The Lion Heart
“Why are we going this way? We need to get you to a hospital,” Blondie was practically screaming at me as I drove the bike further and further to the edge of town.
“No, no hospitals,”
“You’ve just been shot, Judah!”
“No. Can’t be around hospitals. They test for drugs… and gunshot, not a good combination,”
“The bullet barely grazed my skin. I’ll live,”
“Plus, Max will never find us here,”
We finally reached the edge of town, back to the cliff top area where I took Blondie once. It was the best hiding spot in the entire island since it was actually private property.
As I killed my bike’s engine and stepped down from it, Blondie followed suit with a concerned look on her face. I gave her one small smile before signaling for her to come follow me.
“Please tell me you’re done hanging around those low-lives, “ she muttered under her breath as we made our way up the cliff.
“Hey, watch it,” I replied defensively, “They’re not that bad,”
“Not that b—are you insane? Did you see what just happened? He freaking shot us!”
“Max never misses his target, especially at that range. He didn’t shot us. He was shooting at the ground,”
I only got hit because I jumped in front of the gun, which was stupid. But if something had happened to her… I won’t know how to live with myself.
“Max just isn’t himself when he’s drunk,” I sighed, pausing a second before saying, “And I’m not myself when I’m stoned,”
We weren’t perfect people, for sure. But we were family.
“What Max did was pretty shitty. But I’d done some pretty shitty things too. But at the end of the day, we had each other’s backs,”
“If that’s what you call having each other’s back, count me out,” I could just picture her rolling her eyes as she was walking behind me.
At this time, the adrenaline rush was slowing down and I was starting to feel the gnawing pain on my arm. Letting out an annoyed sigh, I ripped the hem of my shirt and tied a knot above the wound to help stop the bleeding.
Blondie was just watching my every movement. She had that worried look on her face again. She wanted to say something, or do something, but she didn’t know what to do. This probably sounded pathetic, but I was thoroughly enjoying the attention she was giving me.
“You don’t carry around one of those Hello Kitty Band-Aids by any chance, do you?” I joked to ease the tension, but she just sighed and continued on staring at my arm.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a scratch,” I shrugged it off and proceeded to continue on walking.
“Judah…” she said suddenly and I heard her stopping her tracks.
“What?” I replied as I turned around.
“Why didn’t you tell me? About the time when we were kids… I didn’t remember it was you, but you did…”
Ah, time to answer for my crimes.
“I dunno, it’s not really important,” I shrugged again and Blondie had her eyes narrowed at me.
“Stop lying Judah. Just stop,” she shook her head disapprovingly, “Tell me the truth, please,”
She could just see right through me.
“I… I can’t,”
“Because the truth will hurt people,” I sighed loudly and turned around, focusing my eyes on the track to the cliff top.
“Will it hurt more than the lies you’ve told me?”
Her words brought a lump to my throat. My feet stopped moving involuntarily. Although I couldn’t see her face, her voice held so much sadness in it, it broke me.
“Ah, fuck it,” I groaned as I turned around again.
I took one look at her—her sad eyes, her trembling lips, and I just lost it. I couldn’t stop myself from saying it out loud.
“The truth is… I like you, okay? I really do!”
Shit. I fucking said it. Or shouted it.
“I like you since that day you came over to me at the playground and you said that things are gonna be okay because you’ll be my friend,”
Okay, that’s enough. Let’s not say anything else.
“You changed my life, Blondie. Literally. You saved me then and you saved me now. How did I ever get so lucky, I’ll never know,”
And you fucking said it all. Nice job, stupid. Now you have to stand here and listen as she breaks your heart into a million tiny pieces.
I swallowed hard and waited patiently for her to respond, but Blondie just stood there with a blank expression for the longest time. I was imagining all sorts of things. Maybe she’d laugh and say that I was joking. Maybe she’d get mad at me or get upset. Or the worst one of all; she’d say thanks, but no thanks. Because it was far too late.
“Judah, if you had told me all these that night after the play…” her voice was small as she spoke and I was hanging breathlessly on her every word, “I wouldn’t have…”
You wouldn’t have what?
“You wouldn’t have gone with him?” I found myself finishing her words for her. “Of course you would go with him. I get it. We never woudda work out anyways. You chose him, and that’s all right. He’s clearly the better choice too,”
Story of my life.
“Who are you to decide these things, Judah?” her voice got louder this time, as if she was getting angry.
“You never even gave us a shot,” she said again, softer this time.
“No, I never gave myself a shot. I’m doing you a favor, Blondie. You’d be way better off,”
“Why do you keep thinking like this?” she demanded, raising her voice, and I raised mine too unknowingly.
“Because, on what planet would you ever have feelings for someone like me?! There’s no way you’d ever want me. I mean, given the option of me and him—,”
“So you think I’m way better off right now? You think I’m so fucking happy right now? Well guess what, I’m not. Blake and I are over, we broke up!” she shouted back, tears were brimming on the side of her eyes.
“I’m not happy with him,” a single drop of tear fell on her cheek and I had to restrain myself not to go over there and wrap her little head in my arms this instant.
“Blondie…” was all that I could say.
“Judah,” she breathed as she calmed herself down, “You don’t understand. You not telling me the truth, it broke my heart. It broke me. I’m… broken now,”
Her small body was whimpering a little as she said those words. That was the most painful thing I had ever seen.
I had hurt her.
My arms reached out to her but she flinched at the contact. It was as if she was scared of me.
“What do you mean? What happened?” I said through gritted teeth, but she just looked away, avoiding eye contact with me.
Did he hurt her?
“What the hell…? What the fuck did he do to you? Tell me!” I demanded, my hand reached out to her again but she pushed it away this time.
“Nothing. It doesn’t matter. It’s done,” she said breathlessly.
“Did he hurt you?”
“Not anymore than you did,”
Instinctively, my body went to close in on her. Not giving her a chance to escape, my arms were wrapped around her tight. For a while there she was squirming around, pushing my chest with her fists, trying to get away. But I was adamant. I wasn’t gonna let her go. Not this time at least.
“What are you doing?” she protested.
“Something I should have done a long time ago,” I said firmly.
“Get off me,”
“You can’t just do this to me, Judah,”
“You can’t just do whatever the hell you want and think that I’ll be okay with it,”
At this time, her punches grew weaker as she had given up on trying to break free from me. She let her head fall on my chest and sobbed quietly against it.
“You wanna know something, Judah? Here’s my truth: I hate you. I hate you with every inch of my being. Everything about you irritates me. I hate your guts. I hate everything that comes out of your mouth. I hate your eyes. I hate the way you look at me. I hate the way you smile. I hate that you smoke all the damn time and the scent will just linger on me and I couldn’t wash it off. I hate this stupid deal that you came up with. I hate that I agreed to doing it with you. I hate the way you kissed me. I hate how you taste. I hate the way you make me feel. And most of all, I hate you because you broke my heart,”
I heard her say the word ‘hate’ over and over again. Hate, hate, hate. But it didn’t feel that way. It was as if the word had a different meaning.
“And despite all that, I hate that I still love you for it,” she murmured against my shirt.
Wait—what the fuck did I just hear?
“I’m still mad at you, and I don’t think I could ever forgive you after everything. But I’m also not gonna stand here and lie about my feelings. Because I’ve done that before and it’s not working,” she paused for a beat before saying, “You should have told me that night,”
Slowly, she peeled herself away and looked up to see me with those glassy eyes. There was so much pain and hurt behind those eyes, my chest was gnawing in agony at the sight.
“I would have…” she trailed.
“You would have what?”
“I would have stayed. I would have fought for you. Because given the option of you and Blake, or given the option of you and anyone else, I would have picked you,”
And I died. I just fucking died.
“How could I not?”
“Blondie, I’m sorry,”
“No, you don’t need to apologize. What’s done is done,” she shook her head and took a step further away from me.
“Did he hurt you?”
“No. I hurt myself,”
“What the fuck did he do?”
“Nothing that I didn’t agree on doing too,”
“Did you… and him? You two…?” I gulped, waiting for her to respond.
And I could see it in her eyes. The answer.
“I wanted to tell you everything. I wanted you to know how I feel about you… so bad. I didn’t want you to leave me that night,” I found myself speaking again as she stood there in silence.
“But you didn’t. Instead you broke my heart Judah. In the worst way possible,”
“It doesn’t matter—“
“I love you,”
Did I just fucking say that out loud?
“I love you, Taya Leigh Williams,”
Fucking shit, I did it again.
Blondie just stood there with her mouth open. If I was surprised with what I just said, she must be even more freaked out.
Slowly, her mouth closed to form a line and her eyes gaze dark. In a million years, I would never have guessed what came out of her mouth next.
“Fuck you,” she spat.
That was so not the response I was looking for.
“You heard me. Fuck you!” she repeated herself, and it hurt even more this time.
“Uh, I just told you I love and you responded with ‘fuck you’? Wrong answer, Blondie. Try again,” I wasn’t trying to make a joke out of this but I was honestly irritated.
“Stop it Judah, just stop!” she shook her head frantically as she pushed me back. It was a hard shove too, I found myself moving a couple steps back.
“How could you say that to me now? Now? After everything… You’re just saying things that I wanna hear and I don’t need it,” she snapped.
“Blondie, I’m not, I’m serious. I’m so fucking serious,” I tried to reach for her again but she kept backing away.
“It’s too late Judah…”
“I don’t care if you think it’s too late now, I wanna tell you anyway!” I might have shouted a little too loud, causing her to flinch a little.
Taking a deep breath, I adjusted my voice and said, “The only time I ever lied to you was when I told you that we had meant nothing. Other than that, I was always honest with you. Talking to you was real. Spending time with you was real. Kissing you was real. It was never fake, to me at least,”
I was baring my soul out here. It was torturous. My breathing was ragged and I had to be careful not to blink my eyes too hard, because I was sure that tears would roll out if I do. This was fucking pathetic, but I just hope that she’d see through the mess.
How real I’m trying to be with her.
“I don’t know, Judah. You said one thing and you mean another. I don’t know what to believe anymore,” she shook her head slowly, her voice quivering, and so did my heart.
“How can I prove to you that this is real? I’ll do anything. Just tell me,”
She moved a couple steps back, letting some distance stood between us. I hated the distance. I wanted her near me. But I had to hold myself and wait, as she was about to speak again.
She’s gonna say that she’s done with me.
She’s gonna tell me never to talk to her again.
And she’s gonna leave me.
I was prepared for the worst. I deserved the worst. I watched her as she took a deep breath, debating with herself what her next move would be. But suddenly, she took a step closer to me, and her hand reached up, landing gently on the side of my mouth.
She stared at me right in the eyes as her finger gently grazed my bottom lip and I was rendered a statue. But what she said next was even more unexpected, it hit me harder than that bullet wound.
“Kiss me,” she said.