35 | Letting Go and Beautiful Confrontations
The next week was too busy for me to even spare a call to Axel.
Mom and Dad came in late at night, tired and when Grant and I were fast asleep. In the morning, we all slept in late, me because of a lot of thinking I had done and Grant, well, I don’t know what’s going on with him.
When finally we woke up on Sunday, he was long gone with just a note on the dining table saying he didn’t wake us up ’cause he didn’t want to disturb us. Bull. Mom and Dad shrugged it off but I was hurt that my brother didn’t inform me before leaving and he didn’t even pick up his phone when I called.
The three of us caught up on several things, first sharing light stories about their trip and my not so simple life before they thought it would be good to ask, “Are you okay?”
I don’t think I can ever figure out how to answer that.
Eventually succeeding in letting my parents leave that topic alone by showing them the pictures of the Valentine’s Day Ball, which my mother was extremely happy about, seeing as I wore the dress she got made for me. She kept on gushing how cute we looked together - Axel and I - while Dad sat in a corner pouting like the grumpy cat and mumbling phrases like, “just let me meet him, then I’ll give him a good lesson.” and “should I buy a new gun or clean the old one?”
Reassuring him that there was nothing going on with me and Axel, at least not yet, was another headache and I had to just ignore them and retire to my room to tune it all out.
Monday got me busy with school and studies too, with final exams not that far away and excitement of Spring break and Senior Prom buzzing around everywhere. Tracy and Kevin were a happy and mushy couple and my friend seemed very much in love and happy, making me and Maggie gag whenever they got too romantic for our innocent souls.
Now that I had seen Axel practice my portrait on coffee, he would send me pictures everyday asking me if he was bettering and even when I have told him numerous times that it looks perfect, he refuses to believe me and surprises me with an even better version of the previous one the next day. I swear the if he continues this I might - no, Leah. Let’s no go there now.
As Friday rolls up and Tracy and Kevin are preparing for another date and Maggie is stuck at home again, looking after her mentally unstable older sister, I plan on not dragging the matter any further and finally facing it.
I know that if I ponder on what will happen when I finally acknowledge the elephant in the room whenever the two of us are together, I will back out like the cowards I am. After a lot of thinking that I’ve been doing these past few weeks, I have come to the terms with the fact that Axel deserves the truth and he deserves to decide if he still wants to keep me in his life or throw me out. I would understand if he chooses the latter but it’ll hurt like a bitch.
When I get home from school, both of my parents are out. After a quick change of clothes, I’m on my way to the cafe, this time, on my good old bike I had forgotten about up until now. It doesn’t take that long to reach my destination after I practically force myself to not overthink and concentrate on paddling. Leaning the bike on the wall of the cafe, I walk inside.
“Hey you.” Axel looks up and smiles when he sees me and I find myself giving him one back, albeit the fear inside my heart.
“Hi.” I say, tucking a lose hair pack into my ponytail. “What’s up with you today? You look extra chirpy.”
He smiles my favorite smile, showing his dimples, making my heart skip a beat. “You didn’t notice, not that you ever do, but we’re closed today.”
I frown. “Why? Something happen?”
He sighs dramatically, leaning over the counter, “Yeah.” He then looks up at me with a mischievous glint in his gray orbs. “There’s this girl who’s either been avoiding me or has been really busy and we haven’t hung out for real in a long time. So today, we’re hanging out.”
I avert my eyes from his. “Who’s the lucky girl for whom you’re closing the cafe?”
“You.” He whispers and I look up to see him smiling softly.
I bite the inside of my cheeks to hide my smile, the blush being out of control for me. “I haven’t been avoiding you.”
He nods, as if taking some crucial information in. “So busy it was.”
I chuckle. “Graduation is just a little over two months away and finals are approaching too. Too many assignments, too many gossips, too much hyper-energy for the senior prom. It’s been a busy week.”
“Oh the horror of high school.” Axel shakes his head. “Been there, I know how you feel.”
“Of course you do. Soon, you’ll be out of college too, making a life for yourself while I’ll still be drowning in books for another couple of years.” I sigh dramatically.
“You’re so dramatic.” He says, amused. “But let’s go before Julie things we had a change of plans and makes me sit here in the empty cafe for another couple of hours.”
He grabs my hand after coming out from behind the counter and starts dragging me outside. “Okay, but where are we going?”
“We’re going for a walk.” He says, throwing me a careless smile over his shoulder. “Just to this park a few blocks down.”
“Wait, what about my bike?” I ask as he turns to lock the door to the cafe.
He turns to face me and frowns when he sees the light blue colored bike. Then nodding to himself, he opens the door and parks the bike inside. “There, it’s safe.” He tells me. Before I can reply, he again takes my hand in his, entwining our fingers and starts walking down the road.
I can’t help but notice that we’re holding hands.
Holy shit, Axel and I - we’re holding hands!
Though my breathing turns abnormal and I try to contain it so that the gorgeous boy walking beside me, as if he’s not at all affected, it’s hard. My heartbeat skips a beat every now and then, when our shoulders brush before returning back to normal nut it doesn’t help that it’s happening often.
We are silent while we walk down to the park that is not too far away from the cafe. Instead of going to sit down on a bench and talk like I thought we would be doing when he said that we’ll hang out and talk, we continue walking on the path make for walkers, hand still enclosed within each others.
“I like it.” He says after a while. “It feels good.”
There’s this good kind of hollow in my stomach for a second. “What does?” I ask, stupid. Of course I know, it feels good to me too. Hell, it’s too good for me and it makes me feel scared.
Axel shrugs. “I don’t know what to name it. This, whatever it is - you and I - holding hands, walking in silence - this feels good.”
I suck in a sharp breath. “Yeah. It does.” I mumble softly, resting my head slightly on his shoulder, still walking, to hide my face from his extra observing, captivating eyes. I can feel him grinning above me.
“It doesn’t happen with everyone, you know.” He starts, “Feeling comfortable in silence. There are only a few people with whom silence doesn’t feel awkward. For me, you’re one of them.”
I swallow back bundle of emotions and nod, breathing softly. “Yeah.”
We continue walking and after a while, when I complain about my legs aching, only because it was getting too comfortable and scary to walk in silence holding his hands, Axel leads us to a nearby wooden bench facing the old fountain and we sit down, not too close but not to far either. Just a little shift of any of our bodies and we’ll be glued together.
When I look up at him, he’s already looking at me, smiling softly. “What?” I ask, getting a little conscious.
He shrugs, still smiling a smile that is creeping me out. “Nothing.” He says, dragging the word.
“Then why are you smiling like that?”
I shrug. “I don’t know? Creepily?”
He lets out a laugh at my words, the one where you throw your head back and laugh carefree of everything else in the world. “It’s not creepy.” He defends, still laughing. I give him a flat look and he shrugs innocently. “I’m just happy.”
“Why?” I ask, curious.
“No reason.” He says simply, as if it’s normal to be happy without reason. “I’m happy right now, here with you.”
My heart skips a beat and I have to control my urges to grab this amazing boy in front of me and kiss him senseless.
Woah, back up, Leah. Where are these dreadful thoughts coming from?
I shake my head, dismissing these thoughts and focus on what I am here to do. But before I can speak, he speaks.
“It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?” When I look up at him, forehead wrinkled in confusion as to what is beautiful in this normal, regular looking park, he nods to our front. “Everything here. This old fountain that still looks so aesthetic, the weather, the bright, sunny day with these soft, cool breeze flowing around freely, carrying the aroma of the earthly scents. Just this, this normal day is beautiful.”
I nod, taking in his words and look around, observing my surroundings, trying to see the beauty he is seeing. “Don’t look.” He whispers softly and shits closer, his left arm going around my shoulders, the side of his torso touching my right arm. “Feel it.” He says. “Close your eyes.”
I do, I close my eyes and try to feel the beauty of everything. A small smile graces my lips as I feel the sun’s golden rays on my skin, the cool breeze playing with my hair, the faint sound of birds chirping at a distance, the sound of water gushing from the fountain and the scent of the earth, the trees, flowers, the soil fear the fountain that is getting wet due to the little sprinkles of water on it. It’s beautiful.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” He asks, whispering in my ear and I find myself nodding.
“It is.” I whisper back, not wanting to ruin the soft silence that is settled around us, except for the nature talking among itself.
“Just like you.” He says in a small voice and I have a feeling that it wasn’t meant for me to hear.
The guilt from that night rushes back and I swallow back the tears that I fear will come out if I try speaking. I stay like that, eyes closed, taking everything in for another moment and when I’m sure that I can manager the talking without breaking down, I open my eyes.
Axel is looking into his phone and smiling, causing me to frown. “What’s got you smiling like that?”
He looks at me, grinning. “Nothing, just you.” He says and passes me his phone that now has a picture of me, lost in the tranquil moment of peace from a while ago and it makes me look just as beautiful as the nature I was feeling moments ago.
“Wow.” I breath but clear my throat and look at him, quirking a brow. “Do you always take pictures of girls when they aren’t looking?”
“Maybe.” He bites his lips, stopping the ghost of a smile I can already see. “Or maybe it’s just you who makes me do crazy things.”
The weight of Axel’s arm around my shoulder now just seems unbearable and I look away, clearing my throat. “I’m craving coffee.” Before he could speak anything, I continue. “Your coffee.”
He grins. “I see you’ve already fallen in love with my talent.”
And maybe with you too, my heart whispers but my stubborn, coward mind pushes that idea away in the garbage bin.
“So are you gonna unite me with my love or not?” I say, playing along his joke because I can’t think of anything else.
“As you wish, mi’lady.” He says cheekily and grabs my hand again, pulling me up with him and we make our way towards the cafe, again.
The walk is silent, again, and while Axel has a content smile playing on his lips, my heart is tearing apart at the reminder of me wiping that no-reason happiness away soon. I want to pull my hand away, cry, scream, run away from here and never show him my face but I can’t do that. I can’t lead him on, neither can I let him hanging.
We reach the cafe sooner than I expected and there’s no more time to stall the confrontation. But me being me, I know I won’t speak until I absolutely have to. Axel immediately walks back behind the counter, still holding my hand and starts working on the coffee and I awkwardly shuffle my feet and go to stand beside him, behind the counter and lean on it.
When he’s done, he smiles, handing me the cup and comes closer, both his arms trapping me between him and the counter. Ignoring the flutters and the zoo inside my body at the proximity, I look down at the cup to see the art and the beautiful calligraphy of the word “for the beautiful you.” isn’t helping my scattered emotions.
I cautiously sip on the coffee, still very aware of how close Axel is to me and the fact that he’s staring at me makes me even more conscious. “What are you looking at?” I blurt out the question.
He shrugs. “Nothing.”
Afraid that I’ll drop the cup as my body is almost melting, I push the cup on the counter a little far away to not ruin the coffee and spill it everywhere. “I wanted to tell you something.”
“Uh-hmm.” He mumbles. “What is it?”
I take a lungful of air to say whatever I came here to say but he’s too close for me to be attentive. “Why are you so close?” I mutter instead.
He smirks. “Why, am I distracting you? Are you nervous? Do I always affect you this much?”
That sly bastard. I roll my eyes to see unaffected but we both know it’s crystal clear how he’s distracting me, affect me, and making me nervous altogether. “Yes.” I say in what I hope is a strong voice.
He raises a brow and raises his hands defensively, only backing away a little but an amused smirk is still plastered on his lips. “Alright, alright.”
I breath out, my nose flaring in process and look down at the ground. “We’re too different, Axel.” I say in a small voice, hoping he gets the hint of where I am going with all this.
He frowns but his eyes show that he has some idea of what I’m saying as he takes another discreet step back. “What do you mean?”
I gulp visibly and avert my gaze. “This - whatever we’re doing - it should stop, Axel. We’re at two different places right now to continue this together.”
"Whatever we are doing?" He repeats incredulously. “Please, be clear, Leah.” He spits.
There’s no space for me to step back or I would have, so I just settle for flinching. “I don’t know.” I say, biting my lips. “We’re not compatible, Axel. We’re at different places, too different.” I repeat.
I’m still stuck up on my douche bag of an ex boyfriend who still seems to manipulate my decisions, I want to say. And I lied to you, played you and your feelings. Led you on. I’m drowning in a pit of guilt for every one of my mistakes and you seem like a faraway dream.
There are so many things I want to say but I don’t. He will agree with me once I tell him everything. I’m on the verge of breaking down. If he’s acting like now, what will happen when I tell him everything?
When he doesn’t say anything for a while, I look up to gauge his expressions and he immediately goes impassive seeing my eyes on him. “So what? We aren’t compatible because I’m just a small town coffee artist, attending community college and you’re a rich ass princess with plans and dreams of Harvard?” He scoffs. “I expected more from you, Leah.”
My eyes were already red from the tears I had been shedding but his comment burns those tears into anger. “You’re an ass, Axel. You think so low of me.” I grit, sobbing.
He scoffs again. “Then tell me I’m wrong.”
More tears flow down but I manage to voice out my patheticness. “Yes, you’re wrong. We’re not good for each other not because of our social classes but because I’m still pathetically in love with the boy who broke my heart.”
Something flashes in his eyes and before I could register the emotion, I am pinned against the counter as his warm lips envelop mine. And I just couldn’t think of Sean anymore.