I kissed my mother goodbye as the call for her and Ethel’s train blasted through the station’s speakers.
“We’ll talk more through the mail,” Ethel said, giving me a hug. I grimaced but didn’t refuse. My decision to attend the convention was still settling badly in my gut, but Ethan seemed to think it was a good idea, and a part of me did as well.
“Take care.” Ethel grinned, pulling away.
My mother was already loading her luggage into a busboy’s trolley. Ethel gave me a short wave before turning to go meet up with my mother.
I watched for the next half an hour as they got into the train before the train took off, leaving behind a littered empty track. I watched as young children along with the elderly waved the train off from behind the yellow line. Most of the town’s working class worked outside town, making such scenes common.
I took a deep breath before calling for Roxanne. She emerged from under a park bench, walking towards me before halting in front of me to perform a dog yawn.
I laughed, bending down to attach her to her leash. She might be my companion and helper, but she did have a fond habit of wandering off. She mostly sniffed at kids’ hands and whined at elderly folk she felt needed the same attention she directed to me.
“Come,” I said, pulling at her leash as I got up. Roxanne whined, but she followed me anyway. She didn’t like leashes, but I usually wasn’t given any other choice to put her in one when I considered her habit of wandering about.
There was a small department store within the train station. It was highly inefficient at times but was attractive to look into out of necessity when I visited the train station for one reason or the other.
Remembering the rant concerning the no dog policy, I decided to tie Roxanne’s leash to a pole and calmed her down afterward with a rub before I entered the store.
I looked around for things that seemed to be running out three times faster since Ethan got here. I stared awkwardly at the loaves of bread on the counter, before deciding for the first time in a long time to go with regular bread. Ethan wasn’t fond of the wheat bread I stocked up on, and it wouldn’t hurt me to make a small change for his sake.
I wrinkled my nose in disgust at the barely cooled sausages in the out of service freezers that were still in use. For once I was glad my mother had taken her time to stock up my fridge with meat. She’d complained about the fridge being too tiny, and how I was probably starving Ethan.
I smiled, dwelling on the fact that my mother had taken a liking to Ethan. He had been there to unlock the door when I had been intentionally ignoring her. She commented that she was happy that Ethan got me to eat and that I was considerably better tempered around him.
“At least there’ll be someone to send you to the hospital if you faint...” My mother had trailed as she looked up from chopping carrots. “Again,” she’d finished before looking back down.
I felt my face heat up at the memory. During my first few months here I’d fainted about three times in odd places like the department store or library. My mother had panicked almost to death when I decided to stop writing in the library and create a study for myself at the cabin. We came to a compromise where I had to visit a dietitian of her recommendation to help with the collapses caused by my undernourishment.
“Kadiane?” I heard someone call from behind me, making me turn to meet my professor from college face to face.
“It’s just Collins now, you’ve graduated, remember?” he said with a small chuckle. I smiled, noticing he was holding a basket filled with household oddities. I gave him a weak smile before turning back to the half-empty shelves. I didn’t really know what to say and decided to avoid a conversation altogether.
“Do you stay around here?” He asked, picking up a can of sweet corn from the shelves.
“Yes. It’s a little out of town but still around,” I explained, looking idly at the dark-cornered tiles of the store.
“That’s good,” he sighed, and I looked to find him smiling weakly. Collins was one of the only people that called me Kadiane. It was a middle name I hadn’t been used to but had sounded affectionate and filled with kindness when Collins said it. Maybe that’s the reason I used it as my pen name.
“I suppose,” I agreed, taking a can of sweet corn off the shelf myself.
“You look different,” he muttered, making me nod in agreement. When I go here I was still weighing about two hundred and ten pounds. I was in the midterm of my hunger strike so to speak, and I was in deep depression and sadly fainting prone.
“I’m taking Ethan in one of his classes, found out you were his guardian,” Mr. Collins said, dropping something else into his basket.
“Really?” I asked, surprised. I hadn’t thought about the possibility before. I smiled to myself, happy that Ethan was in good hands.
We engaged in small talk until we checked our stuff out. The staff was rude as usual and I chuckled when Collins called our attendant a son of a bitch when we exited the store.
“Well, it seems we have to part,” Collins said, adjusting his glasses. I nodded, smiling weakly as I undid Roxanne’s leash from the pole. She was chewing on a piece of Chicken wing I assume a child must have offered her.
“It was nice to see you again,” I admitted, turning to face him.
“You too...” he trailed, giving me a warm smile. He hadn’t changed much. He looked a little mature than he was a few years back but it was in a good way, like he’d accumulated some sort of wisdom that wasn’t present back then.
“Kadiane,” he called as I was about to make my way away from the store.
“Hmm?” I asked turning to meet him. He scratched the back of his head awkwardly before sighing.
“Do you mind staying in touch?” he asked, making my mouth part agape for a bit before I closed it and shook my head.
“Of course not...” I trailed, watching him sigh in relief.
“I’ll just take your number then,” he muttered, reaching into his pocket for his phone.
I called my number out to him before we departed. I constantly sighed as I and Roxanne made our way to the parking lot. I was constantly pulling her leash to get her nose away from the grocery bag. It probably smelt funny to her, like a combo of things I didn’t usually buy.
When we got to the car she took her usual seat up front but created the unneeded space that Ethan usually occupied. I smiled, starting the car. We were both getting accustomed to having him around us.
We got to the cabin in about an hour and a half later. I got down from the car to be greeted by a cluster of chickens that were soon after chased away by Roxanne. She ran back to me, sniffling at the plastic bag again before running off after the chickens that were returning.
I rolled my eyes, shutting the door of the car before calling out for Roxanne as I made it to the front door.
Roxanne was soon up beside me, clawing at the doors with her paws as I searched for the house key. She butt in as soon as soon as I got the door unlocked, running straight for my bedroom.
“Ethan!” I called out, walking into the makeshift living room as I searched for him. I dropped the nylon bag on the kitchen counter, searching for a sigh that he had at least eaten lunch. I wrinkled my nose at the sight of pasta on the stove. It might not have been a wonderful sight to me but at least it was a sign that Ethan was back nothing less.
I looked into his room and my study still searching for him, before deciding he might be in mine. I smiled when I found him curled up in my bed, his jeans riding down his hips, exposing his plaid blue boxers.
Roxanne was lying quietly on the floor beside the bed with her head on her paws. From the way her tail wagged in the air, you could tell she wanted to greet Ethan, but she’d been taught not to disturb sleep and just had to wait.
“You’re asleep,” I muttered under my breath as I moved to sit at the corner of the bed. I reached out my hand to brush back strands of his long hair from his face. It was free from the usual French braid or ponytail he usually subjected it to.
I sighed calmly as the all too familiar feeling of repressed ran through me as I continued to brush Ethan’s hair. It was expected. Ethan was attractive and kind to me and making his feeling known to me didn’t really help matters.
“Ethan,” I called, shaking him gently by the shoulder. He frowned at the disturbance before curling up more. The action made him seem younger, and it was at times like this I remembered Ethan was just nineteen and just acted a little more maturely than those his age. I tried to think back to when I was nineteen and wrinkled my nose at the memory of me being a crybaby.
I shook the memory out of my head before giving Ethan another shake. This time his eyes parted slightly to give me a weird look.
“What time is it?” he asked looking from me to the clock hanging above the room entrance.
“Just slightly past three, how was your day?” I asked, running my hand through his hair. He yawned cuddling up to it.
“It was fine,” he said, looking up at me. “I’m still somewhere between in my old English texts though,” he confessed, reaching out to touch my thigh. I blinked, trying not to dwell on how much the simple action affected me.
“Would you like help?” I asked, taking my hand away from his hair. He nodded, whispering a small thank you afterward.
“I met your professor,” I said, trying to make small talk. I watched as Ethan stiffened, making me raise a brow at him.
“What, you don’t like him?” I asked, watching his face for an expression or clue.
“Not really... he asks about you too much,” Ethan admitted, scooting closer to me. He was soon up against me, his hands pulling at my waist as if asking me to join him.
“I’m not sure if that’s something not to be pleased about,” I said, trying to pry his hands off me. “There’s no time for this Ethan, I have work to do,” I complained, making Ethan sigh in defeat before letting go.
“You always have work to do,” he accused, making me roll my eyes at his childishness.
“It’s not my fault,” I stated bluntly, looking up at the clock as time passed by.
“I know...” I heard him trail. “Just stay for a while,” he tried again, letting his hands snake around my chest as he got to a kneeling position on the bed. He kissed and pleaded with me until I lost all my willpower and gave in.
“O-Okay. J-just for a while,” I got out through a gasp as Ethan kissed up my neck.
“That’s enough time,” Ethan said, pulling me flush on the bed with him. He cuddled up to me, encasing me in a bear hug. I closed my eyes, taking in his scent. He smelled like bathing soap - and something else that I couldn’t quite place my finger on.
I frowned, realizing what it was. “You smell like cigarettes,” I muttered, making him tighten his hold on me.
“I burnt a compost pile outside.” Ethan offered in a strained tone. I corked my brows in suspicion but quickly succumbed to feeling bad about it. Ethan has never had a reason to lie to me and it wasn’t likely he would do it now.
“Oh...” I finally trailed, half-heartedly accepting his story.
“Can you speak to my mum about the convention instead of me? I doubt we’d agree on anything if I did it myself.” Ethan asked as Roxanne decided to climb in and join us.
“Okay,” I answered, remembering the first time I’d walked into Ethan and his mum having a conversation through the phone... It really wasn’t a conversation; it more like a competition of who could attach the highest amount of foul words into a sentence.
“You’re a useless waste of sperm.” Ethan’s mother had barked from the other end.
“I could say the same to you too, you fucking harlot.” Ethan had yelled back, making me cringe before exiting the scene.
“Thank you,” he said, sighing in relief. “You’re a lifesaver,” he finished giving me an odd look.
“I want to hold you,” Ethan confessed, trailing his hand down my thigh, making me shiver.
“You’re holding me already.” I pointed out as his hand continued to run up against my hips.
“I know. I just wish it were a little different,” Ethan said as his expression softened. “A little more intimate you know?”
I gulped, turning my gaze to anything but him at the moment. Why was he so direct?
“I’m scaring you out of your skin, am I not?” he asked resting his hand on my hip.
“Not really...” I lied through my teeth as I looked down at his hand. He was scaring the calm enclosure I had built regarding this matter out of me. If he wasn’t holding me so tightly I would have jumped up and escaped into the living room ages ago.
“You’re making everything difficult,” he sighed against my neck, sending tingles through my whole system, “but I’ll refrain from complaining.”
Ethan chuckled, brushing a few strands of my hair back. “You know, I’m not used to people rejecting my advances.”
“I’m not saying no,” I pointed out, taking his face in my hands.
“But you’re not saying yes either,” he said, his green eyes looking into my brown ones in a calculating manner. He gave me a deep affectionate look before leaning in to peck me.
“You’re confusing me,” he admitted as he pulled away.
“Have you heard the saying that nothing’s black or white but in a grayscale?” I asked, running my thumb over his lip. “I can’t be blunt about something as delicate as a relationship.”
“I know,” Ethan sighed, pouting. “It’d be a lot easier, though.”
I smiled at him before leaning over to offer him a kiss. He accepted the gesture, returning the kiss.
It was when Ethan asked these kinds of questions that I realized he wasn’t all grown up yet. It’s okay to want things to happen within the span of a second, but relationships need time, and more importantly, I need time.
I need time to take it all in. I need time to heal.