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Sidelined Love: Chapter 37


Why did I think this was a good idea?

Volunteering to organize a chess tournament at Oak Terrace seemed like a good idea at the time. But now I’m having other thoughts. The day of the event has arrived, and my nerves are completely shot. I’ve checked and re-checked everything at least fifteen times this morning to make sure that I have all of the things I need for today. All I have to do is wait for Jade and bring everything out to my car.

And finish the speech I need to make at this event.


I look up and watch as Jade leaves her room with a big smile on her face. She claps once and then says, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

“I really hope this goes well,” I say as I do one final check of the small prizes I bought for today.

“Are you kidding? The folks at Oak Terrace are going to love this,” Jade assures me as she grabs one of the bags I packed. “Getting to play chess, socialize, and win some fun prizes? It’s going to make their day.”

She’s right. I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into making this event fun and engaging for the seniors. Everything will go fine.

As Jade walks to the door, there’s a knock that causes both of us to jump. Jade opens it, freezes, and then looks over her shoulder at me. “I think this is for you.”

She steps out the way and opens the door and there I find Levi with a small bag from Brewed Beginnings.

“Need a hand?” His lips form a smile.

I drop all of the things in my hands and run toward him. Jade moves out of the way again as I launch myself at Levi. “What are you doing here?” My words fall out as if I stumbled down some stairs.

“Thought you could use some muscle.” He flexes playfully and I laugh, relieving some of the stress I’m feeling.

“How’s your dad doing?” I’m still confused about how he’s here right now.

“My dad’s doing better, thanks for asking. In fact, he’s the one who encouraged me to come. But enough about that. Today is about you and bringing some joy to the residents at Oak Terrace. I’m happy to help in any way I can.”

It takes everything in me not to cry at his words. His willingness to jump in and assist me with no questions asked, makes tears well up in my eyes.

“Hey, no crying. We have to get going, right?” Levi wipes the tears that have fallen.

“Well in that case, these bags need loading into my car. Jade grabbed one already—” I gesture to where she stands grinning, holding up a tote bag.

“On it,” Levi says. He easily hefts two large bags up onto his shoulders. “Actually, wouldn’t it make sense for us to take my vehicle? I have more room and you both don’t have to worry about driving.”

I share a look with Jade and when she gives me a small nod, I say, “Yes that sounds like a great plan.”

As we make our way downstairs, I catch him up on all the plans for the event. His eyes light up as I describe the small trophies I found for the winners.

“This is incredible. You’ve put a lot of thought into this. Then again, I’m not surprised by that at all.”

I feel my cheeks warm at Levi’s compliment. “Thanks, but let’s wait until after the event to give praise. This might all fall apart.”

“Bullshit. This is going to be great,” Jade says, and I’m happy she has enough optimism for the two of us.

“I have to make a speech and I’m probably going to faint. It’ll be fine,” I say sarcastically.

“It will be and if you’re so freaked out, I can get you a shot of something upstairs to take the edge off,” Jade offers.

“Nah, I’ll be okay. Maybe.”

That makes Levi chuckle and I’m happy to see a smile on his face. As we load everything into his SUV, I go over my mental checklist one more time.




Now I just need to remember to go over the speech I prepared to welcome everyone and kick things off.

Levi opens the doors for both Jade and me. I slip into the passenger’s seat while Jade climbs into the back. Once we’re all settled, Levi takes off and we’re on our way.

As we drive to Oak Terrace, I can’t stop fidgeting with my hands. I know I should review my speech, but my nerves are getting the best of me. I take a deep breath and dig into my bag to pull out the notebook I brought, flipping to the page with my speech. I planned to welcome everyone and explain the format of the chess tournament. Although it is simple, I’m still panicking. Not to mention that sometimes when I’m in a car and not driving, I get nauseous.

As I start reading the words, I’m trying to keep my nerves in check and my gag reflex under control. I get through the first couple of lines and my attention is diverted to Levi when he speaks.


“Wait what?”

“There was a bump in the road, and I was warning you about it. Because I know you get nauseous sometimes in the car. Amplify that with everything else going on…”

“I swear on everything if you guys aren’t endgame, I’m going to lose my shit because that’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Jade!” I look back at her before I turn to Levi. “She’s right though and that is super sweet. Thank you.”

Levi shrugs. “I do what I can.”

I stare at him for a while longer before I go back to reading over my speech. As I scan over my words, I start to tweak and edit. A phrase here, a sentence there. I want it to sound natural, but also convey my point while appearing to be as excited as I can be. Jade pipes up from the back seat occasionally with suggestions and Levi helps by warning me when we’re about to hit a bump in the road.

By the time we pull up at Oak Terrace, I feel much better about my speech and about everything in general. Levi and Jade help carry everything inside while I confirm final details with Mrs. Rafferty. Once that is settled, we head into the main hall and make quick work of setting everything up.

The chessboards are arranged on tables and chairs are set up for the residents and guests; snacks and drinks are ready to go. Several members of the chess club have arrived to help out, and for the most part, I’m happy.

My nerves start to creep back up as I glance at the podium and microphone at the front of the room. Jade gives me an encouraging nod as she finishes placing informational flyers on a table by the door. Levi walks over and gives me a warm hug.

“You’re going to be amazing,” he says.

I snort. “I’ll try. At least if I completely bomb, the chess tournament itself will hopefully make up for my terrible public speaking skills.”

Levi laughs. “Hey, don’t sell yourself short. You’re passionate about this event and about helping the community. That’ll come through in your words.”

Just then, the double doors open, and the first few residents begin filing into the room. Mrs. Rafferty greets them with a big smile. I take a deep breath and smooth my hands over my dress, preparing to welcome everyone. Levi gives my arm one last reassuring squeeze before going to help Jade direct people to seats.

As more guests arrive, I find my dad near the back of the hall, and I make my way over to him. He’s standing with who I assume is Angela, and they’re leaning toward one another as they speak quietly.

“Hey, Dad,” I say.

He shifts his gaze toward me, his eyes lighting up when he sees me. “Hailey! This is quite the production you’ve put together.”

“Thanks.” I glance at Angela. “Hi, Angela. It’s lovely to meet you, and I’m glad you could make it.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t have missed it. Your father tells me you’ve worked very hard on this event.” Her voice is warm and kind.

I nod. “Well, I had a lot of help too.” Across the room, I spot Jade ushering an elderly woman to a seat near the front. I know I need to get back so that I can help out.

I give my dad and Angela an apologetic look. “I should get back to helping everyone get to their seats. But I’m really happy you’re both here and I’ll have to introduce you to Levi, my boyfriend, later.”

My dad freezes for a moment before a smile appears on his face. He pulls me in for a quick hug. “I can’t wait. We’ll be cheering you on. Now go on and show them what you’re made of.”

I help a few people find their seats before making my way up to the front of the room where Mrs. Rafferty waits by the podium.

She gives me a small smile. “Whenever you’re ready, dear.”

I take a deep breath and step up to the microphone. The chatter in the room quiets down as all eyes turn to me. I spot my dad and Angela near the back, Jade and Levi over by the snack table.

“Welcome, everyone, to our first community chess event!” I say, pleased that my voice comes out steady. “I want to thank you all for being here today and supporting this idea of mine to bring people together through the game of chess.”

I go on to explain the format, recognizing the local chess club members who are helping run the mini tournament, and express my hope that this will become a recurring event. The words flow smoothly, and I find myself relaxing as I speak.

As I wrap up my welcome, applause fills the room. I spot Levi whistling loudly and Jade pumping her fist in the air. Laughing, I step away from the podium and Mrs. Rafferty takes over to direct people toward their first match.

I let out a huge sigh of relief as I walk over to where Jade and Levi are standing.

“See, I told you you’d do well,” Jade says, pulling me in for a hug.

“Seriously, Hailey, you nailed it. I got chills listening to you speak so passionately about bringing people together,” Levi adds.

I grin at their praise. “Thanks, you guys. I’m just relieved I made it through without messing up too badly.”

We make our way over to the snack table as the first round of chess matches begins. I grab a brownie from the snack table and take a bite. It’s not as good as the brownies at Brewed Beginnings, but it is still pretty tasty. As I chew, I scan the room and I can’t help but smile as I take in the scene I’ve helped create.

“This was an amazing idea, Hailey,” Jade says, looping her arm through mine. “Just look how happy you’ve made everyone.”

I nod, blinking back the sudden tears that are starting to form. I’m going to cry more today than I have in weeks apparently. After over a month of planning and late nights making decorations with Jade, seeing it come to life is incredibly rewarding.

Looking around, I see people from all walks of life drawn together by a shared love of chess. My heart swells with happiness. This event has exceeded my expectations, but let’s also be real, my expectations were in the gutter anyway.

I see that Jade has walked away to talk to her grandmother, who I wave to, and I spot my dad and Angela across the room. He has his arm around her waist and whispers something that makes her laugh. Seeing him happy and moving on mostly makes me glad he has found someone who seems to be having a positive impact on his life. When they make their way to the table and appear to be preparing for a match themselves, I feel Levi take a small step closer to me.

I’m pulled from my thoughts all together as he slides his arm around me. “What do you think? Was all your hard work worth it?”

I smile up at him. “It was, absolutely. Seeing everyone so engaged and happy is… It’s more than I could have asked for,” I reply, my gaze dancing around the room to catch the various groups immersed in their games.

Levi’s gaze follows mine. “Since everyone is focused on their games, how about we take a minute for ourselves? There’s a little sitting area I saw earlier. It’s quiet and pretty secluded. You could use a break, and I… I’d love a few moments alone with you.”

The suggestion surprises me, but the idea of stepping away for a minute with Levi is appealing. “Lead the way.”

Levi takes my hand and leads me out of the main hall and down a quiet hallway. We walk around a corner and enter a cozy sitting area with plush couches and chairs. A large window looks out over the courtyard where I can see a couple of birds bouncing between the trees that have lost a lot of their leaves.

Levi sits and gently tugs me down next to him. I smooth my dress and wait expectantly.

“I wanted a minute to tell you how amazing you are, Rook,” he says, his blue eyes intent on mine. “Seeing you up there, speaking with such passion, you took my breath away. You’ve worked so hard for this and I’m so proud of you.”

“Thank you, Levi. It means a lot.”

He brushes a strand of hair from my face, his fingers leaving a tingling trail on my skin. “There’s something else I wanted to tell you as well. I know this isn’t the optimal time to tell you and it’s not exactly the place where I wanted to tell you, but I need to say this before I burst.”

My eyes widen. “What’s wrong?”

“Absolutely nothing. I wanted to tell you how much I love and adore you.”

I’m momentarily stunned into silence as his confession sinks in. He loves me? My heart races and I know without a doubt, I’m going to cry again.

“Levi…” I begin, still trying to find the right words. “I care about you so much. Over these past few weeks, you’ve become such an important part of my life. You’ve seen parts of me no one else has,” I continue softly. “You make me feel safe, understood. Like I can just be myself with you.”

I reach out and take his hand, interlacing our fingers. “What I’m trying to say is… I love you too.” The words come out in a rush, and I let out a small, relieved laugh.

Levi’s face lights up as he squeezes my hand gently. “You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that.”

He leans in and presses a soft, lingering kiss to my lips. In that moment, everything else fades away. And for the first time in a long time, I feel completely happy and at peace.


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