The day started out like any other. That’s actually a lie, it was better than any other day. In fact, the entire year had been better than all of the rest. Everything changed last December 31st. That was when I met him. Kaiden. I was supposed to meet some asshole from a dating app for a drink. I hadn’t done much dating in my life, especially not on some crappy app that made it impossible to actually connect with someone. But it was New Year’s Eve and I was tired of being alone, so I thought 2022 would be different. I downloaded a handful of apps, swiped right on a bunch of random guys without much thought, and made a last-minute date with an attractive doctor. That is if he was even really a doctor.
After forty minutes of me waiting and him saying he was on his way, claiming there was some hospital emergency, I was restless and knew this was stupid. Just as I was about to leave the bar, that was when I saw him–my Kaiden, only he was just a stranger then with incredibly blue eyes and a smile that made me want to fall into his arms… and I did. Fall into his arms, literally.
Some drunk bumped into me and knocked me into Kaiden’s chest, he wrapped his strong arms around me. Such a cliché meet-cute.
“Don’t be sorry. I rather enjoyed it,” Kaiden winked flirtatiously.
I bit my bottom lip, “Well, that’s about as much action as I’m going to get tonight, so thank you for that, and happy new year.”
“Wait!” He said and I turned around all too eagerly. “Don’t go out there. There was a terrible accident and everything is backed up.”
“Oh.” It was then I heard the sirens in the distance.
“Listen, a few of my friends are meeting me here to ring in the new year. Do you want to join us? I’m kind of a fifth wheel now that my buddy canceled so it would really help me out.”
There was no way I could say no. And I’m glad I didn’t. Kaiden and I had an instant connection. We moved in together three months later and just last week on Christmas Eve, he proposed. So much can change in a year and I’m living proof of that.
“Happy Anniversary, Anna!” Kaiden wrapped his arms around me from behind just as I took a sip of my coffee, nearly spilling it on my nightgown. “Whoops, sorry baby.”
“Never apologize for touching me,” I set my coffee down and linked my hands behind his neck, pulling him into a kiss. “Happy Anniversary.”
“I shouldn’t be home too late. Hopefully, I’ll have really good news by the time I get home and then we’ll have everything to celebrate,” Kaiden winked.
“I don’t know why they have to have this meeting on New Year’s Eve. They should just tell you if you’ve made partner and stop putting it off.”
“They promised we would know today.”
“Well, good luck. No one deserves it more than you. You’re the best lawyer I know!”
“I’m the only lawyer you know.”
“True, but I’m a very good judge of lawyers.” I wink.
“Oh really? What do you look for in a good lawyer?”
“Incredible lips.” With that, he kissed me, said goodbye, and was out the door, leaving me wishing for a day we could spend in bed together. Kaiden promised New Year’s Day he was all mine and we could do whatever I wanted.
Just as I was about to start the breakfast dishes, I heard a thud at the door. I immediately peeked my head out of the window and saw a drone leaving my doorstep. I’ve only received one other drone package before and it still feels like something from outer space. I threw on a robe and opened the front door to retrieve the small brown package the drone left behind.
The package was addressed to me and I smiled to myself. Kaiden must have sent me an anniversary gift. We agreed on no gifts since we went all out for Christmas, not to mention Kaiden just spent a nice chunk of change on my engagement ring.
Setting the package on the kitchen table, I grabbed a kitchen knife and my coffee before sitting down in front of it. Sliding the knife through the packing tape, the flaps on the box flipped open satisfactorily. There was an envelope-wrapped card that read “Happy Anniversary, Anna!”
I set it aside and fished through the packing peanuts only to find a napkin. The logo on the napkin said Sully’s Tavern and I smiled. Kaiden is such a romantic. He saved the napkin from our first date!
I turned the napkin over and three words were scribbled on the back, but not the three words I expected.
I WAS THERE.
A chill ran up my spine. That was not Kaiden’s handwriting. Immediately, I dropped the napkin. I stared at the card, realizing that wasn’t his handwriting either. With a shaky hand, I pick up the card and tore open the envelope.
Inside wasn’t a card though. There were pictures. Of me and Kaiden. Laughing at Sully’s. Kissing. It was creepy to think someone had been watching us and took photos. The last thing in the envelope was a newspaper clipping from January 1, 2022. The headline read:
DOCTOR SAVES 2 LIVES IN A HIT AND RUN ON NEW YEAR’S EVE
In the article is a photo of Dr. Jacob Williams. Oh my God. That’s Jacob–the attractive doctor who stood me up at Sully’s! Quickly, I read the article. Turns out, he wasn’t lying. He was on his way to our date when he witnessed the accident and rushed to the scene to help out, only catching a glimpse of the car that caused the accident. A red BMW.
No. It can’t be. It has to be some kind of coincidence. Kaiden took her home in a red BMW the night they met and that was the last time she saw it. He said his lease was up and he traded it in.
Tears filled my eyes and I couldn’t process anything. Not the cryptic message from Jacob or the fact that my fiancé would leave two people for dead. I look back down at the photos and the envelope, making sure there isn’t anything else since I am thoroughly freaked out.
Why would Jacob wait until now? A year later to tell me or taunt me or whatever the hell he is doing! I toss the box completely over, covering the kitchen table in packing peanuts, and a business card falls out. Dr. Jacob Williams, MD. Should I call him?
I turn over the business card and there’s Jake’s cryptic writing again.
COME TO SULLY’S. ALONE. 7PM. TELL NO ONE. OR ELSE I GO TO THE POLICE. YOU SHOULD HAVE WAITED FOR ME.
Hell no! Maybe I am in love with an almost murderer, but going to meet some guy who seems to want to torment me for not believing he would show up on a first date a year ago seems insane.
A sob escapes me. Why me? I finally find the man of my dreams and now he might go to prison! Fuck. I’m not going. Definitely not.
The phone rings startling me half to death. It’s Kaiden.
“Hey babe,” I say, trying to keep my voice steady.
“Hey sweetie, so I was just told all of the partners are having an in-office party to make the announcement. It shouldn’t run past eight. I’m sorry baby. We’ll go out as soon as I get home and celebrate a year together.”
Kaiden sounds worried about how I’ll react.
“Okay, that’s fine. Good luck.”
“Thanks for understanding. Tomorrow I’m all yours.”
“Great,” I say, trying to hold it together.
“I love you so much.”
I pause, but I realize nothing has changed. “I love you, Kaiden.”
My stomach is in knots all afternoon. I want to vomit. I want to tell Kaiden everything I know. I want his side of it. At the same time, I don’t want to risk this app asshole ruining our future together. The important thing is those two people are okay. They made it. Who’s to say it was even Kaiden’s BMW that hit them? Jacob could be wrong and he’s just sour because I gave up waiting for him.
Regardless, I am going to follow Jacob’s instructions. I will come alone, but not unarmed. Kaiden showed me how to shoot his gun at a range a few months back. After I shower and dress, I grab the gun from the nightstand with a jittery hand and place it into my handbag. Time moved slowly. I want to get this over with.
It’s 6:30 when I get to Sully’s. I order straight bourbon. The liquid burns my throat, but it’s the only thing taking my focus away from everything else. My hands shake as I hold the glass.
“Are you okay?” The bartender asks.
I nod, “I’ll take another one.”
I wish I smoked. A cigarette seems like it might help.
7:01. I’m looking around for any sign of Jacob. Nothing.
7:09. The bartender asks if I’m okay again. I look crazy, constantly turning toward the door in between chugging bourbon. My esophagus is on fire.
7:25. Seriously? What’s this guy’s game?
7:40. That’s it, I’m calling him. I pull out Jacob’s business card. I call the number. It rings three times and a woman picks up.
“H-hi, is this Jacob’s office?”
“Jacob?” She sounds confused.
“Um, Dr. Williams.”
“I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.”
7:45. I have to use the restroom.
“If a guy is looking for me, tell him I went to the bathroom.”
“Lady, I hate to say it, but you might be stood up.” The bartender says.
I almost laugh at that. What are the odds that I’m no longer single, but here I am in the same bar waiting around for some idiot on New Year’s Eve. As I am washing my hands in the restroom, I notice I have a missed call from Kaiden. I listen to the voicemail he left.
“Hey baby, just finishing up. I have some great news. Meet me at Sully’s around 8! Love you!”
Shit. He’s coming here! Maybe Jacob was full of shit. Maybe he was just messing with me and he really is standing me up. I look at the time. 7:56. I check my reflection in the mirror to make sure I don’t look as crazed as I feel.
When I walk back out into the bar, my throat goes dry and my heart drops into my stomach. Jacob is sitting at the bar. His dark brown eyes lock onto mine and I try to be calm as I walk over to him.
“We finally meet.”
“How do you know if it was Kaiden? There are lots of red BMWs.”
“I saw him, Anna.”
“Why didn’t you go to the police?”
He takes a sip of his drink before answering to build anticipation like we’re in some kind of crime drama.
“Because if I went to the police then, I would only be punishing him… but if I waited, I could punish you too.” He says evilly.
“Punish me for what, Jacob?” I ask, in disbelief that this was seriously happening.
“Standing me up. Ditching me for some other guy.”
“Seriously? I waited for you for two hours! What was I supposed to think?”
“You could have believed me. I was out there saving two lives and you ditched me for the first guy whose arms you fall into on New Year’s Eve for crying out loud! I had a long day and I was looking forward to our date. I came here and I saw you with him. With the guy who just caused an accident and made me late! Why does he get the girl? We could have been great together, Anna!”
“You’re nuts, you know that?”
“Maybe. Loneliness will do that to you.”
“So, what do you want from me then?”
“I want one night … with you.”
I try to swallow the lump in my throat. A million thoughts run through my mind. One of them is that I would do anything for Kaiden, but which would hurt him more? Jail or me being with someone else? I want to talk to him. I need him to look me in the eyes and tell me he didn’t hit those people. As if I summoned him, Kaiden appears next to me at the bar.
“Hey!” He wraps his arms around me and I keep my eyes locked on Jacob’s.
“You told him?”
“No! He asked me to meet him here.”
“Tell me what?” Kaiden asks and he looks at Jacob. “Hey buddy! Glad you made it to town!”
Flabbergasted, I watch Kaiden hug Jacob with my mouth hung open.
“Wait, you know him?”
“Remember I told you about my best buddy Jake from law school?”
“This is Jake?”
“Yes. Come on, I have a surprise for you.” Kaiden pulls me away and my body follows, but my mind is lost, trying to process what the hell is going on.
We get to Sully’s backroom and instantly are met with “Congratulations!” All of my and Kaiden’s closest friends and family are standing there.
“Welcome to our engagement party slash New Year’s Eve party slash me making partner party.” Kaiden says, grinning largely.
“I got it–the partnership!”
I know I need to react, but I can only focus on Jacob standing off to the side still smiling at me mischievously.
“How did everyone get in here without me seeing?” was all I could manage to ask.
“They snuck in the back door. Babe, are you okay? You look shocked. Did you not think I was going to make partner?” He laughed.
I snapped out of my daze, wanting to reassure him.
“Of course I thought you would. I’m so proud of you!” I hug him.
The next ten minutes I spend greeting all of our guests and hearing congratulations on our engagement, but I need to get back to Jacob and find out what the hell is going on. Finally, I get an opening to walk up to him.
“Start explaining please.”
“I lied on my dating profile.”
“Which is what I thought. So, you’re not a doctor?”
“Nope. I never even finished law school. Dropped out to become a graphic designer. The newspaper article was a fake. Looks real, right?” Jacob laughs.
“Why would you do this?”
“Sour grapes. I missed out on a great girl because I was a flake. I was supposed to be here with Kaiden that night. He knew what you looked like. He purposely went after you. I did actually show up that night albeit late and you two looked perfect together. I didn’t want to interrupt. But I’m a prankster so I made a vow to myself that if you two worked out, I was going to play some sort of practical joke on you to initiate you. So welcome, you’re part of the brotherhood now.”
Relief washed over me.
“Does Kaiden know about this?” I scowled.
I look over at my fiancé and Kaiden is holding back a laugh as he watches us. I smack Jacob’s arm and Kaiden comes over. I punch him in the chest even harder.
“Ow. It was his idea!”
“And you went along with it! I was freaking out all day thinking I was marrying an asshole who would seriously injury people and run away!”
“I’m sorry, baby. It was just a joke. I told you about all of the pranks Jake used to play on me in law school.”
“Come on, it’s a little funny,” Jacob smirked.
“Ask me next year,” I say, crossing my arms.
“So, would you have slept with him to save me?” Kaiden wonders.
“I guess you’ll never know,” I shrug and walk away.