I order myself some scotch; glass by glass, drinking it with huge gulps and waiting for Beverly. My hands are shaking - I’m so nervous to do this. I’m so nervous, thinking that she’ll say no.
Or that she needs to think about it.
I open the little cherry red satin box and look inside it. The rainbow lights in the club makes the ring even brighter, glistening that even my eyes start to hurt. Not because of its beauty. But because this time, I’m really afraid.
I remember the ring that Leonardo gave to her. Probably it was more expensive than this one is, more beautiful; but at this moment, I don’t think it’s about the ring at all. It’s not even about marriage.
It’s about me and Beverly, it’s about my love for her. After all that time we spent together I can admit it to myself; I’m weak. And I’m proud that I’m weak, because there’s nothing tough in love. I’m weak every time I see her. Every time I hear her. Every time I touch her. It’s not about being tough in love; it’s about how tough it makes you feel. It’s about how it pushes you forward, lets you to overcome every obstacle and at the same time, it’s the only thing that makes you happy.
I made up my mind. I know she knows that already, but as a man I can’t wait any longer. To propose to her means more to me than she can possibly imagine. It’s a promise, to her and especially, to myself, that I want and I’m willing to spend the rest of my life with her. I want her to be by my side forever. I want her to have my last name. We never talked about it, but I want her to be the mother of my children.
And I guess it’s time for that talk.
As soon as we’ll get back to the hotel, a pleasant surprise with rose petals will meet her. And also my speech.
It makes me chuckle when I think it’ll be the first time I got her flowers. I never promised her, and she never asked for it. How can you not love a woman that doesn’t push you to do something you’re not used to?
“Hello there, gorgeous.”
I haven’t noticed how a short girl popped up next to me. She’s a little too drunk, her iris is red and eyes are sleepy, narrowed. She keeps swaying from left to right, trying to look as alluring as possible; not the most beautiful view.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
I lift my glass up and smile at her; I don’t need to be rude when a person doesn’t deserve it.
“My glass is full. But thank you.”
But apparently, a drunk girl doesn’t take no for answer. Instead, she takes another step closer to me, trying to seduce me with a weird smile. I take a step back; I don’t want to deal with her right now, especially when I’m holding an engagement ring in my hand.
“Come on, honey. What’s your name?”
Another body suddenly sneaks between me and the drunk girl and she steps back, trips and frowns when her plan to make me her catch for tonight didn’t work out.
“Now get the fuck away from my man.”
Beverly’s voice is cold, harsh; the one she uses when she’s not joking around. Her face is as cold as the weather outside, nothing warm or kind is visible in those icy blue eyes. And the drunk girl, as much as surprising it is; walks away with no turning back, scared by Beverly’s rigid tone.
But as soon as her eyes stop on mine the warmth fills my heart, seeing a woman of my dreams being possessive about me. She still has the same warmth, kindness that made me fell in love with her the day I saw her. But also a lot of things have changed her; she fights for everything that’s important to her, she doesn’t let anyone do things for her; she’s strong, and that makes her sexy as hell.
“Thank you, Kai.”
She leans in for a kiss, our lips burn on each other’s once more. I’ll probably never get tired of kissing her; after all this time, it still feels the same. It still makes something inside my stomach tickle, it sets my veins on fire and though it’s impossible, but she makes me feel like nothing can go wrong at this point.
“Do you want to drink something? Or-”
“Kai, come with me.”
That’s when I notice the fear; one thing I haven’t seen in her since the moment she killed Bex. I notice her ragged and harsh breath as she looks at me, biting her lip. I notice every tensed muscle in her body and her shaking hands. A smile disappears from my face; it’s not going to be an amazing night that I thought it will be.
“Is something wrong?”
“Please, just come.”
Beverly carefully reaches for my hand, gently crossing her fingers with mine. The cold wave goes down from the tip of my hair, down to my toes as she keeps being mysterious and quiet. The dark and sad look on her eyes is only a proof that something is wrong. She leads me to the back of the club, to the dark alley; the only thing that I’m trying to do is to focus on my breathing, but the anxiety is like bubbles inside my rib cage, threatening to blow up at any moment.
As we step outside to the dark street, it looks like an unfinished painting. Piles of snow rest on the ground, in the corners of houses, as if waiting for artists to finish their job. It’s snowing; snowflakes dancing in the streetlights, like ballerinas choreographed by gentle wind. It land on my face as the cold creeps up my skin, but all the senses in my body are turned off when I see a back of a man.
His long curly ash colored hair is all covered in tiny white snowflakes. He holds his hands in the pockets of the black leather jacket and as soon as he hears our footsteps, he turns around to meet my eyes.
That’s when my heartbeat stops.
My breathing stops together. It’s like I was looking at a ghost; like this was a cheap movie that makes absolutely no sense. I grip on so tightly; nails dig deep into the palm, like I was trying to make myself bleed, like it was the only way to prove myself that I’m still alive. That this is real. That I’m actually looking into the eyes of a man that died a year ago.
A cold wave goes down my whole body when I realize that’s real. Brent is standing in front of me, making me feel that I’m in a dream; a really weird and realistic dream. It’s not the weather that makes me shiver. The shock turns my guts into ice. It could be a hundred degrees out here and I’d still be frozen on the inside. I can’t melt it on my own, I can’t shift it at all.
It’s like Brent wants to say something as his mouth opens and closes three times; but he doesn’t manage to let out a single sound. Nothing. He left his best friend, then came back and doesn’t even try to say something to me.
“Brent? Say something.”
“I- I just...”
I watch him, feeling how every second looking into his eyes is the fuel, setting my brain on fire. Anger. Rage. Disappointment. All I can think about is, how could he? When the anger builds and I think I might explode - I take a deep breath. I want to shout, have a tantrum and beat my hands on the ground like a toddler. How could he?
“Is this a fucking joke?”
Brent finally blinks. Finally does something that makes him look more like a human than a statue; and I feel how it burns even more. Everything in my guts burn; I know how heartbreak feels. And this is exactly it. My chest starts to hurt while my brain tries to connect all my thoughts and questions. How? Why?
“I know you’re pissed, Kai. You probably don’t understand-”
My legs start to walk around the wet asphalt, as if my body knows it’s the only way to calm down. As if the anger is spurting out through my flesh, making my every muscle hurt, rage painfully pulsing in my temples. It was a long time since I’ve felt this angry.
Since I’ve been fooled.
“I fucking buried you, Brent. We made you a fucking funeral!”
Brent lifts his palms forward and takes a slow step closer; like his arms would defend him from my anger.
“Kai, you don’t know what happened.”
“And I shouldn’t fucking care what happened! You were supposed to come back!”
Every time he opens his mouth I get angrier. Until it explodes; deep inside me, hot, burning, it comes out faster than magma and just as destructive. He tries to talk before me but I keep on going, causing more and more damage with my words.
“I fucking waited for you, Brent. I was waiting for you to come back!”
“Kai, baby, relax...”
I was walking around like my feet was carrying my whole body, until I hear Beverly’s quiet, warm voice; like a glass of water with ice, cooling down my burning anger. I turn to her, then back at him; but my heart still hurts. He left me. My best friend, my brother left me the moment I needed him the most.
“Why, Brent? Why did you leave me?”
Brent lets out a sad sigh, the guilt and regret is all over his face. He never acted like this before. I never believed he could do that, we were friends. We were friends for all of our lives.
“Carlos knew something to make me keep him alive. I couldn’t let him die, not before I got some answers. But keeping him alive was the price to pay, I never thought you’d forgive me for saving his life.”
Every part of me goes on pause while my thoughts catch up with the news. Not only Brent; Carlos Pereira is alive. A man that ruined my, my brother’s life. Brent’s life. He saved a fucking monster, and didn’t even had courage to come back to tell me what he did.
Beverly’s hand grabs mine when the anger comes boiling up my body; my red iris gave away how pissed I am. And how I needed her to calm me down.
“Carlos is more dead than alive now, Kai. I saw him. Brent did the same thing to him that he did to Kevin. Trust me, baby, he’s on our side.”
But my eyes keep locked on Brent’s as I realize there are more things that I don’t understand. It’s like I was looking at a stranger; though at the same time he’s still my friend. My soul brother. One part of me wants to cry, to hug him and tell him how much I needed him. How much that hole in my heart hurts when I lost him. I didn’t feel myself without him. But there’s another part that wants to turn away and leave. Leave everything how it is.
“He knew something, huh? What could possibly make you abandon me for a whole fucking year!?”
“Avery. He knew where to find Avery.”
Memories start coming back about events in a deep past, things between Brent and Avery. Things that changed him. Making me remember him as a positive, laughing, happy teenager with his first and only love. And everything that ended it. Avery took that positivity and happiness away, she changed him forever not even being by his side.
“Avery is missing for thirteen fucking years, Brent. She’s a fucking ghost. You left me for a fucking ghost!?”
Beverly stops in front of me, blocking the view from Brent. My eyes stop on hers, the blueness of her pupils covered in a thick layer of transparent liquid. Together with a tear falling down her soft cheek, her words reach my heart and I know that deep inside me, I agree with her.
“Please, you must understand him. You would have done that for me, too.”
Love is a weird thing, a weird feeling. We sacrifice ourselves, our friends and our lives just to be with those we feel that are meant for us. And I know Beverly is right; I understand Brent. I understand it, especially when I know who Avery is and how much Brent loved her. How his heart broke when he lost her. But as much as I want to understand him, help him...
He still abandoned me.
“I know it hurts, Kai. What do I have to do? For you to forgive me?”
I hear the door open behind me, footsteps, gasps as the shock fills the whole area. None of us thought that we’ll see him again. None of us thought that this can happen.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
“Is... Is this real?”
But both me and Brent ignore their voices, looking at each other; only Beverly’s touch is calming all my body down. Extinguishing the fire that burns inside me. My thoughts catch up, they’re finally placed where they have to be. I know I want him back, there wasn’t a moment I didn’t want that. He was; is my best friend, and that will never change. But even Bex’s betrayal wasn’t that painful as the moment I realized Brent abandoned me on purpose.
“I know it’s not fair that I hurt you. If you want me to leave, I’ll leave. Just say the word. But I’ll do anything to stay. To fix the damage that I made.”
I take a step forward, closer to him. Looking at him again, feeling that pieces of my heart are finally fitting back together. That people that I care about the most are all here, safe and by my side. After all that time, I’m feeling that everything will be okay. But...
It will take time to forgive.
Without even blinking I swing my tight fist, too quick and potent, into Brent’s defined jaw; the impact like thousands of venomous blades piercing apart my clammed fist. It leads me to one conclusion: that it hurt. Brent lands on the wet asphalt, his palm on his jaw and surprise in his eyes. But he doesn’t stand up to fight back, he just keeps staring at me knowing he deserves it.
"Now we’re even."