How About No
Page 5

 Lani Lynn Vale

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At least then I wouldn’t have to feel like an awful person for leaving him.
Though my reasons were justified—at least to me—they weren’t to him.
Over the three weeks before my procedure, I’d spoken until I was blue in the face about not wanting to do it, about how I’d done it so many times before. All the while, he held strong.
He urged me to do it anyway. Just one more time.
Except, I knew it wouldn’t be one more time. It was never one more time.
I remembered Wade’s face as he looked at me for the first time after our divorce as if I’d betrayed him.
But he didn’t understand—and honestly, I don’t think he wanted to understand.
He always saw the good in people, and probably always would.
I slammed the door to my house—the one Wade ordered me to keep—and wished I’d never agreed to it.
He hadn’t wanted anything. Not a single thing.
Not the house we’d bought together, not the new car. Not the business we’d started or the money we’d managed to save over the time we were married.
Not a single thing but his clothes and his bike—which I couldn’t drive anyway, otherwise I was sure that he’d try to get me to take that, too.
Hell, he’d almost made me keep the dog, too.
And that one I had put my foot down on.
I would not take his dog.
I refused.
As much as I loved Butters, I would not take him away from the man who had been his human for five years before I’d come along.
Nope. No. Nuh-uh.
And when Butters had died just a short six weeks after we’d finalized our divorce, things had been pretty bad for a short time.
I’d gone to check on Wade multiple times, only to stop myself well before making it to his street.
He didn’t need me making things worse.
Hell, neither did I.
Each time I saw him, it only made me feel worse for leaving.
But, when I’d left home at the age of eighteen, I’d made a promise with myself.
I knew that if I didn’t start putting me first, I wouldn’t be on this Earth much longer.
I knew that I was going to fall apart just like I had at the age of seventeen.
I’d break hard, too, just like I had then.
Shortly after my seventeenth birthday, when I didn’t get a car like my sister had gotten on her seventeenth birthday, I realized that I never was meant to be anything but a means to an end for my family.
Hell, I would’ve been happy with a damn cupcake with a candle in it at that point.
And, I’d been so depressed that I had actually thought about committing suicide.
I hadn’t succeeded, obviously.
But that was only because of Kourt.
He’d found out about my attempt because I’d told him I was going to do it. He had stolen a wad of cash from his parents, as well as one of his parents’ cars, and had hauled ass my way.
Luckily, at the time, Kourt had been in his second year of medical school and had been able to get to me in time to talk me out of doing anything so permanent. From there, he’d stayed with me to make sure that I was okay, and a bond had formed.
One that, if I hadn’t had it, I only would have thought about doing it again.
My phone chimed with a text message, and I pulled it out of my purse, finding my first smile for the day.
Kourt: So, I almost got a ticket today.
I grinned and called him, knowing he only texted because he thought I was still at work. I wasn’t and hadn’t been for over half an hour.
“Oh, yeah? Almost? What were you doing?” I asked the moment he answered his phone.
“I was speeding.” He sounded tired. “And you’ll never guess what happened.”
I found myself grinning, though only partially. “You got a ticket?”
“No,” he answered. “I got a warning. From your ex-husband.”
My insides felt like they’d exploded as everything tightened at the mention of my ex.
“He only gave you a warning?” I asked in surprise.
“Yeah,” Kourt explained. “Can you believe it?”
“No,” I admitted. “Are you sure he didn’t give you a ticket and you just don’t realize it?”
He snorted. “I can clearly see what it says. WARNING is written at the top in big bold letters.” He paused. “My guess is that he gave me a warning because he didn’t want me to contest it and have to see me again in court.”
I snorted. “That sounds like Wade. He’s always put a lot of thought in everything he does.”
I missed him.
God, how I missed him.
“He looked like he’d rather kill me than hand me that warning.” Kourt laughed then. “I felt like throwing up. I seriously almost did when I saw it was him. I swear to God, Landry. He could totally kick my ass. Then he’d break my surgeon hands, and I wouldn’t be able to save lives!”
I rolled my eyes.
Kourt was, indeed, a surgeon. He was also a really good one who could’ve gone anywhere, but he came here to do his residency and I followed him. He had moved in with me when my house was more convenient than the apartment he was renting.
Why were we such good friends?
Because we were one and the same.
Kourt and I had both grown up in almost identical situations to each other. The only differences between our upbringing had been that he grew up in India while I grew up in Mexico. Kourt had gotten free a hell of a lot faster than I had, also.
Although that was due to his brother being born, who also happened to be a match for their eldest brother, who had leukemia. His parents were able to split the time in between both brothers.
Though, where Kourt and I had survived—barely—Kourt’s brother, Beaux, had not.
Kourt and Beaux had both been put through the same thing that I had been put through—multiple rounds of bone marrow donations attempting to save a sibling. However, where Kourt and I had been able to mentally handle the strain of the endless rounds of attempts to cure, Beaux had taken his own life rather than live the way he was forced to. I had Kourt to thank for being able to handle the stress.
Sadly, Kourt still felt a lot of guilt over it and would continue to for the rest of his life.
Where Lina had been a right bitch who had ultimately survived, Kourt’s brother, Monty, that he’d been donating to, had died a few weeks after his last bone marrow transplant. His body had rejected it, and that had been what ultimately killed him.
“I gotta go,” he said quickly. “Love ya.”
“Love you, too,” I said to dead air.
I rolled my eyes at that.
I should be used to the fact that Kourt hung up on me every freakin’ time he was on the phone with me, but I wasn’t.
Honestly, it ticked me off.
It didn’t matter what he was doing, or whether it was an emergency or not.
He’d hang up without so much as a goodbye, and sometimes before I even realized that goodbye was on the horizon.
But, since it was usual for him, I didn’t worry about it.
Instead, I got to work—to my second job.
My first job was my boring job. The one that made me money and provided me with endless blood pressure problems.
I owned a daycare—another thing that Wade and I had started, but he’d let me keep in the divorce—and worked there four out of five days a week—mostly because my workers called in sick at least once a week, forcing me to work even if I didn’t want to.
Owning your own business was exhausting. You may wish that you are just the boss, but there are so many things that you have to take care of personally that sometimes you don’t get to do just the fun things like you wanted to.
Though it was a very satisfying job, it also made me lonely.
I got to see everyone else’s kids, got to love on them and squeeze them, but never got to take them home.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I’d forever be alone.
Just as I was about to begin answering emails and starting to gather donations for my second job—the actual love of my life—my dog rescue, my phone rang.
I frowned at it and considered not answering it, but since it was the hospital and likely Kourt, I did.
Only, it wasn’t Kourt.