Chapter 21: A Lesser Man
After Hunter had brought me back home — my real home — I asked him to leave and I went about getting ready for bed. After doing so, I laid still on my side, clinging onto the teddy bear he had gifted me in hope for some sort of comfort.
It was useless.
I couldn’t breathe. It was as if the knot at the edge of my throat and the heavy burden in my chest constricted my lungs and airway. Tears had built at the brim of my eyes, gathering for no longer than a second before they effortlessly fell and seeped into the pillow I rested my head on.
I felt drained in every way, stupid and naive for worrying about someone who had been perfectly fine the entire time I mourned them.
I wanted to hate her; I believed if I did, it wouldn’t hurt so much to know that she merely had me dancing by myself this entire time. Still, ultimately, I had to come to terms with the fact that if I too felt like a burden, I wouldn’t want to be here either.
It all made sense to me, after Hunter had explained things. Perhaps her perspective was utterly different from my own as I couldn’t understand why she’d choose a life as the one she was living now, with King Erebus.
I want so much more for her…but I am no one to say she can’t have it this way.
I didn’t know if she knew this, but she was never a burden to anyone—especially to me. In fact, everyone loved her. She was an amazing fighter, strong, despite standing so small beside the others.
Everyday, while undergoing intense training that I never completed because I couldn’t handle it, she was praised. She was praised for being so much better than everyone in this house who wasn’t a Seeker: my mother, my uncle, myself, and perhaps even her own mother.
I exhaled a shaky breath, cleaning the tears and stains from my cheeks with the head of the stuffed animal. Soon after, I pulled it closer into me and rested my chin on top of it.
I would stop; I would stop crying because I was tired of doing so. And, I couldn’t let myself be so weak any more. I had spent so much time being exactly that — I had to stop.
It gets better.
Suddenly, a knock echoed through my bedroom door, forcing me to snap out of my thoughts. I knew all too well that it was not my brother for he and Rylee said they’d be gone until just before my father and the others returned, forcing me to promise not to tell that he’d left me alone with Hunter.
The anger I felt for him had slowly lifting—I couldn’t hold a grudge. However, more of it had to do with the fact that I was distracted by the hurt of another, and for that very distraction, I wasn’t given a chance to audibly respond, the door slowly swinging open seconds after.
When I had just barely gotten a glimpse of his half-naked form, I wanted to speak, but when I tried, it was as if my voice was utterly gone. So, instead, I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep in hope that he’d go away.
Yes, although I had quickly understood why he’d lied and kept the truth from me, I wasn’t in the ‘mood’ to see or speak to him—or to anyone, for the matter. I wanted the last moments of honesty to myself before I had to wear a mask and falsely tell everyone that the ball was amazing and that I was ready to let go of Silver in some sort of sudden feeling of reassurance that she’d be okay on her own.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen as next, the sound of Hunter closing the door met my ears and the sound of his light footsteps nearing echoed within the walls of my bedroom. When the footsteps stopped, I felt the bed sink before me. I knew he’d sat exactly where it’d be hard for me to miss him if I opened my eyes just as it would be hard for him to miss me if I so much as winced.
“I know you’re awake,” he breathed out. The feeling of the back of his hand caressing my temple catches me off guard, I instinctively inhaling sharply.
With this, I slowly opened my eyes, catching his own. His beautiful chocolate-brown orbs bored into my blue ones, embracing me in his sudden look and claim of sympathy.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
There was nothing I could say to so much as attempt to hide the fact that I had been far from okay. All I could do to help was nod my head as tears began to well my eyes again until finally, they fell, and in doing so, a soft sob broke past my lips and I cried, “No.”
My lips trembled, the bridge of my nose stinging as I buried my face into the bear. The whimpers and soft sobs that emitted from the back of my throat filled the air, almost entirely blocking out the sound of Hunter’s voice as he genuinely whispered, “I’m sorry.”
I could feel his warmth, his hand running through my hair and stopping at my jaw as he cupped the side of my face. I couldn’t look at him; I didn’t want to. And, for a while, he said nothing but listened as I tried to calm my own cries.
When a long sigh passed his lips, my muscles tensed. I tried to remain still, but when I felt his touch slide to my shoulder, I subconsciously flinched in fear he’d say something harsh, as he usually did.
However, I was wrong, again.
“C-Can I hold you?” he hesitated.
My sobs muted, my whimpers diminished, my body stiffened, I tilted my head back and looked my reddened eyes into his tender ones with wonder. I couldn’t see past the sincere look of care, and I believed that as a friend, he was offering me a hand not because he felt obligated, but because...he cared.
I wouldn’t deny him. Not now and maybe not ever.
With a slight now, he lifted to his barefeet in a pair of gray sweatpants, messy brown hair and a shirtless back. He took the blanket into his hand, lifting it from my body as he slipped into my bed, laying himself beside me.
The bear I once hugged in my chest was taken into his hand and placed on the nightstand — where I normally kept it — before he wrapped my arm around me and pulled me into him. The pillow I rested my head on was replaced by his chest, and the heartbreaking sound of my own cries were replaced by his husky voice whispering into my ear, “It’s okay.”
“She doesn’t love me…” I cried out.
The strong arms that were wrapped around me hugged me tighter, pulling me closer to the man whose warmth was everything right now. He planted a gentle kiss on the top of my head and while I felt that I was falling apart, he held me together.
“My heart hurts…” my voice cracked.
No, I’m not…
It wasn’t long before she fell asleep in my arms and I was left to do nothing but stare at her tear stained cheeks and the stains of the same cries on my chest. Despite her having fallen into a state of rest where she wouldn’t feel the pain her heart carried, I held onto her as tight as I could for I feared that if I so much as loosened myself on her, she’d completely fall apart.
It was no lie, not even to her, I sympathized her. However, for the reasons I did were unknown to her: I simply hated watching her cry. I hated that she had to cry herself to sleep because I couldn’t stop her from doing so.
I didn’t know how to make her feel better, but I wanted so bad for her to be okay. So much so that I was willing to invade her mind and tamper with it to make tonight seem as if it never happened. But, I knew better than to go messing with her head. In all that’s screwed her over, the last thing she needed was me pushing her into a state of insanity.
Regardless of what follows after tonight, I will not deny to myself any longer that I feel for her; I truly do. Maybe...maybe, I’ve fallen for her.
But, that truth stays with me. Really, there is no point in telling her. She’s...She’s gay. I don’t think there’s a way of making her change the way she sees or thinks of me, and ultimately, the greatest obstacle of this would be convincing her father that I’d be good for her.
If I could be any good for her.
A sigh passed my lips, my eyes shifting to her closed ones. Her head was tilted back, completely exposing her soft and warm features to me. And, while I stared at her, I thought she was beautiful; I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and met. I realized that I had never wanted anything more in my life.
I cared. I cared about her far more than I’d like to admit. I mean, I liked her before, but these past couple of weeks, changed things. I felt for her. Deeply.
I’ve never wanted anything so much…
My eyes fell from her nose, tracing her pink lips. My gaze lingered too long, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care if she awoke and caught me staring at her. I didn’t care if she awoke and caught me doing what made me feel so much less of a man for taking without her consent.
With that, I carelessly untwined my fingers from her hair, moving my hand to cup the side of her face. My thumb brushed her wet cheek, falling away when I finally shifted us to a side and lowered myself to press my lips against her own.