Crossroads

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Chapter 32

Chapter 32: Mia

“That’s the thing about love. It’s terrifying and fragile, and only the most courageous of people get to experience it the way it should be: Intense, consuming, and utterly life-changing.”

PRESENT

I’m still coming to terms with everything that just happened.

The rage is still so prominent in my veins that I’m having a hard time suppressing it, that fire inside of me just wants to burn everything in my way to the ground.

Because I simply don’t understand. I’m so utterly confused by the events of this day, my brain feels like it’s about to explode from trying to make sense of everything.

“Mia…” Lincoln’s voice makes me realize we’re still in the zoo, and I suddenly feel like I’m in a terrible storm, fog and clouds surrounding me while I try to get clear vision.

He takes my hand, the familiar and yet so painful touch somehow jumpstarting my brain. I look up at him, facing those apologetic eyes with a sigh. I’m usually very good at crisis management, but this just demands so much of my attention that I can’t seem to come up with a plan.

“Let me take you home, please,” Link says, and I just nod my head at him, slowly coming to my senses.

I did say we needed to talk, and we really do. I don’t intend to postpone any more talks. The truth needs to come out; I don’t care which way.

And so we find ourselves in a dark blue Volkswagen only a few minutes later, the soothing hum of the engine somewhat calming my nerves. I look out the window, watching the roads pass by, just letting my mind run blank for a minute. But then I realize we’re in an area I haven’t seen for a while now, and I turn my head to look at Lincoln, his eyes firmly set on the road.

“I moved.”

My words make him look at me, and he blinks a few times before he asks, “You did?”

I nod, not really wanting to discuss the topic further, “Yeah.”

And I can see in his eyes that he knows the reason I moved out. It’s pretty obvious, and not hard to figure out, especially for him. I don’t want to get into the topic though; I don’t want to relive it all.

After I give him my new address it’s only a few more minutes until we arrive at my new apartment building. It’s a small house with only four apartments in it, two of which are rented by elderly ladies. I have never seen the guy who lives in the other apartment, Dad said he’s a nice man, though.

I open the door to my flat, the scent of vanilla candles still lingering in the air when I step inside. Lincoln is right on my heels, quietly closing the door behind us. And I don’t know what it is, if it’s the trusted space of my own home, or Link’s presence right behind me, but the second I hear the click of the door I feel the tears streaming down my face, rage now turning into pure and utter sorrow.

A sob escapes my throat, and I immediately place my palm on my lips, trying to suppress the sound, unfortunately to no avail. When Lincoln places his hand on my shoulder I almost flinch, but I remember my therapist’s words. I remember the exercises we agreed on.

And even though I haven’t really seen him in two years, it still feels so familiar when he wraps his arms around me, his scent instantly invading my senses. I turn around and let him embrace me fully as I take deep breaths, my head resting on his chest while the tears keep flowing down my cheeks.

I don’t remember the last time someone held me like this. Probably my dad when Pops died. I worked a lot on myself since then, worked on my emotions, on feeling them more intensely, on showing them better. Truth is, Lincoln wasn’t the only one who had issues back then, it just took a while to see that.

“I’m sorry…” he whispers while stroking my hair, and I take another deep breath before leaving his embrace, quickly wiping the tears off my face when I nod to the living room.

“Come on. Let’s sit down.”

The new grey sofa is only one of the things I bought when I moved here. Well, I don’t think I brought a single piece of furniture from the old place. I needed a clean cut.

“Mia, can I…” Link sighs, “Can I explain? I’ll answer all your questions. I just want you to know why I did what I did.”

I nod my head, not knowing what else to say, and honestly still trying to sort my mind. This is all a lot.

“Okay, thank you…” he nervously runs a hand through his hair before he sits up straight, his eyes piercing right into mine when he continues, “First of all, I’m sorry. Really, Mia, I am. I should have asked more, should have listened more, should have just… Just not acted so impulsively. I just thought I was protecting you. I mean, you spent most of your time with me, your entire life seemed to revolve around me. And it didn’t really seem like… Like we could get anywhere in the long run.”

The fact that he speaks so openly about his thoughts and feelings back then shows me he has changed a lot. I can see it in his eyes, too. They’re not as haunted anymore, and he generally seems more confident, more self-assured.

“When Max came to see me,” he speaks again, and I can’t help but tense up at the mention of my brother, “I swear I was ready to fight for us, Mia. I was. But the way he said it just seemed logical, and I believed what he said. That I was holding you back, that I was just a millstone around your neck. I couldn’t live with that.”

I can’t help but sigh at his words. Because I get it. I understand his motivation. But that doesn’t mean it was right, or that it was his decision to make.

“Had I known that your grandfather… Fuck, Mia. I wouldn’t have done that, I’m so fucking sorry I put you through that…”

There are tears in his eyes when he sighs deeply, burying his head in his hands, his fingers running through his hair in a soothing manner.

“That’s why I didn’t say it, though.” My words make him look up at me, his wide eyes studying me, furrowed brows a mirror to his confusion.

“What?”

“I could’ve told you what happened. I mean, you even asked. But I could tell you wanted to leave, and I surely didn’t want to stop you by pulling the pity card,” I explain, and this time his eyes widen even more, realization dawning on him when he shakes his head.

“You actually believed that?”

Now I’m the one furrowing my brows, tilting my head when I ask, “Believed what?”

“That I wanted to leave. I mean…”

“You made some pretty convincing arguments,” I interrupt him.

He must remember the things he said that day, the guilt in his eyes slamming right into my heart, reminding me of the heartache I endured.

“I’m so goddamn sorry for saying all of that bullshit… I was panicking. I felt like I needed to do what I could to make sure you’d let me go.”

“You felt like you had the right to make a decision for me,” I feel the need to correct him.

Because I’m sick of this, the weight of this day has me absolutely drained. I don’t have any energy left for bullshit excuses.

“You acted like you regretted us. Like you regretted me. Like we were a big mistake. And I can’t deny that that fucking hurt, Lincoln. Much more than the other fucked up things you said.”

“Fuck, Mia… I didn’t think you’d believe that shit. I thought you knew that I…” he sighs, obviously fighting with himself.

“Why didn’t you tell me my brother came to see you? We agreed on honesty, back then, didn’t we?” I ask when he doesn’t say more, desperately needing answers to my questions.

“And you mean to tell me you were always honest and upfront with me, too?”

I can’t deny that I’m surprised by his question. With every word he says it becomes more and more obvious just how much he has changed. I don’t feel like I need to guide him. He knows what he’s saying, feeling, knows the impact of his actions.

“I never lied to you.”

“That’s not what I asked,” he insists, his blue eyes portraying that he’s just as tired of bullshit answers as I am.

We study each other for a moment, our gazes locking, diving deep into the other’s soul in an attempt to find what we have been looking for: Straight answers.

And I realize that, no matter how things continue after today, I owe him this. I owe him honesty, straight-forwardness, and open communication. Because it’s the same thing I need.

“I didn’t tell you about things that were going on, or about the fact that I knew you before, that’s true. I didn’t want to burden you with things that seemed unnecessary.”

“Yeah, I figured as…”

“No,” I interrupt him, “That’s not all, though. I had my issues, too, Link. I wasn’t good at talking about my problems, had issues with sharing my pain, with letting people see that I’m not invincible. It wasn’t just you. It was me, too.”

I’m pretty sure this is the most honest conversation I have ever had. With anyone. And it just shows much both of us have changed. Because as much as it hurt back then, especially those words that tore me apart, he was right in one aspect.

We weren’t good for each other. Not the way we were.

But that doesn’t mean that my love for him wasn’t real. That my heart didn’t shatter in millions of pieces when he left, and I still remember that pain like it happened yesterday.

“You have changed,” he suddenly says, a faint smile playing on his lips.

“So have you.”

He nods his head, his fingers on the couch slowly moving over to mine until just our fingertips touch, the sensation being enough to fire a spark straight through my spine.

“I’ve missed you,” he admits with a whisper, his voice acting as a mirror of his emotions, the longing being so obvious and palpable that I can literally feel what he means.

Because I can’t deny that I missed him like hell. As much as therapy helped me to get over the heartbreak, to observe and change my coping mechanisms, nothing could ever make me stop thinking of him.

“I’ve missed you, too,” I answer, even though the words scare the shit out of me.

“I should’ve told you…” he sighs, his fingers slowly brushing against mine, covering my hand with his own.

“Should’ve told me what?”

He doesn’t need to say it though. I can see it in his eyes, feel it from the touch of our fingers, because it runs straight through my veins as well.

“I should’ve told you that I loved you. It’s the only reason I did all of that shit… I loved you so much I couldn’t fucking breathe when you were gone. Hell, I couldn’t breathe when you were there. I still can’t. You’re still all I think about, day and night. It scares me, Mia. It’s terrifying to feel something like that.”

That’s the thing about love. It’s terrifying and fragile, and only the most courageous of people get to experience it the way it should be: Intense, consuming, and utterly life-changing.

But as much as I know that, and as much as his words prove that he worked on his issues, that he changed, I need to be cautious. Because I gave him my heart once, and it burned me so deeply that I still carry the scars as a reminder of my misplaced trust.

“Mia…” He places his palm on my cheeks when I don’t say anything, and the feeling of his skin on mine instantly awakens something in me, something I tried to avoid, tried to suppress.

“I want you back. I want you in my life, I don’t care how, I just… I want you.”

His honesty takes me aback for a second, it’s so unusual for him, and I have to admit that it’s sexy as hell. I mean, he himself is sexy as hell. It even looks like he’s been working out, and that doesn’t really help matters, either.

“We can’t just go back to the way things were, Lincoln. You said it yourself, we weren’t healthy.”

I try to grasp that straw. Because the truth is, I know I’m a lost cause. I know what I feel and what I want. But I also feel like we need to do things differently this time. I can’t even count the amount of sessions I spent with my therapist talking about that day, about the whole relationship with Lincoln. I’m sure he’ll be as surprised as I am about this turn of events.

“You’re right,” Link nods his head, scooting closer to me until we’re only inches apart, “We need to change things. But I know one thing that doesn’t need to change…” His hand on my cheek secures me when he inches closer, my heart thundering in my chest when his lips barely brush against mine while he whispers, “This. We don’t need to change this. You feel this, Mia. I know you do.”

I hate the fact that he still has that effect on me, that his touch still makes me lose my mind. Because I want him so badly that it hurts, the longing in my heart involuntarily sends me closer to him, breathing in his igniting scent. And it’s almost as if he expected it, as if he knew what my body does before I do, because he cups my neck at that exact moment before he crashes down on me with so much purpose, one might think he owns me.

In a split second we’re a mess of intertwined limbs, stolen breaths, and fighting tongues, holding on to each other for dear life. My sanity seems to slip away when this train of emotions slams right into me, almost knocking the air out of my lungs if it weren’t for Lincoln’s kisses keeping me alive.

“I’ll prove it to you, Mia,” he whispers into our kiss, “I’ll prove that we’re actually good, that we’re made for each other. Even if it’s the last thing I’ll ever do…”

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