He traces my trembling lips with his thumb. “Please, look at me,” he pleads. His voice makes me do as he begs. I slowly give him what he wants and feel the weight of everything fall heavily on my chest. Suffocating me. He crouches down so our eyes are level with one another as he says, “I’m sorry. I will always and forever be sorry for hurting you. But this,” he grabs the bottle of tequila and holds it in front of me, “is not your friend. This is not going to fix anything for you, or between us.”
“Us,” I whisper it like it’s a foreign word.
“Yes, Riley. Us.”
Reality slams into me. I narrow my eyes and move around him. Forcing the distance he won’t give me. I can’t think straight when he is so close. His scent makes my head swim. Now, on the other side of the bar in the kitchen I can breathe a little. “What if there is no us, Josh?” I ask, because there isn’t.
His eyes darken and he makes a growling sound that makes me shiver. He obviously doesn’t understand my need for space because he joins me in the kitchen causing me to step back but I soon realize I have no escape. I didn’t think this through. I’m looking around and plotting how I will side step him, but he has me backed into the pantry door before I can implement this plan of retreat. His nearness, his scent, the dark look in his eyes is messing with my head and I feel dizzy.
He’s not smiling, not frowning, just looking at me—breathing me in, absorbing me.
Trying to climb inside of me. My back flattens against the pantry and my breathing becomes ragged. My eyes are locked in a war with his. I shut them when his hands press onto the door on either side of my head—caging me in. He lowers his forehead to mine and his breath is dancing in front of my lips. I can taste it.
“There’s an us, Riley,” he whispers. “There will always be an us,” he exaggerates every word.
We’re both breathing heavy and fighting our demons. The ache in my chest is burning. The physical pain in my stomach like I have a hole there is killing me. I flatten my palm against my ribs and silently pray for strength. I know if I open my eyes that I will be lost in his—in the hazel depths that beg me to surrender. They always pull me in. The ‘me’ that makes stupid decisions like believing in love, in this, in him. I need her to vanish so I can breathe. She does exist, though, and she does believe. Stupid girl.
“It hurts. I just don’t want to feel this anymore,” I breathe the words out to him.
He rests his cheek against mine. “I feel it, too. Empty right here.” His words are whispered near my ear as he pulls my hand off of my stomach and places it over his heart, which is racing. I feel it beat erratically against my palm. I slowly grip his shirt as his hand wraps around mine. I lean my head into his as it drops to my shoulder. There we stay, just trying to catch our breath. Trying to save each other. I can feel his tears dampen my shoulder.
I open my eyes and turn my head just slightly into his hair. Hair that I love to touch and feel between my fingertips. He loosens his grip on my hand and I move it up the back of his neck where I thread my fingers into his hair just a little, which causes him to lift his head. When he turns to look at me, I softly gasp—he’s so close to me. We both just stare into one another’s eyes and take turns breathing the same air. He reaches his hand up to my cheek and I can’t help but lean into his hand. I’ve missed him so much.
“I’m sorry…so sorry,” he says feather light against my lips.
I’m in a tug-of-war with my emotions. I let my hand fall away slowly back down to my side feeling drained and conflicted. He trails his hands down my arms and I shiver from the soft touch. I can’t look away from his eyes. I can barely breathe. He interlaces our fingers and guides our hands up the door to both sides of my head. He presses his chest against mine as he leans in to kiss my right wrist, then my forehead and then my left wrist and back. Oh, God, give me strength.
He steps back and gazes deeply into my eyes, only then can I breathe. He pulls my hands into his chest. “Do you feel it? How it doesn’t beat the same. It’s all over the place without you, Riley. I’m sorry. Fuck, I’m just so sorry. I would do anything to take away your pain and make this all better. Go back and never leave you. I love you,” he says, holding my hands tightly against him, pleading for understanding.
I’m just overwhelmed with emotion. I feel vulnerable and cut open. I wiggle my fingers out of his grip and glide them up his face where I trace the lines of this boy I can’t seem to exist without. It makes him gasp. He squeezes his eyes shut and when he slowly opens them, we are both leaning into one another. Only when we touch can we truly be ourselves. The second his lips press against mine…I feel it, that flicker of life I’ve been missing. Our kiss is soft, sweet, apologetic and searching. His hands are holding my cheeks and mine are now feeling his heart race beneath my palms. And then we embrace. He holds me tight to his chest and I hold him because his arms are home to me.
He kisses my hair, “Can I take you back home?” he asks after several minutes pass of us just holding one another.
Speech is impossible and so I nod. If I open my mouth I will say too much, yet never enough. With my hand in his he guides us out of the apartment.
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