Rebuilder – Part 1

He gives her hand a little squeeze before letting it go.

“Wait here.” Will says gently, giving her a soft kiss on the cheek. He thinks he sees her frown ever so slightly but can’t be sure.

The clearing is only a few yards ahead, obscured by the thick green summer foliage of bushes, climbing ivy, and newly emerging trees. It perfectly hides his surprise from view. As he steps into the space, Will can’t stop himself from smiling.

Dangling from the branches overhead are multicolored shimmering glass ornaments that would be more at home on a pine tree than in the branches of the oaks. An old mosquito net has been draped between them, falling gracefully over a red and white quilted picnic blanket. He walks over to the pillows neatly stacked against a hollow log and carefully arranges them one more time around the teddy bear in their midst.

“Perfect.” He whispers to himself.

From an old wicker picnic basket nearby, Will pulls out two white wine glasses and sets them out on a small wooden cutting board. Chocolate covered strawberries are next, delicately arranged on the board to form a small heart. Lastly, he props the bottle of cheap Riesling he had found on sale in the basket.

A perfectly romantic scene.

As he admires his handy-work, Will feels around in his jeans pocket for the ring. He pulls it out and tenderly stares down at the simple silver band with its single diamond on top. He gives it a kiss before hiding it away in his palm.

Taking a deep breath, he calls out, “Ok, you can come back!”

Before he even has a chance to kneel, her slight frame appears at the edge of the clearing. The sunlight breaks through the clouds overhead and hits the ornaments so that the whole clearing suddenly seems to sparkle. He still can’t tell what the expression is on her soft, beautiful, features.

Will gets down on one knee in front of her, clasped hands extended. “Caroline, will you marry me?” A smiles fills his face as he reveals his mother’s simple engagement ring to her.

She says nothing for a beat. He feels his smile beginning to strain, doubt suddenly flooding him. His breath feels caught in his chest.

“Will…” she says softly, a frown beginning to form on her face.

“Please?” He adds, his voice straining to get the word out.

“Don’t.” Caroline turns her face away from him. “Not again.”

The smile falls from his face as his arms fall to his sides. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. He stuffs the ring back in his pocket before getting to his feet.


She sighs and shakes her head. “We’ve been through this. I’m marrying Chris and you know that.”

“Why though? You’ve said it yourself that he doesn’t do half of what I do for you. To make you feel as special as you are.”

“It’s not that simple, Will. Besides, I love him.”

“But I thought you loved me too?”

“I do.” She tries to reassure him, gently taking his hand in hers. “You’re so sweet and give me all the things Chris can’t, but it just isn’t that simple.”

Will tenderly kisses her fingers. “But it can be. You could marry him on paper but still get spiritually married to both of us. I’ve already talked about it with a minister, they didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t have a plural marriage…”

Caroline shakes her head again and pulls her hand away abruptly. “I don’t want that, Will. It just isn’t that simple.”

“But why though?”

A rustling noise behind Caroline startles both of them. Chris’ large and imposing frame appears behind her, his thick fingers gripping into her shoulder. “Because she’s mine, dipshit.”

Will frowns, a rush of anger replacing the doubt he had felt. “She’s not property.”

“She’s my fiancee, not yours.”

“Chris, please,” Caroline pleads, turning to face him. “Just leave him alone.”

“The hell?” His face contorts into a stupid expression of anger as he looks down at her. The exaggerated look might be funny if Will wasn’t already aware of the violence behind it. “You cheat on me with this soft idiot and tell me to let it go? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“It isn’t like that!” Caroline tries to defend herself, backing away from him by a few steps.

Chris narrows his eyes at her. “I’ll deal with your shit later.”

“Come on, don’t talk to her like that.” Will interjects, trying to pull the attention away from her, sensing that trouble is incoming.

It works. “You’re not the good guy here. I fucking heard you. ‘Marry me, Caroline. We can be plural married, Caroline.’ You’re fucking pathetic.”

“Chris, drop it, please.”

“Stay the fuck out of it, Caroline.”

The air stills. The sun hides itself behind the clouds again, the magic in the clearing gone with its departure. In the distance, Will swears he can hear the low rumble of thunder.

He knows he needs to tread carefully. “What do you want?”

Chris takes a step towards him, leaving only a few inches between them. “To beat up the asshole she’s been cheating on me with.”

There’s that word again. It finally dawns on Will that maybe there’s far more going on here than he knew. He tries not to get sidetracked, putting the thought away for another moment, when he isn’t about to potentially get hit.

“Look, it’s clear there’s been a misunderstanding…” he tries, but Chris begins to laugh at his attempt to smooth things over.

“The fuck there’s been a ‘misunderstanding’.” He mocks, getting right into Will’s face. “This bitch is cheating on me and you’re over here trying to steal her away from me. There isn’t any fucking ‘misunderstanding’ in this.”

“Come on, don’t talk about her like that.”

“Don’t tell me what the fuck to say.” His voice is low, a warning.

“Chris,” Caroline pleads again. “Stop, please baby, just stop.”

He doesn’t look at her, instead he looks Will directly in the eye, staring him down. “Shut up, Caroline.”

“How did you find us?” Will suddenly asks, hoping to find a way to change the topic.

“You don’t have as many friends as you think you do, that’s how.”

“No one knew where we…”

“Your stupid friend with the dumb ass tree knew.”

Charlie’s face comes to mind. The dumb ass tree, as Chris so eloquently put it, Will figures is the redwood Charlie was supposed to plant this morning. It feels like being punched without either of them throwing one.

Feeling dazed, Will looks over at Caroline and asks, “I thought you told him about us?”

Caroline says nothing. Instead, she looks at the ground, a move that looks like an admission of guilt to Will. His head feels like it’s spinning. This was not how any of this was supposed to go.

“You lied.” He states dumbly, also looking at the ground as the feeling of betrayal sinks into his chest.

“Welcome to the club.” Chris snidely comments.

“Why did you lie to me?” He looks over at Caroline again. She turns her face away from him in what he assumes is shame.

Chris just laughs bitterly. “She’s always been a lying bitch. You aren’t the first.”

The words register but Will can’t make sense of them, he still feels so far away from his body. Lost in the mist of heartbreak and confusion. “Don’t fucking call her that,” his mouth says without his awareness.

The next thing he is aware of is the feeling of Chris’ hands on his chest shoving him backward. Why it’s happening is something that eludes his brain at the moment, all Will knows is the sensation of stumbling. Then of falling down. Then the feeling of something sharp digging into his hand.

“Chris!” He hears Caroline shout. “What have you done?!”

The pain doesn’t subside and he feels something warm trickling down his palm.

“Fuck him, let’s go.” Chris commands and Will watches dumbly as he grabs Caroline’s wrist, pulling her along down the path. She never seems to resist.

He wants to call out after her but his mouth wont move. Out of eyesight, they suddenly seem a million miles away. Just like how his body feels.

He lifts his hand from the ground and the pain registers all at once. The jagged edges of the broken wine glass now embedded into his right hand are excruciating. Blood begins to drip down his wrist as he stares at it, unsure if he should remove it or keep the glass in place.

Will doubles over, the physical and emotional pain converging to break through the haze, slamming him back into reality. He holds his arm to his chest, palm facing the sky, and rubs his forearm over and over again in an unconscious soothing motion.

It doesn’t make much difference. He begins to cry.

“Oh no.” The soft whisper of a friendly voice reaches his ears. He looks up to see Abi just emerging into the clearing. “Oh, Will.”

Her soft and caring expression breaks him even further. Suddenly the floodgates open and he sobs uncontrollably.

“Hey, Will, it’s going to be ok.” It’s Jake’s voice now and it’s his hands that gently pull Will to his feet. “Let’s get you to the ER.”

Will doesn’t protest or say much of anything as they lead him out of the forest. Abi carefully holds his right arm, keeping it away from harm and monitoring how bad the situation really is. By the time they reach the edge, he finally finds the words to explain what happened.

“She lied to me.” Both Abi and Jake turn to look at him. “She lied to me and Charlie sold me out to Chris.”

Jake says nothing but the frown on his face says more to Will than anything he could’ve said. “Let’s get you in the truck. Abi will get you to the hospital.”

Abi nods, taking the keys from Jake before going to unlock it. From the back of the truck, Jake grabs out his bike and points it in the direction of the greenhouse. He gives Will one more look over before he mounts it.

“I’m sorry she broke your heart.” He says, looking at Will. “You deserve better than her, Will.”

Will doesn’t protest, only follows Abi to the passenger side of the truck when she gently takes his elbow.


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