Pain, the kind of pain I only felt twice in my life. When she left, and when I left. Alexander closes the car door as I lean against the window and stare at the night city lights. Pain, it hits me like the one from my past and I let the tears fall in the shape of it.
Alexander starts the car, slowly driving away from the house and the man I never thought would use the knowledge he has against me.
He calls but I don’t move, his hand holds mine while he drives and it’s only after a few minutes that I speak. My throat hurts, my voice hoarse from crying but yet I manage to let the words slip.
“Can we go somewhere?”
I glance to look at him and realize the worry in his stare when his eyes meet mine. Alexander nods, kissing the back of my hand and gripping the steering wheel tighter.
“Anywhere you want.”
I stare out the window, letting the name hang in the air.
Alexander frowns but nods in understatement. The drive is silent, he doesn’t say a thing and I let the agony flow from me without speaking. The man I love respects what is going on and keeps his questions to himself. We pass the walls inside the park, the lights from the car showing the immense number of trees in front of us and my breath is stuck as he parks the car.
I open the door and walk out to the cool breeze of the night, folding my arms to protect myself from it. Alexander opens the door behind the passenger seat and takes his leather jacket, placing it over my shoulders after.
His eyes search softly for mine, and Alexander gives me a small smile as I sniffle.
“I’m sorry,” he says cupping my face and brushing his thumb on my cheek.
He cleans the remains of tears away as I lean to his touch, seeking the comfort I want and need. The sound of an owl comes in the distance making the gloomy park seem like a scene out of a movie. The dim street lamps illuminating the tall trees with names on them, all the way through a path that I don’t see to the end.
“I’m going to show you something I never have shown to anyone except Layla,” I say and he doesn’t move.
Justin knows I come here to talk to her, but I never brought him. Layla came a few times, but this is something I do by myself. It’s something I do when I feel like I need to speak to my mom. Thinking about it, maybe I was right in not bringing Justin, then again it may be the pain talking.
Alexander seems to understand everything without me explaining it to him. He entwines our fingers and waits as I take a deep breath and face the long path we have to walk. My mom’s tree is a little bit further but Alexander holds me close the entire time, our silence is enough for now. I catch how he occasionally glances at me, he wants to speak but is waiting.
“It’s here,” I finally say when reaching in front of the one tree I always recognize.
The one with my mother’s name marked on it.
“Alexander, this is my mom.”
I know these are not the best words, I do. But my emotions are all twirled up. Alexander however bows, and my eyes go wide at it. The man is showing respect even here. That makes my heart melt in a way I can’t describe. He didn’t have to, but he did it for me.
He then comes behind me, throwing his arms around my body and resting his chin on top of my head. We stay still, looking at the tulip tree with the engravings I did so many years ago.
“I remember the day it happened,” I say and he pulls me closer to him. “I was fifteen and at home waiting for my mom when there was a knock on the door. Two policemen were outside, they asked about my dad and I told them he was at work.”
Alexander’s grip grows tighter on me and I inhale deeply between the tears recalling that day.
“So, because my dad wasn’t home they took me to the living room and sat down with me. They explained my mom was coming home and then there was a big accident, so I asked if they could take me to the hospital to see her because I wanted to check if she was okay. I remember how they looked at each other and didn’t reply. I later understood while they explained slowly, that another car crossed a red light and hit my mom-”
I feel his lips on my hair while his hand caresses me over the jacket.
“You don’t have to keep going if you don’t want to, Nicole.”
“No, no I do. I just need a second.”
Alexander walks us to the bench on the side of the road, he sits me on his lap as a way to comfort me. I have never been so vulnerable in front of anyone but Layla. I have never opened my heart like this and showed what’s inside to anyone but my best friend.
This is why I was scared of falling in love with him because I’m terrified of him seeing I can be weak and vulnerable. Staring at the tree, I ignore the pain and doubt of my heart and continue.
“The police officer told me and we waited for my dad. I remember the funeral, everyone went and gave me their condolences. But I didn’t understand what was going on, I was in shock for the first days. Always expecting her to come back.”
The tears don’t seem to have an end as I try to talk about everything.
“The day after the funeral my dad got drunk for the first time, we had to come here to bury my mom’s ashes and I ended up coming alone because he never showed up. As time passed it only got worse, I had lost my mom and my dad wasn’t there. He started to show up late, always drunk, we started to fight, he forgot my own birthday. I never had a sixteenth birthday party like all my friends. It felt like I had lost two parents. But then one night he came late, too late to the point it was almost morning. I went to the door and helped him getting inside, he was so drunk he couldn’t even walk. I was done with everything then and told him to act like my father which he retorted that he had lost his wife, the love of his life.”
Alexander slides his fingers between the strands of my hair wiping the tears at the same time. The soft touch is more than I can ask and I feel comfortable to continue, I feel protected with him.
“I replied I had lost my mom, I had lost the only person who loved me because he wasn’t acting like my dad. He had spent all my money from college on alcohol over the year and I was angry at him, I was angry at the world. My dad got mad and said for me to shut up and keep quiet. I yelled he didn’t have the right to tell me what to do when he never acted as a parent. His eyes shifted, turned angry and he stood up, walked to me and punched me.”
Alexander stiffens, this was the part I knew he would react. No one but Layla or Justin knows about this, no one knows why I moved out of my house at 16.
“I went to my room, took all the money I had saved working at a part-time job, packed the clothes I could and walked out of that house. I never looked back.”
His nose brushes my cheek before his lips press against my skin in the most loveable way.
“You were brave to do that.”
“I was angry, and I didn’t have any family. I managed to work and study enough for a scholarship, entered college and then I met Layla. I can’t thank my mom enough for sending him to me, because I know it was her.”
Finally facing him with tears in my eyes I see the glimmer of his. He is holding back, swallowing his tears not to let me see them. I cup his face and lean forward to slowly kiss him. A loving kiss, a way to thank him for how he makes me feel safe, how he is there for me. Even if this relationship is going on fast, I don’t mind.
I love him, enough not to care about time.
“You’re kissing me in front of your mother,” he says and I chuckle at it.
Alexander has the power to make me feel better about the world, to know everything will be okay. Something I fought against when all around me was darkness and I only started to comprehend it doesn’t have to be like that with Layla. But now I have a different love from him. He is more than I wanted or asked. It’s pure love, but at the same time, it’s not.
It’s a love I wouldn’t mind having for the rest of my life.