Days passed and I have settled into a routine of going back to work and coming home. Although I miss Axel with every fiber of my being I have learned to work on myself first. Although I wake up every night crying I have learned that in order for me to be able to fix what I have done I had to fix me.
Axel was right. I only saw what I wanted to see in him. In order to protect myself, I used it as a reason to push him away. Yes, he played but we were never together then. There was no reason for him to remain faithful.
He talked about the other girls but never did he treat me like one of them. When I needed him, he was there. There are numerous occasions that I can name that he was there.
When my car broke down, he sent out a freaking fire truck to come and get me.
When I needed to go shopping, he went with me even though he hated it.
He went with me to Spain, when he could have stayed home.
He protected me against my mother when she spoke badly about me in front of him.
He is always saving me.
I didn’t realize how deep I was drowning until now. I let my insecurities flood me to the point where I was blinded. I shouldn’t be afraid to risk because I am worth it.
Because I deserve it.
I wanted to speak to him. I wanted to apologize for slapping him but every time I came home or left for work, he was never there.
However, today was different. I came home from my normal shift to find his door opened and several boxes outside in the hallway.
My chest tightens as I slowly approached his door. I swung it opened slowly to see an empty apartment. Tears stung and I realized I have truly lost him. For years, he assured, he cradled me while I sobbed my butt off, he fought for me and all I did was push him away each time he tried to get through to me.
I walked into his apartment, feeling like the floor was slipping underneath me and nothing was holding me upright. For the second time, I feel like my world is spinning out of control and I couldn’t get a grasp on it. For days, I have wanted to send him a text or call him but I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I was too ashamed.
My hands tightened into fists at my sides. I closed my eyes tightly to stop the incoming flood of tears but it was useless. I felt hollow like someone had scooped everything out of me and left a hollow shell of nothing.
I miss him. I miss my best friend. I miss the comfort of his arms. The pain is unbearable. Seeing this empty apartment was a blow to my heart.
My phone rang and it flashed Emery’s number. I hesitated but I ended picking it up.
“Ryleigh...” Emery started.
I didn’t answer her.
“You don’t have to say anything. I know you are mad at us all but I wanted to call and say I am sorry. I was a real bitch to you. I didn’t realize what I was doing until...” She went quiet and then spoke up again. “I’m just sorry. If it makes you feel any better I was always jealous of you. You were always so strong and everybody liked you when we were kids. I had to work so hard to get everyone’s approval and so I took it out on you. I hurt you and continued to do it. It didn’t realize how much it was hurting you until the night you left.”
I didn’t answer her still. My mind and body were numb. She apologized but I am still feeling bitter. It was hard for me to forgive her.
She sighed, “I just wanted to say I’m sorry. Also...”
There was a long pause before she sighed and spoke again.
“That night Christine didn’t kiss Axel. She’s bitter that Axel keeps turning her down. So she took advantage of the situation when she noticed he was getting drunk from drinking with your dad and brother.” She admitted. “I kicked her out of my wedding. She’s not my wedding planner any longer.”
I should have remembered Axel’s alcohol tolerance level. That guy barely could hold his beer let alone his liquor.
“I understand if you don’t want speak to me...” She went quiet. “But I hope that maybe we can still be cousins.”
“I don’t know. I can’t forgive you yet.” I whispered softly.
“I understand. I guess I’ll see you when you are ready.” She murmured guiltily before hanging up.
After my phone call with Emery, I made my way back to my apartment, still feeling numb. Once I was inside, I locked the front door. Shed everything I was carrying. My purse hit the floor. I kicked off my shoes and pants. I made my way to the bedroom and crawled into my bed, curling up into a ball. I cried as I pulled up the blanket to shield myself from the world.
It did nothing to lessen the pain in my chest. It felt like someone was squeezing it. My lungs were gasping for breaths. There was no sign of comfort.
I cried until I fell asleep.
I woke up to the strong smell of smoke. I blinked several times before realizing the building was on fire. I opened my bedroom door and ran to the living room, The front door and kitchen were engulfed in fire. My phone burned along with it.
Scared I ran to my bedroom window but I was two levels up. I couldn’t jump down without cracking my head. People were running out to the streets. I opened my window and shouted but no one heard me. Something burst behind me making a loud noise. I let out a scream before turning to see what it was. The fire was moving fast and makes its way towards me.
I needed to think.
What did Axel teach me?
Tears ran down my cheeks when I recalled a memory of him and I practicing for the fun of it.
“Close the window, Ryleigh, opening it will draw fire to the oxygen.”
His voice pierced my mind.
I turned to the window that I had just opened and slammed it close. I turned back to the room.
“Good, Hermosa. Get down on your hands and knees and no I do not mean in the dirtiest ways even if I wanted to see you like that.”
I laughed slightly with tears in my eyes, dropping to my hands and knees. I made it to the bathroom where I wet a cloth and covered my nose and mouth. The other one I used it to cover the open gap from the door to the floor. After, I made my way to the bathtub and sat in there. I couldn’t escape even if I wanted to. My only way out was completely covered along with the living room that had the fire escape for the apartment.
Silently I prayed that someone will come from me. I prayed that someone will realize I was gone and come save me but who was I kidding? Axel was the only person who noticed me and he is gone now.
Tears ran down my eyes and I curled myself into a ball. I thought about Axel. If he was here, he would be whispering soothing words for me. Telling me not to worry.
It was becoming hotter and hotter and I was starting to lose hope. They won’t be able to save me. I am going to die and I can’t do anything about it and even at this moment, all I could think about was Axel.
It was then I realized how much I love this man and how long I have loved him.
Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice.
My eyes opened to the door. For a second I thought I was hallucinating before I heard him curse again and calling out my name.
“Ryleigh! God damn it, answer me!” He roared.
I crawled out of the bathtub and to the door. I touched it with my hands and realized how hot it was. How on earth was he inside my apartment when it was excruciating hot?
“Axel!” I coughed. “I’m in here!”
Smoke was everywhere, seeping through the towel I had underneath the door.
He didn’t hear me. I needed to be louder.
“Axel!” I shouted. “Axel, please I am in here!”
A second later his voice was on the other side of the door.
“Ryleigh?” He shouted.
“I’m in here.” Tears running down my cheeks as I sobbed. “I’m scared, Axel.”
“Everything will be okay. Step away from the door.” He ordered. “Let me know when you safely away from the door.”
I crawled back and gave him the okay. A second later, he broke the door down. His eyes landed on me and I have never seen such determination in his eyes.
He broke down the rest of the door before coming inside. I heard him speaking to the radio before he took off his fire jacket and helmet and putting them on me. I shook my head in protest but he wasn’t having any of it.
“I did what you told me.” I cried.
He nodded, “Good girl. You did good, Hermosa."
His voice shook and his hands were shaking. I felt him kiss my forehead before pulling his helmet over my head and sweeping me up in bridal style. He carried me out of the bathroom to my bedroom. He slammed the bedroom door closed with his feet. A second later, the bedroom window broke and Javier was out there on tower ladder. Axel passed me to Javier first. Axel came seconds after me. Javier immediately set the ladder back down to the ground.
Axel engulfed me into his arms. He held me tightly to his chest. His body shaking and his breathing ragged.
“Fuck, Hermosa, I thought-” I felt his arms tightened around me.
“I’m sorry.” It was the first thing that was out of my mouth.
“I’m so glad you are okay.” He whispered. “I have never been so scared in my life.”
My vision blurred and I felt my world spinning but I still clung onto him.
“Me too,” I whispered weakly. “Axel, I’m sorry...”
He must have noticed how weak my voice was because he pulled back to look at me. His eyes met mine.
“Shit. Javier, get a fucking gurney over here!” He growled angrily. Javier hopped off the platform and ran somewhere. My head lulled back and forth.
Thick black fog swarms their way to my peripheral vision. He took off the helmet from my head and gripped my face in his hands.
“Stay with me, baby.” His voice sounded distant.
“I’m sorry, Axel,” I whispered again.
“I know, baby, I know but keep your eyes open.” He pleaded.
I tried but my lungs burned. I can’t seem to breathe and everything around me was spinning. I closed my eyes as my vision looked passed Axel and to the night sky letting darkness seep into my body.