Chapter 29: Liam
“What movie is this from again?”
My voice echos down the street as I speak, my mind searching for the right things to say in such an intimate moment as this.
We’re lying in the middle of my street, the cement cool against our backs as we look up to the night sky. No stars, just black. Her hand is intertwined with mine between our bodies, and I can’t help but to smooth my thumb back and forth over her palm.
“The Notebook,” she whispers, as if we were speaking in private and she didn’t want the night stars to hear. “The most overly-dramatic romance novel that exists.”
“Isn’t it a movie, though?” I ask dumbly, and she just laughs. I squeeze her hand. “Hey, laughing isn’t allowed when the last movie I’ve seen was some soap-opera shit I watched with Jimmy.” But this only makes her laugh harder.
“What were you doing watching a soap-opera with Jimmy?” she asks in shock, and I can’t blame her being appalled. What kind of man watches the cable network?
“Long story,” I mutter, but she just shakes her head back and forth on the cement.
“I’m pretty sure I can keep up.”
A groan tickles the back of my throat and I throw my free arm over my eyes. The saran wrap is no longer suffocating my arm, and my tattoo is as fresh (and sore) as ever. Libby finally let me see hers. It was an outline of black birds on her right ribcage, and they were as beautiful as I’d thought. Both the size of a Gatorade bottle-cap - small enough to where no one can really make a big deal out of it being on her body permanently, but big enough for it to matter and serve its purpose.
Liv was now one with her.
“You never told me why you had birds drawn on you, and not her name,” I commented, hoping that it’d change the subject and distract her just enough for us to move on.
She heaves out a heavy sigh, but there’s a small smile that lingers on her lips. “We use to pretend we were birds,” she starts, and a small chuckle escapes her. “We would jump off of swings, hoping we would fly instead of fall, and would jump off of cliffs (recreationally, of course) into our neighborhood lake to see how high we could get to the clouds.
“When she was dying, though, she would talk about Heaven all the time.” Her eyes are getting teary the more she talked and I want to ask for her to stop, but I find myself being too selfish to. I want to hear more about the girl that made me meet this beautiful woman lying next to me.
“She didn’t believe that she would live there (Heaven, I mean) forever,” Libby continues, shaking her head. “She’d visit God, she said, and then he’d send her off as a reincarnation of a bird. She’d look over me and whoever else she and I loved.”
She stopped then, staring off at the sky. I watch as a tear slides down the side of her face and dissolves into her hair. I turn on my side and untangle my hand from hers, curling my now-free arm under my head and using my other to hold her cheek. I gently pull her head to where she’s facing me and I see tsunami waves pooling at her eyelids.
“Oh, Libby,” I whisper, my chest aching at the sight of her crushed state. I brush my thumb on her cheek, subconsciously tracing the light freckles that made their home there. Her bottom lip wobbles but she tries to cover it up with one of her hands, trying to brush off the oncoming tears with the wave of her hand.
“Look at me,” she laughs breathlessly. “I’m crying!”
Her laughing catches me off-guard, although I’ve been halfway expecting it this entire time. “There was a Days of Our Lives marathon - like always - one Sunday, and Jere was already asleep upstairs. The following Monday was a holiday, although I can’t remember which one,” I ramble, “so I had nothing to look forward to besides going to sleep.”
Libby watches me like I’m the one who’s going hysterical. I crack a grin and continue.
“Jimmy had recently moved into the apartment and was bored out of his mind. He was surfing the cable network when he let out a dramatic wail. I wasn’t even worried what happened to him, to be completely honest - I was just worried if he’d woken up Jere.”
This makes her giggle and my grin broadens into a smile, slowly wiping her tears away with my fingers.
“‘Days of Our Lives is on!’ Jimmy practically shouted, even though I was sitting in the ottoman right next to him. He told me to watch it with him... so I did.”
“How was it?” she asks, her voice hoarse from crying but now full of humor.
I roll my eyes at her. “What do you think, Queen Elizabeth? It was awful.” She cackles and I just smile as I watch her.
When she calms down a bit, I take the opportunity to steal a kiss - on her nose. This shuts her up, although that wasn’t my intention. She looks at my softly, as if debating whether or not to say something. But instead of speaking, she leans forward and gently lays a kiss on my lips. It’s soft and sweet and I love it. I love her.
When she breaks away, I look at her. Her face is very close to mine in this moment, and I just want time to freeze. Everything right now... is so perfect, so wonderful. Her light freckles dust her nose and cheeks, and her blonds hair sweeps across her forehead in a small heap of bangs. Her sweetheart lips are parted slightly, and I know right this instant is when I need to say those three words.
“I love you,” I whisper into the humid air, and her eyes widen in surprise. I realize in this moment as I watch her face contort in shock that never had I thought over how she’d react to this statement, and how important this little thing could change our lives.
She must’ve seen my panic because she laughs and reaches for my face once more. She leans forward, acting as if she’s going in for a kiss, but when she stops short I nearly go into another panic. “Silly Liam,” she says with a sly grin playing on her lips. “I knew I loved you before I even met you.”
And that’s when I kiss her. Hard.
I turn in my spot on the cement and angle myself to where I’m hovering over her body, one hand cradling the back of her head and the other holding myself up so I won’t crush her. But my lips are the ones that are busy. They’re all over her - her lips, her cheeks, her nose, her forehead, her neck.
When she reaches up for my hair, my back shudders and, as I had thought, she pulls. I’m in love with her reaction to my kisses. Her deep sighs, her hair pulling, hands roaming. I use to be embarrassed with my reactions - the groaning, the heavy sighs, hands roaming - because I was afraid she’d cower away from me. But instead of cowering, she leans into my touch, as if trying to engulf her entire body into our kiss.
But when her hands dwindle away from my hair and lower and lower down my body, I freeze. “Libby?” I ask against her lips, trying to raise my head a bit so that I can look at her more clearly.
“Mhm?” she responds, not necessarily coherently, and I can’t help but grin at the fact. This is the way I affect her? I watch as she sighs as I lean forward to her ear and I know for sure that yes, this is the way she reacts to my touch.
“We’re in the middle of the street,” I whisper in her ear, and when I lift my head up I feel her hands freeze on my waist and see her eyes now wide open. “But,” I start, prolonging the word to where she’d get my point, “my bedroom is less than fifty yards away.”
When she understands, she gives me a wicked grin. “Let’s go, then. I want the scenic route!”
I laugh and it feels good. Rolling over, I stand up and take her hand in mine as I help her up. “Are you sure?” I ask, because...
“I should be asking you the same,” she says gently, but her smile is nowhere near gone and I can still feel mine there.
“Scenic route, hm?” I ask, as I tug her towards the house.
“Oh, shut up and come on!” she laughs, and together we run toward the house and away from the humid night.
There’s a ringing.
I can feel Libby’s bare legs entangled with mine beneath the sheets, and the light is slowly seeping in through the window panes above my bed. I glance at the time on my ancient digital clock in the corner of my room, reading it’s just past dawn.
Libby doesn’t budge, so I’m not afraid to wake her up when I move to get out of bed. Memories of last night slide out from beneath their covers and bring a smile to my face. Last night...
My thoughts are interrupted with more ringing.
Now hurrying, I rush to slide my boxers and sweatpants on and unlock the door, gently closing it behind me before I stumble incoherently down the stairs. When I make it to the kitchen’s counter, the phone stops ringing.
“Perfect,” I mumble, wiping my bleary eyes with the heels of my hands and wander to the fridge. By the time I have the coffee brewing in the pot, the phone rings again.
Determined to not let it die this time, I pick it up from its base and click the button to answer.
“Hello?” My voice comes out strangled due to sleep and I hold the phone away from my ear as I clear my throat. When I reproach it to my ear, I only catch my last name at the end. “Yes, this is he.”
The person’s tone changes. It’s a deep voice, quite business-like, and I can’t tell yet if it’s an advertisement call or something to do with my bank account. But his next words make me realize that it’s far from either. “This is Libby’s father.”
“Oh.” I’m not sure what to feel, so I settle for anger and stand against the counter, gripping the edge like I’m forcing myself not to lash out on this man.
“Yes. ’Oh.’” Mr. Earnest clears his throat and begins his monologue. “You must know what my thoughts are of you, uh, being with my daughter.” When he realizes I’m not going to reply, he resumes. “So instead of reaching out to her again, because obviously that didn’t work, I decided to talk to you. Do you understand, Mr. Nottes?”
I notch an eyebrow when I understand everything. “How do you know my last name?”
“I’ll touch base on that soon. But right now, I need you to understand my need to talk to you.”
I laugh humorlessly. “So you can threaten me, too? Yeah, right. Goodbye, sir.”
My thumb smooths over the buttons to where the “End” rests, but his next words stop me short: “I don’t think you want to do that.”
“And why not?” I ask after a short pause.
“Because I know things you don’t - things that you might want to know yourself,” he says, and I nearly guffaw at his ominous qualities.
“Alright, sir. Let me hear it. What do you have to say that will make me stay on the phone with you?”
“Libby made me aware, the first time she reached out to me while she’s been there, that you live with only your roommate and your five-year-old son.” I say nothing. “And that your parents abandoned you when you were fourteen - a few months after your son was born. I bet you get curious as to where they went to, or why they left in the first place.”
Now that was a punch in the gut. Even Libby knew not to bring them up. “What does this have to do with Libby?” I ask, trying to sound like I’m okay.
I can almost hear the smirk in his words as he says, “Do you want to know what happened to them or not, Mr. Nottes?”
I want to scream, I want to cry, I want to wail, I want to die. What the hell is wrong with this man? “You don’t know me.”
The smooth, know-it-all attitude of his makes me want to groan in rage. “I do. And I can prove it to you.”
I try and breathe, in-and-out, as I make out the words in my head. “Never,” breathe, “ever call this number again.”
The tone dies.