“Is that a bad thing, to make a girl feel good?”
“It can be if you don't mean it.”
“So it's bad to feel good about yourself?”
She pushes herself up, her eyes flicking back and forth between mine. “It is if it's a lie.”
I brush the tips of my fingers across her forehead, touching her very lightly. “It's only a lie if you choose not to believe it.”
“A lie is a lie.”
“Let me let you in on a secret of mine. . .” I pause, taking her chin in my hand and tipping her head higher. “I don't lie. When I say something, I mean it.”
Narissa's lips thin as her eyes dart back and forth. “I want to believe you, I really do.”
“It's not just about believing, it's also about seeing. The only way you'll know is by giving me a chance to show you.”
I can make her promises all day long. Promises that I'm never going to hurt her. Promises that I'm never going to lie. Promises that will mean nothing if she can't open up and let me in.
A lie is an empty promise that someone can't keep.
I'm not a man who uses lies to get ahead.
I'm a man who says what he means.
I can't believe I agreed to do this. I said I'd never come back.
Why did I say yes?
My eyes scan the front of the house. It looks worse than I remember.
The big rundown house is missing shingles on the roof. Large patches are falling inward like giant black holes. The few shutters that remain are hanging off the windows , and there's dark green mold climbing all over the wood shingles on the front near the door.
The grass in the front yard is brown, almost as if it’s been burned, and there are giant weeds growing out of the thick cracks in the driveway. Broken windows look like the eyes of the house have been gorged out. There are scars all over the exterior walls from kids in the neighborhood over the years throwing rocks and spray painting the walls.
But it's not the outside that scares me the most. It's what's on the inside.
My breathing picks up, causing my pulse to go crazy and my hands to sweat. I know I told him that I'm doing this, but when I said yes, I thought I could handle it. I thought it wouldn't affect me after so many years, but it does.
Oliver's truck is parked outside against the curb. I'm not sure how long I've been sitting here, but I've watched the same old man in my rear view mirror round the block three times already with his Pomeranian.
Exhaling a heavy breath, I close my eyes and lay my head back. I told him I'd do this, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. The thought flows through my head, and I try to grasp it. I try to hold it up and use it.
It's just a house. It's not the reason I feel this way, it's the people I was with. The house is just a one piece of the memory. Just a piece. The rest falls on the shoulders of the people that hurt me.
Forcing my eyes open, I peel my hands off the wheel and finally open my door. My feet feel like lead weights as I walk up the driveway slowly, making my way to the front door. I can hear the high pitched whine of a table saw inside.
The front door is open, and I can smell the freshly cut wood and sawdust. As I step inside, it takes my eyes a second to adjust to the dimly lit room.
“Hey,” he says, his shadowy figure rising and moving toward me.
Blinking a couple times, my eyes finally focus. Oliver is standing in front of me with a huge smile on his face. He wipes his hands off on his pants and pushes the safety goggles up on his head.
“You made it.”
“I'm here,” I say, forcing myself to smile back. Folding my hands in front of my waist, they fumble over each other nervously.
I'm having such a hard time controlling the worry in my gut. I feel sick to my stomach. There's a lump in the back of my throat, and my chest is tightening, forcing my breathing to slow down and go shallow.
“I'm glad you're here. Hardin is finishing up another job and won't be here till it's done.”
“I told you I'd be here. I kept my word.” Tucking my hands into my back pockets, I force myself to take a few big steps deeper inside the room. “Tell me what you need me to do.”
Oliver smiles big, his eyes flashing bright. “What I need you to do. . . Are you giving me permission to take charge?” He licks his lips and runs his thumb across his jaw.