Chapter Fourteen - Brax POV
I had just asked Charlie to do the hardest thing she would ever, and that was to fully let me in. I needed to understand what it was Calvin said to her that had left her with what I truly believed was Post Traumatic Stress. Since the day she opened up and told me her father's role on those events, I had often wondered why she never spoke of what Calvin and his parents did.
A father's role is to protect, care for and raise his daughter, so any feelings of betrayal she had were well and truly justified, but a nagging deep within the pit of my stomach had always led me to believe there was something she wasn't ready for me to hear. Her reaction tonight had confirmed that. "Why are you scared to tell me the full story?"
"I . . . it's just I don't want it to change things with us. I don't want you to look at me differently." I moved closer to her on the bed as we lay side by side, heads both rested on the pillow.
I reached up to stroke her cheek, her eyes searching mine, fear with a slight tinge of hope engulfing her face. "I'm going to marry you one day Charlotte. Don't mistake those words, it will happen. I can't even begin to imagine my life without you. Something you had no control over, that you were a victim of, will never change how I feel about you."
I watched as a weak smile crept across her face, her eyes full of emotion that mirrored my own. "You know I used to be terrified of that word." That word. Marriage, one word that held so much weight behind it. I knew, but I had to ask how she felt hearing it now. "Now. . . all I can think about is what it would be like to be married to you. To call you my husband. . . I want that with you. Only you, Brax."
I covered her right cheek in a flurry of soft kisses as my left hand gripped her head to me. "Good, because I don't want anyone else. I want you to be my wife, to spend my life with you, to share everything that comes my way with you. Share with me too, Charlotte. Let me be here for you. We are better together."
I felt her hand come up and grip my wrist as she moved her head back to make eye contact. I lay, my body half covering hers, wanting to shield her and protect Charlie from all life threw at us. "It's hard to explain babe. It's sometimes easier if there is a single incident, or as much as I hate to say it physical abuse. Because those scars are easier to explain, easier for people to understand. Does that make sense?"
"Of course. But it doesn't take away from the significance of what happened to you, either." Charlie had avidly fought against the stigma of being a victim, for as long as I had known her. I had never looked at her as anything other than a saviour, a warrior, a force to be reckoned with. She was the phoenix that rose, the enigma we all chased, the spirit no one had a right to control.
"It was the ongoing emotional stress Brax. When they arrived the day we were due to leave, the information his parents wanted to know made little sense to me. But when the phone calls started not long after we returned home, their intentions were soon revealed. I was asked questions in relation to my sexuality, and activity, because naturally I was expected to wait for him. I was monitored on what I ate, my figure, weight and size, my intelligence. You name it, they wanted to know everything. I wasn't allowed to colour or cut my hair without checking first, make up was a no go, my clothing was scrutinised. Choice of friends had to be approved because an appearance had to be maintained."
The more Charlie opened up, the more rage I felt coursing through me, my heart hammered in my chest as the adrenaline increased. I bit my tongue, patiently reminding myself I was doing this for her benefit, not my own. "A woman's place is to be seen and not heard. To present well in the public eye and to make sure her husband's needs were always met. That was her purpose."
My blood boiled over and against my better judgement I interrupted her. "That's bullshit, you and I both know it. You're far too important to be silenced." Charlie stroked my softly as I moved in to kiss her, mumbling quietly against her lips. "You are my equal. You complete me and I hope one day when people remember what I did, they know it was because of you." I kissed her again before putting my head back on the pillow next to her, my hand caressing her shoulder.
"No babe, you did the hard work, this is your dues."
"But you gave me the strength to do it. Do you know how easy it would have been for me, for any of us to settle for some girl that was just after cash and dick?" Charlie choked on the giggle I know she so desperately wanted to hold in. "Sorry, but those were the only words I could think to describe it. You my Evil Midget are different. You challenge me and make me want to do better, to be better. Why would I settle for less than that?"
"Wouldn't it be easier than the emotional baggage I carry?" I looked at her, I couldn't even begin to fathom how she could think of herself as anything but strong and amazing. All that they did to her yet she thrived and created everything Charlie had from her own talents, drive and passion. I wished I knew the way to stop letting them dominate her head space, because only then Charlie might realise her true potential.
"I never liked easy, babe. You know that, I live with a Liverpool supporter." Of course it found favour with her as I saw the crinkles break across her nose when she scrunched it before flicking me on the ear. "Ouch, evil midget! But I wouldn't have it any other way. I want you to promise me something sweetheart."
I rolled on top of her and wrapped my arms under hers before holding her head to mine, forcing our eye contact. "Hmm, okay."
"Stop giving people head space that don't deserve it. Especially when they don't know your worth. Because I do, and you are so much more than what you just told me. I know it, our friends know it, and baby, I need you to as well." I heard her softly whisper that she would try. "And I will help you, always. You're my girl, no one else's and I will always lift you when you need it." Charlie raised her eyebrow as said metaphorically, but soon giggled when I said literally worked too.
"Sometimes I just need reminding that's all. I try not to let it still affect my life. It's just really hard, especially when you don't expect to see that person, and suddenly they are right in your face." We lay cuddled for a while as I watched the football and I soon realised Charlie was asleep. After the game, I was pretty wired still from tonight, so I put a jumper back on and grabbed my coat, a spliff and headed outside.
As I slid the glass door open and pulled my jacket on tighter, the bitter night chill gripping me, I noticed the boys still sat at the table having a smoke. Chester looked up and asked how Midget was doing and it was a relief to say she was finally asleep. I also thanked him for looking out for her earlier.
The rest of the boys were naturally worried and when Mark said he just wanted to wrap her in a cuddle but didn't want to get his arse kicked like Chester does I had to laugh and thank them. I also knew I owed them an explanation. "Thanks boys, I appreciate how much you all look out for her too. So you remember the shit she's been through with her dad?"
Liam raised his eyebrow and sat up straighter. "Do we need to bury him? Has he started again?"
"Maybe, the jury is still out. But not him this time. We went out for dinner and Charlie was at the bar ordering us some drinks. I saw a guy talking to her and she looked panicked. I headed up and old mate was giving me an attitude. Charlie was shaking by this stage so I knew something was seriously wrong when she told me she needed to get out of there. Once I got her in the car and settled down, she explained the prick who had been talking to her was the one her dad tried to set her up with when she was younger."
The guys were just as shocked that we could travel halfway across the world and walk into a bar and run straight into him. Stranger things have happened though. "It rattled Charlie, but we had a long talk and I think she'll be ok."
"So are you still going to talk to her about what we discussed?" The moment Liam said it the guys all asked what we had discussed, I knew they would. Especially Chester with his fear of missing out.
"Look, Charlie knows how I feel but you guys, if I say anything please do not bring it up with her. I would still like to keep some mystery and surprise about it. And yes Chester, I mean you." The boys all laughed as he tried to protest his innocence. "Look I know it's not intentional but I'm serious bro, you need to keep your mouth shut."
"I got you on the important stuff, you know that man."
"I want to ask Charlie to marry me." The guys all started muttering and when Mark said he was surprised I hadn't already, I noticed they all nodded and agreed. "No way, it would have been too soon."
"Dude, are you taking the piss right now? Too soon? That's a laugh. You've been after that girl as long as I have known you." They all agreed with Liam and Shane asked why I was waiting, why not just do it already, or was that not something Charlie wanted?
"Well until tonight, I wasn't sure. We were talking earlier and she admitted that the thought of it used to terrify her, because of Calving and her father."
"Who the fuck is Calvin?" When Mark spat that out and they all looked confused, I realised I had never spoken his name to them.
"Oh right, yeah that's the old mate her dad wanted her with. Anyway, I probed a bit and she admitted she wanted a future for us, she could see us married. So that's a bonus."
Shane asked when I was planning to do it and Liam explained to them I was hoping to wait until we got back so her mum could be there. "You won't last that long." I told Chester I was trying and they needed to help as he laughed at me. "You won't last. She'll give you a good blowie one night and you'll blurt it out."
"Fuck off asshole." The boys all cracked up as he leaned over and started mimicking it.
"Whatever, either that or you'll be buried balls deep in her and blurt it out repeatedly, marry me, marry me. . ." He kept saying it as he stood up pretending to hump the air, so I picked the weed grinder up and flicked it at his head. "Oh Charlie, I can't live without your golden pussy, let me wife it."
The guys were all in hysterics as I shook my head. "You need to get laid, man, or watch some porn."
Chester pulled up on the theatrics and picked the grinder back up pelting it at my head. "Asshole, that hurts you know." I flipped him off as I said the truth always does. Not to be deterred he grabbed his nuts and thrust his hips in my face.
The guys and I sat around while we finished our blunts before I headed into bed. After stripping down I cuddled up behind my girl, holding her and it didn't take long to fall asleep.
We woke up early as we had agreed to meet up with the others today and go have a look around the city before we left. After having a coffee we got ready and headed out to the cars. Surprisingly Charlie was ready before me for once and as I made my way out to the car and saw her, I realised this holding my tongue was going to be harder than I originally thought.
A basic green and gold tracksuit, her gold locks flowing and glossy lips, this girl had the ability to knock my socks off without even trying. "Agh . . h . . have you got your jacket as well babe?" Of course she noticed my stutter and had to highlight it. "Is it any wonder? Did you look at yourself in the mirror?"
She waved her jacket at me, before I shut the door and climbed in for the drive. We met the others at the cafe and after refuelling with a big breakfast and another coffee we went for a stroll through the town. "Babe, stand there so I can take a photo of you."
I stood rubbing my hands while she got her portable camera out of her bag, desperate to generate some warmth in my frozen fingertips as I waited. She finally held it up and lined up the photo. My attention was drawn from what she was doing when I saw someone walk towards Charlie, and as I finally registered who it was, Calvin spoke to her. "I see you are still wasting your time with that crazy photography notion of yours? Such a childhood dream, not a real career move Charlotte."