Crossroads

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Chapter 37

Chapter 37: Mia

“When he looked at me, it felt like I was the only color in an ocean of black - his eyes always found mine like a moth found the light, no matter how dark he became himself.”

PRESENT

I feel so different.

Leaving Lincoln last night was the hardest goddamn thing I ever did, but I knew I had to restrain myself, I knew we couldn’t just jump into things again. Because things needed to be different this time.

I’m glad Jer and Ri will visit me tonight, at least they can keep me from doing something stupid like just showing up at Lincoln’s doorstep. Also, I can’t deny that I neglected both of them, again. Riley helped me through a lot when everything went down in the past. She didn’t even bat an eyelid when I called her a few nights after Pops’s death, not berating me for not calling her for months when I was occupied with Link or anything like that.

Considering she follows the same career path as me, the sole difference being that she wants to work with the tough cases in mental asylums while I want to go into the juvenile area, she understood my motivation back then. She also understood that I didn’t neglect her on purpose, my life just found a different focus for a few months.

She admitted that she hasn’t been the best friend herself in the weeks before everything happened, too. There’s always a reason for someone to pull back - you usually don’t just do that if everything was perfectly fine beforehand. But I felt like Ri had different things to do her own, like she was going through some things she didn’t want to talk about - which would’ve totally been her right. And since she is rather closed off in general I decided to give her space, let her work through it on her own, first.

But luckily we found our way back to each other, and I think she’s the only person, besides my therapist, that knows about most of what happened with Lincoln two years ago now. She played a huge part in coming to terms with things and helped me look for a therapist, too. I can’t thank her enough for that.

“Hey, bee,” Riley grins when she pulls me into a hug, squeezing the life out of me with her tender arms. She refers to me as a working bee, saying that I don’t know how to stop sometimes. Which is not wrong, exactly, so I can’t really fight her on it.

“Hey, Ri. Thanks for coming,” I retort, gasping for air when she pulls back.

“Sure thing! I brought vino!” she shows off the wine bottle in her hand, wiggling her eyebrows with a smile.

“Oh, good… Vino. Yay!” Jeremy steps out from behind her and rolls his eyes before pulling me into his arms as well. “I don’t understand why she insists on bringing wine when she knows we don’t drink that stuff…” he mumbles into my ear and I can’t help but laugh, rubbing his back before I pull away.

“Well, let her. I got everything we need,” I wink, and Jer just gives me another side hug, “That’s why I love you, girl.”

I shoot him a smile before letting them in and closing the door behind my two friends, which is when the typical madness starts. Within a matter of minutes we’re settled on the sofa with chips and crackers and gummy bears, Riley with a glass of wine in her hand while Jer and I enjoy some gin tonic.

“So, how are your exams going?” Jer asks, throwing another chip in his mouth, but Riley immediately reacts by throwing a pillow in his face, spilling some of the gin on his jeans.

I can’t help but laugh when I see the shocked look on Jer’s face when he asks, “What the hell?!”

Rile just shrugs, taking another sip of her wine when she answers, “Dude, you know we don’t talk about exams on movie night!”

“We haven’t even picked a movie yet!” Jer retorts.

“So? It’s still movie night. This is the safe zone,” she waves her hand in a circular motion, trying her best to get her point across.

Jeremy and Ri haven’t been friends as long as the two of us. Ri didn’t like him at first, same as me, but I got over my first impression of him soon enough, while Riley took a bit longer to be convinced of his character. He’s a great guy, a bit quirky but way shier and nerdier than he looks.

“Yeah, geez…” Jer raises his hands in defense, “Forget I said anything. But I will not watch The Devil Wears Prada again, I swear I’m sick of that movie.”

“As if you didn’t enjoy it the last five times we watched,” Ri raises an eyebrow, and I join in, nodding my head in laughter. “She’s right, Jer. I’m pretty sure you can quote more lines than we do.”

“Who is that little person?” Jer asks Riley, pointing at me, proving exactly our point. “Oh, fuck you!” I retort, throwing the pillow Ri threw at him right back at his face.

We end up in a laughing fit before we can even contemplate discussing which movie to watch - it’s the same issue every time, really. Luckily Riley proves to be the bigger, or rather stronger, person when she finally clicks on Lucky Number Slevin on the screen.

Obviously, we all have seen that movie and we all know what happens. It’s a good classic, especially considering I still have to tell these two about Max and Lincoln.

And like he knew I was thinking of him, a text chimes in and my lips instantly break into a bright grin when I see the name on the screen.

“Hey, sola. Just got out of the hospital - had a long day. Hope you have a great time with your friends tonight. Miss you and can’t wait for tomorrow xx Link”

I can’t help but swoon at the message - because honestly, I miss him, too. Like hell. And as much as I said we’d stay out of the danger zone, I really can’t wait for tomorrow.

“Hey, handsome ;) I’m sorry you had an exhausting day, hope you’ll get enough time to recharge. I miss you, too x”

“What is that?!” Riley’s voice makes me snap my head up, and I’m instantly met with both Jer’s and Ri’s wide eyes, studying me with curiosity.

“Woman, what’s up with that grin on your face?” Jer asks, “Who did you just text?!”

And I literally see it on their faces. I can’t keep this from them - not that I want to. I just thought I’d have more time to think about how to approach this.

“Uh, yeah, well… About that…” I sigh, seeing both of them looking at me with arched brows. “I might or might not have gotten somewhat back with Lincoln?”

As I say the words I realize that Link and I haven’t really had the proper talk about us, yet. About what we are, what we want to be, where we want it to go… I know he wants me, and I know I want him, and I guess that’s all that matters for now.

“I’m sorry, what?” Riley asks with wide eyes and a jaw that really needs to be picked up off the floor soon.

Jeremy just looks utterly confused, he only knows part of what happened. He knows Link is somewhat of an ex who just left me without any good reason.

“Yeah, uh, we kind of kept bumping into one another over the past weeks and then, a few days ago…” I can’t help but sigh, thinking of the right way to approach this.

I know Riley and Max were good friends for a pretty long time, we even went to concerts and other events together, just the three of us. I also know that friendship grew apart a few years back, but I don’t know what she’ll think of his involvement in this.

“Mia, cut the bullshit and say it,” Ri demands, obviously having picked up on my hesitation.

“Fine. Max went to see him and threatened him to stay away, that day. He fed his insecurities and played with Link’s mental illness to get him to leave me. I don’t know what exactly he said, but I know it was enough to send Lincoln away back then. Max was the reason he left.”

“Wait, he went to see him the day your grandpa died?” Jeremy asks, and I quickly nod my head, feeling the rage in my veins again.

“Yeah. We had a fight that day and Dad kicked him out so he could clear his head, but it seems like he went somewhere else that day…”

I’m sick of reliving that farce over and over again, to be honest. The fact that my own brother would do something like that hurts me on a deep level, and I don’t know how to fight this particular pain. He’s my blood, he’s my family.

“That fucking piece of shit…” Ri mumbles, her eyes growing wider with every second.

I don’t fail to notice that Jer shoots her weird glances, glances that tell me there’s something going on I don’t know about. And I can’t deny that it bothers me. If there’s one thing I absolutely hate, it’s being kept out of the loop from the people closest to me.

“Ri?” I ask, watching how she falls into some sort of trance, her eyes wide and not really looking at anything until I wave my hand in front of her face, suddenly getting her attention.

She looks back at me and blinks a few times until she finds her focus, then she sighs, shaking her head as she downs her glass of wine.

“You mind telling me what you’re thinking?”

But she doesn’t answer, she just looks at me for a minute before she looks back at Jer, who just pinches the bridge of his nose when Riley looks back at me.

“Nothing. Nothing. I’m thinking you still need to tell me how you got back with Lincoln now!” she says, and the sole mention of his name has my heart picking up a beat in an instant. I can’t deny or hide it, even if I wanted to. Because even though we only met again days ago, it feels like it’s been months already, like I finally came home.

I guess that’s what it is. While I was the one giving Lincoln a roof over the head, a place to live in, he was the one turning it into a home. Because it doesn’t matter where I am, home is where he is. Even after all the heartache and separation - he still holds my heart.

“God, girl. He really got you again,” Jeremy says, looking at me with fascination.

“Yeah, he did. I guess he did…”

That’s how it happens that I forget all about Riley’s weird behavior, about the weird glances my two best friends shared, because I told them all about how Lincoln and I met again. I told them about the meeting with our parents, about how he stood up for me and himself…

And just like that, I miss him again, miss him like crazy. Because after I say goodbye to Jer and Ri, promising to continue this conversation further when Lincoln and I talked some more, I realize something. Feeling the slight buzz of the gin in my veins when I look at the ceiling of my bedroom, it comes to me as clear as day. I miss sleeping next to him; I miss having his arms around me, seeing his way too beautiful face early in the morning…

The truth is, Lincoln got me. He saw me for what I am, deep inside. And when he looked at me, it felt like I was the only color in an ocean of black - his eyes simply always found mine like a moth found the light, no matter how dark he became himself.

I guess it’s that exact thought that has me dialing his number, or maybe it’s the alcohol in my veins, I don’t really know. But I do it, and I can’t hide the smile on my face when he picks up, his sleepy voice sending my heart tumbling inside my chest.

“Grey?” he answers, and I instantly realize he must think this is a work call. Shit. It’s after midnight, he probably didn’t expect a call now.

“Hi. Sorry. It’s just me,” I mutter, the alcohol definitely kicking in now.

“Mia? Is everything okay?” There’s some rustling on the other end of the line and he clears his throat, waiting for an answer.

“Uh.. Yeah,” I sigh, suddenly regretting this phone call. I really can’t do this. “Everything is good, I just…” I run my hand over my face, suddenly feeling awkward as hell. These things are hard for me, and I hate that they are. I really do.

Lincoln doesn’t say anything to my cryptic words, he just waits patiently while I try to get my shit together. “I just missed you?” My words come out as a question, and I feel my heart thundering in my chest in anticipation of his reaction.

I know this looks ridiculous to some, but to me it’s a big deal.

“I missed you, too,” he answers, and I literally hear the smile on his face when he speaks, his voice instantly calming my soul, bringing me home.

“I’m sorry if I woke you. I know you have work tomorrow…”

“No, no,” he interrupts me, “You can wake me any time of any day, even more so if this is what you tell me. I missed you like hell today, I mean it…”

His words aim straight for my heart, settling on its very core, and I can’t help but sigh as I place the phone next to my head, closing my eyes when I turn into my sleeping position. “How was your evening?” he asks, the rustling on the line indicating he’s moving positions as well.

“It was good. Just… Riley was acting weird today.”

“How so?”

I sigh, somehow not knowing how to explain it and if I want to get into it. “We can talk about it tomorrow if you want to. It’s pretty late,” Lincoln suddenly says, and the goddamn alcohol almost sends tears into my eyes with how much he just reads my mind, even over the phone.

“Yeah, thank you. How was your day?” I ask in return, somehow not wanting the phone call to end already.

“Exhausting,” he admits, “But amazing, too. I worked with the cutest little boy today. He was so strong, Mia. It fascinates me, how strong these kids are at such a young age…” The change in his voice is obvious as soon as he speaks about his work, the passion he feels for his profession is envious, really.

That is why I don’t mind listening to him telling me all about his patients of the day, his happiness just radiates straight through the line when he talks, and it’s the most beautiful fucking thing I have ever heard.

“So yeah, that’s how that baby got to keep her legs. It’s amazing…” he sighs.

“I’m glad you’re happy, Lincoln,” I say, close to drifting into the land of dreams.

He’s silent for a moment, and I hear the heaviness of that silence when he answers in a whisper, “Thank you. It’s all I ever wanted for you, too.”

It’s hard not to register the ambiguity of his statement, but I just nod my head, knowing that we both did and wanted things we shouldn’t have. “I know, Link. I know.” I take a deep breath, pulling the covers under my chin when I add, “I feel pretty happy right now.”

My words make him chuckle, and I hear how tired he is from the raspiness in his voice when he answers, “I’ll feel much happier at dinner tomorrow.”

I laugh, somehow having issues to grasp his honesty sometimes. “Same here…”

My words are whispered, and I already feel my mind drifting off when I hear his voice once more, accompanying me into a peaceful slumber when he whispers, “Sleep well, sola.”

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