Chapter 9: Drowning
I was marshmallowed under three blankets with fluffy pillows all around. After carrying me to his room Emerson laid me down and ensured I was comfortable. My body temperature was too low, and considering my anemia raising it would require extra reinforcements. The mini heater was brought up and now settled to my left right before Emerson’s small night table. Even though my body was a block of ice I barely notice because my mind fixated on processing what I witnessed a few minutes ago. Nothing was that huge!
Maybe I let my imagination run loose for too long and hallucinated some of the details. I mean come on, canines the size of my hands? That was ridiculous. While I was in the middle of my panic Emerson shuffles around making his room more accommodating to my presence.
He emerges from his walk-in closet with a pair of fuzzy socks, brand new and pink. Why does he have pink fuzzy socks?
Must have been an ex-girlfriend’s.
My self-deprecating jealousy was a full-time worker in my mind. Regardless she seemed to shut up whenever he was near, so when her voice faded I knew he was closing in. To my joy he was a step away. Concern radiated from his body like the hum of a fire, and it brought me peace. He settles on the edge of the bed and smiles down at me, though it doesn’t reach his eyes. His hand rests against my forehead and I know it’s merely him checking my temperature—an act of love in and of itself—but I can’t stop my body. I gasp then jump away from the luxury of his touch.
We both freeze and I opened my mouth to apologize on my body’s behalf but something in his gaze told me not to. I nibble on the inside of my cheek then my bottom lip, nervous about what this event means for my ultimate safety.
He read my mind.
Immediately he reaches forward again, hesitant but sure. This time he tucks a loose curl behind my ear then he grants me the honor of a smile, "Baby you’re fine, it’s okay," he stands and heads to the end of the bed where my frozen feet laid, "I’m going to change your socks."
Before I can protest or assert doing it myself he takes my feet in his hands. The icy wet socks are peeled from my feet—probably blue and wrinkled disastrous looking beasts with chipped nails and old polish—then warm fuzzy one's are glided on.
He takes my wet socks and walks out of the room with them. Instantly, my body jumps into a panic. I couldn’t be trusted by myself, look at what happened last time! My heart rate speeds up significantly, palms get sweaty and a full ache builds in the back of my mind. My brain musters up enough confidence to initiate an anxiety attack that would shatter my entire being.
By the sheer volume and intensity of the trembling in my wrist I was able to deduce that I wouldn’t be conscious until the sun had come up. I wonder what Emerson would do, think even. My eyes began to close as the grip I had on the layer closest to me loosened. An incessant ringing told me I was seconds away from passing out—
"I got this thermometer to check your temperature. Chance said that when you hit 96 degrees he’ll come up and check you out, till then I’m going to keep you awake."
I nodded, or at least I think I did, just as he pulled up a wooden chair and settle directly next to me. He places the thermometer on the bedside table and rubs his hands together then his eyes, he must be exhausted.
"You’re tired," I say quietly, "You can get some slee—"
"Why were you outside?" The question rushed out of his mouth as though they were fire on his tongue. He’s taking gulps of air, deep breaths to soothe the fire in his eyes, the gold there. My heart sped up and my lips parted, I was parched. Nevertheless I remained quiet, "Adira, just...just answer the question. Why were you outside?"
"I...I," I couldn’t think of what to say, how to stop myself from being viewed as a psych patient.
"Hey, babe," He lifts my chin and strokes my cheek. His eyes were calmer now and I was allowed to drown in him. The control he has over our atmosphere is baffling, intoxicating, "There’s no risk here if you tell me the truth. This," he gestures between us, before reaching for my hands under the covers, "We won’t ever work if you can’t be honest with me. So," He takes a deep breath, "Can you please tell me why you were outside?"
I licked my rigid lips then gulped tirelessly, "Y-you won’t b...believe me."
He lowers his lips to my shaky hands all while maintaining eye contact, "Try me."
Folding my lips I think over how best to present this. He would think I’m crazy, I know he would. He has all right to. But he’s right in saying that if this relationship will work I have to at least try and be vulnerable with him, be ho—
"You’re freaking yourself out Dee," He leans in until all I’m exposed to is him, "Just rip the bandage off."
I took a quick breath then opened my mouth, but nothing came out. This went on for almost half an hour and though the silence was crippling his patience was to be admired. Now, he tries to stand up— maybe to use the bathroom, but my grip on his hand forces him back in the seat.
"I...I walked outside to see...see them."
He was probably thinking of which psych ward to send me off to. He strokes the top of my hands and asks a genuine, "To see what?"
I gulped and my eyes filled with tears, "To...see the eyes."
"Eyes?" My answer stuns him into loosening his grip on my hands. I recluse and wrapped them around my swollen body.
"Um yeah…" I sighed and refused to look at him as the following words left my lips, "I’ve noticed them before," He’s going to throw me out, "They were shiny eyes and I wanted to see what kind of...animal they belonged to, so" And his entire family would talk about the crazy girl they took in one winter, "So I went out to see them." And I’ll have to move very very far away.
His laugh was short and melodious, "Really? You were just...curious?"
I nodded and cuddled my feet in each other, "I didn’t know that I’d see that...that...creature," An immediate panic filled my chest, "Did your family call rangers or animal control or something?"
His wandering eyes relaxed for a moment, softening when they settle inside my own, "Yeah," He sighs and holds my hands again, kissing them lovingly, "My dad knows some local authorities he’s making the call but they might just be asleep."
I nodded and sighed falling back into the feather pillows with closed eyes, "I didn’t mean to cause all this—"
"You did nothing wrong," his anger disappeared instantly, shoulders tucked back and chest low. There was no tension in his arms or neck, the temples on the side of his head thumped slowly, he was relaxed, substantially.
"Why did you think I was out there?"
Mischief runs across his facial expression and he licks his lips, deciding on the truth over tugging at my gullible nature, "I...I um thought you were running away."
My head tilts, brows furrowing as I think over what that meant, "Running to where?"
He huffed a laugh, "Very good point," He kisses my hands again lingering there for longer than before, the actions shoots bolts of electricity up the nerve highway in my body, "It’s just because the two weeks are closing in and I didn’t know if all this was getting...overbearing."
I didn’t tell him! With everything that’s happened, it slipped my mind, "Wait, I have to tell you—" I pushed my body upright much too quickly and my hips, ribs and entire body reminded me all at once, "Ouch!"
"Adira," His scold was quick, "You’re still hurt."
"Sorry," I said to my body gently, "I just got excited."
"Excited?" He reaches for the thermometer placing a sanitized tip and using his huge fingers to press the small power button.
"To tell you that I’ve decided to stay here, with you," screw the dramatic build up, I was too thrilled to see his face. He gaped at me, disbelief flooding his features. His jaw slacked a smile forming as I leaned forward to take the thermometer.
"When did you decide?" His smile was blinding, and I put it there.
"Yesterday," I mumbled deciding to wait for the temperature before speaking again. The wait gave me time to think up a reason, if need be. I couldn't ever tell him about the voice in my head, because that paired with my theatrics would have him second-guess my housing entirely. So maybe I just keep it simple.
He removed the thermometer checking the temperature before taking out his phone, "Chance is just going to do a quick check up," He mentioned absentmindedly, "Then you can get some sleep."
Avoiding the topic wasn’t going to work with me, not now, not anymore. "I decided to stay," I had to rip the bandage off, "Because the thought of being away from you hurts really badly."
His demeanor opens up and in that moment I want to tell him everything. My childhood, destructive poisonous exes, my satanic father, the roots of my hesitation. Not now though, soon. He releases a deep breath and reaches forward to cup my cheek stroking my temple and sweeping this nose carefully over mine. My breath stops and my heart slows then speeds up, anxious for something I only received once before, in his truck in the parking lot of the old diner.
Another sigh makes me aware of his internal conflict, then I notice the dancing on his irises, he remembers. I wonder just how much of it he recalls? I’ve memorialized the event down to the molecule, that soft texture of his lips when they dissolved between my own, the gentle whine from the leather seats when he squeezed them instead of my thigh. The smell of crisp winter right beyond us. I knew it all. I could draw it. Compose it.
Why isn’t he moving?
I licked my lips, bundling more of the covers in my grip before pushing my jaw forward, lips landing perfectly on his own. I kissed him once, then twice before pulling away, but neither of our bodies wanted that considering the way our lips stuck together when I leaned away. His hand falls to my thigh the other behind me on the pillows as he leans forward, intentionally this time. My body falls upwards.
It was as though my soul, was getting in alignment with his. I reach forward raking my fingers through the depths of his coily twists. He groans and squeezes my thigh to stop himself from doing more than my damaged body could handle. I thought deepening our kiss was effortless, necessary even— so confusion rattled on my skin at the frenzy the action releases on my body. I moaned into his open mouth and he grips tighter.
My hands reach down his neck to his thin pajama shirt, pulling on it desperately. He bites on my bottom lip, a punishment for tempting his chivalric consideration. At least it should have been a punishment if I didn’t love it so much. Another moan and his body goes rigid. His walls would fall soon, I just needed one more gesture at the perfect moment. I kiss him again, just as hard as he was kissing me, just as desperate. The room had long disappeared, the bed too, I wasn’t even sure where I was, what circumstances put us here. None of it mattered as long as he kept making me feel like this. Everything amplified. I could sense his fingerprints through my thin pajama pants, hear the erratic pounding of his heart, feel the passion behind the expertise of his mouth.
My body is forced further up. He groans against my lips and I pull harder on his shirt. I was ready to unveil the icing on the cake when suddenly the bedroom door opens.
"Woah," Chance’s voice forced reality back into space we had created, "Sorry guys," I felt the humor in his tone, he wasn’t sorry, "You said her temperature went back up?"
Emerson sighs and pulls away slowly, "One second," He all but grunts at Chance.
I heard gentle laughter as he closes the door behind him. I folded my lips and tried to regulate my heartbeat by looking away from him, down at the layers of covers. My cheeks burned as I recalled the moment we just shared, I hoped he wouldn't say anything but that would be unlike him.
He lifts my face by the chin looking into my eyes with a smile even brighter than the one before, "Are you okay? I hope that wasn’t too—"
"Trust me, it wasn’t," I stopped the thought before it tainted the air, "I needed it."
He nods and leans forward, for something gentler this time, "Okay."
My eyes closed as my body yearned for more, "Call him in please."
He laughs against my mouth, "Why?"
"Emerson," I whined weakly, "If you don’t we’ll just end up…" His nose traced a line down my neck and I melted in his hands.
"We’ll end up what?" He whispers against the base of my skin.
I felt as though I was in a sauna, "Emerson," My attempt to be strict just came out filled with lust.
"Fine," He was reluctant but obedient nonetheless and it made my heart soar. He stands and walks over to the door opening it to a tired Chance. Everyone was losing sleep because of me. The guilt came back with a wash of cold.
"How are you feeling?" Chance asks honestly a smile and shimmer in the green of his eyes. He had no gel in his hair and that should make his look less appealing but it all just reminds me of his youth. He was only a few years older than me and not enough to be significant. I forget that about everyone here, their perfection blinds me to that sort of thing.
I considered his words nonetheless, "The frost in my fingers and toes are gone, but my hips and ribs still hurt."
"That’s expected," He nods and listened to my heartbeat, taking my blood pressure and temperature one final time, "Okay, the effects of the cold seem to be going away what I advise now is some sleep, if that doesn’t seem plausible i grabbed the melatonin I gave you yesterday take one pill and that should work just fine. Don’t be surprised if you sleep through most of the day tomorrow, it’s been a hectic 24 hours, with the coma and all."
I almost forgot. I nodded nonetheless and he placed the melatonin alongside a bottle of water on the bedside table.
"Thanks, Chance," I said softly, "For everything."
He was shocked at my admission, "No problem, rest up."
I waved at him settling deeper into my cloud. When the door closes Emerson walks over to the bedside table and flips on the lamp, he then turns off the overhead light and walks to the other side of the bed.
"I’ll sleep over there," He points to the much too small mahogany cabriole across the room and my chest gets heavy, "I’ll be close en—"
"Too far," the words were quick and meaningful. Emerson’s face softened.
"Would you rather I stay here?"
I nodded, "That’s what’s supposed to happen right?"
He stopped fluffing his pillows and looks over at me, "The only thing that's ‘supposed to happen’ is you not feeling pressured into intimacy because we’re in a relationship."
Relationship. I liked the sound of that.
"What if I just want you closer?" I ask honestly.
"That I can support," His smile was something words would fail to contain or summarize, "Do you think you’re going to need the melatonin pills?"
A yawn rips through me before he finishes, so I shake my head, "No," He huffed a laugh, "I want to talk about what we’re going to do with this relationship?"
"Okay, what did you have in mind?" He laid on his side perching his head up against a knuckle looking over at me intensely.
"Well I don't’ feel too comfortable just living here and not paying rent or contributing to a bill or something."
"My parents won't take your money, no matter how much you push," He was sure, "And regardless the house is paid off and the bills are covered."
I forget how rich they are, so I took a deep breath, "Well I don’t know what else I might want to do."
"How about going back to school?"
The thought thrilled me, "That’s an option," I didn’t jump on the answer instantly, "Maybe I could get a part-time job and pay it off while I go?"
"Or," His smile made me aware of the response he had prepared, " I could just pay it of—"
"Emerson, no," He smiles and pulls me closer despite my anger, "How about we start smaller? I’d appreciate getting some...more clothes? All of mine started getting holes and stuff."
"Definitely," He smiles over at me, "I’m sure mo and Charice would jump to accompany you."
"Oh, you won’t be there?" Heavens I sounded clingy.
His eyes shimmered, "I can arrange to come to pick you up, but dad and I will be meeting with some neighbors about the rising wolf numbers lately."
My heart raced at the words, "Rising numbers?"
"Yeah, normally the local hunters regulate the population size but there’ve been delays."
I hummed and rested back in the pillow nest he created for me, "Okay, sorry if that sounded—"
His lips were pressed on mine, "Never apologize for wanting to be near me. We can talk about more details when you wake up, sound good?"
I nodded with hooded eyes, "I’m sorry about everything."
"You don’t need to apologize."
You don’t even know the half of it. Flashes of traumas past come to mind, but they don’t leave the mind-numbing pain I expect. Instead, I drown in this sea of blue and hazel fire and it smells like cedarwood and seawater.
QUESTION (Answer in the comment section!): What are some complications you see ahead for Emerson and Adira’s relationship?
Anonymous: I hope this is good!
Anonymous: I’m glad you liked the ending. What are your thoughts here
Lis E: I just re-read your previous comments and I gotta say that I APPRECIATE the support so much. I would like your help on knowing how to italicize or underline things that I submit, I’ve always wanted to but it never transfers well. Do you write a story on iBuzzle? Share the title! What do you think of this chapter? Your guesses were really great.
Banyana: I can feel your empathy for Adira and her struggle of acceptance through the screen! You’re really pushing for them as a couple and that’s really encouraging. What are your thoughts on my question for comments?