Chapter 9- Haven
I’ve never met anyone that’s as beautiful as you are, that’s why I kept looking.
Why would he just say that? We’ve known each other a whole DAY. I’m not even mad at the comment, what really is triggering me is the way it made me feel. Man, I feel so pathetic. I leave a terrible marriage and the first guy I see I feel an attraction? Let’s not even start about the fact that I am literally on the run and I offered Noah a ride home.
The rationale? I just felt like I owed him. He helped me. A complete stranger. He could’ve turned the other way, but he stayed. He didn’t tell anyone about the incident, and he didn’t pressure me for answers to questions I know he has. My debt is paid. That feeling of owing him is gone and I can just keep my distance and continue trying to rebuild.
I start to drive down the block I left Noah on and turn the corner, driving 2 blocks over. I find my driveway, pulling in, turning the car engine off and heading into my new home.
Once inside my new home, I switch on the lights, which reveals an empty everything. I sigh, not knowing what to do about my living situation. I was able to take out $500. I’m hoping that can cover the basics like a mattress and bed frame. I can ask Autumn where in town I can go tomorrow. I walk up the spiral stairs and see my open suitcase and duffel. I toss my jacket on it and head into the bathroom. I quickly undress and hop into the shower.
I wash my hair and body, trying not to look too much at my arms and legs that have marks from my last interaction with Charlie. I just want everything to go away. Every mark and bruise is just a reminder of what I left behind, a reminder of the pain I endured over the years. I know my scars run deeper than what is physically on my face. I just don’t want to deal with the past anymore. I’m hoping there won’t be any more nightmares or panic attacks. It’s a false hope, I just can’t deal with anymore negativity.
I finish up, getting ready for the night. I dress myself in grey sweats, a white t-shirt, and throw my zip up sweater on. I lay down next to the window that was overlooking the back yard. I begin to reflect on my day. I was able to get a job, still can’t believe how coincidentally I was able to find a job. I met Autumn who seems pretty nice, genuine and definitely likes to dress out her comfort zone. She was very different from anyone I’ve seen so far, but the people of Waterston didn’t seem to mind. They took to her quirky, bubbly charisma very well. She had people smiling, laughing and just made the vibe of the bar feel easy and calm.
Then there’s Drew. The boss who was very intimidating just by looking at him. He had a full sleeve of tattoos on both of his arms and this big muscular body. He looked like one of those big biker dudes who go around fighting and just running the streets. But Drew was the complete opposite of that. He was serious about his business but was very helpful and involved in his business. He seemed to have good relations with most of his customers, I also noticed his left hand that wore a black wedding band. ‘Ava’s Place’ is an odd name for a bar and restaurant, but I’m pretty sure it was named after a person, maybe the person Drew married.
Of course, there’s Noah. I tried not to look at him too much while working, because I really wanted to make a good impression on Drew and Autumn. But when I did get to look at him, I couldn’t help but admire how handsome he was. When he interacted with the customers, he was so kind. His smile was contagious to the customers. I even saw how he played around with Autumn and joked with Drew.
I used to think Charlie was good looking and charming but there’s really no comparison to Noah. Noah has these beautiful grey eyes. I knew he was a good person, and I had no clue what it was about him that sparked an interest in me. A part of me wanted to know more of him but a bigger part knows I can’t.
I turn over on my back, feeling the hard surface of the floor against me. I need a mattress asap! Although I hate this situation, I feel safe. I start to think of mom. How she’s doing? Is she freaking out? Is she comforting Charlie? Charlie. He must be so furious right now. Fear starts to overwhelm me. Would he do anything he can to try and find me? Is he going to find me? I push the thoughts to the side. I need to stay positive. I need to leave my life where I left it, in New York.
I close my eyes feeling drowsy and finally I fall sound asleep without dreaming.
I wake up to a very early rising sun. I feel calm, no nightmares came in my mind.
I glance at my watch and see its 6am on the dot. I decide to go for a run again. I get up to do my morning routine, ignoring ugly black eye and cut lip. After my morning routine, I get dressed. I put on biker shorts and an oversized t-shirt, with my grey running shoes again. I head out the door while throwing my hair in a ponytail. I run down my driveway and start towards the end of my block, the same direction I took yesterday. Once I turn, I see him two blocks away.
He’s wearing black sweats and a sleeveless white shirt, showing off his muscle toned arms. He was just standing there as if waiting. Before I could turn around and run, he catches my stare and smiles, jogging over to me. When he finally reaches me, I can see he’s been out here for a bit because there’s some sweat around his collar. We make eye contact, and he smiles at me. He jogs towards me. As much as I want to just turn around and run away, my body betrays my mind and stays put, waiting for him to reach me.
“I knew it.” He says as he approaches me, smiling. I look at him with curiosity. “I knew you’d be out here.”
“Why did it matter?” I quickly say, feeling unsettled.
“Well, I figured we can run together. If that’d be okay with you.” He places his hands on his hips. Even though I can feel the butterflies in my stomach, I remain stoic. I just shrug my shoulders and act completely unbothered. I start to jog again without saying a word. Noah meets me at my side. We look at one another and he just smiles like he knows I’m just playing an act, which I am. We run for about half an hour, not a single word exchanged. I start to breathe heavy. Noah stops and is looking at me with concern.
“You okay?” He says, coming closer to me. I nod, holding up my hand and then placing it on my hip, trying to catch my breath. I feel myself falling into one of my anxiety attacks.
I can’t. The memories try to come up. Images peak through. I see fists. I feel pain around my neck, back, and arms. I try getting air in my lungs, but I feel my chest tightening more and more.
I feel hands gripping my arms and then I feel the hands move to my back. I try to push it away. I think I hear a shriek. My mind focuses on the hands again, gliding up and down my arms. I can feel the warmth coming off from them. There’s a scent of a man’s cologne. Different from Charlies. Charlie had a more “manly” bitter scented cologne. This smelled soft and inviting. I focus on the scent and I start to catch my breath again. I feel safe. My surroundings come into focus.
Noah’s hugging me. My immediate thought was get this guy off of me. I don’t even know him. But my body doesn’t listen to my mind. I stay still and let him hug me. I let his warmth surround me and the scent of his cologne fills my nostrils. Once my breathing settles, I finally regain control of my body. I step back ending our embrace. Now he’s just searching my eyes. I feel my face and feel the dampness from my tears. I wipe it. I can’t look at him, I feel the embarrassment wash over me.
“I’m sorry.” I manage to muster up, after a few moments of silence. Before I can turn around and run back towards the direction of my house, he quickly grabs my hand. I look up at him, startled and he shakes his head.
“Please, don’t be embarrassed by anything,” he says looking desperate to keep me from leaving. I look everywhere but at those piercing grey eyes. “Let’s just walk, okay? I promise you don’t have to feel pressure to say anything.” He waits for my response. I don’t feel forced, I don’t feel manipulated. I don’t even want to be alone. So, I give him a small nod and we start walking. He has yet to let go of my hand and I don’t mind. After about 10 minutes of walking through different blocks and then entering a wood path, I take a deep breath.
“Thank you,” I say almost like a whisper. He doesn’t respond, he just continues to walk, not even looking at me. I take this as a sign of giving me my space, letting me open up on my own time. So, feeling more comfortable, I continue to talk. “I’m not ready to talk about my anxiety attacks or even the cause of them. It’s just too soon for me. I’ve only known you for two days, so I just need you to know that I come with a lot of demons and baggage.” I feel the tears begin to well up in my eyes. I stop walking and this is a cue for Noah to stop walking and look down at me. His 6′2 height towers over me.
“There’s no pressure.” I look at him. I have no idea why he’s been so nice. My question grows so strong inside that I verbally say it out loud. I guess it takes him by surprise because he looks shocked and drops my hand. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I am nobody to you. I literally just got here two days ago. Yet, you’re so nice. You don’t have not even one question?” He smiles.
“Haven, of course I have questions. But exactly what you said, I’ve known you two days, it’s not fair to just demand to know intimate things about your life.” I look down, once again feeling a rush of embarrassment. He grabs my hand once again, stepping closer to me, leaving a foot of space between us. “That doesn’t mean I don’t want to know because I do. But that’s completely on your timing.”
I just stare at our hands. I’m suddenly afraid. Afraid of him. Myself. These feelings that are coming up. I’ve never had a man completely give me control. I’m so used to being under one’s control. So, used to being expected to follow and not take the lead on anything. To hear Noah tell me, even though he wanted something, he was willing to wait for me to be comfortable enough to give it to him. That option has never crossed my mind before. Being 25 and only knowing one man, Charlie. It’s a bit of a culture shock for me. I only thought men in the movies were like this. But here’s Noah being a complete gentleman. Just allowing things to happen naturally over time.
I look up at him, just looking down at me. I look straight into his beautiful grey eyes, but I don’t smile. Although I can feel my walls being chipped at, he was right, I’m not ready for them to be torn down completely. I let go of his hand and peel my eyes away from his, allowing the bottle, holding all of my emotions to stay tightly closed. "Thanks, for saying that. I’m just not used to random acts of kindness I guess.” I turn around and start down the wood path we ran down previously, hearing the shuffling of leaves behind me from Noah following me.
We continued to walk the rest. of the way. Noah talked to me about town and how he grew up here. He told me stories of his old football team and how they’d work out every morning in these very woods by going jogging, lifting big tree trunks and doing competitions of who can run fastest. I didn’t say much, but I did laugh or smile at some points. I found comfort in his happy childhood. To hear of his small-town life growing up. It was nice to hear his stories and have no pressure to share any of my own. He talked so much, I didn’t even realize we reached the same point we met on our run this morning, just around the corner of my block.
We stop in the middle of the sidewalk. You’d think there’d be many people, but the surrounding area was quiet. Private. Which I loved. Noah places his hands on his hips. “Well, I’d walk you home but I’m not sure if you’re comfortable with that.”
“Oh, that’s okay. I’m just up the road.” I point behind me and he just nods.
“Well, I’ll see you later at Ava’s?” He asks. I nod. The awkwardness begins to settle between us, like we both wanted to say something to the other. When I turn and start to walk to my block, I hear my name being called. I turn around. He lifts both arms out, smiling. “We all have demons and baggage Haven; the weight lessens when you have a little faith.” I smile. I jog up to him and surprisingly wrap my arms around his torso and hug him tightly. He’s stunned for a moment, but quickly realizes what’s going on and wraps his arms around me.
“Thank you, again,” I muffle into his shirt. Once I release, I turn around, not giving him the opportunity to say anything or even look at me. I make my way around the corner and turn my walk into a jog and then a full-on sprint until I find my long driveway and make my way to my house.
I close the front door once I’m inside and slide down to the floor. As happy as my morning has been with Noah, tears stream down my face. That fear I felt before hits me all at once. It’s only been two days and I feel this pull to know Noah. I don’t want him to know my brokenness. To know that I stayed in an abusive marriage for my mom. I don’t want him to know that I took beating after beating because I was too scared to run away. Or to know that I allowed Charlie to cheat and still have sex with me while I said nothing about it. I don’t want Noah to know this weak girl that I have become over the years. I don’t even want to know that girl. In fact, I hate that Haven.
Will Noah hate her to?