So this story is from a Free Write Friday prompt that the wonderful Kellie Elmore gave back in October of last year. Yeah, I’m super late! I realized I hadn’t posted it for whatever reason but decided I’d go ahead and share this with you.
The red numbers on the clock burned the time into Shelly’s retinas; 3:38 a.m. She slowly turned over to check if he was asleep yet. Braden always stayed up late working on new designs for the architecture firm he and his best friend ran together. He was knocked out, iPad at his side and glasses on the night stand. Shell gave Braden one last look before quietly slipping out of bed. Everything she was taking with her was packed up in the trunk of her car already. She’d made sure to get it all done before Braden got home from the office earlier that evening. On her way out Shell pulled an envelope from her purse and perched it up beside Braden’s keys on the hall table. With that done she slinked out the house locking the door behind and placing the key she’d no longer need in the mailbox.
It had been four days since she’d left Braden and the life they’d built together over the past year and a half. Her voice mail was filled with messages from ‘home’ and a countless number of text messages gone ignored. Braden wasn’t like the rest, he just wouldn’t give up it seemed. It both moved and annoyed Shell who had been in constant motion her whole life. Her mother had taught her from a young age that there is too much of the world to see to settle down in any one place. And that there was no such thing as love. Or more specifically that there was no such thing as a man who wouldn’t leave you in the end. So Carly taught her young girl early on to do the leaving first. Her mothers rules were quite simple:
1. Never say I love you
Shell had broken commandment one 6 months into the ‘mere fling’ she and Braden were having. She’d met him at the firm she was working for as a temp. They’d been out at a music festival all day having a great time. There was wine, lots of wine consumed leading to the moment, but when she wasn’t lying to herself She knew that the wine had no influence on her words other than giving courage. They were sitting on the couch in what was then only Braden’s house, arguing in playful banter over which artist they’d heard that day was best. He was really making a case for an amazing jazz violinist when the words just came out of her mouth. She had felt them bubbling up inside her for weeks but was always so careful not to speak them. But now, it was too late to pretend she hadn’t just blurted out the three words she had never allowed herself to utter to a man before. Needless to say she was horror-stricken. Braden stopped mid-sentence and just stared at her, mouth agape and unbelieving. Shell had made it very clear to him early on that she was not the type of girl to fall and that he shouldn’t expect anything serious. And so he hadn’t.
Shell let out a tiny, nervous laugh and took a big gulp of her wine. Braden finally closed his mouth before tilting his head to the side and speaking. “Shelly, I’m sure you probably didn’t mean to let that slip, but I have to know…is it true?” He asked with all his expectations dancing in his eyes, Shell couldn’t lie now. She cleared her throat, took a deep breath and responded in a rush, “It’s true. But I shouldn’t have said it, I think I’ve had too much wine or something. Is it hot in here to you too?” She fanned herself quickly with latest issue of Design Weekly that was on the coffee table. Braden was giddy from the wine and from the affirmation. Removing the magazine from her grasp he took her hands in between his own, his face close to hers. Shell’s heart was beating fast and her lungs were not quite up to speed with the air that was coming in and out rapidly. He smiled, “Shell, I love you too. And I know that you don’t “do” love but obviously you can. So please, don’t get scared and run because I think you know that it would break both of our hearts.” Shelly slowly shook her head which was swimming before responding in barely a whisper, “I don’t want to break your heart Braden, that’s the last thing I’d want to do. But I am scared of this. I can’t just turn it off.” Braden smiled broadly, “That’s what love is, it’s scary because you can’t control it. But it’s a good scary I promise.” It was too late to turn back now and the more they sat in this moment the more Shelly knew she didn’t want to. She was in love for the first time, and as afraid as she was, she was equally excited and eager. She’d made the decision that night to find out for herself first hand what love was. That was when all her mothers rules went out the window for the first time in her 26 years.
2. Always stay independent from men
The couple had just returned to Braden’s house from a company dinner party. There had been many connections made and Braden was positive that a deal which had been in the works for months was finally about to be closed. It was a good night. He turned on the stereo to Shelly’s favorite Jazz station and pulled her out to the balcony to dance with him. They swayed slowly, Shell’s head resting on his shoulder, his arms tight around her back. They were happy, it had been a little over six months since that night in his living room that she had blurted out that she loved him. They had taken things slow, Braden didn’t want to frighten her away but tonight he had something he needed to ask her and Shell could feel it coming. As the song ended he tilted her chin up and kissed her slowly. When he pulled away he spoke softly, “Move in with me babe.” It wasn’t a question but he waited for her to answer. Her mother’s voice was yelling at her in her head, ‘never give a man the satisfaction of thinking you need him to provide for you. You work so he doesn’t own you, drive your own car, own your own home so he can’t control you.’ But Braden wasn’t the type of man to control, in fact he was nothing like the men Shelly’s mother had told her about all those years growing up. And he certainly wasn’t like any of those other jerks she’d dated in the past. A huge smile broke through Shell’s face, “Yes, of course!” she exclaimed as she leaned into him. She and Braden spent the rest of the evening celebrating the next big step in their relationship in bed. Shelly had finally understood why some people preferred to call it making love, and she was too happy about that to be afraid of breaking any rules.
3. Run. Fast and far BEFORE he does.
“Can I make you some coffee hun?” Shelly offered as Braden sat at the kitchen table with huge stacks of paper before him, his back to her. “No thanks.” he responded absently. It had been nearly eight months since Shelly had accepted Braden’s proposal to move in with him. She had heard horror stories from her mother about what living with a man could do to a relationship but there had been none of the terrors so far. Lately Braden had been a bit stressed out at work due to a rapidly failing merger the company was looking forward to, but he never took any of that out on Shelly. She had noticed that it was a bit harder to get his attention though. That’s why she’d made it her duty to make things at home as comfortable for Braden as she could. She made sure she cooked him decent dinners, packed him healthy lunches with cute little love notes attached, kept the house cleaned and wore only the sexiest underwear Victoria’s Secret carried. She didn’t dare tell her mother that she had somehow become domestic. It seemed though, that unless she became one of those slips of papers in Braden’s ever growing files she’d never catch his eye again. It was a very off-putting feeling to have a man not toss everything to the side to be with her, and she didn’t like it.
Shelly wanted to have her Braden back. The man who swept her off her feet, the man who simply had to look at her to turn her on. The man who spent more time throwing his head back in laughter than he spent on his laptop and cell phone on business. She untied her robe and let it fall open as she turned away from the counter and toward the table. Beneath it was a skimpy purple and black lingerie set she’d picked up last week. Purple was one of Bradens favorite colors on her and she was hoping it would catch his eye. Shelly leaned over him and began to slowly massage his shoulders while gently kissing his neck. Braden only shook her off, “What are you doing Shell? I have work to do I don’t have time for this.” He sighed and stood abruptly grabbing all his papers in a rush. Shelly was taken aback, “I just thought…I thought you could use a break from all this work. It’s stressing you out babe.” She quickly closed her robe and held her arms tight around her waist, suddenly feeling extremely naked. “Look, honey I know that I’ve been busy a lot lately but this merger is important. This is our future I’m working for!” Braden had gathered all his files and laptop and had turned to leave when he noticed the expression on Shelly’s face. She didn’t look hurt or sad as he’d thought she would given his haste. Instead she looked angry. This was a look that he had managed to avoid for nearly eight months of cohabitation. “I’m sorry.” he sighed as he placed his work back on the table and stepped closer to her. It was too late though, Shelly had already shut down. “Don’t worry about it.” her voice was ice as she pushed past him and headed to their bedroom. She couldn’t understand why people would sacrifice so much of the present for the future. Who knew what tomorrow would bring? It upset her that Braden assumed she’d want to give away the time they have now for the time they may or may not have later. Especially since she didn’t know that she could promise Braden the future he wanted. Sure she was happy breaking her mother’s rules now but a part of her still believed there was truth in every word her mother had uttered.
Shelly’s phone rang again. She looked at the screen, surprised to see her mother’s photo instead of the picture of her and Braden cheek to cheek with the ocean in the background that she’d grown accustomed to seeing each time it lit up. “Hello mother.” she answered with a lack of enthusiasm. “Shelly, where are you?” Her mother’s voice was thick with irritation which was the normal tone reserved for Shell whenever she’d fail to call her weekly. “I’m great mom, thanks for asking. How are you?” Shelly’s voice dripped with sarcasm that she immediately regretted. She had been in such a bad mood since she’d left home. “Don’t take that tone with me Shell. Now where are you? Do you know Braden has called me and shown up to my house on several different occasions looking for you?” Shell groaned, her mother was adamant about not meeting any of her boyfriends so she could only imagine how those encounters went. “I’m sorry mom, I didn’t think he’d bother you.” “Yeah, well he has. Shelly what’s going on?” Shell had managed to leave a lot of her life out of the conversations she had with her mother weekly, mainly the parts about how serious she and Braden had become. Her mother knew the names of her boyfriends but never much more than that. “Mom just don’t worry about it. If he calls back just give him one of your famous speeches you give to get rid of guys okay?” Her mother huffed on the other end of the phone, “Wow, Shell thanks. I’m not telling the man anything, you need to talk to him. He said you left in the middle of the night only leaving a letter. That’s one of my moves.” “Yeah well, I thought you’d be proud mom.” Shell was indignant about the way her mother sounded disappointed with her. “Okay, I deserve that I guess, I think that you may have gotten too much of my pessimistic views on relationships.” Shell sat quietly on her end of the phone turning over her mothers words in her head before speaking, “Yeah well you only drilled it into my head that men aren’t capable of staying or loving so…” After a moment her mother’s voice was in her ear again. “I think I was wrong Shelly.” Sighing her mother went on to tell say that her rules on love were (and these are her words exactly) “complete and utter bullshit”. She told her daughter that she had made a mistake by turning her against love, she had only been jaded by her own past and hoped her child would not have to endure her pains. She had spent the past couple of days getting to know Braden since he called and eventually showed up on her doorstep. He had shown so much love and adoration for her daughter that she could not deny it was really love.
“Shell, you can’t run away from this if you love him.” She paused a second before asking, “Do you love him?” This was new territory for the two; discussing Shell’s relationship. It was weird, especially because she felt as though she’d usually be reprimanded for the answer she was about to give. Her voice was quiet, barely above a whisper as she replied, “I do.” Her mother didn’t miss a beat with her request, “Then go home Shell.” After she hung up with her mother Shelly sat for a while just trying to wrap her head around the fact that her mom had actually admitted to being wrong and that before she said goodbye, she told Shell she thought Braden was a great man. Her mother rarely regarded men in a positive sense, which in a way was understandable if you knew the history that Carly had with the men in her life. It was nice to see that Braden could change not one but the both of their minds on love. Gathering her courage, Shelly decided to finally go back to the man that broke through all the barriers her mother had built which she eventually reinforced. She knew it would not be easy but seeing that Braden was willing to brave her mother even after she’d warned him of the woman’s bite. He was showing her that he was going to stay, and she believed him.
An hour later she reached her hand into the mailbox and wrapped her fingers around the key she had hoped would still be there.