9 | Acceptance
Same soul, PVRIS
Two weeks went by and Lizbeth was finally feeling back on the right track, although the serial murder case was starting to affect her emotionally.
She knew there was wickedness in the world when she started helping Mike. She was used to dealing with that at work, had studied abominable specimens from classics like Jack the Ripper to the Manson family, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy, but this was a different level of evil.
Her connection with Courtney only made her feel anger and frustration and, even though she had trust in the system—Nicolas taught her to—at that moment she wanted to take matters into her own hands. Violence had never been a part of her, always thought everyone needed a second chance... Not that man.
She had started going to the gym in the afternoons, it helped her to let out some of the stress and frustration, but the best part of her days was meeting Sawyer and Noah for a walk. They brought light into all that darkness. Talking to him and watching the dog carefreely running always put her at ease, reminding her that there were also kind-hearted people that did everything they could to make the world a better place.
Life had been so hectic for the past few days she felt relieved when Friday finally came.
“I’m gonna get another drink,” Mrs. Blake—Emily—said. “Want something?”
“Seriously? How can you keep drinking? This is my...”
“That’s only your fourth.” The blonde raised a mocking brow. “How can you be drunk already?” She grinned.
“I’m not drunk! I’m just not used to drinking so much... Two is my limit before I start blurting nonsense.”
“I’m gonna have to train you!” She laughed, walking away.
Lizbeth looked at her, propping her burning cheek on her palm—she was probably red as a tomato—a soft smile on her face. Emily was like her mentor. From the moment she stepped into Virginia Uni, she had taken her under her wing, introduced her to everyone, showed her around, and whenever she had the opportunity, she took her out on a girls’ night. Sometimes other—women—professors would join, sometimes it would be just them.
She was closer to the fifties than the thirties, yet her personality, her attitude, her entire being seeped youthful energy. She was so passionate about her job, about everything in life in general, it was contagious. Even with her husband thousands of miles away, lost somewhere in Africa, saving lives as part of a team of Doctors Without Borders, she was still the most lively person Lizbeth knew.
“Okay, now... Tell me what’s keeping your head so in the clouds lately,” Emily said as she sat in front of her in the booth, a beer in her hand and a basket of chicken wings on the other. “Want some?”
“Oh, yes! I’m dead... Haven’t eaten anything since lunch. Thank y—”
“But first”—she pulled the food away— “you have to confess.”
“Are we seriously doing this?” She flashed her a mischievous grin. “You know I can read you like an open book, right?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She tried to reach for the basket. “C’mon!” She pouted.
“Listen, missy. I have two kids, two grown-ups actually—oh my God! They make me feel old!” She laughed so loud a few people turned their heads to them. She didn’t give a fuck about anything. “Anyway, what I was gonna say. I’ve raised two little monsters. That and my career allows me to see through people veeeery easily, and you’ve been all distracted, giggling like a schoolgirl at someone’s texts—”
“I don’t do that! Giggle, what the heck?”
“You do, trust me. So, who’s the lucky man?”
“There’s no lucky man,” Lizbeth said before drinking from her beer to avoid talking anymore. Though maybe that wasn’t good, the more alcohol the looser the tongue.
Emily rolled her eyes and sighed, biting one of those crunchy, golden wings, making Lizbeth drool like a dog—for real. “I was also in that place once, still kind of are even after so many years married so...”
“If I talk you’d give me some?” She gestured to the food.
“You have my word.”
“You remember I just moved in, right?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Emily nodded.
“Well, turns out my new neighbor is an old love.”
“But old love like in a few crazy nights when you were young or old love like in the type that takes your breath away?”
“The second,” Lizbeth admitted.
“Oh my God!” Emily gushed, pushing the basket to the middle of the table. “Tell me more.”
“What do you want me to tell you?”
“I don’t know, everything! How did you meet and how was the reunion? How many years had you been away?”
“We met in college—”
“Maybe you should stop drinking.” Lizbeth chuckled.
“Not happening. Keep going.” Emily grinned.
“Well... He’s my brother’s best friend, and we were together for almost two years, but when I moved to San Francisco we broke up.”
Lizbeth shrugged, sadness pulling the strings of her heart. “I think it was because we were young and he wasn’t ready to have a serious relationship.”
“But you were together for a long time, to be in college, I mean.”
“I think he was just going with the flow, and since we had been friends before it was easy. We would spend as much time laughing and talking about anything as we did being intimate... But having his girlfriend on the other side of the country...” She sighed. How could that still hurt? Well, you never got to speak your mind out. That could be it. “I think he didn’t want to be tied.”
“But what did he say?”
“Honestly?” Emily nodded, eyes fixed on hers. “Nothing. Just that distance fucks up everything and both of us needed to focus on our studies.”
“Ugh... I mean, not like that’s not true. Even if fifty-eight percent of long-distance relationships work, the pain, the longing, and loneliness you get to experiment are tough... Not everyone can deal with that. Let alone a twenty-something boy.” She gave her a sad smile. She knew firsthand how that felt. Her marriage had been a success and by the way she talked about her husband, she was clearly in love with him, but going to bed alone at night must be hard. “And, what about now?”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah. We hadn’t seen each other in seven years, and met again at my brother’s wedding... And it’s all been nice and smooth since then, I don’t want to fuck it up just, have enough going on with my own messy life.”
They were attracted to each other, and not only because of the kiss they shared that night. They were adults and knew how to behave and control those raging hormones, but the tension between them, the sexual one, was more than evident—a pink elephant stumbling into a room would be less obvious. But she wasn’t in the best place to get into any kind of relationship, with anyone.
“I understand you want to take some time to be with yourself after Nicolas, and it’s totally respectable, but Honey... if fate has brought him into your life again... listen to its message.”
Lizbeth snorted. “You don’t believe in fate or anything like that.”
“Well, I don’t, but I do believe in soulmates. And”—she stopped to drink a sip of her beer—“I don’t mean soulmates like in the love of your life kind of thing, that’s bullshit. However, I do believe there are certain people in the world with whom you connect in a special way and create a deeper bond, something that cannot be explained with words, but with a look, a hug, or a caress. Sometimes is your partner, sometimes a friend, sometimes a family member.”
“I get what you mean.” Lizbeth smiled.
“Despite the case you’re working on, which is awful enough. I haven’t seen you so relaxed in months, and that’s definitely a sign that he’s good to you.”
“He is. But I don’t want to make my life more complicated than it is.” She bit her bottom lip.
The endometriosis thing, the breaking up of her engagement, her second and eerie job... She was slowly putting herself together from everything that had happened in the last six months. Some days were better, some worse, but she was still there and wasn’t going to give up. However, thinking about having something with Sawyer, even if it was just physical... It made her feel vulnerable. He was a weakness for her, always had been.
The way he used to look at her as if she was the most precious thing, how he still made her vibrate with every little gesture... In all the years they had been away she hadn’t been able to find that tingling excitement with anyone else. They both had changed, but the essence of their souls and the strength of that red thread keeping them bound was the same. It was beautiful and scary at the same time, and she wasn’t ready to face all those confusing emotions. Yet.
The time they spent together was the only moment of the day when she could truly disconnect from everything else and be herself. They laughed a lot together and he was a great listener. She loved that and didn’t want to lose it if things didn’t work, a second time. Besides, if something happened between them—good or bad—it would affect more people and not just themselves; they couldn’t act like a pair of immature brats anymore.
“Whatever you do, I’ll be here to support you. But let me tell you something. Don’t be so hard on yourself and live. Life’s shorter than we think and it slips between your fingers without realizing it. If there’s something you want, that makes you happy, go for it.” She smiled, giving her hand a light squeeze. “Now eat! You beautiful, brilliant, powerful land-mermaid.”
Lizbeth laughed, her heart beating furiously with joy. That woman was like a breath of fresh air.
After doing some small talk, laughing at the silliest things, and watching Emily inviting a group of women to sit at their table, she went home, her words still swirling in her head.
She was feeling tired and tipsy and all she wanted to do was to lay on the couch and watch some random movie until falling asleep.
Climbing up what felt like an interminable stair—internally cursing at the broken elevator—made her think about her need to really go to the gym. She didn’t look bad but her lungs felt like those of a seventy-year-old lady that had been smoking her entire life.
When she finally reached her floor, panting, she walked towards her apartment, but getting into it was harder than she thought. Her sight became kind of blurry; she couldn’t get the key into the lock.
What’s wrong with me and locks?
She had just won the battle against her door when Sawyer opened his, startling her, mind immediately going blank when she turned to him. He was wearing black jeans and a burgundy shirt under his leather jacket. Dark hair slicked back. His entire being oozing virility, confidence, and that annoying and imposing sexiness he had always had.
“Hey!” she said, swallowing as she ogled him, one of her eyes blinking.
“Hey, Liz,” he replied, grinning. He stared at her as a weird silence flooded the space between them for a few seconds. “You like what you see?” he asked, a smirk plastered on his damn attractive face as one of his eyebrows shot up.
“You just undressed me with your eyes,” he playfully said as he got closer to her.
“What the hell?!” she almost yelled, her voice coming out an octave higher than usual.
Their gazes locked and she stopped breathing for a few seconds. He was so impressive, it was like getting trapped in a dark hole, everything vanishing around as the light focused on him.
How can this man make me feel so flustered all the time?
Sawyer cracked up, snapping her back from that parallel universe her brain had gone to.
“You’re gonna wake up Karen’s kids!” She slapped his arm. “And you know that’s like waking up the Kraken, stop it!”
“You can be really cute sometimes.”
“Wha—Shut up and go have fun wherever it is you’re going!”
“Will do. Sleep tight, Kitten,” he said as he walked away, chuckling.