One Week with the Marine

By: Allison Gatta

For Ryan, the love of my life.

Chapter One

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

Not so Avery could listen or anything, but more so she’d be able to fly away and not have to hear Myla’s latest diatribe.

It was usually impossible to ignore her friend’s uptight ramblings, but this particular soliloquy was one she’d been audience to nearly a million times already. Myla had droned on and on before junior prom, senior prom, graduation, before they’d moved to California together—the list could go forever—but the speech was always the same, and she consistently ended it with the same question:

“So, what exactly is going on with you and Holden?” Myla tried to look nonchalant, tossing some anti-nausea medication into their shared grocery cart, but a telltale worry line wrinkled her forehead, and her lashes flicked the way they always did when she was watching someone from the corner of her eye.

Avery sighed and ripped the box of medication open before popping a couple of pills in her mouth. If Myla was going to spend their whole shopping trip nagging her, anti-nausea meds were probably just the ticket. Either that, or it was time to employ the fine art of distraction.

“How many times? Seriously.” Avery grabbed for the industrial-sized box of condoms and then hoisted a second box into her cart.

“We wouldn’t be having this discussion if you weren’t buying enough condoms to make an entire circus of balloon animals.” Myla surveyed the box warily.

“Well, Holden will be here for a whole week. You know sailors. Any port in a storm.”

“And yet, magically, your port is always the one he seems to find. So, it begs the question, why?”

That was the thing about Myla. She acted like every friggin’ relationship would end in some big affair with boom boxes lifted outside people’s windows. Even if Myla thought she had a fairy-tale romance, that didn’t mean it was right for everyone.

Some people just wanted good, hot sex. What was so wrong with that?

Besides, even that initial Cinderella/Prince Charming love would fade like everything else. It was a waiting game, and it was only out of love for her best friend that she didn’t remind her of that fact. It had been that way for Avery’s parents. And it would be that way for Myla, too.

Shaking off the sadness that always filled her whenever she considered the inevitable, Avery focused on the one thing that kept her spirits buoyant—Holden. No limits and no expectations Holden.

“Avery, I’m serious. What’s the deal between you two?” Myla busted through the silence of her thoughts.

“I’m his special friend.” She tried to control herself, but a smirk tugged at her lips before she could rein it in.

“Except he’s flying all the way to California to see you while he’s between tours. And he shows up whenever you need him. And he calls you all the time.”

“Well, the calls aren’t exactly outpourings of affection. Lots of times, he just checks in around midnight to see how things are going in Brazil, if you know what I mean.” She waggled her eyebrows, trying to throw her friend off her game.

Based on the stern line of her lips, though, Myla would not be deterred. “Ugh, God.” She shuddered. “I don’t need to know.”

“You asked.” Avery shrugged. If Myla was going to keep pressing her, she was going to make sure her friend was as uncomfortable as possible. Simple as that.

Anything to find peace.

“Actually, I didn’t ask. All I’m saying is that things might not be as cut and dried as you’re making them out to be. Geez, it’s like you’ve never seen a romantic comedy.” She rolled her eyes.

“I’ve known him forever. That’s hardly new.” Avery made her best attempt at sounding innocent, but Myla’s glare was so much like Avery’s mom’s, it was like going back in time to her teen years in their beat-up trailer park. The only thing missing was the perpetual smell of stale menthol cigarettes.

“Don’t you want to be with someone for real?”

“Nope.” And she didn’t.

No putting someone else’s socks in the laundry. No straightening ties. No three a.m. talks about feelings. If she was up during the wee hours, it was going to be because she was still out partying, not because she was cooing soft reassurances to someone about their boss not appreciating their contribution, or similar nonsense.

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