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Everyone's a Winner with a Heart That Small

Twenty Nine


She could feel them all staring at her back in total shock and disbelief.

The Arizona night was eerily silent as all hers and Ezra's friends stood speechless on the front steps of the house, waiting for whatever happened next after hearing the shocking news. She finally turned to face them all, swallowing the lump in her throat as she looked up to address them. "Could we have a minute please?"

It took a long moment before they all picked up their jaws from the floor and went back into the house. John and Cora stayed rooted to their spots on the steps and Ezra stayed still behind her. She grabbed his clenched fist in her hand and practically had to drag him back up to the house, giving Cora his arm, which she quickly wrapped her arm around and held tightly. He still looked like he could blow up at any moment and they didn't need another fistfight on the front lawn.

Gigi turned to John then, throwing him an apologetic look as she took two steps closer to stand in front of him. She reached up to place her hands on either side of his face, pulling him down closer to her level. "I'm sorry," she muttered so quietly that only he could hear her.

John knew that her apology wasn't for what had just happened, but instead for what was about to happen. His hands found her hips and he held onto her tightly, pulling her even closer to him. "Don't. Please."

"I have to," she replied in a whisper, placing a quick kiss against his lips before letting go of his face and turning to walk back down the steps.

"Georgianna Rose, I swear to God, you better get your ass back here!" Ezra yelled after her. He attempted to follow her, but John just grabbed him by the shoulders and held him back, shaking his head.

"She wants to go, man," he said quietly. "Let her."

Ezra looked almost in tears as he watched his cousin cross the lawn to where his former best friend was standing, his hands shoved into the pocket of his khaki shorts and his white button up spotted with the blood that had poured from his nose thanks to Ezra's nasty right hook. Gigi frowned as she shoved the boy in front of her away from the house and he started walking in that direction with her following on his heels. The three of them stood there watching as the two figures retreated down the street until they were no longer visible.

Ezra cleared his throat, throwing his girlfriend a brief glance and shaking his head. "He destroyed her."

"I know, baby," Cora replied softly, rubbing his back in a soothing manner. "But she has to make her own decisions." After a long moment of silence, she tugged on his arm and he reluctantly followed her back inside the house, leaving John to sit the porch alone with his thoughts.

Gigi walked down the lit sidewalks, Graham walking directly beside her. She chewed on her bottom lip, deep in thought, until his words lifted her from her daze. "That your boyfriend?"

"That's really how you want to start this conversation? Asking your wife about her love life?" She glanced over at him, noting the blood on his clothes and down his face that Ezra had evoked from his nose. If anyone had seen the two at that point, they would have assumed that something very odd was going on.

"I'm sorry," he sighed.

She rolled her eyes, not giving much pause to his apology. "Why are you here?"

"I wanted to apologize for my behavior toward you over the past few years."

"That would imply that you actually spent time around me."

"Fair point," he muttered. "Look, I was a douche. I wasn't ready to be married and instead of just saying it like a man, I ran away like a coward. I'm sorry for that."

"How can you say 'I wasn't ready to be married' like it's some sort of excuse for what you did? If you weren't ready to be married, then why the fuck did you propose to me?! I told you we were too young, but you're the one who convinced me otherwise. You said that we loved each other so much that it didn't matter when we got married because we'd end up together no matter what. We'd just be postponing the inevitable. And then instead of talking to me, you just fucking ran away when things got hard for you! I had no idea you were even having second thoughts! I thought we were happy."

By the time she'd finished speaking, there were thick silent tears rolling down her cheeks. She quickly wiped her hands over her face to get rid of them but it wasn't before he'd noticed them. Graham scratched the back of his neck unsurely, glancing over at his wife her. "I don't have an excuse, Anna. I know that's not what you want to hear, but it's all I've got."

"Why couldn't you just talk to me?" she asked pitifully, her voice barely above a whisper. "Why'd you have to run away?"

"As stupid as it may sound, I didn't think I could handle seeing the disappointment in your face."

She glared at him, but he kept his eyes ahead, ignoring her. "You made me look like an idiot, you know. The whole town gossiped about me for months. Everyone we knew-- seeing them at the grocery store, on the beach, in Mom's cafe-- all they did was give me these looks of pity. You know I can't stand for someone to feel sorry for me. I hate it. Even your parents did it. They kept sending me sympathy gifts. I think I got one every week for six months."

"They were furious with me. They even cut me out of my inheritance."

"Good. You don't deserve all that money. Especially after you just cut out of town, leaving behind your completely unsuspecting wife and family. Did you even tell them where you were going? That you were leaving town? Leaving me?"

He looked down at the ground in front of him and shook his head slowly. "No. I called them when I got there. Mom cried and Dad yelled at me for over an hour."

"You should just be damn thankful that my dad didn't get ahold of you."

"I know, he would have kicked my ass."

"He still would."

"With good reason," he sighed.

She stopped in her tracks, crossing her arms over her chest as she frowned. "Graham?"

"Yeah?" he asked, turning back to look at her where she had frozen in the middle of the sidewalk.

"I just-....where did you go?" She nervously raked her hand through her long waves and refused to meet his eyes as he stared down at her, licking his lips as he prepared to answer.

"I went up to North Carolina. Wilmington. Got a job at a company similar to your dad's and just started working eighty hours a week to keep myself preoccupied. The guilt was.....overwhelming."

She rolled her eyes. Of course he would turn it around to be all about how it had affected him. He was selfish-- completely and utterly selfish, completely disregarding other people's feelings and opinions. "So tell me this: You couldn't even come home to face me and apologize, but you can come all the way to fucking Arizona?"

He shrugged. "I was in California for business. When my lawyer told me you were here, I figured I'd just stop by on my way home."

"Why now? You've had five years to come to me and apologize. What makes this a good time? On my fucking birthday no less, which should have been a happy occasion."

His face dropped at the mention of her birthday; he hadn't remembered that this was one of the worst possible days to pop back into her life. "Shit, I'm sorry."

Yep, definitely a selfish ass, she thought to herself as she shook her head, watching his face contort from a look of apology to one of guilt. "Well?"

"I met someone," he blurted.

"You....met someone," she repeated, more to herself than to him. He hadn't come all this way because he felt guilty about the way he'd left and the way he'd sprung the papers on her out of the blue; he'd come because he needed the divorce right away.

"I want to marry her, Anna. This is the real deal."

Ouch. Even though she no longer loved him or wanted to be with him, the words still stung. She had always thought that their marriage had been the real deal too, but apparently he didn't think so. He'd chalked up their entire three years together as a stupid mistake he made as a teenager. Now that he was twenty-four and all grown up, he was ready to marry someone for real.

She let out a hollow laugh. "Oh, okay. Silly me-- I thought our marriage was the real deal too. Does she even know that you've been married? That you technically still are married until our divorce is final in October?"

"No," he muttered.

"What a great way to start a life together," she exclaimed sarcastically. "You wasted your time coming here. I signed the papers; you got the divorce you wanted. But don't expect me to forgive you. I'm honestly surprised you even apologized at all, as selfish as you've been. Go home, Graham, and never speak to me again. And good fucking luck to your new wife."

Gigi turned on her heel and walked back toward the house, leaving him standing alone in the middle of the street. Most of the cars were gone when she finally made it back, which didn't surprise her. She had ditched her own birthday party that her friends and cousin had been so nice to throw for her. She slowly dragged herself up the steps and through the front door.

The only people that she found when she walked into the kitchen were Cora and Eric. John was nowhere to be seen and neither was Ezra. Neither of them spoke and Gigi didn't ask questions as she took the Stolichnaya bottle and headed out to the back patio, in the mood to drink alone.

About halfway into the previously full bottle, she pulled out her phone to send an apology text to John, but even though it was only just after ten, he didn't respond. She knew that he was probably angry with her for leaving her party to talk to Graham, but the Stoli was already so thoroughly pumping through her system, that she just didn't have the will to care.

Maybe she'd go for a swim.
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Thanks so much to nevershoutniki!, megga16, marcellaandrade, WetheCATHLYN, maddizzlle, and ohnojohnoh for commenting last chapter! :)