“Maybe because once you put all the pieces together, you end up with something beautiful.”
I devoured him as if he were a drug, desperate to push away the sadness. The taste of him, the cool scent of his skin, the heat of his flesh pressed against mine fed the addiction and filled the void for that moment.
“Living in the mistakes of your past isn’t going to do anything but destroy your future.”
I couldn’t stop shaking. My shirt was damp and my hair was plastered to my face like I’d just woken up from a nightmare.
But I was very much awake.
“You saw,” she whispered knowingly.
“What happened yesterday?”
I could sense him thinking while he was sitting next to me. I was prepared for some sort of question to come out of his mouth, but was hoping that wouldn’t be the first one.
“I needed to clear my head,” I explained evasively.
“What were you running away from, Emma?” he asked, seeing right through my answer.
“Me,” I answered honestly, staring out at the water. He waited for me to continue. I took a deep breath and said, “I don’t want the past to define me anymore. I don’t want what happened to me, or all the wrong decisions I’ve made to keep me from becoming someone better. I want to be better.”
I breathed in the crisp night air, the crickets chirping in the field while I pumped my legs in a rocking rhythm, increasing my acceleration and height. My hair blew into my face and quickly swept back as I continued my ascent. I closed my eyes and leaned back, straightening my arms and dipping my head so it dared the ground to touch it. The flitter catapulted through my stomach. My cheeks pushed up into a smile.
No amount of apology or regret could take back the lethal words unleashed in my relentless fury. Words couldn’t be unspoken, and the damage they did was irreparable.
A shimmer of light caught my eye across the room. I stared out at the soft blue sky and wisps of clouds as they drifted past the small rectangular window at the top of the wall. The clouds appeared so white against the pristine blue sky, floating as if carried along a river. A bird fluttered across the scene occasionally, making me wish I was soaring alongside it—away from the whispers, the consoling words, the hands that jostled me and arms that clutched me to unfamiliar bodies. I needed to escape the sorrowful faces and teary eyes.
Nothing else mattered today. I lived within the minutes I was in—not dwelling on the past, or fearing the future. I just let the day present itself as it would, and it couldn’t have been better.
“I don’t want you here. You don’t belong here. I don’t belong here. I’m stuck. I’m stuck in yesterday, and you’re tomorrow.”
You can’t keep pushing everyone away…because one of these days, you’ll wake up and have no one.
“I think I’ve figured out what your next thing should be,” he said softly, capturing me in his gaze.
“You have?” I whispered.
“Something that will make your heart beat fast,” he murmured. “Something that will make you forget everything else around you. I could be wrong, but I think I know what that is.”
There had always been a connection between us, since the first day I saw him—a delicate tether of energy that bound us together. But something was different. With each bout of honesty, I was letting him in deeper, exposing the most vulnerable side of me. I could feel us getting closer, with every touch, every glance and subtle smile.
I closed my eyes, my chest tightening, knowing I wasn’t ready. But the firmness of his body against my side and his scent held me captive, keeping me from moving a single muscle. I was afraid to lose this – his touch, his warmth.
His hand ran across my stomach, and I inhaled quickly. “Oh, Emma,” he murmured in my ear, making me bite my lip. His fingers coiled into a fist on my stomach, and his arm tightened in restraint. “Maybe I should go upstairs.”
Just as he turned on his back, I uttered, “Don’t go.” He was suddenly very still. “You’re right. We’re not ready. And I don’t know what’s happening between us. But . . . if you can, will you just lie with me? If you can’t, I . . .”
“I can do that.”
Emma, what are you afraid of?
I feared that if I turned around, Jonathan would be there, awaiting an answer. I closed my eyes and inhaled, calming my racing heartbeat. When I opened them again, the jitters were gone and the vertigo had dissipated. I took in the coppery stone wall across from me.
I craned my neck over the edge again. “What are you afraid of,
Emma?” I asked in a murmur, repeating Jonathan’s words from that day on the cliff.
I knew…I wasn’t afraid. I was carved out and scraped clean, a
shell of my former self standing upon the ledge. There was only something to fear if I had something to lose. And I had nothing.