill him no matter what.”
“It would get worse than that, too,” Patrick added. “Riley will do whatever he can to get you alone and make you fall in love with him again. He’ll also do whatever is in his power to kill me.”
“But I won’t let him!” I broke down and sobbed. “You can’t die or even leave me! Do you have any idea how much of I mess I would be?”
“Yes,” Patrick whispered, taking me in his arms that I had already grown to feel so comfortable in. “Which is why we’re all going to fight together to stop this.”
“Get your mother, Kevin and Jessica in here,” George instructed Patrick. “They need to know about this just as much as you and Marla do.”
When he returned with the rest of his family, Patrick took my hand and squeezed it. “I won’t let anything happen to you,” he promised me. “And I won’t let anything happen to myself, either. We’ll both be safe.”
“Hope you’re right,” I sighed.
George told Vanessa, Kevin and Jessica about who the other boy was, and where he hailed from. He also told them that Riley and I had previously been best friends, and then I had fallen in love with him. When he informed them that we no longer spoke, Vanessa turned to me, worried yet sympathetic.
“If you spoke to him again, do you think your feelings would come back?” she asked quietly.
“I really don’t know,” I replied. “We haven’t spoken in a year. Patrick’s all I think about now, but I don’t know what tricks Riley might be thinking of.”
“They’re very good tricks for him,” George let me know. “But they’re terrible for us. Marla, you have to promise us you won’t fall for anything Riley does.”
“I promise you with everything I have,” I vowed. Then I turned to Patrick and looked directly into his dazzling blue eyes.
“You’re my everything, and I love you,” I said. “That’s why I’m not scared to risk you.”
“Someone just got a wave of confidence,” Patrick laughed. Then he turned serious again.
“Marla, you are my everything and I love you. I have no doubt in my mind that you and I will be together forever and that you will choose me over Riley Block.”
“I know I will. But now I’m just afraid of what’s going to happen when I don’t have you and Riley’s around. Does he know he’s in love with me yet?”
“Yes,” George clued me up. “Riley has been in love with you ever since the week after you stopped speaking to him. Of course, there was no reason to pursue you yet. Patrick hadn’t fallen in love with you, and you wouldn’t refuse him at the time. Now he’s older and more confident, and ready to kill.”
Patrick grabbed onto my arm and held me in place. “We won’t let him harm you or any of us, Marla,” he pledged. “No one boy, no matter how evil, is any match for a couple in love and people who love them.”
“You’re making me sound like such a hot commodity,” I tried to make a joke.
“That you are,” Patrick complimented me with a smile. “I’ve always known that.”
But even as Patrick pulled me in to kiss him, I couldn’t stop thinking about how truly evil Riley was. This wasn’t all in my head anymore. He was out to hurt people, and he was out to hurt me, even though he felt some type of sick, romantic feeling toward me. Now he hated Patrick more than anyone out there, and would do whatever it took to have him dead. Even if Riley did murder Patrick and he did wind up with me, would he forget about me and not love me anymore? Everything was so complicated and threatening, that I began to cry, even as Patrick’s lips were pressed to mine.
He pulled away instantly. “What’s wrong?”
“How on earth can you ask me that?” I hypothetically asked through my huge sobs. “Patrick, your life is at stake and you claim to love me more than anyone. Why the hell are you acting so cavalier when you could wind up dead if Riley Block gets his hands on you in the right way?”
All he did was push my hair back behind my right ear like he had just days before. “Because I have an incredible amount of faith in you, Marla,” he whispered to me.
“Good,” I tried to be cool, but it didn’t work out at all. “Now, I don’t want to worry about this anymore. I want everything to be fine, like you said it would be.”
He chuckled. “And it will be. Everything will be sorted out before you know it.”
“Come on, dear,” Vanessa instructed me. “You should get the chance to talk with a femme with experience in this area.”
For a second, I thought she was belittling Jessica, but I looked over at Kevin and her to realize that they were in a kiss almost as profound as my first with Patrick. Nothing could ever beat that one.
I followed Vanessa into the living room, which was normal compared to what I thought it would be. Originally, when I pictured Patrick’s house, I imagined some mansion like the Cullen place. Before all this happened, I used to have my nose stuck in a book much too often. I know better now.
“So, are you scared?” Vanessa asked me. Her eyes look sincere but immature, like I had more experience in a lot of areas than she did.
“Of course I am,” I replied seriously. “Patrick must have told you that I really love him, and I believe that he loves me just as much as I love him. A life without him would kill me.”
Vanessa grinned at me. “That’s the way I feel about George.”
Their age difference seemed puzzling to me, unless Vanessa just looked great for being in her early forties or late thirties. So, I figured that considering she was going to be my mother-in-law ten years from now or so if Patrick did indeed survive, I should probably ask.
“How much older is George than you? I mean, you look great, and he looks like the age I imagined him to be.”
She laughed a tittering chortle and kept a perpetual smile on her face. “George is about five and a half years older than I am. When he was about to turn thirteen, I was about to turn eight. Of course, since the age difference was so drastic between George and me, we didn’t start dating until I was eighteen.”
“And it why didn’t it matter because you were so much younger?”
Sounding exhausted, Vanessa laughed again. “Just when you thought the rules couldn’t get more complicated, eh? George fell in love with me when I was seven and a half, and you have to be at least nine to have another fall in love with you. I was saved, I guess. You, my dear, aren’t so lucky.”
“No.” I tried my best to be lighthearted, but it was impossible. I wanted Patrick. There wasn’t anyone else in my life I wanted to be around anymore. He was my love and my life and all that I needed. If he were gone, I would be under worse conditions than Bella was when Edward left in New Moon. There was always the possibility that Edward would come back for Bella. However, since Patrick’s life was on the line, there would be no hope for seeing him again.
“Marla, listen to me,” Vanessa said all of a sudden.
Obediently, almost against my will, I focused in on my boyfriend’s mother and her familiar dark blue eyes.
“If there’s one thing I know about my son,” she said in an almost sly tone, “it’s that he loves words. If you could get down some of your love for him on paper and have me give it to him, I can bet that he wouldn’t be able to contain his joy.”
Being a lover of words myself, I immediately got out a notebook and a pen from my purse made out of an old Beatles album cover. Like it had been rehearsed in my head, I started writing and didn’t look up until I was through.
Patrick, I love you. You have been the center of my thoughts since the second I realized how amazing you are. Believe me, I never thought I’d love someone so much and be loved by the person in return. I love you so much. Even though we’ve gotten into a bit of a mess, we’ll be fine. Things will work in your-our- favor, and we’ll be together forever. I love you. I love you. I love you. Riley means nothing to me, and no one seems to quite understand me the way you do. We’ll be safe together for the rest of our lives. I have complete faith in you. I love you.
Love always (how clear did I make it?), Marla
I folded the piece of paper in half, handed it to Vanessa, and felt completely whole and missing all at the same time.
I said, “Pinch me, where’s the couch this time, can’t find a single cloud in the sky, help me before I get used to this guy.”