Weeks had passed and Alanna refused to see or speak to Damon. He couldn’t believe that a short while ago he had been the happiest he’d ever been in his life. Now he’d lost his best friend and the girl he loved. To make it worse, his stress and melancholy were starting to affect his swimming performances. He couldn’t motivate himself or work up the enthusiasm to compete and his coach was threatening to suspend him from the team.
As he sat on his bed- back against the wall and feet on his laundry basket- thinking about the state of his life, he heard a knock on his door. Thinking it might be Alanna, he called out, “Come in” a little too eagerly. It was Lexie’s head that poked into the room. Surprised, he invited her in and gestured towards the empty chair in front of his desk.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hey. How’s Lana?”
“I see. Have you come to yell at me?”
Lexie tilted her head as she regarded the young man in front of him. She liked Damon. He treated her sister well, with the exception of the cafeteria incident which she chalked up to age-appropriate over-reacting. He obviously cared a great deal about Alanna and he had done a lot to bring her out of the shell in which she’d cocooned herself since ‘the incident’.
“No, I haven’t.”
Lexie took a deep breath and decided on the proper way to phrase what she had to say.
“Alanna is complicated. Her past is complicated. And it’s not my place to share what makes it so complicated. But you may have noticed that she was very hesitant about getting to know you. And you may have guessed that your skin colour had something to do with it.”
Damon nodded as Lexie continued.
“But, you managed to break through that barrier to the real Lana underneath. The thing is, it doesn’t end there,” she paused again and looked straight at Damon as she went on. “Alanna is like a puzzle that’s almost complete. “There’s just that last bit of sky that needs to be filled in. And I really believe that you’re the one that can help her do that, Damon. Don’t give up. Trust me; she’s worth every bit of the struggle.”
“But how do I convince her that I’m worth every bit of the struggle?” Damon replied.
“You’ll think of something. She doesn’t let people in easily and you hurt her pretty bad. Just find a way to make her see what she saw in you in the first place.”
Lexie smiled as she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
“I’m rooting for you, D.”
Damon squeezed her hand gratefully as she left. He resumed his thinking position but his thoughts were more hopeful than they had been in a long time.
Damon had considered and abandoned half a dozen romantic gestures before settling on this one. He thought about pulling a John Cusack or some equally mushy move but he knew somehow that wouldn’t suit Alanna. She’d see it as fake and it really didn’t speak to her personality. She wasn’t a romantic really. Lana preferred practical gifts and wasn’t given to much sentimentality. That’s when Damon hit upon just the right idea.
He knocked (well, he kicked actually as his hands were full) on Lana’s bedroom door after Lexie let him into the apartment and then snuck off to leave them alone. Alanna opened it up and almost immediately tried to slam it in his face but he managed to get a foot in before she could close it all the way.
“Go away, Damon!” she yelled angrily as she stalked over to her bed and plopped down on it. “I have nothing to say to you.”
“Good. Then you can just sit and listen.”
He walked over to the bed and set the boxes in his hands right near her thighs and watched with some satisfaction as her eyes widened and she gave a little gasp. Forgetting her anger for a minute, she asked, “Are those what I think they are?”
Damon nodded, breaking into that smile he reserved specially for her, as he replied, “Yup. Bowen’s Wolverine Old Man Logan statue and Kotobukiya’s X-23 statue. All yours. And I’ve paid in advance for all your comics until the end of the year.”
“And I suppose this is meant to make me forgive you and fall into your arms?”
“If I’m lucky.”
“You think some romantic gesture will just erase what you said to me. How you humiliated me?”
Damon shook his head sadly and sat next to her on the bed.
“Nothing can erase that. But I’m hoping to make up for it. And it’s not some romantic gesture, Lana. I’m trying to show you that despite that crap I said that day, I do know you, Lana, the real you. I could have bought you flowers or held a boombox above my head under your windowsill. But I did something that I knew was more unique to you. I knew you’d love it because I know you. And I want to show you that that guy from the cafeteria isn’t the real me.”
She tilted her head, in the same way that Lexie had the day before, and watched him closely for a minute.
“This is your last chance, Cunningham.”
She had never seen his smile so big or bright before as he sprang towards and kissed her with all the pent up longing and frustration of the past three weeks of separation.
Alanna was beyond happy. He really did know her. Flowers she would have hated. These statues? She’d be drooling over them for weeks. And she’d missed Damon so much and knew that it was misplaced anger that had caused him to blow up at her the way he did. But she’d still been hurt and needed reassurances that it wouldn’t happen again. She had that now and she just melted into him as they caught up on weeks of being apart.
The kisses got more passionate and more intense until she felt as though her entire body was on fire but whenever he pulled away, it was like her body was suffering from a drought and he was the water. Alanna couldn’t get enough of Damon and she could tell he felt the same. As he slipped out of his t-shirt and repositioned himself on top of her with his hand at the base of her neck, tilting her head towards him, she whispered, “Damon, this is my first time.”
Damon paused and looked Alanna in the eyes, mild surprise showing on his face.
“We don’t have to, Lana. You know I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to.”
Lana took a deep breath and replied, “I want to.”
He kissed her slowly and deeply, and she sighed with pleasure as his kisses ranged down her neck, as his hands wandered down her side to her hip and up her back, pulling her closer to him. He helped her out of her pajama top just before she reached over and tried to turn off the bedside lamp. He stopped her.
“Don’t. Trust that I’ll like what I see, even the parts that you don’t like.”
She smiled shyly and nodded before losing herself in the experience.
The next morning dawned bright and clear as Lana rolled over and watched Damon sleep. Suddenly, he winked at her and pulled her in for a kiss. She was so happy at that moment that she was unprepared for what came next.
“I love you, Alanna.”
“I love you.”
He watched in shock as she scrambled away from him and up against the wall.
But Alanna was far away and couldn’t answer.
“I love you, Alanna.”
“I love you, too.”
She stared into those perfect eyes as he came towards her and they kissed. He held her hand as they walked towards the bus station and told her how long he’d been waiting to say that and how glad he was they’d be going to university together. They arrived at their bus stop and found a group of men already waiting there. They all had shaved heads and wore Doc Martens, flight jackets and jeans with suspenders. The largest man in the group turned towards them and….
“Leave. Now. And, please, don’t come back this time,” Alanna said abruptly.
“Alanna, I don’t understand. What’s wrong?”
“Please, Damon. Just… just go.”
He couldn’t understand what just happened and what he was seeing now. She had gathered the blanket tight around her body and was sitting with her knees against her chest, rocking back and forth and crying. Damon was scared. Something serious was happening and he didn’t know what to do. He pulled on his clothes and woke Lexie who rushed into the room, took one look at Alanna and told Damon to leave.
“I didn’t hurt her, Lexie. I swear. I… Please… Tell me what’s wrong.”
Lexie looked like she was struggling to decide what to tell him.
Finally, she said sadly, “I can’t. I’m sorry but I can’t. You have to leave, Damon. Please.”
He nodded and left, but not before casting one last forlorn glance at Alanna. He loved her and something told him that this might be the last time he ever saw her.