Crossroads

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Chapter 16

Lincoln

“I’m making a hell of a lot of promises lately. Let’s just hope I can keep all of them...”

PAST

Looking at the marble stone in front of me, I can feel how my sanity slowly threatens to slip away, the only thing keeping me grounded being Mia’s hands tightly wrapped around my own.

“Hey, mom... Hey, dad.” I clear my throat while Mia places our intertwined hands on my shoulder, giving it a firm squeeze as she squats behind me. “This is Mia. She uh... She quite literally saved my life,” I speak in a quiet voice, suddenly feeling absolutely overwhelmed from emotion. “You’d like her. Especially you, mom.”

I can’t help the smile that tugs at the corner of my lips, the words being more than true. Mom has always been a powerful woman, fought for women’s rights, and saved lives on a daily basis. The similarities between her and Mia are uncanny in that aspect, both of them being examples for strong and self-assured women.

“Hi. It’s so great to finally meet you,” Mia whispers when I don’t say anything for a while, and I turn around to see her shoot a kind smile at the marble stone on the grass. “That’s quite the man you raised there,” she exclaims, and I somehow can’t help but chuckle at her words, knowing it’s exactly how my father would’ve reacted at them.

“I told you, you’d like her...”

“I have to admit, I am pretty likable.” Mia winks at the gravestone.

And I can hear my father chuckling in my head, I can see how he shakes his head at this situation, that trademark fatherly grin on his face. “You definitely got yourself a diamond there, son,” he’d say. He once told me women are the reason men actually manage to do shit. And I believed him immediately, knowing that my mother saved his ass more than once in his lifetime.

“I’m going to give you some privacy, okay?” Mia interrupts my thoughts, and I realize I must have sat there for a while without saying anything.

“No, you don’t need...”

“It’s okay, Link,” she interrupts me, “I’ll be right by the bench over there.” She points to the green park bench a few feet away.

To be honest, I don’t want her to leave my side. But maybe she’s right, maybe I need to have a minute alone with them. “Okay...”

She squeezes my shoulder before walking over to the bench, taking out her notebook and then starting to scribble something down in it. It’s hard not to look at her the whole time, but I manage to pry my eyes away from her, focusing on the stone in front of me.

And as I sit there, my knees feeling cold from the wet grass beneath them, I suddenly feel this immense weight on my chest, the guilt crashing down on me like an avalanche.

“I’m so sorry... For everything... For calling you that night, for not appreciating you enough when you were there, but most of all for not seeing you sooner. I know I should’ve been at the funeral. I just... I couldn’t,” I sob out the words, “I couldn’t face them all, their looks of pity, of shame... They blame me as much as I do, I know that. And I got what I deserved with everything that transpired afterward...”

Not only did I lose a patient and my parents that day, I also lost every penny I had. “Why didn’t you just tell me, mom?” I can’t help the accusation in my voice. I just don’t understand it... My parents said they paid for my education, which shouldn’t have been an issue with how much money they made. But apparently they hadn’t. Mom donated a lot of money while dad spent it on research to develop a new device that could help children with congenital heart disease. They wanted to pay off the debts as soon as things had settled, the hope that dad’s device could save lives was too great. It was supposed to go into the testing phase when the accident happened, and his research partner somehow managed to strip him of all rights, using my father’s death to make a shit ton of money and leaving me with nothing at all.

I had to sell my childhood home to pay for my tuition, ironically the day I transferred the hundreds of thousands of dollars I ended up on that bridge, feeling like a total failure. Because not only did I kill my patient, I also brought death to my parents, sold their house, and couldn’t even rescue dad’s name for the revolutionary device that is now in the middle of its last testing stage.

It felt like I didn’t have a choice anymore that day. My parents were gone, my childhood home was gone, I lost my apartment because I couldn’t pay rent since I didn’t go to work anymore... It was a fucking disaster. I was a fucking disaster.

But then there she was. That brunette warrior princess, picking up the pieces and gluing me back together like a broken porcelain doll.

And I can’t help but feel like I don’t deserve it. Looking at her now, the way she bites her lips when she concentrates on the word she scribbles into her notebook, she’s just too good for me. Too beautiful, too kind, too good-hearted, and way too generous. Never once did she ask me if I wanted to go back to work, considering I’ve been living with her for almost three months now and haven’t paid a penny for anything... All I do is take her energy, time, and compassion. I can’t give her much. What do I have to offer, really...

I know she took a break from her studies, though she didn’t tell me why. Or maybe I didn’t ask. I don’t know. Fuck, I really need to focus on caring for her as well. All I do is take, take, take.

I can’t help but feel like a burden.

“Now, son, don’t you insult us like that. It was hard work raising you, let me tell ya!” is what my mom would say to that. It’s what she said when I failed my first exam and felt just as useless, but she always knew what to say, knew how to pick me up. I didn’t deserve her as much as I don’t deserve Mia right now.

“I’m sorry, mom... I tried making you proud, but I failed. Look what I did, tried taking the life you created...” I wipe the tears from my face. “I’m so sorry. I’m not as strong as you taught me to be. I can’t do it without you two. I don’t even know who I am anymore now that you’re gone.”

It’s so painfully true. It feels like someone stripped me of half of who I am when they took my parents away from me, when I took them away...

“I promise, I promise I’ll get better. I promise I’ll do everything I can to continue on in your name... You deserve it.” A sudden sense of responsibility rushes through me, and I find myself getting up, my hand resting on the gravestone for a second. “I’ll come and see you again, soon. I promise... ”

I’m making a hell of a lot of promises lately. Let’s just hope I can keep all of them...

Mia smiles at me when she sees me walking back to her, the notepad quickly disappearing in her bag as she stands up.

And I don’t know what’s exactly coming over me right this moment, but I get this almost painful urge to feel her, which is why I can’t help but pick up the pace, my hands immediately cupping her face as soon as I reach her, and the second my fingers touch her cheeks I crash down on her, my lips chasing her own like it was the last thing they’d ever do.

She staggers back a little, and I steady her by moving one hand to the small of her back, pressing her body against mine as I keep on attacking her, the sole feeling of need and lust running through my veins. “Li...” she tries to interrupt me, but I don’t let her, I just keep on stealing every breath she so desperately tries to take. Finally, her arms wrap around my neck as well and she gives in, letting me feel her as much as I need to. And I do, I breathe her in, basically devour her and mark her as my own, my mind going completely blank and only focussing on her.

But after a while, she actually manages to pull back, and when I try to chase her again she just places her palm on my mouth, her now even darker eyes immediately settling on my own. “Link... Breathe...”

I do as she says, breathing in through my nose when she takes the hand from my lips, her cheeks flushed when she speaks again, “That’s it.”

She smiles as she places her palm on my cheek, and I immediately close my eyes, just breathing in her scent, bathing in the feeling of her fingers on my skin. “Sorry...” I mumble, even though I’m really not.

“It’s okay. Come on, let’s go home. You’re probably exhausted.”

Only now do I realize that I am tired as hell. I must have sat there for hours, given the sun already wandered in the sky.

As we make our way back to the car Mia slips her hand in mine, and I immediately feel this train of thought basically plowing through my brain. What if I’m bad for her? What if I’m keeping her from following her dreams? Our relationship, if that’s what this is, is built on the sole foundation of her saving me, day in and day out. What if she gets tired of it? Tired of me? And what if she doesn’t, what if she stays with me because she feels like I’d do something stupid again if she left me?

What if I’m just meant to be alone?

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