Riverbend: The Collection
Sneak PeekHe was standing in the driveway. The light and frigid rain fell upon his face and body but he didn’t move. Will just stood there gazing as Lena and her mother walked outside onto the front porch. The air felt thin and frozen and the cold drizzle of rain that wafted down through the atmosphere from the starting storm was sure to turn into snow at any moment. The temperature had dropped drastically overnight and the local news had called for snow later that evening. Lena guessed it was only about 35 degrees outside.
She noticed his presence immediately even before she saw him, as if she had been expecting him, knowing him so well that it should have been common sense that he would not let her leave easily. Lena shot her mother a knowing glance, sure that she was the reason Will obviously knew her departure was tonight. Panic filled her body, she had so hoped to avoid this moment. She didn’t want to say goodbye to Will again, the short minutes they had spent together the day before should have been enough for the both of them. She should have known better, he wouldn’t easily let her go, he had made that abundantly clear the entire time she had been home. Will wanted Lena, plain and simple, and Lena could have guessed that he would do and say everything he could imagine to keep her there.
Mary looked at Lena and smiled. “Someone wants to talk with you. Take your time. I’ll be in the car.”
Lena followed her mother to the Trailblazer and placed her suitcase into the backseat. After closing the rear door, she took a deep breath and hesitantly walked towards Will, unsure of what it was he would do. Would he just be chummy and fun, the cocky personality she so adored, and say a happy goodbye? She could only hope for something so simple. Any further exposure of her feelings would be hard for Lena to take her want for him felt strangely like a need sometimes.
Lena quickly pushed that idea out of her mind anytime it appeared. She was too strong for that, she hadn’t needed anyone in her entire life and she wasn’t going to begin now. Fearing the influence that her own feelings could have over her, as if they were a part of her that was too difficult to control, too flighty to manage, and too strong to resist, she cautiously headed over to where he was standing.
“Hey.” He said, warmly smiling at Lena. She knew he must have been freezing. His thick, black hair was slick with the water that continuously rolled off the sides and dripped onto his face.
“Why didn’t you come to the door?” She asked, shivering and shoving her hands into her pockets, looking for some small space of warmth.
“You know that you didn’t have to wait out here in this weather.”
“Don’t know.” He answered, shrugging his shoulders. He looked about as if he was unsure of what to say next. A quick gust of wind hit his face, pelting him with small droplets of icy water. He just licked the water off of his lips and looked back at Lena.
“I guess I just needed to think.” She looked up at Will and could tell by his expression and demeanor that this was probably not going to be the easy, chummy goodbye she had hoped for. His eyes caught the necklace draped upon her delicate collar bone.
Slowly, he reached his hand up and grasped the two black glossy arrowheads into his hand, playfully juggling them between his fingers, his touch giving her cold body a quick shiver of warmth. She didn’t dare take a step closer to him. If she did, she doubted that she would be able to follow through with her plan to leave. His touch was, as always, exhilarating, magnetic, drawing her heart nearer and nearer to his. The flood of need again filled her mind and just as quickly as it entered her thoughts, she pushed it away. Need was sickening to Lena, want, on the other hand, was a different story, but need made her weak, and she wouldn’t allow weakness inside of herself for anybody.
“You know, you have meant so much to me, Lena. My entire life, you have been there, you have been a part of me that I could never separate from. Even while you were away, you were always with me, inside of me, a part of my soul.”
He paused, a look of unhappiness and frustration appearing on his face. “You know, when I gave this necklace to you I had hoped the meaning would shine loud and clear. That I was a part of you, and that you were a part of me. Two dark arrowheads woven in the same rope. Two people, whose history and lives were forever entwined with one another.”
He looked at the ground, shook his head, and let out a short laugh. “Now I just feel stupid.” The ache inside of Lena’s heart was more than she could bear. Her mind flooded with thoughts of what she wanted to say to him, what she would love to say but just couldn’t allow herself to let out.
“Will,” She began, pausing for a moment to form her thoughts into words that would hopefully appease the pain she saw on his face. “I am so sorry that I have hurt you, that I am hurting you. I am sorry that I can’t control this thing, whatever it is, that is wrong with me. I am just not who you need me to be. I am sorry for all of the pain I have caused everyone around me. There is nothing left for me here, I cannot stay.”
“Nothing left? What about your mother, your sister? What about me? We are here, Lena. We need you.”
“They will be ok.” Lena stated, trying to assure herself more than Will. “Let’s face it, I always seem to cause more distress and problems when I am around. I have nothing to contribute here! I can’t be the daughter, sister, or lover that you all want me to be! I wish I could, I really do, but it’s just not in me anymore.”
She gently grasped his arm, her hand instantly freezing upon exposure to the icy air. “You don’t need me, Will. You just think you do. This childhood crush that you have won’t last forever, trust me.” She knew she was wrong as soon as the words left her lips. If his feelings for her were even remotely close to what she felt for him, there would be no letting go, there would be no forgetting, there would be an unbroken love that dwelt within him forever, as it would in her. It was unchangeable, a constant that would live on inside both of them for as long as their lives would go on.
“Why do you always do that?” He asked, frustrated.
“Convince yourself that you’re a problem, or the problem. When really, if you decided to stay, it would be a solution?”
Lena let out a short chuckle. “I’m glad you think that. But I can’t agree. I need simplicity, Will. I need peace, away from Kennerdell. I don’t see a point in lingering about when all I will do is hurt you. Do you really want to see me every day? Do you really want to be reminded of the love you have for me when it is not returned the way that it should be? How can I hurt you that way? How can you expect me to?”
Deep in her heart, Lena knew things were actually the other way around, she loved him, and more than it would hurt him to see her regularly, it would hurt her. She wanted to be with him always, she wanted to be by his side, but she couldn’t, she just couldn’t. Lena couldn’t trust it, she couldn’t need him and she knew that was her problem, her issue. It had taken her what seemed like a lifetime to feel what one could call “ok” after Carl had died. That contentment, or complacency as it were, with her life was comforting and safe, she needed it. If she ever again felt the depth of pain and loss that had consumed her when Carl died she was sure it would destroy her, she would not survive it again. Lena knew she couldn’t stay here with Will, not even masked as his friend. She couldn’t bear to be around when Will would finally move on and find someone else. It was not as if Kennerdell was a large area and they would be unlikely to run into each other.
When he moved on, and she knew he would because he was so handsome and so desirable that there would be a line of women biting at the chance to be with him, Lena would be a witness to his new relationship on a regular basis. She didn’t want to see that. She didn’t want to see what it was that she would be missing with Will. He had been the love of her life since she was 5 years old, he always would be, it wouldn’t happen twice for Lena and she knew that. It would be just as her mother had described her love for Carl, she wouldn’t find that kind of love twice. She would love him forever, no other person could ever touch her heart the way that he had, no other could ever be her partner, her protector, her burning desire.
It pained her greatly to know that she was losing him, running away and leaving him alone, but Lena was letting him go, freeing him of the trap that she was for him and the damage she would undoubtedly cause him, and someday she knew he would be happy that she had done so.
“So,” Will stated, still fumbling with the arrowheads in his hand. “There is no changing your mind is there? No hope that you will come around and decide to stay?”
Lena just gently shook her head at him. “Than this right here,” referring to the necklace he was now gently shaking in his hand “…is now just a token of our friendship?”
“That’s all it can be.” Lena’s eyes began to well with tears. She gently grasped the necklace, brushing her hand against his, and removed it from his grip. “Will, you will always be my friend, my very best friend, from a distance.”
She turned to walk away, her mother still waiting inside the running car in the driveway. There was nothing else to say and she couldn’t draw out this painful experience any longer than it already had been. Wrapping her coat tighter around her body, shielding herself from the harsh, cold wind and heavier rain that was now falling, she walked to the car.
“Lena! Wait!” Will called after her. She froze midway into the vehicle and turned back to look at Will.
“What?” She replied, squinting to protect her eyes from the cold water while trying to see him through the now pouring rain.
“It won’t change for me, just so you know. I will always be here! Like I told you in Canada, there won’t be any forgetting for me. Those black arrowheads around your neck will always mean to me what they had in the beginning. Two lives entwined forever. You are my soul, Lena and I will love you until my last breath.”
Lena sat frozen with an unexplainable mix of fear and emotion. Being driven purely by her overwhelming love for him, she jumped back out of the car, unable to control or restrain herself. She ran to him through the rain, the wind whipping her hair into her face. She squeezed him tightly in an embrace she wished could last forever. It didn’t matter that they were soaked or freezing, inside of his arms she was warm, safe, and protected from the world. She felt his return embrace, passionately wanting her, needing her. Need. There it was again. She couldn’t need him, she couldn’t need anybody, she only needed herself and, as lovely as this moment felt, she had to let it go.
Regaining her composure, she looked up into his pleading, dark eyes. He pushed the wet hair out of her face, just as he had that day at their waterfall. “I have to go.” She quietly stated, almost whispering, her head buried into his strong chest, desperately trying to hold back her tears. “Please remember I will always love you, Will. I just can’t love you in the way that you need me to.” With that said she quickly walked away, entered the car, closed the door, and told her mother to leave.
After Mary pulled out of the driveway, Lena kept her eyes fixed on the rearview mirror, watching Will. He didn’t move. He still stayed in that spot, just standing there, watching her leave. Lena stared into that mirror, watching her love shrink in the distance until she couldn’t see him anymore. Lena knew Will was sturdy and resilient, he wasn’t some frail boy. He was a strong, stable man. Yet as she watched his robust figure fall away from her sight, she couldn’t help but feel that her words and actions had somehow shattered him. She hadn’t wanted to break his heart, or break her own for that matter. She had been left with no other choice, it was what had to be done for the good of them both.
The rain continued to pour down, beating the windshield of the car. Mary slowly reached over and gently grasped Lena’s hand. She was aware of her daughter’s heartbreak, even if Lena hadn’t discussed it with her. Mary’s warm hand was soothing to Lena’s cold flesh, a small comfort for the wounds Lena had managed to inflict upon herself.
Riverbend: The Collection will be available on Kindle October 8th
All three novels in The Riverbend Trilogy in one digital boxed set. Riverbend: The Collection includes Riverbend, Rapid Water, and Waking Tide. Nestled deep in Northwest Pennsylvania, in the thick forest of the Allegheny Mountains, is a quiet community named Kennerdell. Rich in both Native American and European settlement history with few inhabitants and a charming culture, growing up there was simple for Lena Woodruff.
But when grief stepped in and darkened her life-everything changed. After years of escape, Lena is forced to return home.
A web of mystery and danger that dates back to America’s earliest days quickly weaves around her and when a longtime friend, one who knows the tragedy that plagues Lena's heart, comes back into her life - things get complicated.
Grief darkens her thoughts while insecurity and self-doubt cause the lines between reality and imagination to blur. Just when she thinks she can't take anymore, a small glimmer of hope arises.
A sudden and unexpected need for love begins a conflict between self-doubt and the promise of something better.
Where strength can be weakness and vulnerability-an asset, the greatest danger that threatens Lena in Kennerdell may just be herself.
Will she be able to unfold the truth around this mystery or will it be easier to run away?
Love, danger, and history collide in Riverbend: The Collection