Chapter 26: Libby
The light is shining through my bedroom’s window, rays splitting from the crossed panels in the glass, and I can’t help but wonder what is happening at home right now.
Glancing at the digital clock flashing beside me on the end table, I count an hour backwards because of the time difference and realize it would be seven in the morning there. On a weekday, Mom would be frying eggs for Dad before he takes off for work, and brews coffee despite him always only taking a sip and then hitting the corner cafe afterwards.
Dad would be reading the paper that was formerly tossed into our front yard, his posture relaxed as if he didn’t have a care in the world for what the day held for him - that whatever did come was manageable.
And, right then, it hits me.
Clutching my stomach, I slide out from under the warm protection of the blankets and reveal myself into the cold, air-conditioned house that once gave me relief, but instead gives me goosebumps the size of mountains and a stomach that’s flopping over. “Oh God.”
My feet clap on the wooden floors as I jog towards the bathroom the next room over, automatically kneeling over the toilet and retching whatever crap was in my stomach. Not too long after, I hear the patting of feet behind me and then the rushing once they discover me dying by the toilet.
“Oh, shit, Libby what’s wrong?” Liam asks, and I don’t even try to look at him - my face is too hot from embarrassment, although the rest of my body is shuddering with unreasonable chills.
“I dunno,” I reply, but just as soon I hunch over the toilet and breathe heavily. When I think I’m clear, he’s beside me on the tiled floor, leaning against the tub and rubbing my back in comfort. “But it sucks.”
I can hear the solemn tone in his voice as he tries to lighten the mood. “Y’know I’d be holding your hair back right now if only it were long enough.”
I grin, and I shake my head incredulously. “How can you possib-”
His hand is once again on my back, and I feel hot tears slide down my face at the miserable state I’m in. This is so embarrassing. Tearing off some toilet paper, I roll it into a ball and blot the mess that’s spread across my face. I toss the paper into the toilet along with the rest of the grossness within it, gently folding the seat down and flushing the mess.
I can’t bear to meet his gaze, so I only nod, clutch my legs close to my chest, and sigh. This is not how I want to spend my day. I hear motion beside me and all of a sudden I’m engulfed in heat, Liam crushing his body to mine. I melt in his touch and I lie my head on his chest, the tears seeping out again.
“Why are you crying?” he murmurs, looking down at me with concern as he wipes away one of the dribbles with his finger.
I try not to punch myself as I reply, “It’s a bad habit when I hurl.”
His body shakes as a small chuckle escapes him. “Tears make the hurling worse, y’know.”
I roll my eyes. “I never would’ve guessed.”
I can feel him smiling as he kisses the top of my head gingerly, as if scared he’ll set off another chain of puking. I shudder at the thought.
“Cold?” he asks, rubbing his hand up and down my arm in an attempt to produce a bit of heat. “I can get you a blanket?”
I smile weakly and nod against his chest. I am a bit cold. “Yeah, if you don’t mind.”
He laughs one of those one-syllable laughs and pecks the top of my head once more, before standing up and wandering over to Jere’s room. I sigh and decide that it’s a better time than any to try and stand up and make it downstairs. I need to prepare coffee. Coffee will solve everything.
Trembling, I take hold of the edge of the counter and the top of the toilet seat, pulling myself up into a standing position. I sigh heavily, suppressing a groan at the way my stomach is protesting against every single damn decision about this. Ignoring it, I shuffle my way out of the bathroom and walk towards the staircase, passing my room and trying to distract myself from the thought of just going in and sleeping the day away.
No. I need to be productive today.
After all, it is a big day.
My eyes widen at the thought, causing me to get distracted and nearly trip down one of the stairs. “Shit,” I whisper, trying not to be too loud, but failing miserably when Liam comes rushing out of Jere’s room to find me.
“Libby?” he asks, and I know that he’s found me in the worst state I can possibly be in. He doesn’t need this - not today.
“Don’t worry about me,” I sigh, trying to plaster a smile on my face as I turn to look up the staircase at him, but when I do, my body sits me down on the step behind me without my permission and leans me against the railing. “Don’t worry.”
I’m not convincing enough. He frowns and takes the few steps down to where he’s at my level and drapes the Mexican blanket that he must’ve rummaged out of Jere’s closet over me, tucking it around my shoulders. “No you’re not,” he sighs, and I laugh bitterly.
“Okay, I’m not. You caught me.” I look at him playfully and stick my tongue out at him, and he just rolls his eyes and sits on the step above me, tucking me against his chest. His hand brushes against my cheek and he clicks his tongue in worry. “What?” I ask, but am too tired to look up at him.
He hesitates, but finally comes out with, “You’re warm.”
I smirk. “And you’re hot.”
He laughs and I can’t help but join in. “You have a fever,” he corrects himself, and I nod with a groan. “What?”
Pursing my lips, I look up at him and meet his blue eyes with solemn ones. “It’s your birthday.”
He gives me a crooked smile. “Yep.”
“And I’m sick.”
He notches an eyebrow. “And?”
I sigh in exasperation. “I’m suppose to be a proper girlfriend today!”
This causes a storm of laughter. “Today? Today of all days, you need to be a girlfriend?” When I don’t reply, he learns to shut up but the jovial glint remains in his eyes.
“What’s so funny about me wanting to give you a special day?”
“Oh, that’s not funny. That’s actually kinda sweet,” he says, brushing my matted bangs that are clinging to my forehead from the gross, cold sweat and tucking them behind my ears. “But needing to be a ‘proper girlfriend?’ What exactly is ‘proper,’ Lib?”
Despite my body just wanting to collapse down the stairs altogether and curl up in a ball to sleep, I explain. “Y’know, cooking you breakfast, taking you out on a date, kissing you senseless - all that jazz.”
He tugs me closer to him, although we both know it’s physically impossible to do so - I’m already crushed against him, my head on his chest and his cheek resting on the top of my head. Our legs are intertwined on the stairs, mine wrapped on top of his, and his arms are cradling me close to him. I shiver at the reminder of his touch, and he automatically tucks me deeper into the blanket.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, closing my eyes and trying to calm down my erratic heartbeat. I need to sleep.
“Don’t be,” he whispers back, turning his head to press his mouth into my hair. “You just being with me is everything I can ask for and more.”
I giggle. “Cheesy.”
I imagine him rolling his eyes. “Romantic,” he counters, and I don’t bother to argue.
After a few seconds of silence, I smile. “Hey, Liam?”
“Hm?” he moans, his mouth still pressed against my head.
I move myself to where he’s forced to look down at me and meet my teasing eyes. “I love you so much it makes me sick.”
He suppresses a smile and says, “You need to wash your mouth.”
My heart hammers hard against my chest. “What? Why? I admit my love for you and you tell me to wash my damn mouth?”
He waits patiently for me to finish my rant, when he finally replies. “Wash your ‘damn mouth’ so I won’t be tasting leftover Ramen when I’m kissing the girl I love.”
A blush overcomes my cheeks and a nervous sweat breaks out across my forehead. “Maybe you should wait ’til tomorrow,” I suggest, but I stand up on my unsteady feet anyways to head back up the stairs to the bathroom. I feel revolting.
He stands up beside me and takes my hand into his, not replying until we’ve made it to the second floor. Hunching down a notch, he presses his lips against my warm cheek and stays there, until finally moving up to my ear. “Deal,” he sighs, and together we walk to the bathroom.
He’s quite handy when it comes to needing a personal assistant. He prepared my toothbrush while I splashed cold water to my face, and handed me a towel to dry my face with afterwards. Immediately after I put my toothbrush back into the cup and my mouth felt a million times more fresh, I turn to Liam who’s standing beside me and take his hand.
He smiles sadly at me. “I don’t like it when you’re sick.”
“Especially on your birthday?” I prompt, sticking my nose up in the air in disgust as my stomach rumbles in misery.
“Especially on my birthday,” he agrees, then stepping beside me and leading me across the hall to his bedroom. “Let’s sleep.”
My entire body seems to collapse right then and there at the door just at the thought of him saying that. “Yes please!” I practically sing in pleasure, and he smiles as I sit in his bed and fold myself into his sheets. The smell of coffee and smoke overwhelms me and I turn my head to sniff the pillow for more.
Liam chuckles as he crawls in next to me, mumbling, “Stalker,” as he pulls himself under the sheets himself. I wiggle closer to him, as he seems hesitant to do so himself, my bare legs intertwining with his sweatpants-covered-ones and my head resting against his chest. His hand cups the back of my neck and he brushes his thumb along my skin, sending a silent shiver down my spine.
“Cold?” he asks, but I don’t answer. I’m already gone.