When I woke up the next morning, I was still cuddled up in Xavier’s arms. His breathing was warm and soothing against my neck. His arms were firmly crossed over my chest like he was claiming what was his. Scared to lose . . .
I wasn’t sure if he was awake already or still asleep. Part of me wanted to turn around and look at his face. Part of me didn’t want to; afraid to be reminded of it too early in the morning - Pain.
I didn’t even want to think about it all anymore. I just wanted to stay in his arms. Just stay.
I moved a little. He tugged me closer to him even though there was literally no more space to get closer to. I felt his warm lips place a tender kiss on the base of my nape as he buried his face into my neck.
He was awake. Maybe he knew I was already awake too. Maybe he didn’t. Either way, it was still early in the morning and we lay without speaking about a half-hour. For the most part of it, I just stared at the clock on the bedside table as I kept thinking why and listened to him breathe.
“Alana,” he called eventually.
We knew. We’d just lost the courage to speak to each other. Fear - it loomed over us like thunderstorm; suffocating. Distance - it stood like an endless wall between our skin.
At my response, he hugged me tighter, breathing into my neck and hair. “Can you forgive me?” he asked timidly in a low voice, “I don’t wanna lose you.” I was sure I heard an unmistakable tremble in his voice.
I rolled over in his arms and faced him. His eyes met mine imploringly. He looked defeated. I brought my hands up and touched his cheeks. He closed his eyes with a deep breath, turned his face a little and kissed my palm.
“I’m still here,” I said and placed a kiss on his lips. “I’m still here.”
He pressed his forehead to mine, knotted his fingers in my hair and kissed me back deeply. “Don’t leave me. I can’t be without you, baby. I’m afraid I’ve messed up too much between us.” His eyes glistened and he looked down.
“Xavier!” I made him look at me. “I’m still here, okay! I don’t wanna lose you either. I love you. We can work this out.”
He immediately nestled into my chest and hugged me tight. If he wasn’t going to believe me. I was going to prove him. Leaving him was never an option.
We held hands as we walked along the sidewalk toward the East Port version of Central Park. Miraculously, it just happened to be sunny in town this morning. So naturally, most people were out in the park, or at least out of their house, to soak up a good amount of sunshine.
Since it was Saturday, the park was filled with children, making it look like a happy-vibe factory, or like there was a fair in there. Even Emily was excited. She kept laughing and making gleeful noises as she played with the stuffed minion-toy Xavier had bought for her along the way. We’d taken her with us in a pram.
Kids our age were with their skateboards and bikes, older people were walking their dogs. But most of the population were children . . . and dogs maybe. Everybody looked exceptionally thrilled and Xavier looked exceptionally surprised by it all. I’d explained everything to him when Lena squealed to us that there was sunshine outside and we should totally have a walk around the town but, it all seemed pretty absurd to him still.
“Is it always like this?” He asked as we sauntered around the sidewalk next to the park.
“Yeah. Whenever there’s sunshine. You’d know if you stay here for a month at least.”
“If you’re with me, I’ll always be happy like this even if there’s no sunshine.”
I looked at him square in the eyes. And he began to sing with a huge grin.
You are my sunshine.
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are gray
“God.” I laughed. He was making me blush in public. He laughed too but he kept on singing.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.
“Stop it.” I giggled bashfully as people started to stare at us.
He smiled, threw an arm around my shoulders and kissed my head.
“Captain should be here. Maybe he’d find a girl for himself. That dude’s been single for too long,” Xavier said in jest as we walked into the park. “East Port girls will work perfect for the both of us.”
“Uh huh.” I nodded with a smirk.
We went and sat on a park bench. This time, Emily agreed to come to me so I didn’t give Xavier any chance to hold her. She was all mine. My turn. But Xavier was too cunning. He kept on pretending to sneeze to have her back.
“Xavier. Stop it, okay. It’s not fair.”
He sneezed again.
He laughed. “I’m still sick.”
“No. You aren’t. You’re okay, now. I know.”
I closed Emily’s ears. And that made him laugh more.
“Oh my God. Is that your kid?!”
We looked up and saw a lady (seemingly in her mid thirties) looking down on the three of us. She was wearing tank top and leggings. She’d been running. Xavier instantly returned a big, fat grin to her.
“Yeah. It’s our kid.” He said.
I was gobsmacked.
What is he up to?
“Oh gosh. You guys make a beautiful couple. I was just passing by and then I saw you guys. Your baby’s so cute!” She scooted over and tipped Emily’s chin. “What’s her name?”
Xavier glanced at me once and replied, “Hazel.”
“Are you new in town? I haven’t seen you guys around here.”
“Yeah. We just came to visit her grandparents.” Xavier motioned toward me so very casually and naturally like it was all genuine.
“Oh.” The lady nodded. And then glancing at Xavier and me, she seemed to be really curious about something but quite unsure whether she should ask us to clarify.
“Don’t mind me. But um . . . You guys are still . . . Young, right?”
“Oh, yeah. We’re in highschool but we have our little princess already.” Xavier chuckled; somewhat shy.
This virgin dude is such a great cheat.
I pressed my lips tight so as not to burst out laughing.
“Look at her. She’s blushing again. As always,” Xavier smirked at me.
And that made my cheeks get the crimson tints. I felt like punching him straight on the face.
“I think it’s cute. Everything ’bout the two of you and your baby,” The lady smiled kindly. “I guess I should get going. It was nice meeting you guys.”
“Yeah. It was nice meeting you too. Thanks,” Xavier replied.
“Bye.” She waved at us, walking away.
“Bye. Thanks.” I waved back with a smile.
“Say bye, Hazel.” Xavier took Emily’s hand and made her wave at the lady.
When the lady was far enough from us, Xavier looked back at me. I didn’t breath a word. I simply stared at him flabbergasted, and he chortled like a mad man, throwing his head back and glancing at me time and again.
I shook my head and laughed too eventually. “Why’d you say that?”
“Well, it was fun. She totally believed it. I’ll take that as a good sign.” He grinned widely.
“You’re so impossible.” I chuckled. “Why did you say her name is Hazel.”
“It’s your eyes, Mongrel. Your Hazel eyes.”
I beamed. Flattered and pleased for some reason.
“Take out your phone. Let’s take a family picture for memory.”
We took family selfies.
“This one’s the best,” Xavier said as we looked through the pictures. It was the one where I was laughing down at the ground (he was always joking), Emily a.k.a Hazel was smiling too and Xavier was kissing the side of my head. We did look like a married teen couple. Oh well.
We left the park after about twenty minutes and headed toward Mrs. Clayton’s shop.
In the florist shop, I kept playing with Emily, showing her the flowers as I walked around and doing anything possible to make her want to stay with me longer. Xavier sat by the counter as Mrs. Clayton taught him how to pick the best flowers and arrange them.
My phone rang. Holding Emily in one arm, I reached for my phone in my jeans pocket and answered it. It was Matt.
“Hey, Alana. Is Xavi with you?” His voice shook.
“Yeah. He’s here. Is everything alright?”
“Not really. It’s his dad. Can you give the phone to him?”
“Yeah, sure. Xavier. It’s Matt.”
Keeping back the roses on the counter, he stood up and came around.
“Something happened. I . . . I lost it.”
“East Port. What’s up?”
“Long story. What’s up, Matt?”
I watched his face.
“What?” He frowned.
“When did it happen?”
He listened and then clenched his jaws. No. He wasn’t angry. It actually was something you’d least expect - worry.
“Fuck,” he muttered and ran his fingers through his hair.
“Alright. I’m coming.” He hung up and handed the phone back to me.
When our eyes met, he looked afraid. And that was bad news. Xavier almost never looked afraid.
“What’s wrong?” I asked lowly, stepping closer to him.
“It’s my dad. I gotta leave now.”
“Wh . . . I.”
“I gotta leave. Now,” he held my shoulders. “I have to get my bike. We’ll talk on the way.”
Xavier told Mrs. Clayton that there was an emergency and we left the store. On the way back to the house, he told me that his dad had collapsed in his office this morning and that he was now in coma. Claire, Grammy and Matt’s parents wouldn’t wait for him to reach Carlos. They’d go ahead. Besides, he said they weren’t sure whether he would still agree to go back to New York.
That made me wonder how persistent he might have been if his family still doubted he’d go back, even after considering his dad’s situation.
“So, what’s your plan? You’re going . . . right? Or . . .” I asked, walking into the garage with him.
He got onto his bike. And gripping onto the handles tightly, he closed his eyes - jaws clenched - sighed and then nodded slowly, “Of course. I’m going back to New York.”
I immediately threw my arms around his neck and hugged him close. I knew how much it meant to him to go back where it all started. This was probably going to change his life for the good or even worst, if things go wrong again. But I was glad that he’d found the courage to go back, to be there for his father. Deep down, he still loved him.
“Be safe. Be okay. I miss you already,” I said.
He hugged me back. “Same here, baby. Please be with Kendra if you don’t feel safe or if you don’t want to be on your own.”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry ’bout me. How’re you going to go, by the way. Have you booked a flight?”
“No. There’s a jet waiting for me and Matt at the airport.”
I forgot he’s a billionaire’s son.
“Call me when you can or text me.”
“Sure.” He started the engine and the roar of it almost knocked me off balance.
“Oh! Oh my God,” I jumped a little and gasped loudly with a hand on my heart.
I felt like hoping onto the seat behind him but he had clearly stated one minute ago that he wanted me to take my time and drive back calmly in the afternoon. But that even made me wonder how fast he was planning to drive that deadly-looking thing.
“Please be careful. I don’t know how fast you’ll be driving this monster. Take care, Xavier. Please. Don’t think too much on the way. Focus on the road. God, if anything happen to you . . .”
“Hey.” He held my face. “I’ll be fine, okay. I promise I’ll be careful. And you should be too. Come back home safe. I’ll call you once I can.”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
He pulled me in and kissed me fervently. I held onto his collar. I didn’t want it to end. But it had to.
“Okay,” I said.
“Okay,” he replied and locked gazes with mine. “I’m still very sorry ’bout last night.”
“God. Xavier. It’s okay. I’ll be with you no matter what. I love you.”
“I know.” He held the back of my head and pulled me to him. Our foreheads touched. “But I still feel so bad ’bout it. I broke your heart, didn’t I?” He breathed deeply, regretfully.
We kissed again, not knowing how to stop.
“I think you should go now.”
“Yeah.” He swallowed with a sigh. “I love you, Mongrel.”
“I love you too.”
And then he was off, roaring down the driveway and the black top, earning petrified glances from the bystanders. I couldn’t help but worry about his speed as I stood at the end of the walkway, watching his back.
God, please take care of him.
He called me around seven in the evening. I was preparing dinner.
“Hey, how’s your dad?” I asked, plugging in earpiece and putting back my phone in my pyjama pocket.
“Not really sure. Still in coma.”
“What exactly happened to him?” I began chopping a carrot on a wooden board.
“It was an aneurysm, a subarachnoid hemorrhage.”
“Oh God,” I mumbled, halting my carrot-chopping.
He was quiet too. The only sound I could hear from his line was the supposedly low hum of a driving car. Subarachnoid hemorrhage wasn’t an easy case. Most people die before reaching the hospital. Considering that, his dad was lucky enough to be in coma.
“I really hope he’s recovering.”
He sighed deeply, “Yeah. I hope so too. What are you doing? Are you home yet?”
“Yeah. I’m home. I’m cooking dinner.” I began chopping again.
“You’re not going over at Kendra?”
“No. I’m good.”
He sighed again, “Alana, I know you can look after yourself but why don’t you just go over at Kendra’s? I don’t want you all alone in a house. God, I wish I was there with you.”
I smiled a bit, remembering how we made out last night, how he kissed me, how he held me, how his touches felt on my skin. Forget everything else. They almost made me shiver. “I wish so too. But don’t think too much about me, okay?”
“You’re always in my mind, Mongrel. Always.”
I stopped chopping the carrot.
Hell, I can eat late at night. I don’t care. Let me just talk to the love of my life for now.
I left the kitchen and walked into the living room.
“I know. So are you; always in my mind.”
I heard him chuckle a bit. There was a noise in the background along with the humming of the car. It sounded small and shrill. I listened a bit more and then I could make out that it was Vai.
“I wanna go shopping at Chelsea’s!” She shrieked.
“Will you please shut up, Vai,” Matt groaned, “Besides, they don’t sell dresses at Chelsea’s.”
“Then what do they sell there?”
“You’re lying!! They sell princess-dresses there, I’m sure.”
“Is that Vai?” I asked, sitting down and leaning back on the arm rest of the couch in front of the TV where Xavier and I fell asleep together one evening.
“Yeah. The three of us are going back to the house.”
“Where’s your place?” I asked out of curiosity though what I really knew about New York was only the basics like Manhattan and Brooklyn are separated by a river, and that we also find the very famous The Statue of Liberty there.
“One Madison in Manhattan.”
“Okay. Manhattan.” I sunk lower onto the couch, hugging a cushion. “So you mean everybody left?”
“What ’bout Captain?”
“I left him with Scott for a while.”
“Okay. How’s Grammy, by the way?”
“She stayed back in the hospital with Claire and Matt’s parents. She’s worried. She refused to leave the hospital.”
My heart clenched. I couldn’t imagine Allie sad or crying. It was almost traumatizing. For someone as sweet as Allie to be sad and heartbroken was just too much to even imagine.
“I can’t imagine what she must be feeling right now.”
“Are you okay, Xavier?” Although his relationship with his dad hadn’t been good the past six years, he was still his dad. And I was sure Xavier still loved him.
He swallowed and answered slowly after a moment, “No. I don’t feel okay. I feel the worst I’ve ever felt.”
“I’m so sorry, Xavier,” my voice deadened.
He breathed long and sharp. I could imagine him eyes closed and running a hand through his hair.
“I wish I could be with you.” He said in a soft but deep voice.
“Xavier.” My eyes seemed to burn. I closed them and rolled my body onto my side, facing the back of the couch and hugging the cushion tighter.
“I love you . . . Very much.” I said.
“I know. I know, baby. I know you do. I love you too.”