He sat next to me. His eyes pierced the ground. His face was somber – an expression that only he could pull off handsomely. He knew I was hurting. He understood the pain I was in both physically and emotionally. That's why I loved him. He loved me unconditionally. He tried to understand. He listened without speaking a word or offering any advice. He didn't think he was smarter than me. He didn't try to dazzle me with vocabulary that even I could barely understand. He was everything the he wasn't and that only made me want him more.

My body shuddered in the cool brisk air. Its numbing embrace dove through my skin, through my flesh, and to the bone. I felt my skeleton rattling against my insides. His arm draped something across my shoulders, but I couldn't see past my thoughts, my feelings, my fears. I only saw the moment and the raging fear. It was a fear that encapsulated me like a 200 year old mummy. It constricted my breaths, and it held me together. For without that fear, I would be nothing but a powder version of myself. It was that same fear that kept me from feeling that way and from seeing him the way I should have seen him so long ago.

It should have been him. It should have been the man sitting next to me with his head in his hands and his gaze on the concrete below us. He was grounded. He was warm. He was energy. He was light. He was my most intimate thoughts wrapped neatly in a tight bundle. He was a bundle without a home. His home had neglected him out of fear and pain.

Pain. I had felt that once, twice, three times now. But this pain that resided in my chest – the same chest that had once had a black hole punched through it – wasn't the same kind of pain I'd felt in m past. No. This pain was made up of a mirage of feelings. Feelings that I couldn't begin to describe. Thoughts that I couldn't begin to understand, yet here I sat on the side walk rubbing my ankle wishing that I understood myself during moments like this.

He didn't know what was going on. I knew that much. He couldn't read my mind. He couldn't see my thoughts or feel my feelings no matter how many times I wished he could. And right here, right now, I wish he could. I wish he could see the cloud of memories racing through my brain. I wish he could feel the beating in my chest – the beating that belonged to him. The beating that I knew wouldn't last much longer, and neither would this pain from my ankle.

But what else could I do? I couldn't comprehend my own feelings – as blatant as they were. So, exactly how was I supposed to convey those to him in a way that he would understand? He would understand no matter how I explained them. He would get it. He could feel it. I knew he could. The tension could be cut with a knife. We both waited for the other to make that first move with a dipped head and a closed eye. But, here, we both sat, shoulder to shoulder, quietly thrumming through our heads feeling our feelings and living in fear that this could be the last day, that this could be my last breath, that I could become what he would hate.

The decision had been made for me. My mind made up in that moment of fear. In that moment of complete and utter desperation, I had made my choice. I had made up my mind. I couldn't live without him in this world. I couldn't let him die. And he'd begged me to do the same. He didn't want this to happen, but it had to. It had to. Right?

There had to be a way out – a way to avoid the death of me. I wouldn't be me any longer. All of the parts that made me who I was wouldn't matter any longer. I'd forever be frozen in stone as some being that I thought I wanted to be. But, my, how time changes things.

Time away from the people you thought you wanted to be. Time with the one person you thought nothing more about at night than warmth and friendship. Time had become my enemy and it was running out.

If I ran, could I go far enough? Would he go with me? Where would I go? What would I do? What about my family, his family, his family? What would happen to everyone else?

The martyr inside of me hurt thinking of the loss that could come if I ran. If I took off right now, then more people would be lost than if I stayed being consumed by death. I couldn't allow that. I wouldn't let more lose happen than need be. My decision was unchanged. I would be forever asking myself what if I'd decided differently. I'd forever be locked in stone.

And then his arm wrapped around my shoulders shattering the world, the decision I just made. His warmth stroked the fire of doubts inside me. It blew on the flame urging a wildfire to burn the martyr. I could be strong, though. The less people I hurt the better. I knew that. He knew that. He knew me inside and out. He knew everything there was to know about me. He understood my decisions. He didn't agree with them, but he understood as best he could.

He was sure that I loved him. He understood the love I held for him would never be enough inside my own mind. I was like an old beat up car. I was never going to run right and he deserved better than me. I was the worst possible solution for him, but still in his eyes I was the only solution. But no matter how I worked the equation of my life the answer always stared back at me: No Solution.

What was missing? What had gone away? What had I lost? What had changed?

I had to figure it out, but time wasn't on my side. Again, time became my enemy. Time. I'd soon learn the importance of time to everyone else as I would have plenty of it. I'd have plenty of time to rummage through my brain, my dead heart. I would forever live in seclusion of my honest feelings, because of the decisions I had made in a split second.

It was in a split second that I had turned him down, that I had backed away with a hiss. He'd put himself out there. He had put it all aside, because of the unconditional love he felt toward me. And I loved him, unconditionally – no matter if my heart was beating or if it rested in my chest as just a ghost image of itself.

His head rested on my shoulder and his hand stroked my arm softly. His rigid fingers grazed over the skin of my elbow so slowly and so softly that I imagined his fingertips as the most elegant and hand crafted silk in the world. His breath warmed my arm.

Warmth. I'd never know that feeling again either, and all because of him.

"Your ankle ok?" His voice ignorant of the battle waging inside me.

"It will be." The truth. Tomorrow, I wouldn't have to worry about my ankle or any other appendage. I'd be virtually unstoppable, except, of course, by the man sitting next to me.

He rubbed his head along my shoulder in acknowledgement.


It was deafening, but, still, silence.

My brain, my heart… the war that was waging inside of my head…

It all stopped when his soft lips kissed the skin of my shoulder.

A gasp.

A breathe.

A tear.

A smile.

A thought.

"How'd you do that?" I beckoned his answer with a turn of my head and a gawk of my eye.

A cocky smile spread across his lips – the lips that had just shattered the fear, the thoughts. The wildfire had been ignited. Fear was replaced with courage. Martyrdom replaced with selfishness. No longer did I care about the threat to everyone else, to him and his family. I cared about what happened to me. My life. My dreams. My goals. My love. It all mattered with just a swift kiss from…

His arm squeezed tightly around my shoulders. His head erected and his eyes stared into mine. His lips floated to my ear. He kissed there tenderly letting all of the love, all of his emotion, filter into me with that one single kiss on my ear. Everything about him floated into my ear and soaked into my brain. His smell. His hair. His warmth. His eyes. His lips. His passion. His fear. His love. His hate. Everything exploded inside of me like an atomic bomb. My veins were on fire. He was in my blood. He was me.

Our eyes locked. We were one being, one person, one love. We were us. His vision warmed my bones. His heart warmed my own. And his soul entangled with mine in a dance of love, fear, and the unknown.

"Jake," I whispered.

My heart was so full… with love.

"Bella," he spoke tenderly. "Don't."

"I won't."

"Stay." He stated, not asked.

"I will."

"Forever." Still, his eyes rested upon mine in a sea of us.


And just like that, the choice was made for me. I would stay. I wouldn't become what he hated. I was what he loved. I didn't need to change for him. I was perfect just the way I was – selfish, broken, and loved.