“Ayla?” I heard from behind me as I embraced my brother, Lance, for the first time in over a year.
“God damn it,” Lance muttered under his breath. It had been almost 3 years since I last heard that voice in person, and neither of us were sure how this would go down. Lance’s arms dropped to his sides in silent anticipation of the storm he felt brewing.
“Dallen,” I whispered as I turned to face him, automatically smiling at the sight of the man I still held so much love for. Dallen Hall was as handsome as I remembered, though the events of the seven years since we met had aged him. He smiled back as he closed the gap between us, crow’s feet forming around his stormy blue eyes. He pulled me in for a strong hug. I laced my arms around his midsection and let my head rest on his shoulder. Tears immediately filled my eyes at the normalcy of this- it felt as though no time had passed and nothing had changed between us. I could tell by his ragged breaths that he, too, was trying not to cry. I lifted my head to study him, noticing that he still wore the same short blonde mohawk he always had. I instinctively brushed a tear away from the small teardrop tattoo below his eye as I had so many times before. It had faded some, and was joined by two more small tattoos around it. My thumb lingered on the small scar on his cheekbone- a memory forever etched on his face that we both wanted to forget.
The door slammed behind us, signaling that my brother was displeased with the reunion and had left the dressing room. Their band was scheduled to perform in 5 minutes, and I knew Lance was saving his angry lecture for after the show. Dallen sighed. His mouth formed a straight line and his brow furrowed- a look I had seen many times just before he and Lance would argue.
“How are you?” I asked, pulling his attention back to me. He knew this was more than a common courtesy; he looked good, but Lance refused to talk to me about Dallen’s progress through rehab, and Dal had a way of masking his struggles.
“Sober,” he answered, the corner of his mouth turning slightly upward, something he always did when he was trying to downplay his success. “Two years.”
“I am so proud of you,” I whispered, trying not to cry tears of joy. When we were together, he had never been able to stay away from the bottle for more than a month or two at a time. I had always dreamed he would get better and return to the man I had fallen so hard for all those years ago. I thought I was prepared to see him again, that I had built my walls up strong enough to remain guarded. He had hurt me so badly, yet I still felt so safe in his arms after everything we had been through.
“I missed you so much,” he choked, still holding the tears back. “Can we meet up after the show?” His voice sounded so hopeful, but he was clearly expecting me to say no. I knew what I was risking meeting him alone, but my heart ached for him in a way that it hadn’t for a long time.
“I’ll be there,” I answered against my better judgement. Dallen smiled, his eyes shining the way they used to when things were good between us. He leaned down, pressing his lips to mine.
I hung back as Dallen left the dressing room, heading for the stage. As soon as the door clicked into place, Lance stormed back in.
"What the fuck are you doing, Ayla?" He seethed. "This band is all I've got. Don't you think you've destroyed this enough?"
"You know how much I loved him, Lance. Don't you think I deserve to know if he's gotten better? Maybe I wouldn't be here if you had just told me how he was doing."
"And what about Mark, Ayla? Did you forget you have a husband?" Lance shook his head in disgust and headed to the stage, leaving me with the implications of what I was about to do.