Overall, this book was a quick and easy read for me. I thought the story-line was interesting and the characters were complex. They pulled me in from the first page and had me wanting to know more. The Trouble With Before is a heart breaking story and it deals with some difficult issues. This story is filled with angst, drama and of course romance. My only issue was that I found it a little hard to connect with the characters at times. I don’t know why I was having trouble with it, but the connection is definitely something I struggled with. And that may just be me, so don’t let that stop you from checking this story out.
Even though this book wasn’t a 100% hit for me, I’m still glad that I checked it out. Despite the issues I had with it, I do feel that this book is well written and worth checking out.
*I was provided an ARC copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review*
“You went through my things?” she asks in an irritated tone.
“I was cleaning up the pigsty you’ve been living in,” I correct her.
She’s crouched over, her long blond hair cascading down her small back. And the towel is barely covering her ass, which has gotten a lot bigger since I last saw her, but it’s not flabby and wide but toned and round like a volleyball player.
“Don’t be a pervert,” she says, tossing a knowing look my way.
I hide a laugh, and just like that, it’s almost as though we’re back in high school. We used to swim in the pond by Chris’s house, and I always wanted to catch a glimpse of her boobs. She grabs a T-shirt, drops her towel, and pulls the shirt over her head. I swallow hard. Lisa’s definitely grown up since the last time I saw her naked, even though I can’t see the front of her. Her back’s long and smooth, only curving right before her ass pokes it. It’s round, firm, and perfect, and for a minute, I forget why I’m here.
“Look, I’m sorry to scare Ms. Scott.”
“Huh?” I ask.
She tosses the wet towel at me. “God, Aidan, you’ve screwed, what, a thousand girls and you get distracted by a little ass? I guess you haven’t changed much.” She shoots me a disgusted glare, but I can see a small grin behind it.
I let out a breath and throw the towel back at her, but she swats it away before it reaches her face. She looks more like the Lisa I know. Her hair’s grown out a lot, but it looks good on her. Her eyes still look tired, but they aren’t as dull as they were before. Now she just looks tired, instead of steps away from being dead.
“I didn’t mean to bother anyone. I just… I was really messed up, and as screwed up as it may be, Ms. Scott is the closest thing I have to a friend.” Her tone is quiet and not dripping with the usual sarcasm.
For a moment, I feel a stab of guilt. It’s really fucked up if the closest thing you have to a friend is the wife of the guy you slept with and whose family you almost destroyed.
“So if you want to berate me, tell me how stupid and selfish I am, and anything else you want to add to the list, go ahead. I’m all cried out, and I’m still just a little bit tipsy. Then you can go ahead about your way,” she proclaims, taking a seat on the bed across from me. She sets her hands on her knees and lets out a deep breath.
“Well, you pretty much covered everything I was going to say,” I say jokingly.
A barely there smile makes an appearance on her face. I think about Lauren and Ms. Red’s text about listening, and I let out my own deep breath and get comfortable in the chair.
“Tell me what’s going on. Why are you living in a hotel? I thought Brett had swept you off your feet and you’d be living in fairy-tale land by now,” I say, trying and failing to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.
“We’re on a break,” she answers quickly, then bites the corner of her lip, a tell-tale sign that she’s lying.
“The guy’s a douche anyway.” I shrug, and she rolls her eyes.
“He is not a douche. He’s a really sweet guy and the only person who’s been there for me, so I’d really appreciate if you don’t take any verbal jabs at him when he’s not here to defend himself. You’re more than welcome to direct them at me if you’d like.”
I shake my head. Brett Steltson. I could never stand that dude. The moment I met him, I knew he was a douche. Brett’s such a douchebag name. I don’t know why, but something about him just never sat right with me. Lisa and her best friend, Amanda, always thought he was the perfect guy—nice and older and he had money—but something was off about him. Not to say that a guy can’t be nice and what a girl wants—Chris was always genuinely a good guy, but even he had his problems. Brett was too perfect. Until I caught him with another girl a day after Lisa broke up with him. Then I found out Brett had several girlfriends from a few different high schools. None at his college, which seemed more than a little off to me.
Now I’m not a genius, but for Lisa to be in a hotel room with all of her bags, drinking wine, crying, and before she showered, smelling like a homeless person, something had to have gone down. I hope it’s something he did. I haven’t kicked anyone’s ass in a long time, and I’d love for it to be good ol’ boy Brett’s.
“Okay then, what are you doing here? I’d like to think you didn’t call Ms. Red because you’re feeling sensitive during your time of the month?”
“Has anyone told you you’re a chauvinistic pig?” she asks sharply.
“At least once a day,” I say with a wink.
She sinks into the edge of the bed. She’s quiet, and I can see she’s contemplating something.
I lean forward a bit, giving her a little smile. “It’s not like you care what I think of you anyway right?”
She looks at me and shakes her head. “How is Chris?”
“So you’re going to ignore what I just asked you?” I counter, and she bites her lip.
“I want to know because once I tell you, you may never tell me,” she says quietly.
It’s my turn to let out a deep breath, and I lean back in the sofa chair. Shit, what the hell has she done? She better not be screwing Mr. Scott again. What can be worse than that?
“He’s busy. Lauren’s having twins,” I tell her.
Her eyes widen, and for the first time, they’re bright. For the first time since I’ve been here, it’s like the dark cloud over her head is gone. “Twins? Oh my God!” She laughs. “That’s great! He’s finally getting the family he always w-wanted.”
She’s crying again, and this time it’s an ugly cry. Her face is all scrunched up and her body is trembling.
“Lisa, what the hell?” I shake my head, sit next to her on the bed, pull her body into mine, and hug her.
“I’m sorry,” she says, trying to catch her breath. “I-I just messed everything up so bad. I-I don’t even know my best friend anymore,” she whimpers as tears soak my shirt.
I rub her back and try to think of what Lauren or Ms. Red would say. “I-it’s going to be fine.” I don’t even sound convincing to myself.
“No, it’s not,” she mutters.
“Worst-case scenario, Chris won’t ever speak to you again. That’s kind of expected. And maybe Brett dumped you. So what? He’s a douche anyway. You’re still young, kind of hot, and you can move forward,” I tell her, sounding pretty convincing. But I don’t get how she can pretty much leave her kid without a tear but be crying over breaking up with a dude she didn’t even really like when we were in high school.
“I know Chris is never going to forgive me. I can’t ask him to. I’m not delusional,” she says quietly.
“So you’re crying like this over Brett?” I ask, annoyed. I feel her body stiffen. I shift my body back from her and turn her shoulders toward me. I can feel the tension in the room building as her eyes tear away from mine. “What’s wrong?”
My words are strong and confident, but my stomach feels woozy. I run across all of the terrible scenarios in my mind. She’s dying. She’s done something illegal. She’s slept with Mr. Scott again. I bite my lip to keep from saying any of those things. Her eyes meet mine slowly, and I see her swallow hard.
Holy shit! My mouth falls open, but no words leave them. I don’t know what to say. What the hell?
“Can you say something!” she squeaks.
I feel as if my eyes are about to bug out of my head. I was NOT prepared for this shit. I shut my mouth and rest my chin in my hand and stare at her. How the hell does someone who didn’t want a kid a year ago end up pregnant? I’m doing my best to not say something that will make me an insensitive jerk, but it’s killing me.
“Go ahead, tell me I’m an idiot. Ask me how could I put myself in the situation I just got out of. Tell me I’m the lowest person on the planet to leave my first child and end up with another one!” She’s standing and shouting and crying.
“Please tell me Mr. Scott isn’t the father,” I say stoically.
She picks up the pillow and throws it at me. “Way to be a dick!”
Then she goes into the bathroom and slams the door. I throw my head back in frustration and slap the wall. I think about texting Lauren and Ms. Scott again, but I probably wouldn’t listen to what they said anyway.
It was a little dickish of me to say that, but it was the first thing that popped in my mind, and the relief afterward was worth it. I think back to years ago, when Lisa told me to always say the third thing that came to my mind, not the first.
“I just wanted things to be different,” she yells through the door.
Pregnant again? What was she thinking?
“I-I came to a different state. I started a different job. I even tried again with Brett. I thought if I just made myself be with him, then nothing would have happened like it did, and it’s all just gone wrong,” she cries.
I try to feel sorry for her, I really do, but what the hell is her problem? Is she serious?
“Different?” I can’t help but scoff.
There’s a long stretch of silence, and I feel the tension growing with each second that passes.
“I’m sorry, Lisa,” I say, my throat tight. “I came here to make sure you were okay… Lauren and Ms. Red wanted to make sure you were alive and hadn’t done something crazy… but let me tell you, I don’t know who you are anymore. The girl I knew wasn’t this person, this selfish, dramatic, pitiful girl who wants everybody to feel sorry for her.”
She swings the door open, her face red, and I can tell she’s about to yell at me.
Before she can, I say, “You wanted things to be different, but what have you done differently besides run away from all of your problems? You want people to think of you differently? How about you be different? Go back home, grow up, do something with your life that you like and not what you think a guy wants you to do. Have your baby, be a good mom, drop in to see your other daughter once in a while. Be sorry not because you got caught and everyone’s mad at you but because what you did was fucking terrible. Trying again with a guy you never had feelings for in the first place and having another kid isn’t different, Lisa. You’re making all the same mistakes over again!”
She looks confused, so I firmly grip her shoulders and lean down until we’re face to face.
“Grow the fuck up. Life doesn’t give us a do-over. We just get to try to do it a little better the next day!” I’m hoping that she gets it, that she’ll wake up and become the woman I know she can be. If she doesn’t, I can’t stand to look at her anymore.
I walk out the door, pull out my phone, and text Lauren and Ms. Red
I wasn’t a good listener or talker but don’t worry she won’t do anything to herself. She’s different.
After I send the text, I turn off my phone.