Watered Down

By Shelby_Painter All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Chapter Twenty Seven

I tried as hard as I could to stay awake, and I could tell that Theon was doing same thing. It hurt. The idea of leaving here in the morning and never coming back was almost too much to bare. My whole life had already been turned on its head when I ended up here, and now it was about to be flipped again when I have to go back.

As hard as we tried, the night pulled us under and I woke up way too soon.

“Serena.” I heard him whisper my name, gently easing me out of my slumber. I smiled first, thinking how nice it was to wake up with him, and to hear him saying my name softly with that sexy morning voice, but then I opened my eyes, seeing his sad ones and I remembered. The smile went quickly. “We’ve got to get up.” He sighed, tightening his arm around me.

“I don’t want to.” I muttered, pulling the blanket up over my face.

He laughed a little, tugging the blanket back away from me. “I don’t want to either.” He told me. “We have to though.”

I sighed into his chest, groaning as I rolled to sit up and look down at him laid back on his pillow. “I wish I had a camera.” I smiled at him. He looked beyond the perfection that any mere mortal should be allowed. He was laying back, the white sheet pulled up to his waist, but his bare tan chest out. His hair was a mane around his head, and he had one arm rested behind his head, his bicep particularly appealing from the angle.

He reached over to me, cradling one side of my face in his big rough hand, and I leaned into it. He brushed his thumb over my cheek bone and smiled. “I was just thinking the same thing.” He nodded. “I’ve got the better view.” He smiled up at me.

“Not a chance.”

He shook his head, his thumb stilling on my cheek. “You’re beautiful, Serena.”

My stomach did little flips at his touch. “I don’t want to leave.”

“I wish I could go with you.”

“Me too.”

We gazed at each other for a long time, those unspoken feelings wrapping us up in the moment. “We should get a shower.” He muttered after a while and then his face turned a little red and he rubbed his jaw, sitting up. “I don’t me we as in together, I just meant…”

I giggled at his embarrassment. “I knew what you meant, Theon.”

He shrugged. “Well, I’m going to go first so you don’t suck up all of the hot water again.” He winked as he climbed out of the bed and I tried to use all the restraint I had not to ogle at his sculpted back as he went through the drawers in front of him to find his clothes.

I got up and went for the door, knowing I shouldn’t be sitting here admiring him. “I’m going to get Tally up.” I called as I went across the hall.

I creaked her door open slowly and found her sitting in the floor in front of her toy box playing with a little wooden horse. “Good morning, beautiful.” I said cheerfully as I walked over to her.

Her little eyes shot up and she grinned brightly at me, her tongue sliding through the open space where her missing tooth was again. “You’re still here!” She cheered, then her smile dropped and she looked away. “But you’re leaving today.” She frowned, slumping her shoulders forward.

I sat in the floor beside her. “How do you know that?”

She sighed, putting her horse away. “I got up last night and I heard you and Theon talking about it.” She admitted. “I didn’t know if you’d be here when I woke up.”

I pulled her over to sit in my lap. “I’d never leave without telling you goodbye first.” I told her with a kiss on the cheek. “That’s not what best friends do, silly.”

“Will we always be best friends?”

“Always.”

She grinned at me. “Good.” She giggled when I tickled her sides, then she looked serious again. “Will you and Theon be best friends too?”

I pursed my lips, trying to think of the best answer, but then I just went with the truth. “I really hope so.”

Tally and I played with her toys while Theon got ready, then it was my turn. I made it a quick shower, not wanting to miss a single second of what was left of my time here. I wanted it to last, but it just wasn’t. By the time I’d gotten showered and dressed in the light blue cotton dress that Theon and Tally had gotten me, I had to tell Tally goodbye again. Ms. Kay had come to keep her so that Theon could take me to the airport alone.

I stooped down in the doorway and held her closely to me. “I’m going to miss you every single day.” I told her. “But I promise I will call you.”

She hugged my neck. “You’re the best best friend I’ve ever had.” She sniffled, wiping her cheek.

“And you’re mine.”

Telling her goodbye was a little easier this time, especially since it didn’t feel as permanent now that I had hers and Theon’s number and I could talk to her anytime I was missing her too much.

Theon held my one tiny bag for me that was pretty much half full with the few things that he had gotten me, and my phone. He held the bag in one hand, and my hand in his other as he led me down a trail away from his house. It was a longer walk than I’d expected, but it did eventually open up in a tropical looking little city. There were bright billboards boasting the best sandy white beaches in the Bahamas and little souvenir booths set up on every corner. “Does a cruise dock here or something?” I asked and Theon smiled.

“I take it you’ve been on your fair share of tourist islands, huh?”

“Yeah, hopefully this will be the last.” I mumbled and he nodded his head.

We went quickly through town, and I couldn’t help but notice that Theon was keeping his eyes down and that everyone we passed seemed to be giving us strange looks. Theon and I took a cab to the tiny airport, if you could even call it that. It was more like hangers with a handful of passenger planes that probably couldn’t carry more than twenty or so people at a time, but in the back on its own air strip was a much nicer white jet that I recognized.

Just seeing it made me want to hurl. I’m not ready.

Theon put his arm around my shoulders, sensing my nerves. “Everything will be ok.” He told me reassuringly as he walked me to the waiting stairs.

“Ms. Serena!” I heard my name called and I looked to the top of the stairs to see Lenny, our pilot, rushing down to me.

I hugged him, having to acknowledge that it was nice to see someone I know from home. “Hey, Lenny.” I smiled, tears threatening me.

God, if this is the reaction I have for my families pilot who I see maybe five times a year, what am I going to do when I see my family and friends?

“Let’s get you home, Miss. Serena.” He squeezed me a little harder, then released me, taking my bag from Theon without so much as a glance his way. “Your parents are going to be so happy to see you, actually, everyone will.”

“They didn’t come with you?” I asked, kicking myself for thinking that they might.

Lenny gave me an apologetic smile. “Too much to do in preparation for your big return.”

I nodded, of course.

“Lenny, this is Theon.” I introduced him and they shook hands.

“Alrighty, Theon.” Lenny shrugged, heading back up the stairs. “I’ve got her from here.”

I turned my back on the plane, throwing my arms around Theon’s neck, knocking him off balance for a second. “Wow, hey.” He laughed. “Don’t be sad, princess.”

I glared up at him with wet eyes. “Do not call me that right now.” I scolded but he rolled his eyes.

“You’re about to get on your private jet.” He pointed out with a grin.

“Whatever.” I sighed, laying my head against his chest, and taking in the steady pound of his heart one last time. “Why can’t you and Tally come with me?” I asked, the tears making their way down my cheeks.

He shook his head over me. “You have no idea how much I wish that we could, but we…can’t.”

I held him tighter. Theon deserves to be leaving here, not to be staying with people who tease his sister, and that give him strange looks on the street. Theon is…He’s…Special, not a freak. If there was something I could do, I’d do it in a heartbeat, but instead I have to fly back to my charmed life while he stays here to continue enduring.

“Miss. Serena?” Lenny called. “We need to be getting in the air, Miss, storms a coming.”

“I’m coming.” I called without making even the slightest move.

Theon rubbed his hand on the small of my back. “Look at me, Serena.” He said gently, and I slowly, and painfully, lifted my soaking wet eyes to meet his perfect honey brown ones for what could very well be the last time. “Please don’t be sad.” He whispered to me. “You went through way too much, and you should be happy, not upset, especially not over me.” He told me with a sigh. “Me and Tal are going to be fine.”

“I want you to be more than fine.”

He sighed again. “I’m just happy that I met you.”

“I am too.”

He leaned his head down and rested his forehead on mine. “My number is in the phone I gave you.” He whispered. “Let me know when you’ve made it back safely, but try to actually give your new life a chance, ok? Don’t think about me and Tally too much, we want you to be happy, alright?”

I sniffled while I nodded my head. “I have no way to thank you for all you did for me.” I cried. “If it weren’t for you, I’d still be…”

“Don’t think about that anymore. It’s over” He said quickly, shushing my cries. “I’m happy for you, honest, I am.” He smiled sadly. “Go on, now.”

I shook my head. “Not yet.”

Theon took a half step back. “Go on.” He said again. “You heard him, the storms are moving in.”

“Good.” I protested. “Then I’ll have to wait.”

Serena.” He whispered and I wiped my face again.

“Goodbye.” I choked out, turning to walk up the stairs.

I only made it halfway before I turned back around, running back down into his open arms, bawling into the curve of his neck. “I already miss you, Theon.” I gasped out.

He held me tighter. “You have no idea.” He agreed, then released me. “Goodbye, princess.”

I smiled through the pain, backing away. “Goodbye.”

I climbed the stairs, not looking back until I was in my plush leather seat, looking down at him still standing there as the stairs came up and the plane began to move down the runway. I watched him until he was nothing more than a spec on the asphalt below, but even then I still felt like I could see him wiping away tears just like I was.

I spent the entire five hour flight, trying to convince myself not to buy a plane ticket back there the second that I land. I should have kissed him, I should have told him how I feel about him, I should have forced him and Tal to come with me, I should have done so many things, but now I’m landing soon.

An hour out I freshened myself up in the bathroom, not wanting to look like a total wreck when I get home since I don’t know who all I’ll be seeing. I settled into my seat again, trying to keep my story prepared. I know I will have to recite it probably a billion times over the next few weeks.

When we pulled in to land, I could already see the spot we would be pulling up to and I groaned. “Lenny, please tell me that is not all for me!” I called.

“Sorry, Miss!” He called back and I tried to disappear into my seat. There were hundreds, no, thousands of people down there. As the plane stopped I could see them all with their posters and bright smiles. Some faces I knew, most that I didn’t. In the far back, hanging over the big door to the building was a banner, Welcome back from the dead, it read and I had to roll my eyes. If only they knew how very accurate that banner really was.

Even more embarrassing than the hordes of people and the awful signs was the media. Everyone single media outlet in LA must be here. All of them holding their big cameras on their shoulders, or right in their faces, all wanting to be the first one to get a shot of the dead girl walking.

This kind of attention would have thrilled me five months ago, but not now. All I want to do is go home, cry in my bed, and maybe have some sushi from Dinx delivered. Instead, I stood, straightening out my dress and running my hands through my hair before I walked over to the door. “Ready, Miss?” Lenny asked, and I nodded.

He opened the door and I walked out, the flashes and screams throwing me off even though I knew they were going to happen. “Serena! Serena!” I heard from one way. “Look over here, give us a smile!” From another direction. “What can you tell us about your mysterious disappearance?” Screams a woman, shoving a mic in front of my face. “Where you kidnapped?” A man yelled, his camera in my face.

I was overwhelmed by it all. My voice was broken and I’m sure I looked like a bewildered deer in the headlights. “No, I wasn’t kidnapped.” I shook my head. “I’m just trying to,” Another flash right in my face threw me off again. “I’m just trying to find my parents and go home.”

I was amazed when I reached the ground that I had managed to make it down the stairs without falling with all of the commotion around me. The police were here too, holding people back so that I could have a clear path to the doors of the building in front of me.

I bee lined for it, determined not to let anything distract me from my mission of getting inside, but then I saw them. The aqua blue eyes I had day dreamed about almost every day over the last few months. I cut to the left, telling one of the officers who was holding him back that it was ok. Asher broke through the crowd, picking me up easily, and spinning me around. “Serena!” He cheered. “I can’t believe you’re here!” He put me down, grabbing my face and kissing me hard. I sighed into it, his lips parting slightly. “I missed you.” He told me when we parted. “I went to your funeral,” He said shaking his head, then he kissed me again. “But you’re here.” He gave me one of his million dollar smiles.

My head was still spinning and I was pretty sure that I was no longer breathing. “I’m here.” I repeated, and he kissed me quickly one more time.

“Your parents are inside.” He said, tilting his head that way. “I just wanted to see you before you get swept away.” He smiled. “I missed you so much, baby.” He kissed my cheek, then backed into the crowd. “I’ll come see you later, ok?” He winked and I knew what that meant. He used to climb up to my bedroom balcony all the time. I laughed a little to myself when I thought of the first time he’d ever done it. He had stood below my balcony and recited a few lines from Romeo and Juliet before he broke into a sprint and climbed the beams to me.

I watched as he disappeared into the crowd, totally immune to the craziness that was going on around me now. I floated in a daze to the doors, then fell into my parents hugs as we all cried through our smiles.

I’m home.

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