The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 48 - Double Date

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CHAPTER 48 - DOUBLE DATE

NATALIE'S POV

I giggled as I watched Aisha fumbling with her dress. For like ... the thousandth time. She'd changed outfit so many times already that I think she's tried more or less all of her wardrobe. Bikinis excluded only, and in her haze, hadn't I stopped her, she would have picked those instead of underwear too.

She was so nervous, so anxious ... and I could understand why. I mean, it was her very first date with Kyle. Though they had some ... um ... intense moments last weekend. She recounted me the general lines of what they did when they skipped last period on Friday and headed to her place, knowing her mother would be out all weekend.

I can't seriously believe they spent the whole weekend doing just that, but she claims yes, so why should I argue? When I mentioned the thing to Eric, he mischievously suggested we could pick up on our friends' trail, I argued that my mom wouldn't be too glad, and he mentioned he was sleeping in a hotel room lately, when he wasn't at my place, so there was no problem.

More than argue about his lascivious intentions, I asked why was he sleeping in a hotel and he hardly said his house has been confiscated. I don't like that he sleeps all alone in a silly hotel, so I suggested he at least picked the one where my mother works, that's a 4 star, so it's good, but he said he's fine like that, didn't even want to agree when I mentioned I could talk to mom and ask if he could use our guest room, after all, he already sleeps at our place most of the times, but he said he didn't want to disturb. I honestly smacked him over the head when he said that. What disturb? He's my boyfriend and he already sleeps in my bed at least four nights out of seven, what would change?

But Eric said that him coming to live with us sounded too much like some crappy MTV show, so no, besides, also his father, when Kyle's tongue slipped, suggested he moved in with them, at least for these last months, but he rejected, saying he was fine like that. Hence, accepting my offer would offend his father and brother, he said. I have a feeling he just likes spending some time alone. Which is fair. I mean, we can't just be glued to each other every moment of every day, can we?

School's rumors about us have been sort of dying down a little, but they were replaced by the news of me punching Dana in front of everybody. People gape at me, some murmured that I've become violent because of who I'm dating, I let it slide a couple of times, but at the third one, when a girl from my Journalism class implied that I'm becoming a criminal for my boyfriend's influence, I snapped, barking against her that she had no right to judge Eric because she didn't know him one bit, I snapped at everybody that was looking at me bewildered, teacher included, hissing at all of them that they knew nothing and they better shut up, because I would not let one single soul mudsling my boyfriend just because they're envious, he's better than all of them put together.

Since then, people quit murmuring when I'm around, but rumors about me having turned to the bad side are still being spread. Some even say I'm becoming worse than Eric.

Teachers, at first, wondered about my new attitude, but in the end they saw I wasn't doing anything bad, just defending my boyfriend, so when mom talked to them they were all pleased, because, they said, not only had I gained more self confidence, but apparently I was doing immensely good to Eric, who hadn't been getting involved into a fight since weeks and was a quite peaceful student.

Sure, his reputation still scared other students, but teachers, and even principal Roberts, said they could see a huge improvement in Eric's behavior and they were sure it was because of me, especially considering that he was at his best mostly in those classes we had together. He's never had problems with grades and things like that, the only issue was his bad temper, but since we started dating, they say, he calmed down.

Mom is glad. I mean, more glad. Says she likes this. Eric indirectly helping me gain self confidence, me calming him down. We're perfect together, she says. I giggle and blush at the thought of her being right.

We should have had a double date with her and Michael last week, but I cancelled because I fought with Eric. Because of Dana, remember? Dana who's been sending me lethal glares all the time, but she steers clear. I think we're gonna have a final showdown soon. Before school ends anyway.

Ah ... I feel regenerated. I feel stronger and braver. It's like being with Eric reinforces me. I feel more self confident, I don't fear standing up for myself anymore, maybe because I am truly braver or simply because, some say, I know that even if I dare tread on the wrong person's toes, there will be my boyfriend backing me up, and with Eric Rivers as protection, who could be afraid? I like to think I'm just braver of my own.

Now, I was at Aisha's place. We were getting ready to go out with Eric and Kyle, since she begged me not to leave her alone with her date. It's absurd. Normally she's so secure, and they've even slept together already, so I don't see what she fears, but since he officially asked her out on Monday, she's been freaking out, avoiding Kyle the most she can, so much that, at times, we girls eat lunch far from the boys, because she doesn't have the guts to face her crush, and since I don't want my friend to feel like we've abandoned him, I've forced Eric to have lunch with his brother only, promising I'd make up for the lovey-dovey time we missed. And I do. Every night more or less.

I've been getting so used to being sexually active that sometimes it's me to start it off. I mean, sometimes it's me to want more before he tries. Mom is always out with Michael and she says she can't forbid me, but she still reminds me to be careful. For how weird that sounds, twice per week I find a pack of condoms on my desk, with the very simple writing "use us" on it. Kind gift from my lovely mommy.

As if Eric and I would all of a sudden forget about protections. We're the most responsible sexually active teens every seen. I mean, we always use a condom, I never ever forget to take my birth control and I even take the day after pill. We even got checked up last Tuesday. We're both clean, which was obvious, but mom wanted to be sure, and there's not a chance I could get pregnant. Unless we all of a sudden forget about protections, which we won't, I keep telling her, because Eric too takes it very seriously.

Mom even dared ask me if I was sure about him being clean, considering the number of girls he's had before me. More than blush, I was outraged. How could she think he'd be so careless with me? He treats me like I'm the most important and most fragile thing ever existed, as if I was a crystal ball that can easily get broken.

You know, lately I get really oversensitive when it's about my boyfriend. Maybe it's because I hear people talking about him and it irks me, because they cannot dare talk about him without knowing him. Nobody knows him as well as I do. Well, ok, maybe Kyle knows more. But that's fair. They're brothers.

Though I am still waiting for the moment when Eric will tell me everything about his shady past. Last Sunday we celebrated our first month together. It was amazing. We obviously spent it at the same place where I lost my virginity. That place has become our equivalent of a love song. I mean, couples generally have their song, we have our place. We've even left the tent there, fixing it to a tree so it won't fly away or anything. Every time we go there, we lie down and cuddle, gazing at the stars, then if we feel like it, we retire in the tent and ... well, you know ...

Ok, ok, my boyfriend and I have a lot of sex. Better said, we make love a lot. And it's never the same. It's always so, so intense and amazing ...

Now, I was saying, Aisha and I were getting ready for a double date, because she didn't want to have dinner alone with Kyle, saying she'd feel awkward and spoil everything, so I forced .... I mean ... kindly convinced Eric to accept a double date with his brother. He wasn't truly glad, but I managed. Ok, maybe I promised we'd have our solo time after the date.

Gee, the more we do it, the more it feels natural. He hasn't given me more "lessons", but I have tried to improve the first one, so yeah, for how weird that sounds, I have been trying to improve my blowjobs, and since my boyfriend seems to enjoy them, maybe I'm not that bad.

All of this is making me less prude and I like it. The more things I discover with Eric, the more I feel self confident and ... well, yeah, self satisfied with my body. After all, when you've got such hot specimen repeating you over and over again that you're his gorgeous princess and he could never get tired of gaping at you, how can you doubt?

Now, after half an hour more of fussing, plus Aisha's mother help (who's by far the coolest mother I've ever known if you don't count mine, by the way), we were ready. I went for something easy, just a grey and red V-neck knit dress with long sleeves and a petticoat to wear beneath, knit flowers adorning the shoulder, plus sort of low-heeled grey boots. The dress reached my mid-thighs and it was comfortable, so I liked it. Though it's surprising how I've come to wear dresses so easily. Thanks to Aisha anyway.

Aisha who went for something more daring, picking, in the end, a short keyhole empire waist red dress with lace butterflies here and there as pattern. She looked gorgeous. Her hair was curly and since it barely reaches her shoulders, her back was pretty exposed, though she'd wear a long-sleeved red lace shrug, silver glitter strappy open toe sandals at her feet, which were pretty high and I awed in the beginning, because I'd never wear those, but Aisha argued that Kyle is much taller than her, so it was fair. Me, I'm not that much shorter than Eric, I mean, yeah, he can tower me, but not as much as Kyle towers Aisha, yes.

So we were ready. I honestly looked really sloppy if compared to Aisha, but it was fair, I guess. I mean, this was her first date. Eric and I were pretty much chaperons for them. Which brought me, inevitably, to thinking of the prom ... I never imagined I would go, I always thought nobody would invite me, but now I have a boyfriend ... for how cliché that sounds, yes, I pictured me, Eric, Aisha and Kyle renting a limousine that would bring us to the big ball, us girls wearing silly princess-like dresses, the boys in a tux. Though it made me laugh the idea of Eric and Kyle wearing a tux.

Anyhow, Aisha took a deep breath and, since her mother informed us our dates were here already, we headed downstairs. Her makeup was beautifully done, but she was a natural beauty, that only enhanced it. As for me, Eric says he likes me better au nature, so ... nothing other than contact lenses to change my face.

My friend was really nervous, my attempts at encouraging her by telling her it would be everything fine, Kyle liked her truly and I was there for her if she needed me were futile, she was panicking, I mean, she even argued that maybe Kyle accepted the double date only for a twisted idea of finally getting his date with me, considering he had a crush on me.

Just surprised, but not at all offended, knowing it was just panic talking, I argued that, one, it was him to ask her out, not vice versa, two, I talked to Kyle and we settled everything, he told me that yes, he did have a crush on me, but he really liked Aisha too and wanted to try.

After all, he said, he knows he stands no chance with me considering who's my boyfriend. He then added that really he didn't want to face his brother's fury if he dared try, but he was joking and I knew that, though he pointed it out immediately. So, here's the thing, we are four friends split in two couples. Awesome, right?

***

ERIC'S POV

"Relax. It's gonna be fine. You've had dates before, haven't you?" I argued, seeing my brother fidgeting and moving around. He looked like he was the nerdy boy taking the most beautiful girl to the prom. Actually, all of this felt so much like prom atmosphere. Well, after all it's in a month more or less, I mean, we're at the beginning of April, prom is in the first week of May.

I've always hated these sort of things, actually, I was thankful our school didn't even host homeschool balls. Such a waste of time if you ask me. Lucky thing principal Roberts thinks the same, so other than a silly Christmas fair every two years, nothing. He says he prefers spending the school's funds on more useful things, like enlarging the library, giving students more choices of what to study and more connections with colleges in general.

Actually, only yesterday we had career day. I took the chance to hang out with Natalie while picking fliers, though I'll admit what intrigued me most was the aeronautics stand. No, I'm not thinking of a military career, I was just fascinated by their uniforms and everything. I got to talk to a real pilot and he told me amazing things about those babies. Don't judge me, some like trains, I like planes and helicopters and everything that flies. Well, not air balloons. Those are just silly things for silly people.

I've talked to our counselor and he told me that yeah, the chances of me getting admitted to a good college aren't too low. Sure, my other than immaculate reputation might hinder me, but my grades and a very convenient letter of recommendation from principal Roberts might come in handy. I argued that the principal wasn't my number one fan, so I doubted he'd help me, but in response the counselor sent me to the man himself. I had a long talk with the old man, considering how many times I've seen his office throughout my high school career, he knows me all too well, and he says that he's glad of this new lead I've taken thanks to my girlfriend, he just hopes it'll last even in the remote eventuality of me and Natalie breaking up.

Then he added that he'd gladly say a word in my favor if I wanted it. Sure, admittance to Ivy League colleges, the ones Natalie aims at, that'd be utopia, colleges like those would never even take in consideration one like me. Maybe they would if they knew who my stepfather is, but ... you know, the man has conveniently disappeared apparently ... disappeared. More like, locked up in a high security jail while waiting for the trial, but those are just details the sheep of this town don't know about. FBI operations, you know. They like to keep them top secret.

Anyway, I'd never get admitted to one of those posh colleges, but yeah, I did stand some chances when it came to New York University or things like that. Apparently my future is New York. It's always coming up and even Natalie says she likes the idea, though she's given a shot at a few colleges, Yale being her first choice. Conveniently, there's a quite nice flight academy in Hartford, Connecticut, something like 40 minutes from campus. Considering I already gotta drive 30 minutes to get to Natalie's, it wouldn't change much, would it?

We've kind of made a list of places, though. Better said, she's got a list of colleges she's enrolled for, me being a bit late for applications, I'd wait a year if I don't pick the academy, but ... for every city she's told me, she's checked flight academies for me. So, after the above mentioned Yale and Hartford, there are New York, with both Columbia and NYU for her, that pilots academy Mr. Leman told us about for me, then Princeton, New Jersey, which means Andover Flight Academy, an hour and a half far from campus (too much for me actually, but if she picks it, fine); Brown University, Providence? Simple, Newport, Rhode Island; Stanford University means Palo Alto, California; UCLA ... ugh, Los Angeles, not even to mention.

But ... Natalie's first choice is Yale, so yeah, there's the 60% that we'll head to Connecticut, the remaining 40% being New York. Ah, the Big Apple always has its charm, hasn't it? And Natalie was born there apparently and besides uncle Sam, there's her own uncle. She's taken a shot, just for fun, at Harvard too, just because her mother suggested her to, saying there's this ... distant cousin of hers that might give her a hand.

Some ... Jake Watson. Currently at the head of a publishing house, and that's already something, given Natalie's dreams, but heir to some Watson Enterprises that his uncle is leading now. Natalie's mother says this guy's my girlfriend's third-grade cousin, something of the sort, considering his grandfather was Penelope's grandma's brother. Though they haven't kept in touch, I mean, the siblings, yeah, and Penelope too was somewhat close to her cousin, Alexander (Jake's father) but he died years ago, she was in college.

Now, this guy, this Jake Watson, he's older than us, 28-29, something like that, and Penelope doesn't know much about him, just that he's back to Boston after long trips. To be honest, the thing stinks. Part of me tells me this guy hides secrets, but maybe it's as Kyle says, I'm just irked because the guy's young, just ten years older than us, and considering that being third-grade cousins means being practically nothing for what concerns family ... yeah, ok, I might be a little bit jealous. Happy? In any case it's no problem. Natalie tried Harvard just for the sake of it, she doesn't want Boston.

Anyway, Kyle and I were out of Aisha's house, leaning on my car, waiting for the girls to come out. When his mother saw us, she laughed, saying we seriously looked like brothers, both wearing dark blue jeans and button-up shirts. We both looked at each other and snorted, dad laughing as he agreed with his wife.

Things are going perfectly with my father, by the way. I have dinner with them twice per week at least and, as if he wanted to make up for all these silent years, dad's always calling and texting, it's become so comfortable that we really look like a family, me, dad and Kyle. The woman, Carla, I'm getting to know her.

Now, this date, I've let Natalie convince me only because she promised we'd ditch the kids soon and carve out our solo time, though mostly because she wants to leave Kyle and Aisha alone, despite her friend panicking about it. I mean, this week I've had to keep company to my brother at lunch almost every day because my girlfriend ordered me to, saying Aisha didn't feel like seeing Kyle and we couldn't leave him all alone. When I said he's a big boy and can handle having lunch alone, Natalie sent me such a glare that even I recoiled, I swear. She's got innate badassery, I think. Just needs to let it out.

Anyway, my brother beside me was fussing, saying he had no idea why did he feel so nervous, he just did. Chuckling, I suggested that, maybe, he really likes the girl, and he gave me a dirty look. "You kidding? I damn like her!"

"Huh-huh ... and that's because of the girl herself or because of the hot weekend you guys spent together last week?" His eyes widened and I laughed, pointing out that Natalie obviously told me. She tells me everything. Well, some of her girly things, she spares them for Aisha and Jamie, but mostly yeah, she tells me everything. Which makes me feel mean, because I haven't told her anything about my oh, so joyful past ... I will. Promise. I just need to find the words. But I will.

Now, I'll admit that when she mentioned our friends' hot weekend, nice ideas came to my mind, but I teased her only, she's still a fresh ex virgin and I've barely started teaching her, as she wants me to. And I honestly don't mind our "lessons", you know. We've tried different sorts of positions, but always calmly, and lately she's becoming more at ease with going down on me as much as I do it for her. Not that I really need that, but ... well, yeah, I'd lie, if I said I don't enjoy watching her wrap her plump pink lips around me.

But ... there's no place for dirty thoughts tonight. Despite everything, it's still a date, even if we gotta babysit our friends. Though I don't really understand, and I pointed it out to Kyle, how comes that they could spend such an interesting weekend together but they can't stand a date alone with each other.

He told me it was his purpose when he asked her out, but when she accepted she came up with the idea of a double date and he couldn't say no and risk making the impression of a pervert that wants her alone only to do a remake of last weekend. Says it's better this way, though. Natalie and I can be the cushions that will help make the thing work.

"Oh, so now I'm Cupid? Where are my bow and arrows? And I think I'm overdressed for the role." I mocked and he rolled his eyes, arguing that I shouldn't complain, I'll have a peculiar reward.

I asked how did he know and he quite simply smirked as he shot back: "Please ... I know you, brother. You wouldn't have accepted if Nat hadn't promised you something in return, and with your perverted mind, there's only one thing she could have promised you."

Well, he busted me. I know, I know, I shouldn't be so trivial, but it's still a great night to be expecting me. Not that we never indulge in that, we do it almost every night, but ... oh, whatever. Her mother's out for the night shift, so we can come back from our date and ...

I silenced my dirty thoughts, most of which concerned not really innocent ideas about taking my girlfriend tonight, when the girls came out of the house. Natalie looked as gorgeous as usual, even in her quite simple dress. When I noticed Aisha, I unconsciously looked at my brother ... thunderstruck, to say the least.

"You might wanna close that or we'll drown in your drool, brother." I mocked with a chuckle, closing his mouth that was hung open, his jaw pretty much dropped. He had all reasons, though. Aisha looked incredibly hot, I gotta admit. But my eyes were all for my princess, obvious.

Making me smile, she all but ran to me, jumping in my arms, so that I could engulf her in one of our hot kisses that had our friends grumble about this being only the beginning of our night. We just laughed, though it is indeed just the beginning. Considering it's Friday and her mother works tonight, it's just the beginning of a great night, yes.

***

NATALIE'S POV

"They look cute together, don't they?" I asked Eric as I was all snuggled up to him, our friends being in front of us, but all engulfed in their chat. We were in a nice quiet restaurant Kyle picked, surrounded by quite a few people, but we were sitting in the corner booth, so we were pretty fine.

The beginning of the night was quite awkward. As Eric drove us here, me in the passenger seat, the other two behind, wasn't it for me and my boyfriend talking, the car would have been draped in complete silence. Things picked up a little after the main course, and just because I pretended to be in need of the restroom, from where I called Eric and ordered him to join me.

Yeah, he was pretty ... intrigued. He did take my hint of wanting to leave Kyle and Aisha alone, but he also showed more than a bit of interest in spending our five minutes in that restroom in the best way ... no, we did nothing. Better wait later.

Now everything seemed fine, our friends were chatting more freely, so much that they barely noticed our presence and Eric suggested we leave them alone once for all, but Aisha made me promise not to ever dare to that, so I had to, reluctantly, refuse.

The waitress arrived with our desserts and only then they seemed to come back to reality, but I could see they clicked perfectly and there was quite an affinity between them. Part of me already travelled to next month and the prom night. Yeah, it's never been my thing, but ... well, things change, right? We four are the living proof that things change.

Once finished eating, Kyle proposed we take a walk to the dock, just for the sake of it, so we headed out, leaving Eric's car there, after all the dock was pretty close. We soon managed to leave the new couple alone as we let them ditch us, after all Eric and I too needed our solo moments.

He told me his brother had been really nervous about this date, which was the obvious sign he really likes Aisha, and the only reason why he felt weird was because she was truly a force of nature and he wasn't quite sure he could cope. But he did wonderfully. Actually, Eric said he thinks Kyle's the only one boy in our school that could cope with one like Aisha.

"Except for you." I pointed out giggly, poking his chest.

He laughed, arguing that she's not his type. He goes for ... "Brown-haired, hazel-eyed, shy but sassy, nerdy but badass."

I grinned, knowing he meant me. "Hmm ... sounds like a great girl ..." I mocked and he squeezed me against his side, kissing my temple as he retorted: "More than great. She's breathtaking."

I sort of blushed, never getting used to his compliments, but he simply kissed my cheek, repeating me, once more, how much he loves me, to which I could only repeat the same three words. We've been together since a month only and yet each day that passes I'm more and more convinced we're gonna last till the end of time.

We've even been making plans for the after graduation. Eric is really into flight academies, so I searched them for him for every college I applied for. The best ones are in Hartford, Connecticut, something like 40 minutes from Yale, and New York City. I'll admit the Big Apple does charm me, especially because I was born there and I left it when I was five. Besides, there's uncle Peter there and Eric told me also his own uncle lives there.

This uncle Sam is the only part of his family that my boyfriend has gladly told me about. Said he's FBI, just like his wife, and they have three children that adore their cousin even while having barely seen him. Says he's truly fond of his uncle, loves like he's never loved anyone else ... except me. And though he doesn't want to make rankings, even while he's getting fond of both his refund father and brother, his uncle and I are, Eric says, the most important people in his life.

He's been telling me that I matter to him more than anything so many times and I still can't get used to it. My reaction is always the same: I smile and blush, muttering a "thanks", Eric kisses my cheek and reminds me it's the truth, whatever happens of us, he loves me for real. I bet he repeats me that also because he knows people still kind of murmur that he's hanging around only to use me. I believe him, not rumors.

Aisha and Kyle ditched us for good, we could barely see them, but we didn't mind, after all our town is so quiet, it's almost impossible to get in serious trouble. Besides, they really need this time alone and ... well, I love my friends but I honestly prefer remaining alone with my lovely boyfriend.

Once we reached the end of the dock, Eric and I sat down, me leaning my head on his shoulder as he hugged me, placing a kiss on my hair. The moon was waning crescent and there were very few stars, but it was beautiful nevertheless, so I couldn't help taking off my boots and dipping my feet into the water, Eric mockingly asking me if I wasn't afraid something would grab them from the beneath the water. I giggled, saying that, if anything appeared and attempted to take me down, I still had my lovely Prince Charming there to protect me, hadn't I?

He hugged me better, letting me sink in his arms completely, telling me he'd never let me fall, was there for me, although: "Your Prince Charming is a bit shady."

My smile vanished, knowing what he meant, but I placed my hand on his heart as my other arm wrapped around his torso, craning my neck to place a tender kiss on his cheek as I spoke: "Remember what I told you when you brought me to The Place?"

Eric gave me a half smile as he kissed my hair. "I don't want you to pity me, Tallie. My past is full of bad things that would shock, maybe even make cry a compassionate girl like you."

My eyes widened in shock. What happened to him? What horrors has he lived? And is it possible that in all of this damn town nobody ever knew and never helped him? How can it be? The only idea of him suffering makes me sick with pain, I can't help it. Murmuring, I demanded: "Tell me."

Eric sucked in a breath and I knew I couldn't push him, but maybe if he gets it off his chest it'll be a tiny bit better? He needs to move on and I'm here to help him. Whatever it is that happened to him. So I squeezed him, just to make him feel my presence, and reminded him that: "Eric, I love you. Truly. Whatever it is, you can tell me. I won't flee. I'm here for you. Always will be."

Inhaling deeply, he kissed my hair, and I caught my breaths, ready to listen. Judging by how tightly he was gripping me, it was hard to let out those words, which means that what happened to him is really tough, I mean, he so easily bared his heart and soul to me, if he can't tell me about his past, it means it's something more than unsettling, it's something that's scarred him for life.

How stupid I was. I never really gave much thought to it, I just listened to rumors about him, his other than encouraging reputation, never tried to understand why was he like that, I just let those rumors influence me and I kept away from him, afraid and scared. Stupid silly me.

Maybe if I'd had one ounce of courage, enough to see through his bad boy exterior, I would have been able to get close to him without fearing him. Maybe if years ago I had walked up to that lovely child that smiled at me, we'd have become friends and maybe things would have been completely different. Maybe. Just ... maybe.

Now I think Eric has suffered much, even if I don't know what exactly, but he has and it's scarred him and I feel guilty because maybe if I hadn't been so shy I could have relieved him a little. Just by being his friend. He's endured who knows what horrible things, always in silence, even letting all sort of bad rumors about him spread, never giving the idea he needed help. And I complained about my having no father. Stupid stuck up child that I was.

***

ERIC'S POV

I was keeping Natalie in my arms, trying to find the words to tell her the truth about my past, but then I heard a low sound, something like a ... sob, and I looked down at her, alarmed, only to see she was ... crying. Why was she crying? For me? I haven't even told her anything.

She gripped my shirt when I squeezed her against me and her sobs increased, till she completely burst out crying. I didn't know what to do, just remained there trying to soothe her, but soon enough she pulled back, wiping away her tears, ignoring my asking if she was alright to apologize: "I'm sorry. I just ..."

Her whole body shook and she wiped away more tears. I tried to pull her back in my arms, but she didn't let me, shaking her head as he continued: "I'm sorry, Eric. I know it's selfish, but I just ... I-I just realized that ... hadn't I been so stupid, I could have ... I-I don't know what it is, but the sole idea of you suffering all alone ... it makes me wanna cry because I could have done something to help you and I didn't! I believe rumors and avoided you, but I could have been your friend and ..."

She didn't finish, just covered her face with her hands and burst out crying, unable to resist. Her body shook as she cried as I've never seen her do, so I pulled her in my arms, made her sit on my lap, so that I could cradle her and cuddle her, as I tried to soothe her: "It's not your fault, princess. You have nothing to do with what happened to me."

But she shook her head, repeating that she could have at least been smarter than the crowd and look past my exterior, but no, she decided to be a sheep and left me there with my pain. Rubbing her scalp, I tried to clamed her down as I justified that she couldn't know, nobody ever knew, not even Kyle, she wasn't to blame.

Actually, she did something for me: "Baby, you smiled. Every day. Giving me at least a splash of light. I've survived for you, princess. You gave me a reason to go on. So you did more than you'd ever imagine."

"But ..."

"No buts. You've been the light that saved me, Tallie. You are that light." I grabbed her face in my hands, cupping her cheeks so that I could make her look up at me. I don't want her to be upset because of my past. That's one reason why I'm so reluctant to tell her.

She might not cope with it. She's such a delicate and kindhearted girl, I mean, she's crying her heart out at the only thought of what I've suffered without even knowing what that was, how would she take it if she knew everything? Maybe I shouldn't tell her. Better said, maybe I should just hint at my stepfather and mother being the villains in this story, not treating me right, but the rest? No. No details.

She can't know that I've faced death more than a single human being could bear, she can't know the things I've seen. She'd be traumatized and I don't want that. All she's to know is that my past hides demons, the incarnation of which were my stepfather and my own mother.

I can't tell her more than that. I already witnessed the pitied look on my dad's and brother's faces when I summed it up, I don't want my princess to give me that same look but most of all I don't want her to feel worse than she was now.

"Listen to me. That's past. Just past. I kept you out of it for a reason, but it's over now. We're together. I love you. You love me. It's enough. Actually, it's perfection. I don't want to think of those things anymore. It's everything over. But you can't blame yourself, baby. You have nothing to do with it. If anything, you've given me hope. You've given me a reason to keep fighting. And if I live, if I survived, I only owe it to you. Because every time I reached the limit, I got back up only thinking of you. Every time I reached the deepest gutter, only your face came to my mind and it gave me the strength to fight. In hopes of living that utopia of you and I together. And now you're here, in my arms, and every time you say you love me I feel alive and grateful."

I pecked her lips, leaning my forehead on hers. "Baby, if it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't even be here now. You saved me. And you keep on saving me, because if I can believe in a better life, it's only because I have you by my side. If I feel alive, it's only because I have my gorgeous and breathtaking princess beside me. I have your love, Tallie, and that's about everything that counts for me. Till I have you by my side, I'll be amazingly fine."

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