Page 84

The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:53:07

“I’ll stay,” he blurted and Savannah’s gaze flew to his, wide and surprised. “I don’t have to go back just yet. I’ll call.” He dug into his pocket for his phone but Savannah’s cool hand stopped him.

Stopped his heart, to be honest.

“Don’t, Matt. You have to go back, you’ve made promises. And if you broke those now you’d never forgive yourself.”

“Do you want me to leave?” he asked, shaken to the core.

“No!” she cried. “No, I don’t want you to leave, but I understand that you have to.”

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, relieved. “I’m sorry that I have to leave, that your mother showed up the way that she did, that Margot…” There was so much on her shoulders. So much pain. So much betrayal. “I don’t know how to make this right for you.”

“It’s not up to you to make this right,” she said. “It doesn’t actually have anything to do with you.”

Her words were a wrecking ball and anger slammed through him. “How can you say that?” he asked. “I love you. Everything that hurts you hurts me.”

She stared at him, her eyes wide as though she didn’t get it. Something awful was beginning to build inside of him. Not just doubt or anger, but something dark and big and worse than the building collapse. Like a poison, black and thick, reality crested.

“Do you love me, Savannah?”

She didn’t say anything for a long time then, as though it was a secret or something to be ashamed of, she whispered, “Yes.”

And he didn’t even feel joy over her admission, because he knew, looking at her, that she wished she didn’t love him.

“God, listen to you,” he said, wanting to laugh. Wanting, actually, to scream. “The only person on the planet who thinks love is bad.”

“It’s not bad,” she said. “It hurts. I know you don’t think you’ll hurt me, but you will. It’s what people do. It’s unavoidable.”

“Do you believe me when I say that I’ll be back?”

Savannah licked her lips, her shoulders straight. “I believe that right now you mean it.”

“I don’t know how to convince you,” he said. “What can I do?”

Savannah blinked and blinked again, silent and damning. She would never believe him. She would never be convinced of his love.

Suddenly it dawned on him, what the rest of his life would be like if he returned to her.

“Every day would be a test,” he said. “I could come back, move in. Start my life over with you. But it wouldn’t be enough, because every day you’d be expecting me to walk out. Every day I would have to prove myself to you.”

She looked down at her hands, and a big fat tear splotched across her knuckle. “Please come back,” she said. “Please. I will try, I really will. I will try to trust—”

He was overwhelmed by an anger and a heartache so big he almost collapsed under its weight. “No, Savannah,” he whispered. “I won’t. I can’t.”

Her eyes, blue and wounded, flew to his. “Wh-what?”

“I can’t give you faith,” he said. “I can’t make you have it, or force you to feel it. You’ve got to do that part on your own, Savannah. If you love me, really love me and want to spend your life with me the way I want to spend my life with you, you have to have faith in me. In you. Us. You have to come to me, otherwise we’re doomed.”

His hands fumbled as he pulled out his wallet, his fingers shook as he dug out a card. He took her hand, memorizing the fine long fingers, the calluses across her palm that she’d gotten working alongside him. He pressed the card into her palm then dropped her hand. Another minute and he wouldn’t go. Another second and he’d do this her way and they’d never have a chance.

“I’ll be waiting, Savannah,” he whispered.

And before he lost the strength to walk away, he left. He left his bag. His clothes. His heart. Everything.

He had his wallet, the keys to his car and the clothes on his back.