THERON II

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THREE.

THERON

My eyes followed Lina’s retreating form and I’m feeling as if this is becoming a reoccurring thing... like maybe she just likes to make dramatic exits or some weird shit. “Sh-should I go check on her?” I ask Marius, only because he is currently the closest body to me. If I had a choice he would be the last person I speak to (only second to Rhys Not Like the Candy Bar) because I don’t need the aggravation of his shitty theatrical eyebrows this early in the morning.

“No. She has a lot going on right now, it’s best to leave her be,” Marius mindlessly replies as his sights are also frozen on the now empty entry way.

“Dude,” DeLoren snaps his fingers at me, his gaze scanning the length of my sitting form while Theon babbles incoherently on my lap at a still stunned Bug. “We gotta get you some new clothes. That shit don’t fit no more.”

“Yeah,” I tug at the shirt, knowing it wont give a fucking inch because I tried numerous times last night and--“Hold up...”

DeLoren raises his eyebrows knowingly but I have no clue if he’s slowing trying to walk me to something important or just thinking I’m a complete idiot but I’m pretty sure he said what I think he did, “Are you saying these are my clothes? My actual clothes? That I owned these before...”

There’s a realization that suddenly and powerfully punches me square in the fucking face. Its like a lightbulb that instantaneously flips on and now I have absolutely no fucking clue how to process the inference of these clothes... these clothes that I thought were someone elses, the same clothes that were in Lina’s closet...

In Lina’s bedroom.

The only other bedroom in this house that is not spoken for is the guest room and unless that was once mine, which no one has claimed it was, then that means my room was with...

Oh, no fucking way.

“Before you died?” Kai snickers, “Yeah, man, those are yours. You’re just, like, a hell of a lot bigger now.” The weight of the truth comes crashing down around me: I never smelled a fucking scent because that scent was mine.

These clothes are mine.

“And apparently dumb as fuck,” Rhys Not Like The Candy Bar blah, blah, blahs--yada, yada, something or another. I don’t fucking know nor do I care. Its as if my ears just switch the fuck off when he talks.

I look down at Theon... Theon who has the same nose as me. It’s smaller and more in the shape of a tiny button but I can see the possibilities.

The same eyes... they are brown, not blue, but the shape is the same--wide and wholesome.

His hair color is slightly different, a little lighter blonde than my dark but that will change as he ages.

The structure of his face, the small, almost insignificant, cleft to his chin--also me.

His lips, however, seem to be the only smidge of Lina this child possesses...

Because it is now evident that a closet wasn’t the only thing I shared with Lina.

Bug is giving me a hard stare, her eyes motioning toward the child that sits on my lap but my brain cannot make sense of what my heart already knows. It races fast, the g-force rushing to my head and making everything tilt and sway.

“We’ll swing by the store on our way home and grab some new stuff,” DeLoren speaks up, effectively silencing any and all thoughts that happen to be dangerously close to confirmation. He turns to Bug, “You know how to swim?”

“Yeah...” she eyes him suspiciously.

“Good,” he grins slyly. “There’s an indoor swimming pool down the hall and to your left. Use it.” He trudges behind Marius and Kai, adding with a casual wave of his hand, “No one else does.” And now the only residents of this house left in the company of me and Bug are The Coconut chick and Anthony who refuse to meet my eyes.

The girl chuckles nervously, “Never a dull moment.” Her gaze falls on Theon as he beams up at her like she is the only female in the whole entire world, “Come on buddy, we’ll grab breakfast on the way.”

“Make yourselves at home,” Anthony says, his voice soft and understanding, as if he can read me like an open book but doesn’t feel it’s his place to tell me jack shit, “We’ll be back before dark.”

Bug and I remain silent, my lap feeling empty and cold without a kid on it.

A kid that is probably mine.

Bug’s eyes are dubious and wide with an open mouth alluding to incredulous wonderment, “They have a pool?”

***

I do not know when everyone left the house.

Correction: I did not when Lina left the house. Fucking sneaky ninja, that one... and the fact that I dont know means she didnt want me to.

It means she’s avoiding me.

Again.

Bug and I have spent hours enjoying this house and disregarding that massive elephant that stalks me, piggybacking with me through each and every room like the leech it is. But with Bug, I am free of the chains that bind me.

I am free to be just me because that’s who Bug knows--that’s all she knows. She is the only one here who is not tainted with prior knowledge of who I am supposed to be.

I have no expectations to live up to.

I have no mysteries I need to solve.

I have no woman I need to impress.

There is just Bug and I can be myself.

I can breathe.

But now, after the game room where I kicked her ass in Mortal Kombat and she wiped the floor with me in Mario kart and then numerous cannonballs into the pool, we’re pretty much spent.

Our feet dangle in the water and the silence is nice. We share the tub of Rocky Road ice cream we found in the freezer... and not because we really like the flavor.

When I opened the door initially, it was just to see what options we had for lunch but when my eyes landed on one of the four gallons of ice cream within that freezer, I knew we were going to eat that one.

And Bug agreed with a feverish nod of her head.

So, we brought it to the pool, tossing the lid aside that held a special message, in bold, black sharpie with eleven exclamation points from Rhys Not Like The Candy Bar: a promise of death to anyone who even thinks of touching it.

Currently, we are halfway done with the whole tub.

Don’t get me wrong, we plan on putting it back when we are finished--we’re not fucking heartless. However, I’m definitely scraping every remnant clean even if it makes me puke.

Bug suggested we draw a picture of a middle finger and drop it inside but I declined--seemed too far.

“You know Theon is your son, right?” Bug cocks her head, a single brow furrowed. I could say the sudden sound of her voice piercing through the tranquility of the setting sun was what caused my heart to skip a few beats but that would be a lie. “I know you’re not dumb, B.G.,” she rolls her head with an exasperated sigh.

“Yeah, I know, I just...” Fuck, how do I explain this to a twelve year old? I return her sigh with a groan, “I just have a hard time accepting it.”

“You don’t think he’s yours?”

I snorted, “No, that kid is definitely mine but--” I turned to her, dropping the spoon in the empty carton of ice cream and wiping my hands on the nylon basketball shorts I swam in, “I don’t think I’ve let it set in yet. I mean, fuck, Bug, do you know what that means? Theon has to be around two years old, give or take, so Lina would have had to have been pregnant when I... well, you know...”

“Died?”

“Yeah.” I run my hand over my head, ruffling my hair. The ends are still damp but it gives me something to do... an outlet for my frustration, “I wasn’t there. I did not run out in the middle of the night to pick up whatever food she was craving. I didn’t rush her to the hospital when her water broke. I didn’t hold her hand as she pushed our son out. I didn’t get a say in naming him, didn’t see him crawl for the first time, didn’t hear his first word...” I try desperately to hide the cracks in my voice but I am failing, and quite miserably at that, “I wasn’t there for them... I wasn’t there for her.”

I’ve never thought I was an emotional guy. Even when I first woke up, even when I felt the most lost and lonely, I didn’t cry over it. I didnt even tear up. I wasn’t scared. But this? This is different.

I am petrified.

What if I am not enough?

What if I fail?

What if I never regain the life that I lost?

I see the way they all look at me. I know they think I am different, that there are stark contrasts between who I was then and who I am now and what if who I am now isn’t good enough for them? For her? How do I continue living knowing that I must have had something special at one time... what if I never get that back?

I know I need to talk to Lina.

I know I need to confirm that Theon is actually my son.

Our son.

I know this.

But when everything is stripped away and the details are muddled and hazy and I’m left bare and vulnerable the truth still remains... I am scared.

“So what?” Bug rolls her eyes, “You’re here now. Ya can’t change the past, Theron, and ya ain’t ever gonna see the future. All ya have is the present--the now. So stop fucking being a whiney ass pussy and man up. Jesus, dude, take what’s yours ‘cause your cryin’ is starting to piss me off.”

A breathy laugh escapes my mouth, “How old are you again?”

Bug just gave me Life advice.

Fuck all, I just got bested by a Tweener and now I need to question my entire existence. Does it feel colder in here? Hell must’ve froze over...

“You’re my best friend, B. I just want to see you happy, you deserve it.”

“You know you do too, right?”

“Pft, ’course I know that. Why ya think I stick ’round? I knew your luck was gonna change eventually.”

“Um, ouch,” I feign heartache I don’t truly feel, “All I am to you is a stepping stone? You wound me.”

“Yeah, well, you know what they say...”

“No, what’s that?”

“Theron and Lina sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N--” her rendenition is loud, and squeaky and similar to nails down a chalkboard. It echoes and reverberates throughout this room particularly and my sensitive ears can’t tolerate that shit any longer, so into the pool she goes... and not willingly.

And when her head breaches the surface for air, her hair is matted to her face and she has to push it away to see me... or rather for me to see her because she wants me to feel her rage which is somewhat hard to take seriously given all her coughing and sputtering.

“Sorry,” I shrug nonchalantly, “nervous tick.”

***

“Where’s Lina?” I question DeLoren as he strides through the door with three large paper bags. He shoves them in my hands and sighs, “Probably in her room.”

I can feel the excitement drain from my whole being. I never heard her come home which confirms she came in the same way she went out today--trying to steer clear of me.

Pain twists and morphs into anger causing me to roll my neck. The cracking of tendons does nothing to lessen the ever growing fiery pissivity inside me.

She doesn’t get to run from me anymore.

We’re going to have this conversation and we’re going to have it now.

I suddenly remember the bags in my hands and not because I care much about them but more so because they are preventing me from simply sprinting up the stairs at this very moment.

“New clothes,” DeLoren replies slowly, mockingly, as if I should have known already. He deadpans, “Contain your excitement for my sake, please.”

“Oh,” I glance in the sacks filled to the brim with items that are not currently that important to me. Honestly, I’m not even curious as to what they picked out, I just need to get to Lina.

But I don’t want to appear rude.

“Also,” he lifts a finger in after thought before rifling around in his pocket. The crinkling sound that pocket makes causes my interest to peak slightly. He slaps the item in my already full hand and closes my fist. “In case of emergencies. Me and the others are going out to dinner so use it wisely.”

I frown at his cryptic attitude before inspecting exactly what he placed in my hold... I jump, shocked at the sight, “Why the hell would you think I--”

“Dude,” he grabs my shoulder in some strange form of comradery, “Trust me.” His eyes bore into mine like I should already understand but I don’t.

Well... I mean, I do but still. I’m not looking for Lina so I can fuck her for Christ’s sake.

I just want to talk.

He laughs, highly amused at my confusion. “Go, dickwad!” His head motions towards the stairs and that’s all the permission I need.

I don’t bother knocking when I reach her door because oh fucking well. I’m not giving her even the tiniest second to plan an escape this time.

Her quota is up.

The scene inside the room hits me harder than it should. My chest tightens, constricting the thundering of my heart.

She is leaning against the writing desk, head in her hands and aura quite defeated and now, goddammit, I have to change my tactic--alter my approach. I can’t just lay into the woman when she’s already upset over something.

I have to be tentative.

Cautious.

“Lina?”

She looks up, her eyes are red and bloodshot and her cheeks the exact same scarlet hue and something nags at me. It demands my attention, my remembrance but I just can’t seem to grab a hold of it.

“Not alone, never alone,” my head taunts, willing me to pull forth the memory but I can’t. All I know is that I’ve been here before... Apparently, this is not the first time I have seen Lina cry.

“No, baby. She’s just a spiteful, callous bitch.”

But I don’t try to compare whatever I did back then--however I comforted her--mainly because I know I am not the same person but mostly because I. Got. Shit. To. Say. And while I feel a little bad about my timing, I will not apologize.

She shouldn’t have avoided me.

She shouldn’t have kept putting this off.

Her fault, not mine.

Ignoring her tears, I get straight to the point, “He’s mine, isn’t he?”

The widening of her eyes tells me I have caught her off guard.

Good.

’Cause we’re fucking doing this and we’re doing it right the fuck now.

I chance a few steps forward, trapping her between me and the door I just kicked closed, “Theon? He’s my son?”

She’s trapped.

Even better, the beast inside me wants to stalk towards her but I contain it. I’m not trying to threaten her but her face crumbles and I can feel the emotion yearning to be let loose.

I bridge the gap between us and now I am just reacting on instinct...

And instinct wants to touch her.

My hands caresses her face, cradling it and I disregard the flinch she responds with.

I don’t put much thought into the electricity that sparks and tingles my hand upon contact... The warmth that flows through my heart and the hitch to her breathing that confirms beyond a shadow of a fucking doubt that she feels the same.

“Tell me it’s true, Lina,” my voice is softer now, the skin to skin contact extinguishing my irritation and consoling my turbulent fears. My eyes flicker between her’s earnestly, and I can see the truth within them. I do not need her to validate my assumption anymore but she does anyway.

Silently, she nods.

Her face pushes into my hand and she closes her eyes. Tears escape her closed lids, falling down her cheeks and while I should feel sympathy for her hurting soul, my own excitement overshadows that.

I’m a father.

A dad.

I have a son.

It’s not that this is new information for me. I knew it was true but her affirmation makes it all the more real.

Theon is my son.

She senses the eagerness, the happiness that is devouring me. It overflows, pushing itself outwards and into her and I see the smile through the tears. It’s conflicted... sad, but relieved.

And this thing between us grows...

Expands...

Pulses.

And I know exactly what I’m going to do next and I sure the fuck am not going to ask for her blessing. My other hand cups the opposite side of her face and the monster within me settles, comforted by the fact that she is finally held in our grasp. We finally have her. “Lina,” I warn her, “I’m going to kiss you now.”

I know damn good and well that if she didn’t want this she would tell me to fuck off so I dont wait for a response.

My lips crash into her’s.

Like planets colliding, our connection explodes, lighting up the nonexistent space between us.

But it’s not enough for me.

It will never be enough.

The taste of her sends caution flying out the window as I push my body against hers, effecting seating her on the desk from which she once leaned for support.

The tingles, the sparks, the warmth is all-consuming as our tongues meet and my body responds in kind with a satisfied moan. Her legs wrap around my waist and I know there’s no stopping what’s about to happen.

There’s no going back.

I send a mental thank you to DeLoren knowing damn good and well that this is now an emergency and I am going to need that fucking condom.

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