Me And My Shadow

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Chapter 23

Being at the tracks again was surreal. I hadn’t been here in awhile, but I felt like this was the perfect place to gather my thoughts.

I needed to figure out a way to get the truth out of Michael. In the meantime, I needed to distance him from Brody. I couldn’t let him hurt my little brother the same way that he had hurt me all those years ago.

After hearing his conversation in the bathroom at Denny’s, I needed to figure out whom he was talking to and why they were paying him to have a relationship with us, if that was indeed the case. I also needed to figure out why the money was for our potential aunt. Nothing made sense yet, but I wasn’t going to sleep soundly until I got the answers I deserved.

I sat on the edge of the tracks with the metal pressing into my butt. My knees were up to my chest and I was playing with a piece of grass when I heard movement behind me.

“Hey babe.” He spoke softly.

“Hey.” I didn’t turn around to greet him.

He sat down beside me after a few moments and stretched his legs out in front of him as he placed his hands into his lap.

“Thinking about stuff?” He asked, knowing that it was the only thing I did whenever I came here.

“Yeah.”

“You haven’t been here in a while. I thought I broke you free from this place.” He teased, scooting closer to me.

“The tracks will always be my comfort place.” I confessed.

“I want to be your comfort place.” He smiled, grabbing my hand in his.

“I know. It’s hard though. I’ve never been good at opening up to people.”

“Trust me I know. You reserve yourself and I don’t really like it, but I understand it. I just wish you didn’t have to do that, especially around me.”

Not wanting to reply to that, I changed the subject.

“How’d you know I was here anyway?”

“Well you weren’t at home, and you weren’t replying to my texts or calls. Plus, you weren’t with Layla so I put two and two together.” He shrugged.

All I did was nod.

“What’s going on Cecil? What’s got you hiding out here?” He asked, pressuring me into talking.

“I just... I needed to think.”

“About what?”

“About Michael. I kind of overheard him on a phone call when we were at Denny’s the other day.” I looked up at Eric and I couldn’t read his facial expression. He was definitely a shade paler than before.

“Oh yeah?” He muttered, “What did you hear?”

“I’m not sure exactly. But I heard him mention something about not wanting to “do this” and something about needing a check for his sister. I don’t really know, it was muffled by the bathroom door I was listening through. I just don’t understand. Is he being paid to have a relationship with us and if so, why? Why does his sister need money and why is he getting it for her at our expense? That’s not right at all. In fact, it’s kind of sickening.”

Anger was piercing through each word that I spoke.

Eric’s facial expression changed drastically and I wanted to ask what he knew about it, but then it changed to a look of concern and the thought immediately left my head.

“I’m so sorry babe. I can’t believe he would do that to you. That’s really messed up. Did you ask him about it?” He questioned.

“No. Brody was with us and I didn’t want him to hear any of it. I need to protect him Eric. I can’t let Michael hurt Brody the way that he hurt me.” I frowned and looked off into the distance ahead.

“I’m sure he isn’t planning on hurting either one of you. Maybe he was talking about something that had nothing to do with you. Maybe the words were for a different context. I mean, how could you know unless you heard the other half of the conversation, right?”

“Why are you acting so cool about this and defending him? Something is definitely fishy about this and you don’t sound like you’re on my side.” I accused.

“Cecilia of course I’m on your side. In fact, everything I do is because I’m on your side. All I’m saying is, don’t stress out about something until you know everything. Try talking to him?” He suggested.

“I want to, I just don’t want him to lie and shrug it off. This isn’t me I’m worried about here, it’s Brody. He called him dad Eric. He’s becoming attached too fast. I don’t want something to happen, and it crush him. He’s still young and this could scar him for life if it ends badly. Don’t you get it?” I shouted, my anger growing.

“More than you know.” He mumbled quietly.

“What?”

“Nothing. Just talk to him, okay? I’m sure everything is fine.” He said while standing up.

“Okay. I will.” I stood up too and Eric stepped closer to me.

“I promise everything will work out. Do you trust me?” He gently grabbed my hand, stroking his thumb along mine. His dark brown eyes were flickering with concern and I bit my lip unsure of how to respond.

“I do.” I finally replied.

He diminished the space between us by pulling me closer to him. He pressed his soft lips against mine and I lost every bad feeling that I had inside of me. The doubts were gone as soon as we made contact and I wrapped my hands around his neck, wanting more. Needing more.

He pushed me until we were against the old wall that stood behind the tracks. He quickly lifted me up and I instantly wrapped my legs around his waist. Tangling my fingers into his golden-brown hair, I yearned for his delicate touch.

Suddenly I wished we were in my bedroom.

His muscular arms held me tightly against him and his hands traveled down to my ass, slightly squeezing as I softly moaned against his lips.

I had never wanted someone more in my entire life, than I did right in that moment.

He was perfect and the need for him grew with every passing second.

“Eric...” I sighed against his ear. This made him tense and I knew I sparked something within him.

He pulled back from my lips and looked deep into my soft brown eyes.

“Cecilia... I love you.” He announced. My blood ran cold and my lips started to tremble. My breathing hitched and my hands started to sweat around his neck.

Not wanting to ruin the beautiful moment, I forced myself to speak.

“I...I love you too.”

“Are you okay?” He stared at me warily.

I dropped my legs from around his waist. Once my feet were on the ground, I placed my hands on my knees and tried to regulate my heavy breathing.

“I’m f-fine.”

“No you’re not. Where’s your bag?” He asked, looking around on the ground for it.

“I didn’t bring it. I haven’t had a pill in a w-while.” I managed to say.

“Shit Cecilia! What do I do?” He looked panicked and I didn’t want to make him worry anymore than he already was.

“I’ll be fine. Just come next to me and comfort me. Please.” I begged looking up at him.

He was immediately at my side, stroking his hands up and down my arms. He pulled me into his chest and gently ran his fingers through my hair softly shushing me.

“You’re okay babe... you’re okay.”

I allowed him to comfort me as I pushed all my weight into him. After a few minutes, my breathing was back to normal and the sweat was slowly beginning to dry from my hands and forehead.

“You did it.” I said while looking up at Eric. He smiled and gently kissed my forehead.

“You made the nerves go away and I didn’t even need a pill. That has never happened with anyone before. Not even with my mom.”

“That’s because I’m me.” He winked, causing me to roll my eyes playfully.

I couldn’t believe it. I had never been consoled without having to take a dose of my anxiety medication before.

“Are you sure you love me? This is something you’ll have to deal with a lot. I’m sure you don’t want that burden.” I confessed looking down at my feet. Familiar feelings of insecurity came rushing back in an instant, causing me to want to slap myself for being so silly.

“Hey, don’t do that. Don’t put yourself down or try to take away this beautiful moment. I love you Cecilia Collins, anxiety and all. I’ll help you every day and we’ll make it so you never have to worry about those stupid pills ever again. I promise.” He kissed me once more before reaching down to hold my hand gently in his.

“It’s just... No one has ever told me that they loved me before and meant it. The last guy to do that was my dad and he left me. What if you get bored or something and decide to leave me too?” I hated myself for trying to ruin the moment. I should’ve been happy. The most amazing guy I had ever met confessed to loving me, and here I was trying to bring the mood down with my insecurities and self-doubt.

“Cecilia stop. I’m not your father and I’m not going to abandon you the way that he did. I love you and I’ll do whatever it takes to prove that to you. As long as it takes.”

My eyes were beginning to water as he hurriedly pulled me into his arms, resting his head on top of mine. I knew in that moment that he was telling the truth. I knew that he loved me and that I loved him too, so much.

“I love you too.” I said while looking up into his eyes. “And I trust you.”

“That’s all that I ask.” He smiled while leaving another kiss on my tingling lips.

“Want to come over for dinner?” He asked, “Layla and my mom are making Italian.”

My face lit up and I nodded while we walked hand in hand away from the tracks.

“Italian sounds amazing.”





Later that night, Layla and I were playing twister with Eric and their parents.

Game nights were never a thing at my house, and I wished that our family was more like theirs.

“Okay, right hand green!” Rachel shouted after spinning the wheel.

“Darn it.” Larry mumbled, being that his hands were nowhere near a green spot.

“Can I call for a second spin?” He hoped.

“Nope. Sorry.” Layla teased sitting beside him, looking more uncomfortable than the rest of us.

“Alright, here goes nothing.” Larry reached for a green spot and was surprisingly able to place his pinky on the spot without falling.

“Wow, dad. You’re actually pretty good at this.” Eric laughed from beside Layla.

“That’s why you need to get good grades and go to a nice party college. Although, drunken twister is way better.” He confessed resulting in a glare from Rachel.

Layla, Eric and I laughed while Larry made a kissy face toward Rachel, causing her to giggle.

“Alright, Cecilia, left foot yellow!” Rachel announced after spinning the wheel again.

“Um... Eric, your butt is in the way of my yellow.” I deadpanned.

“Sorry toots can’t move. Do your best. I have faith in you.” He teased.

I tried to maneuver around Eric, but as soon as I slid my left leg underneath him, I accidentally tripped him up and all four of us went tumbling down.

Rachel let out a loud laugh as I received glares from Layla and Larry.

“Um, sorry?” I nervously bit my lip.

“I was on a roll too! Way to go Cecil!” Layla whined.

“Blame Eric! His butt was in the way!” I defended myself while pointing at Eric who was still lying on the floor.

“Well let’s just say, for the sake of the game, that I won.” Larry announced while standing proudly, holding his arms over his chest.

“Nice try dad, but nobody won.” Layla replied boringly, and everyone else froze.

“What?” She asked.

“Honey, you called Larry dad.” Rachel was grinning from ear to ear and I had a smile on my face as well. Eric grinned and Larry looked honestly proud to have been called dad.

“Oh, um. So what?” She smiled sheepishly, “Who’s ready for desert?” She cheered while walking towards the kitchen, as if it were no big deal to her.

As I followed Layla into the kitchen, I looked back and noticed Rachel walk over to give Larry a kiss. Then I heard her say, “See, told you it was only a matter of time.”

I smiled, honestly happy for my best friend, and then I noticed Eric staring at me with a grin on his face.

“So, Layla... dad huh?” Eric teased as he entered the kitchen.

“It slipped out.” She smiled, pulling the fresh, homemade pie from the oven.

“Uh-huh, sure.” Eric smirked.

“Whatever. Shut up.”

I smiled at their brother/sister banter as I sat at the island in the middle of the kitchen. Layla pulled out some vanilla ice cream to go with the apple pie, and my mouth began to water.

“I love apple pie!” I cheered.

“Same Cecilia, same.” I heard Larry agree as he and Rachel entered the kitchen.

“Dad, no...” Eric shook his head.

“What? I’m hip.” Larry placed his hands on his hips, “Aren’t I?” He questioned.

“Yep, sure are honey.” Rachel teased.

“Lies, so many lies. You people should be ashamed.” Larry dramatically gasped.

Layla rolled her eyes as the entire room erupted into laughter.

I looked around at Layla, Eric, and their parents and I couldn’t help but feel a slight bit of jealousy. I wished that my family could be like theirs. We never did family game nights, and we certainly didn’t eat dinner and desert together every night. On special occasions we would, like thanksgiving and Christmas, but other than that we just ate in our separate rooms.

I was happy though. Happy for my best friend and for my boyfriend. Happy that they both had parents who loved them and cherished their time together, but most of all, happy that I was becoming a part of their family too. I didn’t want this good feeling to end and I was going to do everything in my power to not let that happen.

These four were my family now too, and even though my own family isn’t whole right now, at least I have these four to take away from the constant sadness I try to fight off on a daily basis.

I had never felt complete before. I had always felt like I was missing something in my life, in fact I knew I was. But in that moment, right there with those four people, I finally came to a realization.

I didn’t need someone to complete me, I only needed that someone to accept me completely. Right then, with Eric, that’s exactly what I had. I had someone who accepted me completely and didn’t need to change me. He was going to try to break me from all of my bad habits and he was going to try to stop me from having to use my medication, but he wasn’t trying to change me personally. He understood my need for silence. He understood my need for reassurance. He understood my need for resolution when things were unanswered. For that, I would forever be grateful to him.

It’s like, when we were little and we had a favorite blanket or stuffed animal that we had to have with us at all times? We needed it with us because it made us feel safe and at that time, it was the most important thing in the world to us.

Well that was what Eric was to me. He was my safe place.

I love him.

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