"So," his voice sang as we settled in the chairs facing the balcony at the back of the house.
I nod and motion for a pen and pad to write on and he springs to his feet and heads over to a drawer rummaging a bit before finding the objects he was looking for. He hands me a notepad and a sharpie. I smile thanking him and he sits in the chair opposite to me.
I began to write on the pad and he stayed quiet. I was horrible at talking to guys, especially the one who was not only, God-like gorgeous but the one I just finished crying hysterically in front of. So as you might have guessed my hand started to tremble slightly. Emerson glanced at it, but said nothing. He must’ve thought I was a freak.
Nonetheless I finished writing, ‘Thanks for all your help, I really appreciate it.’
"That was no problem," he smiles, "Are you better?"
I nod nervously, trying to control how heavily I breathed. ‘So what did you want to talk about?’
He sighs leaning forward and resting his hands on his knees, "I don’t know what’s going on Adira, this is weird and unusual and kind of happened all at once," I begin to feel guilty about staying, maybe I could leave when no one notices. I push the idea to the side for a second and listen on, "But at the same time it’s perfect, like the timing is just right," I’m surprised and he notices and holds my gaze for a while, "And gosh...You- you are beautiful." He sighs.
I feel my cheeks go red and a stupid smile begins to form on my lips. I try to shift away from his gaze, ‘When you appeared in my dreams what did you expect to do once we met?’ I try changing the topic.
He inhales deeply, "So from my perspective, you actually showed up in my dreams, and I wasn’t sure that you were real or that I’d ever get to meet you."
I nodded understanding his logic and even agreeing with it. I thought he was just a figment of my imagination and his beauty in my dreams seemed to justify that. Now, I see that he is just as beautiful outside my dreams as inside. I pull myself away from fantasizing and begin to write.
‘I appreciate all that you and your family are doing for me but, you don’t have to make a commitment about what to do next. We don’t even have to do anything at all about it.’ I lie.
I wanted nothing more than to curl in his embrace, to receive the shelter and absoluteness that he seemed to provide. I wanted to be protected and cared for because I’d been so misused before. But those thoughts were selfish. I can’t expect him to drop his normal life to pick me up and dust me off. That was my job and though I suck at it, that’s just how the world worked.
"We do have to do something, I can’t just let this go Adira." His words shock me, "And I’m sure as hell not letting you go back to that hell hole you were in."
The thought of my father caused my hand to tremble softly. I wish to God that Emerson doesn’t see but it’s too late. He looked down at it for a moment before looking back at me.
"You’re staying here until you heal and much later afterwards, you and I will better discuss the aspects of our relationship because this isn’t just a fluke. Because of those dreams, you’ve been attached to me in so many ways Adira, I can’t let you go."
I would write a response if my hand wasn’t shaking so vigorously so I only look down at my lap where my notepad and pen are. I squeeze my eyes shut trying to focus on my hand not shaking as much when I feel Emerson take it. My eyes open slowly and I look up at him and he analyzes my shaking hand.
"Does this happen when you’re nervous?" He asks.
I shake my head, "Afraid?" He asks again.
I nod shamefully, "So unless I scare you," he says seriously, "There’s something back at your home that scares you immediately, just at the thought?"
If I were able to speak I’d have corrected him by saying, "Someone," Rather than something. Then again do we still consider a person to still be human after committing such vile acts? At what point is a human’s ‘humanity’ lost? One more bottle? Or drugged up night spent abusing their own child? Driving another individual to the darkest place that anyone could ever dream of going? A place where the beauty contained in life, has lost its splendor and gleam and has transformed into the darkness in which the person dwells? Is this when their humanity is lost? Shouldn’t it be earlier than that? And why did some people go through it and others didn’t?
"Adira?" I’m snapped out of the darkness of my thoughts.
‘Sorry,’ I mouth.
"I think we need to talk about something can help you let all your emotio-"
I jolt to my feet suddenly. A sound from further down the hallway captures my attention. I know it was a rude thing to do but it seemed like my body’s natural reaction to hearing that sound. I limp out of the room and down the hallway holding on to the wall as the sound got louder. Soon I find myself entering a medium to large-sized room and there on the walls, floors, ceiling even, were dozens of instruments, but the one that captivated my heart and caused me to basically run here was the giant black grand piano.
I watched as Victor’s fingers ran over the keys and I felt myself being carried away to that happy place. The place that no one, not even my heinous father, could rip from my grasp. Suddenly, the flow of happiness and swell of delight seems to end along with the sound of the music.
Victor turns around and smiles up at me, "Do you know how to play?"
I make a hand gesture that implies "so-so".
"Let’s see what you got then," Victor challenges standing from his seat.
I shake my head furiously, ‘It’s okay,’ I mouth.
"If you ever want to, it’s here for your use." Victor smiles at me and I thank him.
"Maybe you can use this as a release, whether listening to it, or playing." Emerson now says walking through the door.
I lean against the giant piano for support, but try to play it off casually as though I was admiring the many other instruments around the room. For the most part, that wasn’t a complete lie, because soon enough I began to truly admire the variety of instruments I saw.
"Do you want to finish talking in here? Or back upstairs?" Emerson smiles my way.
A pang of guilt resonates through me and I realize how selfishly I’d acted toward him, while all he’s done since I got here was display kindness. I point to the floor, indicating that I wanted to stay here.
"Perfect." We settle on the soft carpet and he hands me the pad and pen I was using earlier.
As soon as I receive these materials I write a hasty, ‘I’m Sorry’
"It’s fine, in a sense you answered the question I was asking," We face each other now and his gaze locks on mine and soon enough he asks the million dollar question, "How is all this possible Adira? Why do we know each other?"
I shrug just as he speaks again, "What does it mean?"
Another unanswerable question. Despite what I might think I feel for Emerson and the eventful situation that brought us into contact, we couldn’t be anything. I wouldn’t allow him to be pulled into the crazy world that is my life. No, never.
I look up at him and it was as though he’d read my mind, because the expression written all over his face read hurt. I couldn’t drag him into my complicated world filled with pain and hatred. I wasn’t sure I knew what love actually was, or what it felt like, how then would I even begin to exhibit this characteristic to someone else. Someone who actually deserves it.
I look down at my hands which rest in my lap, feeling tears sting my eyes. He scoots closer to me now but I keep my head down, bowed in shame, of what my past was, and the incomplete human it has made me.
"I get that you must’ve been through some horrible things and that is affecting you now. I can’t say that I understand it, because I don’t. But don’t hesitate to think that I won’t help you get over it."
I looked up at him, my facial expression asking a question, ‘Why?’ I mouth.
"Because," His face is right in front of mine now, so close that our noses graze one another’s occasionally, "You might not want to think that those dreams meant anything, or that us meeting just as you were at the brink of death wasn’t the best timing in the world, but I do. This means I can’t let you go." The seriousness in his tone made the breath in my nostrils pause their movement.
We’d only met a couple of hours ago, why was he saying all this to me right now? How can he feel these things?
"Don’t freak out," He warns pulling back from my atmosphere. I feel the clarity that was once in the air disappear and a sense of fogginess clouded my vision. I felt an urge to reach forward and pull him back in to soothe my suffocation.
"I won’t force you to do anything, unless you’re into that sort of stuff," I glare at his dirty joke and that only made him laugh.
As I wait for his laughter to recede and notice a beauty I’d never seen anywhere else in the curves of his face, the shine in his smile and for a moment it took my breath away. Why was I been drawn toward him? This couldn’t be considered Stockholm syndrome, because he wasn’t a captor and though I am a victim I wasn’t his victim.
We walked out of the instrument room and after a few struggled steps, Emerson sighed impatiently and I was swept into his arms. For a moment I become anxious but a wave of warmth flashes through my being and a sense of reassurance causes me to rest my head comfortably on his chest.
He tenses for a moment and I regret my decision just slightly but not enough to move. He walks me down the stairs and through a back door and now down a dark hallway. He makes a couple of twists and turns and then the light of the living room appears. I hear laughter and deep chuckles here and there and something sizzling in the kitchen. My stomach growls.
"And they return," Chance greets us.
Anthony scoots over to make space in the couch for us and I sit between him and Emerson.
"How are you feeling?" Gavin asks me.
I look around to realize that Emerson’s mother isn’t around so I turn to Chance and he runs for a mini whiteboard, a cloth for erasing and some markers. My face must light up because he laughs a bit. I respond to Gavin’s question with, ‘Hungry’
"Yeah that must suck," Gavin comments
I smile almost laughing for a moment, but I knew the consequences and stopped myself.
"So where are your parents from Adira?" Cody asks.
"My father is Caucasian," my wrist trembles just at the thought of him, I hope Emerson doesn’t notice, "My mother was West Indian."
"Was?" Chance asks.
"Yeah, she passed when I was younger."
"I’m sorry to hear that," Chance apologizes.
"It’s okay," I smile genuinely.
"So it’s just been you and your father?" Justine walks through the door speaking. I tense a bit and Emerson notices, placing his hand on my elbow protectively.
"He must be worried about you being gone this long," I don’t respond, "Do you have any siblings?"
I shake my head looking her way, "So the only child of a single father is found half-dead at the top of Stone Death Cliff in the middle of the night, with no explanation or reasoning and your father isn’t looking for you?"
"Okay, Justine that’s enough." Gavin warns her.
"No, it’s not. Look at how pale-faced she’s gotten. What’s wrong? Does the princess not want her daddy to find her?" She teases probably not thinking much of it.
I don’t respond, I feel myself go numb.
"Nothing to write about that?" Justine taunts.
"Okay Justine that’s enough," Victor walks in from down that stairs.
Justine sighs heavily rolling her eyes, but drops the topic. In that moment, I begin to try to focus on my breathing, just as Chance had mentioned before. In and out. In and out. I hear a bark and I remember Chester for a moment. I look behind me to catch a glimpse of him rushing down the stairs toward me. He hops into my lap licking at my face making me smile uncontrollably, I almost laughed. I rubbed the spot behind his ear and he instantly relaxed in my arms as I kissed his head.
"You two are extremely close." Victor notices.
I nod and write, "I found him in my backyard when he was just a pup, he was hurt. We’ve been attached by the hip ever since."
Justine huffs but I try to ignore it. Emerson runs his thumb over my hand and I blush beet red. I don’t look up at him out of embarrassment and I know he notices. I hear his soft laughter and I’m reminded of the weird odds that brought us together. Together. The word makes my skin tingle in all the right ways, my insides turn to mush and my chest aches with each passing beat.
He was in my dreams, for months. I’ve looked forward to seeing him each night for almost an entire year now. I always considered him a figment of my imagination and now he was holding my hand while talking to his friends. Does this mean we’re a couple? What about when I leave? The thought caused my to feel immediately sick.
"Hey you okay?" Emerson holds my face up by the chin and for a moment I realize I’ll have to leave this all behind. I’ll need to leave in order to save them from the complications and mishap that turns out to be my life.
"No, no tears," I hadn’t realized I was crying until he said these words. He used his thumbs to wipe my tears and I got a minute to look up at his perfection. He was unscarred, his light caramel skin seemed to be mixed by God himself. Then there was me, charred and broken at all angles. Irreparable.
What I do next seems to break me apart in more ways than I realize it would. I pull away from his embrace, the hurt in his eyes are a pain to look at, "Adira," He calls my name in such a way that makes my body hurt.
"Sweetie what’s wrong? Your wrist is shaking away." Mr. Hunt notices.
I cover my shaky wrist with my other hand and Chance walks over to me to help. But I can’t take it, I can’t get too attached when I would be leaving soon. So I jolt to my feet and a pain radiates in my hip. Reminding me of being thrown the stairs by that drunken bastard that I have the dread of calling a father.
Emerson stands in front of me and holds my elbow to support my body. I feel the calm beginning to rush through my veins, but I pull away, shaking my head. I begin to head up the stairs but he takes hold of my hand, "What’s wrong?"
I look behind him at Chelsea and I sign, "Please ask him to let me go," my eyes fill up again.
"She said she’s tired," Chelsea lies for me. I thank her mentally and Emerson releases his grip. I limp up the stairs taking a moment to catch my breath when I was only halfway up. My body ached so severely that I almost broke down in tears. Once I got to the room I was given, I collapsed in the bed and fell asleep instantaneously. I don’t hear a sound.
I feel myself wafting of into the dream world and for the first time in months I don’t want to contact Emerson. I don’t want to face him again, or have to explain why we can’t be. I can’t be the one to do that. But much like everything else in my life, I didn’t get what I’d wanted. Emerson appeared before me shining in that God-like way of his, making my skin tingle.
"What’s wrong?" He asks immediately, "Why won’t you talk to me?"
I look away from him hoping to escape this dream, I couldn’t do this. No I can’t. His life would be so much better without me in it, it would be much easier, he’d be happier. I know he would.
"Please don’t," I hear myself speak emphasizing the bizarre nature of our method of contact.
"Why not?" He was starting to get frustrated, "You have feelings for me, and I do for you so why can’t-"
"Because it’s not that easy!" I cut him off, "Not with me at least."
He sighs, "Okay Adira, but tell me why, at least that."
"Because after I’ve healed I’ll have to go back home and-"
"Why?! Chance said you had all these scars and bruises that dated back years."
"Why would he tell you that stuff?! He shouldn’t be allowed to. That’s my privacy."
"Nevertheless Adira, you can’t go back to that monster of a father," I’m taken aback by his words and he notices, "You can’t expect me not to put the pieces together."
"Whatever," I say frustrated, "It’s my choice to go back, and I might not have a voice right now, but I do have a choice."
"So you’d rather go back to that hellhole than stay here with me?" He seemed shattered by just the thought of it all.
I gulp and with a heavy heart I nod, "Yes."
His hazel eyes lose their spark and I’m taken aback by the shiver and hopelessness that seems to wash over his entire demeanor, "Fine," His deep voice is cold. He leaves without another word and for a moment I"m not sure what to do with myself.
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