Authors: Katherine Owen
Tags: #contemporary fiction, #ballerina, #Literature, #Love, #epic love story, #love endures, #Loss, #love conquers all, #baseball pitcher, #sports romance, #Fiction, #DRAMA, #Romance, #Coming of Age, #new adult college romance, #Tragedy, #Contemporary Romance
This Much Is
Other Novels By
K a t h e r i n e O w e n
S e e i n g J u l i a
W h e n I S e e Y o u
Not To Us
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are all a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Katherine Owen
All rights reserved.
The Writing Works Group
Visit our website: http://www.thewritingworksgroup.com
Text design by The Writing Works Group
Cover design by The Writing Works Group
Cover photograph: © vasst iStock Photography –Female standing against a grey wall
Cover photograph: © ptichka grunge background with heart by ptichka Stockfresh Photography
Also available in print.
This book is dedicated to my daughter Lauren, who has stuck with me throughout the premise and ongoing (sometimes, never-ending) development of this particular story line from the beginning. All I ask for in return is that she no longer steals my character names for her pets. It’s distracting.
Table of Contents
Part 1 – Falling
Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
~ William Shakespeare
Tally ~ If I die young
We’re driving and arguing.
These are our two favorite pastimes these last days; it seems.
I’ve lost her already; I just fail to register its absolute permanence.
I’m driving actually. We’re arguing, and it’s raining. I make my way over from 280 to the 101 because I am more familiar with the freeway that takes us from the swankiest neighborhood called Sea Cliff back home. And I’m driving because Holly is too hyped up from her secret rendezvous with Rob Thorn; and I am too pissed off at her after waiting in the car for two hours while she met up with him in this stupid clandestine effort to prove her love to him because of their big fight just yesterday. And it’s Valentine’s Day. What couple in their right mind breaks up the day before Valentine’s Day?
Rob and Holly.
So today has to be make up day.
I’m driving. And I’m pissed.
And it’s raining.
“You know what your problem is?” Holly asks.
“My problem is Rob Thorn,” I retort, which is definitely unkind and borderline bitchy.
Holly shakes her head at me in sudden fury. I’m not sure she expected an answer from me quite so readily, or that one in particular, but she launches into a long lecture. About
. Apparently, I sleep around with way too many guys for her liking.
—according to my twin’s thou-shalt-never-disappoint-mom-and-dad quest for perfection—is my problem. This wielding of moral judgment is a recent development for my twin. Holly slept around plenty, too, before she and Rob Thorn got together. She goes on and on about me being selfish and not caring about anyone else. She manages to deliver a low blow when she accuses me of only caring about ballet and what Allaire Tremblay thinks. I wince because it’s so true.
“Ballet is my life. Allaire Tremblay is the best ballet teacher on the West Coast, and we are lucky to have her,” I say and shoot her a dirty look. Holly used to care about ballet, too.
Now all she cares about is Rob Thorn. It’s Rob this and Rob that; I’m so tired of it.
Regardless, I just let her talk and try to concentrate on the freeway while Holly just goes off on me. I basically tune her out. Yes, I allow Holly to talk for a long while about my shortcomings and my rebellious lifestyle that constantly upsets Mom and Dad. I let her talk and talk and talk.
Finally, I say in true Tally Landon style with a distinctive measure of vehemence for pure effect, “Oh, fuck off, Holly!”
That shuts her up for a good three minutes. Dear Holly doesn’t like it when I resort to using the f-word. I can’t help it most of the time. That word fits just about every situation there is in life, at least to my way of thinking. I glare in her general direction and then concentrate more fully on the rain that’s pounding at my old car’s windshield. It reminds me of latex paint that’s been carelessly splashed against a wall. Or better, it’s like all the splashed blood that’s everywhere in that Stephen King movie
. My sister always refuses to watch it with me. Holly doesn’t like to be scared whereas I tend to use it as a strategy as part of my constant battle to be unafraid and conquer my biggest fears, which come in threes: falling, failing, and losing.
The wipers rage on high, but they aren’t making any difference in visibility whatsoever. I can barely spot the cars in front of us now, and it’s getting dark—darker than when we first started out from Sea Cliff, where the irritating boyfriend, the one and only Rob Thorn, resides. He lives a long forty miles up the road from Palo Alto High School so why he still attends school at Paly doesn’t make any sense to me or anyone else, except Holly. Oh, yes, the inevitable answer to that question sits right next to me.
. I glance over at my twin and smile ever so slightly because it’s hard to stay mad at her.
Everybody loves Holly.
Me, most of all.
The traffic is worse than usual, even for a Sunday, and we’re late. Mom’s probably wondering where we are. Our best friend Marla is probably doing the same. I sent her an overjoyed text earlier, briefly filling her in on the big fight Holly had with Rob the night before. However, I haven’t gotten a chance to send a follow-up text beyond the one about the frantic drive up north to Rob’s, and now I have to backtrack and report the dismal update that the two lovebirds are apparently back together.
Sure, life at Paly contains angst just about every day. We’re seniors in high school, four months from graduating, and about to embark on the greatest time of our lives according to pretty much everyone. Yet my sister seems to be in a huge rush to make things permanent with Rob Thorn, and I really don’t understand this at all.
She’s been without her own car for two weeks for some vague punishment our parents meted out on her for carelessly bashing in the passenger side door of her Jetta at some strip mall. With her car indisposed at the auto body shop—getting the dent fixed as well as a new paint job because, in the end, Mom and Dad felt bad for her, like always—I drove her to Sea Cliff against my better judgment, as in all things related to Rob Thorn. I drove because, although Holly takes good care of her things—including her car at almost a meticulous level of attachment—my boat of a car was the only form of transportation available. I sure as hell wasn’t going to let her drive my car after she wrecked her own. I love my Mercedes. My dad bought it for me at an auction two years ago. Unlike Holly’s sporty Jetta, I think my old car exudes uniqueness and style. It’s bad-ass, like me. I smile over at Holly again because I let her criticisms roll off of me like rainwater and don’t really listen all that closely. Holly is Holly. I am most definitely me. I’m not going to change, and we both know it, and I let her know this now.
“I like my life and the way I conduct it. Ballet is all there is because it’s the most important thing. To me. And, you know that.” We’re done fighting. I know this when I get a glimpse of her infamous happy smile. “Sorry for the f-word slip.”
“It just makes you sound so vulgar, sis.” Holly tucks her hair behind one ear and glances over at me.
God, she is an angel.
“It makes me
” I laugh as I exaggerate the word, so does Holly. “Besides, guys love it when I scream it out loud at the height of their…you know…climax.”
“You have no problem with the word
but you turn three different shades of pink at the word
. You are an enigma.”
“Don’t tell anyone.” I glance over at her and grin wickedly. “I just want to be like you,” I say in a sugar-sweet tone.
“God forbid. Nobody would recognize you. All those guys,” she says with a little sigh and rolls her eyes. “I don’t know how you keep up.”
“That’s what birth control is for, baby.”
We both laugh and promptly drop the subject of my promiscuity and ever-changing list of guys and chance encounters. I need to concentrate on the road anyway. Traffic suddenly slows way down and is quickly piling up in front of us. I take my foot off the gas and brake a little to slow down the old sedan even more just as the rain becomes more intense, as if that is at all possible. I worry about flash flooding because the freeway lanes have begun to fill up with rainwater, and it feels like we’re driving on a river more than a freeway.
I wonder about Rob Thorn and Holly.
What does she see in him, anyway? Why the hell did we have to drive all the way out there from Atherton, so she could express her undying love for that guy? Why do I put up with this? I should have said no. But, no, I didn’t. Because it’s Valentine’s Day, and she was too scared to drive by herself all the way to Sea Cliff and back at almost nighttime because she openly admits that she isn’t as good at driving as I am. On this, we do agree.
Although Holly has been all but screaming at me for the past half hour, apparently her tirade at me is over. I served as enough of an emotional outlet for all that pent-up angst she had for the amazing Rob Thorn, which has now mysteriously vanished. She gets this secret smile and closes her eyes and leans back against the headrest. Apparently, they worked out their differences.
“We worked everything out, and we’re back together,” she says.
“What do you
in him anyway?” I ask again for what feels like the hundredth time in the past year and a half. My unhappiness with the Rob Thorn situation is well-known but, I can never let it go completely.
She opens her eyes and looks over at me with an almost fanatical look. I take a brief moment from looking at the road and gaze into those green eyes of hers that effectively reflect their incredible sameness back at me. She openly laughs and flips her hair back from her sweaty but still beautiful
face in her always endearing Holly Landon way. I roll my eyes at her and begin to extol the benefits that carefree sex, and no entangling emotional attachments have to offer while she continues to babble on about Rob and this summer and how great everything is going to be.
Her over joyous expression clearly tells me that I’m not going to win this debate today on carefree sex and no emotional attachments with guys so I refocus my efforts on locating the white dashed line indicating our lane, which keeps disappearing, and attempt to see farther down the road up ahead of us. The freeway signs indicate we are still fifteen miles from home, but I calculate that at a steady pace of forty miles an hour, slower than usual, because I’m somewhat responsibly compensating my speed for the inclement weather just like most of the cars that surround us. “We’ll be there in fifteen minutes,” I say to Holly.
“Tally, I love him,” she says with a contented sigh. She pauses for a full minute and looks over at me intently. “Look. We’re getting married.
,” she says at my incredulous look. “Soon. We’re getting married. It’s all planned out.”
My twin gets this secret smile while I openly groan and search for the right words to stop this nonsense. But I know that smile. It’s the same one I get after every ballet performance, after every first place title I’ve been awarded, after every standing ovation that follows those hard-won performances. It’s all powerful—that smile. I start to return it, but then I remember Rob Thorn—this nemesis that has constantly plagued my life for the past year and a half and has effectively taken Holly away from me.
“You’re crazy,” I say harshly. “You can’t
. You just can’t. We have plans. Besides, you have your whole life ahead of you.”
“I do. I have my whole life ahead of me, and Rob is a part of that. He’s the plan.”
It’s then that I take a singular, crucial moment to look past her and see the black flash of this over-sized four-wheel-drive SUV as it splashes water everywhere in its erratic path right next to us. It must be doing seventy-five and readily speeds past my slow-moving car. Then the SUV clips my front bumper, suddenly swerves, and proceeds to hydroplane directly into our lane facing the wrong way on the freeway.
Like a personal affront to the oncoming horror, the rearview mirror warning flashes through my mind.
Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
I get an unexpected glimpse into our future in that split second. It happens so fast that I don’t even make a sound.
Holly’s dark hair lights up with all this sudden bright whiteness like there’s a halo around her head. She truly looks like an angel for that singular moment. It’s clear to me then, even before time alters everything else forever, that I really am the bad twin, have always been the bad twin, and will need to try much harder to be more like Holly.
Then time stalls out and comes to a full stop.
* * *
I come to with this impossibly cold water running down my face, spilling through this unexplainable jagged crack in my precious sunroof.
This will cost a fortune to fix.
My chest feels like I’ve been hit with a hammer in multiple places. I feel incredibly broken and eye the culprit—the steering wheel—with true contempt as I gasp and attempt to force air into my lungs.
There’s this vague whimpering sound right next to me. Blood runs down my forehead and into my eyes. It becomes almost impossible to see. In a daze, I swipe away at the wetness, irritated by this ridiculous spider web that I somehow have walked into. This doesn’t make sense.
Where is the spider?
My eyes sting, but I can see a bit better; and
I stare at the unexplainable mixture of blood and rain on my left hand, which just sort of dangles there.
Where is the pain?
Why doesn’t this hurt?
I become aware of Holly then. Long dark wet bloody strands of her hair are plastered against the side of my face. She’s wedged up against my right shoulder. I try to push her away because her body has mine pinned hard against the driver’s door. She moans at my touch. I vaguely wonder why she’s so close to me because she was all the way across the bench seat just seconds before, yakking away about Rob Thorn. She’s making all these weird, gurgling sounds as if she’s drowning. I look around for the water that must have caused this.
Where are we? Why does my chest hurt so much?
I brush her hair back from my face as well as hers and try to assess the situation because somebody needs to forge ahead for some kind of control. Holly’s face and neck gush with all this blood. “Holly. Holly. Holly!” Each time it becomes more urgent. After a minute, she opens her eyes and looks over at me with this dazed expression. I think she’s smiling, but then dark blood flows up from her mouth. Her beautiful white teeth get this garish look. “Holly?”
“Tally,” she whispers and then starts to choke. “Get. Out. Go!”
“Go. Tally. Go. Now.”
I do what I am told.
. I feel bad about our fight earlier, so the least I can do is listen to her and go for some help because God knows we need help. So in one rote unpracticed move, I undo the door handle and slide unceremoniously down to the wet pavement below. From behind me, I hear Holly scream. “Run. Run, Tally!” I vaguely note these blue and yellow flames that now lick at her legs from beneath the crushed dashboard of my car. “Run,” she says again. Her look conveys that there will be no argument about this. I don’t want to give her one. There has been enough arguing between us today.
“Love you, Holly,” I call out as I crawl away from the car. For some reason, my legs refuse to cooperate. I can’t stand up. I drag my body along the wet concrete on my forearms. I keep telling myself I can do this. Then, these strong arms lift me skyward. The rain endlessly pelts my face and my uncooperative limbs. It drenches my clothes while this intense pulsing pain comes out of nowhere and becomes almost unbearable all at once over my entire body. It’s difficult to breathe, and I fight for every breath. I frantically scan the crowd that has suddenly gathered along the stopped freeway and search for any sign of Holly.
Is someone helping Holly?