Chapter 61 - Leaving
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CHAPTER 61 - LEAVING
I remained there interdicted only for a moment. As soon as Noah had said that I let aside every thought and every caution and quite simply sprinted to the bed, forgetting about his wounds to wrap up my Eric in a tight hug. I couldn't think of anything that should forbid me that. He was awake and alive.
That was reason enough. Sure, he did yelp slightly when I squeezed his wounds, but he also hugged me back, as weakly as his injured bones permitted him. Though I could feel one arm only around me, which was explained when I heard Noah giggling and coming closer to the bed, so that, looking down, tears already streaking down my cheeks, even if silently, I saw their hands entwined.
I don't know what I felt, my heart just swelled with emotions at the sight. Even without knowing who they really were to each other, Eric and Noah were holding hands, and judging by the way neither of them was pulling back, they both enjoyed that contact.
Especially Noah, he easily climbed the bed and came to sit between us, separating us, yes, but for as much as Eric was still clearly hazy and that was only a temporary moment of reunion, it was still us. The family we were never able to really form. It was still me, my love and our son, who, even without knowing who Eric really was, seemed to have taken a particular liking on him, given how he was giggling and sat on his knees to face him.
When I, unable to retain myself, stretched my hand to caress Eric's cheek, almost disbelieving, no, not at all able to believe that after so long my true love was there, alive and awake, those blue eyes staring at me, kind of watery, which was the clear sign of his being touched, for as much as he never lets himself be that.
Actually, the only one time I had the feeling he was on the verge or downright crying was four years ago, when he left me that message as a farewell. But I was saying, when I caressed his cheek, unable to believe my eyes, the smile twitching my lips unconsciously, Noah let pass only a moment before, giggling, he mimicked me, which made Eric break eye contact with me to gaze at our son, and, I don't know why, but part of me saw the slightest bit of consciousness in his eyes. I mean, the way he looked at Noah, it kind of felt as if he knew who that little boy was.
From afar, we probably were a touching sight, which I guess is why I could faintly hear Jamie's sob. Her pregnancy hormones were enough tangled up to have her cry out of joy in my mother's arms, as I noticed with the corner of my eyes. Always with the corner of my eyes I saw Jake joining the party, but just for a moment: he left a second later, I bet to go call Kyle and Charles and tell them about it. Eric's father has been joining me in watching over his son these nights, we never talked, we just sat at Eric's sides and ... waited. For him to wake up, of course.
Often, when I burst out crying, Charles would come close and hug me, trying to comfort me as he reminded me of how strong and resistant our Eric was, so he was sure he'd make it, though I could see tears in the man's eyes too. After all, it was still his son. As mom pointed out, if there's something a parent could never endure, it's surviving to their child. So no wonder that Charles was that distraught. And Kyle too. They were able to become a real family in those few weeks, remember?
But that's not the point now. Now the point was, my Eric, and how his blue eyes kept travelling alternatively from me to Noah and vice versa, as if he was trying to figure out something. Surely, Noah might have told him his mother's name if they talked, so possibly Eric was trying to figure out the similarities between the little boy and I. Finding almost none, except for the nose, he'll come to the conclusions, won't he?
Maybe he should know. Jamie, when we talked by the vending machine, pointed out that Noah deserves to know who his father is, be it only because, once he's grown up, he'll hold it against me that I didn't let him have a relationship with his dad.
When mom nodded, I looked at her questioningly, silently pointing out that she did the same with me, but, as if she'd read my mind, she pointed out that it was a different case: Eric didn't know and never has about Noah, if he was to leave as soon as he woke, then it'd be because he couldn't do else (she reminded me of the promise he made to her seven years ago and I had to do my best to keep the tears from falling), while Landon Pierce left because he wanted to, so she never told me about him because she thought it was better for me not to ever have anything to do with such a man. And, because at first it was hard for her to face the fact, considering that, regrettably, she says, she did love him.
But Eric, she was sure he wouldn't leave if he knew. I'd so want to believe her, but I know him. And I know he left because he had to, so neither knowing he has a son would change things. It would only hurt Noah and I can't allow that.
Yet, that's not the point now either. The point was the frame we made in that moment, kind of like a family finally reunited. Well, like I said, the family we were never able to form. Things could have gone so differently. Hadn't his stepfather got in the way, by now maybe Noah wouldn't exist or he would, but we would be a traditional family. Because both Eric and I always knew we'd stick together. Yeah ... we would have. Would have wanted to. Hadn't odds been so hostile.
My heart skipped thousands of beats at the mere sight of Eric opening his mouth to say something, everything inside me craving to hear his voice again after so long, but Noah prevented us all, asking why did Eric have all those gauzes all over his chest. Inevitably, we both chuckled, me wiping away tears from my eyes, feeling a powerful shock when Eric caressed my cheek.
Noah looked in between us, who held a stare contest for a long moment, our eyes conveying all the words we needed to tell each other, till my baby boy surprised us both once again and leaned his head on Eric's gauzed shoulder, which startled him, so that it took him a moment to reciprocate, but Eric did wrap his arm around Noah, even if sort of weakly, due to his multiple wounds. His other arm snaked around me, though, and brought me closer, forgetting about his injuries, so that we three made a sight that was between tender and comical, I think, with Noah and I leaning our heads on Eric's shoulders, all three grinning like Cheshire cats, though my cheeks were wet.
I don't know if Noah was being that friendly because he already liked my "friend" or because it was unconscious, though my son is pretty outgoing of his own, which is something he didn't take from me neither from his father actually, well, maybe I was a little bit more open once, then things changed, but I wasn't as much ... let's say friendly as Noah, yet he doesn't normally hug random people just because. Though part of me couldn't help but think that, maybe, just ... maybe, deep inside my son there was this unconscious recognizing the blonde man he was hugging as blood related. Kind of romantic for an idea, but I couldn't make myself delete it.
"I've missed you." Those were Eric's first words, his voice sounding hoarse and as deep as ever in my ear. I better pressed myself against him, hiding my face in the crevasses of his neck as I couldn't retain a sob I wanted to hide from Noah, not to upset him, while I confirmed: "Me too."
But, inevitably, right after that, tears breaking my voice for the nth time, I couldn't keep myself from chastising: "Don't you dare leave me again."
He sighed, though. "Tallie ..." I gripped him tighter, kind of wanting to keep him from talking. I knew he'd leave, I know him all too well, but I couldn't help voicing my wishes, that's all. Is that utopian to think we can live our love without complications of any sort? Is it really impossible for us to remain together?
As if on cue, Noah's little arms wrapped around Eric's torso too, squeezing him enough to make him yelp, so that I forced myself to move and pull my son back too, be it only not to hurt Eric, but he held us there, even if, clearly, his injuries hurt, and there we remained, silently lost in a multiple hug that might not have had much sense, considering my boys didn't know about each other, but it also felt too right and too good to keep ourselves from it. So, there we remained, till we heard a bit of ruckus from the door and I forcedly pulled back when I recognized Kyle's and Charles' voices.
Noah and I remained at the side of the bed, him in my arms, enough far to give the three men their space, but enough close for me to still be able to keep eye contact with Eric, my heart and mind kind of fearing he'd disappear if I lost sight of him even for a moment only. Noah placed his small hands on my cheeks, wiping tears away as he pouted while pointing out: "Mama, don't cry. Your friend is okay."
That only had me sob more, but I forced myself not to cry openly, be it only because I knew my baby boy would follow me. He's so sensitive and empathic.
I could barely hear the hazy words that Kyle blurted out, their father being pretty silent as he simply beheld his son finally awake, tears in his eyes, but because there was too much ruckus in the room of a patient that had just woken up, Dr. Cox and nurses soon came to throw us all out, saying they needed to check the patient's conditions, though Kyle, being part of the staff, was able to remain there.
As soon as we were out, foreseeing, mom took Noah from my arms as I crawled to the floor, my system finally giving in to tiredness and all the haze of the moment. It wasn't desperation, it was just need to take in the whole thing. Only barely ten minutes ago I was talking to my mother and Jamie, trying to forget, even if just for a single moment, where was I and why, when Jamie giggly mentioned seeing Kyle and Aisha walking away, hand in hand, my exhausted mind let me smile for a moment at the idea of at least those two getting a happy ending, but then I recalled Noah being in that room without supervision and I walked back, only to have my heart stop beating for a long moment as I beheld the two men of my life holding hands as they looked at each other, Eric being clearly dumbfounded, Noah all giggly.
My son is a cheerful boy of his own, he is pretty open, unlike I was as a child, but he still wouldn't hug random people and hold hands and everything, so I can't help but think that there might be, inside him, the deep and unconscious idea that the one I deemed as a dear friend was in some way related to him. Or maybe Noah just likes Eric for some reason. After all, my son is quick at liking new people.
Wiping tears away, I looked at the people around me: mom was embracing Charles, as a manner of comforting or something, I guess, or to let him express his own emotions that he'd been bottling up, I guess. Aisha and Jamie were staring at me, clearly worried, but I couldn't see Noah anywhere ... I looked around, kind of panicking already, but then Aisha hinted behind them and I spotted Noah walking hand in hand with my cousin as they headed to the vending machine, in fact my best friend pointed out: "Jake thought it was better to distract Noah from all these crying people."
I would have wanted to argue that if Charles and I were crying, it was out of joy, well, mine was mixed with letting all emotions loose, but I kept it, knowing it would have been useless. Either way, my heart skipped a beat when the door of the room opened and nurses came out, along with Dr. Cox, which had me leap to my feet, even if weakly, all of us facing the man eagerly.
Thank God, he smiled at us, informing us that Eric was finally out of danger, he didn't seem to be having particular problems, the wounds would heal, it'd take a while, but they would, and in a few weeks he'd be the same he was again, though for now he needed a bit of assistance, be it only to help him stand, because while his upper part was perfectly fine, he'd caught bullets in his lower side too, which might have caused him to spend the rest of his life on a wheel chair, but we were lucky, so he's gonna need it only till the leg heals, and given how strong he is, he might be able to shift to crutches in a week anyway. So, all was well. He'd recover perfectly. It'd might take weeks or a month or two, but Eric would recover fully and perfectly.
As soon as the doctor left, though not before having reminded us that the patient needed rest, so no more than one person at a time for now, at least till he recovered from the haze, Kyle came out, giving me a crooked grin as he informed me: "To you the privilege of being first, Nat."
I half smiled at his joke as I bypassed him to go inside, faintly hearing him close the door behind me, who was too distracted by the sight of those blues I love so much fixed on me. Eric gave me a half smile as he adjusted himself on bed, but when I saw him struggle, I rushed to his help, taking advantage of that to grip his hands tightly, without the slightest intention of letting them go, which I did, but only to wrap him up in an as tight hug that had him yelp a little as I was squeezing his injured bones, even wetting his hair as tears kept falling. My eyes hurt, but I couldn't keep those drops from falling, though this time it was out of joy.
Eric rubbed my scalp soothingly as he tried to mend: "Hey ... it's ok, princess, I'm fine."
Pretty useless. I couldn't stop tears anyway, so he resorted to simply trying to soothe me as he always did, back to when life had a meaning, back to when we had dreams and hopes, back to when we were together.
We'd been remaining there, with her gripping me so tightly that my injured bones were kind of protesting for the pain, but I couldn't care less, there was no way I'd let her go, not so soon anyway. Yet she pulled back, but slightly, enough to lean her forehead on mine, hands now moving to cup my cheeks as she whispered, voice broken by the never-ending tears: "I thought I'd lost you."
There was nothing I could reply to that, other than: "Sorry." But she shook her head, and as she pecked my lips, I couldn't help but linger in that brief kiss more than due, till we deepened it and while my arms and my bones in general hurt, I managed to squeeze her against me as we explored each other's mouth, after four years, as if it was the first time.
To think that we have a son together. To think that I'll have to leave that little boy and her again, maybe not so soon, but certainly before the wrong people find me. Yet for now, I was very willing to indulge in a moment of bliss. Just having my princess with me for a while. Just that.
When she pulled back, though her lips still brushing mine, she reminded me: "I love you so damn much, Eric."
I let myself smile at that as I quite simply confirmed: "I love you too, Tallie. More than life itself."
It felt refreshing to be able to tell her that after so long, it felt like being reborn. Just like four years ago. When we had our last moment. That last moment that gave us Noah apparently. I can't help but feel already attached to that kid and I'd really love to be there for him. If only I could. But I guess that, for now, I sort of can ... better said, I can be close to him enough to get to know him a little, till I'm stuck in here.
Maybe he doesn't have to know who I really am. Maybe we can stick to the idea of me being just his mother's friend. Nothing more than that. Besides, I guess he'll have a father figure anyway, I mean, that Chase didn't look like the kind of guy that'd leave his girlfriend in trouble. Even though he must know that Noah isn't his. Even though, even while having just come to know about him, the idea of leaving my son with another father irks me not little.
But I guess there's nothing I can do. Better grow up with a real father than know he's abandoned you, right? Both Natalie and I know how it feels like. Though I do have my dad now, I just left him and my brother seven years ago because of major issues.
Ugh, things couldn't have been more fucked up for me, I swear. But Natalie must have felt I was sort of spacing out, so she called me back to reality, her voice still broken by tears, but just a bit less: "Can you do me a favor? Can you not think about leaving already?"
I sighed as I kissed her hair. "Baby, you know, I ..."
"Yes, I know." She pulled back completely, not entirely leaving my arms, but kind of, as she spoke, a bit mad even, though her voice sounded always broken: "I know, but you've just awoken. Can you please take the time to heal at least?" Her body shook a little as she let out a broken sigh. "Can you please think of the people that love you for once?"
I frowned. That's absurd. It's because I've thought of them before myself that I've been on the run for years. Otherwise I would have been much more careless and endangered them too. "I always ..."
"I don't mean that, and you know it." I blinked my eyes, confused, though I was regaining a bit of control over thoughts and everything, much quicker than the doctor predicted, considering he'd suggested I take a few hours of rest. I've been "sleeping" for who knows how long. I can handle a bit of stress.
Natalie sighed as she plopped down beside me, taking my hand in hers, which I instinctively squeezed and her lips twitched a little as she smiled lightly while being serious as she spoke: "I mean, can you, for once, think that there are people that love you and need to have you around? It's not just me. It's your father, your brother, it's ..."
"Noah?" I just couldn't watch my tongue. It slipped on its own and Natalie's eyes widened for a moment, clear sign she was shocked and most probably didn't even want me to know about the little boy, that's why I asked for a confirm, even while perfectly knowing: "Is he ..."
"No." She cut me off and I frowned. Well, I didn't see that coming. Asking for a confirm meant I wanted her to tell me with her own voice, not to contradict me. Because sure as hell there's nothing to contradict here.
"Noah is my son." Natalie pointed out. I nodded, conscious that while that was clear and I knew that already, it had to be pointed out, of course.
Though I couldn't help slightly correcting her: "Your mean our. Our son." She sucked in a breath, clearly not expecting me to know, and because she's so bad at it, I could read the lie in her eyes before she voiced it:
"No. He is ... Chase's."
"Eric ..." I struggled a little to sit up properly, but I managed, without her help even. Actually, if you don't count the coma, this is not even the worst I've ever faced. I've handled worse, much, much worse wounds, some of which left me scars too. So I can handle this. Actually, I think I might heal faster than predicted, which will be necessary, to avoid having the wrong people find me.
Yet I pointed out: "That's my son, Natalie. We both know that. I mean, look at him. Not even if we were twins he'd resemble me that much."
"Chase's father is blonde too, maybe Noah took after from him."
I snorted. "There's no need to lie. Noah is my son."
She pulled back completely, crossing her arms over her chest, which she does when she needs to protect herself. Lowering her head, she sighed, her voice cracking as she spoke: "Even if I admit he is yours, what would change? You'll leave him. You'll leave us again. I know that."
I tried to reach for her as I noticed tears streaking down her cheeks once more, but she didn't let me, just went on talking, her voice being cracked, yes, but to my heart more than my ears, sounding so heartbreakingly cold ... "I can't allow you to hurt him as much as you hurt me."
Closing my eyes, I pointed out in a sigh: "That's a blow below the belt." But fair enough. I did hurt her. I know I did. And I don't want to hurt our child too, but ... "Okay, then. Don't tell him about me. But I want time with my son. At least that."
I shook my head. "I'll have to leave him, but I at least want to get know him. And before you say it, I know it'll be worse, but he doesn't have to know who I am."
I sighed, defeated. Times like this, I hate my life and I wonder why the hell am I in this world, just to endure all this Hell? That's what I deserve? Well, maybe I didn't deserve it as a kid, but now ... with everything I've done, I deserve Hell itself when it's over, but would it seriously be too much to ask for some relief now and then? Jeez, I grew up fatherless and now I'm bound to force my own son to do the same.
All because if I remain close to them, I could get them killed. Ugh. Maybe my mother was right, I have no reason to be in this world. All I ever do is screw up people's lives. Like I did to my Natalie. She would have been so much better off without me ... hadn't I been so selfish, by now she'd be happy with her life, not nursing bloodshot eyes because of the too many tears.
She was staring at me, her hazel eyes full with both compassion and sorrow, which is once more my fault, because there was a time when those hazels held nothing but joy. Now look at her, she looks so dull, so lifeless. And it's my fault.
Inhaling deeply, I concluded: "He deserves a real father and I can't be that, but for the time being, till I heal, may I at least be granted a few moments with my son? He doesn't need to know who I really am, you can keep telling him I'm just a friend, but I need some time with him. Just to get to know him. Just that."
Seeing her eyes watery, I swiftly grabbed her hand and truthfully added: "And with you. No need to point that out."
"You okay?" I asked, startling my cousin that was lost in gazing at her ex and son talking. We were just outside the room, the door was closed, but we were peeping from the window, of course. Noah looked particularly enthusiast about this new "friend" he just got.
He's been in there for a good couple of hours, after everyone had had their moment with Eric, starting from Natalie, who came out of that room, opposite to what I thought, pained more than relieved. I thought that seeing and talking to her ex after so long, after what he's been through, would have been good for her heart, but instead she felt only worse, and I guess it's because of something he said to her.
She didn't give us details, just asked Noah if he wanted to get to know her friend a bit better. The child was enthusiast since the beginning, clapping his hands, agreeing immediately, his mother smiled forcedly as she informed him that her friend had liked the stories the kid had recounted him in his sleep and wanted to talk a bit more to him. Yeah, to a child, it sounds truthful, but to me, her mother and her friends, it was as clear as the sun, of course: indirect way of letting father and son have some time together.
Fair enough. I guess the guy does have the right to that. I know what it's like to lose your parents at a young age, especially your father, so I guess that despite the odds, Noah does have the right to spend some time with his that. Though I have the fair feeling neither my cousin or her ex are really willing to tell the truth to the kid. I have my doubts about it, but it's their decision, not mine. Obvious.
Natalie kind of flinched when I placed my hand on her shoulder, but calmed down when she saw it was me. As she looked back into the room, I bet to hide her real pained state, I informed her that her mother was down the hall talking to her husband, while the others, I sent them away to rest, especially Kyle, given how worn out he looked after almost a week of practically never quitting his shift.
She nodded distractedly as she kept observing the two in the room, so that I asked why wasn't she joining them, but she argued that that was their moment. I glanced at them too. Clearly, Noah was enjoying himself and so was his dad, given how much they were smiling and laughing.
"You should be glad. They clicked." I commented, but my cousin sighed, slumping her shoulders as she pointed out: "Sure. But what about when he'll leave?"
Ah. So that's what he told her, isn't it? That's why she was so hurt. He already pointed out that he's leaving as soon as he can. Well, then. I guess I'll need to have a chat with this guy. Years ago I made the mistake of letting him do what he thought, but that only made my cousin feel worse. This time I won't allow that.
Maybe he doesn't have to leave. Maybe I can see to fix his problems. Money does give power, after all, doesn't it?