Chapter 36 - Danica
I can’t stop the tears from falling as I follow Amber and Amethyst blindly through the crowd. Amber holds me by the arm while Amethyst tries to break a path for us.
“Move it, people!” she shouts, and it’s scary. “Girlfriend coming through! Are you in any relation to the injured? No? So move!”
“She’s scary, huh?” Amber whispers in my ear as we walk, I guess to try and cheer me up. I shrug, keeping my gaze forward, straight at the ambulance that is growing bigger as we get closer. My visions blurs again and I squeeze my eyes shut, letting Amber lead me. I can still hear Amethyst’s shouts, the murmurs of the crowd and the gentle hustle of the paramedics.
“Oh my gosh,” I hear both Amber and Amethyst gasp. The voice of my brother and Danny fill my ears, and I open my eyes to find them. Amber releases me to hug Charlie briefly before letting him pull me to his chest.
“Wh-what h-hap-ppened?” I manage to choke out before my sobs become incoherent.
“Danny and I walked away for, literally, five minutes,” Charlie replies softly, rubbing my back. “We were getting some coffee and when we came back . . . Sis, we saw the whole thing take place . . . I was just standing there when the car hit him . . . I’m so sorry, Danica.”
I twist my brother’s shirt in my fist, an unbearable pain building in my chest. Charlie tries to comfort me. But I can’t be helped. It does not take an expert to understand the hidden meaning behind Charlie’s last words. I hear Amethyst say something and then I am shifted into someone else’s arms. In which I hear someone tell another that Aldrich is gone. Gone. Everything within me crumbles. The calm, blissful feeling I had before hearing this terrible news has flown the coop.
“Danica, pumpkin,” I hear Danny’s voice softly in my ear. “It’s going to be okay . . . I mean . . . It might take some time to-”
“It’s not going to be okay!” I shout and shove him away, staring at him through tears. “Aldrich is dead! Dead! How can you possibly tell me that I’m going to be okay?! My entire world has crumbled!”
“Hey,” he catches my attempted punches and pulls me to his chest again. “Stop that crazy talk. We haven’t even been told that he’s gone. Don’t jump to conclusions.”
I continue to sob, but more softly now, as Danny holds me tight. The way he had when I had my first heartbreak. And all the heartbreaks that had followed.
“Are she Danica?” someone asks from behind me, but at a gentle distance.
“She is,” I hear Amber reply.
“Would she mind coming here a moment?”
Danny gently walks with me to wherever the voice came from, all the while still holding me close. I am reluctant to let him go, but he whispers that I have to do it. I pull away, my eyes closed, and turn to meet my gloom. But when I open my eyes, expecting a paramedic to tell me Aldrich is beyond saving, I see Aldrich standing before me. His face, shirt, and parts of his jeans are all bloody. His left eye has a dark, purple and blue circle around it. His right arm is in a sling, and yet his smile is firmly plastered where it is meant to be.
Relief comes over me as I bring my hands up to my mouth to muffle my new wave of sobs. And then, as I start to step towards him, needing his arms around me, Aldrich removes the sling from his arm and takes my hands away from my face. He holds me at arm’s length and looks into my eyes. I am entranced, unable to look away. And then, he starts to bend on his knee.
Bended on one knee, I look up into Danica’s teary eyes and cannot help smiling. Her reaction to my appearance is quite what I expected, yet it is not. Her expression shows me her relief and her love. Perhaps going through all this trouble was not necessary, but worth hearing and seeing how much Danica really loves me.
“Danica Kensington,” I say, gently pulling her a step closer. “I need you to be honest with me . . . If this scenario had been real, once you allowed the wound of me gone heal . . . Do you think you would have moved on?”
“Why would you ask such a question?” Danica asks, shaking her head as she chokes out half a sob and half a laugh. “I don’t know if I would move on . . .”
I chuckle softly and gather her hands into one of mine as I use the other to reach into my pocket. Danica gasps softly when I pull out a little black velvet box. The crowd that has gathered starts to chatter. Several gasps and ‘aahs’ erupt, along with gentle applause.
“Moj slatki,” I say, looking deeply into Danica’s eyes. “I know this is an odd way to get your attention, and I may not have needed to go through such trouble. But the way your eyes showed such relief just now tells me it was worth it. My father told me not to let you slip from my fingers. Alana and Claire both said the same . . . as did that older woman you were signing books for, back when you were at the hotel with me. Even Laila told me not to let you go, when I was walking out the door to come here. And I don’t intend to let you go. Not ever. And if you’ll have me . . . I’d like to make you happiest woman on the face of this planet . . . Aside of the crazy, and scary, twins you’ve become close to.”
Danica bites her smile and we both glance over to Amber and Amethyst. They grin innocently, which makes Danica shake her head as she turns back to me.
“Danica Kensington,” I go on, swallowing the lump that now rises in my throat. “I don’t want to be without you, ever. Will you be my wife?”
I open the velvet box and reveal the single diamond ring. One Danica had shown Amber and Amethyst on their last shopping trip. Danica visibly swallows and her eyes fill tears once more. Her lip trembles as she starts to nod her head. I grin and rise to my full height, pulling Danica to my chest and kissing her hair. Applause erupts from the crowd again, cheering. Suddenly, Danica breaks away and punches me in the chest. For a woman who has such gentle hands, she certainly knows how to throw a punch.
“Nikad to da mi ponovo!” she shouts with only partial seriousness. “I am pretty sure I will die along with your fake death if you ever do that to me again.”
Sticking out her tongue in a childish manner makes me chuckle harder. I pull her back to me, taking the ring out and slipping it over her finger. With her head resting against my chest, she admires the ring. The crowd slowly disperses as Danica and I follow Danny, Charlie and the twins to where the cars are.
“So,” Danica says softly, her arms tight around my waist. “You covered yourself in fake blood . . . you got my brother and his best friend, and their girlfriends, to help you . . . I’m guessing my Gram was in on it too?”
I chuckle, “Yes,” I reply, kissing the top of her head.
“You’re a jerk, Dante.”
I blink at the sound of that name and pull away to look at Danica’s face.
“You’ve never liked calling me that,” I say, raising my eyebrow at her.
“Because you’ll always be Aldrich to me,” she replies her voice growing soft. “But to get your attention, I might have to call you Dante now and then.”
I cup Danica’s cheeks and stare into her eyes. She licks her lips and parts them slightly. Plump and pouty from crying a little while ago. I kiss her, gently prodding her mouth open with my tongue. Danica sighs softly and clasps her hands behind my back.
“Alright lovebirds!” Charlie is shouting from the car. “Enough of that! Let’s go eat!”
I chuckle against Danica’s lips, kissing her once more. We break the kiss, but I don’t pull away, squeezing Danica closer to my chest. I’ve done it. I’ve secured my future and my happiness.