STAY MINE AGAIN

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Chapter 12

Chapter 12:

You are the blanket to my cold insecurities

Wrapping me up with your warm heart and soul,

Giving me a tiny hint of greater possibilities.

Miles

“So this is how I want the house keeping to be working.” I said, pointing the laser beam at the presentation. Five chief executives of different hotel had come with their associates and my small cabin now contained around thirty people all staring at me with wide eyes. “Yes, you heard me right. But by housekeeping I mean, the security included.”

I turned around towards the board, showing them the corridors of the hotel. “In this section, I want the reception—”

My cell phone rang unattractively. I cursed under my breath. How did I ever forget to keep my phone off at the meetings like this? I raised my index finger at the thirty faces and pulled my phone from the drawer of my table.As I looked at the screen, my heart skipped a beat.

It was Megan.

She never called me. I mean never.

Was there something wrong? Was it Amber talking on the phone telling that she had fainted with another panic attack? Or even worse, had she been missing again?

“Excuse me for a sec.” I said, still wondering what the call was about. Staring at the phone, I moved out of the cabin, with my heart beating at a faster rate.

I took a deep breath, it was all going to be alright, I thought to myself before I picked the call.

“Hello?” I said. I was surprised to hear my voice so tensed because of one call. Time seemed to slow down as the person in the other end finally tried to speak up. They were definitely taking a hell lot of time to keep me hyperventilating.

“Um… Miles?” It was Megan. I huffed out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. It took a second more to realize that Megan, in fact had called me.

“Megan?” I asked, my voice having a layer of surprise hidden beneath it. It had been two weeks since I was at her home confessing my love to her while she was asleep. I knew that she loved me too. The way she held me when I was going out of her house, showed me how much she still cared for me. She didn’t have to voice it; I knew it at that instant. “Hi… how are you?”

“Um… hi.” She said shyly. “I hope I’m not disturbing.”

It was then I realized that I had left my meeting mid-way with my presentation. I turned around to the cabin to see few head turned towards me and watching me with wonder. I moved further from their watch.

“No… nothing like that.” I lied. “So, what’s up? Everything alright?”

“Yeah.” She said. I noticed that her voice was a little better from the last time I had spoken to her. Though it was more than a two weeks ago, I could still make out that she was doing better. “It’s the photo shoot of Amber’s wedding…”

“Oh” I said. I had totally forgotten about the wedding fiasco with my hotel issues. “How’s the photo’s coming?” I asked.

“Don’t tell me you forgot, Miles.” She said. I bet she was hiding her smile and the way she said my name was like finding an oasis on the barren desert. “You are the best man.”

“Oh shit!” I cursed out loud.

I heard her laugh from the other end. It caused me to smile at the walls. “Looks like you are still a dull head.” she teased.

“Hey!” I cried back a small smile still lit on my lips. The fact that she was laughing and teasing me was more than enough for me to lift up my moods. “That’s not fair. It was their mistake to choose the best man who was the best. You do know that it is difficult to get hold of the best man possible right?”

She chuckled. “Well you are wanted here in the evening for the shoot.”

“You are going too?” I asked, hoping that she would say yes.

“Do you know Amber at all?” she questioned me back. “She will kill me if I won’t show up for the maid of honour shoot.”

I snorted. “Sound like her. I’ll make sure that I won’t be late.”

“Better.”

“Megan?” I said.

“Yeah?”

“It was good talking to you.”

“Yeah. I missed this too.” She said. Her voice dropped from the teasing one to a monotonous one. I could tell that she was sad.

“See you around then.” I said, as Steve came near me, motioning that the people were impatiently waiting for me.

“Bye.” She said, before cutting the call. I nodded at Steve to go ahead and I would be there shortly. He went while I stayed back for a moment with the phone still clutched in my hand.

I could hear her rumble of laughter sprayed in the air around me. It had been years since she had laughed at my silly jokes. I could imagine the corner of her eyes crinkle as she put her head back, closing her mouth as she did. The thought of me seeing her again went in my mind like a hawk circling around its prey.

I saw my reflection in the opaque glass door ahead of me and watched myself in it. The wrinkles of my forehead had somehow managed to vanish. My eyes were twinkling with greater shine than necessary. If one inspected closely, the freckles had also seemed to be minimized.

If this was my state just because I had talked with her and made her laugh, I was scared to imagine how it might be just to hold her the way I used to once, and how much I could tell her that I loved her and cared for her. I had never thought of these things when we were together—may be distance just made me love her even more.

With one last look, I was determined to make the best of the opportunities that were thrown on my way, to make myself happy again. But then again, my happiness revolved just around her.

I walked back to my cabin and picked up the presentation from where I had left it.

“So gentlemen…”

~~~

It was the time when I had decided to propose to her. I was so jittery that I had to use the tissue to get the sweat off my hands. I had fancied her to jump right into my arms as soon as she saw the box which tenderly held the ring. The ring was not all that great—it was an Egyptian diamond with a small white stone sitting atop it. It was the first simple one I had put my eyes on in the shop. As soon as my eyes were laid on it, I decided that it defined Megan—simple yet beautiful in its own way. I had even got it engraved—“You and I”

Though I had got the ring few days before I had planned to propose, I was in a fix to hide it from her. At that time we were both living under the same roof and she always, I mean always took care of the cleaning, telling that it gave her something to do in her free time. Scratching my head for about an hour or so, I had finally got the place to hide it—the gym room. She always complained that it was the dumbest thing on earth to do especially when I reasoned her that it relaxed me. She and I both knew that it was not the exact reason why.

So, I had efficiently tucked it under the foam layers of the boxer gloves where she would never find. I had calculated everything—even if she tried to clean the gym room, she won’t be cleaning the gloves for sure right?

Since that fateful night, I was dreaming about us, about our future together. I had spent sleepless nights thinking about the way she would be dressed in white in my name, the way her curls would dangle as she walked past the aisle, right into my arms as I wrap her in my gentle care.

I knew that there was no reason for her to say no. We were practically inseparable; my day always started with her smiling face and when we were working there were always the phone calls to fill in the void. If my day ended early, I would go to her place to pick her up and if she called it a day earlier than me, she would hitch a ride with Amber to my restaurant. It was our daily routine.

But as they say it, a small spark is more than enough to start a forest fire. The fire was so large that it had engulfed both me and her, leaving nothing more than the ashes of the past. The irony was that, I thought the same spark would light up my heart with happiness and joy.

I never had the chance to show her the ring; neither did I have the courage nor the strength to fight. After all, I was the one to ignite the fire in the first place.

Now, as she stood in front of me at the photo shoot, dressed as maid of honor, the old memories were rekindled and a tiny spark of hope lit in my heart that maybe we could be together again. Her peach colored dress was flawless hugging her perfect curves. It was strapless and went all down till her ankles. The hairdresser had curled her hair and put it in an adorable fashion. Little dab of rose on her cheeks and mascara on her eyes made her look beautiful.

She twirled sideways looking at her reflection in the mirror, inspecting if she looked alright. She made a face at her high heels before going back to her dress, fixing a wrinkle on it as she picked it up.

“Looks mighty fine to me.”

I turned around and cursed under my breath when I found that I had been caught staring at Megan. It was Zack the groom-to-be. He was dressed in a tux, similar to mine but with more highlights, after all he was a model. He had hired all the professionals and their photos had come very well. The photographers insisted that it would be great if there would be a pre-wedding photo along with the bridesmaid and the best men.

I never really understood why Zack would ask me to be his best man. He and I were not that close and I had totally lost his contact when Megan and I drifted apart. There was a part of me that believed that he asked me because Amber asked him to. I knew that she was rooting for us. I had declined the offer twice as I thought it was ridiculous to be the best man, when I knew next to nothing about Zack. I mean, I hardly knew why he was marrying Amber for God’s sake, even with her crazy persona.

“Yeah.” I said, scratching the back of my head. “You look great Zack.”

“I bet you won’t be able to pose for the camera if she’s standing next to you.” he teased, punching my arm with a lopsided smirk of his own.

I laughed. “Let’s hope not. I don’t want Amber to kill you just because I’m your best man.”

As Zack opened his mouth to talk, I was given a full blow to my other shoulder from behind. It was Amber of course.

“Hey!” she cried. “I’m the sweetest girl one can ever find on the whole planet of earth.” She flipped her hair for more effect. Her gown resembled Barbie’s fairy tale that I had seem with Emerald few days back.

“The dress is cool, but it doesn’t match with that frown of yours.” I teased, earning a small smile from her. She looked adorable with her straightened hair.

“You look ravishing babe.” Zack said, pulling her away from me, not able to keep his hands off of her. Amber’s cheeks flared as Zack dipped his head to meet her lips.

They were perfect for each other in many levels. They were complete opposites—Amber was more bolder than him and ever more aggressive. She would protect her loved ones even if it meant going to dungeon. He was more patient while she was stubborn for her own good. I smiled at the two of them as they were completely lost in their own bubble of mirth.

“You came!” Megan exclaimed, breaking the spell between the two. She directed her words at me and her sharp voice told me that she had been… waiting? “I thought I was going to die seeing them so lovey-dovey. Thank God, I’m saved now.”

She winked her eyes at me while Amber pouted at her, making us all laugh.

“We will be facing camera in five.” The Photographer announced, as we stood in the powder room, laughing at another one of the jokes, Zack had cracked.

“I think my mascara is running out.” Amber cried with panic as she ran towards the mirror in the farther end of the room. Zack shook his head with a ghost of smile lingering on his lips and he followed her behind.

That left only the two of us. And suddenly, Megan who had been so confident teasing Amber became so shy that she started looking at everywhere else except me.

“You look beautiful.” I said. She looked at me and smiled brightly.

“It’s just the lights and the makeup, I’m sure.” She smiled genuinely at me. Though her hair was cut short and it hardly landed till her shoulders, I liked the way it bounced each time she turned her head.

“I simply doubt it.” I said, buttoning my tux at the end of my abdomen, as the snapper had insisted when I entered the shoot. “You look like—”

“This is not your first photo shoot right?” she asked, trying to avoid getting compliments from me. I rolled my eyes; it was the same Megan I had known three years back. “I’ve seen few photos of yours in the magazine. Pam tells that yours are the hottest one on net.”

Her eyes widened as the words were out. She bit her lip, debating if she let out a little more than necessary for veering the topic in other direction. I smirked in triumph as her cheeks turned to a deeper colour of red in contrast to her pale peach dress. In fact, she looked more than beautiful now.

“Did you say hottest?” I asked, trying to be serious, but I was successfully failing in it. “Pam thinks so? And you don’t?”

Her blue eyes shone brightly as she blinked twice. She opened her mouth and then closed it, trying to figure out what to talk. My smirk widened, as I had caught her off guard. I was a little giddy as I became sure that I still had that effect on her—even after all these years.

She tucked an imaginary strand of hair behind her ear. “It’s not… I… Pam said… I’ve not seen them.”

“Really?” I asked. “Did you agree to her then?”

I crossed my arms as I leaned against the dressing table that Megan was using few minutes back. She looked nervous and I couldn’t hold back my laughter as I snorted loudly. She was startled from the sudden outburst but joined me a heartbeat later, messing my hair with her hands.

“Dough will kill you now, for that hair style.” She said proudly raising one eyebrow at me challengingly.

“But, you think that’s sexy right?” I whispered, pulling her towards me. I had enough resistance holding myself back from going near her. But with each passing moment, it was wearing away.

Her eyes softened a little, watching my every move. That was what she always said when we were together. Her hands constantly went towards my hair, as I kissed her, moving her long fingers against my soft brown locks. When I tried adjusting it before leaving off, she used to tell me to leave the locks of hair alone as it looked sexier on me. I used to tease her that I would want to look sexy only for her and if I didn’t settle the wild hairs of mine, there would be my more woman-followers in line for me.

At that sentence, she always tucked my hair back to normal, afraid to lose me to someone else. I smiled at the memory. How can someone lose something that always belonged to them?

“Yeah.” She said, not daring to look me in the eye. As I lifted her chin up, there were so many emotions in her eyes that I couldn’t fathom.

“Come on, guys!” Dough, our photographer clapped his hands, as a pair of cameras hung on his neck. “What the hell happened to your hair!”

Megan and I, both let of soft chuckles while Dough stared at it in horror.

“I like this style better.” I said, looking at Megan. I saw a glint of glee in her face, as she walked ahead of me towards the photo shoot area.

Dough shook his head, watching the expensive watch that was strapped tightly on his right hand. “Thank God, you are not the groom. You are handful to handle.”

“Thanks man.” I said, patting his shoulder, taking the same path that Megan took.

She stood next to Amber in an all too white room, where our photos were to be taken. A small cushion, a royal one, was placed in the middle of the room with a side table holding a pretty vase of magenta coloured roses. Those were the only distractions to the boring room.

I had been to a handful of photo shoots in the last few years, but this one was different. Usually I was given a paper to read, or a presentation to point to when they took my photos, but this was the first photo shoot I was posing for the pre-wedding. Of course, Laura and Mark had theirs done too with me as their best man, but then… she wasn’t there.

They made Amber lie on the couch with her back to the wall, as she saw the camera with confidence and poise. Zack stood behind her, admiring her beauty while we both were made to stand behind Zack, trying to make fun of him.

“You think that’s a buffalo lying couch?” I whispered, as we tried to make fun of the couple.

I saw Megan, smirk at me. “The royal couch looks like hay to me.” We both started giggling behind Zack.

“Stay still!” Dough called out, looking at his camera that was clinging on his neck. “I need two more shots from that angle!”

Maintaining the same posture, Zack mouthed to us behind him. “Would you please keep the volume low, I’m trying to admire here.”

“Awe…” Megan cooed. “Did you hear that?”

“Why? Are you visioning her like a buffalo now?” I smirked at Zack, as he tried to keep his face neutral from laughing.

Soon, we all three started giggling and then it turned to be noisy snorts. As I put my head back, wiping the tears, a rose fell on me. Still clutching my stomach, I turned towards the source to find Amber glaring at me.

“You think I can’t hear you guys?” She whisper shouted. She took another rose from the vase and hit Zack this time. “You think I’m fat?”

“Babe, come on,” he said, pulling her towards him. She moved without any resistance and for a second, I was jealous of the gesture. There was a time when Megan and I were the same, but the only thing that bothered me was we were not right now. “You know Miles. They were just trying to make the photos come good.”

From the corner of my eyes, I could see Megan roll her eyes at them. Zack pulled Amber into his arms, cradling her.

I ruffled her hair. “You know the truth.” I said, getting another smack of rose hits from her as Zack laughed preventing her simultaneously.

“What?” I feigned innocence. “I meant that you know that I love you even if you become fat.”

Zack started laughing while Amber, angry at him pushed him away and ran into her best friend’s arms. “I hate men.” She said, resting her head against Megan’s shoulder.

“Don’t get so worked up.” Megan soothed. “They’re just fooling around.”

“Done!” Dough shouted. “Those were good ones. Now we need some serious photos, enough with the tease.”

“You got those photos?” Amber shouted at him, running behind Dough. “Have they come good? How do I look?”

“Let’s get all the photos taken, and then we can review them.” Zack said, holding her back as she tried moving behind Dough to know about the photos.

It took another hour and a half by the time all the photos were taken—even for the one that Amber had specifically asked us to pose for. Zack had also asked for some specific types of pictures that he wanted with us all dolled up. When his turn was over, Megan suddenly got an idea of Amber standing up in a ladder holding pearl necklaces like in the movie, sex and the city—to which of course Amber happily agreed.

By the time, all had their turns choosing the way they had to pose, it had already grown darker. Thankfully, I had winded all my meetings early as some part of me knew that this was going to happen.

We had all changed to our casual cloths and were waiting for Amber and Meg to come from their rooms. As they came towards the car, I could see Amber talking to Meg in a serious one.

“You are going to be alright?” Amber kept on asking the same question for the past fifteen minutes. “I mean, I can cancel that thing.”

Megan waved her left hand in front of her. With the look of her face, I could tell that she was too tired, but was arguing against Amber. “You don’t have too. Besides, I had a lot of food in the tea break.” She tucked her hair behind her ears as she talked. “I’ll walk home, you know, like some exercise.”

I rolled my eyes. Megan and exercise never went in the same sentence. Not even once.

“Man, why don’t you drop her home?” Zack asked, patting my shoulders.

“No, no. That’s alright.” Megan said, holding her hands at us. “I don’t want to trouble anyone.”

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes again. “You and I both know that it won’t be any trouble, Meg.”

“Well, I keep you responsible for getting her home safe and sound then.” Amber smiled at me, as she walked past towards Zack and hooked her arms in his.

“Yes Ma’am.” I said, mock saluting her.

Rachel had been divorced lately and was not in a position to arrange or plan for any event, let alone their wedding fiasco. So the couple had caught up with another set of wedding planners who were rising popular among these days.

“We really have to meet with the planners to discuss the changes, we are really sorry.” Zack said, making a sad face at Megan. “We wouldn’t have left you all by yourself then.”

Why is it that people don’t trust me around her anymore? They look at me as if I’m going to kill her and feed her to the hounds the very chance I get. Anger slowly bubbled inside me—it was not that Megan was a small kid to need babysitting. She was a grown woman who was able to afford change of her hometown if need be just to keep herself safe. Why did her friends have doubts on her now?

I folded my hands and watched the exchange of conversation between them. I was just intrigued to know what more harm they considered me with her.

“Relax Zack,” Megan laughed, showing her white teeth. “It’s not that he’s a vampire ready for the hunt.”

Well, at least she doesn’t think that I’m a monster.

“I’ll keep your word on that.” Zack winked at her. The way he spoke made the anger that was boiling within me to explode like a volcano. If they care for her so much to keep her safe and sound, why don’t they try to hail her a cab, take the driver’s number and keep ringing him until she reaches her destination safe and sound?

I bit my tongue as the two of them bid their goodbye at us. I didn’t even respond with a head nod. I kept my face void of emotions as I always did. It was likely that her friends care for her as much as my friends care for me. But won’t they ever think of hurting my feelings for once? I did go to their stupid photo-shoot rescheduling all my meetings and presentations.

“So what are your plans now?” Megan said, turning towards me. “Hey, are you alright?” she asked as she noticed my fallen face.

“Yeah.” I blurted out.

“I know something’s bothering you, Miles.” Her eyes softened, as she tilted her head, inspecting me. “If you want you can talk it out to me, you know.”

“Why should I?” I said, without thinking. “It’s not that anyone cares.” I turned away. I was fuming mad and I was not at all in control of the words that were coming out of my mouth. “Look, if you don’t feel safe around me, you can always leave. I won’t ever follow you. I’ll just leave you around. I promise.”

“What are you talking about?” She said, clearly taken aback.

“I’m not blind alright?” My voice was slowly rising. “It’s not the first time that your friends tell me that they are worried of you when you are with me. It’s infuriating that after all that has happened they think that of me.”

“Miles—”

“Of course you would have talked about all these with them about how uncomfortable I make you feel. I feel like an idiot now that I came here for those photos. Do you know—”

“Shut up!” She shouted, getting my attention. It was then that I realised that I had been blabbering all those things that was spinning in my head. “Just shut up, Miles!”

“You think thatI, out of all people would tell someone against you?” it was more of a question to herself than to me. I could tell that she was hurt and instantly I felt guilty for pulling out all the meanest things on her. “Do you know how much… I can’t believe that you think that of me.” She put her head in her hands.

“It’s as if I would harm you,” I said looking away. I had been keeping it all to myself all this this, and I knew I had to get it out. “As if I don’t care about you at all.”

“I know you care about me.” She said in a low voice, too scared to look me in the eye. “They know it too.”

“Then, what’s their problem?” I asked, frustrated. Heck, the whole world knew I cared about her and I would never think of hurting her intentionally in any way. Yet, here I was standing in front of her, being portrayed as the greatest villain of all times. “You can just tell me and I’ll be on my way.” I said. I had done it once, I was sure I could walk away again and get submerged on my work, trying to forget her.

“For your information, I’ve never felt safer around anyone before you.” Her tone was harsh though she was confessing her feelings to me. “They say that only because… only because they know that only you can hurt me.”

With that sentence, I forgot the whole point of us arguing. It felt foolish and stupid on my part. What the hell were we doing? We are standing so close to each other that if I took a step forward, I could pull her into my arms, yet we are so apart. Though we claimed to have moved on from each other, there was some part that clung to us, pledging never to let go. Perhaps that was the only sane part that was responsible for us to be standing here arguing about our feelings. I sighed in defeat.

“Darling please, I don’t want to hurt you.” I said, trying to reach for her. But she pulled herself away from me. “As I’ve said before, I never intended to. It’s just that each time they tell something like that they hurt my feelings trying to protect yours.”

“Just know that… whatever people tell you, some part of me will always care for you Miles… even if you hurt me or not.” She said, looking at me. “Just… just…”

“Oh, sweetheart, come here.” I said, pulling her hands gently at me. She didn’t protest this time and came towards me. I hugged her gently, laying her head on my chest, as I stroked her hair.

“I’ve spent a good amount of time with you.” she mumbled against my shirt. “I know you will never try to hurt me intentionally or not.”

“I know.” I said, as I smiled at her. She pulled herself apart to look at my face. When she saw that I was smiling, she nudged me by her arm and smiled back at me. “I’m sorry for the mean things I said.”

My phone buzzed and I pulled it out of my jean pocket without noticing the caller id. “Yes?”

“I heard that you are in town.” The voice was so familiar that I knew at an instant that it was Mark. “Can you please come over?”

There was a layer of tension in his voice that kept me in the edge. “What’s the matter?” I asked. Megan too noticed my change in tone and looked at me with her turquoise blue eyes asking me the same thing that I was asking Mark.

“Our nana has pulled out on us and so… I was just wondering if you were able to come…”

“Dude!” I wined. I loved Emerald to the moon and back, but I was with Megan now and I was preparing myself to get on with good terms with her. Probably start fresh with a clean slate. She was after all too precious to let go. “I was in the middle of something.”

I spared a quick glance at Megan and I swear I saw some colour on her face. But it was soon gone than it had appeared.

“Laura spoke with Amber, Miles.” I was sure that Mark rolled his eyes at me. “You two love birds can bond over with a kid right?”

“With a kid, yeah right.” I scoffed rolling my eyes.

“Come on.” He said, desperately. “There’s this annual party we have to attend to and you know how kids can be at parties. Nana was not available and you love Em right? We will be back around eleven twelve max and you can stay at our place.”

“Something wrong?” Megan mouthed at me.

“Emerald needs babysitting.” I said, with a dull note. If it were any other day I would have happily agreed to it. But it was today, out of all days when Megan and I were finally getting close. I was not in a position to let babysitting ruin it for me. And even if I did agree, it was hardly likely that she would accompany me and I would be dead the next day watching princesses getting rescued by those prince charming while I was not there for mine.

“You are free all evening right, you said so yourself.” Megan said looking at me. “I think we can pull it off.”

We? I felt my lips quickening upwards. If I knew this was the case, I would have happily agreed to it without any arguments.

“Don’t beat over it, what are friends for?” I asked him earning a laugh from Megan. “I’ll be there.”

“Wow! Thank you so much.” I heard him sigh. “You were our last string. If you had not agreed to it, then we would have taken her to the party as well.”

“We will be there in an hour?” I said looking at Megan and she nodded, our fight long forgotten.

“Thanks man.” Mark said, before cutting the call.

“Can we drop somewhere else, before going to their place?” Megan asked shyly when we started walking towards the car. “I want to get my sour mood out before we see the kid.”

I nodded earnestly, with a pang of guilt at the bottom of my heart. “You know a place? It looks like it’s going to rain, so choose carefully.”

“The park.” She said without thinking and I nodded at her.

I had gone against her all these times, telling myself how it was not the best way to approach things. Perhaps it was time to let the anchor of our ship in her hands this time and trust her to get us sailing even in the ugliest of the storms that gets thrown in our way. She had already confessed that she trusted me and it was time for me to trust her back. After all, any journey for that matter begins with a grain of trust.

~~~

Megan

The sky looked ugly with patches of black thrown among the blue clouds. It was already dark for an hour of six in the evening. The park was empty with a few people walking hand in hand. It would definitely have been romantic if I and he were together like the times long, long back, with him wrapping his hands protectively against mine as a cold breeze would blow past us. He would kiss my temple when I shivered and would pull me closer till there would be no space left between us. It was one of the times when I felt that we were one and indestructible.

But now, we were walking the same path, with the same damned weather, yet strangely different. We both had confessed that we cared and had concerns for each other and we would still be there to hold out a hand when we fell on our path, but a question remained, for how long?

I had changed my top from the dress I had worn to the photos, to one of the jeans and a short top that was very inappropriate for the weather that was ahead of us, just like that feelings that was afloat in my heart. Thankfully I had an overcoat and pulled it to keep myself warm as a cool breeze hit my skin.

“Cold?” Miles noted as he tilted his head making a few strands of his hair fall on his forehead. He looked at me as if he was seeing me for the first time in years, as if I was the only person that he wanted to see. We were walking two meters apart from each other and without waiting for my response, he wrapped his hands against my waist, pulling me towards him. And suddenly, it was as if the time hadn’t moved on at all—perhaps we never left it in the first place.

“Never been warmer before.” I said walking gladly to his open arms. He tightened his hold on me and came in step with me. “So, how come you are free this evening?” I asked changing the subject, for my sake. The gloomy weather was getting the best out of me.

“I knew Amber would be a disaster if the photos didn’t come out good and I was sure that she would make me stay as long as she thinks that it looked perfect.” He said. “So I cut short my lunch and all the breaks to complete my day’s work.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you were workaholic.” I teased, nudging my elbow at him.

“Well, I had to keep myself busy and it was the only way.” He shrugged. When he noticed that I had fallen silent, he added, “Well it did leave me with a lot of money and not to forget about the parties.”

I laughed and I felt him relax too. We walked further and it felt like we were walking on thin ice, calculating our every move and choosing the right words in order to not to hurt each other in the process. Hell, I hadn’t been so nervous in my first date with him.

There was an empty bench and Miles asked if it was okay to sit for a while. As I nodded, we both went in its direction and sat keeping a little distance between us. There was some tension in the air surrounding us and we both were not able to look at each other in the eye.

I cleared my throat first, trying to ease the tension. “It looks like it’s going to rain heavily today.”

For the briefest moment he looked at the sky and then turned his attention at me. His dark orbs shone brighter as the street lights of the park came alive. “Yeah.” He said and then we both fell silent again, but his gaze didn’t change.

It was very difficult for me not to fidget under his scrutinizing stare, but I put one hand over the other to keep them from shaking.

“You took your medicines?” Miles asked nodding his head towards my shaking hands. “Or did you overdose them just because they were very tasty?”

I knew he was teasing me and trying to lessen the tension as much as I was trying to get rid of them. And I pretended to play along. I scrunched up my eyebrows and made a guilty face at him. “Is it that noticeable? I… I hadn’t had my share of heroine for a while and when I looked at its ingredients, I thought it would just give me the kick.”

Miles put his head back and laughed loudly completing with the occasional thunder. But this sound resonated across the four walls of my heart, reviving very nerve and plastering a small victory grin of my own on my face.

After a few moments he took to get himself together, he spoke. “But didn’t you forget something?”

I smiled mildly at him; too giddy to think, let alone forget. “What?”

“That babe, I’m your kick.” He said in the most adorable way possible, yet most flirtatious at the same time. I laughed in spite of the warm glow on my cheeks contrasting the cool weather.

“I thought you had lost your charm in your workaholic abilities.” I teased, ignoring the butterflies in my stomach that flapped wildly, making me stutter. “B-but you still got it.”

His eyes crinkled at the corners and his eyes were now of a lighter color—a mixture of dark chocolate and honey, zeroing on me. His lips lifted upwards with a mocking smirk but his voice carried a tone that said he meant every word he whispered. “Only for the girl I love.”

~~~

“But I want mowee.” Emerald wined. “Mice took all mine.”

Miles stuck his tongue at her and took another spoon full of ice-cream from her cup. He put it in his mouth and said that it tasted like heaven. If he pulled the same stunt one more time, I was sure that she would have burst out into her cries that I wouldn’t have handled.

“I’m sorry, sweet pea, but that was the last box we opened.” I said, hitting Miles hand as he extended it to take another spoon from Emerald’s cup.

He made an angry face at me. “I deserve this. You girls are making watch those horrid Barbie!”

I glared at him, as Emerald started to cry. “He scollwd Barwie.” She sobbed.

“Look, you can have my ice-cream. It’s delicious too.” I said holding out my cup for her.

“It is white.” She wined again pointing her cup at me. “Mine is pink.”

“Wow, you know colors?” I asked, surprised. I wiped her tears as her eyes twinkled at the change of topic. “Can you teach it to me?”

As she enthusiastically nodded her head at me, Miles took another spoon of ice-cream from Emeralds cup when she was not noticing and put it in his mouth. “It’s so yummy, Emmy!” He winked for the effect and Emerald started her crying all over again.

“That’s it Miles!” I shouted on top of my voice to let him hear me with Em’s screams. “I almost had her smiling. Please Em, stop crying.” I begged, kneeling down to match her height. “I’ll call daddy to get a whole new box just for you.”

It had been more than two hours of playing house with her and then stopped to watch her favourite show on TV as we all three sat cradling a cup of ice-cream in front of it. If it wasn’t for Miles and his childish plays with her, she would have been asleep by now and I wouldn’t have been so freaked out.

“Oh, honey.” Miles said, and I found it difficult to understand whom he was addressing to. He was looking at his cup, licking the last drop of his cream. I hit his arm motioning him to look at Emerald and help me stop her cries. “She’s a big girl, she won’t cry for ice-creams, right?” he said, grabbing her by her waist.

Her cries just worsened and he closed his eyes making a pained face. I hid my smile and took all the empty cups to the dustbin leaving him in charge to get her settled. When I did come back, the cries had definitely been settled with a new movie of her favourite character running and a big chocolate in her hand.

Miles winked at me and patted the seat next to him for me to sit down. We were in Emerald’s room thinking that it would be easier to tuck her into bed. Miles had powered up his laptop and set up a small theatre in her room. I stretched my legs in front of me, smiling at him.

“Look!” Emerald said, pointing towards the screen. She nibbled on the large piece of chocolate in her hand.

“Won’t that give her bad teeth?” I whispered.

“You need to learn to relax, darling.” Miles said with an easy going smile. “It’s just her milk teeth.”

I giggled at his stupid comeback, but rested my head against his shoulder all the same. He froze for an instant but relaxed the very next moment, shifting towards me.

“Can I have a small bite Em?” he asked and I could tell that he was still looking forward to make her cry again.

“Miles,” I warned with a smile of my own, as Emerald said a big no to him. We both chuckled at her innocence and settled to watch the movie. Somewhere in the middle of the villain slaying something that looked like a unicorn, I fell asleep.

~~~

Miles and I were having a small walk down the park with a pound of bread in hand to feed it to the ducks in the pond. I had looped my hand in his as we walked past the old couple who smiled at us.

“Hey there are many ducks today!” I said, a little excited. It seemed like ages since we two had gone to the park, let alone feed the ducks. The ducks flapped their wings and came near the bridge from where people threw bread at them. I was sure they had sensed something with us as they swam near us.

“They will share, love.” He said, smiling down at me. I blushed at his nickname and turned around to feed the ducks. They quacked loudly, probably scolding me that there were less bread for them and they had to share. I smiled and broke the bread in half.

I noticed that Miles was watching me with keen eyes. As I turned towards him, he smiled at me and kissed my cheeks. Taken aback by the gesture, I shyly nudged him by the elbow. “Wanna feed them?”

He nodded walking further to feed the ducks that were present at the end which were missing out the bread. As I walked behind him, I lost my balance and tripped. Soon, I was falling into the pond, the water splashing on my face.

I got up with a jerk. I inspected the surroundings and found that I was still at Laura’s. The movie that was running was now blank and the laptop had gone to its sleep mode too. I turned towards my left to see Miles lying peacefully with Emerald on his chest, tightly curled up.

I looked at the clock and it showed it was half past eleven. Mark and Laura hadn’t returned yet and it had already started raining. I walked to the laptop and switched it off. I took all the chocolate wrappers and covered the two with blankets. Miles looked so peaceful and I wondered if he got a goodnight sleep in his workaholic lifestyle.

I was not sleepy anymore and so, I went towards the balcony to watch the rain. It looked as if the rain had just started with small drizzles. The lightning was bright bringing light to the dark room every now and then.

Suddenly, I remembered the dream I had about Miles and I walking in the park. It was so much different from the ones I usually had—the ones in which I always ended up crying. My dreams were getting better and better, and I wondered if it had anything to do with coming back to town or hanging out with Miles too often. In the dream, Miles and I were happy, just like old times, if it were possible.

“Hey, not sleepy?” I put my hands on my chest. It was Miles, scratching his head and yawning his sleep away.

“You scared me.” I said, still consoling my frantically beating heart. How could it come back to normal with him by my side, anyway? His hair was dishevelled and his eyes looked as if he was deprived of sleep. “You look as if you are in need of some sleep.”

“What are you doing out here in the rain alone?” he said, walking past me to sit at the railings. “And, little Em kicks, I’m not going back in there.”

I giggled at him, shaking my head. “I’m glad that she slept without any more cries.”

“Yeah, that too.” he agreed. “Mark and Laura should be back by now. I don’t know what’s keeping them late.”

There was a bright thunder, slicing the clouds into two. The light spread till the bed and I could see Emerald tucked in her bed. The lighting was followed by an ear-piercing thunder and I looked at Em, wondering if it woke her up. She whimpered a little, but clung to her sleep, much to my relief.

“Well, you are staying here today, right?” I asked him, once I was confirmed that Emerald was not going to wake up anytime soon. “Why does it matter if they arrive late or early?”

“No.” he said scratching his neck. He turned towards the garden the small balcony faced. “I’ve an early meeting tomorrow.”

“Oh,” I said, thinking that I was the only one stuck here. It was not the first time that I was staying at Laura’s, but I was never alone—it would be either a girl’s night out or Mark would be out of town. But this time it was different.

“Awe, you are missing me already?” Miles asked, making an adorable face at me. “I could drop you home, if you would. That way, you can have me for the time you will spend till I drop you off.”

“Really?” I asked, my face lighting up as another lighting came alive. “That would be nice, actually. I was thinking that I would be alone to stay up here, if you went.”

Miles laughed. “Then, you agree that you would be missing me?” he asked as I rubbed my hands together and kept it to my cheeks. It worked to keep me from the cool and to hide my redden cheeks. “Don’t worry, darling. I won’t leave you alone, when I know that you are scared of that the most.”

I eyes shot up. It had been more than four years since I had said that to him. “You r-remember?” I asked, my voice hinting surprise.

“There are a lot of things that I remember Megan.” He said, his voice too soft. The drizzle now turned into blotches of water, promising a heavy rain in the near future. He didn’t move an inch. He turned his gaze at me, studying me and it looked as if he was trying to figure me out. “Sometimes I have woken up at night, wondering if you are still scared.”

There was so much of vulnerability in his voice that I couldn’t help but walk up to him. I placed my hands on his cheeks and ran my fingers down his subtle. He looked so sincere and I knew deep down he was hurting too. “I want to forget those ugly parts, Miles.” I said, in a small voice. “I really want us to stop fighting and remembering the same things. I want you to forgive me for hurting you.”

“W-what?” he stammered, confusion in his voice. “Look Megan, you don’t have to—”

“Miles I forgive you.” I repeated, a little confident this time. I had been back to town for more than five-six months now and in all the times I have met Miles, I have seen the guilt, the anger, the loneliness in his eyes which made me realize that he was in the same boat as I was in. “We were both hurt and three years is a long time for redemption I’m sure.” I smiled.

He let out a small laugh, bringing his hands on top of mine, holding it in place. “The only thing that I wished when we broke up was for you to stay for a second to hear me out.”

“I know.” I hung my head low. That was the only thing that was haunting me in my dreams too.

“Hey,” he said, pulling my chin upwards. “It was the lamest reason—to see you smile—so that’s okay.”

“I’m sorry.” I said, looking into his eyes. The rain started and within seconds we were drenched, but we didn’t move an inch. “I’m sorry for keeping you guilty all these years. I’m sorry for blaming everything on you. I’m sorry for not contacting you.”

“Oh darling,” he pulled me for a warm embrace, kissing my hair. “You don’t have to be sorry. We both know it was just me in the first place.”

He pulled me tighter in his hold as I shivered against him. It felt so good to finally come clean—all the emotional turmoil that hovered in me was set free.

“Hey! What in the world are you two doing in the pouring rain?” Mark shouted at us, standing at the edge of the balcony. “Get in, before you catch pneumonia.”

Being awkward that we are, we pulled apart at his words and stood there like school kids charged guilty of steeling cookies from the cookie jar.

“When did you come?” Miles asked him, while Laura lent me a towel giving me a look.

“We came like ten minutes ago. We even honked and called your cell phone to let us in.” Laura said, rolling her eyes at us. “We then had to use our spare key hidden at the front door.”

“It’s past twelve, Lau.” Miles said, smirking at her. “How did you expect us to awake?”

“I know Em and thank you for tucking her into bed for me.” She said. “Anyway you two are staying right? Get a warm bath before you go to bed.”

“Um… we are both heading out.” I said, rubbing my hair with the towel. “Early event for me tomorrow and an early meeting for him.”

“Ugh!” Laura wined. “You guys! At least take a bath before you head out.”

I nodded my head at her, as I followed her with Mark and Miles and behind me.

“You did bond over a kid.” I head Mark giggle behind me, followed by a smack which was probably Miles artwork.

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