Home > The Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away #1)(7)

The Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away #1)(7)
Author: Roni Loren

   “What happened with him?” Kincaid asked.

   “We kept in touch for a few years after he moved away and I went to college, but eventually the emails stopped coming.”

   Liv felt a petty kick of jealousy, the old rivalry ghosting through her. Finn had kept in touch with Rebecca for years? But then the second part settled in. They’d been close friends but nothing more. Maybe Finn hadn’t been lying to her.

   “Well, some of the stuff worked out, right?” Taryn said, a hopeful note in her voice as she adjusted her glasses. “You’re a lawyer.”

   Rebecca nodded, her expression going thoughtful. “Yeah, a divorce attorney. But I’m not the political warrior Teen Me wanted to be. I’ve never run for office. And I wouldn’t have time for a dog, much less a husband or kids.”

   Even though Rebecca had a lot of be proud of, the undercurrent of disappointment in her voice was hard to miss. But Liv couldn’t tell if that was Bec’s overachiever gene kicking in—I’m only a successful attorney—or if it was something more than that. Liv frowned. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this if it’s just going to bum us out.”

   Rebecca’s attention snapped upward. “Oh, no you don’t. My dirty laundry pile is stinking up the joint. The rest of you aren’t going to keep yours hidden.” Her wry smile returned, and she rapped the table with her knuckles like a gavel. “Bring it on, ladies.”

   “I’ll go next,” Kincaid said, lifting Liv’s letter. “Let’s see what dark-and-broody goth Liv had planned.”

   Liv groaned. “To get the hell out of town. I think that’s as far as I’d thought.”

   “Let’s find out.” Kincaid unfolded the letter and cleared her throat as if she were going to give a speech. “On this day, August first, I, Olivia Arias, promise the Class of 2005 that I will not waste the second chance that I have been given, that I will honor all the people we lost by living my life to the fullest. First, I will move anywhere but here.”

   Liv sniffed. “Told ya.”

   But Kincaid ignored her. “I will find a job I like that will make me enough money and give me enough time to do my photography. Then, when I get good enough, I will turn art into my job. I won’t play it safe. I won’t be practical. I’ll live a passionate life and date passionate guys and see the world so I can take pictures of it. I promise, Class of 2005, to live the life that scares me.”

   Kincaid’s eyebrows popped up, and Liv’s heart sank as each word hit her like drops of cold rain. She could almost see her eighteen-year-old self climbing up on her soapbox and making all those declarations. That girl who was racked by panic attacks and nightmares, who had a family who didn’t—couldn’t—get it, a girl who was trying to look her fears in the face and give them the finger.

   Too bad it hadn’t worked out. “Boy, I certainly was dramatic.”

   Taryn put her chin in her hand, the dim light over the table making her brown eyes sparkle and her riot of black curls look like a halo. “I think it’s beautiful. I mean, damn, I want that life, too. Minus the art part. I suck at art. But passionate guys and seeing the world? Sign me up.”

   “Right? Seriously,” Kincaid said. “So did you get to do any of that? The travel? The guys? If it’s a yes to the guys, we need to get more drinks so you’ll tell us the sordid stories.”

   Liv laughed. “I’m definitely not drunk enough for that.”

   Not that there was much to tell. There’d been more guys early on than she wanted to remember. That’d been her go-to way of dealing with the anxiety that had stalked her at college. Drink too much. Find a guy to distract her. Anything to forget what she was going through for a few minutes—even if that meant waking up with a bucketful of regret in the morning. But passionate love affairs? Romance? The things she’d imagined when she wrote that letter? She’d never had that. Not even close.

   “Are you still doing photography?” Rebecca asked.

   Liv stared at her melting ice cubes, absently stabbing them with her straw. “Not really. I had this project I started, but I don’t know. I haven’t looked at it in a while.”

   Or in years.

   “Was that the project with survivors of other tragedies?” Kincaid asked, curiosity lighting her hazel eyes. “I remember reading a story about you, and it mentioned that.”

   Liv rolled her lips inward, a pang going through her. “Yes. It was just an idea at the time. I thought I could take stripped-down portraits of survivors of different events to show their range of emotions, their strength and vulnerability. Somehow show the world that we weren’t just the one thing they’d labeled us as. I was going to donate the proceeds to the Long Acre fund.”

   “Wow. I’m sure that’d be amazing,” Taryn said. “And intense.”

   Liv glanced up. “Yeah. Too intense. At least for me.” She’d made it through two sessions before she’d realized she couldn’t handle it. Hearing other people’s stories, seeing their scars…it’d been too much, too close to home. It had set off her PTSD like fireworks. “I put the photography aside and got a job doing web design. Eventually, all my time got sucked up as I moved up the ladder at work. Now I barely have time to squeeze in a workout, much less a hobby. I guess my just-to-make-money job became my career.” She rolled her shoulders, trying to shake out the tightness gathering there. “Photography was never going to pay the bills anyway. I wasn’t that good.”

   Taryn’s expression soured. “No way. Your photos were gorgeous, Liv. Don’t sell yourself that line of crap.”

   Liv took her letter from Kincaid, half wanting to ball it up and toss it across the room. But she forced herself to fold it neatly, creasing each line just so. “It’s better than admitting that I got practical, right? That I’ve become some boring nine-to-fiver—or nine-to-niner—that teen Liv would’ve hated.”

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