Chapter 67 - We're forever
I'm so excited,so,so excited! I think I'm gonna cry lol it's been such a long journey, this story is by far the longest and most romantic one I've ever written...and it's over...almost
CHAPTER 67 - WE'RE FOREVER
I watched petrified as they fought. I kept tugging at the cuffs to free myself, but nothing. No way. I could only watch. Watch as that man punched and hit and attempted at my love's life. Watch as Eric fought to survive. And I was powerless. I couldn't do anything to help. Why? There must be something. Celaena raised Hell to save her Chaol. Can't I do the same? Yeah, cuffed to a stupid lateral mirror ... sure. Ughhhh!
I pulled at the handcuffs once more and more forcefully. There must be a way to get rid of these. Wait, my phone. If only I could reach it ... ugh, my bag's in the car. Come on, Natalie. Think. Don't panic. Think.
Don't panic. How can't I? My Eric is there, fighting for his life and I can't do anything for him! I might lose him. No. NO. Not again. NO! I won't let that happen again!
I tugged at the handcuffs once more, my eyes watering, a sob mixed with a whimper escaping my lips every time Eric hit the ground, till, finally, he was able to take the upper hand. He glanced at me and I forced myself to smile, be it only to give him courage, but it was a lightning, we locked gazes for a second, but the moment I looked away, I noticed the blade shining in the moonlight, absurdly bright.
I pulled forcefully at the handcuffs, trying to warn Eric just with my eyes, I would have screamed, but no sound would come out of my mouth, no matter how I tried. Think, Natalie, think. Do something. You can't let it happen! No. No, I won't. There must be something.
I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing. These stupid handcuffs! Wait ... there is a way in theory. Ok. I took a deep breath and waited for the sound. Of my thumb breaking, that is. I pressed my eyelids not to feel the pain and slipped my hand out of the handcuff. When I reopened my eyes, it was as if time had frozen. Miraculously, I'd add.
"I don't know what got into me. I just saw him taking out that knife and ... and it was a split second, he'd just ... just ... s-stabbed you that I ... I-I saw the gun there and I just ... just ran for it and I took it and ... and ... Eric, I ... I-I did it for you! I-I was losing you and I ..." I barely made it to recount all of that. I just burst out crying. Unable to retain myself anymore.
We were on the couch, had just come back from the Grants, had left Noah there purposely to have our talk and I've told him everything ... it felt like a huge load was taken off my shoulders but it was still tormenting my heart.
As a matter of fact, I killed someone. I, Natalie Penelope Watson, have taken someone's life. I talked to Lukas about it, mostly because I know he can relate, and he comforted me, saying he knows how it feels like to have your conscience tormenting you all day and night, but he couldn't help but feel he'd do it again. For his Samantha.
His case was different. He just took the chance when the man was hanging out of a roof, Lukas being the only thing that kept him up. And he let him slip away from his grip. Voluntarily. Because that man had been a nightmare for his Sam, since she was a child, and Lukas had almost lost her because of that man, so despite everything, he was lucid when he made up his mind, he'd kept hearing that voice chanting to let the man go and finally make sure that Sam was safe once for all and, maybe, as a matter of revenge also, for all that had happened to her.
Lukas comforted me, reminded me I did it only to save Eric, that it's right to feel guilty because it was an extreme measure, him too, he felt guilty, sometimes he still does, but, he said, then he looks at his wife and kids and reminds himself that, hadn't he sold his soul to the devil, they wouldn't have had anything of this. There would be no Richie, no Sophia, no Arianna, no unnamed little boy yet to be born, and ... no Sam.
Lukas confessed it was maybe selfish, maybe they could have made sure the guy was locked up for life, but he'd already escaped, and he had friends, and justice never works ... the man had planned his revenge on Sam for years, certainly, he'd try again, and what man would he have been if he'd let his love at such monster's mercy again? Lukas also confessed he's always felt guilty for what happened to Sam, as he put it, hadn't they fought, she wouldn't have got off earlier, she would have been with him, not alone in a park, easy prey to those men that had plotted against her so carefully.
In a word, my friend explained that he knew all too well how I feel, but we shouldn't let that act influence us. We all always say that we'd do anything for our beloved ones, and when the time comes, we never know if we'll actually be up to our vow or just cowardly back up. Lukas said he always knew deep down that he'd move the earth for his Sammy, but he obviously never thought he'd reach some extremes, not personally at least.
I mean, when she was kidnapped, he called his dark friend to solve the issue and yes, he did indeed order him to get rid of that horrible man, but in the end Lukas changed his mind. As a matter of fact, hadn't that man tried to escape, he'd have only been sent to rot into prison, not in Hell. And yet Lukas couldn't delete that idea, he said something inside him kept chanting that it was the only way to make sure Sam would be safe, and that was the key word: for her. Anything for her.
And it's the same for me. I would do anything for Eric. I never thought of how literal this idea would become, but it has. And ... what plagues my conscience more is that I don't regret it. I don't regret pulling the trigger right before that horrible man raged against my love, I don't regret aiming and firing right in the nick of time. Because that man had already stabbed Eric, and he was kneeled and almost unconscious, and that awful man was about to repeat his actions and ... I didn't think, I just reacted. Only when he fell on the ground, unconscious, bleeding, I realized what I'd just done and I threw the gun on the ground.
I dropped to my knees, unable to breathe or talk anymore, faintly hearing sirens in the background. The rest of that night was all a haze. I can barely remember paramedics coming out of nowhere and taking Eric to the hospital, cops talking to me ... I got nothing of what they told me, I couldn't speak, so they let me go to the hospital. They were even kind enough to give me a day or two to cope with it, then they came for me. But, because that man was a very dangerous criminal, wanted not just in Chicago but all over the country, FBI soon came in.
They asked me all sorts of questions, starting from why did I shoot. There were even witnesses. A couple was jogging right then and they heard the gunshot and immediately called 911. They couldn't say what exactly happened, they just saw Eric being stabbed and me pulling the trigger. With the help of the lawyers of the Grant Enterprises that Lukas kindly made available to me, everything was solved pretty easily and the case didn't even reach the courthouse. It was dismissed as self defense in a couple of days.
There remains my conscience. It still eats me alive for what I did. I'd do it again, I don't regret it, but that voice still won't shut up. At night, I pretend to sleep comfortably, all wrapped up in Eric's arms, Noah between us, but while they sleep deeply, I spend half of the time gazing at both of them, wondering what would have happened if I hadn't pulled that trigger. I would have lost my Eric once for all. Noah would have lost his papa now that he'd found him. So it was right. But it was still a life that I've taken.
Hence, I was crying my heart out in Eric's arms. He tried to soothe me, saying he was thankful because I'd saved his life, but that's just about the same everybody has told me, starting from Lukas, and his lawyers and even that woman from the FBI. And I know they're right, but still!
Maybe that man, for how evil he was, had a family, a wife, or kids or even a mother that's gonna miss him! For how horrible he was, there must have been someone that cared for him and that he cared for! And I took that away from them to save mine!
"I'm such a horrible, horrible person!" I whined, hiding my face in Eric's chest. He's still recovering, but thank God he's fine. He hugged me tighter, reminding me that it was give or take, either way, the man was gonna wind up bad. Be it dead or rotting into prison. I asked if he had any beloved people and Eric scrunched up his nose, asking why, so I told him what I thought and he sighed, letting me snuggle up to him as we lay on the couch, comfortably in each other's arms.
He then explained that that guy, the Armorer, was orphan, and he wasn't one to settle, so no, he had no wife nor kids or anything, just girls he changed every once in a while. I argued that maybe those girls cared for him, but Eric contradicted me, saying that all that man had were men loyal to him, maybe his right-hand-man was the closest to him, but overall, no one that would miss him.
"That's so sad." I couldn't help but argue.
Eric cracked a small smile, kissing my temple. "It's the criminal life, baby. Hadn't I had you, I would have been in the very same situation."
I looked up at him, frowning. "You were no criminal."
He gave me a tender smile as he grazed my cheek, explaining that, with his peculiar job, he might have been some sort of avenger, but in the eyes of the law he was still a criminal. That made me crack a small smile as I pointed out that in that case he was like Mr. Reese, and he chuckled, pointing out: "Why do you think my alias was John Riley?"
I blinked my eyes. "Because of him?"
"Because of you, princess. I needed a name, you've always told me about this Reese, how awesome he was, so I thought why not. It was a tiny way to keep your memory."
He kissed my forehead tenderly. "Even though, I've never once quit thinking about you."
I grinned, my tears drying up. "Neither have I."
Eric cupped my cheeks, gazing into my eyes as he spoke seriously: "We're here now. No one and nothing's gonna divide us. Not anymore."
I leaned my forehead against his, closing my eyes as I breathed out: "Promise?"
Eric pecked my lips before replying: "Promise. We're forever."
Well, he wasn't able to keep that promise seven years ago, but fate can't be that cruel again, right? It's always seen to bring us back together, now it's time to let us remain unite. No more leaving. No more abandoning. No more tears. We're forever.
"We're going on a scanger hunt!" Noah beamed as soon as I entered the apartment. I frowned, confused, closing the door behind me.
"He means scavenger. Scavenger hunt." Eric injected as he came to us, seeing to peck my lips as a manner of greeting, which had me grin like a Cheshire cat. It's been a whole month, you know. A whole month since I confessed what I did.
I'm not entirely out of my conscience's grip, but ... I've been seeing my therapist a bit more to cope more easily. She also wanted to see Eric, so we've had a couple of sessions together, the first time he was really nervous, this unknown woman knew everything about what I've gone through because he left, but he coped well.
This month's been great. Amazing. Our family seems so unite. Noah and Eric are bonding well, only a few weeks ago they went fishing with Kyle and Charles and Eric has also taken our son to a couple of his pilot courses, which he started three weeks ago. He was beaming on his first day. Noah and I made him a surprise only last week and he looked so happy among those helicopters.
It really feels like we're living a fairy tale. I'm almost waiting for the moment when everything will crumble down again but it doesn't. It doesn't. We are perfectly fine together. My job goes with flying colors, Sam has named me her vice, so we're running the house together, although, in a month, I'll be alone, because she'll be giving birth by December and Lukas doesn't want to hear reasons, she's going on maternity leave for six months at least. She can still collaborate via phone call, but in no way will she be allowed to leave home to go to work.
Although, she's already told me she'll be sneaking out with the excuse of coming to say hi to me. I argued it's not a great idea, because her husband works just on the floor above us, but she snorted, saying Lukas is all grumpy husband only on the surface, he knows he can't tell her what to do, she only listens to his advice (not even always), she's her own leader. It's all blah, blah, blah, I think, in the end, they're co-leaders, as it should be. Even though, Richie mostly listens to his father only.
Either way, it's going everything perfectly fine. Eric and I seem to work as parents, with Noah it's not always easy because for how adorable and obedient, he gets cranky sometimes, but we take little steps. For instance, we were able to get him to sleep in his own bed soon, so that we can have our privacy, which we had ... believe me. We left Noah at the Grants that next weekend after my confession, so that we could have our first date since years and spend some lovey-dovey moments, which are never enough.
Now, it was a Friday, I'd just got off work and I didn't understand what did they mean by scavenger hunt, so I asked and, jumping up and down while his father held me tenderly in his arms, Noah explained that his papa had had a brilliant idea and we were having a scavenger hunt this weekend, for no reason. I smelled underling tricks, but said nothing. Just agreed.
We headed to the kitchen to have dinner, well, dinner ... more like pizza. I love my boyfriend, but really, he couldn't cook to save his life. The most he can do are scrambled eggs and bacon, so yeah, at least he makes breakfast for all of us. As for lunch, we always have it together with Lukas and Sam at our favorite spot, while dinner, I prepare it once back home, though twice per week Eric takes us out, saying he can't help cooking, but can at least save me the trouble now and then. How sweet.
Anyway, we headed to the kitchen, grabbed the pizza cartons and headed to the living room, Eric asked if I preferred to take a bath first, but I refused, admitting I was hungry, so he frowned, complaining that, had I told him first, he wouldn't have ordered pizza, he would have just taken us to the restaurant, I rolled my eyes, kissing his cheek as I thanked him, but pizza would do just fine.
"So what's this scavenger hunt we're having?" I asked as we sat on the couch while Noah went through his DVDs to pick something we could watch altogether, finding nothing, he quite simply swapped to Netflix and started flipping through channels to find something he liked. Ah, kids nowadays. By his age I didn't even know how to turn the TV on. Well, by his age I was more interested in the books mom read me, but whatever. He's into books too, just a little less than I, though Arianna, who's a book lover just like her mother, sees to drag him into her world.
The little girl's only 3 but she's been begging her mom to teach her how to read already, Sam argued that she can't even tie her shoes, but you know what she replied? "I can walk without shoes, but books are important". Ah, so smart that girl's gonna be. Not that her siblings are any different. With parents like that, those kids are only grow up all too smart, but Arianna stands out, I think.
Even though, Sophia has taken after her mother as well, she's always so calm, so quiet, well, she would be, hadn't she her twin brother annoying her, as she puts it. They kind of make Bart and Lisa Simpson, I think, Richie being a real scoundrel that barely listens to his mother. He does cower back to her when his father does the strong voice, though. As Sam tells me, Lukas is really kindhearted, a pure heart of gold, but not really a sweetheart when he goes all grumpy mode. So much like my cousin. Ah, these men. All so similar. No wonder they get along so well.
You think we girls are the only one to make group? Nah, you don't see how Eric, Jake and the two Lukases are when together. My friends have welcomed my boyfriend really gladly in their small manly clique, so every time we get together, it's easy to see them all to themselves while we girls mind our own business and the kids play in the other rooms. A big family we are, and I love it.
Anyway, once he'd found the movie he wanted, Noah sat on the floor, as he normally does when we eat pizza, says he likes it better that way, fine with me, I comfortably snuggled up to Eric anyway and repeated my questions, but the boys glanced at each other, grinning mischievously ... there's something behind this scavenger hunt, but I guess I'll find out when it's time. I like surprises anyway. When they're good, that is.
Where it all began
That was the second-to-last message I found. We've been playing scavenger hunt all day, Eric has had me searching for clues throughout all New York City, well, kind of ... the peculiar thing is, all those places, they all had to do with my favorite show, Person of Interest. They were all places where meaningful events had taken place, starting from the imaginary 8th precinct where John first met Carter, now I was at the Lyric Diner, where they meet for the first time face to face, and that's where I found the message that said that. Now, where it all began. Does he mean where they began or where we ... oh, wait. He didn't ...
This morning they woke up early, and I say they because Noah is in cahoots with his dad, eh. When I opened my eyes I only saw a note left on Eric's pillow, signed by both, it bore the first clue to the scavenger hunt. Behind it, there was my phone, beeping with a vocal message they both recorder, well, mostly Noah excitedly challenging me to find them, while Eric calmly suggested I take my time ...
Wait a minute, he said "A little hint, princess: it's not just about the apple" ... right then and there I didn't get what he meant, but the message ended with their cheesy salutes and I obviously couldn't call them, it was a rule, I could call them only if I got in trouble. Now that I think about it ... it's not just about the apple. Not just the apple ... ah, of course! The Big Apple! So it's not just New York City!
The suburbs maybe? Well, there's an episode of Person of Interest that's set in the suburbs, but I don't think it'd have something to do with us ... mostly, the clues where about places Reese and Carter shared, because Eric knows I'm a Careeser, so ... somewhere they went that it was outside New York ... mmh, well, Texas. But why would he send me there? Nah, too far. Then where? There was an episode set on Owen Island, but that's still within the State of New York.
Ok, think, Natalie. Where it all began. If he means Careese, then it's the precinct I've been for the first clue, but I don't think he'd repeat, and in any case that's New York City still, so ... he doesn't mean them. He means ... us. Where it all began for us! Well, school. Mrs. Porter's class. No, wait, that's just the first meeting, but the first time we talked, really talked ... ok, that's it. It's a choice: Washington High or Sophie's? Either way, I think I'm heading to my old town. After seven years of absence. One hell of a sense of humor, Eric, congrats.
In the end, I opted for the school. It was a Saturday, so it ought to be closed, but there was our old janitor waiting at the entrance. One more reason to believe I'm right. Where it all began. Meaning, either where we first saw each other 15 years ago or where we first talked for real. Either way, my old locker.
Obviously, it belonged to someone else now. In front of it, I found a grinning Noah who said nothing, just handed me a white envelope. I thought it was the last one, but of course, I was wrong ... since when did my boyfriend develop this vein for riddles? Before opening the envelope, I couldn't help but gaze around me for a moment.
The school was still the same. The janitor told me this would be principal Roberts' last year, then he's retiring, I wondered out loud what would happen to the school, but he chuckled, informing me that it was in good hands anyway: the counselor had decided already, it would be Mrs. Porter to replace principal Roberts.
That'll be a nightmare for the kids, because he was an angel compared to her. Even though, she's always been a sweetheart with me, but I guess it was because I was her favorite student. How funny, hadn't it been for her, Eric and I would have never spent real time together. Maybe, the moment would have delayed, but I guess we would have found each other at some point. We're meant to be together, remember?
Because Carl was so kind, and because Noah conveniently disappeared, claiming he'd be fine and I'd see him tomorrow, I was allowed to make a tour of the school, with Carl by my side explaining what was new, but what I was mostly interested in was my nook in the library. Carl pretended not to see the small writing on that desk I used to occupy so much back then, but years ago I'd childishly carved our initials, well, carved, because I was against ruining school properties, I only wrote it with my pen. Never knew it'd remain for so long.
I grinned as I beheld the small heart in the corner of the desk, my teenage calligraphy having marked a dreamy N + E with a smiley. So childish, I know, but I could so clearly see high school me all wrapped up in her boyfriend's arms, trying to study Math while he rewarded her with a kiss every time she got a formula right, and in the end, because he'd decided to go all vandal on that poor desk, taking out a Swiss knife she didn't even know he owned, she scolded him and prevented him, using the pen instead, thinking that the ladies that would clean up the place would be mad, but they'd easily return the desk to its legitimate state. Little did she know that her mischievous boyfriend would persuade those ladies into not deleting that heart and those initials.
Done with reminiscing, I opened the envelope and found another clue, but instead found a whole message:
Those walls, if they could talk ... especially that closet ...
I blushed at that, especially because old Carl was perusing me from afar and I feared he could read my mind and see I was reminiscing the not so innocent moments Eric and I passed in there, driving the poor man crazy because he'd always find his door locked. But I went on reading:
... I've always thought of that school as a cage, till someone came to free me. I owe you the best six weeks of my life, princess, and I hope we can do a remake of those. For the rest of our lives, that is.
Every day I stalked those halls, always in a bad mood, waiting for my princess to arrive (always out of breath because late, obvious) and light up my darkened heart. And she did. Every single day. Till she decided to spare me a glance and I turned from grey and dark bad boy into her prince charming. Well, she likes to think it that way. In truth, that frightening bad boy had always only craved to have a moment alone with her. To rejoice of her gorgeous smile. And she gave him just that. Bringing real light into his messy life.
Now that boy asks you for an ultimate effort. There's one place left to find. But it's more than a place. It's the equivalent of a love song. It's hidden. It's far. But it's worth it. Here I'll wait. Beware of bears. – Love you, Eric
I grinned, a tear escaping my eyes. Of course I know where it is.
I can't believe it. I cannot believe it! It's like time froze here. I was, as you can guess, in that only Place that was our equivalent of a love song. Everything was exactly as we left it. The setting ... it was the same as that night, Eric's birthday, when I gave him my ultimate gift. No doubt he set it. My God ...
Now, I walked carefully to the middle of the place, where a grinning Eric was waiting for me, so elegant in his black suit with a dark blue dress-shirt, hair perfectly styled ... it looked like we were going to a fancy restaurant, not having a picnic at midnight, in the middle of the woods. He even had me conveniently find a dress in my car, which makes me believe that either he's had help from my mother or something, or he just followed my every step ... I'll go for the latter, knowing how overprotective he is.
Mom is babysitting Noah till tomorrow, as Carl told me when I panicked about my son leaving all alone, he's never even been to my hometown before, so I was obviously worried, but I should have known Eric would have thought about everything. And ... I should have known that if he brought me back to our hometown, we could only end up back here. This place holds so many memories, good and bad, but mostly good.
Eric came to me, still grinning from ear to ear, and took my hand, guiding me to the table that only now I noticed. Last time we had dinner here we were 18, well, he'd just turned 19, and it was a very special night, now this one promised to be only better. It'll be hard to pass the night when I lost my virginity, but I'm sure Eric planned it all perfectly.
Now, like I said, the setting was the exact same of seven years ago, except for the table instead of the blanket, and on that table lay also lit candles and plates, beside it, a small cart with food, I guess.
Eric took my hand, making me blush as he bowed to kiss it, and guided me to the table. I was wearing a black lace skater dress with short sleeves and a beige belt, though because it was practically Fall, I also had on a black shrug that fitted perfectly with the dress. I wonder if Eric picked it or he got helped by mom or Sam or one of the girls or all of them, because only this morning the girls sent me their good luck for my scavenger hunt, and I had no time to tell them about it, so they must know already, which means ... gosh, no. Forget it, Natalie. forget your deduction skills and let him surprise you.
Eric let me sit, then, before going to his chair, he bent down and placed a lingering kiss behind my ear, making me blush once more as he huskily whispered: "You look gorgeous,princess. As usual, but always more."
I forgot how much loved that tone of voice, the one that says everything and nothing altogether. As if also nature was on his side, tonight there was the full moon and it kept peeping from the trees, lighting up the place even more. I bet he opted for tonight because he knew there would be full moon.
He planned every single detail, which is another proof that ... ok, no, no thinking, Natalie. Just enjoy it. And ... maybe, tell your heart to quit racing like this or you're gonna need reanimation soon. Right. Keep calm. Whatever it is, just enjoy the night. You're no 18-years-old about to declare her love and then give up her virginity to her boyfriend anymore. You're a grown woman, a mother, you can handle it, can't you? Yes. Yes, I can.
Hence, taken a deep breath, I smiled at Eric, who was pouring us some red wine, which had me frown, but he chuckled, informing me that he knew all too well I hate all sorts of alcohol, so this wasn't wine, well, it sort of was, but it wasn't alcoholic. That was to accompany shrimp cream truffle risotto, which had me uncontrollably moan as soon as I took a bite, making Eric chuckle, so I blushed.
To make up, I asked when did he learn to cook so well and he, grazing the back of his neck, admitted: "Well ... what do you think Lukas and I did during our boys nights?" I had to wrap a hand around my mouth to keep myself from laughing out loud, but Eric rolled his eyes. "Come on, laugh. But I did it for you."
I grinned, grabbing my fork again, taking another bite of that delicious risotto before pointing out: "So let me get this straight, when you and Lukas said you were going out to relieve stress, you were actually at home and he was teaching you to cook?"
His ears tinged pink, but Eric nodded, though adding: "And you know last week, when the other guys came and we left you girls all alone at the Grants?" I nodded, recalling that weekend when our friends came to visit just because. "Well, that night, actually, Jake and I had the two Lukases giving us lessons."
No, I couldn't retain myself this time. I just burst out laughing, maybe indelicately, but I couldn't help myself. So we girls spent that night wondering what were those scoundrels up to, and in truth, they were just cooking? Gosh, wait till the girls hear about this. They're gonna crack up. And my cousin, he's always all "no, kitchen isn't my place", and now he wants to learn how to cook?
Eric explained that our two Lukases are really great cooks and, weirdly enough, Jake and him had the same idea of surprising their girls with a dinner they made. Eric's purpose was yet to be unveiled, even though, I've got an idea, while Jake, he just wants to surprise Silvia for their anniversary.
So, Eric implied, I really shouldn't mention to Silvia neither Tara that if their husbands spend that much time together, is because Lukas is teaching Jake how to cook, just as the other Lukas has been teaching my boyfriend. And Sam and I that thought they were just chatting their boyish nonsense in the kitchen all the time.
I think I laughed for a good five minutes while Eric explained, a bit flustered, but in the end I sobered up, apologizing for my insensitivity, especially as I could see his ears pink, but he shrugged it off, asking if I was liking the risotto, so I complimented him and the night went on peacefully.
For dessert, vanilla and raspberry panna cotta. Because that's the perfume I've always used that's always inebriated him, Eric justified, which had me blush profusely, mumbling nonsense. Now, once we'd finished eating, Eric took my hand and surprised me once more by switching on music, asking me to dance. He justified it as "I've made you skip the prom, seems about right I mend", so we danced the rest of the night away, twirling and turning and laughing and kissing and ... in a word, perfect. Truly.
It was five to midnight when we quit, my hair was all ruffled, but I couldn't care less, especially not as Eric cupped my cheeks and smiled tenderly, those marvelous blue eyes fixed on mine, making my heart race even more. My face was flushed, and not just because of the movement. He pecked my lips only and pulled back, though enough to lean his forehead against mine and whisper: "Close your eyes."
I complied, anxious but eager at the same time. I felt his hands leave my cheeks and I unconsciously searched for him, finding him when he grabbed both my hands, opening them to place something, something like a ... oh, gosh, something like a small velvet box! Before I could open my eyes, Eric asked me not to, so I complied. His hands covered mine to have them wrap around that small box and his voice was low and soft as I've never heard it ...
"We've been through lots of troubles, Tallie. But we're still here. Together. As it ought to be. And I've always known that I couldn't have wanted anything better than this." His hot breath fanned my cheek as he came closer. "Feels like yesterday when I first saw you jogging down the hall, 15 years ago, and yet it's been so long, things have changed, life has showed me its worst, but, one thing has never changed and never will, and this is about the only promise I've been able to keep all these years."
My breath itched, as if he was telling me for the first time, but in truth, I'd heard that many, many others. Eric grazed my cheek as he pecked my lips, remaining there as he reminded me: "I love you with all my heart, princess. More than life itself. Always have. Always will."
I opened my mouth to reply, but he didn't give me time, just pulled back and squeezed my hands, so that I opened my eyes and looked down at those hands entangled, that small box still there as he spoke: "Hence ... here I am, princess, humbly asking, will you ..."
His voice cracked a little and I would have sworn his eyes were bright with hidden tears. Eric squeezed my hands, taking a deep breath before concluding: "Marry me, Tallie. Will you?"
I grinned like a Cheshire cat, my heart racing like a fool as Eric opened the box for me, only to reveal a Harry Potter golden snitch ring I almost squealed at. But he was waiting for a reply and my voice failed me, so, my hands shaking, I nodded vehemently, which had Eric chuckle. "Is that a yes?"
Even with my voice completely cracked, I practically yelled it, feeling like it was the final certainty I needed, to be sure this wasn't a dream, it wasn't a fairy tale, we were really able to live our love: "Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!"
I barely gave him time to slip the ring on my fingers that, joyful tears already streaming my cheeks, hands all shaky, I literally jumped in his arms, kissing him with all the passion I was able to muster, feeling like I would wake up anytime soon and find out that this was all a dream.
But it wasn't. It was no dream. This was real. Eric and I were, finally, real. No more pain, no more anxieties. We're forever. And forever will last our love. Finally.
...hold on,there's still an epilogue ;)