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It's not a puzzle

Chapter 21


I have never had my breath taken away before, at least not without physical strenuous activity. But hell, did Ella know how to siphon the oxygen right out of my lungs without effort. Even in this state of raw vulnerability, this girl seemed to splinter herself right into my heart, wedging the pieces extensively deep so if they were to ever fall out the damage would be forever permanent.

Pain radiated right off of her, leaking through her pores, and chambering tension to the atoms below the surface. It wasn’t just from slipping and falling in the shower, there was more to it. Insecure as she is, my perception didn’t change, clothes, or no clothes because one day she will know just how stunningly sexy she is. Whether I have to write it on her wrist in pen day in and day out, whisper it repeatedly in her ears or name off all her perfections, she will know.

Seeing her like this, immersed in turmoil, cornered with stress, and swallowed by pressure rattled the lion inside of me. He wanted out, to destroy and demolish, to burn and incinerate, to prey upon the problem and force compliance to whoever or whatever fucks with my Lil’ Ellie.

After her fall in the shower, I drew her a warm bath assuring she couldn’t slip and hurt herself again. At least by sitting, the possibilities of her injuring herself were much slimmer. As she cleaned herself up, letting the steamy room draw the tension out of her taut muscles, I put on a pot of coffee and threw my clothes in the dryer so when Ella was ready she would be consoled in warmth. One thing about Ella that didn’t meet the eye was her love for coffee, and she didn’t like it sweet or bitter, she fancied it right in the middle.

Everything I did now was to distract me. One, from gutting Hayes. Two, from thinking about my prostitute of a mother. Three, from worrying about Riley. Lastly, four from Julian, who is being transferred tomorrow to another facility. I’m sure as the days pass my dump load of problems will just accumulate, because nothing in my fucking world ever just goes away. It comes in needles, poking and prodding at my life, unraveling the stitches that keep me together.

“D?” I hear her soft voice mumble, coming up behind me as I finish putting her caramel creamer in her coffee. God knows that voice did things to the beating muscle under my rib cage.

I’ve never believed in things most things kids believed in, Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, etc. They never existed to me, until hearing the kids at school talk about the holidays, which were just made up lies their parents would tell them to make them behave. Things that weren’t scientifically proven or nonfictional were things Julian wouldn’t let us indulge in. But magic, it was real, because Ella’s essence was magic, immaculate.

Turning around, I saw the girl who lacked flaws, the same girl who glowed as bright as the stars. “Feeling better Lil’ one?” I ask as my eyes rake up and down, acknowledging every inch of her in my clothes all the while she nods in response.

A smile took its place on my lips, as the pleasure of seeing her dressed from head to toe in all things mine crooned in my blood. Ella was hella fucking attractive, but especially when she was sporting my attire. “How are your knees?” I watched as her paled cheeks flushed a satin pink as she stood against the farthest counter drumming her fingers against my sweatpants that were rolled three times and still managed to look huge.

She gazed down at her feet then, embarrassed. “Fine.” She mutters.

I’ve long passed changed my clothes, kind of a pro at the whole cleaning yourself up after a fight thing by now even though shockingly it wasn’t caused by me for once. Slowly, I push off the counter and bring Ella’s steaming mug of coffee to the table and place it down, all the while keeping my attention on her. It didn’t take a dummy to know she was embarrassed, the bathroom incident now catching up to her.

Hell, everything about her was so fucking innocent.

“Just fine?” I croon, now lazily walking to her. My steps come to a halt in front of her, the scent of my body wash filling my nose as it leaks off of her and into the air. “You hit them pretty hard baby.” My hand finds her hip, as the other itches to touch her glossy lips. “Fine isn’t the word I would use, maybe sore? Don’t you agree?”

Still, her rippling blue eyes stay veered down as she nibbles her bottom lip. “Umm, it’s not that bad.” She says quietly, flickering her eyes to mine. “Did you uhh make coffee?”

A chuckle leaves my lips at her not so subtly trying to change the subject as I lean in and kiss her forehead. “On the table Ellie girl,” I tell her, stepping back. “Go ahead and sit down, we have a lot to chat about.”

Her eyebrows furrow. “We do?”

My mouth pulls into a straight line. “Don’t think I forgot about you saying you hate yourself. So yeah, we have a hell of a lot to discuss about that.”


After Declan’s ‘chat’, which was him really saying that if he ever heard those words out of my mouth again there’d be trouble, he got a phone call so he went into his room to answer it. I, on the other hand, sat at the table sipping my room temperature light brown coffee, eyeing my phone on the counter. Without thinking, I stand up and grab it off the counter where Declan left it, and taking a deep breath I power the device on.

A long moment goes by before the brightness of the screen welcomes my eyes, but before I see the notifications an incoming call buzzes in. Seeing the name of my brother, my finger swipes and accepts. “Thomas?”

“Ella?” Thomas questions quickly, sounding surprised to hear my voice. “Why haven’t you been answering your phone? Mom called me all worried about some fight and you being borderline suspended? A fight Ella! Is that true and did you walk right out of school after? Tell me this isn’t what it sounds like.” He asks not so happily, listing off question after question. If this were any other point in time, I would be happy to hear from Thomas but not when it’s about this.

“I wish I could,” I whisper, feeling familiar knots twist in my stomach.

A long moment passes before Thomas speaks again. “I’m coming home.” He states in a way that isn’t up for debate. I go to tell him that’s not necessary when he cuts me off as if he were expecting what I was going to say. “I’m already on my way and you can’t change my mind. If Declan influenced this...I thought you’d be okay without me—now I’m regretting it.” Before I can say anything in response he hangs up the phone, the deadline ringing in my ears.

A pang stings my chest as I intake in a sharp breath of air at Thomas’s words. Were they meant to be cruel because they sure felt that way? Not to mention the tone of his voice definitely wasn’t chipper, more like edging irritation. What’s that supposed to mean if Declan influenced this? Did he mean something by that? My fight was my fault, not Declan’s, so I hope he isn’t jumping to accusations when he knows nothing about it.

Borderline suspended.

I thought you’d be okay without me.

Did my mom already chat with the school? Am I really going to be suspended? What does that mean for soccer, it’s my senior year? I am okay without Thomas, why wouldn’t I be? Maybe not at my best but that doesn’t mean I’m not okay. It feels like that phone call was just me being scolded and not even by my parents, it was by my brother who should be away at college. There’s no reason for him to come back, not over some dumb fight that’s already over, so why is he?

Inhaling and then exhaling, I click the screen to see my awaiting notifications. I have sixteen missed calls, all ranging from my mom, Thomas, and Olivia along with text messages from each. Ignoring my mom’s attempts to reach me, my finger hovers over Olivia’s name before swiping to the slide and texting a short, sweet reply. Should I text my mom, call her, is she fuming mad?

Before I even have a chance to debate it any longer, the annoying buzz of my phone begins once again. Think of the devil and he shall appear. In this case, it’s a she. A ridiculous part of me thinks to say a prayer, but the logical side quickly rules that out as a shut-up Ella. Sucking in, I answer the stupid phone call. “Yeah,” I mutter, squeezing my hands into fists.

Silence and then, “I’ve been trying to reach you for the last hour. Where are you? Are you okay?” The concern in my mother’s voice shocks me, wasn’t she supposed to be angry with me?

Should I tell her I’m at Declan’s? Would that make her upset with me, considering the last time we spoke she practically told me Declan wasn’t good for me? “I’m sure you have your guesses where I am, it’s not a puzzle,” I say sarcastically, walking back towards the table to sip my coffee. “So go ahead and let me have it, there’s no need to stall any longer because I already know where you stand.” Pausing, I glance over at Declan’s bedroom before quietly adding. “You’ve made that clear.”

“I’m not mad at you Ella, regardless of what you might think.” She tells me, not even sounding affected by my words. “Just because we had an argument doesn’t mean I don’t care, I’m still your mother and I love you. A disagreement isn’t going to stop me from being worried about you.” She takes a breath before continuing. “I know you don’t fight Ella, so I want to know what happened, and if you’re okay?”

Biting the inside of my cheek, I feel guilt cloud above me from jumping to conclusions and then being bratty about it. “Didn’t they tell you?” I ask quieter this time, knowing the school must have called her since Thomas knew about me being possibly suspended. Why isn’t she mad, shouldn’t she be mad?

“They did, but I want to hear it from you.”

Tracing the rim of my mug, I tell my mom my side of the story of how I forgot to screw on my water bottle top, and because of taking a sharp turn, it flew out of my book bag and onto that girl. I tell her about the girl shoving me and then me losing it because at that moment I was just so upset. Spilling it all to my mom actually makes me feel better, it’s an effect only your mom can give you because no matter what she’ll always be on my side despite our occasional differences even if I’m still upset with her.

“Are you hurt?” Is the first thing she asks me when I’m done with the whole story. It’s times like this that I know no matter what, I’ll always have my mom, and no matter what she does love me.

A door creaking open has me gazing up, Declan’s done with his phone call and is now making his way over to me. “No, I’m fine mom.” Declan takes the seat next to me, an eyebrow raised as he looks at me and my now powered on phone. A sheepish smile plants itself on my lips as I shrug, he shakes his head of chocolate curls before patting his lap, his way of telling me to come sit with him.

My mom’s voice draws my attention back to her. “Are you sure or are you just not telling me?” She questions skeptically. “And just so you know, that girl got what was coming to her.”

I smile as Declan pulls the almost empty pastel purple mug out of my hands and close to him, giving me the eye before glancing at his lap then back to me. I shake my head which makes his sanguine lips pull into a frown, though his mossy eyes glint mischievously. He stands up abruptly, pushing his chair out before taking two quick strides to me and without warning pulls my chair away from the table and puts his hands on my hips ready to lift me up even after I declined. “Y-Yeah I’m sure mom, I uhh got to go I’ll call you later.”

As Declan plucks me up off of the chair, not caring that I said no, my finger goes to end the call as a squeal erupts from my throat. “Wait—I love you, Ella, don’t forget tha—” I don’t catch the rest because I already hit the red button cutting the rest of her words short. Maybe I shouldn’t have, what she was saying sounded important but it’s too late now. My legs reflexively hugged around Declan’s waste not wanting to fall as my hands clasped around his neck latching like velcro. Under my hands, I feel the cold silver of his chain necklace that I absolutely adore.

“Why’d you pick me up?” I query, as he carries me into the living room and drops down onto the couch. Now that we’re sitting, me on his lap like this so close, it feels intimate especially after earlier.

For a moment Declan’s quiet, his line of sight narrowing on my lips, before slowly looking me up and down until they finally settle on my face. “Why did you hang up on your mom, you could have kept her on the phone,” Declan says real slow sounding both sensual and playful as his warm lips inch closer to my skin so we’re only a breath apart. A tsunami of warmth breaks the barriers, flooding me with heat and flushing my cheeks I’m sure a feverish red.

“I don’t k-know I can’t multitask,” I mumble, really feeling the heat of his gaze. I can’t talk to my mom when Declan distracts me because my train of thought gets lost along with my sense of logic.

His lips finally come in contact with my skin and my heart lurches in content, yearning for his touch. “Are you saying I’m distracting baby?” He muses, kissing the crook of my neck, nibbling in some places. My lips move to answer but no words come out, only ragged huffs of air. What did he say again?

“Hmmm.” I hum, fiddling with his soft curls.

He chuckles lowly, his lips now hovering close to my red-tipped ear. “I said, am I too distracting for you?”

With the short break from his kisses, I find my voice but it comes out croaky and gross sounding. “No—just uhh...consuming.” This time it’s him humming in response, a tummy turning grin painting his face. I stare not being able to help it, he’s just so fudging pretty it’s unreal. If ethereal beauty existed he for sure, one hundred percent had it.

“I like that—that I’m consuming to you.” He coos. “I’ll tell you something baby, I’m all yours.” I blink, then blink again loving the way those words sound off his tongue, loving the way they play around on the tip of my own. A silly, too wide smile takes over my whole face, making my eyes squinty and my forehead crease. He can make any day better, every day better, all the crappy ones included because he’s Declan, my Declan.

Shaking my head, I change the subject, hoping my ridiculous smile will go away. “Who were you on the phone with.”

That look he gives makes it clear that he knows I’m changing the subject. “A college recruiter.” He makes it sound like no big deal. My eyes widened because even if he didn’t think it was a big deal, it was.

“D, that’s amazing.” I murmur honestly. “I’m so proud of you.”

He shrugs. “I meet with him next week.” He tells me. “Not that I want to, he insisted. But I’m pretty sure football isn’t my future, at least I don’t foresee it.”


I feel like I’m dragging out an incident...but at the same I feel like I need to. Anyway hope you enjoy it and sorry for mistakes! Feedback is always welcome! P.s. I just got a new puppy and he’s adorable, his name is Olin and I’m in love! Haha, I’m done now.

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