Authors: Whitney Barbetti
Copyright 2016 by Whitney Barbetti
All Rights Reserved
Cover design by Najla Qamber,
Najla Qamber Designs
Interior design by
The Write Assistants
Editing by N. Josephs
Proofreading by Alexis Durbin,
Indie Girl Proofs
Proofreading by Ginelle Blanch
Epigraph quote used with permission of
Tyler Kent White
The Presence of Trees
, a poem by Michael S. Glaser used with permission of
Michael S Glaser
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, actual events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The use of any real company and/or product names is for literary effect only. All other trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners.
Please be aware that
Into the Tomorrows
is not a standalone romance and as such, this story is not concluded in this novel. Its sequel,
Back to Yesterday
, is being published in late summer / early fall. If you would like to be notified as soon as it releases, please subscribe to Whitney Barbetti’s newsletter at
Thank you for reading!
I’ve never had a dedication this long, but if weren’t for these four women, no one would read these words. Each of you supported me in your own way—a way that I desperately needed. Thanks for supporting me, even when I’m a royal pain in the ass.
To Jade Eby, who saved me.
To Jena Campbell, who encouraged me.
To Karla Sorensen, who *kindly* (and repeatedly) told me to shut up and write.
To Whitney Belisle, who essentially gave birth to #tentguy.
happiness is a
home is a
hands to hold.
-Tyler Kent White
into the world on a cold night, a wet night, a most unremarkable night. A night that would echo my life.
I was tiny, just a few pounds, skin stretched over bone and mouth open in a silent wail. The nurse had placed me into my mother’s arms, and she looked me over for a few minutes, feeling the buildup of nine months of anguish in a real, tangible way.
My mother stared at me, taking in my bald head and blue eyes. “Trista,” she said.
The nurse leaned over and slid a baby hat on my head. “That’s different,” she commented.
Her fingers traced my lips, her bitten down nails leaving a small scratch, and said, “It’s Italian.”
Her fingers traced my features still, an echo of a love that had only brought her stretch marks, solo doctor appointments, and another mouth to feed. A love that made her blind to the love it had created, once he’d left her.
“Here, you can take her,” my mother said, picking me up and handing me to the nurse with arms that couldn’t bear the weight of my five pounds.
The nurse looked confused, but quickly took me from my mother and placed me in the bassinet beside her bed. My mother rolled over and stared at the wall, wishing he would come find her, wishing for a love that could last, her chest hollow of any deep and maternal love for me.
“And that’s how we began,” my mother explained, nineteen years later, emptying a bottle of wine into her glass. “You’re just like him, you see.” She took a large sip, set her glass down harder than necessary and stared at me with chocolate brown eyes circled by a deep brown exhaustion.
“Thanks for story time, mom.” I sat up straighter, looked at her directly. It was a story she’d told me before, though with fewer pretty words.
I looked her over and played that game I shouldn’t play: the game of comparison. My stringy, dishwater blonde hair hung straight, such a contrast from her dark brown curls. When I turned my head to look at the clock, my hair clung to my clammy face, still wet from my shower. “But you loved him.”
“Love isn’t worth the heartache it leaves behind. Don’t fall in love. You’ll lose all your happiness.” She stared into her glass, swirled around what little remained. Lifting her gaze, she pinned me in place. “You are a product of loss, Trista.”
But I’d been made from love, I told myself. She’d loved him. I couldn’t tell her this, lest she whip things around the table in anger. “What happened to him?”
My mother was the most honest when she was drunk, which was often. “He found out you were inside me and he left me.”
Left us, I thought, the bitterness slicing down my chest. But once again, it was the vague answer she always gave me when I asked, the one meant to hurt me.
You caused this
, she said.
I lost him when I gained you.
She hiccupped. “But you can understand, right? Why I named you Trista?”
In a wooden voice, I said, “It means ‘sad.’” It wasn’t the first time she’d told me. It wasn’t the first time she’d made me feel that my name was more than just its six letters; it was what awaited me.
She nodded, holding up her glass as her eyes glazed over. “Sad. Because that’s what I felt when I saw you. That’s how I felt while you grew inside me. When they placed you in my arms, I struggled to feel anything other than sadness.” She tossed back the last of the wine, pushed the glass away after shaking the now-empty bottle. “I do love you. Of course I do.” But she said it as if she was convincing herself, eyes narrowed as she stared at the table, rubbing her burnt fingers into the wood. “But when I look at you, I see him. And he made me sad.” She laughed, humorlessly. “The sadness, it’s probably your destiny. You’re like me, you’ll lose everyone you love.”
I heard everything she didn’t say in that—not because she was protecting me, no. She’d told me more than once. That the love she’d shared with him, the love that had produced a child, wasn’t worth anything to her. With my blonde hair and blue eyes, I was a walking reminder of the love that left her.
My mother rose from her seat at the counter and stretched her back. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?” she asked, as if she suddenly realized how infrequently I was around her. It was amazing how lucid she seemed when it came to the matter of me leaving her presence.
“I’m going to a party,” I said. With a glance at the clock, I knew I was running late. Mommy-daughter bonding time was done.
“With who?” She hiccuped and covered her mouth with the back of her hand.
I grabbed my purse on the counter, shaking my head. She’d had me sit so she could tell me the story of how she abandoned me the first time. “It’s a little late for you to be worrying about who I’m spending my time with.” I slung the purse over my shoulder and grabbed my cell off the counter. “Bye,” I said without a backward glance as I stepped out into the dying evening sun. I turned my phone on and checked my texts. One came, from my boyfriend of nearly three years, Colin Marks.
Colin: Are you coming?
I tapped out my reply quickly,
Just gotta get Ellie. See you soon.
Ellie lived five minutes away from me, in a cul-de-sac that was miles better than the trailer park I lived in. Her yard had grass instead of overgrown weeds, and her windows cleanly reflected the afternoon sun. I popped the visor down, honked my horn twice, and reapplied my lip gloss. My hands shook.
It’d been five months since I’d seen Colin at Christmas, when he’d tried once again to convince me to move in with him when the semester was over.
Nuzzling his head into my neck, he’d breathed, “Trista, come to Colorado.”
He’d been asking since I graduated high school the previous year, but Ellie and I had made a pact—two years in local community college and then we’d transfer to Colorado. I wasn’t old fashioned, but I also wasn’t stupid. Colin was the boy I’d met on accident in school, a boy who was far more popular than me, a boy who was friends with everyone, a boy with money—something I was lacking.
If I was being honest with myself, the biggest reason I hadn’t moved in with him was that I was still on a mission to see who I was as just Trista. In high school, I was—in one breath—
. Then I was
. Like, “Invite Colin and his girlfriend.” Or “invite Ellie and her friend,” never “Colin and Trista” or “Ellie and Trista.”
I had long, dirty blonde-slash-brown hair and blue eyes that Colin described as “sad.” My body was not thin but it wasn’t fat. I wasn’t shy, but I wasn’t out-going either. I could never seem to be just one thing; my identity was lost in the in-betweens.
So I stayed in Wyoming, going to a local community college while Colin went to a Colorado university. I worked at a pet store while Colin lived off his parents.
The front door opened and Ellie’s mom, her curtain of black hair hovering just above her shoulders, leaned out. She waved to me, “She’ll be out in just a sec, babe.”
I waved back and smiled. Ellie’s mom was cool. Not like let-you-smoke-in-her-basement cool. More like rub-my-expensive-French-perfume-on-your-wrists cool and let-me-French-braid-your-hair cool. I wondered what it was like to have a mom as stylish as her, a mom as giving of her time and attention.
I brushed the thoughts aside as I checked my phone, pulling up Facebook and Colin’s profile. His photo showed him in sunglasses, looking off into the distance, that brilliant smile lighting up his face. His face was angled so that the shadows dipped into his dimples, making them the one thing I focused on. It reminded me of how I’d met him.
He’d seen me in the halls—and I didn’t say that lightly. In all my high school years, I’d been Ellie’s friend and, if anyone paid attention, the girl who’d lend you shit. When Colin stopped me in the hallway of our high school, he’d been paying attention.
A senior brushed past me, his hockey sticks knocking into the back of my knees and forcing me to fall and he kept going. My books flew across the floor, my pens clattered around my knees.
“Hey!” a voice called. I tucked my hair behind my ear and shook my head, wincing as I crawled on the floor to pick up my books. “You should apologize,” the voice said.
I paid no mind to the guys talking ahead of me, just shoved my pens into my worn backpack. “Sorry,” the senior said and I rolled my eyes, not even bothering to look up to acknowledge the half-assed apology.
A pair of feet stopped in front of me. “You.”
I lifted my head, met his eyes. He reached a hand down to me, to pull me to standing.
“Hi,” he’d said, as if we were familiar and not new. “Are you okay?”
It was a moment seared in my memory, a memory that echoed our relationship. Everything with Colin was fun, exciting. Ellie loved him, and repeatedly told me that he was good for me. “He lightens your load,” she often told me. My mother, being that load.
“Hey, daydreamer,” Ellie’s loud voice shook me from the memory as she slid into my car, causing the car to bounce with the movement.
She laughed as she leaned way out of the car to shut the door, her beautiful black hair sliding off her shoulders. She straightened the headband that held back her bangs and turned to me. “Are you so excited?”
“Remember, I’m blowing off studying for this.” I tilted my head, giving her that look. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see my boyfriend—I desperately did. But college was expensive, and I was determined to get the best grades as possible before we transferred.
She rolled her eyes. “Come on, T. You’re going to ace your exams. I don’t know why you’re worried.”
“You know why. We have another year and then we’ll both have saved up enough to transfer.” As she buckled I added, “And all my hard work won’t be a waste.”
I took in her outfit, black pencil jeans and an oversized white button-down shirt. Her black hair was curled and hung halfway down her back, with a narrow white headband adorned with daisies—her favorite—holding her hair back from her face. Ellie had an effortlessness about her, from the way she dressed and the way she wore her hair, to how easily she fit in with everyone.
It was the reason we were friends, because she was so easy-going. She didn’t see the boundaries that others saw, between jocks and band geeks or rich kids and welfare kids. I’d hated her when I’d first met her. Seeing her flit between the groups, dating stoners or the mayor’s son or the lead trumpet player. But one day she picked me first for her basketball team in gym, and we’d been friends ever since.
Which was probably why she liked Colin, because he was the same way. I once joked that they should just date each other—since they were so similar. But Colin had shaken his head. “You’re mine,” he told me, his blue-green eyes fierce. “You keep me grounded. You’re protective and guarded. I need that. I need you.”
“Besides,” Ellie had added, “Colin and I together? We’d probably get arrested.”
I laughed now, thinking of it. We were a unit, we three together. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.
But when I stood next to her, I couldn’t help but compare myself to her. She was model thin and tall, and she held herself with a grace she didn’t know she possessed. I was clunky, like a kid with braces and coke-rimmed glasses, except my awkwardness was innate, something ingrained in my DNA. I was aware of every step I made, of every sound I made—my breathing was too loud, my walk shook the furniture around me.
I wanted to be like her—to hold my head high, to smile naturally. Instead, I followed behind her, always in her shadow as
. Which I was content with, because I favored books to people most days.
“Dude, where are you tonight?”
I shook my head and looked at Ellie sheepishly. “In my head, apparently. Ready?”
Ellie nodded, slumped in her seat. “Where’s the party at?”
“East of Denver. Not at Colin’s fraternity—some other guy’s rental.”
“Where are we staying?”
“Colin used his dad’s credit card to secure a hotel room.”
She waggled her eyebrows at me. “Don’t do it in the bed next to me tonight.”
Shuddering from the thought, I pulled away from the curb and started down the street. “No way.”