Part VI ➸ Letting In and Letting Go
“the past can’t hurt you anymore, not unless you let it.”
LETTING IN AND LETTING GO
Avoiding Axel for the next three days was just as hard as accepting the fact that Sean was no longer mine to call, belong, hold and love.
For the past three days, all I have been doing was come to terms with the reality and start off somewhere to get back to my senses and move on. I still don’t know the answer. All I know that it has been too long for me to be hung up on the boy who hurt me so bad. Why do I even internally wish for him to come back to me? Am I going to forget everything that happened in the past four months that easily?
The amount of thinking I have been doing makes me ask that one question I never asked myself - why do I love him? Why did I fall in love with him in the first place?
Maybe because he was the only guy who had been there for me throughout my teenage, the age were boys don’t have cooties anymore. Or maybe because he was always there around me, refusing to let me see that the world beyond him. Whatever it was, I was stuck up on him and all those years of me beingin lovewith him always held me back, prohibiting me from moving on.
Grant had come home the next day, tired but seemingly normal behaved for a person who just spent a whole night out. He had even sat down with me, asking about the ball and told me that he loved the pics that Kevin had sent him. He also reminded me that he needed to meet Axel and threaten him if he had any plans of dating me and no matter how many times I reassured him that I had no intentions of dating Axel, at least not yet, he refused to believe. Something about letting the guy know that “he can’t force anything on my sister. Not even a relationship.”
Due to bad weather, Mom and Dad’s flight got cancelled and was scheduled to land tonight around midnight. Kevin had kept Tracy and her questioning away from me and Maggie was always wise enough to understand when to give someone space and go over their thoughts. I had called the three of them, with food of course, and told them, including Grant who had eavesdropped on the conversation, about whatever conspired between me and Sean on the Valentine’s morning and how I had gotten Axel to be my date.
Grant almost ran off to beat the shit out of my stupid ex but the four of us managed to calm him down a little and delay his convict acts. Then came the questions about the incident I didn’t want to think or talk about - the kiss between me and Axel - thanks to Tracy and Grant, for the second time, was ready to grab his baseball bat and kill someone.
He only let it go when I said that it was I who initiated it and poor Axel didn’t even know that he was being used.
Even thinking about it makes me flinch and wince and I want to just jump off the roof of my house.
Axel had tried calling me a couple times but I had a good excuse of school and being busy to have him give it a rest and even texting him every now and then to not completely cut him off after kissing him took all my energy. Yesterday, he came at my place to ‘hang out’ but Grant, on my request, told him that I was at Tracy’s working on a project while in reality, I was in my room, hiding from facing him. Today it was Saturday and also the end of my excuses.
The one thing that has been consistent with me is that Iloverunning away from my problems or the things that scare me, things I don’t want to acknowledge. For example, my feelings for Sean, both - the immense love I had, still have, for him and my feelings for Axel that I can’t quite give a name to.
It was when Grant had come to talk to me after Axel left that I realized how much of a jerk I was continuing to be by avoiding him and if kissing him for my ulterior motives was wrong, so was ignoring him after that.
“What are you doing, Lee Bear?” He had asked, sitting on the foot of my bed while I ignored him, hiding my face in another one of Stephen Hawking book.
“What do you mean?” I had asked, feigning oblivious.
He sighed, raking his finger through his hair and his face. “I saw his face, sis. And even though I wanted to beat the crap out of him and let him know that he’d have to deal with me if even the thought of hurting you crosses his mind, I couldn’t. His expressions were genuine and when I told him that you weren’t home, he had looked hurt and disappointed. And if he’s any wiser, he’ll know that you’re ignoring him.”
“I’m not ignoring him.” I defended. “We’re talking through texts, see.” I shoved my phone in his face,
He gave me a flat look. “Then why didn’t you see him when he came.”
I shrugged and smiled a fake, sheepish smile. “I just didn’t know how to face him after kissing him so abruptly.”
He stares at me for a long while, making me shift uncomfortably under his scrutinizing gaze. “Leah, nobody, and I mean nobody in this world deserves to have their hearts broken by anyone. It’s one of the worst feeling in the world and you know it first hand. And if you’re hurting from Sean’s actions, just think that you’re hurting someone too. And please make things right before it’s too late.”
With that he had kissed my forehead and mumbled goodnight, leaving me alone in my room with my thoughts. Just a few days ago I was reprimanding Tracy for hurting Kevin just to keep herself away from getting hurt now wasn’t I doing the same? The last thing Axel deserves deserves is to be played, specially when he opened up to me that evening in the cafe and I almost felt like puking that the one he had confided in had been the one to play his feelings, platonic or romantic.
I want to be somebody’s world.
His words had kept haunting me for the majority of last night and I barely got any sleep. I woke up with a resolution of going and seeing him, explaining things to him, apologizing too.
Different scenarios ran in my mind of how this conversation can go. Two of them ended with same conclusions : either he forgives me or he doesn’t. And the idea of him forgiving me when I tell him what I had done, how I had used him and how I had purposefully ignored him after that was the most unrealistic one.
Just for the sake of my sanity, I practiced saying it in front of the mirror a few times. I couldn’t prep myself for the big confrontation but I sure was going to be sick.
Waking up early has never been this easy and just to waste my time and prolong my visit to the cafe, I spent extra time in shower. I put on a full sleeved pastel pink romper dress and white sneakers. With spring around the corner, I was starting to feel more and more comfortable in non-winter clothes and I think it was a good thing because soon, I would be sweating buckets while explaining things to Axel.
Oh the horror.
I shake that thought out of my head and skip downstairs into the dining room where Grant is eating his cereal without milk.Gross.
“Mom and Dad would be home by late night.” I tell him and pour myself some fruit loops and milk in a bowl.
He nods. “Yeah, I talked to them this morning. Are you going to the cafe?”
I swallow a spoonful of my breakfast and nod hesitantly. “Yeah.”
“Nervous?” He immediately caught on.
I breath out, pushing the bowl away now when I feel like puking. “You have no idea.” I meet my brother’s eyes. “Grant, Axel has become an important part of my life. I can’t even begin to imagine how it would be without him and just the thought of him never talking to me again terrifies me. And the thought of him forgiving seems just as unrealistic.”
I don’t even realize that I’m crying until Grant gives me a sad smile and comes to sit beside me and wipes away my tears. “I know, love. But you can’t lead him on. Heartbreak is still a heartbreak even if you never were together. The unsaid promise of being together breaks more hearts than the‘I love You’s’whispered to you by your ex-lover.”
The image of breaking Axel’s heart breaks mine as well, and then continues to wring it till every last drop of emotion is drained. “I can’t.” I whisper to myself but he hears it.
He smiled sadly. “But you have to.”
I just nod uncommitedly and get up, slinging over my bag with a book that I probably won’t read and my phone and leave the house. Sometime in the middle of my daily caffeine and cafe Holden ritual, I got used to walking, not just to the cafe but to everywhere. It kind of feel therapeutic, walking around the cities, pausing at random places to take in the views and things that I never knew existed there before, things I never noticed before. The cool breeze weaving through my hair and cooling down my mind. The slight shiver that causes a rush of warmth to my heart and then my whole body while my skin is prickled with goosebumps. Everything about slow walking and taking in your surroundings is therapeutic.
Lost in my own thoughts, I don’t even realize when I reach the cafe and when I do, I have to pause and take deep breaths to prepare myself for the confrontation. Even harder is forcing myself to not turn and runaway and never show my face to anyone again.
Sighing defeatedly, I push the translucent glass doors open. My favorite melody of the wind chime does nothing to sooth my inner turmoil nor does the unique smell that always lingers around the cafe.
Axel is behind the counter, his forehead wrinkled in concentration and he seems to be working on a new design on the coffee cup. My entry is not so silent yet he doesn’t look up and I wonder what has caught all of his attention.
“Hey!” I chirp as I stand directly opposite him and he lifts his head, startled and his eyes widen in shock. He immediately pulls the cup towards him and I frown. I glance down but he’s hiding the mouth of the cup with his palm.
“Hey.” He rubs the back of his neck with the other hand nervously.
I narrow my eyes. “What are you doing?” I ask and go to pull the cup free of his hold but he doesn’t let me, picking it up and hiding it behind him.
“Nothing!” He panics. I give him a flat look and he lets out a nervous laugh. “I’ll just get your coffee, yeah? Go on, have a seat.”
I raise a stubborn brow and cross my arms. “Not until I see what you’re hiding.”
He sighs and turns around. “It’s nothing, Leah.” He mumbles.
I let out another breath. “Fine, be that way. I’m sure there are many cafes I can get my daily doze of coffee at.” I say turning around. I know it’s petty but more than the curiosity to see what he’s hiding, I just want to escape the inevitable conversation.
He swiftly turns around and grabs my arm, eyes wide in panic. “What? You’re - You’re leaving?”
I blink innocently and shrug. “Just going to find another place for a good coffee. You can continue whatever you were doing. It’s clear you don’t want me to know so I’ll not disturb you any further.”
Axel shakes his head mumbling something to himself and meets my eyes, giving up. “Fine. Just know this whatever you’re doing comes under the blackmail category.”
My breath hitches and I ask the most stupid question. “Why do you care?”
He meets my eyes with a rush of intensity, whispering softly, “I have always cared, Berry. Probably always will.”
That nickname from the night I’ve been forcing myself to not think about brings down a rush of emotions as well as the fluttery feeling in my stomach that has made a permanent place inside me since that kiss. Possibly even before that. I bite the inside of my cheeks and straighten up, nodding foolishly.
“Okay.” He clears his throat and turns slightly, still not leaving my arms and picks up the same cup he was hiding. “Here. Just don’t laugh. Or whatever.” He says, pushing the cup towards me.
He seems nervous, clearing his throat continuously and rubbing the base of his neck, not meeting my eyes and it is when I peep into the cup and my breath hitches that I realize why.
It’s a portrait of me, a little rough and irregular but anyone who has seen me can easily point out that it’s my drawing on this coffee. My throat runs dry and I’m unable to look away from the not so perfect yet the most beautiful art I’ve ever seen and the fact that I’m the muse of this art just almost gives me that blissful death we all wish for.
I look up and meet Axel’s eyes and he’s looking at me expectantly, waiting for some sort of reaction and the intensity of his gaze almost makes me tear up. “Axel.....” I whisper.
Before I can continue and tell him how much he’s making me fall -no, wait. Back up. - tell him how much amazing this art is, even if I don’t have the exact words to do so, I loud giggle followed by approaching footsteps breaks the atmosphere we had created around us.
“Axel, Emilia is being mean to me.” Squeals a familiar voice, still filled with mirthful laughter.
“I’m not!” Comes Emilia’s voice, stern but excited and energetic. Within seconds, the two familiar girls enter my line of view, Emilia chasing Adira. The little bundle of joy hides behind Axel’s legs and Emilia stops, huffing and regaining her breath. “God, where does she gets her energy from?” She muses making Adira giggle. Even Axel’s eyes are shining with mirth.
Emilia’s attention turns to me and she grins, her tired breathing forgotten. “Leah! I missed you.” She hollers and jumps over the counter, tackling me in a hug. “I didn’t get to see you in your Valentine’s Day dress. You didn’t even send the pictures.”
The reminder just constricts my heart and I smile tightly. “I’ll show you, promise.”
“Leah?” A small voice speaks, gaining my attention and just like that, everything’s forgotten amd I’m giving the little girl my brightest grins.
“Adira!” I coo. “I missed you.”
Adira’s eyes light up when she realizes that I remember her. She raises her hands up from where she is in Axel’s arms and I catch her, bringing her little body closer to me. “You remember me?”
I smile. “Of course, how can I not? I even have our picture framed in my room.”
“Really?” She asks, eyes wide and I nod. “I remember you too. You’re Axel’s girlfriend.” She says shyly, her cheeks tinging pink.
I let out a small laugh. “What are you doing here, Princess?”
“We got the hospital let her leave for a day so we could go for a picnic.” Axel tells me. “I didn’t think you’d come so we made plans.”
“Why would I not come?” I ask, already guessing the answer. He just shrugs.He knows I was ignoring him.“I’ll always come here, Axel. This place is practically my second home. Has been since I first stepped in here.” I make sure to look him in the eye while saying this. “But I’m sorry if I’m intruding on your plans.”
Emilia rolls her eyes. “Like you said, this is your home and you’re family. Why would you be intruding?” I smile gratefully at her.
“Are you going to picnic with us too?” Adira asks, her small eyes hopeful and when I nod, she grins. “Yes!”
After we pack some blankets and snacks for the picnic, the four of us - Axel, Adira, Emmy and I pile up in Julie’s car and drive to the city’s central park, where I went with my family in the beginning of the year.
The day being brighter and sunnier than usual made it a perfect day for an outing we all enjoyed, specially Adira who kept asking questions and I saw my own curious child self in her. It mostly us letting the little girl enjoy a day of her life outside the four, melancholic walls of the hospital and making her feel at home. Seeing her just saddens my heart but her bright smile and energy always makes me feel the strong person she is.
Axel clicks a picture of all four of us and posts it on his social media captioned :a day out with my favorite girls <3
It’s around evening when we’re almost packing up to head back home that Adira’s cry catches out attention and we rush to her where she’s sitting at the bank of the lake, crouched facing the ground. Tears stream down her face when she looks up at us, her nose turning red from crying.
“Adi, baby? What’s wrong?” Axel panics and crouches beside her, checking her for injuries.
“It’s biting me.” She cries pointing to a bug she is holding in her fist with it’s pointy tale only visible.
“What is it?”
“Baby, if it’s biting you, why are you holding it? Throw it away, come on.”
Adira shakes her head. “But it’s pretty.”
Axel sighs and smiles softly at her., sitting cross legged and bringing the girl to his lap. “Sometimes, there are a lot of pretty things in the world - lots of them that we want to have.” He speaks softly. “But Adi, some of them are dangerous.”
Adira looks up at him with big, wide eyes. “D-dangiris?”
Axel chuckles softly. “Yeah, dangerous. Bad.”
“But how can pretty things be bad. They’re pretty.”
“Some pretty things can be bad too. They hurt us when we get too close to them. Still, we think that we should keep them, even if they’re hurting us. But baby, pretty or not, you should never hold on to anything that hurts you, okay?”
“Okay.” Adira sniffs, wiping one tear stained cheek with her small hand while Axel cleans the other.
“Now let that bug go.” He says softly in her ears.
Adira nods and opens her palm, revealing an inch long crawling insect with thing, pointy tail and antennas that were biting into the girl’s skin. Then softly, she places the insect bag on the ground and it crawls away. Adira lifts her palm to see and it’s red now, due to the insect’s bite.
Axel kisses both her palms softly and then her forehead. “Now let’s go home, okay baby?”
Adira rests her head on his chest and nods, yawning. He chuckles and gets up with her still in his arms and we see Emilia has already packed all our stuff. We walk to the car and I take Adira from Axel’s arms while he gets into the driver’s seat to drive.
They drop me off first, on my insistence, before driving away.
That night, before going to bed, I realize that Sean was my pretty bug and I’ve been holding onto him so tight, refusing to acknowledge the fact that he was hurting me. I was so blinded by my idea of loving him that I refused to acknowledge anything told me otherwise.
But now with the blindfold on my eyes gone and the haze lifted, I can see things clearly. And moreover, I’m ready to accept them and move on. If not, the repeat of the Valentine’s Day incident will keep happening.
I was confused at first, of where to start. Now, it’s crystal clear.
I’ve to let go.
Of the past.
Of the bad memories.
Of the heartbreak.
And of Sean.