Before leaving Café du clair de lune, we strolled for a while around the lake. They had put up railings as far as they could go. But you can still go down near the water. There were steps to it. Most people taking strolls after dinner were near the water. Some couples were just walking. Some were making out.
Xavier and I stood by the railing, quietly watching the moon play its miraculous tricks on the water while letting serenity take dominance of our atmosphere. Breathing in the scent of the water, I looked at him. Leaning forward onto the railing with his forearms, he stared ahead lost in thoughts.
He wasn’t looking at the water, the people or the moon. When he’s quiet and staring ahead, I know that he’s thinking something deep. I know this about him. I’d seen it quite a number of times in class.
“Is everything alright?” I asked lowly.
He looked at me and smiled faintly, “Yeah. I’m just thinking.”
“Us,” he answered.
I widened my eyes a bit inquisitively.
“When you Googled about me, I felt like an asshole,” he said.
“Oh... I’m, I’m sorry,” I said, embarrassment taking over me.
“No. You did nothing wrong,” he shook his head as he stared ahead over the lake, “It was my fault. I felt like an asshole because I was keeping to much away from you. You know literally nothing about my family. You asked. But I didn’t tell you. Alana,” he turned to me. His face was sombre. “It’s not that I didn’t wanna tell you. I want you to know. Like I said, I don’t want any distance between us. It’s just that... It takes a lot,” he struggled with his words, looking away from me again. Clenching his jaws, he said, “I’m embarrassed to talk about my family.”
He was now facing the ground and despondency had taken over the glow which was shining so bright on his face through the dinner. I reached out for his arm and I felt his bicep stiffen at my touch. He drew in a deep breath and looked at me. The color in his eyes had acquired a darker color, full of passion. I wrapped my fingers around his arm while taking a step closer towards him.
“Xavier,” I called softly, “You can tell me anything. I won’t judge. I won’t say anything. You can let it out to me. I just don’t wanna see you sad... or in pain.”
His hand slowly came over and rested over mine, squeezing lightly, and then he nodded.
“When I dropped you home the night we went to the beach with the boys, I told you I would tell you everything. I promised. I’ll tell you now,” He said.
I nodded and gave him an encouraging smile, hoping it would help. I didn’t wanna know about him just to satisfy my curiosity. I wanted to know because I wanted to help. Alex told me that his parents broke him. I knew he was keeping it away from almost everyone for some reason. No one simply gets angry at the mere mention of parents. My mind couldn’t help wondering what his parents did to him but I barred myself from building up any theory. It just wasn’t right.
Even if I can’t fix his past, there is always the future and the present. And I wanna live through both of it with him and make a better difference for him. I might not be able to help at all. But I wanted to try at least.
“As much as I can remember, my father never had time for me,” Xavier said, “We were more like strangers. As a kid, I used to approach him but he was always pushing me away. He was never there for me. He missed my fifth, sixth and seventh birthday. After that, I stopped celebrating it at all. Mom and Grammy would tell me he was working. I accepted that for sometime but when he continued to miss every school functions and mom had to lie to my teachers and friends’ parents why he wasn’t there, I stopped believing them. I was so sick of it all. I knew that they were lying. And I ended up asking Uncle Gallagher if I was adopted. I was seven then. Gallagher’s the COO of the Corporation. More like a family friend,” he paused.
I waited but he just stared ahead without speaking further.
“Are you adopted?” I asked lowly, like I was afraid of my own voice.
“No,” he answered, “You see, my dad ignored me to the point he made me think maybe I was adopted,” he scoffed bitterly, “He was far from being my father. I feel closer to Matt’s dad.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, tightening my hold on his arm.
I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine how he must have felt; to be ignored so much as far as compelling a seven year old boy to think maybe he was adopted... By his own father. If he was just seven by the time he got the idea, then he was already living with rejection from a small age. Probably ever since he could remember.
He straightened up and moved a step back from the railing, leaning with his hands now, “Simply put,” he said, “He fucked my childhood.”
As he said these, the anger he was trying to keep down was slowly surfacing. Restrain edged the outline of his clenched jaw. He put his hands inside his pockets and I stroked his arm, comforting him. He inhaled a long breath to calm himself.
He swallowed and began again, “He was the same towards Claire too but Claire never cared so much. She lived in her own way, ignoring him exactly like he did her. But sometimes, I could see her weakness too. Sometimes, she would cry before she sleeps. But around dad, she carries an attitude,” he paused for a moment and then said, “I was eight when I found out ’bout his infidelity. His role as a father was split between work and women.”
Xavier had a frown on his face and was close to stopping and not telling me further. I turned my face to the ground thinking I might make him uncomfortable if I stare at him after what he just said.
“He was hard working. That’s the only good thing I know ’bout him. We don’t really have any memory about him to cherish for,” I looked back at him. He was struggling with shame so I told him he didn’t have to tell me further if it was hard for him but he shook his head and continued, “He was mostly busy and when he was not, he was always with women. He had... mistresses. After I learned about it through rumours, I stopped going to him. I didn’t want him to be my father anymore. I decided I don’t need him at all. Mom was enough. Knowing that he would be the same towards Kevin, I decided I would look after Kevin like a father would, so he wouldn’t need to go to dad like I did... And be rejected. I wouldn’t let Kevin feel the same pain.”
“I’ve never hated anyone as much as I hate my father. I can’t even come to think of anything good around him. If I was holding a knife or a revolver in Kevin’s funeral, I would’ve killed him,” he looked at me and met my eyes.
My lungs felt like it was failing.
“You wanna know what happened?” he asked me.
I kept quiet. I never knew he hated his father this much.
“One of his mistresses showed up,” he said through gritted teeth, “Her name was Heather Lynn. Everybody knew she was his whore. She didn’t come close to dad, or Kevin or any of us but everyone there saw her. In my mind, I had already killed my father the moment I saw her. That day, I swore to God and to Kevin that I would never forgive my father.”
“What was she doing there?”
“I don’t know. All her life, she was always hiding from mom and she suddenly showed up... In Kevin’s funeral. Mom always acted like she didn’t care ’bout dad having mistresses but when Heather showed up at the funeral, she was just as furious as I was. At home after the funeral, she started screaming to dad and... Things became horrible. I left for Carlos the next morning with Matt’s parents. I couldn’t stay home. Matt’s mom is my dad’s younger sister. With Kevin gone and my mom screaming all the time, I couldn’t take it anymore. Kevin was the one reminding me of the good in me. Without him, I was literally going mad. So I left.”
“I felt a bit better in Carlos with Matt and his younger sister, Violet, around. But two days later, Claire called me up in the middle of the night, crying. That was when everything started to go fucking downhill. Mom was leaving us and Claire wanted me to try stopping her because she couldn’t. Mom wouldn’t even talk to me... no matter how hard I screamed into the phone. I immediately left Carlos for home. Matt’s father came with me. But when I reached home, she’d already left. She didn’t even wait for me,” his eyes reddened.
My own breathing and pulse was speeding up as I listened to his story. He was already living with pain and rejection since he was very young and finding out about his father’s infidelity at the age of eight? He was only David’s age then! How did he even cope with it? But above all his pain, deciding to be strong for Kevin, Xavier wasn’t just any kid. His capacity to think was like that of an adult. And the love he has for Kevin made my heart clench. Emotions flowed through me like a river breaking through a dam.
“When my mom left, that was the last straw. I locked myself up and went into some sort of depression. She was my last hope. Kevin was gone. She was all I had as my parent. My dad was never my dad. I depended everything on her and actually believed she would never leave me. I thought she loved me...” his voice was low and fragile, “But in the end, she left me too, just like an orphan. I haven’t seen her again since. She just disappeared.” He looked down, the darkness of the night cloaking his profile.
“I’m sorry you had to go through all that,” I said, kissing his arm and placing my cheek there, “I can’t even imagine how you would’ve been.”
He shifted his position; now leaning on the railing with his back. He pulled me to his body, guiding my hands across his waist.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” he said, “I don’t mean to say it’s good your mother died. We’ve both lost our mothers some way or the other and comparatively, I’d prefer your way over mine.”
That knocked the wind out of me. He preferred he’d rather have his mother dead. My brain felt as if the rush hour of New York city had fallen inside it.
“When you lost your mother, you lost her knowing she still love you. But my mother is still out there somewhere and in all these years, not even once did she try to come and see how her son is living . . . Or if he’s still dead or alive.” I could taste the bitterness of his words on my tongue. “She broke everything that I ever believed in. Hope, love, everything. It’s like my whole life was a lie. Both of them lied to me.”
I swallowed hard. There was a lump on my throat, blocking my airway. My whole structure of a body was almost shaking in sadness. I felt his pain but deep down I knew that what I was feeling wasn’t even half of what he’d gone through. I couldn’t stop the flow of tears from my eyes. So I looked down.
“Hey,” he cupped my chin and lifted my face to meet his eyes, “Are you crying?”
I was too sad to even answer. The heaviness on my chest was making my tongue numb so I just sniffed and shook my head.
“Oh, God,” he sighed and threw his arms around me. I buried my face into his chest as he hugged me tight.
He kissed the top of my head and breathed, “I’m fine Alana. I’m fine,” he said and stroked my back comfortingly, rubbing strands of my hair in between his fingers.
“I never knew all of these,” my voice quivered and I hugged him tighter, “Xavier, I can’t even imagine what you’d gone through.” I was weeping into his chest.
Drying my tears with his thumbs and lightly kissing my cheek, he said, “Baby, I’m just telling you the past. Don’t worry ’bout me, okay. I’m good now.”
“Are you still in pain?” I sought into his eyes.
He nuzzled his face tenderly into mine and hushed me, “Not anymore, baby. I have you now.” His lips rubbed against my cheeks, my nose and at my lips, he kissed them. And God, was it good, the sound of that light smack of his lips against mine.
“I like you in every way, Mongrel,” he spoke just above my mouth in a deep and whispering voice, “and I’ll tell you that in three ways.”
I struggled to catch his words.
I gasped a little as his breath fanned my mouth. My mind was captivated by the feeling of his hands rubbing my neck and how his thumbs were tracing dizzying circles on my cheeks. My breath was becoming uneven at his touch, my skin burning up like paper and yet he continued to speak. It was like a torture.
“One: You’re cute when you’re smiling,” he kissed my jaw line, slow and lingering, and my hands fisted behind him, trying hard to control my slightly erratic breathing, “Two: You’re hot when you’re not. God knows how hot you look when you’re angry and glaring at me.”
I wanted to laugh at that. I did and it came out in the form of a heated gasp. Terrific.
A hand moved down from my neck to the small of my back, rubbing the side of my breast on the way and if touch could kill, I was already dead.
With the hand that was still around my neck, he raked his hand into my hair and pulled my head back, exposing my neck for him and dear god, how I loved the way he was taking control of the moment. It was so masculine.
“And three: You’re sexy when you let me kiss you,” I gasped and gripped his arms with all my strength when I felt his lips press hot against the the hollow at the base of my throat. Kissing an inch downward again, he said, “Like really, really sexy,” his voice was way deeper and hoarse than it normally was when he spoke in a slow and seductive manner, enunciating each word.
Kissing his way up now, he pushed my head up and placed his forehead over mine. We stayed quiet for a while, trying to get back our breaths. He was just as breathless as I was.
“But I have a slight problem when you cry,” he said when his breathing eased, “You don’t look so good.” And that made me giggle. He smiled cutely with crinkles around his eyes.
“Though you’re impossibly adorable there too, I rather not see you cry. So please don’t. Don’t cry for me. I’m okay,” he whispered into my ear.
He surprises me all the time with his selflessness and considerateness. He was the one continually in pain yet he said he was okay just to comfort me. So that I wouldn’t cry for him.
“Then promise me one thing,” I whispered back.
“What is it, babe?”
“If you’re ever in pain again, don’t keep it to yourself. I’m here to share it with you,” I said, running my arms around his neck.
He looked at me deliberately, almost surprised. And then his eyes gradually flooded with a kind of light that’s deep and very uncommon. This spark in his eyes, I’d seen it before in him (only in him) but I never knew what it was. Now I know. It was what people who have fallen in love called Love.
A lot of things had happened tonight. We’d confessed our love. He’d told me his story too. For the first time in my entire life, I was sure that I had finally fallen in love with someone, with Xavier. So had he, with me. There was no need of more proving.
The eyes do not lie.
I untangled my right hand from his neck and brought it to caressed his face, gleaming under the silvery beam. He swallowed and closed his eyes, inhaling, to feel my touch. When I stroked his eyelid with my thumb, I felt the muscles of his neck tighten on my left hand. He suddenly caught my wrist and opened his eyes, startling me.
“Stop,” he said. His eyes had darkened and so had his voice. “You have no idea what you do to me when you touch me.”
I just looked at him without breathing a word.
He glanced at his side and smirked, “Not here.”
I instantly gulped and bit my bottom lip at what he was hinting at. With just the way he was speaking, I felt like he was already taking me down. I blushed. I didn’t know whether he was being serious or just joking but I laughed too anyway.
“Okay,” I smirked back.
He smirked again.
“So,” I cleared my throat and breathed, “Back to the story then.”
He grinned in response, “What else do you wanna know?”