A few months have passed. A lot has happened since the fire. Axel and I moved into our own apartment together. I have placed an application to begin my nursing degree.
One of the most important things I have learned after all this is I needed to love myself in order to be able to be stronger. I needed to realize that I am born with flaws but it doesn’t necessarily make me not beautiful. True beauty isn’t on the outside. It is what is on the inside.
With Axel by my side, I have learned to build my self-confidence.
I’ve realized that I am stronger than I perceived myself. Strength comes with battle scars. There will be people who will tear me down, but it isn’t me who is weak. It is them.
Why do I say that?
The truth out of all this is that they are the ones who are insecure. They are the ones who needed to change to fit society’s image of perfect. I never attempted but it didn’t mean I didn’t let it affect me. What I did was simply turned that part off and took control of what I wanted.
Emery’s last words resonated in my mind and I realized that forgiveness is a strength, not a weakness.
Holding the grudge will not make me stronger. It will hold me back. It will make me just like them.
I am learning to look at things on the other side where there isn’t judgment, grudges, hate, or the need to fit into society. That love and forgiveness can conquer the darkness in this world.
I sat in the middle of the queen size bed that Axel and I got for our apartment, my fingers hovering over my mother’s phone number. Brandon has been insisting that I call her. That she has been worried sick and needed to hear from me. It took me a while, I am not going to lie but this is another step in finding myself. Inhaling, I hit the call button.
To my amazement, she picked up immediately.
“Hello?” Her voice sounded on the other end. She doesn’t realize it is me because she doesn’t have my number.
“Mom?” I said in a whisper.
The line went quiet but I can hear her breathing in the background. After a moment she spoke up.
“It took you long enough to call me.” She started, her voice cracking as she spoke. “Do you realize how worried I was? How I felt when your brother was the one that told me that your apartment was on fire? That I am not the person you would call if you ever needed help?”
I didn’t reply. After a moment she sighed and I can imagine her pinching the area between her eyes.
“But...” She started and once she started she didn’t stop. “I realized that it isn’t your fault. It is completely mine. I am your mother. I should be protecting you. I was but not in the way that is right. You are completely right, Ryleigh, what you said back in Spain. I should have your back.”
Tears started streaming down my cheeks as I listened to her.
“What I did...I am ashamed of. I lost myself along the way and I end up hurting you. Those words you said to me in Spain, it hurt. It hurt to realize that I was the one that caused you pain. I was the culprit and there was nothing I could do to shield you from it. I couldn’t protect you. I know you don’t believe me after all the damage I have done but I want you to know that I love you. I truly do.” There was a sad lightness to her voice. “In my own sick way, I did it because I thought it was best for you when I should have realized that you are perfect the way you are. I am sorry, Ryleigh.”
God, it felt like someone was clawing at my chest. Peeling my skin slowly until I was crying out in pain. I know she loves me. She wouldn’t buy me things, wouldn’t push things on me if she didn’t. She cares. The only thing she did wrong was loving me in the wrong way.
“I love you too, mom,” I whispered through my tears. “And I forgive you.”
She inhaled sharply and after a minute she spoke up again, “Your father and I would like to visit you...”
Her voice dropped at the end. I realized she was hesitating, afraid that I will decline but I can’t say no to her. She was my mother and I love her regardless of what she did or who she is.
“I’ll like that,” I whispered.
I can hear smiling on the other end, “Maybe we can do something together. Go shopping or go get pedicures.”
“I’ve started school again, mom. I probably won’t be free until the weekend.” I told her.
We continued talking for another hour. It was the first time, we had a real conversation back and forth. She didn’t push anything on me. She simply wanted to spend time with me.
After I hung up the phone with her, I changed into some dark denim skinny jeans and an off shoulder oversize white t-shirt. I slipped on a pair of white lazy sneakers before heading out of the apartment.
Although my chest still ached and my eyes are puffy, I walked a few blocks to the fire station. I have become more active than usual not because I want to fit into what society believed is a weight a woman should have but because I wanted to be healthy. I see a future and I want to be the first one to grasp at it and in order to do that I needed to turn around and look at myself once again.
My hand shoved in my pockets, I took in the sunny and warm blanket of today’s weather. It helped alleviate the pain in my chest and by the time I got to the fire station, I felt a lot better. Walking lightly, I found Axel outside talking to his buddies. They were still dressed in their work suits. A few had on their jacket and the others had only the yellow work pants on.
Axel was in his yellow work pants and a tight black t-shirt that hugged his torso like a second skin. He must have caught me coming from the corner of his eyes because he turned to face me. A smile appearing on his face. His buddies that he was speaking to shoved him. A joke passed between them and Axel shoved them back before meeting me halfway in the driveway.
"Hermosa." He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me flush against him. “What are you doing here?”
I glanced behind him and caught a few of his buddies regarding us. I flash them a smile before returning my eyes back to my man.
“I had nothing to do. I finished my assignments and figured I’ll come to hang out around here. You know, where all the hot men are at.” I grinned.
His scowl deepened, “I’m sorry but there is only one hot man you should be eye fucking.”
“Oh, you mean Javier?” I played dumb.
He growled and leaned down to bite my cheek. I cowered away from him with a giggle and he supplemented his attack by running his lips on my neck.
“Don’t tease me. I’ll go big bad wolf on you right here, Hermosa.” He murmured huskily.
I pushed him away so that we can talk properly. If I didn’t, he would probably take me right here in the driveway. He pulled back but one hand remained around my waist properly. He looked down at me with those smoldering deep-set eyes that seemed to crawl right into my soul, shaking me to my core.
We walked over to his buddies. His buddies know who I am-well as his best friend but in the last few months, they knew whatever was between Axel and me has changed.
Still, that didn’t stop them from riling Axel up. Wolf whistles and winks shooting my way. Axel threw them all a good glower that told them to back the fuck up or he will throw a few punches.
Javier stepped out from behind the firetruck. His eyes lighting up when he saw me. He sauntered over.
“Hey baby, here to see me? Can’t get enough of Javier?” He flashed me a panty dropping smirk. It has no effect on me but I know Javier. It works every time he meets a girl. All he needed to do was twinkle those green eyes and flash that smirk.
Axel pinned him with a warning glare. His hands tightening on my waist. Axel has become my Alpha male-possessive and demanding. I don’t mind it because it is always steamy in the bedroom and sometimes even out. The man has powerful stamina that is basically unquenchable when it comes to me.
I knocked Javier back with a retort that had him chuckling and the rest of the buddies near laughing. Axel grinned down at me and planted a kiss on my forehead. We continued for the next thirty minutes, bantering back and forth. Axel had to throw a few punches to Javier who was laughing harder each time he teased Axel.
Another woman stepped out from the station. She had on a white tank top and was rocking a pair of yellow work pants just like Axel. I have never seen her before. She must be the rookie that Axel was talking about. The one that has Javier throwing moods from left to right. She had long red hair that was tied into a ponytail. Her physique was toned which told me she worked out quite a lot. She tossed Javier an indifferent look before joining the circle and conversation.
After a while, Axel pulled me away and into the empty break room. He pushed me up against his locker and locked me with his body pressed against mine.
One hand on my waist and other cupping my cheek as he crushed his lips onto mine. I can feel his arousal pressing against my stomach. He groaned against my lips.
“Damn, baby, I can’t get enough of you. You got me thinking about all kinds of dirty thoughts.” He muttered.
I chuckled and snuck my hands underneath his shirt.
“What’s stopping you from taking me now?” I whispered.
“Well, we are at my workplace.” He retorted huskily. His breath hitching as I inched higher and higher.
He smirked against my lips, ”Hermosa, you are so bad.”
I grinned when I saw his lips captured mine and his own hands sneaking underneath my jeans to cup me. Axel never fails to follow through when I needed him. He always leaves me satisfied and loved. He makes sure to shower me with words and encouragement. He has always been my pillar. His fingers made quick work and soon I was screaming out his name in the break room.
When I came down from my high, he was licking his fingers. Damn, he will be the death of me.
He crushed his lips on me and I could taste myself on his lips.
“I love you.” He said once he pulled back enough and we were breathing hard again.
My heart soared and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. Wrapping my arms around him, I pulled him close.
For what was suppose to be a piece of cake, turned my whole world completely around.
“I love you too.”