So why does your pride make you run and hide, are you that afraid of me, but I know it's a lie what you keep inside, this is not how you wanted to be."
“Marley! You have to go!” Her mom called from the kitchen.
Marley rolled her eyes and continued scratching Cody’s ears from her place on the couch in the living room. “I don’t have to do anything, mother.”
Her mother appeared in the doorway. “Marley Braxton.” She shook her head, glaring at her daughter. “You’ve been to this ball every year since you were fourteen….You’re going.”
Marley sighed when she heard the finality in her mother’s voice, knowing there was mo way she was going to get out of skipping out on the Winchester Winter Ball that her mother and Denise had got an invitation to because they joined the same book club as Mrs. Winchester.
“Mom.” She pouted, poking her lip out, hoping to play the sympathy card. “Please.” She begged.
A solemn look of sadness washed over her mother’s face and she went to settle next to her daughter on the couch. “Marley, honey, I know you miss him.”
“I don’t.” She whispered. “He doesn’t want me anymore.” The tears came out of nowhere and she whimpered, leaning over to lay her head on her shoulder. “I went to try and talk and someone else was there and she was perfect, and I feel so stupid.” She ended, sucking in a deep breath and letting it out followed by string of sobs.
“Sweetheart.” She breathed, reaching over to brush the hair from her face. “You know he loves you. I know you know that. You left him, baby.” She reminded her softly.
“I know.” She choked out. “But, I was so unhappy, mom…a-and ever since then, it’s gotten so much worse. I feel like I can’t find happiness anymore.”
“Well, do you love him?” She asked.
“Yes.” Marley shot back without hesitation.
“Well, what’s the problem?”
Rolling her eyes again, Marley shook her head, “It’s not that easy.” She mumbled.
“Marley.” Her mom shook her head, her voice rising, to let her daughter know she was serious. “I’ve been married for twenty-seven years and let me tell you one thing. Loving someone is all that matters. If you have love, everything else works out. Granted, you and Joe are different…but give him some time to figure all this being in the public eye stuff out. I know it’s not any easier on him.”
Nodding, Marley let the words sink in, shutting her eyes and letting her mind mull over how a second chance would work out.
Walking into the sparkling ballroom, smoothing down the front of her dress and trying to push the nerves out of her system, she let her eyes rake across the room, finally spotting her brother, and making a beeline for him.
“Connor.” She forced a weak smile, wrapping her hand around his forearm. “Hey.” She breathed.
He smiled down at her, throwing an arm over her shoulder, “I’m glad you came.” He rubbed her shoulder.
“Yeah, me too.” She mumbled, grabbing a glass of champagne off the tray of the waiter passing her and freezing when her eyes landed on the backs of three very familiar boys. Before she could comprehend what was happening, all three were headed her way. Her breath went short at the sight of Joe. Seeing him in a tux had always made her knees go weak.
Fully prepared to act like an adult, Marley smiled as they approached and held her head high while inside, the butterflies in her stomach were dying to be set free. The conversation that had started between her brother and the three Jonas boys went unnoticed to her. Joe’s brief side glances held all of her attention and when she finally got the guts to reach out and place her hand on his forearm, his head snapped up to look at her as if she’d burned him.
“Can I talk to youa33;”” She whispered, cutting her sentence short when a body appeared next to him, a hand brushing hers away and wrapping around his arm. A confused look passed over her face and she looked up, into the eyes of a scowling blonde she recognized from the gossip sites two weeks before.
Marley’s hand slid away and the anger boiled within her. Every time she’d tried to talk with him, there was always interference. She built her confidence up only to have it smashed into the ground like a tin can. The feeling of wanting to be anywhere but there consumed her and she glared at Joe, downed the contents of her champagne glass and slammed it onto the table next to the small group, catching everyone’s attention.
“Have a fucking grand night, everyone.” She threw in a fake smile for good measure and whipped around, heading for the side hall.
Groaning when she saw a small group of women head into the bathroom, she continued on, slipping into an abandoned banquet room. Shutting the door and crossing the room, leaning against the wall, Marley let out a frustrated cry, balling her fist into balls and gritting her teeth.
This isn’t how she wanted this to go.
Moments later, the door swung open, and an out of breath Joe appeared before her.
Her breath caught in her throat and a sob forced it back out, the tears making their first appearance. “Please. Joe.” She choked. “I can’t do this with you right now.”
“No.” He refused, shutting the door behind him. “I didn’t bring her here to make you jealous.” He blurted out.
“That’s not whata33;”I’m nota33;”” She stuttered, not being able to find her words.
The tears rushed down her cheeks. She made no attempt to wipe them away, knowing they would never stop…not now, she could hardly bear the feeling in her chest, the anger, the sadness, the heartbreak. Her limbs felt heavy and her head was spinning.
“You ended this Marley. You ended us! What do you expect?” He yelled, watching the line of freckles on her neck so he wouldn’t have to see the pain etched on her face.
“I-I c-can handle that.” She choked out, “But she’s out with you. You brought her out. In public with the cameras and the press around.” She choked on a sob. “A-and you never did that with me.” Her voice got softer, “Why did you hide me away?” She ducked down and forced his eyes to lock with hers, she wanted his real answer.
He turned his head to the side once their eyes met, squeezing his eyes closed. He couldn’t handle seeing her so broken in front of him. Trying to force back the instincts he had that still burned so strongly within him to reach out and stroke her hair and pull her close to him and whisper sweet nothings in her ear until she smiled again delayed his answer and she grew frustrated.
“Why, Joe?” She stamped her foot to get his attention, “Why didn’t you claim me?” She shoved his chest when he didn’t look at her.
His jaw clenched and he forced back the burning in his eyes of the tears trying to escape. “Martin said, that maybe if she and Ia33;””
“Oh, Martin made you.” She scoffed. “I forgot you let him drag you around like his little fucking puppet.” She glared at the side of his head, frustrated that he wouldn’t look at her. “If you would’ve stood up for me, we wouldn’t be here right now.” Her voice dropped to almost a whisper. “I know it’s not true but I felt like you didn’t want mea33;”like you weren’t proud of me…and it hurt…and I hurt…and I had to get away…”
He dropped his head and let out the breath he was holding. He forced his eyes to stay down. The words she’d just let pour from her heart sunk deep within him, churning in his stomach and making him feel sick.
“Look at me!” Her voice became frantic and she felt herself breaking down. His head stayed turned away from her and she backed against the wall attempting to catch her breath in between sobs. The room was eerily quiet, just the sounds of her sobs ripping from her throat, sucking in gulps of air to try and catch her breath.
Minutes later, when the room had finally fallen silent from the echoes of her breakdown, he heard her voice in a low growl. “I hate you.”
His head snapped to attention, his eyes finally turning to face her. “You don’t mean that.” He said softly.
He watched her eyes flare with her anger, her whole face hard. The couple of feet that separated them suddenly felt like miles and he choked out a sound of disbelief. Her face didn’t falter and he took a step closer, his own anger seeping through.
“You don’t mean that!” He yelled, reaching up and letting his palms rest against the wall next to her head, trapping her in between his arms.
The now closeness and the loudness of his voice caused her to flinch, but she stood her ground. “How could I love someone who treats me the way you do?” Her glare told him she was serious and his heart thudded irregularly in his chest knowing that she felt that way.
“I never wanted you to feel that way.” He whispered, his barriers finally breaking and tears slipping down his cheeks. Her face softened and against her better judgment, she let her instincts take over and reached out to run her fingers over his cheek.
“I kept you away because I didn’t want them to rip us apart. I wanted you to myself. I didn’t want our life exposed. I wanted our relationship to be about us, me and you, that’s it, not for the whole world to see.” His eyes darted up to look into hers. “But, still, you still left, and I couldn’t stop you…” A soft breathy sob pushed from his lips, “Nothing’s felt the same since you’ve been gone…that girl out there. She means nothing. She is no one. The girl in the apartment…nothing! Maybe to someone else…but to me…they’re nothing! They’re an attempt to fill a void that’s unfillable…without you, I’m just…empty.”
Tears rushed down her face again, she knew exactly how he felt, it felt like everything she looked at was gray, everything that used to make her smile didn’t anymore, sleeping in a bed that wasn’t theirs felt wrong…it all felt wrong…everything without him felt terribly, horribly wrong.
“Joe…” His name never sounded better.
In one swift movement, his hands were off the wall and around her waist, pulling her against him. She gasped and didn’t have time to think before his lips were moving hungrily against hers. Throwing her inhibitions aside, she wrapped her arms around his neck, sliding her fingers into his hair and returning the desperate kisses.
She sighed into his mouth when he pushed her against the wall and she felt all of him pressed against her. This was better than she remembered. He broke the kiss to allow them to catch their breath and moved to her neck, she fought to fill her lungs with air and felt goosebumps arise on her skin following the trail of kisses from her neck to her ear.
“Marley.” Her name sounded so sensual and intimate coming from his lips and reality hit her quickly. Her mind cleared and her eyes opened. It couldn’t be this easy. They couldn’t fall back into each other this easily.
Bracing her hands on his shoulders, she pushed him back, shaking her head. He pulled back, confused and opened his mouth to speak but she laid her fingers over his lips.
“Don’t.” She whispered. “I can’t…” She shook her head. “I can’t Joe.”
She looked down, straightening her dress quickly before fleeing from the room, heading straight to the bathroom to clean up her tearstained face. Joe stood staring at the empty space she just occupied, wondering if that was real. If it really just happened or if he imagined it all in his head. He reached up and touched his lips, feeling them swollen and still tingling. A small smile reached his lips and he wiped his face and hurried from the room to find his brothers.
Marley emerged from the bathroom, fresh faced and still feeling like she was floating on a cloud, and more confused than ever. She had decided while washing her face that she was ready to leave. She couldn’t bear to watch him mere feet away from her knowing what had just happened. Walking to her table, she saw no sign of the Jonas family and sighed in relief while she grabbed her small clutch, making sure all of her belongings were in it before zig-zagging in between chairs to get to the exit.
“Baby Bear.” Her nick name echoed around her over the loud speaker, keeping her anonymous. She noticed how quiet the bustling room had gotten. She froze on the spot and her eyes drifted to the stage where the jazz band was set up. Except they were gone and Joe replaced them, sitting on a stool with an acoustic in his lap. “Don’t leave.” He spoke again.
What was he doing? Her strong will to get out of there as quickly as possible faded as it felt like her feet were now cemented to the floor, her curiosity building too much to let her leave.
The soft tune of the guitar filled the ballroom and she watched people around her whispering to each other, “Who is he talking about?” Their eyes darted around the room, “Where is she?”
Her eyes scanned the room and she noticed most of the tables doing the same thing. No one knew what was going on. All of them faded away when his lips got closer to the microphone and his voice filled every space around her, she saw nothing but him, heard nothing but his voice, felt nothing but the words that were leaving his mouth.
If I ever write the story of my life
Don’t be surprised if you’re where it begins
Girl, Id have to dedicate every line on every page
To the memories we made, while you loved me
I was born the day you kissed me
And I died inside the night you left me
But I lived, oh how I lived
(I lived) while you loved me
I’d start with chapter one, love innocent and young
As the morning sun on a new day
Even though I know the end, well I’d do it all again
cause I got a lifetime in, while you loved me
I was born the day you kissed me
And I died inside the night you left me
But I lived, oh how I lived
While you loved me.
As he finished, his eyes stayed locked on hers, the same way they’d been the entire song. The room came back to her in bits and pieces and she finally broke the eye contact, realizing for the first time that tears were streaking down her cheeks, also noticing everyone looking back and forth between Joe on the stage and herself in her spot amongst the tables.
Panic washed through her when they started whispering again and the cameras came out. Her eyes darted from Joe to the exit, her heart thudded wildly in her chest trying to comprehend everything that had happened in the past thirty minutes, what did it mean?
Someone at the table next to her, tugged her hand, “Are you her?” She asked, “Did he sing that for you?” Marley’s teary eyes shot back to Joe who was pulling the guitar from around his neck, no doubt on his way to find her.
Another tug on her hand brought her back and she pulled out of the woman’s grasp, turning toward the door and hurrying out. She heard the bustle come alive behind her and walked straight to the cabs already lined up, prepared to take people home. Opening the door to the closest one, she heard the metal doors of the building slam open behind her.
“Marley!” She turned on her heel at the sound of Joe’s voice. Their eyes locked for a few seconds before she climbed in the car and shut the door, pressing down the lock.
Joe reacted quickly, lunging in a sprint towards the car and grabbing the handle, tugging on it to no avail.
“Drive.” She choked out, the tightening in her chest making it hard to breathe.
“No, Marley!” His hand slapped against the window, “No, no, no.” He muttered.
“Don’t let him in, please.” She said softly, watching the cab driver’s nervous glances from Joe to Marley to the bumper to bumper traffic in the next lane.
Marley saw Martin’s tall, slender form exit through the doors while the cab waited to pull into traffic. Within seconds he was in front of Joe, grabbing a hold of his arm, a scowl pulled on his face.
She turned her eyes forward, away from the man who’d hated her from day one and watched the line of traffic next to the cab, hoping a spot would open up so she could get away.
“Let her go, Joe.” She heard Martin’s muffled voice through the window and the sounds of both of them struggling.
After a string of curse words were exchanged between the two men, the argument stopped and she slightly turned her head to the side seeing Joe dejectedly walking back to the entrance. With a glance over his shoulder, their eyes met and stayed that way for minutes until it was forced to be broken when the cab finally pulled into traffic.