The Last Chance(2015)

Chapter One

 

Anna Crow ran to her car, put on her seatbelt, and hit the gas. Not for the first time, Anna was upset that she’d chosen a home in the city, but she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but in the heart of Boston. She found herself stuck in traffic almost immediately. Great. She was going to be late to the wedding.

She unfolded the front window vizor and made a series of quick glances in the mirror, all the while trying to not hit the car in front of her. Road. Eye make up. Road. Lipstick. Road. Smile. Wink. Road. Everything looked to be in order. She’d worn natural makeup to make her pale blue eyes more punchy. Her permed auburn hair was cut into a short bob. She’d chosen the style to make her look more serious. Anna’s five foot five inch height hadn’t changed since high school and at times, people easily assumed she was still sixteen, instead of the twenty-eight year old that she was.

Today, she put on a dress that highlighted her small curves. It was a soft silk pastel yellow dress. It had spaghetti straps, a heart shaped neckline, accentuated her small breast, hugged her stomach, and slid over her hips, just before it flared out, stopping at the knee. She had a pair of white pumps on her feet to match her purse. White to a wedding. Just a little white. She didn’t think anyone would mind. Now if only Anna could get her nerves under control.

Folding the vizor back up, Anna’s hands tightened on the wheel. Her heart jumped right before it took on a fast tempo. She sighed, trying to get some of the anxiety out, but nothing seemed to work. Anna wasn’t ready. Everything was moving so quickly. But even as she thought it, Anna knew there was nothing she could do about it. Brian was getting married. Her Brian.

Her heart leaped again. She choked back a sob and immediately shook it off. She’d cried enough in the last four months. If she were to be completely honest with herself, Anna could say that she’d cried over Brian for the last seven years.

Anna finally made it to the freeway and was able to pick up some speed. The wedding was to be at the bride’s family church. It was going to be beautiful. Anna would know. She’d even helped plan the wedding. It had been a favor to Brian. He wanted her to like his bride. Anna quickly wiped at a lone tear that fell. Anna needed to accept her reality. The man she loved was in love with someone else. Tears wouldn’t get Anna out of this situation.

She could still remember the moment she’d been told that Brian was getting married. His fiancee had announced it during one of Anna’s dinner parties. The woman sure did know how to steal a show. Jealousy coursed through Anna. Vivian Green. Little Miss Boston. Literally. The woman was a pageant queen.

An itch to check herself out in the mirror again ran through Anna. But there was no use. It didn’t matter how she looked. Even if she could upstage Vivian, she still wouldn’t win. Vivian had won. Vivian had Brian.

But to be fair, Anna hadn’t tried. There’d been no competition for Brian’s heart. Anna had never told him how she felt. That was what hurt Anna the most. He still didn’t know and now it was too late to tell him.

Anna took her exit off the freeway and turned down a series of short streets until she finally reached her destination. She found a parking spot, hopped out the car, and ran on high heels towards the entrance of the church.

Reaching the front of the steps, Anna realized she wasn’t the only one late. Her eyes widen at the man who was running in her direction. “Brian?”

Brian Walker smiled as he slowed to a jog right before he stopped at her feet. He rested his hands on his knees, trying to find his breath.

Anna leaned down to look at his face. “What are you doing out here?”

Brian held out a hand, asking for her patience. Anna leaned back, only getting a view of his short brunette hair. Once he’d managed to breath at a rate, he stood up, going to his whole six foot three inch height.

He was breathtaking and looked completely dangerous in his black tux. Almost like a younger James Bond, bow tie and all. A pair of solid green eyes stared down at her in that same gentle manner they alway did. He had very strong facial features. High cheekbones, a straight nose, and handsome pair of lips. If not for the tenderness in his eye, Brian could be unnerving. An upset Brian was not something anyone wanted to be around.

“Brian, why are you just getting here?”

His grin slowly pulled to the right side of his face. He was so adorable when he did that. “Honestly, I’m surprised I got here when I did. I just flew in this morning.”

Anna shook her head. Just like Brian to work on his wedding day. He hadn’t always been this way. He’d been kind of lazy freshmen year, but Anna had corrected him. Now he was ‘Brian the Workaholic’. She’d created a monster. “Vivan will not be pleased.” Anna crossed her arms over her stomach, given him her best stern look.

Brian rolled his eyes. “She’ll live.” Brian’s eyes returning to hers almost made Anna want to run and hide. Only Brian could bring out Anna’s girly side, making her want to giggle. She made it a point never to giggle. Anna knew her college students would get a kick out it if she did. Ms. Crow? Intimidated by a man? Nah.

Yet, she was. Just by this man. Both Anna and Brian had studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences while at MIT. It was where they met. She’d been one of the smallest people in the class and one of the only female. Anna had met her share of challenges from male colleagues. She’d impressed them all, not that she’d been trying to impress any of them. Anna was confident in her intelligence. It was everything else that frightened her.  “Did you finish the batch file?”

Brian lite up immediately. He was a kid in a candy shop whenever there was a conversation about computer algorithms. “Yeah, but I want to you take a look over it. The script is pretty basic. Let’s meetup next week-”

Anna was shaking her head before Brian had the time to finish. “You’ll be on your honeymoon.”

Brian paused and looked towards the church awkwardly. It was as if he’d forgotten it was there. Or rather, he’d forgotten why he was here. “Oh yeah. I should go inside before everyone thinks I’ve changed my mind.” He gave a quick laugh.

“No, we wouldn’t want that to happen,” sarcasm dripped heavy from her words. Anna turned towards the dead road. Not a car or pedestrian around. It was as if they were the only people in the world. If only.

“What was that about?”

Anna looked towards Brian then. There was confusion in his green eyes. Anna’s heart started to beat rapidly. She rubbed her bare arms, trying to warm herself. It wasn’t cold outside, but for some reason, she felt a chill go through her. “What are you talking about?”

“The attitude in your voice.”

Oh crap. Had he heard it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Brian scoffed. “Like you don’t know,” he then put on his best impression of her, dramatizing every word she said, dragging it out to insure that Anna did miss an inflated syllable, “No, we wouldn’t want that to happen.” He then lifted a brow, waiting, expecting an answer.

Anna looked away again. She was caught. She’d let herself get carried away with him. That always happened around Brian. Anna would have her guard up, but after a few minutes, it would slip and she would say something embarrassing. She was surprised that she’d held on to the secret that she loved him for so long. “It doesn’t matter.”

Brian didn’t say anything. Then the silence became awkward, Anna looked back over at him and almost gasped. The anger on his face was raw. “Do you not like Vivian?” He asked very slowly. His eyes were narrowed, studying Anna every move, her every twitch.

Anna gray eyes fluttered. “No, Vivian is… I like her.”

“Then what was the comment meant to mean.”

Anna felt trapped. Time for a good old diversion. “You’re going to miss your own wedding.”

“Yeah, a wedding you don’t think I should be having.”

Anna dropped her arms at her side. She wanted this conversation over. Now. Before she said something ridiculous. “So what? Why does it matter what I think?”

Nothing about Brian’s stance changed. He was still studying her. His eyes still trained on her face, reading her lies. He knew her too well. They’d been friends too long. “Anna, do you not want me to marry Vivian?”

Anna feel her heart drop out. Her hands flew to her chest in an effort to keep it from falling out. This was not happening. Not now. She tried to read Brian’s eyes, tried to see where the line of questions were going, but she couldn’t. His was giving her one of his guarded looks. Blocking her out until he got the information he wanted.

Well, Anna wasn’t going to give him anything. She made a quick turn towards the parking lot. She stopped when she almost crashed into something. Or someone. It was Brian. He’d moved quick. His hands went to her shoulder, steadying her. “Why don’t you want me to marry Vivian?” The question was no longer ‘do’ but ‘why’. 

Anna closed her eyes. It was the only way to shut him out of her thoughts, but even still she could feel his green eyes roaming over her face. Looking for some sign. Anything that would tell him what lay deep within Anna’s heart. He wanted to know. She could tell. He sensed it, but it was too late. It didn’t matter. “You’re going to miss your wedding.” It was all she could say. Anna couldn’t bare her heart out to him. She wasn’t ready. She never would be. It was why the Vivians of the world would win. Anna was too afraid.

She felt Brian’s arms leave her then. She opened her eyes and found him still staring down at her, but the anger was gone. He was calm now. There was almost a peace within him, but something else as well. Regret. “Why didn’t you just say ‘yes’?”

Anna was holding her arms again, confused. ‘What?”

Brian put his hands in the pocket of his pants and took a step back. “When I asked you out senior year? Graduation night? Why didn’t you say ‘yes’?”

Anna was stumped. She hadn’t thought he’d remember. It had been seven years ago. They’d been twenty-one. They’d just become legal to drink. Everyone was going out, but Brian wanted to be with Anna, but Anna had said ‘no’. She’d regretted it ever sense. “I was scared, Brian.” She self consciously reached in an effort to touch him, but Brian took another step away from her. He laughed a cruel laugh. There was pain in it.

Someone came outside the church doors. “Brian! Hurry up! Their about to play the song!”

Brian turned towards the church, gave a nod of the head, and then turned back to Anna. He didn’t say anything, but the look said everything words wouldn’t. She should have said yes. It should be there wedding day. She should have spoken up when he first brought Vivian around. Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve, but didn’t. It would be the story of their lives. Brian was now looking at Anna as if it would be the last time she saw her this way. And it probably would. This would the last time Brian, the unmarried man, could feel anything for anyone outside of Vivian.

Anna stood there, not moving, letting him soak in his fill of her. His eyes prowled over her short frame before meeting her eyes again. His hand unexpectedly reached up and softly caressed her cheek. “You should have said yes,” he whispered, right before he dropped his hand and turned towards the church. He walked up the steps and through the door, without ever looking back.