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Built to Fall: Chapter 37


I WALKED DOWN A row of evergreens with a hose in hand, giving them a gentle shower. The Seasons Change played on my earbuds, and the sun shined through the open roof of my sister’s nursery.

This gig wasn’t so bad. I’d been working here a week and hadn’t killed a plant yet. And Annaliese kept me so busy, I didn’t have time to focus on the ache in my chest.

That happened at night, when I curled up in my closet-room, alone in my little bed. That was when I missed Dominic so badly, it took my breath away. A week’s absence had done nothing to lessen the intensity of my loss. I wasn’t falling apart like I had when I left Derrick. This was different. This was heartbreak.

A tap on my shoulder startled me into dropping my hose, which got back at me by spraying me in the face. Shrieking, I snatched it off the ground, pointing it away from me, and whirled around to find Marta cracking up.

I turned the hose off and yanked out my earbuds, both stupefied and thrilled.

“What?” I screeched.

“Did you really think you could walk outta my life forever, kidlet?” Without hesitation, she gathered me into a tight hug. “I missed your freaking face.”

“Missed you too.” Tears of relief pricked my eyes.

She pulled back, giving me a long once-over. “I know you said you needed a little room, but I’m a self-centered bitch, okay? I needed to see you.”

Marta had texted me by the time I got to the airport, frantic to find me gone from the condo. I had told her I needed to go quiet for a while, but that she hadn’t done anything wrong.

“I’m glad you’re a self-centered bitch because I needed to see you too.” I spread my arms. “My new boss cracks the whip, but it’s not such a bad place to work, is it?”

Marta tucked her hands in the pockets of her jeans. “If you’re happy, then I am too.”

I sighed, my shoulders rolling forward. “I’m not happy, but I do like working here.”

“Aw, Claire. Shit, I’m sorry. Does it help to know he’s a miserable fuck right now? Like, more miserable than usual?”

Pressing my lips in a tight line, I shook my head. Knowing that didn’t help at all.

Marta knocked on her forehead. “I’m stupid and terrible at consoling apparently. That topic is closed. I get it.”

I tried to laugh instead of cry. “Who could have predicted I’d become attached to the man I spent every waking and sleeping moment with for almost two months?”

“I could have.”

Marta and I turned at the sound of my sister’s voice. She stepped closer, that same sympathetic expression she’d been giving me all week plastered on her face. Annaliese could be funny and sarcastic, but when it came down to it, she was a soft place to land for anyone who needed it—especially me.

“And you didn’t warn me?” I asked.

Annaliese curled her arm around my shoulders. “Are you going to introduce me to your friend?”

“This is Marta. Marta, my sister, Annaliese.”

Marta gave me an eyebrow raise, then she leaned in and gave Annaliese a quick hug.

“So, you’re the sister Claire said I reminded her of.”

Annaliese glanced at her, then at me with a purely skeptical expression. Marta had on her signature all-black clothes with platform boots and dramatic makeup while Annaliese wore cargo pants, a T-shirt that said, “Garden Gangster,” and a pink bandana in her hair.

“Not looks. Personality,” I clarified.

Her arm tightened around me. “It’s lovely to meet you. You were the person Claire mentioned second most often when she was away.”

Marta grinned at both of us. “That is one of the many reasons why Claire is my favorite person. Also, the two of you are more than adorable together. It feels all sistah-power up in here all of the sudden.”

My sister had the audacity to wink at Marta. “We can be a terrible twosome or a dream team. Depends on the day.” She glanced at me again. “Is Marta coming to dinner with us?”

I bumped her with my hip. “I don’t know. I haven’t asked her.”

Marta gave an exaggerated nod. “Yes, Marta is down for dinner.”


Dinner was at the little Mexican hole-in-the-wall down the street from Annaliese’s apartment. We sat on the patio, drinking margaritas and catching up on what life was like outside of the madness of touring.

“No more public relations for you? You’re a gardener now?” Marta teased.

I laughed around the sip of margarita in my mouth. “Annaliese was kind enough to hire me, but it’s a temporary thing. I actually have an interview next week, but I’m keeping quiet for now.”

When I got home from Chicago, I’d tendered my resignation with Isabela. I couldn’t picture being able to work for her, and I had a feeling she’d fire me anyway since I’d left without notice. The following day, she’d emailed, assuring me she’d provide a stellar recommendation to my next employer. I hadn’t expected that, and knew Dominic was behind it, which only broke my heart further. He was still taking care of me, even after giving me up without a backward glance.

What was I supposed to do with that? How was I supposed to get over a man like that?

Annaliese knocked on the wooden table. “My Claire isn’t meant for manual labor. She’s an office and adorable shoes kind of girl.”

Marta peeked at my muddy sneakers under the table. “I miss the shiny pink shoes.”

I sighed. “Me too. They’re going to make a comeback soon.”

“I’m relieved to hear that. Really relieved.” Marta held my gaze. “He’s my best friend, like my ride or die, but I’ve been so angry at him, thinking he might have torn you apart because he has chosen to be a disaster.”

“He broke my heart.” I lifted a shoulder. “But nothing is unfixable.”

“I wish he understood that.” She sounded as frustrated with Dominic as I had been.

Annaliese touched my arm. “When Claire was twelve, we fostered a kitten. My parents made it clear to all of us we weren’t keeping it. We had a dog already, and we were only taking care of the kitten until it had a permanent home. Claire swore up and down she didn’t even like cats. But every day, she fell more in love with that kitten, until she begged our parents to let her keep it. By then, they’d already found a family to take it. There was no chance for the cat to be ours, but even knowing that, she still snuggled with that kitten every night. The day it went to live with its new family, Claire’s heart was broken into little bits.”

I shook my head. “I still miss Floofs. He was the sweetest kitten, and I really don’t like cats. But I don’t see the point of reliving this story.”

She took my hand in hers. “My point is you’re incapable of closing your heart, even when you want to. You aren’t made that way. You, baby girl, were built to fall. It’s just who you are.”

I groaned. “So, I’m destined to wind up here again? And where was this little piece of knowledge when you were advising me on the ill-advised dick?”

Annaliese threw her hands up. “I didn’t realize you didn’t understand the concept of a quick fling! You had to go and cohabitate with him…”

The only thing I could do was laugh. “Oh god, I’m terrible at this. What type of woman leaves the only man she’s ever been with and falls in love with her rebound?”

Annaliese pointedly raised her eyebrows. “You, babe.”

Marta leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table. “You fell in love with him?”

“I don’t think I’d ache this way for something less than love,” I answered. “But please don’t say anything to him.”

She pressed a hand to her chest. “I won’t. I’m just…I’m sorry he couldn’t be better.”

“Me too. But it’s probably for the best. I have to deal with my ex, get a new job, land on my own two feet. As much as I’m hurting, I need this time.”

And still, the thought right person, wrong time echoed in my mind.

Marta drummed her hands on the table. “I, for one, cannot wait to watch you take flight. I will be doing that watching from the couch while I take two weeks’ vacay. There will most likely be a lot of chip crumbs all over me too, but that won’t stop me from cheering you on.”

Annaliese burst out laughing like Marta was the funniest person she’d ever met, and my belly warmed, especially when Marta’s cheeks pinkened so furiously, she pretended to look at something fascinating off to the side.

Eventually, Annaliese excused herself to use the restroom, and Marta pounced.

“Okay, your sister is gorgeous. Is it going to be weird for me to ask her for her number?”

I shook my head, happier in that moment than I’d been in ages. “It won’t be weird in any way. I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”

“All right, all right. This is why you’ll always be my favorite.” She tossed a chip at me. “I have one other thing to say about Dominic, then I’ll drop it.”

I tossed the chip back. “Fine. Go for it.”

“I met him right after Dylan passed. At first, I thought he was this gigantic asshole—and he was—but he was also an angry man wracked with guilt. He didn’t want to enjoy life since Dylan wasn’t here to enjoy his own. The shit with Isabela only made it worse. He just disappeared behind her for a while.” She shuddered. “He’s been crawling out of that hole. It’s slow, so slow, I don’t even think he knows he’s doing it, but I see it.”

A sharp pain stabbed at my chest. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I want you to know you did nothing wrong. Your picker isn’t off. Dominic is a deeply wonderful man. If he could, he’d rip his heart out to replace your broken one. He thinks he did right by you in breaking up with you. And maybe he’s right, even though the way he did it sucked. Because I think you’re a deeply wonderful woman, Claire, but I don’t think you’re in a place to be what Dominic needs. Not right now.”

“Right person, wrong time,” I whispered.

Marta got up from her chair and bent down to hug me tight. “Maybe. But you both have some work to do if that’s true.”


Two nights later, while Annaliese and Marta were out on their first date, I received a text from Dominic. And in a way, I wasn’t surprised.

He’d forwarded me the picture Marta had texted him of her and my sister, their rosy cheeks pressed together, smiles dancing in their eyes.

Dominic: Marta hasn’t spoken to me in days, then this. Is she defecting? I don’t blame her.

As soon as my hands stopped shaking, I texted back.

Me: I didn’t realize we were enemies.

Dominic: No. Never that. How are you?

Me: Oh, just grand. And you?

Dominic: It’s all sunshine and roses here. I’ve been thinking about going to Georgia.

Me: You should. You should go in the house.

Dominic: Funny thing is, when I see that honeysuckle bush, it’s going to remind me of you now.

Me: I’m going to go now. Good luck with Georgia.

Dominic: Claire…I’m sorry.

I threw my phone down, sadness leaking in through my cracks. It hadn’t been long enough for me to talk to him again. I wasn’t prepared. One short conversation, and all I wanted to do was lock myself in my closet-room and cry.

Maybe I was getting better, though. Instead of dwelling, I walked outside to the shared courtyard and sat in the grass. Annaliese had told me touching the earth every day was grounding, so I spread my fingers out and let the soil do its work.

In a few days, I had a job interview. In two weeks, I’d be going to my divorce hearing. In a month, maybe two, I hoped to be able to move to my own place. Yes, my chest still felt caved in, but I wasn’t staying in this place of pain.

Dominic had been right about one thing: I did deserve the moon and the stars and the entire fucking universe, and I’d work my ass off to get them.


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