February 12, 2016
The cold winter air felt good on Annie’s sweat drenched skin. It had been a long few weeks since she returned. Fortunately the administration had been kind enough to disregard last semester due to her disappearance and subsequent hospitalization. She had a lot of work to do, but if she put her nose to the grindstone she would be able to graduate at the end of the summer.
She had been running on the school’s outdoor track for the past hour. The small paunch on her stomach had finally disappeared. It had been the last physical reminder of the pain and loss that she had experienced in the three months since she’d returned. The emotional pain was there and would continue to be there for a while she surmised.
The sun was beginning to set. She should be getting back to her apartment. Her heart dropped a bit at the thought of returning to her empty apartment on the edge of campus. Katelyn had returned to Africa at the beginning of the semester. Annie had been furious when she heard the circumstances of Katelyn’s return to America. The fact that her parents didn’t have the decency to call and let Katelyn know that her best friend was missing was infuriating. That fact, along with her parent’s insistence that Annie not press charges against her sister had drove a deep wedge between them. Annie had been reluctant to relent, but how could she explain exactly what happened to the police? They would think her mad. So, she had made a compromise with her parents, she would not tell the authorities about Catherine shooting her if she agreed to seek out in-patient mental therapy. The compromise had worked, but it had put an enormous emotional strain on her relationship with her family. As of now, she had not spoken to her parents since Christmas.
For a moment her thoughts drifted towards Cameron. He had offered to come with her to school but she told him no, she needed the space and the time to focus on her school work. She pushed the thoughts out of her mind. She’d run just two more miles then she’d go home. With that resolved she pushed play on her iPod and began to run.
Forty-five minutes later she was walking up the steps to her apartment. She noticed a package sitting on her front doorstep. She picked it up, unlocked the door, and walked in. The silence in the apartment made her heart drop just a bit. Every day she went through this period of self-doubt. Had she made the right decision, isolating herself from the world? Yes, she needed to process her feelings, to determine her future; but did she have to do it alone. From out of nowhere the conversation she and Mary had had popped into her head: Have you ever thought that maybe your actions right now are hurting you? Tell me Annie, do you feel any better, any happier now? No, she didn’t, just as she hadn’t when she and Mary had had that conversation four months ago. Her heart ached. She was lonely and lost. She needed someone beside her, she knew it, and yet, just as she had done before, she had foolishly pushed away the two people that cared for her. Katelyn had returned to Africa, ostensibly to continue on in the dig. Annie knew there was more to it than that. Katelyn had been by her side the moment she returned home. She had had offered her help and support in whatever way she needed. Still, Annie had foolishly pushed her away. Cameron, who had been by her side since they had met, was sitting at her home in New York, waiting patiently for her to return to him.
Annie wandered into the kitchen and pulled out a beer then walked back into the sitting room. The package she had picked up sat on the coffee table. Curiously, she pulled the brown paper from the package and opened the box. Inside were a dozen long stemmed white roses and an assortment of hydrangeas, her favorite flowers. On top of the flowers was a small card.
My dearest Annie,
I know that you requested time to process things. I just wanted to wish you a happy Valentine’s Day. I will be here when you are ready.
I love you so,
Tears clouded Annie’s eyes. She had been a fool. All of a sudden all she craved was Cameron’s arms around her, his deep baritone voice telling her everything was going to be okay. She made up her mind quickly, if she left now she could drive back to Nissequogue and be home by midnight. Quickly she took a shower, fixed her hair, and packed a few things for the weekend. The final item she took with her was the sapphire engagement ring Cameron had given her. She had kept it in a box inside one of her drawers. Quickly, she slipped the ring on her finger and left the apartment. Moments later she was in her Jeep, driving towards her home and Cameron.
Three and a half hours later she pulled into the driveway of the house. A rush of emotions hit her as she got out of the Jeep and walked towards the front door. The house was dark. It was eleven o’clock. Cameron was probably downstairs watching a movie. It had become his nightly routine, at least it had been before she had left for school. She assumed it still was. Quietly she slipped her key in the lock and entered the house. The kitchen light was still on and she could hear sounds coming from the basement. She dropped her things next to the front door and walked downstairs.
As she suspected, Cameron was sprawled out on the large couch in front of the big screen TV, thoroughly engrossed by the movie that was playing. Tonight he was watching The Pirates of the Caribbean. “So, how many historical inaccuracies have you found so far,” she said as she stepped into the room.
Cameron turned and looked at her. “I haven’t really been keeping count. I’m just enjoying the movie.”
He looked tired and tormented to her. For the millionth time since she left for school she felt a pang in her heart. Her actions had hurt them both. She could only hope that it was not too late to undo the damage she had caused, for both their sakes. “I was out running tonight when I realized that, while you had taught me your dances, I never did show you mine. Try as I might, I couldn’t make myself neglect my responsibility any longer. I hope you don’t mind me showing up unannounced.” She smiled at him.
Cameron got up off the couch and walked over to her. “I don’t mind at all. Although, I must admit that I am hardly dressed for a dance,” he said, indicating the jeans and t-shirt he was wearing.
“That’s okay,” Annie said. Truthfully he looked devastatingly handsome to her. The t-shirt was just tight enough to show off his muscular body and the low rise jeans fit his hips and legs perfectly. “As you can see, I am equally casually dressed,” she said, indicating the sweater and jeans she was wearing. “Now would you care to dance with me? I promise that you’ll enjoy it. Our dances are far less complicated than the ones you showed me.”
“I would love to,” he replied.
Annie nodded then plugged in her iPod to the sound system. She had spent the last three hours picking out the perfect song for their first dance together. She dimmed the lights, pressed play, and finally walked into Cameron’s arms. She placed one of his hands on her waist and the other clasped her left hand. “Just sway with beat,” she said then snuggled close to his chest.
Cameron savored the feeling of her in his arms. He had longed for this ever since she had returned from the hospital. She had made it clear that she needed space and he had given it to her. He knew eventually she would reach out and realize that she didn’t have to go through this alone. Truthfully, he had needed some space too. He had been in so much pain when they returned. For a long time he thought he had lost her. She had been clinging to life when they reached the hospital. Her heart had stopped twice on the operating table. By the grace of God and modern medicine, they had restarted it and, after several weeks in the hospital, she had been sent home. He had only left her room when the staff kicked him out, only to return the moment visiting hours resumed. The trauma to her body had caused her to miscarry. He had been hurt at the loss of their child, but at least Annie was alive.
He pushed the unpleasant thoughts out of his head. Annie was here now, and finally, even if tentatively, reaching out. “I like this song,” he said. The song was soft and slow. The lyrics spoke volumes to him, it was a man singing about not giving up.
“Me too,” she whispered. “It took me hours to choose what I wanted our first dance song to be. This one seemed perfect.”
Cameron pulled her closer to him, and intertwined their fingers. He smiled to himself when he felt the ring he had given her on her finger. “Yes it is.” The song played on repeat and they spent the next hour just swaying in circles. He had to admit that he preferred Annie’s style of dancing to those of his time.
“I’m sorry Cameron,” she whispered after a while.
“I’ve been a fool. I thought I needed time. What I really need is help. You offered it to me and I pushed it away.”
He stopped dancing but didn’t release her. He looked down at her face, a solitary tear fell down her cheek. Gently he lowered his face and kissed it away. “Don’t be sorry. We all go down the wrong path sometimes.”
“Please tell me it’s not too late for us.”
“Annie, I’d wait an eternity for you,” he said then kissed her. “It’s not too late, I promise.”
She smiled, “I know I’m broken right now. Frankly I’m a hot mess. I’m confused about a lot of things. One thing I’m sure of though is that I love you. I can’t promise that I’ll heal fast, but I will heal, as long as I have you.”
“You’ll always have me,” he assured her. “I love you so, Annie.” She smiled at him, tears shimmered in her eyes. Cameron kissed them all away and then, once they were gone, he guided her up to her room and began the healing process. Long hours later, Cameron watched as Annie slept. Her warm skin felt glorious against his. She had a small smile on her face, and, in that moment he knew that he had found his home. They had a lot of work to do, but it would get done. He would stand by her side and together they would put the past behind them and embrace their future.
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