In Your Arms

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Chapter 15- Haven

It’s the quickest ride to Noah’s sisters house and I’m incredibly nervous.

In the moments Noah and I have spoken, he always mentioned his sister Ava. I mean Ava is a pretty important person in this town apparently. She has a whole bar named after her. So being intimidated is an understatement.

We end up turning up a block, where I remember dropping Noah off the first day we met. Instead of stopping at the white mailbox, he turns up the driveway. It’s not as long as mine is, but the house is huge compared to mine. It looks like a modern house. It was like a big grey box looking house with a big balcony decorated with twinkle lights. The driveway leads to two black double garage doors. It’s so amazing.

Noah slows down the bike and clicks a button his keys. The garage door opens, and we slowly ride inside. It was a simple garage. One half of it had a large black truck. Noah turns off the bike, taking off his helmet. I do the same. We both get off. He grabs my hand leads me to a door that’s straight ahead. The door just led to a small hallway with a door on each side and a set of stairs. Noah opens the door that’s straight ahead revealing a whole mini apartment. We walk in.

Noah flips on the lights and it’s a nice space. A kitchen, living room, carpet floors, to the left a bathroom and his bedroom. It was cute.

“Just give me two seconds, wanna change out of my work shirt,” he says walking to the room that is his bedroom. I stand by the doorway. One minute later, he comes back out from the room in a light brown long sleeve crewneck top. He was so damn cute. “Okay, you ready to head upstairs?” I nod and turn around as he opens the door.

Here goes nothing.

We walk side by side up the steps. My heart is literally pounding. As we turn to walk up a second flight, I hear loud old school music playing. When we reach the top of the steps, we’re greeted by a beautiful open layout. It was all well-organized. Everything was light and airy. Even though everything was all in one room, it flowed so well. The grey and the white walls with tan and brown accents. It was absolutely beautiful. I see French doors that lead to the balcony that I saw earlier when approaching the house. I look at the source of the music, coming from the kitchen side of the house.

I see the back of a blonde-haired girl, putting something in a bowl and dancing to the music. I look up at Noah, who’s shaking his head at the sight of his sister. I giggle. We walk closer to the long white marble island. Noah starts to call her name. The closer we get to her the louder music is, so Noah goes around the island. He steps close enough to his sister just as she puts down the bowl that was in her hand, he shouts ‘Boo’. Ava jumps and screams. Immediately realizing who scared her she slaps Noah’s arm.

“Jackass, I have got to get a bell at the entrance!” she says, putting the wooden spoon in her hand down and telling Alexa to turn down the music that had been playing. Even though she looked annoyed, it wasn’t really her being mad, it was a playful look. She turns around and her blue eyes meet mine. She was literal perfection. I mean drop-dead gorgeous. She had the most perfect skin, plump pink lips and twin sister eyebrows. She didn’t look like she had much makeup on. I did not expect her to look like this. Her and Noah must be the most attractive siblings I’d ever seen before. Her honey blonde hair fell perfectly around her shoulders in loose bouncy curls. She’s wearing a simple satin tank top and black jeans.

She smiles as her eyes reach me, and realization of my presence came over her. “Oh, I’m so sorry, I had no idea you were here. I’m Ava, sorry you had to hear that from me,” she comes around to where I am and gives me a small hug. I feel the warmth radiating off of her.

“No worries, I’m Haven. I love your house,” I say as we let go of one another. Next thing you know I hear Drew’s familiar voice, coming out of a hallway that was across the room.

“Babe, I can’t find my house slippers,” Drew realizes Noah and I are here, and he laughs embarrassed. “Oh, my bad didn’t realize you guys got here just yet. What’s up?” Drew waves and smiles at us, then looks back to Ava who’s smirking at him with her arms crossed.

“Yes, they’re in the master bathroom,” she says, shaking her head and going back behind the island. Drew walks back into the hallway. I return my focus back to Ava. “Well Haven, welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you over. Perfect timing actually because dinner is ready. I hope everyone likes Italian because it’s pesto night.” Noah rubs his hands together excitedly.

“My favorite,” he grabs the bowl from Ava’s hands and helps her to set up the rustic white table in the corner by the kitchen. I try to insist on helping but Ava denies me and instructs me to sit and relax.

Eventually, we are all seated at the table. The conversation is light. Ava asks me simple questions. How did I meet Noah, how old am I, how do I like town? With the Noah question I left out the panic attack part and just said we met on one of my morning runs. Noah and Ava joke around too. I get to know more about Noah’s upbringing and his relationship with Ava. Also, Ava and Drew share a little about their past. I enjoyed listening because I’ve never had a sibling and didn’t understand what the dynamic is supposed to look like. It must’ve been fun to grow up with a best friend. Hearing how close Ava and Noah are and how Ava found the love of her life the first time around is heartwarming. Even though crappy things have happened to me in my past and I hate that I had to endure as much as I have, it warms my heart that there are people that are genuinely happy. I’m glad that Ava got that happiness and never experienced half of the things that I have. Meeting her was nerve wrecking, but I’m glad I did because she is such a bubbly, sweet person. Finding out her job occupation was literally the cherry on top for me. She is an angel.

Once we finish with dinner, I ignore Ava’s plea to keep me out of the kitchen. The guys decide to stay out of the kitchen and go to the living room to watch the football game from earlier.

It’s just Ava and I washing and drying the dishes, out of earshot from the guys.

“So, did Noah go see you this morning?” I look at her questioningly. Then remember, Noah coming over and apologizing. I nod, drying a plate that Ava just passed over to me. “Good, he was really stressed this morning. He felt awful.”

I look over at her, “Oh, he told you?”

“Oh yeah, I hope that’s alright,” she says fear that she may have overstepped striking her face. I nod my head and we both continue to wash the dishes. “I’m not sure what he’s told you, but he’s had a really hard year. I’m actually shocked how happy he’s been since being back. I’d like to think it’s because he’s back home with us, but I know you have a lot to do with it.”

She hands me the next dish. I look back at Noah, who just so happens to glance over at Ava and me. We make eye contact, and he winks, giving me a small smile. Then quickly bringing his attention back to Drew, who’s tapping his shoulder and yelling at the screen. Now they’re both yelling in excitement. I hear Ava laugh, refocusing me on what I’m doing.

“Why has his year been hard?” I ask waiting for another plate to be handed to me. She hesitates to give me any type of response, but before she can the boys are back to yelling and clapping their hands.

“Woo, baby! Panthers did it again!” Drew yells and half jogs behind Ava, grabbing her waist from behind and kissing her cheek. She giggles, rolling her eyes when he lets go. I love their chemistry. They are such a compatible couple.

The whole time through dinner they were just talking about the opening of the bar, Ava’s job as a nurse. Them being newlyweds and being together since Ava’s senior year of college. Drew is the same age as Noah and I, 25 making Ava a year younger. We were also laughing about Noah not liking Drew at all, especially when he found out Ava and him were together and hid it from him until she graduated, then they quickly got engaged and married shortly after. It’s crazy how rushed it was, but Ava said that she wouldn’t change a thing, because she knew that Drew was her person.

They’ve all come a long way from then. You can tell because now Noah is staying in the house of the guy who he couldn’t stand, that ended up marrying his sister.

Ava and I finish the dishes. I make my way around the island as Noah is standing by the steps. It’s almost 12 and I know Noah wants to be alone for a bit. Ava is very good at reading cues because she claps her hands together, looking at me.

“Haven, it was so amazing to meet you, we need to hang out just us two. Without the boys,” she says, grabbing both of my hands. She squeezes and lets go as I nod saying ‘ok’ and giggle. Drew slings his arm over her and pretends to take offense.

“Hey, we’re a blast to be around,” She looks at me rolling her eyes.

“Yes, of course you are Bear,” she says smiling at him.

“Well, thank you guys so much for inviting me over. I absolutely love your home. I will definitely take you up on that offer to hang out too.” She smiles brightly at me and looks at her brother.

We say our final goodbyes as Noah, and I descend down the steps and enter his apartment. I walk straight to the tan couch, kicking off my flats and crossing my legs one on top of the other. Noah follows suit, kicking off his shoes and plopping right next to me, his arm slinging behind me.

“I don’t think you and my sister being friends is going to work for me,” he says, smiling.

“And why not?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest.

“Because, now I can’t keep you all to myself,” he kissed my cheek and I feel my face getting hot. I look down smiling. “So, what were you guys talking about while you were washing dishes?” He asks, suspiciously. I look back up at him, brushing some hair that was in my face behind my ear.

“Nothing really, just that Ava thinks you’re happy because of me,” I say chuckling in disbelief at the comment. There’s no way that could be true.

“She’s right,” he says. Maybe it could be.

"Yeah right,” I say, shaking my head.

“What? It’s true. Why don’t you believe me?” He insists as I continue to shake my head, and stare down at my fingers. He grabs my hand, but I don’t look at him feeling nervous all of a sudden. “You’ve helped me so much in the past couple of weeks that I’ve known you. You have no idea.” I look up at him, curiously, but he doesn’t say anything. Before I talk myself out of it, I ask him the question I’ve been dying to have an answer to.

“What happened that you left for New York?” I ask the question calmly, not wanting him to freak out or be upset if I’ve overstepped. He looks down at our hands and then closes his eyes taking a deep breath in. “I’m sorry if I overstepped, I shouldn’t have asked. Forget -”

“I was engaged,” he says cutting me off as his eyes remain closed. I don’t know what to feel or think, but I let him continue. “That couple from yesterday. The girl- her names Olivia. She was my fiancé.” Images of the girl from yesterday flood my mind, her shock, his shock, the guy who she was with, being awkward. It all started to make sense.

“What happened?” I ask, quietly. He’s still clutching my hand, but his grey eyes open and I see the pain through them.

“The guy who she was with yesterday- that’s Kyle. He was my best friend from middle school. Every day he’d come over my house to play catch, play video games, sleep over. I mean we were really best friends, practically brothers. All through middle school to college. You think Ava and I are close now? You should’ve seen back then. Whoever hung out with me they hung out with Ava. It was always Ave, me and Kyle just hanging out. Then one year, Olivia came in the picture because Ava and I didn’t go to the same school yet as she’s younger than me. So Olivia integrated into our friend group because as I said before we hung out with one another and so did our friends.”

The whole time Noah is speaking he doesn’t look at me, he stares down at our hands that are intertwined. I look at him and see him feeling reliving every emotion that he felt back then in this moment. The happiness of him and Ava being close and them having a tight friend group back then. I could tell it meant a lot to him at the time.

“I was with Olivia. Since my junior year of high-school and all of my college career. 7 years. I was always so nervous to ask her out and be denied. It was no secret that I had a crush on her though. We saw one another grow up, you know? Stayed together through our college years.” He finally looks at me. “Once I graduated from business school, Ava and Olivia were still in college and so was Kyle because he started late. The college we all attended was USC, which is two hours away. So, I had asked Olivia to marry me after I had graduated, when I was 22 and she was 21. She said yes. So, we were pretty much planning the wedding by distance because I got into business with Drew. I realized the distance grew to be a lot because Olivia and I literally were always together up until I graduated. I tried to visit as often as I could, but I was trying to help the business for our future.” Noah gets up at this point and starts pacing around the coffee table in his living room.

“I wanted to surprise her one weekend. So, I drove up and go to her dorm, at the time she had no roommates because she moved to a newer building, so I didn’t knock to go in the room. I open her door and there she was with Kyle, having sex with him on the living room couch,” he lifts his hands up to his head and I see the pain all over his face. “When I tell you, I lost it Haven. I mean I lost it. She saw me first. I couldn’t even look at her. Then there was Kyle. I went into a blind rage. I just remember leaving and calling Ava from my car, she had no idea why I was even mad, she was just trying to calm me down. I went straight to the bar and just broke everything that was in sight. Literally the next day, I booked a flight to New York. I left a voicemail on my mom’s answering machine and became a whole different person over there. I didn’t even call once. I couldn’t.”

I digest every word Noah just said to me. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know whether to be happy that he finally opened up to me, sad that he went through this or angry that this stupid Olivia chick broke Noah’s heart the way she did. I mean he is perfect. He’s been absolutely amazing to me since me coming here, an absolute stranger to him. I can’t imagine growing up with him. I guess the feeling I settle for is grateful. If Noah had not gone through this, he would’ve been married, and I would’ve never been able to experience any of this with him and get a taste what real love is like. Not that I love him, I just can see that with him.

“Yesterday, was the first time seeing her since then. That’s why I went into an angry fit,” he crouches down before me coming at eye level with me. He looks down at my lap, sad. “All while trying to help you, I needed the same amount of help.” He scoffs at his realization.

“So, what happens next?” I ask searching his eyes. He shrugs his shoulders.

“I have to speak to her but I’m too scared to honestly, not of her, but of myself. I’m still angry about the situation, and I’m afraid of blowing up.” I nod, understanding his strong emotions.

I wonder if he’d ever physically harm her. I push the frightening thought away; Noah is not that person. I have to remind myself that not every man is a Charlie. I lift my hands up to his face and look at him in his beautiful captivating grey eyes again, wanting him to feel that he isn’t alone.

“It’s going to be okay Noah,” I say, as we’re looking at one another. “It may not be much, but I will be here for you, however you need me to be.”

All of a sudden, the space between us closes as Noah inches closer bringing his lips to mine in one swift motion. Our lips meet.

I was not anticipating this, so at first, I’m shocked, feeling another man’s lips that wasn’t Charlies. The sudden movement ignites something in me that activates my anxiety. Noah isn’t Noah anymore. His scent isn’t his. It’s replaced with Charlies. The comfort I felt moments before is gone and replaced with fear. I feel my throat tighten. The immediate tears fall down my face. The lips are now gone from mine. I’ve lost all sense of where I am. I feel hands around my throat, as if I’m being choked to death. I can’t calm myself. My vision is blurry from the constant tears flowing out of my eyes.

I’m going to die; I’m going to die. I can’t breathe.

All of a sudden, I feel a wind on my neck, I focus on that. The hands on my throat have moved to the back of my neck and my lower back. My hearing is muffled, but I hear a distant voice say, ‘You’re safe, you’re safe’. I focus on that. I feel another person’s body hugging mine, bringing me comfort. I focus on that. My reality is no longer distorted, and I realize I’ve succumbed to another panic attack. All along it was Noah, comforting me, the hands choking me before was nothing but a figment of my fucked-up mind’s imagination. I move back into the sofa, pushing Noah off and go into the fetal position. Noah, who was crouched down on the floor the whole time, remains where he is, and leans down wiping my tears and brushing my hair out of my face. He apologizes over and over again, as I silently cry. Eventually my crying ceases after what feels like forever.

What a shit-show.

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