Author's note: So, finally. Last chapter. I won't bore you (much) with the innumerable challenges I've faced with my PC (viruses, crashes, reinstallation) our internet connection (changed, shaky) and a complete meltdown concerning getting the music in my Iphone back into my PC's Itunes (I can't make it work and it's killing me!), and then, finally, I initially wasn't even able to upload this last chapter onto the site.
OK, I bored you. Sorry. Anyway, those are some of the reasons that this last chapter has taken an eternity to post.
This chapter isn't long. And it is the very 'finale'.
Thank you all for all the reviews, and all the people I know have been following this story over the years (since I first posted it). Your input and love have meant the world to me and inspired my writing so much. /Love, Nicolina.
(And thanks to my friend CamiliaAnn who helped me beta this last chapter. :) )
Chapter 13. Those Who Speak About One's Miseries Usually Hurt. Those Who Keep Silent Hurt More. (Interpreted C.S. Lewis)
I sit frozen next to Jackson, cradling my chest with my arms, as if protecting myself from... me, him, the madness that has become my life. It tingles inside, aches, and I don't know whether it's sorrow for those I'm leaving behind or if it's a raving, crazy joy that wants to burst out of my heart like a wild horse finally let free.
Mile after mile passes by. Jackson is driving fast, almost in the middle of the deserted road but I feel safe as his passenger. I'm sure he can handle a car just as well as he handled me, the hours in the elevator, just as he handles his... murdering. He seems to be like that - able. I swallow hard and stare at the white lines in the middle of the road that rapidly disappear behind the car, marking the distance passed, but also the time, and the change in my life. What have I done? My God!
I feel him glance at me occasionally, yet I flinch when he speaks for the first time since we went on our way. "You all right, Leese?" His voice is soft, low, just audible over the expensively discreet humming from the engine.
I swallow, nod, and force a smile on my strained face. "Yeah." It comes out as a ghostly gasp.
He turns his head towards me and gives me a brief smile before he looks back to the road. "It'll be all right, you know. You'll be all right."
I just don't know.
He knows for some reason. Doesn't he always? "Are you afraid? Of me?"
"No," I say, quickly. A little too quickly. I mean to say more, to explain myself, but he takes the words right out of my mouth.
He lets out a sigh. "Look. We don't know each other, Leese. You barely know anything about me except how I smell when I haven't washed in two days. And that I can be frighteningly prone to violence when needed. And that I can be very comfy in a cold, narrow space." He turns to me and regards me. Then he smiles and his teeth are white and his eyes light up, electrically blue for a moment, in the headlight from a meeting car. "Come on, Sweets, you're safer with me than you'd be with any man you didn't know and who chatted you up in a random bar, safer than you'd be walking down the street in broad daylight in any larger city. You know this. I won't say this again because I find repeating myself means that I'm speaking to someone's who's either retarded, or dead. I'll never lay a hand on you. Not without your consent. We clear on that?"
I nod eagerly up and down several times and am rewarded with that smile again. "Agreed."
"Good. Hey, we might argue, okay?. Yell, slam doors and throw porcelain. But don't ever, fucking ever, be afraid of me again." His hand seeks mine and squeezes it. It feels good and I want to keep holding on to this stranger that I still know so well. He glances sideways at me and then down at our hands when I don't let go. Then he looks back out the front window and entwines his warm strong fingers with my cold trembling ones.
I lean my head against the cold window and glance up at the dark velvety canopy above us. It's there, always, it doesn't care about petty human lives. We are so insignificant in the vastness, and the miracle, that is the universe... what does it matter what we do with our short lives? Why would we tie ourselves down and just settle? Take the easy way? Why do we work, live, and die with what we have right around us when we can burst free, burn our bridges, and turn these meager years into more? Much, much more!
We sit in silence again, but this time it's a good silence. Pleasant.
He's turned my life upside down. Pulled down every barrier I ever built. Shown me who I can be. Planted a seed inside me, a need for change, a need for something new, a lust for life. But is life with him… life? Will this fervent human being next to me ignite me? Or will he eventually crush me?
I pull my hand out of his, hesitate a moment, then I slowly caress the naked forearm up to where the rolled-up sleeve hides the warm skin and muscle. He gasps and seem to lean closer. I feel his warmth radiating up via my fingers, tingling along my arm and into my chest. His skin on mine makes me happy and I push all thoughts away, all the worries.
In the corner of my eye I see him smile. "Do you want us to get a room?" He bites his lower lip and gives me a quick meaningful gaze.
No! "Ehm... I think we should put a little more distance behind us before-" Oh, God. Yes! Soon! I snap my mouth shut, but I know he looks at that slowly spreading grin that I can't seem to erase from my face.
My hand follows his arm back down to his hand, feeling the coarse little hairs on his skin, hair that I know is dark and with a tinge of red in it. He grips my hand again and then we just sit there, calmly, friendly, peacefully. I breathe out and sink deeper into my seat, feeling a sense of content settle in my pained soul.
It's the first time I've felt that in a very long time. It'll do.