Chapter 24: Libby
Days went by like cars in the city: fast, reckless, and completely unpredictable.
The afternoon of the day Jere, Liam, and I built the blanket fort in the living room, Jimmy had slipped out with me and we flagged down a taxi to head to my hotel - my old hotel. Jimmy’s room was officially mine until the end of summer… And then… Who knew what was going to happen?
I tagged along with Liam to hang out at his work, helping him sort out the stacks of CDs and polish the wooden guitars that hung on their racks. Bentley made a joke that he’d have to start paying me with all the extra work I put into the store. I only laughed and waved his words away.
But Liam, of course, took it seriously. “Why not?”
He stared at me and then glanced at Bentley, asking us both the question. Bentley replied first. “Why not?” he repeated, turning towards me curiously.
Why not? I questioned myself. I needed the money - the only amount I had left was the remaints of Liv’s parents money they had given me as a thank you for fulfilling Liv’s wishes to complete for her. That won’t last me more than a month, tops. So the only answer I had was simple: “Why not.”
As the week goes on, my phone is strung with silence and I find that I no longer need to carry it around with me - Dad cut off my connection from their plan. I don’t bother to tell Liam this, as we were having a fine time not even mentioning the fact that I have parents who don’t care for me anymore. At least, that’s what it feels like.
But he catches on, watching me one night slipping my phone into a pocket of my suitcase instead of in the pocket of my jeans. He must’ve seen the defeated expression on my face, because he only nodded, walked over, and kissed my temple before exiting the room.
When Monday turns into Friday, it’s the last day of work before the weekend and there’s a permanent smile on my face. The week’s adventures held mostly nothing besides stacking CDs and taking turns organizing the playlist for the store that played throughout the day.
Only two things were completed on Liv’s bucket list since the blanket fort: To complete the cinammon challenge, and try green tea.
Neither were pleasant.
The tugging on my sleeve is what wakes me up from my wandering conscience, and when I look to my right I find Liam with a silly grin on his face.
“What?” I ask, and he motions to something in front of us.
“Oh,” I breathe, hurriedly picking up my backpack from the ground and sliding into the leather seats in the back of the taxi. When Liam slides in beside me, he sets something in between us but I pay no mind to it: I had a mission.
Abruptly gripping the head of the passenger seat, I scooch to where I’m at the edge of my spot in the back and point to the windshield with an angry finger. “Follow that car!” I scream, and the driver nearly falls out of his seat from laughter.
“What car?” the driver cackles, and I just fall back into my seat and grasp my stomach in an attempt to calm it down from the giggles that were escaping me. I meet Liam’s eyes as he stares at me, a broad smile displayed on his face.
“You’re a mess, Elizabeth,” he chuckles, and I roll my eyes.
”Libby," I correct, but he just waves me off and turns to the driver, patting the poor man on the shoulder.
“I’m sorry for my girlfriend’s rude behavio-” Liam begins, but the driver cuts him off.
“Rude?” he laughs harder, but I don’t hear the rest.
I’m too busy listening to one word that escaped Liam’s lips: Girlfriend.
I see them laughing, but I can’t seem to straighten my thoughts.
It’s been two weeks - what has happened in two weeks that made us grow so close?
A hand takes mine and squeezes it, warmth spreading throughout my body. I look up from my lap - from my daze - and I see Liam giving me a sheepish smile. He knows what he said, too. He meant it. Reaching with my free hand for Liam, he leans forward and I cup his cheek, gently lurring him forward until our lips meet.
I can live with that.
“What did you bring your guitar for?”
I realize that as we slide out of the bench of the cab, waving at the driver as he pulled away from the cab. A whisper of a smile plays on my lips as I watch him strap the guitar around his torso - like he’s done it millions of times, over and over. Which he probably has. It’s just nice to remember once and a while that my boyfriend is a music fanatic.
He takes the first few steps to the door and pulls out the key from his pocket, unlocking the knob and entering the household without a word. The place is empty, and for once I couldn’t be more grateful. Jimmy’s a great guy, but he has his moments where he’s a nuisance in the Nottes’ household.
And Jere... he’s Liam’s everything. Sure, the little guy can be loud sometimes, but he’s as respectful and polite as a five-year-old can be. How can I not admire him and his father even more for that feat?
“Where are they?” I ask, and Liam waves a piece of paper he’d taken off the fridge - a note from Jimmy since Liam doesn’t have a cell, and mine is cut off.
I turn to stand beside him and hook my arm through his, leaning on him like he’s my brick wall. Be back soon, the note read in haphazard handwriting. Ice cream and a movie! Love, Jeremiah and Jimmy! And then, in a much more neater handwriting (but not by much), it read, P.S. Jere wrote that. I’m not with the love. xxx
I roll my eyes at the side-note and feel someone looking down at me. Meeting Liam’s eyes, he quirks a smile. “Well,” I say, unhooking my arm from his and instead playing with the guitar’s strap that crosses his chest. “What now?”
His smile broadens. “Now,” he sighs dramatically, “we cross something off your bucket list. Y’know, before the summer’s over.”
My mind goes blank for a second at the thought of summer being over. How can such a thing happen? How is this miserable heat ever going to change? Instead of feeding him these questions, I ask another. “What are we crossing off?”
“To learn the guitar,” he says simply, taking my hand and walking me to Jimmy’s couch.
“Oh,” I reply, feeling dumb. He detaches himself from the guitar and sets it in my lap as I sit down. I practically sink to the box spring after so much use of it from Jimmy, but I pay no mind because a really God-damn expensive guitar is sitting in my lap now. Liam sits down beside me, comfortable, and I can’t help but notice how his side is pressed against mine.
“Hold this down with the tip of your finger, but hold it down a bit hard - to where the string begins to imprint itself to your finger,” he explains while wrapping his arm around me to point out which string he’s talking about with what finger. When I follow through, he nods and says, “Good, good. Now get this finger to somehow get over to this string on this part of the stem...”
He guides my hands to their designated spots, and when he thinks I’m all set, he instructs me to strum - and something beautiful comes out. “What was that called?” I asked, looking down at the wooden instrument in wonder. How can something so insignificant make the most beautiful sound? “That was a ‘C’ note.”
I pause. “A note?”
“So... there’s more?”
When he realizes the meaning of my question, he laughs and says, “Yes, Lib, there’s more than one note in a melody.”
“How many are there?”
He explains to me about frets and chords and octaves and a bunch of other things that I’ve heard about, but have never pieced together. While concentrating on the words he whispered in my ears, I repeat them back to myself aloud and listen to them like they’re on a recording. After a few minutes of strumming two different chords, I feel him watching me.
“What?” I ask, not daring to meet his eyes - I might lose my place on the strings and have to start all over again.
“Where’s your camera?” he says, sounding like he’s in a hypnotic haze. I can’t help but look at him, and see that he’s staring at me with the most intense look. I point towards my backpack that lies on the miniature table in the kitchen, and he hops up immediately and gets it. I watch him carefully - he’s never really acted like this before.
Returning with the camera in his hands and the strap around his neck, he peeks into the lens and instructs me to “act natural.” I roll my eyes, but comply with his demands. I stare at the stem and find that my previous theory was correct: I’ve completely lost my spots on the guitar. I groan, and Liam chuckles.
“What,” he asks, although he doesn’t sound that concerned. He’s too concentrated on getting the best shots of an amateur musician. I almost laugh at the thought - musician? Ha!
I shake my head in reply, looking up and finding him sitting on the makeshift coffee table only a foot-and-a-half away from me. “Close much?” I giggle, and he lowers the camera from his face, looking at me like I’m just a silly girl.
He leans forward then and his nose brushes mine as our lips meet. His hand cups my cheek, as if taking in as much of the sweetness of this intimacy as I am. I wrap my hands around his neck and I feel him gently pull away and sigh in frustration. Opening my eyes, I watch as he closes his and rubs his face with his frail hands.
“What is it?” I ask, moving the guitar off my lap and leaning it against the bare wall adjacent to the couch. Leaning his elbows on his knees, I furrow my brows and take his hands in mine, gently pulling them away from his face. “Liam, please.”
His face is torn, and when he opens his eyes, the usual blue is now ice - almost a pure gray. He squeezes my small hands in his broad ones, and looks at me intently, like this is the thing he’s been meaning to tell me the entire time we’ve known each other. “I need to tell you something.”
My heart drops to my stomach.
Squeezing my hands once more, as if to reassure my doubts in our relationship, he leans forward on his knees and searches me. For what, I’ve yet to know. “You’re ruining me.” He says it simply - like it’s a fact that I’ve clearly should’ve seen this entire time.
I watch him, trying to find a joke in his eyes somewhere - maybe even a twitch on his lips that would perk upwards - but no. He stays calm, watching me find the answer to his impossible statement. But all I come up with is pitiful. “I don’t understand.”
“You’re...” he sighs, almost even groaning. I try to pull my hands out of his, but he hurriedly apologizes for his lack of explanation and gingerly takes them back into his possession. “You’re... incredibly, um... lovely.”
My brow quirks up.
“No, no, no - wrong word,” he quickly corrects himself, closing his eyes and searching for the answer to his frustration. “You’re... beautiful. Smart. Vibrant. Quiet, yet pronounced. Lovely, yes, but so much more. You’re-” but he stops there.
“I’m?” I quire, curious. I catch myself too late to see that I’m searching for compliments, but the way he stopped - it’s like he had a revelation; an epiphany.
He smiles at me and rubs his thumbs up and down the front of my hands. “You’re the sun.”
I don’t understand, and he must see this because he elaborates immediately.
“You’re the smile to my frown. You’re the white to my gray. You’re the up to my down. You’re the Heaven to my Hell.” The longer he explains, the more distant he seems to be getting. He parts his gaze from mine and looks down at our intertwined hands.“You’re not just any sun, though, Lib,” he breathes. “You’re my sun.”
“Why do you seem so sad, then?” I ask, and he just grins a sad grin.
“Because there’s no way I can return that hell-of-a favor. You’ve not only shined your greatness on me, but on my son - even on Jimmy. I’ve never seen him so comfortable to be in this house - this glad to be taking Jere out on play dates with him.”
This makes me laugh and I see him smile as well.
“My point is - thank you. But there’s nothing I can give you back.”
Biting my lip, I search myself for the right answer to his troubles. But the only thing I end up with is slipping my hands out of his and lying down on the couch. He looks up from the wooden floors and at my relaxed body, looking at me oddly.
“Come on,” I nudge, patting the tiny space beside me on the cushion. He hesitates, but after a small “please” peeps out of me, he smiles sheepishly and moves to lie next to me. After settling into a comfortable position, we find ourselves engulfed in each other. Definitely invading personal space, but I don’t think either of us mind.
His head lies on my chest and one of my hands play with his messy brown hair, finding the golden streaks and wondering subconsciously if they’re natural.
“One day I’m going to marry you.”
My hand freezes in his hair, taking in what words he just spoke - the words that now danced in the air for me to see. One day I’m going to marry you. How do I respond to a statement like that? Respond to a man I’ve known for only a month now, who knows with a confidence I wish I had, that there’s a possibility of a future for us.
Before I even think about responding though, his breaths become heavy and his body grows limp against mine. He’s asleep.
Swallowing whatever had formed in my throat, I return to playing with his thin hair. “I hope so,” I murmur, his even breaths vibing off a drowsiness that’s impossible to fight off.
I hope so.