Never Tied Down (The Never Duet #2)(3)

By: Anie Michaels

Much like anything beautiful or worthwhile I’d witnessed in the last six months, it only accentuated the pain that was still lodged inside me, making no effort to dissipate. It was just another wonderful sunrise Marcus would never see, that I would witness alone.

I groaned at my own depressing thoughts and decided to make a conscious effort to not be completely morose for the entire day. I’d always been a big subscriber to the idea that one was in control of their own outlook on life. I’d managed, for years, to live through some of the worst circumstances imaginable and still lead a pretty happy life. All those notions were challenged when Marcus died.

Sure, I took the obligatory time to grieve, lived through his funeral and the wake, floating on some sort of removed cloud of distant engagement. Then I landed firmly on the other side of the whole ordeal, putting myself squarely in a dark existence. For weeks I was inconsolable, but I still felt as if that was normal, still felt as though I was owed a period of sadness. I was angry, too. Unimaginably angry. I was also dealing with guilt so heavy it kept me in bed most days.

For weeks I survived simply by the good graces of Nancy and my friends, who’d made sure I never went more than a day without eating, forced me to get up and at least shower, always telling me I was entitled to grieve however I needed to, but still insisting on making sure I wasn’t doing myself harm.

After a few weeks passed, I eventually started feeling better. I was still sad, angry, and full of guilt, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as it had been. It was manageable. That was to say, I was able to pretend for short periods of time I wasn’t completely broken, even though I absolutely was.

Two months after he passed away, I decided I couldn’t be in my house anymore. Nancy had already left, coming to the same conclusion I had, finding it too difficult to be in the house where she’d cared for and loved on Marcus as if he were her own. She told me gently one morning that since I was feeling better, she was moving in with Bob. I nodded, accepting her words, finding them to be just as painful as if she’d hurled something solid directly at my face. I couldn’t expect her to stick around forever, there was absolutely no reason for her to do so, but it was just another loss I’d have to endure and was ultimately responsible for.

It took just one day of being alone in the house for me to realize I couldn’t be there by myself. It was entirely too hard. So I packed a few suitcases, turned off the power to the house, and drove to Portland with absolutely no plan. Luckily, when I landed on Megan’s doorstep she’d welcomed me with open arms, and I’d been drifting ever since. It took a few weeks to find work again, but I picked myself up and pretended to dust myself off.

When I was on set, working, I was professional and efficient, and actually preferred to be there because with each job came new coworkers. Usually I could meet new people and pretend as though I hadn’t lived through the worst months of my life. It wasn’t like my brother’s death was big news, but once a few people from the business found out, it had spread and I’d received condolences from many people I’d worked with in the past. So, finding new people, who didn’t know me or hadn’t heard of my tragedies, was refreshing. It allowed me to pretend to be happy and unaffected for a day, to put my grief to the side and ignore it.

And although I loved my friends dearly, to be around them was to be constantly reminded I was fragile because that was how they treated me, as if I were made of glass.

So, much like this morning, I tried sometimes to keep my distance from them in order to spare everyone’s feelings. I would be eternally grateful to Ella and Megan for allowing me to stay with them when I needed a place to crash between jobs, but I definitely tried to give myself space. They didn’t need constant reminders I was crashing in their guest room, anyway.

After I’d showered and dressed, I was downstairs utilizing the fancy coffeemaker in the Masters’ kitchen when the front door opened and Porter appeared.

“Kalli, good morning,” he said, as he made his way through the open floor plan of his house. “I just forgot some blueprints I needed for a job in town this afternoon.” He paused as he came to a stop at the island in the middle of the kitchen, his eyes on me, fingers drumming on the countertop. I could tell by the look in his eyes he wanted to ask me how I was doing, to check up on me, but he resisted. “How much longer do you have at the shoot you’re working on?”

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