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Authors: J. S. Cooper

The Promise of Tomorrow

The Promise of Tomorrow

J. S. Cooper

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This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Copyright © 2014 by J. S. Cooper

 

 

 

Prologue

I used to be in love with love. It was the one thing I craved more than anything. That’s something so satisfying about gazing into someone’s eyes knowing they love you more than anything in the world. There’s nothing more exquisite than feeling a warm body next to yours in the morning and gentle lips kissing your shoulder to wake you up for some morning fun. Yes, I used to be in love with love. It held so many promises for the future. The promise of a happily ever after, the promise of being with your soul mate, the promise of having someone. Yes, I loved love. I loved knowing that everything in my life would work out. But I was wrong. Love was no guarantee. Love came and went. Hearts were fickle and pain was real. Love was only good in the moment; it gave no promise for tomorrow.

 

Chapter 1

Present Day

 

I ran my credit card through the machine and kept my fingers crossed.
Go through, go through
, I willed the card as I waited to see if the computers would accept or deny my payment. I knew I had some money left on the card, but I wasn’t sure how much.
Please have $25.36 left
, I prayed as I waited to see what was going to happen.

“Sign here please, Ms. Oliver.” The lady handed me the receipt, and I released my breath.

“Sure.” I smiled widely.
Yes!
Another day I didn’t have to worry.

“Do you want a plastic bag?” The lady gave me a small smile and I wondered if she knew how poor I was. Was she feeling pity for me? Did she know that I had lost my job and I didn’t have a boyfriend? Did she know I hadn’t had sex in over a year?
Lucy, get it together
. I told myself off.
How would she know that?

“No, no. I’ll put them in my purse. Thanks.” I smiled gratefully and hurried out of the store with my items, calculating numbers in my head. If I ate spaghetti for the rest of the week, I should be okay. I sighed as the cold wind whipped my hair against my face and I cuddled my thin coat around me. There wasn’t much I could do about my jacket situation right now, not while I was still unemployed. I tried to ignore my shivers as I walked down the street, keeping my face down, not wanting to see any happy couples walking down the street next to me; reminding me that I was alone, once again at Christmas. I was waiting at the traffic light for the lights to change when I felt someone touch my arm.

“Argh.” I screamed involuntarily and turned around quickly; ready to fight to the death for my last twenty-dollar note. My eyes widened when I saw the figure behind me, standing there with a wary smile. My heart flipped as I looked into his familiar green eyes, and I attempted a smile.

“Snitch.” He grinned at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the use of my old nickname.

“Nick.” I studied his face, trying so hard not to look into his eyes. He looked the same as he did all those years ago. He had the same light sprinkle of freckles running across his cheek, right above his nose. His short dark brown hair was still a little long for his face, and I resisted the urge to want to run my fingers through it and push it back like I used to.

“I thought that was you, Snitch.” He grinned at me, his eyes lighting up as he stared at me in that old familiar way.

“Nick.” I sighed and shook my head as he used the nickname I hated.

“Lucy.” He grabbed my hand, and I looked up at him in surprise. I felt a warm heat run through me at his touch, and I recoiled slightly as I yanked my hand back. I was surprised that I still felt the old electricity between us. I didn’t want to feel that electricity. Not now. Not ever again.

“The light changed.” He nodded towards the pedestrian light, and we walked across the road, with our hands by our sides. “So…long time no see?”

“Yeah.” I smiled, trying to cloud the confusion in my brain. “And in New York of all places.”

“We always said we wanted to move here. I guess we both did.” His voice was matter-of-fact, and I tried not to remember those hopeful conversations, that had been so full of excitement for the future. I could still remember the bright lights in our eyes as we thought about the future. We’d been so enthusiastic about all of our plans.

“Yeah.” My voice trailed off, and I looked over at him again. He was dressed nicely, in a smart, dark suit. Why hadn’t I noticed the suit until now? I’d never seen him so dressed up, not once in the whole time that I’d known him. “So why did you move here?” I made small talk as we walked, hoping that he would tell me he had to go or something so that I could rush home and forget that I had seen him. I didn’t want to think about Nick ever again.

“Job. You?”

“Same.” I lied, not wanting to get into everything. I felt awkward enough just being in this moment with him. “I was just…”

“What are you…” Nick laughed as we both spoke at the same time.

“Go ahead.” I stared at the corner of his ear. An ear I had nibbled on and loved. An ear that I had studied and drawn for an art class in college my freshman year. His ear still looked the same. Even if he was now the sort of guy that wore expensive Wall Street suits.

“It’s good seeing you.” His voice was low, and I looked up at him searchingly, wondering if he was being honest. The last words he had told me two years ago were “go to hell,” and I had often felt like he had decided my fate on that day.

“It’s good seeing you too.” I replied awkwardly, nervously licking my lips because I didn’t know what else to do or say. I’d hated him for two long years. I’d never wanted to see his face again. And yet, here he was. And here I was. And I couldn’t get over the fact that the world hadn’t stopped. Or that we were holding a normal conversation, like two people that hadn’t been madly in love.

“Do you want to go and grab a coffee?” He paused, and I could tell he was nervous. Maybe even more nervous than me.

“The old Nick would have been like, let’s go to a coffee shop so you can buy one.” I laughed, remembering how many times he had conned me into going to lunch and ended up making me pay.

“Well, today is my treat.” He gave me the endearing look that had always made my heart skip a beat, and I frowned. I didn’t want to be thinking happy thoughts about Nick Sanders. Not after everything he had done to me. Not after everything that had happened.

“I don’t know.” I hesitated, not knowing what to say.

“For old time’s sake, Snitch?” He looked so hopeful and earnest, and in that moment, I was reminded of the boy I once knew. The boy that had been my boyfriend and my best friend. The boy I had loved with all my heart. “It is Christmas. Can’t we grab as coffee as two old friends and celebrate the holiday spirit?”

“Okay, for old times.” I agreed reluctantly, and we walked to the closest Starbucks chatting like old friends, as if the last two years hadn’t passed us by as strangers.

 

Chapter 2

Eight Years Ago

The Day We Met

 

“Hey, Snitch, where do you think you’re going?” His voice was loud and playful, and I looked at him, aghast.

“Be quiet.” I whispered hastily, looking around quickly to make sure no one had heard him or seen me.

“I didn’t think you were the sort to sneak out of school.” He raised his eyebrows, and I wanted to wipe the superior look off of his smug face. I knew what he was thinking: Lucy Oliver’s not as perfect as she seems.

“I’m not sneaking out of school.” I lied, hoping that my face wasn’t flushing red with shame.

“I didn’t know a snitch could lie so well.” He laughed and walked over to me, his hazel eyes flashing at me. “I should go and snitch on you too.”

“I didn’t snitch on you.” I sighed, exasperated. “And I’m not lying.”

“The girl with the perfect grades, the perfect looks, and the perfect life isn’t such a perfect liar.” He laughed loudly, and I pushed him against the wall.

“I’m not perfect, I’m not a liar, and please be quiet. Do you want us both to get in trouble?” I held him back and tried to ignore the feel of his muscles beneath my fingers. I felt warm inside and my body tingled as I touched him. It was a feeling I’d never experienced before and it took me aback.

“Where are you going?” He cocked an eyebrow at me. “And don’t tell me to a spelling bee or something. Don’t make me lose the little respect I’ve gained for you in the last five minutes.”

“I’m 15, not 10, so no, I’m not going to a spelling bee.” I rolled my eyes at him, trying desperately to ignore the warmth of his skin beneath my hand. I averted my eyes from his piercing gaze. I had never realized just how beautifully green his eyes were before, almost as shiny and bright as an emerald. Not that I had ever really noticed much about Nicholas Sanders before. All I really knew about him was that he was new to the town and school, and he was considered a bad boy. A bad boy who had tried to cheat off of my test the week before.  

“Where are you going then?” He grinned at me, and a lock of dark brown hair fell into his face. He combed his fingers through it casually before tossing the hair off of his face.

“Who do you think you are? Brad Pitt?” I laughed as I watched him, momentarily forgetting that I was mad at him for calling me out.

“What?” He looked at me in confusion, and I realized he had no idea how cool guys thought they were when they flicked their hair back like that. Nick Sanders had no idea that he looked like a teen heart throb as he stood there so nonchalant and cool in front of me. A reincarnated James Dean in the flesh.

“Nothing.” I shook my head and paused. “Are you going to tell on me?”

“Not if you tell me where you’re going.”

“Why do you care?” I stepped back, exasperated.

“Why do I care that Lucy Oliver is sneaking out of school?” He smirked. “I think everyone in school would want to know.”

“Yeah, I guess.” I squinted at him and then paused. “Hey, how did you know my name?”

“You know mine, right?”

I nodded and sighed. He was right, of course. It was a small school. Our knowing each other’s names meant nothing. “I’m going to a bookstore to get a book signed by my favorite author.” I looked at his face to see his reaction.

“Oh my God, that’s not a joke, is it?” He laughed hard. “I knew you were a goody two shoes.”

“I’m not a goody two shoes. I’m sneaking out of school, aren’t I?” I made a face at him.

“I’m shocked you’re sneaking out by yourself. None of your friends are going with you?” He looked around in surprise. “Or are they meeting you outside?”

“None of them are coming.” I looked down at the ground. I knew for a fact that my face was flaming now. This time in embarrassment. I didn’t have many friends because I had only moved to town at the beginning of the year.

“Well, that sucks. I’ll come with you then.” He said matter-of-factly.

“You want to come?” I looked up at him in surprise. “Do you like Nicole Krauss as well?”

“Who?” His eyes were laughing at me for asking such a silly question. Of course he didn’t know her.

“That’s the author I’m going to see. She’s my favorite because she—” I rambled and stopped myself. “I guess you can come if you want. We have to hurry as the bus will be there soon, and if we miss it, we’ll have to wait another 20 minutes for the next one. And then we’ll be late, and I won’t get to hear her talk.” I stopped as I realized he was staring at me intensely. “Why are you staring at me? What’s so interesting?”

“You’re different, aren’t you, Lucy?” He smiled at me widely as he looked at me thoughtfully. “I do think you’re different from the other folks here in Herne Hill.”

“I’m not from Herne Hill.” I explained, and grabbed his arm without thinking. “Let’s go.” I pulled him with me through the door and dropped his arm quickly as I realized what I had done. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s okay. I like it when a pretty girl touches me.” He winked at me, and a warm blush crossed my face as I tried to hide my smile. He was the first boy that had ever called me pretty. It meant something to me. It was special. That was a moment I’d never forget. It was a moment that made me believe, that maybe, just maybe, I too could have true love.

“Run.” I called out to him as I started running across the tarmac to the school’s entrance. I knew I had to run as fast as I could. I didn’t want any teachers seeing me walk slowly out of the school. I couldn’t afford to get in trouble for this. I had barely been able to come up with an excuse for missing my afternoon classes. I didn’t need to get busted now. I ran like the wind was chasing me down a dark alley and stopped abruptly once I passed through the entrance. I was panting heavily as Nick joined me, walking towards me with a casual stride.

“Running draws more attention to you, Snitch.” He laughed at me. “Always walk. They won’t notice a random person walking. Now running raises red flags.”

“Well, you would know that.” I glared at him, brushing my hair away from my face as strands tangled in my mouth. “And don’t call me Snitch.”

“What should I call you then?”

“Lucy.” I shook my head. “That’s my name. Just call me Lucy.”

“You can call me Nick.”

“I’d rather not call you.” I laughed at my joke, and he looked at me with a bright light in his eyes.

“Well, aren’t you just full of surprises? You’re a truant and a comedian.”

“Come on, Nick. Let’s go.” I grabbed his arm again and pulled him with me to the bus stop.

“You’re a bossy one, aren’t you?” He walked along beside me with a cool stride.

“What are you? An English grandfather?” I stared at him. “Who talks like that?”

“Well, actually my grandfather is English.” He smiled and I wanted to call him out on it. He didn’t look English to me, with his dark brown hair and bright green eyes. His skin was a tan olive color, and he looked older than his 15 or 16 years. When I looked at him, I didn’t see a boy, I saw a man. And in that moment, I was very much aware that I was more than just a schoolgirl. I was a woman.

“How old are you?” I questioned him curiously, wanting to know his age.

“16. Nearly 17.” His voice was curt, and he looked at me with a challenging air.

“Did you fail?” My voice was light. I didn’t even realize at the time that my question may have been considered rude. “You failed, right? You’re in my grade, and you should be 15.”

“Well, you’re direct.” He laughed. “And I was joking. I’m 15 as well.”

“Oh.” I scratched my head, wondering if I should call him out on it. Was he really 15?

“You sound disappointed. Were you hoping I had failed?”

“No, of course not.” I shook my head as we walked to the bus stop. “You just look older, that’s all.”

“It’s all the hair.” He laughed.

“I don’t think that’s it.” I answered honestly, and gasped as he suddenly stopped, grabbed my shoulders and grinned in my face.

“I think we’re going to be friends, Snitch.” His eyes peered into mine sincerely.

“I told you not to call me Snitch.” I muttered, my heart fluttering.

“I mean Lucy. We’re going to be good friends, Lucy.”

“If you say so.” I answered, obnoxiously haughty. Way too haughty for someone who was skipping class, but I guess that was the beauty of the situation. We were both seemingly different, but we were both the same. We were meant to meet in that moment. We were meant to be friends.

“I do say so. And what I say is always right.” He winked at me, and I felt a warm glow fill me. There were worse things in life than becoming best friends with a cute guy like Nick Sanders. Yeah, he was a bad boy, but what did that really mean? Maybe we’d balance each other out. Maybe I’d be the ying to his yang. We got on that bus the best of friends and I remembered my first and last day of truancy as the best day in my life. It was the day that Nick Sanders and I cemented a friendship that I thought was going to last forever.

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