I carefully write every word on a card, that has a strip dancer eagle drawing on it; Lexi and I thought this would be funny. Only when a popcorn reached my eye I moved again, frowning at Lexi.
“Do you mind!?”
“I don’t mind.”
She throws a popcorn in her mouth and puts a wide smile onto her face, chuckling like a kid who just did something funny. Sometimes she drives me nuts, but at the same time I love how childish and rude she is. It was so nice to see how care and friendship changed her in a year; in fact, these are the only things that people need to feel happy.
With thoughts about that I turn to Kevin, who’s sitting right in front of me, trying to wrap a gift in a girly pink wrapping paper, frowning when it goes wrong. He’s the one who suffered the most, but now he definitely looks like a different man; masculine, tall, strong, with perfect skin and happiness in the face that was dark and sad just a year ago.
His gaze rises slowly when I realize I’m staring at him, greeting me with the full force of his smoky dark green eyes, the exotic black flecks within holding the light. His face lights up with a lovely smile, playing on his rosy full lips. I still can’t believe how much he changed.
And how much I think about a kiss that happened a year ago.
“You know you’re doing it wrong, Kevin.”
I remember that kiss not because it was hot. But because of the feelings I had when Kevin kissed me. Because it felt like the ground disappeared under my feet. Because all I could feel was pleasant burning in every limb of my body. Because my brain shut off, and it felt like the time has stopped. It was a simple kiss, like it was the first one ever; but at the same time it was the most epic kiss I’ve ever had.
I walk to him and take the wrapping paper out of his hands, slowly wrapping it around the box where the gift is. Beverly’s 27th birthday. Though she asked not to buy her anything, we got her favorite sweets, of course, and a platinum dagger with her initials engraved on it. We can afford that, because people pay a lot to get their enemies killed... but Kai wanted to give her a personal gift. Something special. Something that makes me guess that maybe he wants to propose.
“Probably only girl’s hands can do that.”
Much more than that, honey.
I shake my head when my thoughts start to get crazy; especially when I’m feeling nervous. I can’t explain that, because it happens every time I’m closer to him. I know nothing will happen between us, he said he wasn’t ready, he wanted to learn to live first. But that was a year ago. A normal girl would understand and move on, but... I guess I’m not a normal girl.
Deep inside me, even if I don’t like to admit that, I am waiting. For Kevin to finally make a move.
“That’s pretty easy...”
I convince myself that there’s nothing he owes me; we’ll, maybe a little of gratitude. I don’t expect him to kiss my toes because I stood by him all this time, helped him to get back to normal, but for him I probably was nothing more than a best friend. But I will never be able to look at him as a friend - especially when I think about him before I fall asleep.
But how long I’ll be waiting? Hoping?
I get the box wrapped and with the last duct tape to stick it on I turn to Kevin, but he’s closer than I thought at first. Two big, emerald eyes locked on me, his look so deep that it feels like he’s looking straight into my soul. A shy smile, playing on his lips and making me crave for them; like it was honey and I was a bear. It’s pulling me, like a magnet, and I’m not sure how long I can stay only friends with him.
It actually hurts when I see him smile.
I want him, I want him only for myself. I want to be selfish and impulsive, I’m tired of waiting, of hoping. I want to be his, I want him to be mine. I want to bring him joy; be the source of those lit eyes and dimpled cheeks. I want him to be my happiness. I want to feel the warmth of his body and his soul.
It’s like something exploded inside of me and I’m not here anymore. It made me realize that I don’t want to wait any longer. Either I’ll be with Kevin...
Or move on.
“Brookie, you okay?”
His low voice brings me back to reality; I haven’t noticed how my face turned into a frown. I quickly clear my throat and get back to my seat, feeling how my lungs can obtain oxygen again, when his perfect spicy cologne doesn’t make my head spin.
“So Beverly knows we’re going to the club tonight?”
“Of course. It’s her birthday, after all.
The best place for people like us to party, to drink and be unnoticed is a nightclub. No bright lights, a lot of people, strong drinks...
Maybe something will happen between us when Kevin will get drunk?
“Don’t forget we’re leaving tomorrow.”
“Running from someone, Red?”
Lexi frowns, turning to Aaron who’s eyes are locked on TV. Like always, he enjoys pissing her off, and she hates when he calls her Red. In fact, she hates when he talks to her at all.
But I think that he doesn’t know how else to get Lexi’s attention. She’s not an average girl, and he’s not used to try hard to get a girl.
Lexi gets a bunch of popcorn and throws it at Aaron; he jumps from a sudden popcorn rain and finally, turns to her.
“You’re so fucking annoying, you know that?”
And then he gives her a smile, a devilish one, I guess that’s the only smile Aaron can do; it’s alluring, that unexpectedly makes Lexi’s cheeks match her hair color.
“Hello? You forgot to say I’m adorable.”
“More like a douchebag.”
She rolls her eyes and goes back to read the newspaper, and after a moment Aaron turns back to TV. That just makes me think... this should be easier. To be with someone, to be with a person you want to be with. But we all have our pride, our attitude, or sometimes we’re just too afraid to make a move. And it just feels like it’s not going to happen, no matter how much you want it.
But I’m not losing hope for love, this can’t happen. Not when I saw how an assassin fell in love with a scared, shy girl.
They made it, no matter how hard it was. No matter how much they’ve lost. They’re still together, through all the obstacles and challenges; they support each other, they brought their good sides into the light. No matter how hard it was, they did it. That’s what gives me hope that someday, I will be loved as much as Beverly is.
As my eyes open my limbs flex in shock; two big eyes are watching me, curly hair all over his face. I don’t remember falling asleep, especially in the middle of the park, on the snow.
My eyes widen in shock as I realize what I see in front of me. Brent. It’s Brent. Very much alive. I carefully reach for his face, and as the thick hair of his beard tickle my palm I realize that’s true. That’s real, I’m not dreaming.
“Beverly, are you okay?”
My eyes can’t leave his. Every part of me, even my breath goes on pause while my thoughts catch up. With every second my brain asks me more and more questions... How he’s alive? How he escaped? Where he was all that year? Why he showed up now?
“Brent... is that you?”
He nods when a smile starts to play in his lips; he carefully lifts me up back on my feet, though I don’t feel my body anymore. I sit down on the bench right next to him, my eyes not leaving his face. How?
“God, you scared me.”
“How are you alive, Brent?”
I see his eyes get darker, little by little, before he turns away. He rolls up the sleeve of his jacket to show me the burns on his hand, wrinkled skin that even tattoos can’t hide.
“I didn’t get out of it with no scars. It doesn’t matter how fast I was; you can’t fight with fire.”
“What happened in that house?”
The sigh that escaped Brent’s dry lips is slow, as if his brain needed that time to remember what had happened. His eyes remain fixed on the snow, on the exact spot where we had a snowball fight.
“You know I regret it. I blame myself for not coming back...”
“That didn’t answer my question.”
“I escaped. Nothing could’ve stopped me after Carlos’s words.”
There is sadness and and regret behind those warm eyes that didn’t change after a year being separated. Thinking that he’s dead. Hell, I feel like I’m sitting next to a ghost. Brent anxiously looks at his left and right, repeatedly as a single sound passes by, checking for signs of eavesdropping on us, afraid to speak again.
“There’s a reason why I am cold and sullen. And Pereira knew how to use it against me.”
He carefully rubs his fingernails, like he was afraid to touch even himself. I see how broken he is. His hands can’t stop shaking and it seems like he’ll shatter like a glass.
“Her name is Avery.”
“She’s your... lover?”
“She’s much more than that.”
Of course, the biggest decisions in our life, the reason that makes people change, in a good or bad way is love. As long as I knew Brent, I never saw him interested in a girl, he was always acting like a friend with me or Brooklyn. I never saw him talking to a girl, and I never noticed that before. And I never thought this has a background...
“Carlos told me he knows where she is.”
“But Brent... why you didn’t come back? You know that Kai would’ve helped you. He would’ve done everything...”
In my surprise, Brent chuckles. He turns back at me, but his smile isn’t sweet; it’s more sarcastic, like he doesn’t believe me. Like he doesn’t even believe in himself. That’s when I realize he actually changed, a year apart from us, especially from Kai didn’t made him feel better. Black circles around his eyes, sad, tired look and new scars on his skin that weren’t here before.
“After what I did, Kai wouldn’t help me or understand me. He would never forgive me.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I can’t tell you. But I can show you.”
The house Brent leaded me to isn’t too far away from the park; it’s abandoned, what I should’ve been expecting. From the street it looks like nothing. There’s just weary double doors painted racing green. They’re closed, which means nothing. The door has some bullet holes in it though, that’s not so good.
The windows are hidden under dark wooden boards, so the inside is so dark that I can’t see a thing; until Brent turns on the flashlight. He keeps quiet, leading me deeper inside the house, a sound of water dripping from every pipe is the only thing that you can hear.
And then Brent stops in front of the wooden door.
“The view will probably shock you.”
The door isn’t even locked when he opens it, and lifts the flashlight up to show me what’s inside.
“You saved him!?”
Carlos Pereira is locked to the chair, but he’s not the same man I remember. Only his clothes he was wearing the same day the house exploded. His skin now matches his gray hair, and his body looks more like a skeleton than a real person. Black circles around his eyes and stains of blood on his dry skin.
“Is he even alive?”
Brent doesn’t answer my question when Carlos slowly opens his eyes and looks at me. The evilness is gone from them; he’s just exhausted. Weak. Just like we wanted him to.
“No one knows he is alive, besides you and me.”
“Can I ask why he’s alive? After everything that he did-”
“Because one thing I’ve learned from Kai is that death is the easy part. That man doesn’t deserve easy.” I glance at Carlos again, though the view is really nasty and I can already smell the scent of his rotting body. My stomach stops working and I feel how my breakfast is ready to leave my body. “I’m buying different kinds of drugs, the cheapest ones and feed him with those. Just like he did with Kevin.”
“And you’re doing that because he told you he knows where Avery is?”
“No. I’m doing that because he deserved it. He didn’t die in that explosion because he told me he knows where Avery is.”
I close my eyes for a moment, trying to absorb the information. Brent is alive. Carlos is alive, but looking at him he seems more dead. And it took a year for him to come back to us. Brent was afraid, afraid that Kai will get mad that he saved Carlos.
I kind of understand him. But as far as I know Kai...
“Kai would’ve understood why you kept Carlos alive if you came back to him straightaway. But now..."
"He buried you. He cried for you. He was through so much pain because he thought you’re gone. To be honest... I don’t think Kai will forgive you."