The Stillness Of You

By: Julie Bale


It was that something hot and wicked that scared me because guys like Ben Lancaster were off limits for me. First off, my brother would kill me if I ever got mixed up with one of his players again, and after everything I’d been through in the last six months, Matt was my anchor. I couldn’t screw up. Not again.

And secondly? It would be tragic for me to ruin someone like Ben Lancaster, and that’s pretty much what I did. I ruined things. I ruined people.

I was my mother’s daughter through and through.

I was the girl no one should bring home to their parents. The hot mess every guy’s mom warned them about, and even though I was technically in treatment and on the mend, I knew the fire was still there. The hot fire currently buried beneath layers of medication. Sometimes when the noise got to be too much, I felt it pulling at me desperately, not content to rest.

And it was so hard to push it back down. To bury it beneath the scars under my skin because sometimes it was the only thing that made me feel alive.

But I did. I did it for my brother, Matt. I did it for my therapist, Seamus. And I suppose on some level I even did it for myself.

I was all of that and more.

And Ben Lancaster was off limits.

“Okay,” I said again as I set my tools back onto the easel. “I’d better get dressed.”





Chapter Two





Georgia





My cell phone buzzed and I glanced down. There was a text from Matt. ‘Shit, I’m sorry I forgot. Home in fifteen.’

He would be at least another half an hour, if not longer. I was betting on the longer, because it was too close to rush hour and everyone and their freaking mother would be heading somewhere with the Fourth of July two days away.

I glanced in the mirror and tucked a long strand of inky black hair behind my ear. Unlike my older brother Matt, who’d inherited our mother’s coloring, I was more like my dad. My hair was dark, my eyes a super light greenish-bluish color that some people found freaky, and my skin was pale. I was winter while Matt with his warm blue eyes and blond hair was summer, and go figure, summer was the one thing I always wanted to be.

For a moment the picture of me in the mirror blurred.

I have a vivid memory of my mother brushing out her long, blond hair, the strokes even and precise. It’s one I usually keep locked away but sometimes, I open that box, the one loaded down with memories, and I sit back and remember.

In my mind she sits at her vanity, hidden inside the large walk-in closet of our million dollar Cherry Hill home, and stares at herself in the mirror, her delicate hands holding the large brush. She would start at the top of her head near the crown and pull the brush down slowly, once, twice, and then a third time before she would move on to the next piece.

She would sit there for long periods of time and I, as a little girl, would bring my dolls into the closet and watch her until I got bored. I’d play with my dolls, sometimes for hours, while she stared at herself and brushed her hair.

Sometimes she would cry and sometimes she would sing. Sometimes she would say nothing at all, not even when the shadows crept in from her bedroom. Matt never came into our secret room, it was always just me and Mom. On those nights my dad would come home from work, his eyes tired, and his smile sad. He’d pull me from her side and take me downstairs to eat.

Not even then would she say a word.

Funny the things you remember.

With a sigh I tossed my cell back onto the dresser and decided I couldn’t hide in my room any longer.

Ben was standing in front of the floor to ceiling windows that ran the length of my brother’s loft, gazing down onto the street below. My brother’s place was in the heart of Old City and everything we needed was within walking distance. Shops, pubs, parks. It was beautiful and trendy. It was everything a guy like Ben Lancaster would be looking for and I’m sure he would end up buying some swanky bachelor pad. They all did.

I noticed a large duffel bag near the door, along with a knapsack and a soft shell computer case. He turned around, hands shoved into the front pockets of his jeans.

“Hey,” he said softly. “I didn’t get your name.”

“Georgia,” I answered.

“Georgia.”

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