I showed Lilith around my hometown, giving her an exclusive look at my old school that was now deserted. I took her to the hospital where my mom worked, hoping to catch her during her break but no such luck. She was stuck in surgery and couldn’t exactly take time off for a casual visit.
On our way back home, I showed her the place where Kai and I got into our car accident. I explained how annoyed I had been that day because I not only slept in but had to take Connor with me. Lilith laughed and I ended up telling her about all sorts of memories I had.
The time my dad was trying to teach me to ride a bike and I ended up crashing into our neighbor’s fence. Connor laughing at me made me cry more than the impact itself and dad ended up taking us both out for an ice cream.
“I don’t remember the last time I spent time with both of my parents,” I told Lilith. “Sometimes I feel like Connor’s the only person who raised me. He always made sure I stayed out of trouble, helped me with my homework and made dinner whenever our parents were working late.”
I smiled sadly at the memories and then shrugged, as if it weren’t important at all. I always knew my parents were workaholics and I was antisocial most of the time, hiding in my room or studying.
“Your brother’s hot,” Lilith blurted out, her honesty stopping me in my tracks completely. We were now walking from the parking lot into the mall where Diana and Adelaide took me whenever I needed to get out of the house.
“Lilith!” I gasped, lightly smacking her arm. “Gross.”
Lilith laughed, “What? It’s true, though. He didn’t look or sound as hot than he is in person.”
I pretended to gag before resumed walking to the entrance. “I’ll just ignore that you said that.”
We were just browsing around the stores, gossiping about my brother and his friends. She wanted to know things about our childhood that I wasn’t completely comfortable thinking about.
“Connor and I always had our own thing,” I told her, searching through the racks to maybe find a cute skirt to try on. “We rarely let people into our own circle. That all changed as we entered our teenage years because Connor craved the presence of boys as opposed to me. He tried to include me in their hangouts but Matt wouldn’t have it. He always thought I was a bit boring or some sort of loser. But Beck and Nathaniel were nice. Made an effort to include me every now and then. We drifted apart eventually and are only now beginning to fix our relationship.”
I checked the price tag of one of the shirts before losing my interest and moving on. Lilith followed me closely, still listening to what I had to say.
“We both lost someone very dear to us and we both grieved in our own way,” I told her. “It gave Connor the push he needed to take risks in life and experience things. But it crippled me in a way that I started to close myself off from people. I think that for a while, I forgot what it means to live.”
I didn’t want to keep on talking too much so I changed the subject quickly. After an hour or so, we got a smoothie before making our way to the car. Just in time for Connor to text me that we could come home now. Matt, Adelaide and Diana had finally left.
I knew he would explain things to me but there was something I needed to do first. I dropped her off and left her in good company with my brother, Delilah, Beck and Nathaniel. They’d keep her busy while I went to see Kai.
As we departed, I made my way up the familiar steps to the front door. The sun was slowly setting but I could still remember the time I used to spend here. When I had just started to let myself trust someone on a more intimate level. I missed him with everything I had.
I knew it sounded cheesy or cliche but I truly felt like I found my person. My better half.
Slowly, I reached toward the door bell and pressed the small red button. The sound of their door bell made me smile as I waited for someone to answer.
The door suddenly opened and Kai’s mother stood there before me, looking very tired. It took a second for her eyes to adjust but when she saw me, she smiled a big, welcoming smile.
“Astrid,” she said with her motherly tone. “It’s so good to see you back, darling.”
She gave me a soft hug and I muttered a reply. She was always so nice to me. We got along well and she appreciated that I helped Kai with school. Especially since she couldn’t be there for him much considering Hannah’s condition.
“If you’re looking for Kai, he’s in the hospital visiting Hannah.” She said to me, but her smile never dropped. I wondered how could she even stay this strong when she knew her own daughter was dying. She was truly an example of one of many, not the first and not the last, women that had to go through this.
“Oh, do you know when he’ll be back?” I asked, trying to keep the disappointment out of my voice.
“Sadly, I don’t. I was just going to head over though. Want to come with me?” She sounded hopeful but it felt wrong to intervene.
“No, that’s okay. I don’t want to intrude.” I said.
“Oh honey, you’re not intruding. You’re never intruding. Have you even met Hannah?”
“No. But Kai always talked about her,” I smiled.
“Well then, you should come with me. Hannah’s just been given some experimental drugs and I’ve heard she’s getting better. Her body is reacting positively to it. The doctors even say there’s a fat chance she’ll beat this,” Mrs. Asher smiled and we talked as she drove to the hospital.
“I can’t wait to see the look on my son’s face when he sees you.”
If she didn’t look tired, she would look not a day over thirty. She was pretty. Kai had gotten her dark hair but he’s gotten his father’s brown eyes.
“I can’t wait to see him either. I’ve missed him so much.” Mrs. Asher passed me a quick glance before turning her eyes on the road again.
“He’s told me about why you left. He’s also told me about your new school. Do you like it there?”
“I do. I found my group of friends who are loyal and accept me the way I am. It’s also a great learning experience. The move to New York was intimidating but it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”
“Sounds like you’re really passionate about it.”
There was a momentary silence. “I am,” I finally said.
Mrs. Asher talked to the nurses before walking with me to the room Hannah was staying in. Kai never said anything about introducing me to his sister and a part of me felt guilty for just dropping in on him like that, but I really wanted to meet her. She sounded wonderful and smart and just really amazing.
Mrs. Asher She opened the door and motioned me to come in. Kai was asleep right next to Hannah while his sister’s eyes lit up as she saw her mom.
“Mom!” She spoke and opened her arms that waited for a hug. Kai’s eyes jerked open and he waited for the sleepiness to leave him. I watched him as he looked at Hannah and then when his eyes finally landed on me, he looked like he lost his breath.
He moved quicker than I ever thought possible and his arms were around me faster than I imagined. He brought me closer to him and held me for what felt like ages.
“Hi,” Kai whispered to me, a smile playing on his lips.
“Hello,” I said back. This right here felt perfect. His arms around me, him looking at me with those beautiful eyes. He smelled like the hospital, but at the same time, he didn’t. His own smell resembled something like summer and it was heavenly.
Someone in the room cleared his throat and I looked at Hannah and Mrs. Asher both grinning like mad people. But the thing was, I was too. I looked back at Kai but he was still looking at me. Slowly, he then turned around to his sister but his arms remained around me, securing me to the place where I stood next to him.
“Banana, I want you to meet Astrid.” Kai smiled even more. His nickname for Hannah was so cute I wanted to cry.
“Finally! I’ve been begging Kai to bring you here for ages.” She said and then extended her hand. “I’m Hannah.”
Kai’s hold around me was tighter than I imagined and it took one long look for him to let me go so I could shake his sister’s hand. “Hi Hannah. I’m Astrid. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“I love your hair. Mom, can I dye my hair like that?” Hannah turned to her mom and I laughed a little.
“Once it grows a little,” her mom had said. Hannah’s hair was pretty short. She was really pretty too She had her mother’s eyes and the same dark hair. But her smile sometimes reminded me of her father’s.
Kai later mumbled some excuse that he was hungry so we both went to go get some food and took everyone’s orders. He picked up the keys of his car from a table near his sister’s bed and then we drove. Or, in this case, I drove. Kai couldn’t keep his eyes off me. Or his hands.
I let him hold my hand during the drive and let him shower my cheeks with small kisses as we waited in line to order.
“I still can’t believe you’re here,” he told me. “It’s the best day of my life.”
“You’re so cute,” I said back and gave him a quick kiss. “Lilith’s here too. She’s dying to meet you. To see if you’re worthy of my love.”
“Sounds like you two have gotten pretty close for her to be so protective of you. Should I be jealous?” He raised an eyebrow.
“She’s my best friend,” I told him. “An ally, not competition.”
“Speaking of competition,” Kai started, “Diana’s been driving me crazy.”
I gave him a puzzled look. “What? Why?”
“She wouldn’t leave me alone. Keeps sending me these notes and making passes as if she thought I’d want to have anything to do with her,” he told me but then shook his head. “She’s delusional.”
“Or just jealous of us,” I spoke. “I’m not worried. I’m secured in our relationship and I know where we stand. She just can’t get out of her skin. Every part of her loves drama.”
It was true. She was not only ungrateful of what she had, made things about herself but she also loved to stir things up. Make people clash. I didn’t know why. Perhaps she was just bored.
“Do you have drama at your school?” He asked to which I shook my head.
“I don’t think so. Everybody’s really nice to each other. I mean, my group of friends helped me pass my exams. They always believed in me more than I believed in myself. I think there’s something about our hometown that makes people act crazy,” I replied.
“I’m glad to see you happy,” he responded. “You’ve been smiling more than I ever saw you smile here. It’s like a weight lifted off your chest.”
I nodded. “It really did. Life is all about balance. Bad things happen so that we can appreciate the good things. I had to experience betrayal to see who’s good for me and get the strength to go into the world. To find myself and my own kind of people. I had to heal and I had to do it on my own.”
Kai squeezed my hand in support before we were finally at the front of the line, ready to order. We brought our food to the hospital, spent about an hour there before saying goodbye and leaving the two of them so that we could have some time alone.
I let him drive us back home and followed him to his room where my first urge was to check out his growing bookshelf. He had gotten more books since the last time. I had been one of the reasons. We had our own little book club and had a meeting every Sunday to discuss our current read. It’s what brought us even closer.
Despite the distance, we talked all the time.
I looked around his room but it wasn’t until my eyes landed on him that I knew what I wanted. He was standing a few feet away, observing me carefully, as if I were a phantom.
I extended my hand towards him and pulled him closer until we were standing next to each other. I leaned in for a kiss, soft and teasing.
At first, our lips barely touched. He was close yet so far away. His soft touch then grew more intense and I was left without my breath as he deepened the kiss. His hands traveled to my face as he cupped my cheeks and I slipped my fingers through his hair. It was soft and silky. He tasted divine. It was intense, raw desire. What we felt for each other could be felt through the touches that burned with electricity every time our skin connected or any time either of us would move. I felt the butterflies inside me.
Kai picked me up and carried me to his bed. Before I knew it, I was trapped under him, lost in the moment. We were kissing, making up for the time we had lost. Such precious time had made me realize what I had missed, what I had lost but what I had gained. The knowledge that we loved each other made my heart burst. He was my person.
Kai’s hands were sliding up and down my thighs and finally, when we felt like we could survive if we slowed down, we pulled apart by just a fraction of a centimeter. I smiled and sighed, content to be beside him once again. I trailed kisses down his jaw and his neck, inhaling the sweet scent of his skin.
He was beautiful. His soul was beautiful. I couldn’t get enough of him.
“I love you,” he said to me, his voice barely a whisper yet it held more meaning than if it were a scream.
“I love you too,” I said back to him. It felt right to be in his loving arms. He held me like I was his property but at the same time, he also held me like he was trying to protect me. His body fit perfectly against mine, like we were made for each other.
We started to kiss again, but this time, I slid my hands under his shirt and tossed it on the floor. We kissed and kissed, his hands travelling up and down my spine, or they were in my hair, but they never were away from me. Without knowing when it happened, we were both missing several articles of clothing, with him holding a condom in his right hand.
“We don’t have to do it,” Kai said as he pulled away. “We have all the time in the world.”
“No,” I said to him. I needed him. “Don’t stop.”
“Astrid,” Kai looked me in the eye as I tried to get some breath. “I want to do this right. You deserve the best.”
“Kai,” I sighed. “Wherever or no matter what way we do this, it’ll always be perfect. As long as we have each other, we’ll be fine. They say home is where the heart is. You have my heart and you are my home. There is nothing I want more than this.”
I pulled him towards me and this time, we didn’t stop.