“I can literally see the fire lighting up in his eyes, can see the flames licking at his iris, asking to be freed.”
The more time I spend with Lincoln, the more I just know that I am in trouble. Deep trouble. Because not only is he good-looking as hell, there is also just something about him. Despite all the darkness surrounding him, he has a kind and good heart. It just went through a lot.
I know he’s still wondering why I’m doing this. Hell, I’m wondering why I didn’t just send him home the first morning. Probably because he doesn’t seem to have a home, to begin with.
It’s not that I pity him. I really don’t. It just pains me to see him this way, to see anyone this way, when they don’t have to be.
“So, what about your brothers?” He asks me from the sofa, a glass of vodka in his hands.
We’ve been playing this game for the last few days now. I initiate a conversation to understand what’s going on with him, and he always turns it on me, obviously in the hopes of getting me to shut up. Well, too bad I don’t have to hide anything. Except for that one thing, obviously.
“What about them?” I reply with a smile, sipping my own gin tonic from the lounge chair.
“You have... four?”
“Five.” I correct him.
“Five brothers... Wow. And how are they?”
A heavy sigh escapes my throat as I think about my brothers. It’s tough to find just one way to describe them, they’re all so different.
“Well... Max and Finn are twin brothers, they’re four years older than me. Max is very protective and stubborn, while Finn... Well, Finn hasn’t had it easy, it took him a while to figure out that he’s gay and he struggled a lot in his teen years, fighting with accepting his sexuality. We grew closer, back then...”
I can’t help but take a deep breath, remembering these difficult times. Mom and dad have always been supportive of us, and they never steered us in any direction regarding our sexuality, but Finn was still afraid of how our family would react. It wasn’t easy for him, coming out to his four brothers.
“Max is the one that was here a few days ago, right?”
“Yeah. He’s the reason you had to hide in the pantry.” I smile, and it almost seems like he’s smirking as well, even though he does a great job at hiding it.
“What was that all about?” He asks with a sincere look on his face.
“Well... As I said, Max is very protective. Overprotective, almost. Not just of me, but also of Finn. And, well, with me being the only daughter of the Esperanza family... Let’s just say nothing goes by unnoticed. And I don’t want them involved in this, I don’t want them asking questions I can’t give them an answer to.”
I make sure to look at him when I say the last sentence, hoping to get some sort of reaction out of him. It has been four days since that morning, four days since his breakdown. He slept a lot since then, trying to avoid my questions. I’m glad he avoided any physical contact, at least. I don’t know what the hell that was, that particular morning, I just know it can’t happen again.
“Yeah, well, I get that... And what about your other brothers?” He eyes the glass in his hand, obviously avoiding my hint, again.
“You know what? It’s time to play a game.” I get up from the lounge chair, deciding that I’m tired of following the rules to a game I did not intend to play, to begin with.
“Yeah. Get up.” I order as I move the couch table away from the carpet, placing the vodka and gin bottles on the floor before sitting down cross-legged right in front of it, the bottle of tonic water and a long drink glass in my hands.
“What are you doing?” His voice sounds amused when he raises an eyebrow at me, but I just shrug as I take the last sip of my gin tonic before filling it up again.
“We’re playing a drinking game.”
“A drinking game? Are you serious?” He gets up from the couch before moving towards me, not sitting down though, just standing in front of me with that glass of vodka in his hands.
“Are you sure that’s such a good idea?” He asks again, and now I’m the one raising an eyebrow at him as I cross my arms in front of my chest.
“Are you trying to tell me you know about the difference between a good idea and a bad one?”
I know I’m challenging him, and I know it’s unfair. But I can literally see the fire lighting up in his eyes, can see the flames licking at his iris, asking to be freed.
He studies me for a moment, an excruciatingly long moment, his light blue eyes defying and challenging me as they try to stare me down. I just hold his gaze, though, making him work for it. I might not get anywhere with this, and it might actually be a spectacularly bad idea, but I have to try.
“What are the rules?” His eyes narrow when he finally gives in, and I have to suppress the huge grin on my face when he sits down in front of me, his legs mirroring mine in tailor-fashion.
“Kind of like truth or dare, without the dare. We ask each other questions, and if we don’t want to answer, then we have to drink.”
“And why are we playing this game?”
“Because I am done with being the only one who answers questions, Lincoln.” I try using a stern voice, wanting to get my point across.
“Well, prepare to have me drunk in a matter of minutes, then.”
I know what he’s doing. I know he’s trying to be an asshole to make me lose my interest in what happened to him. But I won’t play that game with him.
“Fine with me.” After quickly mixing my gin tonic I then raise my head to look at Lincoln, whose eyes are burning straight into my head, obviously still challenging me.
“Alright, I go first... What kind of surgeon are you?”
“Pediatrics.” He answers without hesitation.
“Okay... And why did you want to become a pediatric surgeon?” I look at him, his eyes still burning and questioning mine, until he suddenly shakes his head, almost like he’s shaking off a memory.
“That’s one hell of a question.” And I expect him to just drink, but to my surprise he’s just staring into the liquid in his glass, a deep sigh escaping his lips before he speaks up.
“I always wanted to be a doctor. My father was a cardiothoracic surgeon, my mother a gynecologist. It’s just part of the family, I guess.”
“Why pediatrics, though?” I can’t help but ask again, tiptoeing around the right subjects, but he just raises a disapproving eyebrow at me.
“That’s three questions in a row.”
“Well, sue me.” I take a sip of my drink as I wink at him, hoping that he’s loosening up a little, but instead he just heaves another sigh.
“Long story short... I always felt like children are the ones that are worth saving the most. They still have so much ahead of them. So much to experience.” And I see the pain running across his features when he says it, letting me know there’s more behind that story than just the facts he stated.
“Okay, It’s my turn now.” He speaks before I can ask even further, but I just nod my head at him, knowing that I need to play this game to keep him talking.
“Who is your favorite brother?”
I can’t help but laugh at the question because that’s surely not what I expected.
“You don’t even know them... Why do you care?”
“I don’t know. Humor me.” He actually smirks at me, and I shake my head laughing as I think about it.
“Well, honestly. It’s difficult to say. I love them all equally, of course. But if I had to choose the one I have the most in common with... It’d probably be Finn.”
“Because he’s into men?” He blurts out, and I can’t help but lean back with wide eyes as I grin at him.
“Oh my God, Lincoln, did you just... Make a joke?”
But he just shrugs as an answer, trying way too hard to hide the smile on his face.
“Wow. I’m impressed.” I raise my glass at him, making him scoff as he chinks glasses with me.
“Shut up...” He murmurs, but I just keep on grinning as I take a sip of my drink, completely ignoring the rules of the game.
“Okay, my turn again...”
“I believe it’s my turn, still.” The challenge is obvious in his eyes, but I just nod my head, letting him take the reigns on that one.
“Alright...” He regards me for a second, and I see the way he contemplates which question to ask me. “When your brother was here I couldn’t help but overhear something.”
I immediately tense up. I have an idea of what he might refer to, and there’s not an ounce of me that wants to dive into that topic.
“He said you haven’t seen your parents for a while. Every time we talked about them before you said that you are very close to them, though... So... What happened?” He leans forward, his intense blue eyes drilling straight into me, provoking me on a whole new level.
Usually, I’d say there’s no way in hell I am answering this question. It’s simply none of his business - but I’d fool myself if I acted like I wasn’t all up into his business as well. If I do want to get to the bottom of whatever is going on with him, which I for some reason desperately intend to do, I have to give him my trust. The best way to find out if you can trust somebody if to trust them. My mom always says that to me, I think it’s Hemingway or someone like that. Someone who knew what he was talking about, just like my mother.
“Well, as I said, Max is very protective of me. He’s not the only one, though. Every single one of my five brothers is protective of me, some more than others, but none of them reach the level of protectiveness my father holds over me. He has his reasons, don’t get me wrong, but he took it a step too far a few weeks ago. He basically stripped me of my autonomy, and that made me angry. Still makes me angry.”
I can literally feel the anger I’m still feeling inside my heart. My parents mean the world to me, and even though I adore my mother with all that I have, my dad has always been the one who understood me the most, who understood who I am as a person. I even look like him. Mom always said the genetics reversed with us, my brothers having my mom’s features while I look just like my dad.
“Usually we have a weekly dinner every Friday, to make sure we see each other regularly. But I just couldn’t go there without flying off the handle... I’m stubborn. And I have a temper.” I admit to him with a thin smile on my face, but he doesn’t show much of a reaction, he simply nods, like he just understands what I’m talking about.
“What happened the first night you spent here? How did you cut your hand?” Deciding that I need to have my trust reciprocated I point to his right hand, which still has a bandage covering his palm, but already looks much better than before.
He takes a deep breath as he studies it again, once more closing his fingers into fists before opening them again. I watch as he takes a sip of his drink, and I think that this is the point where he decides to skip the answer, but then he exhales, his eyes focused on the hand when he speaks.
“Honestly? I don’t know. I don’t remember much.” His voice becomes quiet when he swings the liquid inside the glass, the sound of the ice cubes dancing around filling the atmosphere.
“Okay.” I decide not to press him further, knowing that this is a delicate situation, after all.
“Why did you do it?” He suddenly looks up at me, his eyes deserted and filled with a hurricane of emotions at the same time.
“Why did you stop me, at the bridge? You could’ve just minded your own business. Lived your life like nothing happened.” His eyes pierce into my own, like he’s trying to find the answer to a question he doesn’t dare ask.
“I told you already, I...”
“No, not the bullshit answer. The real one.” He’s suddenly a completely different person, his body leaning forward as he challenges me again, his tone firm and serious.
“I don’t know what you...”
“You know exactly what I mean, Mia.” His voice is barely a whisper now as he invades my personal space even more, his eyes chasing me down like a predator on the hunt.
“No, Lincoln, I don’t.” The air around us is filled with so much tension, it’s almost impossible to breathe.
“You recognized me from somewhere, didn’t you?” He whispers again, his breath traveling down my chest as he places the glass on the floor next to him, his face only inches from mine now. I have to swallow from the intensity in his voice and gaze, although I try not to give away the effect his attitude and his words have on me.
“Why did you want to jump, Lincoln?” I try to divert the question.
“Why didn’t you want me to?” He retorts.
We hold each other’s stare for a second, my heart beating so rapidly in my chest, I think it might burst out of my rib cage if I’m not careful. The amount of suffering and misery in his eyes catches me off guard when he suddenly places his fingers on my chin, directing my face to look at him properly.
“What happened to you?” I’m the one whispering now, searching his eyes for some sort of an answer, even though I’m fairly certain I won’t get one.
His adam apple bobs up and down as he swallows hard, his fingers tightening their grip on my chin as he leans forward, resting forehead against mine as he inhales deeply, the feeling of his breath tickling my skin sending my body into high alert.
“Why do you care so fucking much?” The grief in his voice, in the energy emanating off of him, is so astonishingly palpable, I just want to catch it and lock it away to try and save this goddamn riddle of a man in front of me.
“Because I do, Lincoln. I just do.”
The words linger in the atmosphere around us, filling it with undeniable friction as we just keep our stance, breathing in each other’s scent, each other’s beings... I don’t even know what to do anymore. The closer he gets to me, both emotionally and physically, the more confused I get. Not even by him, but by myself.
“What is wrong with me, Mia?” His words are spoken so inaudibly, it almost seems like he’s asking himself rather than me, and I can literally feel the despair in his aura when he suddenly rests his head against my shoulder, his body trembling as he wraps his arms around my waist. He’s not crying, he’s just holding onto me, squeezing me so tightly it almost seems like he’s trying to keep his grip to reality.
“I don’t know, Lincoln... I don’t know. But I’ll help you find out. I promise.”