Two days ago we buried my father and step-mother.
Shelly, my best friend, believed I was the way I was because my life was always changing, and in order to deal with it, I clung to anything stable that I could. I loved my dad. He gave me a good life. We had a stable life, just not a stable mother.
The wife who died in the car accident with him had been wife number 4.
My dad had worked as an accountant to a few businesses around the city, and some in the neighboring cities. He suggested accounting, that way I could work with him. I agreed. I had tried explaining to Shelley that I actually liked my classes, but she never believed me.
As I laid in bed one night, after another long talk with Shelly about what I wanted to do with my life now, I couldn’t fall asleep. My mind just kept going over and over everything.
Mainly my engagement to a stranger.
Last month dad came home from a meeting with one of his oldest clients. The son of the owner wasn’t interested in taking over, but the VP, JJ, had been helping run the company for nearly a decade. While the owner didn’t insist that he get married first, it was strongly suggested. I didn’t know all the details, only that dad really liked him. Seeing as I didn’t date much, and dad had been pushing me to date more, he thought this was the perfect solution.
Of all the times to stand up for myself and finally say no, that was probably it.
Just before dawn, I finally fell asleep. I couldn’t remember what I dreamed about, but whatever it was, when I woke up, I had this urge to just get away. I wanted a new life. Something I chose. A fresh start somewhere.
I packed all of my clothes, and all the sentimental things I wanted with me, and loaded up my SUV.
My nerves lasted me all the way up until I actually had to back out of the driveway.
“Come on, Amanda. You can do this. You need to do this.” I wasn’t very convincing. It wasn’t safe, but I backed out with my eyes closed. And pretty much screeched the whole time. I very carefully kept myself from looking at the only place I had ever lived, as I drove away.
I turned down the main road, and just started driving. I had to wipe my wet cheeks a couple times, taking slow deep breaths. I gave no thought to where I was going or what I was going to do. I put all my focus on just driving… and trying not to panic.
I didn’t look when the city slowly turned from neighborhoods to busy downtown sidewalks.
I didn’t look when the city sidewalks turned into neighborhoods again.
Or even when they subtly turned more rural.
Eventually I started passing farms, and acres of animals. By that point, I had been able to forget what my purpose was, and just enjoy the open air. I rolled my window down and let the fresh oxygen run through my body. A small smile even came to my lips.
Maybe I would find a small farming town somewhere.
Then I passed about a hundred cows. I coughed and gagged as I rolled the window back up. Scratch the farm town.
Not far after I passed the farms, the road suddenly ended. My only option was to either turn right, or left. I reached into the deep center console of my Ascent, where I kept extra bottles of water, and a few small snacks. My hand hit a small cloth bag, making a jingling sound. Curious, I grabbed it and pulled it out. It was a small pink change purse.
I opened it and found a receipt from a bar and spare change. I laughed, finally remembering. Shelly and I had gone out for drinks a couple weeks ago. It was my turn to be the designated driver. I really should call her and tell her I left. But I knew she wouldn’t be mad at me. I would wait to call her until I knew where I was going.
Looking at the coins gave me an idea though. I pulled out a quarter and laughed softly at how childish I was being.
“Alright. Heads we go right, tails we go left.” I tossed the quarter lightly in the air and caught it. With a slow exhale, I slowly moved my hand.
“Okay, right it is.”
I flipped the coin three more times over the next few hours, all coming up heads. Around nine, I was getting tired, so I pulled off the road and found a small motel. It looked to be right on the edge of a small town. Once I was settled into a small room, I walked down the street to where I remembered passing a small bar. The irony of the name made me laugh. “Tail Spin.”
It looked better than the motel, thankfully. There were only a little over a dozen people either sitting at the bar, at tables, or playing pool. Nearly half looked my way as I walked through the door. I felt a little awkward, so I quickly slid into a booth.
Not much later a waitress came over. I was very happy to hear that they had food. I had hoped, but you never really knew for sure when it came to places like this. I ordered myself a fat bacon burger and a large plate of fries. I was starving.
Not long after the waitress left, a man in dark blue jeans, and a black henley walked over and set a bottle of beer in front of me.
He chuckled softly. “You’re welcome.”
I slid the bottle closer to me, expecting him to turn and go back to work. But no. He sat down across from me.
He looked slightly unsure of himself as he scratched his jaw. The black fuzz on his face matched the hair that was possibly too short to even brush. The sides of his head were shaved better than his face was.
“Hi. Mind if I join you?”
“Ohkay.” Yes, I did mind actually. I really needed to shake this people pleasing thing off.
“Name’s Jay.” His very large hand appeared halfway over the table. I hadn’t really noticed the size of his muscles until then. Now I wasn’t sure I would be able to look away.
Carefully, I met it with my own. “Amanda.”
His fingers closed around my hand, enveloping it. “Nice to meet you. What brings you to these parts?”
“Just passing through.”
“Oh yeah? Where you headed?”
I scrunched up my nose. “Don’t really know to be honest. Just been thinking I needed a change of scenery.”
He nodded and leaned back, spreading one of those thick arms across the back of the bench. “So you thought you’d road trip it for a couple of days on your own?”
“Um.” I opened my mouth to say more, then stopped. “I don’t think I know you well enough to answer that.”
His laugh was more physical than it was verbal as he shook his head. “No, I don’t suppose you do.” A grin spread across his face as he shifted to lean on the table. “Well, we could remedy that.”
I giggled. Like an honest, true, giggle. Holy crap what was wrong with me? I cleared my throat and took a small drink of the beer, turning my head to the side. When I turned back he was watching me carefully. Next thing I knew, we were talking.
My food came, as did some wings for him. And we still kept talking. And laughing. It surprised me how quickly I grew comfortable with him, and how easy he was to talk to.
Jay said he worked in a restaurant, one of the chefs. I had spent some time behind the scenes in restaurants when I was younger. Dad took me to work with him a few times. I loved it. I always got free milkshakes and fries while I colored in the office.
After my second bottle, I finally caved and told him about my up and moving, and about the coin toss.
“So, let me get this straight. You are betting your future on the flip of a coin.”
“No.” I scoffed. He lifted an eyebrow. “Yeah, maybe. But only a little. Really I am just letting fate take the lead for a change.”
He started out with a small chuckle, started to talk, and then nearly fell over laughing. I folded my arms over my chest and waited him out. It took him a few minutes, but eventually he was able to sit up again.
He raised a hand. “I’m sorry. Really. I’ve just never heard of anyone doing that before.”
“Yeah, well. I’ve never gone off-book like this. It’s all new for me.”
He nodded like he understood what I was talking about. “I get it. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, and feel like we have no choice than to do the extreme.”
“Really? You can understand that.”
It was his turn to hide his sudden awkwardness with a drink. It was certainly not his second bottle and yet the alcohol barely seemed to be fazing him.
“Yeah. I do. I made a decision a few weeks ago. One I’ve been debating on changing.”
It was silent for a moment before I decided to help him out a bit. “Is it something that would benefit you?”
“Yeah, kind of. I guess.”
“Is it something that would hurt you or others?”
He smirked, then frowned. “I didn’t think so, but lately I’ve been thinking otherwise.”
I drew a blank on what to say, and the air between us thickened with an odd tension. So, I pulled the quarter out of my pocket and set it on the table.
“Maybe you should flip and let fate decide.”
Well, at least I made him smile again. Even if he was laughing at my expense. I moved to pick the coin back up but he quickly dropped his hand on mine, stopping me. His laughter gone in the blink of an eye.
“I have a better idea.” Was his voice always that deep?
I gulped. “What?”
He slowly took the quarter from me, caressing my fingers as he did so. I was pretty sure it only affected me so much because it had been a very long time since my last boyfriend.
“How about we flip to see if you are going to go home with me?”
My eyes widened. That was definitely the last thing I expected him to say.
“Heads you go home with me. Tails I walk you back to your hotel room, kiss your cheek goodnight, and leave once you are safely locked inside.”
My inebriated mind spun in so many directions. First of all, I didn’t do one night stands. And not just because of how I was conceived, but because they were reckless. Secondly, how sweet that he would walk me back and not try anything. He wanted to keep me safe in an unknown place.
Before I could formulate a response, he was tossing the quarter into the air. I only managed a small squeak. Jay kept his eyes on me while it flew and then fell back, landing in his palm. He swiftly spun his hand over and slammed it down onto the table.
I nervously rubbed my lips back and forth as my eyes went between his brown ones and the hand that still covered the coin. With a small smirk, he dragged his hand toward his side of the table and tipped his hand up enough to look under it.
Jay’s eyes flashed up to mine one more time, then he picked it all the way up. With his other hand, he snapped his fingers and sighed dramatically.
“So close. Guess I have to stick with being a gentleman tonight.”
I huffed out a small laugh, a tad on the hysterical side.
He did just what he promised, after paying our bill, and walked me back to my hotel room. I laid in bed that night, wondering what the hell I got myself into with this stupid coin toss thing.
The next morning, I didn’t linger. I checked out of my room, ran through a Wendy’s drive thru I had missed in the dark the night before, and got back on the road. Despite the dangers from the night before, I flipped the stupid coin and turned right, back onto the highway.
I laughed, when three hours later, I ended up back in my hometown. Given, I was still on the opposite side of the city. The sun was barely setting when I pulled into a hotel. A much nicer hotel this time. I decided I was in need of pampering.
Shelly would be proud of me. I got a spa treatment, with the works. I may have used the coin to help decide on the package. Stupid sucker went for the biggest one there was.
And every inch of me thanked it a few hours later.
Feeling like a new woman, I went into the restaurant that was connected to the lobby. It didn’t belong to the hotel, instead the restaurant owner and the hotel owner partnered together. The masseuse had been very chatty. All I had asked was for her recommendation on a good place to eat. She had a thing for the head chef. If he looked anything like Jay, then I wouldn’t blame her.
I was nursing a glass of champagne, and was barely picking up my first complimentary roll, when the chair across from me was suddenly occupied by a man in a suit.
“What the hell?” I half-whispered.
“Well, hello to you too.”
My eyes widened at the familiar deep voice, as they raked from the thick chest to the brown eyes. I vaguely noticed there was no more black scruff all over the jaw.
“Uh…hi? What are you doing here?”
Jay’s grin took up his whole face. “I could ask you the same question.”
Holy crap. Did he follow me?
“S…sir.” A young waiter approached the table, visibly shaking.
“Yes. Johnny.” Jay asked him softly.
“No, I’m only saying hi to a friend. I’ll only be a minute.”
The kid nodded and half ran back out.
I closed my eyes and shook my head. “This is your restaurant.” Of course it was.
“Guess that answers your question. What about mine?”
“Staying in the hotel.”
I timidly talked with him until my food came, then he kissed my cheek again and left. I quickly asked the waitress for a box, packed up my food, and hightailed it out of there. Half an hour later, I was back in the car and headed home.
No more heads and tails. This girl wanted the safety of her security system. On some level, I knew it was just a coincidence. But the fear that he had followed me was lingered in my mind.
A fear that spiked the next morning when I woke up to someone banging on my door. Thinking it was Shelly, coming to hound me for not answering her calls the last two days, I grabbed my robe and ran to the door.
I paused only long enough to look on the security panel, and the footage of the camera. I came to a screeching halt when the thick form of a man in jeans and a t-shirt registered.
“Open the door, Amanda. I know you are there. I heard you running. And your “what the hell” wasn’t all that quiet.”
I mouthed a curse and spun, looking for… no clue what. I was freaking out here.
“I’m not here to hurt you. I was worried when you checked out so fast last night. Just open the door and let me explain.”
Taking a deep breath, I opened the door a crack, keeping my left foot behind it. “How did you find me?”
He lifted his lips in a half smirk. “I’ve always known where you lived, Mandy.”
Say what now?
He sighed, giving up on me letting him in. “My full name is Jay Jenkins. Your dad called me JJ.”
I turned into a fish with the way my mouth opened and closed.
“I know we should have met sooner, but I’ve been going back and forth with all of this since the day I agreed to it.”
I huffed slightly and shook my head. “The decision you were debating.” My body relaxed and he pushed the door open a little more.
“Yeah, babe. I guess both of us were floating out to sea. I was about to call you and let you off the hook when you walked into the bar the other night. My brother owns the place. I thought maybe I would tell you in person, but then you smiled and I couldn’t do it.”
He went into more detail about how he thought all of this was fate’s way of bringing us together finally. Of helping us find our right path, together.
“Say something… please.” He begged, when I still hadn’t commented.
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know what to say, Jay.”
“Say you’ll give me a chance. Give us a chance.”
I was tempted to turn him down, but when my eyes met his, I melted.
He looked so childlike, I laughed and nodded. “Yeah.”
He swooped in, but this time, his lips did not land on my cheek. Nor did he keep much distance between us.
Five months later, we got married. I had just one question for fate left.
Heads - we would live happily ever after.
Tails - we wouldn’t.
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