Waited For You ✔️

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(22) Panic

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Celeste's POV

On Saturday, I decided to spend some time alone. Mom was working overtime—as usual—and everyone else had homework to complete. Georgia messaged me last night, after school, telling me she felt better but embarrassed. I called her immediately and reassured her that what happened wasn’t something to feel ashamed of.

She promised to meet me tomorrow.

As for today, I ventured to the local coffee shop I went to with Ellie a few days ago.

Lazarus infiltrated my mind again. Dexter had said some things I couldn’t ignore. In English, I tried talking to him, but he often answered my questions with short answers. At one point, Dexter caught my eye. He nodded his head and gestured for me to continue. His reassurance helped motivate me.

Dexter told me Lazarus cared about me deeply. He also implied Lazarus liked me, romantically. That very thought made my heart race.

I wasn’t going to give up on Lazarus.

In the coffee shop, I spotted a familiar face.

Mom’s good friend, Barbara, was behind the counter, wiping a spillage. She didn’t notice me until I cleared my throat.

Her bright brown eyes locked onto mine. She had known my mom for years. They lost contact when mom moved to Washington for school but when she moved back, they rekindled their friendship. Barbara only worked here part-time since she had another job in the city.

“Celeste! I didn’t even see you there!” She exclaimed, placing a hand over her heart. “How are you dear? How’s your mother?”

“I’m good. Mom’s been working quite a few extra shifts this week, so I haven’t seen her a lot.” I informed her, sadly.

Barbara pinched her lips together in disapproval. She knew my mother worked more than most and she thought it was unhealthy. “Ah, that will explain why she hasn’t replied to my messages this week.”

I nodded my head and leaned against the counter. The smell of sweet treats filled my nose and caused my stomach to rumble.

Barbara noticed this and chuckled. “Do you want your usual?”

“Yes, please. That would be great.”

She scurried around and made my order. When I put the money on the table, Barbara shook her head, refusing to accept it. This happened every time she was working. She insisted it was on her. I hated not paying. It made me feel bad.

“Please take it, Barbara.” I thrust the money into her hands.

“No,” She responded, stubbornly.

We went back and forth. In the end, I didn’t pay her. I sat in the café and stared out of the window. It was a cloudy day today—warm but moody.

For the first time in a while, I felt at peace. My thoughts seized and I was left with just myself.

I checked a notification on my phone and turned back to the window. What I saw outside, on the other side of the road caused me to jump in my seat. My heart thundered in my chest so loudly I was worried it would jolt out of my chest.

He was wearing dark clothing. His onyx eyes were trained on me; a sinister smirk was plastered on his scarred face.

I couldn’t look away, no matter how much I wanted to.

He was here. He had finally found me.

Fear paralyzed me. He wouldn’t attack me, not here. This was a public place—he would never get away with it.

A car drove down the street, obscuring my view from him. When it was gone, the man had vanished.

I swallowed the lump in my throat. My mind was now whirling. He was back and he was coming after me. Nowhere was safe for me. I had to tell my mother.

Launching myself to my feet and raced out of the café.

My feet stomped against the ground. The world around me was a blur. I was lost in time, in my mind.

Tears clouded my vision. Fear was the only thing keeping me going right now. I wanted to get away from where I had seen him.

My body collided with strangers a few times. Each time, I apologized quickly, whilst avoiding eye contact and continued on my journey.

I was on autopilot. Too many emotions circulated inside of me. I couldn’t fathom what was happening.

Once again, I managed to stumble into somebody. This person was like a brick wall. Strong and stable.

Automatically, their arms wrapped around my body, holding onto me tightly. Sparks ignited my body.

It was Lazarus.

The man who had been avoiding me for days. The man who, according to Dexter, had feelings for me. Of course, he would be the one to catch me. To see me in this frantic state.

His forest green eyes examined my flushed face. I’m sure I looked awful.

“Celeste, what’s wrong?” He asked, sounding desperate. He must have registered the look of sheer panic in my eyes.

I opened my mouth, but no words passed through my lips. I was drowning and I couldn’t call for help. I was alone.

“Celeste,” He pleaded, bringing his hands to my shoulders. There was an intense emotion in his eyes.

My heart ached. I hated seeing him like this.

If I told Lazarus, would he look at me differently? Would he pity me? Or would he try to help me? Two weeks ago, I would have thought he would help me. But now I’m not so sure.

Lazarus stared at me, waiting for me to say something. He was determined to find out what was bothering me.

“There—scar—street—ran,” I stuttered, incoherently. My brain just couldn’t process this.

Lazarus furrowed his eyebrows together. His hold on me tightened but not so that it would be painful.

“Celeste, did something happen to you?” He then paused as if he realized something horrific. “Did someone…hurt you?”

I swallowed nervously and averted my eyes to the ground. The words—the truth—was on the tip of my tongue. I just couldn’t tell him. It’d mean I’d had to relive those horrible memories. And the horrific truth.

He took my silence as a yes. His green eyes grew darker; his jaw clenched. There was a powerful and dangerous aura coming from him. It suffocated the light out of the area.

The rational part of me wanted to run. Flashing red lights went off in my head—saying there was something off about his sudden demeanor. He looked ready to murder someone. But then there was another part of me that was enamored by this new side. I got a glimpse of his darker side when he was telling Raegan off. I was too worried about Georgia to focus on it.

What was I even saying though?

Lazarus was mysterious and dangerous. He was not somebody I should want.

“Who was it?” He gritted out, furiously.

I gulped and tried to push myself out of his hold. Unconsciously, I just knew he wouldn’t hurt me. But the logical part of me was terrified.

“L—Lazarus,” I stuttered, my voice trembling. “P—please let me go.”

He clearly didn’t like what I said. Lazarus pulled me closer to him, encasing me in a protective manner.

He growled a no.

“Celeste?” A familiar voice called. I snapped my head in her direction, shocked to see her, with her arms linked with another man’s. The man was around 5”11 with greying hair and wrinkles around his eyes. He gazed at my mother with adoration.

She was out on a date. She lied to me.

My eyes shone with hurt.

“Mom, what’s going on?” I asked, darting my eyes between them. Lazarus was completely forgotten about. So was the scarred man.

“I—um,” She looked anxious. Was she going to feed me another lie?

“Are you on a date? Are you seeing this man?” I fired questions at her, my voice wavering. My mom hadn’t been on a date since dad died. She felt like she was betraying him. I didn’t know how to feel about this. I was beyond hurt she lied to me about this. Was she going to forget about dad now?

She stepped closer and tried to reach out to me. I swatted her away, angrily. At that moment, I lost who I was. I had resurfaced and I was angry and in pain.

Lazarus’s hands fell from me. Despite what he was feeling towards me, he knew I was not in the right state of mind.

I was a mess. I was everywhere.

“I didn’t mean to lie to you,” She whispered, dropping her head ashamed. The man immediately comforted her; his light brown eyes concerned.

“How long?” My voice tore through the silence, coldly.

She pinched her thin lips together firmly and dragged a hand through her short hair. A nervous habit.

How long?” I pressed, knowing her reluctance to tell me meant it was a while.

“A year and a half,” She finally admitted, casting her gaze to the ground.

I stumbled backward in shock. A year and a half? They had been together for that long? My mind couldn’t even comprehend it. I didn’t know what to feel.

Hurt. I definitely felt that. And fury. So much fury. She didn’t tell me for so long. Why? Did she think I would hate her? I might not have if she told me sooner but now, I couldn’t help but feel hateful. She kept this from me.

“Celeste, you have to know that I was planning to tell you,” She revealed, desperately.

She attempted to grab my arm, but I sent a frosty look her way.

“How could you?” I murmured, my voice breaking. I was crumbling. The world around me was collapsing. “How could you lie to me?”

Her chin wobbled. She knew I was slipping away.

“Sweetie, I have a reason for not telling you. I was worried you wouldn’t accept him,” She told me. I glanced at the man who was the reason behind all of this with absolute hatred. I despised him.

“I can’t be around you right now,” I shook my head, wrenching myself out of Lazarus’s hold. It was only now my mom noticed he was there. Her eyes clouded over with confusion. “Don’t bother waiting for me at home.”

With that, I stomped off with a heavy heart.

Lazarus quickly caught up to me, using his extremely long legs. I sometimes forgot how tall he was. His legs were so long he could catch up to me so fast.

He didn’t touch me, but he remained close enough that I could feel his body heat. In the distance, I could hear my mom yelling my name. I didn’t turn back.

I only realized as I was walking away from my mother that I was heading back to the café, back to where I saw the scarred man. So, I quickly changed my direction and headed towards the only park we had in this town. Lazarus didn’t question it, he simply followed me. In fact, he remained silent throughout the walk. I was glad he realized I was deep in thought. He knew I needed to think about what happened—to get my bearings.

I picked a bench close to the park and plonked myself down. Lazarus sat beside me, gracefully. He didn’t sit too close to me, thankfully.

For quite some time, we simply sat there, deep in our thoughts.

I felt so overwhelmed. There was only so much a seventeen-year-old could handle. I wanted to break down and cry about everything. About how my life sucked. About how I wished things were easier.

Eventually, I drew in a breath and wiped away the first tear I felt crawl down my face.

As if he could smell my salty tears, Lazarus whipped his head in my direction and immediately came to comfort me.

“Celeste, are you okay?” He asked, quietly.

I nodded my head, refusing to make eye contact with him. If I did, he would know I was lying.

“Don’t lie to me,” He was instantly on my case. “Not about this. I just want to help you.”

He said that before. The day at Winston’s diner, when I had a flashback, he was concerned about me. He comforted me and told me that he had demons too.

“I don’t really want to think about what happened with my mom,” I said, in a sharp tone. My mood had done a one-eighty. I was pulling a Georgia—closing myself off. “Not yet, at least.”

He accepted that. “Okay, what about earlier? You were running away from something. You looked petrified, Celeste. What were you running from?”

It’s not what. It’s who. I wanted to correct him. But I didn’t. It would only lead to more questions. It was all about questions.

“Something,” I answered, vaguely.

He sighed but didn’t push.

“Did it have something to do with what happened at the diner a few weeks ago?” He quizzed, interested.

I didn’t deny it. His jaw ticked. He wanted to get more information, but I wouldn’t tell him anymore.

“I won’t push you; I know you aren’t ready for that. I just…I want you to know that I will be here for you. No matter what,” He said, supportively. I thought about what he said. It felt nice having him on my side. Did that mean he wouldn’t avoid me anymore?

“Thanks,” I murmured.

“Do you want me to stay with you?”

I instantly nodded my head. No, I didn’t want him to leave. I didn’t want to be alone. I was afraid the scarred man would return. If he was gone, there was nobody around to help me. I would have to face him alone.

“Please, stay,” I begged, briefly making eye contact with him.

His eyes softened. He relaxed in his seat and didn’t say anything else.

Sitting with Lazarus put me at ease. Lazarus could protect me. I knew he could.

So, I relaxed too and stared into the distance, watching the world pass me by.

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you all had a good week! Autumn is finally upon us! It's so cold, I love wrapping myself up in my wooly jumpers. My next update will be Monday. Have a great weekend guys!

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