Chapter 6: Growing up

I remembered passing out. I remember warm voices calling to me and being lifted into familiar arms and placed on a warm bed.

When the darkness over my mind began to lift and I stopped dreaming, I could feel everything slowly coming back to me.

I moved my body, surprised at how light everything felt and heard a small shifting next to me.

"Ali." That warm voice called to me.

I opened my eyes, my hand reaching towards the cooling cloth on my forehead and holding it there as my vision adjusted to the candlelit hut. The blurry vision of a figure wasn't too clear, but I knew who it was straight away.

"Atreyu. I'm sorry." I said, my voice scratch and hoarse from the lack of water. Almost on que, Atreyu moved and grabbed a cup for me, helping me sit up. I felt a little weak, but that warm arm wrapped around my shoulders and passing me that cup, made me feel like nothing could get me.

"First time coming back and you faint in front of everyone. They were all thinking they'd done something wrong." Atreyu snickered as I choked on my water in shock and had to cough up the best I could.

"I...I didn't mean to. I'm sorry." I wiped away the tears from my eyes and finally managed to talke again. Gazing at his face, those gentle, cheerful eyes looked at me with a seriousness I'd never seen.

"I was kidding. You had me terribly worried. I managed to get to you but...," he seemed to think for a moment, casting his eyes away from me and to his feet, "I know it's been a busy time and you have to adjust but...do not frighten me like that again. I never thought I'd see you again and you go do something like that. It...frightened me."

I gazed at his solemn, faraway expression, his words breaking whatever shield I had held up around my heart from all those years away.

I didn't know what to say, but I knew what I had to do. Placing on of my hands on his shoulder, I turned his attention back to and hugged him with all my might.

"I'm sorry I stayed away so long, I just...I...didn't want to go back and find it was not real." I pulled back and shamefully looked down at my feet, my eyes not willing to look into his.

His hand on my cheek was firm and gentle as he guided my face back up to look at him.

"You've changed so much." He spoke to me and he wasn't sad or happy about what he'd just said, he'd just stated what was fact.

"I grew up. Not much, but I did." I sighed against the warm hand on my cheek, and looked up into the sad eyes of the warrior child.

"It may have only been a while for me, but it felt horrible not having my best friend here." His voice made my heart ache and I just wanted to hug him better, but my stubborn, rational mind was starting to kick in again.

"I still have some growing up to do Atreyu, everyone needs to. I lost most of my innocence a while ago." I looked away blushing; ashamed at the numerous boyfriends' I had been with or the first time I smoked a cigarette and drank alcohol. I couldn't see him, but I felt his gaze on me as he continued to argue.

"Then grow up, but do it here. Please. I couldn't bear to not go on anymore adventures with you." His voice sounded unsure, as if he didn't know these were the right words to say, as if he wanted to say something that was completely Un-Atreyu to say.

"Don't ask me to do that please." I closed my eyes and let tears fall, which I seemed to be doing a lot that day.

"Why?" His voice was begging for answers and pleading with me, so I couldn't refuse him the truth. I swallowed the lump in my throat and stared at him through watery eyes.

"Because I'm already staying and hoping this isn't a dream." I managed to say in one sentence, hoping that my words didn't hurt him. Instead he done something I never expected. He smiled and kissed me. A kiss that was so different from any kiss I had that it made my tears fall even more. It was like I had never been kissed and it felt beyond wonderful. I couldn't even put into words what it was but I remember my butterflies in my stomach again, like whenever I went on stage for the first time. It was so innocent and pure and I never wanted it to end. Atreyu's soft press was gone and I felt a sudden loneliness without his, but his warm, quick breath on mine reminded me to breath and when I did, I t was like being hit by a tidal wave. His eyes held some uncertainty as if he didn't know what he had done was right, but I was sure I looked like I was slowly drowning or sleepwalking because he smiled and placed his other hand against my opposite cheek, placing his forehead against mine.

His soft chuckling made me come out of my stupor and I gazed at him, smiling like a fool.

"What?"

"It's just," he pulled back but did not distance his face too much from mine, "my mother is waiting outside and I can hear her talking about the wedding."

"Oh? What wedding?" I asked, wanting to kiss him they way he'd just done so, again.

"Ours."