Chapter 19 - Melody
It was Christmas Eve. My throat felt constricted - painfully so. Knox would be leaving in five days. Five short days.
Usually, I’d be wrapping last-minute Christmas gifts and getting into the festive cheer. But there was absolutely nothing usual or cheerful about this Christmas. My heart felt heavy. I felt like crying just thinking about him getting onto a plane and moving halfway across the world. But I had to smile and put on a brave face, and wait until it was dark, and I was all alone before I could let the tears fall onto my pillow.
The thing was, I’d always known that we’d end. Back then, when we started, it felt like we had so much time. But that was the thing about time: it ran out quicker than what you thought.
I loved Knox. I felt it in my heart; it echoed inside my soul. I couldn’t say the words, though. I couldn’t tell him that. And it was a form of torture in itself to carry around that love inside, to kiss him, to make love to him, and not being able to say it. It was like there was this lie between us. I was fairly sure that he felt something too - something more than just that physical attraction simmering between us. But like me, he’d never said anything, so I was guessing here.
He never made any promises. I knew that we’d never have forever. But it didn’t make the situation any more tolerable. It still hurt like absolute hell to know that I’d have to say goodbye to him and go on with my life without him there.
He saved me that day on the beach, but I had no idea just how deeply intertwined my life would become with his. What we had was a connection so much deeper than I’d ever had with anyone else, despite the short amount of time we’ve had. I didn’t have to say a word sometimes - it was as though he just knew, instinctively, what I was thinking. Even the nightmares had become less intense and less frequent, especially since that night that we spent together at his family’s beach house.
But I was scared. I was so damn scared that those dreams would come back again. That I’d need saving, and he wouldn’t be there...
My phone started ringing, sucking me right out of that spiral of thoughts that felt like they were drowning me. I checked the caller I.D. and smiled.
“Hey, Mel. Are you home?” It sounded like he was inside his car, driving, as I could hear the sound of the car engine purring in the background.
“Yeah. Did you want to come around?”
He sighed. “I wanted to drop something off. Just something small, for you and Hail.”
I smiled but felt a tug at my heart at the same time. Because I felt so damn sorry for him. My sister was being stubborn as hell, refusing to even talk to him. Hayley and I were back on speaking terms, at least, but I knew better than to even mention the name Connor Blake, because she’d shut down like an electrical safety switch during a power surge the second I even tried.
“That’s lovely of you. I’ve been terrible with gifts this year. And yeah, I’m around.”
His voice was sympathetic. “When is Knox going?”
“Five days,” I said quietly, and I felt like crying again.
“I see. I’m here if you need a friend, Mel,” he said with a heavy sigh.
My vision was blurry with tears. “Thank you. I’m going to need a friend.”
“I’ll be around soon. Is... is Hail around?” He asked cautiously, and my heart just hurt more, because now, it didn’t just hurt for myself, but for him too.
“Yeah. She’s here.”
“Think there’s any chance that you could ask her if she’d be willing to give me a minute of her time?”
“Of course,” I almost-sobbed. “But I can’t guarantee she’ll say yes.”
“Is she still with that preppy asswipe?” He asked, sounding defeated.
“Yeah. She’s still with Davis. But it’s not serious,” I reassured him, knowing that his heart hurt right now.
“She’s just so fucking stubborn, Mel. She refuses to even listen to me. And I know I fucked up, but, still...”
“What exactly happened, Connor?” I asked again, still wondering what the hell happened between them that they both refused to talk about.
“If she hasn’t told you, she’ll be even less inclined to talk to me again if I tell you, Mel. I’m trying my best to get back into her good graces, here,” he sighed.
“Understood. I’ll see you soon, then.”
After we ended the call, I went across to Hailey’s room and knocked.
“Come in,” her voice traveled through the door.
I steeled myself for a confrontation when I opened the door, finding her lying on her bed, reading a book on her Ipad.
“Hi. I thought I’d let you know that someone will be coming around in a few minutes to drop off something for us,” I started carefully, not immediately wanting to mention Connor’s name.
Hailes smiled. “Oh - who?”
“He actually asked me to ask you if he could have a minute with you, Hailes.”
But as soon as I said those words, her face became a stone wall again.
“Is it him?” Her tone was cold.
“If you mean Connor, yeah.”
“Not happening,” she shut me right down, as expected.
I sighed. “Hailes, I still don’t know what happened between the two of you for you to react like this. Connor refuses to tell me anything, and the moment I mention his name, you are on the warpath. Whatever it is, isn’t it time to let it go? He is really trying here.”
And just then, my sister surprised the hell out of me. She started crying. Tears were rolling across her cheeks, and I could see that she was hurting, too.
“You have no idea, Mel. I don’t want to talk about it, but I can’t just forget. And perhaps he feels like he has made a mistake now. But it doesn’t change what happened, and how much he hurt my feelings.”
I walked over to her bed and gave her a hug.
“It’s just hard seeing both of you hurt so much, Hailes.”
“Yeah. In any event, I’m with Davis now,” she sniffed and wiped away the tears with the back of her hand.
“Do you actually love him?” I asked, extremely cautiously.
Our gazes met. And there was so much anguish in there.
“He’s the distraction that I need right now,” she admitted honestly.
But just then, there was a knock on the door.
“Mel, are you in there with Hailey?” My mom asked.
“Yes, we’re both in here,” I answered, still consoling Hailey.
“Connor’s here. Can he come in?”
Hailey gasped and jumped upright. She wiped her cheeks clean and straightened herself out.
“No,” she whispered to me with big eyes. “No - I don’t want to see him, please.”
I raised my eyebrows, deciding that I was going to incur my sister’s wrath here, because I couldn’t bear to see two people I loved suffer like this.
“Hailes, you can’t hide forever. It’s Christmas Eve,” I whispered back, and she shook her head, but I raised my voice so it would travel through the door.
“Yeah, come on in.”
“What the hell, Mel!” Hailey exploded, crossing her arms.
And the next moment, the door opened, and my mom and Connor were both standing there.
“Hi, Connor!” I greeted him with a smile, and my mom took in the tense situation with a raised eyebrow, but she knew better than to say anything.
“I’ll be downstairs,” she excused herself, then left.
“Hi Mel, Hail,” he said, looking at Hailey with a hell of a lot of apprehension.
“Merry Christmas. It’s not a big deal, but I wanted to.” He closed the distance and handed me a small, beautifully wrapped parcel first.
“Thanks, Connor, you really shouldn’t have.” I hugged him and took the parcel. “Merry Christmas to you as well.” I kissed him on the cheek, and he returned the gesture.
“Hail...” he sighed and held out a small, similarly wrapped parcel to her.
Her eyes were throwing daggers at him, and for a moment their gazes locked, and it was like an invisible electricity cable was running between them. The air felt thick with emotion, and it was as though they were the only two people in that room, just then.
“I’ll be right back...” I excused myself quietly, hoping like hell that they’d finally just talk about this thing between them.
I shut the door behind me and leaned against it with my back for a second, feeling emotionally depleted. It was quiet inside that room - deadly quiet. But then I walked away, knowing that I needed to give them privacy if there was any hope of this thing being worked out.
I went to my room and opened the gift that Connor had brought. It was wrapped in gold wrapping paper with an elaborate red ribbon tied around it, that I was fairly sure Connor didn’t tie himself. And I smiled as I opened the box and saw a little charm for my bracelet - Connor had been paying attention. It was a gold-cast life ring, and there was a small card, which read...
“Dear Mel. Merry Christmas. If you ever need a lifeline, I’m here. Love, Connor.”
And it must have been because I’d been feeling so damn emotional, but I started crying again just then, because I felt just so damn sad, but happy and grateful at the same time. Because the universe gave me Knox but was taking him away, while giving me a friend like Connor at the same time, too.
But then, I heard Connor and Hailey arguing again, and I sighed. I couldn’t make out what exactly they were saying, but whatever was going on inside that room was heated, that was for sure.
I walked downstairs, feeling guilty that I was trying to eavesdrop on their private conversation. My mom was in the kitchen, doing some last-minute Christmas baking.
“Need any help?”
My mom smiled as she noticed me.
“I have everything under control here, thanks. Are you seeing Knox tonight?” She asked carefully.
“No. Tomorrow, though.”
It hurt just to think about him. And the fact was, it was as though we were trying to pretend that everything was fine, but it was as though we were almost scared to be in the same room as each other these past few days. There was this unfamiliar tension between us, which just made everything worse.
“Are you okay, Mel?” My mom asked perceptively, watching me closely.
I shrugged, pasting on a little smile. “Yeah. As okay as I can be, I guess. I always knew this was coming.”
But before my mom could respond to that, I heard someone storming down the stairs.
Connor came to a standstill at the bottom of the stairs, and he looked as though he was about to explode as I walked over to him.
“Mel - I’m leaving. Thanks for trying, but your sister has made up her mind.”
I nodded at him. “Are you okay?”
He took a deep breath, and I could see he wasn’t - he was highly upset.
“No, I’m not. We’re beyond hope, Mel. I should just stop wasting my time, accept it, and move on with my life,” he sounded bitter.
“I’m so sorry. And Connor - thanks so much for the thoughtful gift. It means a lot. And... if you ever need a lifeline, I’m here for you too, you know?” I said gently, and there was a hint of a smile on his lips.
“I’m glad you like it. Come here.” He held his arms out, and I gave him a hug. “And Mel, I meant it. If you need me, especially when Knox leaves, I’m just a phone call away, okay?”
“Thanks, Connor. It means a lot.”
He sighed again. “I really wish I hadn’t fallen asleep here that night after the awards-dinner. Your sister can’t seem to get over that. She keeps throwing that in my face, and she just doesn’t want to fucking listen.”
And I felt guilty as sin, because that was all my fault. I was the one who went and had too much to drink and felt so sorry for myself that Connor decided to stay and make sure I was okay that night.
“I’m so sorry,” I felt those tears prickling in my eyes again - damn, I was an emotional wreck today.
“Not your fault. Nothing happened, and your sister knows it, too. She actually said that it’s not about what did or didn’t happen. But she’s pissed at me because she thinks I’m using you to try and make her jealous. She’s just using the whole thing as an excuse because she’s too much of a damn coward to deal with what really happened and how she’s feeling,” he sounded exasperated again. “I’m done trying, Mel. I’m done with her. I told her some time ago that I wasn’t going to wait forever. This is it - I’m drawing a line in the sand right here.”
He shook his head, looking as upset as he looked devoid of hope, just then. “I’ve got to go - my parents are expecting me back home for an extended family dinner. I’ll see you soon, Mel,” he walked out and I shut the door behind him, exhaling loudly. This whole thing with Connor and Hailey was such a mess, and I felt responsible for it - at least partially.
But nothing could’ve prepared me for the phone call my mom received about forty minutes later. I was getting a drink out of the fridge when her phone rang.
“Hi, Tay!” My mom answered cheerfully, but the next moment, she gasped, and I turned around to look at her.
“No... he was just here a few minutes ago...”
And this feeling of dread settled right in my stomach, and that sixth sense told me something wasn’t right.
“I’ll tell her. I’m so sorry, Tay, you must be going out of your mind with worry right now. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do, at all. We’re keeping him in our thoughts and prayers.”
My heart was pounding so loudly inside my chest; it felt like it was about to tear right through my skin...
My mom disconnected that call and looked at me with tears in her eyes.
“It’s Connor. He’s been in an accident...”