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Evermore Love, Emmy

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Everybody knew about Emmy Sparks and Jake Ashton. They were best friends as children. Their mums had tea parties together. Their dads played pool together. They went to school together. They grew up beside each other, racing each other everywhere yet never once without stopping to hold out a hand when one of them had fallen.

So everybody knew Emmy was meant for Jake and him for her. During their senior year, their mothers began to take an immense dislike to one another. It wasn’t something unexpected; the two ladies had often had their differences. There were subtle changes in the scene that everyone failed to notice, or simply ignored. Jake didn’t seem interested in pretty much anything that normal kids did, according to the adults. Emmy’s mum tormented Mrs. Ashton with questions about her irresponsible boy, and the distance grew. They did nothing to help it.

Jake had taken a mad interest in music, writing and playing it with the boys in a garage down three lanes until sundown. He despised studying and detested homework. Exams just weren’t meant for him. Above all, he had fallen in love. Jake Ashton had seen the face of his soul mate in Emmy. He never noticed how fast everything around was slipping out of his reach, and kept dreaming, until one day when he could not contain it any longer, he decided to speak to the grown-ups about a wedding; perhaps in a couple more years. For him the very next moment was perfect, he thought with a smile. He would abduct the parish minister; get them bound in holy matrimony and race with Emmy all the way to the other end of the world if he could.

When Jake reached home that evening, the Spears had been invited over for tea. His smile widened when he caught a glimpse of Emmy in a corner, sipping quietly. Jake had entered whistling a happy tune, and decided right away that any time was the best time to propose a wedding; a big white one with a marquee in the backyard, children running around, the smell of delicious food, and music, yes; the band would play finally after all the practice he had got from ditching those boring classes. He would sing for her on their wedding, how lovely! Definitely no kidnapping ministers, that wouldn’t be nice. The moment he let himself in, Mr. Ashton stepped before him. “You’ve been lying to us, son,” he said softly, holding a sheaf of papers. Jake was still among the clouds, wondering what flowers should fill the backyard. They would have to bring in some good men to begin shaping the grass if it were to grow out in time.

“How could you do this to us? You’ve created such a big mess! What were you doing away from school? You’re into drugs aren’t you, you little-“
Jake wasn’t taking in a single word his mother was aiming at him. “I want to marry Emmy,” he blurted out. Instantly the entire scene seemed to freeze. Moments passed in shocked silence as shoulders stiffened all around. He had no clue what his crime was.

Emmy’s mum stood up and the chair toppled over. A resounding crash cleaved the silence like a knife through warm butter. “Why!” she yelled, why would she ever let her daughter be married to a miserable little excuse for a young boy who had just got himself dismissed from school on account of prolonged absence without reason, failure to respond to previous warnings, multiple failures in every possible course, insufficient grounds for promotion, and possible drug abuse and antisocial indulgence during the aforementioned absence? What had he been thinking, daring to ask for her daughters hand when they were both barely seventeen years of age, when he wasn’t capable of even keeping himself at school? What were the Ashtons telling the children these days, she spat at Jake’s parents, who remained silent.

“Mum, please,” Emmy defended the Ashtons with everything she had. Slap! Mrs. Sparks’ hand fell across her daughter’s soft cheek and it burned pink. Mr. Sparks picked up his glasses and walked out wiping them, having had enough. After this, Emmy heard the Ashtons had moved Jake to America, and she never heard from him ever again.

Years later when Andrew McFarland walked into her life, everybody thought that he was a fine young man. He had a steady job in an MNC in Tokyo that was gifting him a transfer, so he was coming to Lancashire to live with his mum. Mrs. McFarland adored the Sparks; they had met through overlapping social circles. Emmy’s heart had healed fast and her finger now ached for the ring. She didn’t feel anything spectacular until she laid her eyes on Andrew on the day of their wedding. Then she knew she was in love. She loved Andrew in a way she had never loved anybody her entire life.

In the beginning, of course life was blissful. One day he came home and argued with her that the curtains in the living room were too dark. And then the couches were ugly the next day, and on the next the soup was cold. Soon Andrew raised his voice for no reason bigger than the most trivial things, and later in bed, he would reason with her blaming it on his work pressure. “The Japs push me pretty hard in there,” he would say, and Emmy would smile with calm understanding. She loved him with every sense, every cell, every breath she took, and every beat of blood in her veins. It shocked her when he pleased women at parties, ignoring her as if to disown her. Andrew would get drunk a lot more than often, and she would take off his filthy clothes and shoes, she would wash him, and tuck him into bed before mopping up the puke.

Emmy would never forget the day he had first hit her, hard across her face. Her eyes filled up with tears and Andrew saw them. Instantly something stirred him back to his senses, and he cupped her face in his hands. “I’m… I’m sorry, Emmy,” he said.

And he was sorry. She knew, because she was in love with him.

Emmy hadn’t been planning for motherhood anytime soon, but when it surprised her, she welcomed it. She was going to have a little Andrew or a little Emmy in nine magical months of cramps and morning sickness, and she embraced it.

One day Emmy was switching channels idly when something caught her attention. A new musician was born that season, his hit single soaring on all major charts, his albums selling tremendously after worldwide release. He was now touring Europe.
Andrew had, of course, known about Jake. Emmy’s childhood friend, high school sweet heart. Dropped out, ran away to America. Unheard of since.

But that day he had stormed inside and banged the door shut behind him locking himself in without a word to Emmy. After around three hours of no response, Emmy heard the click of a lock, so she pushed open the door gently and approached him. Emmy’s hands shook, but she gulped back her fears and placed a hand on his shoulder. To her surprise, Andrew turned back and crumpled into her arms, terribly upset. He had been fired from his job, she learned, and Emmy’s heart leapt out to him as she held him with gentle firmness, stroking his forehead, consoling him, telling him that she loved him. Perhaps they were bonding at last, she believed.

Meanwhile, Jake Ashton’s tour had reached England, and the first face he wanted to see was Emmy’s. He had heard that she was married, but he still cared for her. He wanted to wish her well and congratulate the lucky b****** McFarland.

Jake found Emmy’s new home and when he visited she was pleasantly surprised, even mildly shocked that he had remembered at all. After all, he had never written even a postcard to her since he had left. This was when Jake and Emmy realized how their parents had intercepted all the letters they’d written until they simply lost hope and quit writing. They talked about everything they had missed out on each other’s lives, and how much each had changed. Jake had changed little; he still had the same boyish charm. Emmy had grown into a beautiful woman with a powerful gaze, hardened by experience yet mellowed by emotion when it called.

When Andrew walked in, despite being tired from the three interviews he had given just that day, he’d smiled at Jake. Introductions were made, and in the end as Jake walked away, he realized he was still in love, but felt a warm glow in his chest in knowing that Emmy was a happy woman expecting a baby. The pressure from hunting for jobs was taking its toll on Andrew, and the news that Jake Ashton was delaying his European tour in England by a few weeks simply did not help. Jake kept visiting, showing no more than a friend’s care, and often spending more time with Andrew than with Emmy. He was content with watching her happiness. Emmy was blissfully unaware of the clouds gathering fast, because she was desperately in love with Andrew.

The bad days came back when Andrew could not control his temper, and he slapped her everyday. He demanded to know why Jake kept coming back, and what mattered more to her, her pathetic unemployed husband, or the rock-star who had just walked out of a movie with his perfect life. Andrew felt inferior, and that enraged him. The arguments never ceased, and the bruises on her face and neck were unanswered for.

The final fatal blow came when Jake visited Emmy for the last time to tell her that he was leaving. He had been told that Andrew was giving Emmy a hard time and she refused to blame him for anything. She was forever defending Andrew because she loved him with the last trace of her existence. But she was beginning to lose hope, she was growing weary. She was being hurt beyond measure and reason by the person she was desperately in love with. And nobody knew.

That day Jake stood outside on her doorstep determined to tell her he was leaving, continuing on his tour hoping that would help everyone. He rang the doorbell repeatedly, angry that Emmy was still in love, angry that she hadn’t left the b******.

After quite some time Emmy answered, with the same warm smile that had never left her beautiful face in all the years that had flowed in between them. “I’m leaving, Emmy,” he said softly, and comprehension dawned on her face, and she nodded. There was sadness in her smile now, and Jake could not bear to have it there. Before he knew what he was doing, he had lifted his fingers to brush across her soft cheek, the very same cheek he had kissed countless times in his dreams when he had been kept away. There was a purple bruise on her neck, and she flinched when his fingers brushed against it. Jake was beginning to say something, when his gaze fell behind her.

Jake felt ice in his chest as he saw the horror right before him. There was a small trail of dark blood from somewhere behind her on the white floor, ending in a little pool at her feet, staining her toes. A million horrible images flooded Jake’s vision, of Andrew hitting her, the bruises, perhaps he had delivered a blow on her stomach which wasn’t very big from the baby yet, a rush of images, which cleared as it hit him. The baby. He reached out to support Emmy as she collapsed onto his chest. “I love him, Jake,” she whispered, blacking out.

***

Emmy Sparks had no idea what she was doing here. She blinked in the colored lights dancing across the audience, a little sea of faces watching her, cheering for her. When she began to sing, the crowd was silenced instantly, the stadium was so quite you could hear a pin fall. She was fascinated by the way her voice bounced around, clear. Beautiful.

The words were pouring out from somewhere within her, bringing back something that had died long ago. In the crowd she could see Jake Ashton bringing in her parents and his, and there were faces she recognized here and there. The Sparks and the Ashtons were watching her, listening to everything that life had brought to her. Every time she had listened to their choices quietly, asking for none of hers. Every moment spent with Andrew. Every time she had gently smoothed out the creases on his forehead. Every kiss, every touch, every glance, and every memory they had made together. The baby they would have made. The agony that had ripped her and sapped her strength, the anger at herself for being in love. The pain that shot through her nerves, the fear that crippled her will. The defiant silence that she had answered life with.

And yet, the courage that came only from love.

She sang, one after the other, every song born from all the words she had never once spoken, from all the pain she had let herself live through. From all the love she had been blinded by. When the music ended, she watched the stadium explode in thunderous applause, and she saw Jake Ashton give her the thumbs-up with pride, and she saw the guilt in the faces of the grown-ups. So they knew, finally, they knew.

She was gulping down water and removing her minimal make-up after the concert when one of her very timid violinists entered the room and slipped her a small piece of paper. On it was a note scrawled in a very familiar writing of Andrew McFarland, and tears filled her eyes as a rush of memories came back. He had been there, somewhere in the crowd, watching her.

Emmy,

You were amazing back there.
It’s too late to say any more, but like you always wanted, I’m going to see a doctor for my anger. I’m going back to Lancashire, Emmy. Mum says she’s baking muffins. I’ll miss us eating them together.

I’ve always loved you.
Always will.

Andrew

Emmy Sparks smiled as a fresh tear landed on the paper where he’d signed his name, and she breathed a prayer for him, content in knowing that he would be happy soon.





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