Chapter 23 - Just breathing
I whispered. We'd been sitting in a gas station parking lot in silence for close to ten minutes.
"Did he hurt you?"
Beau's voice cracked as he finally looked over at me.
I shook my head.
"But he touched you?"
"He tried to kiss me. I pushed him away, you know the rest."
I looked away, I didn't want to see his reaction.
"I want to kill him."
I thought he was going to. Novack's face was morphing into another color when Beau finally let go of him.
"You're sorry? Why?"
"Because I had a gut feeling something was up with him. I saw it in his eyes when he looked at you, and I didn't do anything about it."
"What could you have done? "
"I don't know, something."
He scrubbed both hands down his face.
He took a deep breath and put his Bronco in drive.
"Where are we going?"
"To file a report."
I guess that made sense, I didn't want Novack getting away with anything. My stomach churned as I thought of all the other girls he'd probably tried something similar with.
"Wait, will you get in trouble?"
"I doubt it."
I hated the idea of him getting reprimanded because of me.
"I know the police chief."
We pulled into the station a few minutes later but neither of us moved to get out.
"Tell me you're okay."
I turned toward him and he finally looked me in my eyes again.
There was a flash of something different in his eyes. It was gone just as quickly as it came but it made my heart hurt.
"We should go in now."
He said the words without breaking eye contact.
I was the first to look away, I turned and opened my door then climbed out onto the sidewalk. Beau opened the door to the station and I went in first. He was close behind me and I knew that was where he would stay from now on anytime we were together.
"Is chief Holmes available?"
He asked the lady behind the desk.
Wait. . . Holmes?
"I can call him for you. Can I ask your name?"
"Beau Holmes, his grandson."
He had never spoken about anyone in his family. Not to me at least. I breathed deeply and Beau's hand flew up to my back.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
I took another deep breath.
"Just breathing, Beau."
He nodded but kept his hand on me.
A few minutes later a gray-haired somehow larger version of Beau came barreling down a long hallway.
He called out.
He walked right up to Beau and threw his arms around his grandson. He awkwardly patted his back with one hand.
"Is everything okay?"
The chief asked after he released his grip.
"This is River."
The man's face changed quickly. A grin spread across it and before Beau or I could correct him, he was pulling me into a similar hug.
"It's so good to meet you."
"Slow down, chief. We're here to file a report."
"A report? What happened?"
Beau looked over at me and pursed his lips.
"Can we go to a room?"
"Yeah, of course we can. This way."
He ushered us into the nearest room and shut the door.
I told him the story, then a detective came in and I repeated it over again. Beau sat beside me, clenching and unclenching his fists.
"I'll personally see to it that this is taken care of, don't worry."
Chief Holmes told me. He seemed sweet, just as I expected a grandpa to be. I never had the opportunity to meet either of mine.
"And Beau, you could come around you know? Or call me back."
He smiled lightly but even I could tell he was hurting.
"Thanks, again Cheif."
We got back into the Bronco and I waited for him to start it up but he just fiddled with his keys.
"I know the timing is terrible, but there's a massive surprise for you at home."
I didn't think I could take any more surprises today. My head was pounding and no matter how hard I tried to make it go away, I knew that it wouldn't until I was able to get to my bathroom and completely empty my stomach.
But Beau was nice enough to make sure I had something for my birthday, so I would just suck it up.
"Well, it is my birthday after all."
He drove us home and before I could stop myself I was flinging the door open the second he put the vehicle in park.
"I'm gonna be sick."
I held my hand over my mouth and Beau jumped out and ran around toward me. The very last thing I wanted to do in front of him was puke, but that was exactly what was about to happen.
"Lean over, its okay."
He gathered my hair into one of his massive hands and lightly pushed at my upper back.
I put my hands on my knees and proceeded to empty the contents of my stomach.
Wow, what a birthday.
"Is now a bad time to tell you there are about twenty people inside waiting for you?"
I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and laughed.
"I guess it's as good of a time as any. Think they will mind if I brush my teeth before they sing happy birthday?"
"I doubt it. Come on, birthday girl."
He let go of my hair and put his hand on the small of my back as he guided me up the stairs. I knew it was the medic in him that wanted to help, but I still enjoyed it.
"Oh and one other thing. . ."
He said before the door swung open.
I squeaked before my brother had me in a bear hug.
I looked at Beau, the happiness that poured from him was obvious even through my tear-blurred vision.
"Did you miss me, Riv?"
My brother put me back on my feet.
"Of course I did. Oh my gosh, I'm so glad you're back."
"Good, get in here."
He pulled me inside and right into Taylor's arms.
"Sorry I had to leave you in the dark."
He kissed my cheek and I avoided looking him in the eyes because I knew he would be able to tell that I'd been crying.
We walked into the kitchen where most everyone else had gathered and as I awkwardly greeted them I noticed Beau eyeing me from the hallway. I walked past him and into my bathroom, dying to brush my teeth. I'd just put the toothpaste on the brush when he walked in and shut the door behind him.
"We should wait until tomorrow to tell Jackson. Let's just give in one day without having to worry."
He was right, my brother needed to relax, and telling him what happened today would do just the opposite.
"Do you need me to hold your hair again?"
I smiled although I wasn't sure if he was trying to be funny or not. I finished brushing my teeth before answering him.
"I'm better now."
"Okay well, your party awaits."
He opened the door and I walked out with a fake smile that I hoped no one noticed.
It was close to three hours later when the last person left. And of course, it was Taylor. He knew the second I came back from the bathroom that something was eating at me, I managed to convince him to leave it alone until tomorrow.
My brother was blubbering something to Beau, barely able to string his words together. While Beau was trying to persuade him to go to bed. He had partied a little too hard but if anyone deserved it, it was him.
I walked to my bathroom and turned my shower on. When it was warm enough, I stood under the spray and tried to make the day wash off of me.
It was a weird one.
It was mixed with too many things and I just wanted it to be over.
When the water turned cold, I sighed and climbed out of the shower. After I put my pajamas on and tied up my wet hair I sat down on the edge of my bed wondering when the adrenaline would wear off, I wanted to sleep but my mind was still going wild.
A knock at my door pulled me from my thoughts and I got up to unlock it.
"Can I come in?"
Beau asked as he squeezed the back of his neck.
I stood back so he could walk inside.
He went straight to my record player and started fiddling with it.
"Sorry today was so insanely terrible. And sorry I didn't get you a gift."
I almost laughed.
"Are you joking? Jackson was a pretty good gift and the party."
I was massaging my temples when I heard the beginning chords to Garth Brooks' cover of To Make You Feel My Love and my heart stuttered in my chest.
"Dance with me River."
I turned my head toward him in disbelief. Had he really just asked me that?
He extended his hand and closed the small space that was between us, pulling me from my bed.
I couldn't think of a better way to end the day. I slid my hand into his and he slowly pulled me closer before resting his hands on my hips. I could feel the pressure from each of his fingertips, I could feel the control he had to use to not move them. I reached down and moved his hands to my back before resting my head on his chest. We swayed back in forth in my bedroom in my brother's house as if it was just another night.
As if it was normal.
As if we had done it a thousand times before.
"You're my favorite gift."
I whispered. I wasn't sure that I wanted him to hear me and when the song was almost over and he hadn't responded, I decided I was glad I had spoken the words so low.
"And you're mine.”
Beau said the words just as the song ended, leaned down, and kissed the top of my head then left the room.
He didn't whisper at all. He spoke every word so clearly, they practically sliced through the air. And I didn't miss their meaning.