Meeting Mr Anderson: Chapter 24


HOLLY

Present Day

 Oh, my God.

My heart is beating hard, the sound of my blood rushing in my ears. I read the words again.

Jay and Robyn, age 21.

I turn the photograph back over. The girl is smiling at the camera, her green eyes sparkling. Jay’s eyes are full of love, gazing at her face. Her long golden-blond hair falls past her shoulders and glints in the sunshine. It’s like looking at a photo of myself at that age.

I swallow down the bubble of acid rising from my stomach as I put the photograph down onto the kitchen counter. My hands are shaking as they hover over it.

Rob’s a girl? Jay always said Rob, and I just assumed Rob was a guy. But the face in the photo proves just how wrong I’ve been. The face with the shining green eyes. The face Jay is gazing at with an enormous smile.

Why didn’t he tell me? All the times he’s mentioned her but called her Rob, he must have known that I would think she was a guy. Why would he lie to me about it? A cold dagger of realization stabs at my heart as the sickening truth becomes obvious. She wasn’t just his best friend. She was his first true love. It’s written all over his face by the way he’s looking at her.

I take a deep breath, wiping my palms on my top. My head is spinning. Frantically searching for another plausible explanation. But there isn’t one.

I look exactly like her.

Jay may be the love of my life, but I’m not his and I never will be.

It will always be Robyn.

My chest burns as I look at the photo. He must be with me because I look like her. She’s his first love, the one he’s never recovered from losing all those years ago. He doesn’t love me, not really. He’s in love with a memory of a girl that’s not me, will never be me. He’s in love with a ghost. It makes sense, really. I thought he just needed time to talk about it. I never suspected there was more to it. Not like this. I swipe the heel of my hand against my wet cheeks.

It was too good to be true.

My legs are like jelly as I let out the breath I’ve been holding. A sound like an injured animal pushes its way from my body, from my heart.

I can’t stay here. I need to think. I need to be on my own.

I dart my eyes over to the hallway that leads to Jay’s office. It sounds like he’s still on the phone with Stefan. I stuff the picture back into the envelope and grip it in one hand. Jay’s car keys are sitting on the counter. My vision is blurred as I snatch them up and run out the door.


The thing about having your heart ripped from your chest is the initial shock of it can send you into denial. Your mind flails around looking for an explanation. Looking for any other reason, like you’ve got it wrong, that it can’t be happening. Only it is happening, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. Denial isn’t your friend for long before you come crashing back down and your heart breaks all over again.

I push the gas pedal and the Ferrari’s engine revs as I drive down a patch of straight road. Where I’m even going is anyone’s guess. I just knew I couldn’t stay there a second longer. I couldn’t stay in Jay’s house knowing that he lied to me. Knowing that all this time I’ve just been some kind of stand-in. I glance at the envelope resting on top of the dashboard. My stomach lurches again, threatening to make me pull over and throw up at the side of the road.

A tapping noise gets on my nerves. It takes a minute to work out it’s my own fingers on the steering wheel. How can I not even know that I’m doing that? I must be losing it. I don’t even know what my body’s doing anymore.

The road ahead of me is scrubland on one side and a rocky hillside on the other. At least I don’t seem to have driven toward downtown LA. If I were stuck in traffic now, I would have a nervous breakdown and be screaming behind the wheel.

I glance at the speedometer. I’m going way faster than I thought, probably because the car drives so smoothly. Don’t people always use that excuse when they get caught speeding? ‘Sorry, Officer, I didn’t realize how fast I was going.’

I ease off the gas pedal and cruise along at a more respectable pace. It’s beautiful here. It’s a shame I can never think of, or even visit LA again. Not without it feeling like my heart has been fed to a pack of wild wolves, tearing chunks out of it while it still beats.

Fresh tears sting my eyes and I wipe at them angrily with one hand. How did I end up here? I was so stupid to think that Jay loved me for who I am. Maybe Simon was right to treat me the way he did and cheat on me. I mean, there must be something wrong with me. I’m never enough as I am. I’m always lacking something. Sexual confidence for Simon, and my entire soul for Jay. My entire soul is wrong! A crazy laugh escapes my lips. The only thing I have going for me is that I look like someone else.

I swipe at my tears again. I should have known this was too good to be true. Movie style romances don’t happen to girls like me. I was an idiot to believe any different.

No matter what I do, hot tears keep burning my cheeks.

“For God’s sake, just stop!” I shout and take both hands off the wheel to wipe my eyes.

A flash of something brown appears through the windshield. I grab the steering wheel and pull it to the side, swerving to avoid an animal of some sort that’s run into the road. The Ferrari’s steering is sensitive, and I’m thrown hard to the side as the car spins out of control, the back of it twisting right around. The overwhelming sound of crunching metal is almost deafening as my hands grip onto the wheel. My brain is spinning; I don’t know which way is up. Dust and rocks fly up across the windshield before the glass shatters and my head flies into the side window. A dull thud sends shock waves through me. Then everything goes black and there’s only silence.


“She’s waking up! Get the doctor, quick!”

My head is pounding. Where the hell am I? Was that Matt?

I try to open my eyes, but a jolt of pain shoots through my skull.

“Errrgg.”

“What’s that? Say it again, baby. I’m here,” a gentle voice says. A warm hand is holding mine. Whose is it? Jay’s? Then there’s another, warm and soft across my forehead. It’s soothing and I sigh gently. “I’m here, Holly. You’re in the hospital. You had an accident, but you’re going to be okay. I love you so much.”

My eyelids feel like someone has glued them shut. I peel them open. It takes so much effort and I wince as a hammer attacks my head. This is like the world’s worst hangover and then some. My eyes are so dry. I blink twice, trying to focus. Beautiful, clear-blue eyes are staring at me. They’re full of worry.

“Berry?” Fingertips belonging to the voice dust my cheek.

Jay.

My stomach twists.

Just seeing him, his familiar scent invading my senses, my body aching for his touch, it’s all too much for my heart to bear. I love him. I love him more than anything. Knowing that he doesn’t, and never will feel the same about me, is what being in hell must feel like.

“I can’t do this,” I whisper. The words come out gravelly and strained.

“Holly?” Confused blue eyes search mine.

This is awful. Knowing what is about to happen makes me wish I were somewhere else right now. Anywhere else.

“Matt?” I say, trying to sit up to see him.

“I’m here, Holls, I’m here.” Matt leaps to my side and stops me from sitting up. “You gave us all such a scare,” he says as he smiles at me.

“I’m sorry.” My eyes glance over at Jay, who is watching me intently, still stroking my hand in his.

“What were you doing, Holly? Where were you going?” Jay asks, his blue eyes wide as they search my face.

“Matt, could you give us a minute?” I ask.

“Of course, I’ll wait outside.” Matt squeezes my hand and gets up to leave the room.

I wait until the door closes behind him before taking a deep breath.

“Jay?” My voice shakes, but he speaks before I can continue.

“I’m so glad you’re okay, Holly. God, I thought…” Jay runs his hand through his hair as he stops mid-sentence. His face is pale as he drops his head.

“Wait, Jay. I need to say something.” I swallow the thick lump in my throat and blink, tears pricking my eyes.

This is it. This is the moment I set him free. Give him a chance to heal. I know I’m doing the right thing, but my hands are still shaking. Once I say this to him, there is no going back. He’s looking at me, waiting, his hands wrapped around mine.

“This isn’t what I want,” I croak.

“What do you mean, baby? What isn’t?”

I take a deep breath and look away. “Us.” My voice cracks on the word, just like my heart does inside my chest.

“Holly?” Jay’s desperate eyes plead with me. “I don’t understand.”

“Please, Jay,” I sob. “I don’t want this. I don’t want us. I thought I did, but I don’t. I’m sorry. I can’t be with you anymore.”

“Holly, what are you saying?” He stares at me, his forehead creased in confusion.

My voice sounds like a stranger’s as I utter the words, “I’m saying it’s over, Jay. We don’t belong together. I’m not the right person for you. I’m so sorry.”

“Holly, you can’t mean that. After all this time we’ve spent together? I love you; you love me too. I know you do!” Jay says, grabbing on to my other hand and bringing both up to his lips to kiss them.

I slide them out of his grip and drop them back onto the bed.

He sits there for a moment, staring at me wide-eyed. His eyes fill up with tears and he pulls his eyebrows together and raises his hand, rubbing it over his forehead.

“You hit your head, Holly. You’re confused.”

“No, Jay. I’m not. It’s never been clearer to me,” I whisper.

I’m letting you go, Jay. I’m letting you go because I love you.

“You can’t mean this, Berry.”

“Don’t call me that,” I say. It comes out harsher than I intended, the pain in my heart pushing out inside my words.

Jay’s eyes widen and he moves back as though I’ve slapped him. I need him out of here. The sooner he goes and forgets about me, the better.

“I’m so sorry, Jay. You’re going to be better off without me; please trust me,” I say as my voice wavers. “Listen to me. We can’t be together.”

“This is honestly what you want?” he asks, the pain on his face more than I can bear.

I can’t speak. I know my voice could betray me and tell him I’ve made a terrible mistake. Tell him I love him more than anything and I will be here with him, even though I’m not who he loves in his heart. I can’t let that happen. He must have a chance at genuine happiness. He will never have that with me. I’m just a painful reminder of what he lost.

It takes my last shred of strength to look him in his beautiful blue eyes, the eyes I will miss for eternity, and nod.

Jay sucks in a deep breath and his eyes drop to the floor, unable to look at me anymore. He gets up slowly from his chair next to the bed and turns to leave.

“I’ll be outside,” he says, his voice flat.

I turn my head to stare at the wall, even though doing so feels like someone is stamping on it, and wait until I hear the door close behind him. I lie in silence, listening to the rhythmic beat of my heart. I’m surprised it’s still going. If someone told me it had stopped and I was in some parallel universe on my way to hell, I wouldn’t question it.

A few minutes pass and the door opens again.

“Holly?” Matt says, walking toward the chair Jay just left moments ago. He reaches me and sits down. His eyes are bloodshot and watery. “What the hell’s going on, Holly? Did you and Jay have a fight?” he asks, taking my hand in his and squeezing it. He looks at me with so much worry in his eyes that I crack.

“Matt,” I whisper, tears falling. “Oh, Matt.”

“Hey, hey, it’s okay. You’re going to be okay. Now talk to me.” Matt’s voice is full of concern.

“I told him we were over, Matt… I had to.” My shoulders shake as my sobs take over.

“What’s going on, Holly?” Matt asks again. “You have had a fight, haven’t you?”

“No.” I shake my head. “It’s not that, it’s…” I gasp as I try to catch my breath between sobs. “It’s so much worse, Matt. He’s in love with someone else.”

“He’s what?” There’s disbelief in Matt’s voice.

“He only wanted me because I look like her.”

“Holly, I don’t understand. You look like who?”

“Swear to me you won’t tell a soul, Matt, not even Stefan.”

“I won’t.”

“Swear it, Matt! He can’t know that I know.” I know my shrill voice is making me sound like a crazy woman.

“Okay. Okay, I swear,” Matt says, his face serious.

I take a deep, shaky breath.

“Jay lost his best friend in an accident when he was twenty-one.”

“Oh my God.” Matt’s hand flies over his mouth.

“All this time I thought he was a boy, but I found out that she was a girl.”

“Okay?” Matt says, looking confused.

“I look just like her, Matt!” I cry. “She wasn’t just his friend; she was the love of his life. He’s never gotten over her. He’s got her initials tattooed on his shoulder.”

“What? Holly, that can’t be right. Jay loves you. It’s so obvious to anyone who sees the two of you together.”

I shake my head sadly. “He doesn’t Matt. He sees her when he looks at me.”

“How can you know that?” Matt’s eyes search mine. He looks like he’s struggling to make sense of it all.

“I just do. Why else would he keep her being a girl secret if he didn’t have something to hide? He didn’t like to talk about it; he would change the subject. He didn’t want me to know the truth. It was never me he loved, Matt.”

“Oh, Holls. I don’t believe it.” Matt’s eyes fill with tears.

“It’s true. You promised you wouldn’t tell Stefan,” I say, grabbing Matt’s arm.

“I know, I know.” Matt lowers his head, letting out a sigh.

“Jay can’t know that I found out about her. It will be too much for him, Matt. I’ve seen how he can’t move on. He has to think I’m leaving for my own reasons, that I don’t love him enough to want to be with him.”

“What do you mean, leaving?” Matt’s eyes search mine.

“I have to go, Matt. I can’t be with him anymore. I can’t see him again.”

“Holly, are you sure that’s what you want?” Matt stares at me.

“I have to, Matt. If I don’t leave him, he can never heal. It will be like looking at a ghost every day. How can he ever be truly happy when he sees my face, so much like hers?” Fresh tears run down my face. “I’m a constant reminder of his pain. I have to do this for him.”

“But, Holly, you love him,” Matt whispers.

“I know I do, Matt. I love him so much that doing this breaks my heart. But if it means that his might heal, then I have no choice. I would rather live without him than stay and know I am the reason his soul stays tortured.” I look into Matt’s eyes.

“You love him that much that you’re willing to throw yourself under a bus for the chance to save him?” Sadness fills Matt’s eyes as understanding sinks in.

“There’s no other way, Matt. It has to be like this. He must think I’m leaving because I don’t want this life with him. He has to think I don’t love him so he can let me go. I know him. He won’t give up if he thinks I still love him.”

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Matt murmurs and shakes his head. “I’ll be here for you, Holly. You know that, don’t you? Rachel, too. She’s been going frantic at home since I called her and told her about the accident.” Matt squeezes my hand, tears filling his eyes.

I manage a weak smile back at him.

“I know you will, Matt. You and Rach are like family to me.”

We stare at each other for a moment, the air around us thick with emotion.

I’m still staring into Matt’s eyes as the door opens. An older male doctor walks in, followed by Stefan, who rushes over and puts his hand on my arm.

“Holly, I’m Doctor Wilson.” He lifts his head and smiles at me as he takes the chart off the bottom of the bed. “You were very lucky, gave your friends quite the scare.” He looks through the chart, reading my notes.

“Holly, why is Jay outside?” Stefan whispers, too quiet for the doctor to hear. I look at him, not sure how to answer.

The bang from the chart as it’s hung back on the bed makes us all look up.

“Everything looks wonderful, just a few bruises. You’ll ache for a while, but nothing was broken. You hit your head quite hard, enough to knock you unconscious. We’ll keep you overnight for observation, and you should be fine to go home in the morning.”

“Can I fly?”

“Sorry?” Doctor Wilson’s eyebrows shoot up. He looks baffled by my question.

“I’m flying back home to England tomorrow night.”

“Ah, well, I wouldn’t advise it so soon after a head injury.” He smiles at me.

I fix my eyes on him. “Please! I need to go home.”

He looks at me. Desperation must be written all over my face.

“Well, let’s see how tonight goes first and as long as there’s nothing to be concerned about, then we can discuss it again,” he says with another smile.

“Thank you, Doctor, thank you so much.” I sigh in relief, sinking into the pillows.

He heads to the door. “You get some rest, Holly. I will check in on you again later.”

Once he’s gone, Stefan turns his attention to me again, studying my face.

“Holly, I just saw Jay sitting outside. What’s he doing out there? He looked distraught. I asked him what was going on and he said he has no idea.”

My mouth is dry as the image of Jay out there, alone and upset, comes into my head.

“I told him to go,” I tell Stefan.

“What? Why?” Stefan’s eyes dart between me and Matt.

“It all gotten to be too much, Stefan. I don’t belong here, with him. The break-in, being followed, the news reporters wanting to interview me. I’m not cut out for Jay’s world, Stefan. I don’t want that life. It’s not who I am.” The lie rolls smoothly off my tongue. So smooth that I could even believe it. I wouldn’t ever choose a life in the spotlight given the choice, but I would have done it if it meant being with Jay. I would do anything if it meant I could stay with him. Anything except keeping his broken heart from having the chance to mend.

Stefan looks at me, his eyes wide with shock.

“Holly, you can do it. The press aren’t that bad if you know how to handle them. I can help you. We can do it together.”

“I’m sorry, Stefan. I can’t. It’s not what I want.” I raise my eyes to his even though I can barely look at him, lying to his face like this when he’s done nothing but welcome me with open arms.

“But Jay loves you, Holly; he told me,” Stefan whispers.

I take a deep breath, knowing what I need to say.

“Then he needs to let me go, Stefan. He needs to give up his own happiness for mine and let me go. If he loves me, then he will do it.”

“You’ve told him all this?” Stefan’s face grows pale.

“I have, Stefan. I need him to just respect that this is how I feel, and nothing will change my mind.”

Stefan stares at me before closing his mouth and nodding.

“Fine.” He frowns.

He looks at Matt and they hold each other’s gaze for a moment before he turns to leave the room.

“Stefan!” I call. He looks around hopefully. “Please tell Jay I’m sorry about the car. I know how much he loved it.”

Stefan’s frown returns and he says nothing. Instead, he turns and leaves, shutting the door behind him. As it closes, my heart shatters again, and Matt wraps his arms around me as I weep.


I talk Dr. Wilson into letting me fly home. He agreed after Matt insisted he would look after me on the flight and not let me overdo it. So far, I’ve not lifted a finger. When Jay booked my tickets for me, he booked me into upper class. I’ve got a seat that turns into a bed and I’ve slept most of the flight. Exhaustion won against my racing mind in the end. Matt’s been flapping around me like a mother hen, plumping my cushions and instructing me to drink another glass of water each time he passes. It’s sweet, but I know it isn’t just my bruised head that he’s worried about. He’s trying to nurse my broken heart. I wish it were as easy as just taking a pill to fix it.

Jay packed my things at his house and Stefan brought them over to Matt at the crew hotel. Jay respected my wishes and stayed away from the hospital, but I know he was calling and texting Matt the entire time trying to get answers. I can’t blame him. One minute everything’s fine, and the next I’ve taken off in his car, and say that I don’t belong with him. I just hope he believes my story. He has to. He must forget about me and move on. The thought of him being reminded of his heartbreak at losing Robyn every time he looks at me is too painful to consider. Maybe he’s angry at me for running away. That’s good, though. Let him channel his anger toward me. Let him get it all out and then start the healing process.

Stefan said they took the car into the garage and the mechanic cleared any items of Jay’s out of it and returned them. He didn’t mention the envelope or photograph. I can only hope that they got lost at the scene of the accident when the windshield smashed. Matt’s been talking to Stefan a lot, and I know he’s furious with me for leaving Jay like this. But I would rather him be angry at me than risk him finding out the truth and telling Jay.

I can’t believe everything that’s happened these last few months. It feels like a dream. A beautiful, life-changing dream that turned into a nightmare. I don’t think I will ever be the same Holly I was before Jay Anderson. Would I even want to be? What is it they say? It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Is that still true if the love is only one-sided? I know Jay may think he loves me now, but in time he will realize that I was only ever a distraction from dealing with his grief and moving on with his life. I hope when that day comes, whoever she is, loves him with everything she has. Just like I do. He deserves that. He deserves happiness. I’m just not the one to give it to him.

I look out the window as we approach Heathrow Airport. The familiar mechanical whirr of the landing gear being lowered rumbles. London looks gray and miserable, concealed under a blanket of fog. Perfect weather to match my mood and welcome me back to the real world. Back to my old life. Where I’m hundreds of miles away from the love of my life.

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