Copyright (c) 2015 by E.S. Harper
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior express, written consent of the author.
This book is intended for mature adults only.
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Formatting by Champagne Formats
Table of Contents
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
To Contact Harper:
Other Books by Harper Sloan:
Corps Security Series:
Hope Town Series
This book is not suitable for younger readers. There is strong language and adult situations.
I'm A Mess by Ed Sheeran
Tenerife Sea by Ed Sheeran Distance by Christina Perri Kiss You In The Morning by Michael Ray Wasn't Expecting That by Jamie Lawson Heaven by Matt Bomer
Rewind by Paolo Nutini
F**ckin' Perfect by P!nk
Glitter In The Air by P!nk Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld A Little Bit Stronger by Sara Evans Don't Let Me Let You Go by Jamie Lawson Gravity by Sara Bareilles Nothing Left to Lose by Kari Kimmel Fight Song by Rachel Platten To enjoy the Perfectly Imperfect playlist: Spotify
I debated on whether or not to have a forward note in Perfectly Imperfect. In the end, I felt that you deserve to know why this book took precedence over each and every other WIP (work in progress) I had going at the time. The reasons behind why I felt this story needed to be told. And most importantly, why Willow Tate will forever hold the biggest part of me that I could ever put into one of my characters.
For the better part of my life, I've struggled with body image issues. Not something small, but big, ugly, crippling issues that have shaped me into someone I wasn't always proud to be. I went through high school hiding an eating disorder that most will be finding out--or maybe just confirm what they thought--through this message. You see, I was more concerned about the 'perfect' expectations that society mentally demands of us. More worried about maintaining my appearance as one of the 'popular,' 'pretty girls' than I was about my own health. I played right into the hands of the predator that hunts our self-esteem daily.
Then I got older.
And not so wiser.
I'll save the gritty details, but those image issues I struggled with got worse before they got better. People close to me making comments about how I was 'fat' or how I 'used to be so pretty.' They just compounded those issues until they were a snowball spiraling so fast I knew I would likely never catch it.
I still carry some of those issues around visibly, and I don't think I'll ever feel perfect. I struggle. Day in and day out. I struggle. The difference now is that I know I'm not perfect, nor will I ever be, but I have more confidence at this stage in my life (and body shape) than I ever did when I was at my mind's version of perfect. I still have moments, just like Willow, when I feel like everyone is looking at me and judging my body. Judging the choices that they think I've made. Judging me because of how I look.
But ... I've learned through YEARS of struggling that I'm perfectly imperfect. I'm happy. It's taken me a long time to feel that way about myself and even though I have days when I feel just imperfect ... I love myself.
The Internet is a mass of viral videos telling us who and what we need to be. Portraying anyone above a size ten as 'overweight' or 'plus size.' Public image personalities lashing out at people who aren't up to their standards of perfection. Telling us which point we need to be at to consider ourselves worthy of that perfection. Making us question, and most often hate, ourselves and the skin we live in. Willow--like me--felt that, feels that, and lives that. But she learned that perfect isn't what others expect you to be, but what you expect for yourself.
In the words of Kane Masters himself, I want to give hope to those who need to know life isn't what others want for you, but what you want for yourself. Strength in the face of weakness. That you can be the change that you want for yourself.
Willow holds so much of me. What I've felt. Things I've done. Thoughts that I've had. Experiences that I've lived. The fears, the highs, the lows, and the hate that she feels is real and raw for so many people out there. I know that not everyone has felt the things that Willow does. She might appear weak at times, but for those who have walked in her shoes ... you know how strong Willow is. For those who continue to slip on those shoes day in and day out, I hope that Willow can show you how perfect is just an image. You, like Willow, are loved and if anything ... I hope that through her story you can heal.
Like Willow - I found I learned that it doesn't matter what others think about me and the skin I wear. All that matters is that I LOVE ME.
And while I will never be perfect ... I will be imperfect and rock it perfectly.
I hope you enjoy Willow and Kane's journey.
To the little piece of Willow that may be inside of you.
I hope that through her story you see how stunningly perfect you are regardless of the imperfections you may see.
Happiness is there - just waiting for you to take the leap.
And if you need a little helping hand...this is for the Kane waiting for you.
MY BODY, STILL BRUISED AND broken, screams in protest as I pull myself toward the open door of the limo. My mind is working in tandem with my aching body and is objecting to my moving another inch. I don't want to be here. I want to be anywhere but here.
I take a deep breath and watch my father exit the vehicle before reaching out and offering his hand to help Ivy, my sister, as she climbs to her feet. At that moment, I wish with all my might for this to be just a dream. A terrible nightmare that I'll wake from at any second.
"Willow, get out of there, now," my father snaps his demand at a hushed whisper. His head faces forward, but his voice carries softly enough to get my attention.
Balling my fists and squeezing my eyes closed, I pray. To be a little stronger. To be able to get through this without breaking into a million pieces. To be the person whom my father wants me to be. Someone more like my sister.
When I reach the opening, I awkwardly swing my legs out, making sure not to bump the door with the hard cast around my left foot. My mind immediately realizes the error in my stalled timing when my eyes meet my father's sharp gaze, burning with hatred and annoyance.
Because I'm the reason we're here.
His arm is wrapped around my sister while her body is tucked tight into his side. Her soft sobs are muffled against his suit jacket. He doesn't move to help me. Nor does he move an inch when I struggle to climb out of the vehicle. His icy blue eyes say everything he wouldn't dare vocalize with this many people milling around us.
Get your act together.
Stop being such an embarrassment.
You're the reason we're here.
You pathetic fool.
He moves his foot slightly, and I hear my crutches clink together when he connects with them, telling me without words that will be the only help I'll be getting from him.
My muscles ache with every movement. They complain when I push myself out and scream in agony when I pull myself to stand next to the open door. The arm I used to shove my body off the seat sends searing pain to my bruised ribs. Each movement steals the breath straight from my lungs.
And the sharp intake of breath I force when the pain becomes too much causes my father's eyes to harden even further.
God, please help me. Take this all away. Everything.
When I've finally made it to my feet--well, foot--he starts marching forward. Ivy's small body pulled tight to his side and not one backward glance to make sure I'm following. The uneven earth under the wet grass makes my trek more challenging, but I'm determined not to give him another reason to be unhappy with me. I make sure my footing is solid, and I swing my body forward carefully.
I make it to his side well after they've been seated and move to take my seat next to him rather cumbersomely. I don't look up. Seeing the look of pity mixed with grief on everyone's faces around us would cause me to crumble, but I know if anyone were to look at me with the same blame my own father does ... my heart would be forever ruined.
Instead, my eyes lock on the mahogany wood that holds the only person I know loved me in this life.
I will wear this mark of responsibility for the rest of my days. This burden of death will never be erased. After all, I was the one driving the car that night.
It doesn't matter that a drunk driver was the cause of our wreck. I wasn't able to prevent the crash that took my own mother's life. I wasn't able to stop her from dying.
As the final moments of my mother's funeral play out around me, all I can focus on are those last memories I have of youthful happiness. When my father's hate for me wasn't something so tangible because it was shielded by a mother's love. My sister's contempt wasn't thickly choking me. When I didn't hate myself for being alive.
I had everything in one second, and in the next ... I had nothing. A void so dark it's killing me.
And now ... now, all I can remember is how my father's booming voice berated me from the foot of my hospital bed. His words, laced with the venom of hate, telling me I should have been the one who died that night. That my mother's life was worth more to this world than that of her bastard daughter.
He made it clear he will never be able to look at me the same after taking his perfect wife away from him. I looked over, seeing my beautiful sister wrapped in his arms, before looking back down at my lap. The narrow seat I'm sitting on pinches my thighs when I shift, and with a deep sigh, I realize that when I took his perfect wife, his perfect life, and killed it in the crunched remains of my mother's car, I tainted the future with nothing but imperfection. After all, he was right ... I came into this world as a bastard and the world would probably be better off if I went out the same way.
SELF-LOATHING IS A DISEASE.
Okay, so maybe not a real disease, but it should be classified as such.
When you wake up in the morning and hate the skin you're stuck in. Or maybe when you look in the mirror and see round cheeks where perfect contours used to be and immediately want to shove your finger down your throat to help.
Worse yet, being married to a man who tells you day in and day out what an ugly fat-ass cow you are. Or to quote what seems to be his go-to in verbal lashings, 'your disgusting fat body.'
Self-loathing is a disease I've been fighting to cure for more years than I can remember. It didn't help that, until recently, I had been married to a man who fed that disease daily. His comments, his look of disgust at the person his wife had become, his infidelity--all of it had been the fuel needed for that disease to burn wild. And, worse yet, I let it. I became a product of my own mind's games.
But today, I get to try and focus on my future. The end of one hellish journey where I can finally, hopefully, take all the hard work I've accomplished in the months since my marriage ended and become the me I was meant to be. Today will mark the day it will be officially behind me.
Throwing back the covers, I look down at my thick dimpled thighs long enough to take an invisible slap to my waning self-esteem. You're better than that, Willow. You see what your mind wants you to see. Remember that.
It isn't that I'm a weak person. I'm a product of self-destruction, or so my therapist tells me. I'm a battlefield of strength versus weakness and reality versus my own mind. I don't look in the mirror and hate myself because I'm weak. No, I hate myself because even though my clothes and the scale tell me one thing, I can't see it. It takes all the strength a person can muster to continue fighting his or her own self-image. Fighting to find their way back from the damage they've done to themselves physically and mentally.
I don't think I was always like this. My childhood, I think, was the building blocks of where I am now in my life. My mother loved me as fiercely as any mother loves her children. But that's where the love ended. My father, or I should say the man who raised me since I was a wee toddler, has never liked me. I came into his life as an inconvenience that just so happened to be attached to the woman he fell in love with. Even after all these years, I don't know why I still crave his love and yearn to be accepted as his 'real' daughter. And don't even get me started on Ivy. His love all went to his true daughter, my half-sister. Even when she was a baby, she didn't like me. She would start crying the second I walked into the room. But the dislike they shared turned to hate the day my mother died.
The depression that started with my mother's death continued to compound with other issues over the years, as did my body, because I binge ate every single one of those issues. Looking back now, I'm confident that I only married my soon-to-be ex because he was the first man to ever pay any attention to me. Attention, in the positive light, was something I had struggled to find after her death. For almost a decade, I simmered in a vat of hate around me, so when I met him, I took everything he had to offer and grasped on tight. It didn't take long for that affection to turn into a nightmare of verbal abuse that I put up with for years. Ac
cording to my therapist, I was my own martyr. I stayed because, in a sense, I believed I deserved it.
Until the day that it was over, when I realized I was worth more.
But at that time, married to a life of verbal lashings, I lost myself more than I could have gained back from his shadow of hate dissipating.
I went from being a healthy woman with a perfectly flat stomach, perky boobs, size four waist, and the best ass in town - to someone I didn't even recognize anymore.
And it was at that moment that I used all the hate others had toward me and turned it into the biggest cheerleader ever. I struggled. I continue to struggle. But I'm getting better, and that's all I can focus on right now.
With a deep sigh, I make my way to the bathroom and start getting ready for my appointment with my divorce attorney. The last appointment and the most important one because it means I'll finally be free of my cheating, verbally abusive ex-husband.
Like I said ... today is the day when everything I have been working toward comes to fruition. Today, I choose to be a better me. One who doesn't hate herself. One who isn't so self-conscious of everyone around her.
Today, I choose strength.
I just pray the daily battle warring inside of me makes that choice possible.
I DRUM MY FINGERS AGAINST my crossed legs as the cab takes me closer to my attorney's office. The fabric of my black slacks leaves me uncomfortably warm in the shockingly warm weather of late spring in New York City. We have been stuck in such cool weather for so long that I had forgotten what it felt like to be sweaty. Of course, that could also have a lot to do with where I'm going and not the actual weather.
Pulling out my phone, I flip the camera to look at my reflection. I cringe when I see how pale I look. My dark brown hair hangs like a flat curtain against my pasty skin. My eyes, having lost the sparkle of mischief a long time ago, look dead and scared. Actually, more accurately, they look like crap. Dead, brown crap.
To be fair, my eyes aren't the problem. I look like crap.
So much for that pep talk before you left the apartment, Will. Great job.
Locking my phone, I shove it back into my purse and press my head against the seat.
This morning started out so well. Until I walked out the door and a series of unfortunate events kept knocking me down like well-placed checkers.
First, my only pair of attractive heels snapped the second I slipped my foot inside them, forcing me to wear an old, worn pair that look more like something my grandmother would have worn. Then, the elegant chignon I had worked so hard to put my hair into lasted about two seconds before rejecting the bobby pins and falling back down to thick waves. Naturally, since I had been running late, I was stuck with my hair down around my face, which I feared would make me look weak ... as if I was hiding. And to add to my already dwindling confidence, the button on my dress pants--the ones that actually make me look good because they're a size too big--was missing. My carefully planned 'power outfit' instantly died, and now, I'm stuck in the only other pair I had, the ones that are a size too small and cut circulation off to my legs.