Chapter 11: Light
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Song; (Colbie Caillat- Try) & (Jorge Mendez- Home)
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Something is forming in the air.
For half a second, the feeling seizes my veins, trapping me in its familiar clutches.
No, it hadn’t been the air, it was me, something is forming inside me.
Placing my palms on the sink again, I bow my head so I can count the steady dripping of water coming from the tap.
Was I angry? Was I sad? Was I in pain?
No, I’m none of that.
How can that be?
I’ve kept it in for days.
I’ve kept it in for the sake of the others.
I’ve kept it in for myself, yet why is it that when I stare at the mirror now, nothing is registering?
I don’t feel torment, I don’t feel sadness, I don’t feel anger or rage, I feel...
Frozen in time, stuck, at a loss, unused to being teetered in unknown reality-these are all the words that consume me, these are all the words that scare me.
The countless betrayals and incidents have broken the light I once held to the world, its hardened my heart.
Is this it?
Is this how I’ll go about my days now?
Never believing in anything, never allowing hope, never allowing happiness or success, just disappointment...?
It isn’t fair.
There was a time when I had said it was better to feel nothing because if I didn’t feel then I wouldn’t have to care. All that sadness and anger I exploited took hold of me and it made me reckless, it made me emotional, it made me vulnerable.
I realized I was stupid.
Back then, now, here, wherever, whatever... I was utterly and indefinitely, stupid.
Because I’d rather feel than not feel at all.
Humanity, compassion, humility... these are the things that make a person, an individual, a human being, if you don’t have that, then what are you? What do you represent? What do you live for?
Who are you?
Blinking rapidly now, I raise my head and felt my hair fall in front of my face, blocking my view of the mirror.
The reflection is deafening, to my sight and ears.
Who am I?
Flustered and frustrated, angry and sad, I reach for the water tap and open it on full blast. The water gushes out, staining the sink and splashing on my skin.
Yes, I should do something about this confusion, I should do something about this thing, happening inside me.
I grab the first thing I can find.
I wet the brush and squirt a mouthful of toothpaste, hoping the mundane task would bring back clarity.
Opening my mouth, I proceeded to brush my teeth, furiously scrubbing my gums and mouth, hoping that the sick smell of smoke and the sick taste of bile would disappear and everything that’s happened would go with it as well.
I’m glaring at my reflection, I’m staring at it in absolute hatred.
Who are you?
Who the fuck are you?
And I threw the brush, letting it hit the mirror and land on the sink with a distant clink.
My palms landed on the counter and I bow my head, dejected.
I still don't know.
Thomas's voice echoes from the entrance.
He’s standing there, hovering by the doorway, staring at my form with a mixture of concern and worry.
He probably saw everything.
I ignore his heated stare and spit into the sink, quickly washing my mouth from all the foam that's gathered. The taste of mint is strong on my tongue, I feel my gum ache slightly from how hard I brushed against them earlier.
The marbled walls seem to close in on me, the pressure beating at my back. I close the tap and finally lean back on my heels.
I cannot bring myself to look at him, I can only look at my reflection, at all these injuries.
Yet, I still, don’t, feel... anything.
Thomas steps into the bathroom and places a set of towels by the marble top. He doesn’t ask why I'm not responding, instead, he breezes past me and heads to the showers, his form darting in and out of view from the mirrors.
I hear the rushing sound of water, followed by bubbling.
Cold steam rose from the corner of my eye.
He’s filling the tub.
Standing now, he hikes up his sleeves and rolls his slacks up to prevent them from getting wet. He throws his socks in the laundry bag and gathers a bunch of shampoo bottles and soap before placing them on the floor by the tub.
The heir of Graymoore measures the temperature of the water with his forefinger before moving again, this time, in my direction.
It’s too fast.
As though I’ve been burnt I backed up far enough that I bump onto the sink and practically half crawled on top of it.
I’ve felt this before.
The upending moment that could shatter this reality inevitably.
All it takes is one wrong move.
He stops just as quickly as he moved in the first place. The rejection is clear. He hadn’t expected me to react that way.
We stay like this, neither of us making the first move.
I wondered how I looked to him.
A wounded animal?
A broken girl?
I wondered a lot of things.
Finally, after several breaths, he holds out his hand, expression unreadable.
It’s a silent signal for me to take it, to trust him, to believe him.
“It’s okay, Ginger.”
His words from our earlier conversation resonated in the air between us, like a beacon.
“Just take my hand.”
Take his hand.
“I’ll nurse you until you know how to love again.”
And I do.
I do take his hand.
I allow him to hold it firmly between his fingers, to squeeze it reassuringly, to pull me to his familiar warmth because that’s what I need, I need comfort, I need safety, I need him.
He leads me to the shower room, past the bathtub.
Pulling the glass door wide, he takes down the showerhead and flips the metal knob, adjusting the temperature at a level, colder than warm.
“You’re going to have to stay away from heat for a while,” He tells me as the glass door closes behind us and he positions my figure so I have no choice but to stand in front of him.
“The bruises need time to heal, heat will only make it worse.”
He didn’t have to tell me twice, I was going to be staying away from heat for a while whether or not he had said it.
Thomas clinks the side of the showerhead to the glass wall beside us. I look up, as my gaze had been to the ground.
He’d done it to get my attention.
“I’m going to wash you down,” Thomas raises the showerhead and the stream of water wets the floor by our feet. “Will you let me?”
My silence stretches, my words do not form, yet I nod, the only perceivable thing that makes sense.
He kneels on the floor, and starts at my legs, his fingers, gentle and callous, washing the dirt and ash with deliberate movements of certainty and care.
Thomas is careful not to linger on my bruises for too long, he only rinses the areas that need washing.
I tilt my head the entire time he does this.
His slacks are soaked at this point, his shirt is getting wet, his hair, once perfectly styled is untidy, yet... he’d never look more beautiful-no, not beautiful, angelic.
He was angelic.
When he reaches my thighs, he stands up so his height towers over me, his chest close enough that if I reach out, I’d feel the warmth of his skin.
Eyes, glowing almost, continue to rinse at my skin. His fingers do not wander, they are precise and go where they need to be.
Past the waistband of my panties, up to my hips, my waist, my abdomen. His eyes never once wavered from my gaze, he holds me in his sight even as the cold water numbs my form.
Was this meant to relax me? That he wouldn’t dare take the opportunity because this was about more than that?
This was about trust, this was about empathy, this was about care for one another, from one human being to another, from one lover, to another.
He breaks eye contact to grab my right arm, pulling the limb to him so he could wash it, then my other arm, slowly leading up.
I shiver from the water, finding it uncomfortable.
He leaves my chest alone, focusing on my shoulders. When that was done, I realize he only needed to do my back now. Instead of asking me to turn around for him, Thomas is the one that moves instead.
He gets behind me and begins to rinse my skin, swiping at soot and massaging sore bones.
This whole event takes less than five minutes yet it felt longer, much longer. I feel his fingers as they run up the back of my head and scrunch the hair up into his palm.
The water runs down my red strands, cooling my scalp, my body, my whole mind, into floating away.
He positions himself in front of me again, one hand holding the showerhead whilst the other gathers up all my hair and begins scrunching it in slow movements-movements meant to comfort.
The water running down the drain is mucky and gross.
I should feel embarrassed but when I still feel nothing, I realize this won’t be enough. Nothing will be enough. Nothing will top the devastation I have that there is no hope and I should stop believing in happy endings.
I’m so lost in thought that when Thomas grasps my hand again, I notice he’s put the showerhead back and turned the knob off.
He pushes the glass door open and steps out, quietly leading me to the running bathtub, where the water already fills it halfway.
I know what he wants to do, he doesn’t have to say it, yet he is the one that lowers me into the tub, he is the one that lays me down, his touch, nothing but gentle.
The water is not warm, but it’s not cold either.
I stretch out my legs, feeling the bruises ache when I do this. Thomas is rummaging through shampoo bottles and soap when I submerge myself into the tub, leaving my knees up.
Bubbles erupt from my mouth as I laid underwater for a few seconds. I hear nothing but swirling water. Then, I’m up again, out of the water, breathing deeply for fresh air.
Still no effect, I feel nothing.
“Don’t move around so much, you need to wait until your bruises heal,” He shakes his head, dumping what looked to be body soap into the tub. “This means no more hunting for a while, you got it?”
Thomas picks up a sponge from somewhere by his position and begins the process of washing me down a second time.
I can’t help but wonder what on earth is running through his head right now.
Was he annoyed that I couldn’t take care of myself?
Did he pity me?
Was that what all this is about?
No... that wasn’t it.
If he pitied me, I would’ve seen it in his eyes, there’s none of that here, so what was it?
I stop the sponge before I even realized what I did, my hand halting Thomas’s actions as he freezes mid-wash.
The words are echoing through the vastness of my mind.
“Why...?” My voice is small, barely hearable.
Why do you do this?
After all the messes, all the mistakes, all the problems and issues that have yet to be resolved, after everything...
Our hands are still connected.
Doubt swirled within the depths of my heart.
The whole room might just melt away.
“You always insist I do things for a reason,” He twines the sponge from my fingers and drops it in the water.
“When will you understand, that I don’t need a reason anymore?”
My expression must have shown it, it must have shown my uncertainty, my disbelief, my fear-at his words.
“Hah...” His fingers comb up his hair, while the other trace circles on the inside of my wrist. “What am I going to do with you, Ginger?”
I don’t know.
“How can I tell you that you are worth more? That you deserve hope, you deserve all the things and all the happiness this world can give-” He inhales softly, chest heaving.
Thomas releases my wrist and caresses the back of my head.
Our foreheads are touching, his eyes are blazing, I feel myself grow warm with grief and heartache.
“There are over 8 billion people in this world...” His whisper is soft and true, grazing at my skin and my bones. It latched onto my heart, it curled around it, made my vision go blurry, made the trembling in my fingers worse.
“...you, are someone’s light.”
You are someone’s light.
Ah... how cruel.
If he said it like that, how am I supposed to stop loving him?
What an impossible man...
“Now, I’m going to finish cleaning you up, then we’ll head to bed alright?” He reaches for the floating sponge hovering on the surface of the bubbling water and resumes the process of bathing me.
He didn’t bring it up again.
But I knew it was real.
It was as real as the beating in my heart.
The truth is, I want to reach out to him, I want to cry and mourn and not let go because I’m afraid I’ll have to do things by myself again, I’ll be alone and I don’t want that.
Nobody ever wants to be alone.
Unconsciously, my fingers move to my back and skim across the clasp of my bra. It’s uncomfortable, so I remove it, letting the material slide off my arms.
Thomas is washing my other arm when he takes the bra from me and puts it down by the floor.
Never once did his eyes lingered, not even as I took off my panties and put them aside too.
Now I’m fully naked in the tub, my body, bruised, and injured for all his eyes to see, yet instead of looking at that, he stares at my face and only my face.
I am worth more than that.
I am worth more.
“Does it hurt anywhere?” He is gentle, almost feather-light with the sponge as it caresses the bruises painting the entirety of my legs. “Tell me if it does.”
My only reply is to hum.
I wait patiently with no goal in mind as he set off to ensure every inch of my skin is clean and sanitized.
The sponge feels amazing.
Though the pressure he applies is hard enough for me to feel the ache in my injuries, I didn’t complain.
What are physical pains compared to emotional pains anyway?
If I think back to the hours I spent in the hospital, waiting for Hailey to wake up, waiting for Hailey to make it through the night... no, this is minuscule than what I had to endure.
Thomas stands on his feet and pulls the plug beneath where I sit, allowing the water to drain out.
He disappears around the glass walls to retrieve a towel.
I’m already sitting up when he returns, plopping the fuzzy material over my head, momentarily blocking my view of the room.
His fingers are rough on my hair, rubbing and drying out the wet strands. He moves down my neck, wiping the water from my skin, slower and easier this time, to avoid accidentally hurting me.
I start to grow uncomfortable and move, poised to stand.
He is quick to stop that, grabbing another towel from somewhere behind him and wrapping it around my body, effectively trapping my limbs.
Quickly, he slips his arms beneath me and picks me up from the tub, before I can protest.
“No,” He berates as I go stiff in his grip, startled.
“Stay still,” At the sight of my hesitance, he shrugs in an uncaring manner. “Just let me take care of you.”
I wanted to tell him otherwise but stop when I feel my arms, having had to hold him, bristle with apparent soreness.
He was right but it did not mean I would willingly agree.
Still, I kept quiet, even as he moves us to the bedroom and sets me down on the bed.
I clutch the towel to my chest as my free hand graces the sky-blue duvets.
So soft, that my eyes, hands, and body, hypnotized now, cannot resist face planting my head onto the soft sheets.
I’ve already crawled towards the center of the bed with my knees and snuggled my face further into the warm and clean blankets before Thomas had a chance to ask me to sit up.
That settles it.
I’m staying here and not getting up.
The damp strands of my hair curtain my eyes as I peer through my lashes at the heir of Graymoore.
He’s raising an eyebrow at me and despite the ridiculousness of my actions and how my body is probably making the bed wet, I can feel and see his amusement, that, and something else.
He’s been staring at me like this for a while now.
I can’t tell what it is.
I just know that it makes my chest feel warm.
It makes my blood pump, my heart, beat, my lungs fill with air.
Sitting up, I reach for his face, the delicate piece of hair that’s blocking the side of his right eye garnering my interest.
He blinks, startled, and captures my wrist halting my movements. “What is it?”
“Your eyes,” They look back at me, as blue and green as the day I first saw them, if not even more so.
Back then, they had stared back at me with indifference and distrust.
They stare back at me with recognition, with light, with a level of vulnerability I can never put to words.
Thomas seems to become relaxed in his own sense.
He exhales softly, then leans forward into my space, one knee on the bed, so our faces are inches apart and the air between us bristles with confounding certainty.
“What about them?”
He must have released my wrist, I’m not sure-because suddenly, I’m touching his face, my fingertips brushing the edge of his cheekbone, the curve of his eyebrow.
If we hadn’t gone through those 3 years of turmoil together, would we still be where we are today?
Would he still bathe me, washed me, hold me like I was the most precious thing in the world to him?
“You don’t know...?” I trace his slightly damp shirt, the material sticking to his skin, I spot that familiar chain, resting by the center of his chest.
This was the first time in a year and a half since I’ve been this close to him, physically and mentally.
I realize that all those long dreams and long nights can’t compare to the real thing.
How can they ever?
“I’ve always... noticed them,” Swallowing, I catch the hitch in my throat as the words spill from my mouth. “Whether it be in the dark, or when the sun hits your features so perfectly and the whole world freezes...”
That gaze has changed into something deeper, something quieter.
His hand slides down the small of my back, his aura intensifying, his grip not at all pressured, yet it feels like he may just break me.
I wasn’t afraid.
Far from it.
I cup his cheek, my fingers tracing the back of his ear, to the little scar hiding behind it. “They’re beautiful.”
The knot on the towel comes undone.
It slides off my body, dropping to a pool by my thigh.
“I can’t imagine a world without those colors.”
The cold air kisses my humid skin, I feel his hand, the one on my lower back, urging me to lay down on the soft bed, his figure raising up to tower over my form.
The chandelier shining above us is tunneling.
He’s blocking the light, his shadows cast streaks across the duvet.
Lying down here, beneath him, with one of his legs in between my parted thighs, and his hands on either side of my head, I don’t feel anything but safe.
That is what he is to me.
His head dips down, his mouth hovering mere centimeters from my lips.
“Do you know what you’re doing right now..?” Thomas moves down, his breathing fawning the edge of my collarbone, his hair tickling my chin. He inhales slowly, almost shakily. “Do you know what you’re doing to me?”
He plants a kiss, then another, feather-light, small, gentle, all across my upper chest, the pulse by my neck, the edge of my collarbones.
I feel the slightest brush of tongue and release a sound.
He’s suddenly sitting up, all pretenses of heat evaporated instantly as though he’d physically reigned them back with a jerk of his fingers.
I look up at him, unconsciously feeling my body as it attempts to follow suit but the hand on my hip stops me. “Don’t.”
We stay rooted like this, me laying flat on my back and him, hovering above me, the chain around his neck now swinging in the space between us.
He moves to brush at my cheek delicately, the other hand still pinned on my waist.
Silence spears the atmosphere, filling it with a heaviness I cannot describe. It wasn’t the type of heaviness that leaves you with anxiety, it was the type of heaviness that left you breathless, begging, writhing.
When he finally speaks, it’s constrained and velvet soft. It makes me imagine; a hot tongue on bruised skin. “I left some clothes for you to wear,”
Thomas retrieves the set of clothes I hadn’t noticed were beneath me.
He unfolds the items and drapes them across my lap, keeping careful not to linger on my exposed skin.
“We’ll bandage your bruises tomorrow, they’ll need some time to breathe.” He tells me with a curt nod. “Try to get some sleep in the meantime, I’ll take a shower and join you after.”
With that, he swiftly pulls away, taking away all the heat and warmth that made me comfortable in the first place.
I watch with glazed eyes as he disappears into the bathroom and the sound of running water fills the echoing space.
What... What was that?
I was confused.
Thumbing at the clothing he gave me, I feel my brows knit together into a frown. It’s been a long time since I felt this... frustration.
Frustration of what kind?
It makes the back of my neck ripple with electricity and my fists clench. When I glance down to see my legs, I realize I’ve rubbed them so much, the skin tinged red.
Instead of feeling empty like earlier, I feel... prickling, climbing up my abdomen, going to pulse around my chest.
I heave out a sigh before deciding to put on the clothes.
When I was done, I gathered the duvet and crawled into the covers, slowly dragging it above my head so my hair is barely visible on the pillow.
I laid in silence.
Only the sounds of the shower running and Jax’s soft breathing somewhere by the far desk fills the room.
My head feels heavy, but my eyes refused to close.
The idea of sleep intrigues me, but it is not something I wish.
I suppose my body is still reacting to the side effects of what’s transpired. It cannot determine if I am safe or in danger.
Eventually, I laid still long enough to hear the shower stop running.
For some reason, my heart started to beat uncontrollably but I forced myself to stay still, not wanting him to know I hadn’t fallen asleep yet.
I hear his bare footsteps as he exits the bathroom.
He walks over to the far side and enters his closet, presumably to get a change of clothes.
I hold my breath when I hear him walk out again, one hand rubbing at his damp hair whilst the other bent down to clutch at Jax’s collar.
He whispered something to the dog that made the German Shepherd get up.
It was only when Thomas unlocked his room door that I realized, he had asked Jax to sleep outside.
Closing it shut, Thomas then headed for the direction of the bed. He made sure to flick off all the lights before gently opening up the covers and slipping inside.
The warmth he carried is instantaneous.
It flooded the air beneath the duvet, made my legs clench unconsciously.
He was close.
But he wasn’t moving.
He just laid there, on his back, so close yet so far, completely and utterly, un-moving.
Did he fall asleep?
The answer to that question came a few seconds later when he turned his abdomen and reach over my waist, lightly pushing himself to my back so I could feel his strong chest and his warm arms as they surround me.
He buried his face onto the top of my hair and I blink rapidly, feeling unsure, even as he held me still.
Did he know I was awake?
I didn’t move, I just stayed still, feeling my muscles lock up in trepidation as I waited for what he would do next.
A few seconds pass, then minutes, until finally, I waited long enough to feel my limbs relax and my breathing even out.
When did I get so sleepy?
Was this his intention?
To just stay by my side, because sometimes actions mean louder than words?
It was working.
He didn’t say anything because there was no need. He could have chosen to leave it at that, but he didn’t.
I hear his deep voice rumbling at the top of my head as the silence spins in the atmosphere between us.
“Sometimes, what I feel for you scares me,” He confesses out loud and I don’t know if it’s meant for himself or for me. “Sometimes, it’s even hard to breathe.”
Thomas wasn’t blaming me, no, it almost sounds like he was grateful I made it hard for him to breathe.
With his free hand, he begins to gently stroke my hair, drawing a line down my cheek, his touch ever-so light. “But then... I remembered something my Mom told me.”
The memory of myself, picking up that old picture frame near the door, resounded at the back of my mind.
It had been his mom.
I imagined a younger Thomas looking up to his mother, smiling with all the innocence in the world.
“She said... if you’re never scared, if you never feel, if you always try to control everything and anything... then that’s not truly living.”
He intertwines our legs, his hand slides down to my abdomen, his chest presses firmly against my back, so not an inch is missed and the only thing separating us now is the thin layer of our shirts.
He’s hugging me tighter than before, and I feel that need, I feel that desperation, I feel the absolution that is, Thomas Moore.
“Ginger, if you asked me to stop loving you now-” Thomas cuts himself off, as the next words that spill from his mouth stall in his throat.
He swallows, his fingers tighten over the skin above my waist. “I won’t be able to do it.”
I could hear the words as clear as if he’d spoken them out loud.
Slowly, I lift my arm and clutch at his fingers so that I could place it on my chest, directly above my heart.
I can’t look at him just yet, I can’t voice what he wants me to say, one day, I will find it in my heart, but with this, at least he’d know.
He’d know that I appreciated what he’s done, that I’m grateful for his help, that I want him here and I won’t push him away.
I won’t push you away.
I won’t give up on you.
I won’t stop loving you.
When I feel his fingers tightened over mine, I knew he felt the words even without hearing me say them out loud.