Last Goodbyes Chapter 9
This short story sequence is a series of several deleted scenes that didn't make it into the final version of I am Girl Power because it leaned into Contemporary Romance and wasn't exactly in line with the vision I had for Megan.
But there's no reason we can't explore that now!
If you haven't read Chapter 1, click here to start at the beginning!
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My thoughts were still a bright flurry when Justin and I stepped into the hallway outside the breakfast nook.
Randy, his father, received everything? This gorgeous house? The beachfront property? The mementos?
My astonishment exceeded my ability to process what this meant. Justin must get something, surely. Before I could ask, Randolph’s lawyer approached Justin with a warm smile, hand held out. They shook in a firm grasp.
"Randy is waiting for you, Mr. Byrnes," Justin said and clapped the man on the shoulder. "Have at 'em. We'll be in contact later, I'm sure. You have my number."
Mr. Byrnes nodded. "Of course. Are you leaving?"
“Yes. We’re heading back to the mountains. You can reach me on my cell. Reception is intermittent, so text me first. I’ll check every evening.”
Mr. Byrnes gaze dropped to me, then he turned back to Justin with a smile. “Sounds good. Thank you, Justin. You made this very easy.”
With another farewell, Justin kept hold of my hand and led me down an elegant hallway without saying another word. We hadn’t walked this one before. Greek busts sat with vacant gazes intermittently through the hall. A velvet rug stretched the length of the marble floor with a bright splash of crimson. Justin led me through a complicated maze that eventually ended near the kitchen.
Rebecca greeted us with a wide smile. “I packed your things,” she said to me. “You travel very light, do you know that?”
I smiled, startled at how quickly this was happening. Did Justin want to get away this quickly for some reason? Tears sparkled in her eyes as she threw her arms around Justin, then pulled away. She held up a set of keys that jingled.
"Here they are."
Justin wrapped the keys in his palm. He let go of my hand to pull Rebecca in another long hug. She clung onto his shoulders with a suppressed little sob as he whispered something to her. I turned away to give them a moment.
When he pulled back, she wiped at her eyes.
"You can't just disappear, you know." She lightly slapped him on the shoulder. "You're like our own son. You have to keep in contact even if your father owns this place and will sell it to the highest bidder."
Justin smiled so warmly it reached his eyes. "I know."
She sniffled and pulled away. "Just take care of yourself. We'll take good care of the place. I doubt your father will spend much time here anyway. If he keeps it."
Justin smiled. "I hope, for your sake, he doesn't. Are you going to be okay with all these changes?"
Rebecca laughed. "Of course I will. Life goes on. We have to keep adapting. Now, go.” She snapped two fingers. "Get back to your little camp in the mountains. We packed all your bags in the Jeep already and put some food in there for your trip back."
Before I could ask what she meant, Rebecca wrapped her thin arms around me. For being so petite and feminine, she had a grip of steel. "You take care of him," she whispered. "Don't break his heart."
I returned her hug. "I won't."
Rebecca recovered quickly, shooing us out a half-open door that led to a garage. "Call when you get there!"
Although I had a thousand questions running through my head from why didn't your grandfather leave you this gorgeous house? to what are those car keys for? I bit them back and let Justin lead me into an expansive garage that could have housed at least twenty cars. What a great gym this would have made.
"Whoa." I stopped short. "How many cars are in here?"
A variable collection of automobiles filled the dimly light space. Dust blankets draped some of them, while others gleamed in the overhead lights. An open garage door admitted fresh sunshine and a cool ocean breeze.
Justin shrugged. "Don't know." He kept going and brushed past a shiny red Cadillac. "They're all my dad's. He collected them before moving away. Grandfather and I didn't have much to do with them. He just used one towncar, so he housed them for Randy.” He grinned at me, eyebrows bobbing up and down. “Except for one."
We wove between tires and half-built frames and came to a stop in front of an olive green jeep with a hard tan top. The tires were old and worn, the seats looked soft from repeated use. The top of the gear head was an eight ball. I peered inside and drew in a musty breath of sand and leather.
"What is this?"
"This," Justin spread his arms wide and stood back. "Is my Jeep. It's a 1997. Practically a classic."
"Well, it was grandfather's Jeep at first, but then it was also mine. I bought it from him when I was seventeen." Justin shook his head and laughed softly. "He made me work so hard for it. Sandbagging and scrubbing out the bathrooms and doing all the landscaping outside. The garden? Earned me this. He said he wouldn’t let money corrupt me. That every man needed to know hard labor."
I smiled wide. “What a good man. Glad you had to work for something.”
Justin laughed as he opened the driver's side door. He ran a hand over the steering wheel with a growing smile. My promise to Rebecca not to break his heart, and my earlier realization that I didn't want Justin to leave my life, overwhelmed me. I held my breath, waiting for the feeling to pass. The panic of caring for someone else ebbed as quickly as it came.
This was Justin, not Nathan. He didn't hold my heart suspended over a fire.
"Grandfather said I needed to learn to work for what I had, so he bought a used Jeep and left it here in the garage until I had enough to pay half. Then I made monthly payments to him after that."
"Not even a new Jeep?"
"Nope. He said I didn't need the best of everything to appreciate what I had."
"He really was a good man."
My suitcase, and Justin's, sat in the back of the Jeep. A bag of food waited on the floor. He slid the keys Rebecca gave him into the ignition and hopped into the driver's seat.
"Is this what your grandfather left you?" I asked, pulling open the passenger door. "Your skeevy father got this gorgeous mansion and you get an old Jeep?"
"This is all I really wanted."
I stared at him in disbelief, recalling at least twenty paintings I would have happily walked out of the mansion with. "Nothing else?"
"All that? It’s just stuff. I’ll miss the memories of this place, but the Jeep was what Grandfather and I had together. We'd always go out on long Sunday drives in it. I learned to drive clutch from him in this car. Olive was his favorite color."
"Well, I think it's perfect then."
His beautiful eyes met mine with a challenge. "You wanna road trip back to Adventura?"
Spend hours upon hours in the car with him and nowhere else to go?
"Do I?" I asked, grinning. "You bet."
"Then climb in.” He waved a hand. "It's a twenty hour drive through four different states before we get back to our friendly little camp in the mountains, and I'm sure your brothers are starting to get antsy."