Lukas pulls into the motel lot and cuts the engine. They sit there in silence for a minute, neither knowing the best thing to say. However, Lukas takes the initiative and announces, “I’m going to go see if anyone is available to get us a room and inquire about some food. I’ll be back soon, so stay here for now.” He starts to get out the car but is pulled back by his arm.
“Don’t...please don’t leave me alone. I know I shouldn’t be acting like this over breaking up with my boyfriend, but I... I just feel like I’m scared to be alone. Maybe it’s because we’re in a new place?” She tries to rationalize it, but it’s still irrational anyway.
Lukas wears a soft smile. “You have a valid reason to be scared Naomi, so don’t feel the need to explain. You don’t have to do that with me. If you’re scared, then I’ll do all I can to comfort you, ok?” His voice is gentle, and it somehow gives her courage.
She lets his arm go and sits more confidently as she proclaims, “I’m coming with you no matter what. I may not be in any danger myself, but who knows who you’ll encounter inside. I think it’s better if we stick together until we’re both safely at home.”
He can tell she’s trying to be brave for his sake, and he must stop himself from smiling at her cuteness. Instead, he gives her a nod before replying, “Ok then, let’s go. We’ll do it together.”
They get out the car together and make their way towards the entrance to the main office. There are very few lights, making it appear as though no one is in. However, once they walk inside, they find that there is a dim light and a sleeping man beneath it.
Lukas walks up to what appears to be the front desk and taps the bell a few times. This wakes the man with a start, causing him to bump is head against the wall. “Oh gosh darn it!” He rubs his head as he gets up. He looks over to see Lukas and Naomi just behind him. “What kind of business you kids have been up this time of night? Can’t a man get his rest in peace?” He grumbles as he shuffles over to the reception. He looks from one to the other and with a grin asks, “You two meeting for hookup? You know, one of those Tender meetups or what have you? That’s all the rage with you kids today, ain’t it?” He chuckles. “Or did you elope? I’ve seen my share of those too.”
Nai and Lukas share a look and must hold back their laughter. Lukas finally says, “No Sir, we’re just friends. She had some car trouble, so I came to help her out, but it’s too late to get a tow, so we just need a place to rest for a few hours until we can call for one. We’ll be leaving first thing in the morning.”
“Only a few hours, eh?” He scoffs. “Well, if that’s what you want to call it, ain’t no skin off my back.” He reaches for a key. “Just sign in this book, and I’ll take fifty upfront.”
Lukas furrows his brow. “Fifty? That much for not even a whole night? I expected one night to be no more than thirty.”
“Eh! What are you, a city slicker? I’m guessing you’re not from around these parts, but even for a small Utah town like us, we’ve got to stay competitive. It’d normally be forty, but I’m charging an extra ten for the inconvenience. I also expect you to be out by 8, or I’ll charge you for another night. If you don’t like it, you can go have your rendezvous somewhere else. Though, good luck finding another motel out here for another twenty miles.”
Lukas frowns annoyed by his smugness. He nearly tells him to go shove it, but he feels Nai touch his shoulder, as she tosses a twenty on the counter. “There’s the difference. Can we go now? I’m exhausted and want out of these clothes.”
Lukas can see the tiredness in her eyes and not wanting to make her endure it anymore, he bites the bullet and tosses thirty on the counter. “There you go old man. Please go on back to sleep. Sorry we disturbed you.” He glares at the man and then grabs the keys. “Let’s get going Naomi.” He makes his way to the door.
“Ha, you’ve got a good one boy! If she’s willing to put out more than just her body, you’ve got a keeper. Make sure and treat her real good, you hear?” The man laughs at his own joke.
Lukas grits his teeth, the man really grinding his gears. However, Nai places her hand against his back and nudges it slightly. He lets it go at her insistence, and they exit the office together. He makes sure to stop by the car to get her bag.
“Ugh! The geezer really pissed me off!” He plops on the bed as he says this, suddenly feeling tired himself as the adrenaline wears down. He realizes he’s acting rather childish in front of Nai, and quickly sits up to compose himself. “Sorry,” he whispers.
She laughs lightly, and it’s like music to his ears. She sits on the bed beside him. “It’s cool, I got to see a different side of you.”
“It’s not a side I’m proud of. I’ve always been a rather passive guy and tried to stay out of trouble. It’s what everyone always expected of me; to be a troublemaker. They acted as though it was in my blood. Maybe it is a little, at least when I get heated or if I drink too much. I got pissed at you that time for saying something similar, but I wasn’t angry with you. I was just frustrated because it brought back the memories of what people used to say about me back then. People judged me without knowing who I actually was. There was a period that I got so sick of it, I decided to give them what they wanted, but that backfired. I ended up in some trouble, and then I lost everything I earned.”
“No, I don’t believe that.” He looks at her and she looks back at him with tender eyes. “I don’t believe that it’s in your blood. I think defining people by where they come from or how they look is foolish. People are who they are because it’s how they decide to be. Murders kill because they want to kill, not because it’s a predefined trait running through their veins. People are generous not because they are preconditioned to be, but because they want to be good to those who are less fortunate or for their own gain. No matter the reason we act as we do, it’s always for some reason; usually one only we know. You may have made mistakes and even hurt others along the way, but surely you were driven by your own reasons, and so only god can judge you.”
He grins. “Who said I believe in god though?”
Nai looks regretful. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to assume. I-.”
He laughs. “Relax, I’m just messing with you. I do.” He reaches into his shirt and pulls out a cross that was hanging from his neck. “He’s been my guiding light for many years now and whenever I have doubts, I look to him for answers. He’s never failed me yet.” He puts it back in his shirt and with a smile says, “But thank you for saying all that. It means a lot.”
Nai has seen him smile before, but she wonders why suddenly it makes him seem more attractive than he already was? She shakes her head, realizing she was staring. “Um, anyway, I do want to say I’m sorry. I was a total bitch that day and you had every right to get upset. I blew things way out of proportion.”
“No, I was wrong too. I shouldn’t have gotten so defensive. I knew you weren’t accusing me of anything, I just felt ashamed of myself and was reflecting my own frustrations. I’m sorry.”
“Fine, then we’ll both say we’re sorry and start over, ok? We are starting with a clean slate, so the past is no longer relevant to our future and is forgotten. Is that agreeable to you?”
“Absolutely. I’ve already forgotten the reason we were even mad.” They laugh. Suddenly, a loud growl can be heard and Nai turns her head. Her cheeks grow rosy from her embarrassment. “Ah, I forgot you still need to eat.” He stands up. “I’m going to go see if I can find us some food. In the meantime, you go ahead and shower and make yourself comfortable. Sound good?”
“Thanks,” she says bashfully. He starts for the door. “Um, will you be ok? It’s pretty late and it can be dangerous out there alone.”
“Aw, are you worried about me? That’s sweet,” he teases.
“I am.” She can see his smile drop, clearly not expecting that response. “I mean, you came here for my sake and are going out there now for my sake as well. You’ve done many things for my sake and you will probably continue to do so until we’re back home. I can’t in good conscious let you risk your life for me. I could never live with myself if you got hurt because of me. So yes, I’m worried about you Lukas. Please be careful, ok?”
He turns away quickly, it’s all he can do to hide his tears of happiness. To hear her genuinely proclaim that she’s worried about him is something he didn’t realize he needed. He feels it deep within his heart; his love for her. “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful and be back with you soon. You be careful too Naomi.”
“Nai. You can just call me Nai.” She doesn’t look at him as she says this, far too embarrassed to face him.
“I’ll be back soon, Nai.” He hurries out before his heart explodes in his chest. He can hardly take anymore stimulation.
Nai falls back on the bed, her cheeks flaming as she covers her face. “Oh my god, that was so cheesy. Why did I say that?” She says this rhetorically, but now she does have to wonder, why did she say that? To her, being called Nai is very intimate thing, and is something only her mom and Adam have ever done. Even her mother calls her only Naomi. Yet she insisted that he call her that instead of her name. She wonders why, but she’d be a failure as a woman of science if she didn’t know. She knows why, but she can’t say it yet, because doing so will make it real.
When Lukas returns to the room, he finds Nai already passed out in bed. He chuckles to himself. “I figured something like this would happen.” He places a bag on the table. It isn’t much, but he found a tiny corner store a few miles down the road that sold light snacks, so he bought a variety. “I’m glad I went with the non-perishable options.” He washes up in the bathroom, and changes only his t-shirt, which he had in his car. He sits in the chair and slides down a bit. It’s not that comfortable, but it’ll do as his bed for the next few hours.
“Lukas....” He sits up, unsure if he actually heard what he thinks. He waits patiently, and just when he thinks it was in his head, he hears it again. “Lukas....” He gets up and sits beside her on the bed. He can see that she’s sleeping, but she seems to be in pain. He notices a lone tear at the corner of her eye.
He feels as though he might be intruding, but he can’t help himself when he sees her making such a sad face. He takes her hand in his, and lightly caresses it to soothe her. It seems to work, as she no longer wears an expression of anguish, but rather one of peace. When he’s certain she’s at ease, he releases her hand and stands to return to his chair. However, he’s pulled back down by his arm. He turns around, certain she’d done it reflexively in her sleep. However, he finds his eyes meeting with hers and she stares at him with complete intent. “Nai? Sorry, did I wake you?”
She shakes her head gently, and again pulls at his arm. “Don’t go. Stay with me, please.”
“I’ll be here Nai. I’ll be just over there. If you need me, I won’t be far. It’s only right that you have the bed to yourself.”
She shakes her head more aggressively and pulls him with more force. “No, I need you beside me. I just want to feel your presence and your warmth beside me. Nothing more.”
Is she telling him, or herself that? He can’t help but wonder. He looks at her hesitantly, unsure if sleeping beside her is a good idea at a time like this. He’s very aware of the possibility that things may go to a place they might regret in the morning. However, with the look of determination she has in her eyes, he can tell she means what she says and won’t take no for an answer.
With a soft sigh he says, “Ok, but please don’t blame me for what happens by the morning.” He climbs over her and lies beside her on the left. He lies back flat as a board and closes his eyes. He expects her to do the same but is startled when he feels her press up close against his side and place her head against his arm.
“Is...is this ok? I can move if you don’t like it.”
“No, it’s...it’s fine. Whatever makes you comfortable Nai.”
“Thank you Lukas. Thank you for always being there.”
He can feel her breathe against his arm, as her breathing steadies and confirms she’s asleep once again. He expected that he’d be restless and have to fight back a raging boner from her closeness, but he’s pleasantly surprised to find that he’s rather calm down in that department. Her closeness leaves him with a different kind of feeling and it’s...sweet. He snuggles a bit more against her and allows himself to drift as well. In that moment, they shared their tender feelings, which was on the fast track to a tender love.