Author's note: I tried to update as soon as I could, as requested by my lovely friend, MidnightWillowTree. Unfortunately, I won't be able to update as much as I want because my parents are bitching about me sitting on the computer all day, when I obviously sit on the chair and not on the computer. I guess I'll just have to apologize for that, and my adolescent ranting as well.
Author's note 2: It was tricky trying to capture the intense moments of this chapter so, forgive me if it's a bit vague and far flung. I got parts from the book itself and altered it a bit so, credits to Courtney Allison Mourton.
Disclaimer: As much as I want to own the Angelfire series, it's not possible. So, enjoy!
Come Away Now
And I can't cry hard enough, because I don't deserve to.
Four words that never fail to scare the shit out of me. We need to talk.
It makes me think of all the things I've done wrong. Like not training properly, cancelling my sparring lessons with Will to go to the mall with Kate, seeing Cadan, laughing with Cadan...wanting Cadan to be with me right now and crack a smart-ass remark to lighten the mood. I shook the thought away like it was a bad omen. I couldn't afford to think about him right now. What I should focus on is the intensity of this situation. I didn't do anything extremely wrong. A day with Cadan wasn't a sin. And I would come clean with Will once I find out what he needed to talk to me about. I convince myself there's nothing to worry about. Right?
Whatever it was, it must have been urgent for Ava to feel the need to storm out. She gave him a hard look and Will returned the icy stare as she zoomed around us and slammed the door with so much force it made me jerk. It startled me to see Will so uneasy around me. So hesitant yet so eager to get it over with. I could try and guess what made Will so discomposed. Has he found out about my precious time with his least favourite reaper? Was he going to give me another sermon about how we 'couldn't be too close or romantically involved' because of my butt-head brother, Michael?
That couldn't be the case. It had to be something that involved Ava. Ava. I couldn't bring myself to conclude anything just yet. I had to hear it from Will. I needed to hear it from no one but him.
He was standing in front of me with his hands hanging loosely to his side. I watched him carefully, studying his gaze when he didn't say anything. I smiled when he finally raised his head to look at me and smiled back half-heartedly.
"What's up?" I ask, grabbing his hand and letting him rub my palm with his thumb. I knew he was nervous when he started sucking his upper lip and taking deep breaths to try and calm his nerves.
My smile faded as he began talking.
"I feel terrible keeping this from you, and I know it won't be pleasant to hear. But there's something you should know," he started.
I start to get tense as his grip on my hand is tighter with every word he says. Keeping this from you. So, it wasn't about me. It was about something Will had done. Maybe it would've been better if he scolded me about Cadan instead.
I stayed quiet, not wanting to interrupt Will.
"Do you remember when we said no more secrets?" he asked as he shifted his gaze to the ground, his voice feeble and small. I swallowed hard and something tightened in my chest.
"Yeah," I reply with the faintest whisper, the word was almost nothing.
"It's been eating away at me," he said. "Devouring me from the inside out."
I shook my head, studying his dull green eyes in confusion. "I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean, Will."
"I thought everything was over." His voice was cracking, and he took a long, deep breath to steady it, but the effort was futile. "I believed that I'd failed for the last time, that you were gone forever, because of what I'd failed to do for you."
Fear tightened around my throat as I tried to figure out what he was trying to tell me.
"I loved you. I felt a part of me die along with you," he continued, looking up to meet my gaze at last. "And I was broken for so long. For forty years, I waited and waited and searched for you. I hadn't seen Nathaniel in over a decade, and I was so alone. Marcus and Ava came around a few times, and after being alone for so long, I stopped thinking or feeling. I hated myself for losing you."
I felt an urge to reach for him, but I was afraid to. Still, I stayed silent.
"Ava and I grew close," he said, looking away from me. "We …"
"So it's true, then. You slept with Ava?" I finally said.
"Yes." The word was barely audible, barely anything more than a small exhale of air through those lips I'd kissed and loved.
I was at loss of words. It's probably a good time to shut up about Cadan. I thought to myself. After all my plans to tell him at this moment, I couldn't bring myself to say anything.
I swallowed hard and took a step away from him. My fingers were numb. I tightened them into balls and stretched them back out to regain sensation, but as I did, the rest of my body began to lose feeling everywhere. I felt my knees buckle under me and clutched the edge of the counter for support.
He reached for my hand but I flinched it away before his skin could graze mine. I couldn't look at him. And I honestly didn't want to, mainly because I was afraid that the moment I made eye contact, tears would start streaming down my face and I know they would never come to a halt. I could tell I hurt his feelings by avoiding his touch but at this point, it didn't really matter to me as much as it should have.
Still, I tried to stay strong and keep my face void of any emotion; of any signs of the pain his words have inflicted. Will hadn't done anything peculiarly wrong by any standards. It's not like he cheated or anything. We weren't an item. I was practically dead when he had slept with Ava. But after his confession, it was hard to think of how it would affect our relationship. Well, what was left of it anyway.
I didn't have a claim to him, but I felt like I did, and knowing all that didn't make it hurt any less. I couldn't be mad at him or hate him, because I didn't have a right to.
"Ellie," he pleaded softly, his voice breaking, "please say something. Anything."
"I have to go," I finally whispered, managing to keep it soft but firm; and I was proud of that. Proud of how I could put up such a believable front; so believable that I could have fooled even myself if I didn't know any better. Constructing this wall of some sort and painting it with happiness, convincing people, and hopefully someday myself, that I may have been okay.
But in reality, I was the exact opposite of okay. I felt betrayed and alone. And stupid.
"Ellie," he begged. "Please let me explain. She's only my friend. She is nothing compared to the way I feel about you." That sure did it. I could feel the sense of betrayal inside me be replaced with boiling rage.
"You don't have sex with people who are only friends!" I was sickened by myself. I didn't even know what I was saying anymore.
"It meant nothing. I was dead inside. I believed I'd lost you, the only thing that made my life worth something! You are all I knew, Ellie, and I'd died along with you. I never loved her, never loved anyone but you in all these centuries. You were gone and I gave up. When I found you again, barely a year afterward … I can't describe to you what it felt like to see you again after believing with every last thread of my soul that you were gone forever. Seeing your smile brought me back to life and killed me again at the same time. I felt like I had to tell you, after all these centuries, how much you meant to me, how much I have always loved you, in case I lost you again and you never came back. In case I never got to say it to you at all."
I shook my head and turned to leave. I didn't say anything to that. I couldn't and I wouldn't. Will didn't try to stop me, knowing I needed some time to process things. The image of Will and Ava would haunt me for the rest of my life. Even in my nightmares I'd see them. Kissing. Touching.
I sigh as I reach for the door knob. My hand settles on the cold brass for a while before turning it and opening the door. A gush of icy wind greets me and I shiver, taking a few steps outside and onto the porch. I turned around to face Will and notice he hasn't moved an inch, with a look of concern and sadness.
My chest tightens at the sight of him. So broken and miserable. He didn't deserve that. "I'll see you later," I say. And with one final nod, I walk to Marshmallow and drive away, unsure of where to go. Anywhere. Anywhere far away. Far away from all this misery. Far away from reality. Far away from Will.
I needed to talk to somebody. Anybody. Mom? No. Nathaniel? He was away with Lauren. Cadan? Possible but not likely. Kate? Definitely.
I give here a call and to ask if she was doing anything.
"I'm sorry, Ellie Bean," she said. "I'm a little caught up with something with my Mom and Dad. It's complicated, but I'll tell you everything as soon as we meet up. How about after school tomorrow?"
"Oh okay." I couldn't hide the disappointment that was evident in my voice but I knew she was trying her best not to make me feel neglected or anything.
"Love you. See you soon."
"Love you too, bye."
"Take care, Ellie."
I hung up and didn't know what to do. I didn't have Kate at the moment but I knew where I could go; the library. I figured no one I knew would bother me at the library and it sounded like the perfect escape. Unfortunately, the library is closed on Sundays, but I knew someone who could let me in either way.
I realize I've been driving around for hours before I even get to the library. I wasn't lost but I was trying to waste as much time as I could. It dawned on me that I wanted this day to be over.
Snow began to fall, lightly enough that it would be safe to drive in the dark if I went slowly, but tomorrow I'd have to shovel the driveway for sure. Three
hours before 'closing' was the perfect amount of time for me to find a good book and curl up in one of the giant sofa chairs on the second floor.
"Ellie? What are you doing here? The library's closed you know." A plump woman emerged from the check-out desk and adjusted her glasses to get a better view of the newcomer.
"Hey Ms. Anderson. Can I hang here for a bit?" I ask. Ms. Anderson was a small, chubby woman who lived with three cats. She stayed at the library every evening, creeping around and reading every book about cats she could find. I wouldn't say she was the ordinary kind of person you'd find at these places. But with my life, nothing could and should be ordinary anymore.
She eased up and smiled. "I'd love to have some company at this hour."
After some searching through the stacks, I selected a book I'd first found on my mom's shelf when I was in middle school. I remembered being sucked in by the romance, so I grabbed it off the shelf and padded up the creaky stairs to the second-floor lounge, where it was quieter. I settled into a squishy chair next to an end table and lamp and lost myself in the novel. I didn't even notice the reaper in the room quietly suppressing his energy until he dipped his head over my shoulder and cast his shadow over the pages.
I jerked out of my seat to face him and dropped the book, startled by the sensation of the reaper's energy crawling on my skin like feather-light spider legs.
"Cadan!" I cried out in a hushed voice.
A gentle smile settled on his lips as he looked at me, clearly amused. "You must be really into that book. You didn't even noticed me until I was right next to you."
I blinked. "Yeah, it's a pretty good novel." I spoke quietly, not bothering to question how he'd gotten inside.
"Really? What's it about?"
"Stuff. The usual things you'd want to read about." I answer bluntly.
He stepped around my chair to sit in the one right next to me. "How was your day?" He asked, leaning back into the chair.
"Okay," I said, grabbing the book and closing it on my lap.
"Mine went great, by the way."
"Cool," I nod, not bothering to react to his matter-of-fact statement to make me feel guilty about my lack of concern.
"Oh. Why so..." He paused, trying to look for the right word. "Boring?"
I shrugged, not thinking about what he meant. I stared at the carpeted floor and allowed myself to just shut down, leaving my mind blank and empty. Just as a warm hand settles on my shoulder, I refocus everything in reality.
"Ellie," Cadan cooed. "Is something wrong?"
"No." But I answered all too quickly, remembering him and my blood turned cold, running through my veins and making me shiver.
He took a deep breath and shifted his gaze to mine, his amber eyes reflecting the fluorescent lights of the room. "Tell me."
I was slightly appalled by how smooth his voice was. It was like velvet, coaxing. Deep and sexy.
I shook my head. "We can't be too chatty here. Not in the library."
Rising from the chair, his hand offered his hand. "Then let's get out of here. Me and you. Being in libraries makes me feel...musty."
"Okay," I breathe, taking his hand and managing a half smile of appreciation.
After leaving the library, we settle onto a small patch of grass a few yards away. It was quiet and unnerving.
"So," he started,"what's up with you and your guard dog? Love quarrel or somethin'?" I honestly don't know.
"Did you two fight?" He asked; his voice filled with amid curiosity.
I opened my mouth to answer but nothing came out so I shut it again and sighed.
"Ellie. Talk to me. I might be able to help you. I'm a guy and I can do well as a shrink, too." He winks and I smile; genuinely.
I draw a sharp breath as I try to recall all exchanged interactions from me and Will. "Okay. Where do I begin?"