I recommend reading the last chapter over again, as it picks right up.

Abide With Me

These stairs are so impossibly steep.

I've treaded them many a time, up and down and with such an ease, but now they're anything but. This time, for the first time, I'm having difficulties bringing my knee up to take these necessary steps up a path that has no ending. Because where I really want to be is behind me, and I'm just running away. Escaping the girl that is still in the kitchen, that is still leaning against a counter that has been mentally marked by our disobeying hands.

I'm still shaking. Not physically, but inside I'm buzzing from what happened, feeling my skin prickle from the memory of what I did. What we did.

I have to fight to keep my mind on other things, on topics far away from Spencer and her lips, miles away from her hands on my neck and her body close to mine. My eyes goes against me and closes, pictures it as I momentarily stop on these steps, these wooden planks that makes this anything but easier for me.

The sound of a cupboard being shut harshly from downstairs shakes me out of my reverie and puts speed to my feet, I'm up the stairs faster than I thought possible, ironically considering their reluctance to let me tread them just moments before.

I can't face her right now, not after running away in such a cowardice way, so I run, really run into my room and close the door hurriedly, hearing it smack loudly and cringe at the sound.

I hope she didn't hear.

--

She sees me now.

She sees me but not with her eyes, not with her form being in the same room as me or anywhere in my vicinity.

No, she sees me in a different way. In a way I wasn't ready to be seen in. A way I never would've been properly ready to be seen in.

So maybe this is right.

Maybe my unthoughtful but still so intentional movements last night were meant to happen. Meant to be done in such a rushed and imperfect way, because it was the only way.

From behind doors and walls and windows she holds a knowledge I hadn't fully given her before. Sure, I might've not been subtle, I might've not been suave, but I was still letting her live in partial uncertainty. Not in full knowledge of my utter attraction and deep emotional attachment to her.

Now I can't see how she would be able to not understand me. Not read me like an open book.

Regardless of my cowardice abandonment - leaving her in a kitchen that will forever be tainted by the memory of heightened arousal and shaking lips - she still must be on to me. On to everything about me and everything I've ever been.

It's more suffocating than it is freeing.

I feel exposed and unsure.

I have no clue as to how her reaction was. How she acted and what she did as I stepped up those impossibly steep stairs, unwillingly wanting her to run after me, hopefully scared that she would seek me out.

Devastatingly relieved that she didn't.

I'm afraid of meeting her in the hallways, I'm scared shitless of having to sit in the same car as her, watch her at school, go home to the same house as her.

Mostly, I'm just scared of what it will be like. If it will be the same or completely different. If she will talk to me or avoid me like the plague. I'm not sure which I prefer.

I deserve nothing but her silence, everything but her attention.

And when I step outside this door I've been hiding behind since the dark hours of last night, I am met with a sight I'm not sure how to process. Because there's nothing to process at all. Everything is exactly like it's always been.

And I'm oddly dissappointed.

She's there, alright, but not in some dramatic or extravagant way. All I see is her hands knocking in fervor on a door I myself was looking for, the bathroom door which is obviously holding the room occupied.

"Glen! What the hell are you doing in there, polishing your nails?!"

I don't hear the reply but can't help cracking a smile at her antics, dissappointment momentarily replaced with adoration before it's back with a vengeance. Along with it comes the ever alert nerves that always seem to make an appearance whenever she's near.

She's about to see me.

I don't want to admit it, but I want her to. I want her to catch me looking at her, even if it's only for a brief moment. Just testing the waters, seeing how today will play out, how she is going to act on this day after.

But when she does see me, when she does strike me with her gaze, it's me who break it and look away. Her hand is still leaning against the bathroom door, her weight tipping toward the door, head barely tilted but there is no smile on her face. From the millisecond I did meet her eyes, I only saw questions. Questions I have no idea how to answer.

This isn't just about me and her. It's about a whole family.

A family I just can not lose.

She loses her balance for a few seconds as the door holding her weight is opened, stumbling lightly before finding her footing once again. It's a cute happening that I wish I could revel in, that I wish I could watch the outcome of, but I can't. I can't stand here on the border between my room and the hallway staring at her when he steps out. He can not catch us in any kind of moment, however trivial and small it might be.

His eyes are not oblivious or indifferent.

They are searching, and whatever he wants to find, he will find if he watches us closely enough. That is not something I'm about to give him freely, so my retreat into my room is not meant as hiding from her.

I hope she understands.

I don't want to avoid her. So I try not to.

So it's not avoidance when I choose to never look her way when she talks in the car, words flowing freely from her like there's not a care in her head.

I swear it's not.

It's not a thought out decision when at lunch I choose a seat that doesn't have her in my line of vision when I usually always choose a seat I can watch her from.

It really isn't.

She deserves an apology, any show of remorse for my childishly mature retreat last night, but I'm too scared to go through with it. I'm too scared to meet her eyes when I know they're searching for mine across the schoolyard, begging me to just give her an ounce of attention, a fleeting admittance to what I did the night before.

My eyes stay glued on everything but her.

He's looking at me too, Glen, a slight arch in his eyebrow telling me he's trying to figure me out, figure out why I'm sitting on this side of the table instead of his side. I give him a reassuring look that is filled with anything but reassurance. Hopefully his eyes can't see that far inside.

My back is burning, but I am unsure if it's from her eyes burning into it or my hopes wanting her to. The burning is soon explained.

"Hey, Glen, I don't need a lift home from school after all."

He squints up at her, the sun most likely illuminating her in a saintly way, and I have to refrain from turning around and looking up at her, eyes wide instead of squinting like Glen's are.

"Why not?" he asks, obviously not caring about her answer as he takes a bite out of his sandwich and never looks up at her again. But I am grateful for his question.

"Hanging out with Madison", I hear her shout from afar, noting from her voice that she's walking away from us and it makes me finally turn, makes me finally look behind me and watch her. Only now, her back is turned to me.

--

I knew I should have followed Glen to the gym. There are many things I should have done but never did. And all I can do right now is wallow in remembrance of them, laying flat out on top of my bed internally cringing at all the wrong decisions I've made.

There are a lot of them lately.

My conviction of doing what was right last night – breaking a kiss laced with so many complications – seems to be slowly diminishing, and regret is seeping into me with increasing force. Images of a continued nature, of lips still on me, of hands touching her hips, feeling her skin.

It's all playing out before me like it is really happening, but it's not me touching her, just an illusion of me. And it's not making things better.

I'm conflicted, unsure if having her here in this house with me in this instance would be better or worse. If the ache settling in my chest would lessen or grow.

I think it would do both.

I can feel the slight tug of distress in my skin, in my bones as I lay unmoving on the mattress, hips digging into soft foam, pillow imprisoning my vision along with my head. Only sound in my vicinity being the soft noise of feet trudging along wooden floorboards, lightly stepping along the hallway as if scared of being heard.

They would be unheard if I wasn't awake at this hour, alert and sensitive to any movement around me.

I am therefore surprised, almost frightened when I hear the noise of toes and heels increasing, and I can't help the reaction of anticipation filling my every nerve.

And then it goes silent.

My breath is no longer in motion, having stopped the minute the noise stopped outside my door. My eyes are wide open but they cannot see anything, being caged with fluffy fabric, and therefore I can't see what happens when the door is opened, when the footsteps tread closer, when the mattress sink down gently beside me.

But oh God, can I feel it.

My breathing isn't like it's supposed to be anymore, having forgotten how to breathe naturally, evenly. Instead it has been replaced with irregular inhales, uneven exhales, and I'm trying with all my might to not make it noticeable.

To not make her hear it.

Cause it's a her beside me, and not just any her. The way my body reacts, the way my nerves go crazy rids me of any doubt that it isn't her. That it isn't Spencer Carlin laying on the mattress beside me.

And when I feel her fingertips tracing my upper arm, I can't help but close my eyes at the sensation, the loss of eyesight making the experience of fingertips even more overwhelming.

She is laying beside me.

My eyes are willing me to raise my head, let them see her, let them see what they so desperately crave, but my mind is too paralyzed by the situation to do anything about it.

What if she thinks I am sleeping.

The way her fingers dance down my arm, touching my wrist in such an intimate way, makes me slip, makes me lose a barely noticeable inhibition but I know she can hear it. I know she can hear the slight hitch of breath that escapes me without my consent.

Because her fingers on my wrist pause, then remove themselves momentarily, and I cringe into my pillow making it slightly move, only confirming my wakefulness in this otherwise silent room.

But she proves my prophecies of leaving wrong when those soft fingers thread through my own, grasping my hand softly but securely.

And she leaves me completely shocked when she utters the most nerve-wrecking words I have dreamed of hearing ever since I laid eyes on her.

"Look at me."

And it takes me seconds, mental minutes before I dare do what she so gently asked me to do.

Requested me to do.

My head lifts from the pillow, both willing and reluctant in its quest to abide her.

It takes me no more than a millisecond to understand how close she is to me when my face finally does turn her way, when the pillow no longer protects me from what is right in front of me.

No longer shades me from the light I so desperately need to let shine on me.

And my God, does it shine. Those eyes, those lips, that stare penetrating me so deeply.

She is inside me by just holding my hand, and I can't help but let my eyes drop slightly into forbidden territory, onto forbidden lips.

"Kiss me."

I have to stop myself from saying those words. But they are the only words that keep getting repeated inside my head, the only words I can think of right now. Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me...

I say nothing.

She says it without words.

Soft.

Tentative.

I can't think in anything but fragments, mind going blank when I feel those lips touching mine, almost as softly as her hands felt, ten times as exhilarating as her stare felt.

She is moving them so slowly against me, increasing the sensation of every move by a tenfold. And even though my nerves are still there, even though I am dreadfully aware of every complications that will follow every kiss we share, I can't help but thank whatever made her come into this room, whatever made her come in and kiss me.

She brings our joined hands up between us, lips lingering on mine before pressing deeper into them, putting pressure into a kiss she wants me to take further.

And I for once abide.

My kisses turn harder, but not overstepping into hurtful, instead just showing how much I need her to kiss me back.

She replies with a swift movement of tongue against my bottomlip.

And I am sold.

I am completely and utterly in her hands in this moment, not sure I could stop anything from happening no more, fully aware that any judgment on my behalf is gone, just...gone.

Her hand leaves mine and I'm just happy, I'm just thrilled cause she rests it on my neck instead, finger intentionally or unintentionally tickling the back of it, I don't care which.

I don't care because I no longer think, no longer analyze, too deep into this, too deep into her.

Feeling her soft sounds and faster breathing tickles my insides, strokes my want in ways I didn't know was possible, knowing my breathing is heavier than usual doesn't bother me for once, doesn't even graze the outline of my intentions cause all I intend is to follow her every movement, her every step.

Meet her halfway when she deepens, when she takes us a step further.

Her body is suddenly pushing into mine, pressing me against the mattress and it makes me break the kiss momentarily, surprised and so, so exhilarated. She doesn't let me break it for too long, lips fervently meeting mine, knee slipping between my legs and when it's hitting a spot that aches so good, I understand this isn't right, this isn't how it's supposed to be.

I am afraid to take things further.

My lips stop moving against hers, but she doesn't seem to care, her hands traveling from my neck and down a path along the sides of my body.

I hate doing it, I'm even contemplating letting her continue, but it's not right, it's so far from right that it would be inexcusable. Irreversible.

She is all-consuming in her touches, but there is something missing, the connection with her is missing, I cannot feel her.

I feel foolish for having been fooled by her touch, by her physical presence to believe she is here with me mentally, doing this for no other reason than to unite us.

Now, I feel like nothing but another conquest of hers.

She notices my lack of returning, my sounds suddenly evading this room and how could she not notice. How could she not notice my sudden silence when just moments before I was panting into her kisses, willing to give her anything she wanted.

This isn't what she wants.

My eyes are wide open, witnessing her eyes opening slowly, as if scared it will break this. But it's already been broken.

She stares at me for long seconds.

Long seconds.

And I don't like what I see in them.

I have to flinch and look away when her stare becomes angry, when her touches are no longer soft, when her body becomes hard and closed up, when she moves off of me with a huff.

A huff I don't feel like I deserved.

"What was that..?"

She doesn't answer. Back suddenly the only thing I see of her, I cannot search her face for clues as to what she's thinking.

I don't think I would've understood anyway.

Her lack of an answer makes me angry too, but along with it comes the ever present uncertainty that taints my every thought, the fright of having done something so very wrong, something irreversible, unjustifiable.

But this time, it's not me I'm afraid did something wrong.

This time, I'm afraid she did something unjustifiable.

--