Chapter 21 - Knox
Why was it that it hurt inside when I held her in my arms like this? Why was it that it felt as though I couldn’t inhale enough oxygen into my lungs when I saw her cry?
This thing with Snow had gotten completely out of hand. I was a massive fucking fool for thinking for one moment that I’d be able to contain this. That it would be easy to walk away from this. This thing between us started out as being hardly more than a highly amusing game, but then the game turned lethal. Because the fact was, every time I thought of getting onto that plane, I saw her face before me, and I had absolutely no idea how I was ever going to walk away from her and leave her behind.
Despite my best intentions, this thing was a hell of a lot more than just an explosive physical connection. Snow made me feel again. She made me believe again. She saved me, as much as I’d saved her.
She was lying in my arms, her tears soaking into my shirt. Her body shook every now and again, and her sadness pierced holes into my soul, because I felt it like her sorrow was my own. Our limbs were tangled together, and she was holding onto me as though she was scared I might disappear if she let go.
And it just hurt...
“Stay tonight, Snow,” the words slipped out before I could stop myself. I wanted it - so bad, even though I knew it was a bad idea because it would just make everything harder again. We were so close to saying goodbye to each other, but why did it feel like this wasn’t the end?
“Are you sure?” She sounded surprised through her tears. We both knew that we were trying to maintain some necessary distance between us, and we’d only caved once, that night at the beach house.
And the last week or so, it was as though an invisible wall had gone up between us. It was as though we were too scared to say what we were really thinking and feeling, most of the time. And I fucking hated it, but I also knew it was necessary, because we had to slowly but painfully start ripping ourselves apart from each other.
“Yeah. We’ll go to the hospital together tomorrow, if they’ll let us in,” I offered, and she started crying harder again.
“Why? Why did you have to be so wonderful?” She asked quietly, her warm tears soaking my shirt, seeping into me like poison, slowly killing me inside.
And suddenly I didn’t have words anymore. I felt this deep, dull ache inside my heart. I knew that she needed me, like I needed her at that moment. So I just held her, like she was holding me, as though we were surviving a storm.
We drifted off in each other’s arms that night. And with every single beat of our hearts, our time was running out more and more...
I woke when she stirred against me and sighed. For a moment, I smiled. For a moment, I felt happy. For a sliver of a moment, it felt as though everything in the world was right. But then I remembered... we had four days. And then my heart slammed wildly against the confines of my chest, and my mouth ran dry.
“I didn’t have any dreams last night,” she murmured, her eyes still closed, and guilt smashed into me like a giant fucking sledgehammer.
And most of all, I had the best, deepest sleep I had in weeks as well - since that night we spent together at the beach house, to be exact.
But I didn’t have words again. So I just pulled her closer, held her tighter, memorized the feel of her soft body against mine. I knew I’d think back to this moment, in weeks to come, when I was halfway around the world, all alone. I knew I’d remember us like this, and remember just how good it felt to have this.
Her eyes fluttered open, and we both smiled for a moment before that flash of pain crossed her eyes again. This was so much damn harder than I’d ever thought it would be... And then, because neither of us had words, we kissed, and kissed, and kissed again, losing ourselves in each other. Because that was easier than trying to find words for the situation we were in.
“Merry Christmas, Snow,” I said when we finally surfaced, and her lips curved into a smile that belied the utterly desperate situation we were in.
“Merry Christmas, Knox,” she said softly, then sighed.
I knew what she was thinking. It was the same thing I was thinking, no doubt.
“I got you something. Something small.” And suddenly when I said it, I didn’t know if it was a good idea anymore. Was it really a good idea to give her something that would remind her of me - of us?
Her face lit up, and I knew it was too late; I had to go through with it now.
“You didn’t have to,” she bit her bottom lip tucked her hair behind her ear in a nervous gesture.
“I wanted to.” That was the truth. Because I was selfish enough to want her to remember me.
I reached for the drawer and pulled out a little parcel. They did a great job wrapping it too at the shop where I bought it, in red and gold wrapping paper with an elaborate bow. Snow’s eyes lit up as I handed it to her.
“Thank you - it’s wrapped beautifully,” she smiled.
“Can’t take credit for that one, unfortunately,” I tried to lighten the atmosphere, and we both smiled.
I could see her fingers tremble lightly as she untied the bow. And even that hurt. I knew I’d file it all away deep inside my mind, and remember all the small things about her that I loved. Fuck no - liked - that’s what I meant, wasn’t it? The things about her that I liked.
She opened the small box, and she lifted the delicate necklace inside. It was a chain and a pendant in the shape of two angel wings, connected by a little diamond in the center.
For a moment, she just looked at it, running her thumb across the wings, and then a tear ran down her cheek, which she quickly wiped away, but her eyes shimmered like diamonds.
“It’s beautiful. I love it, Angel,” she smiled as another tear fell down her cheek, and I swear there was something wrong with me, because it hurt everywhere inside my chest.
“Help me to fasten it,” she held the necklace out to me, and I nodded, suddenly my throat felt constricted so that I couldn’t get a word out again.
She lifted her long, dark hair, and my fingers brushed against her nape as I connected the fasteners. I pressed a kiss there for good measure after I’d finished.
She turned around, fumbling with the pendant, looking a mixture of happy and sad at the same time.
“Thank you. It’s perfect,” she whispered, her bottom lip quivering slightly.
“Just like you, Snow,” I got out, and then we just looked at each other, neither of us knowing what to say again.
But just then, her phone rang, cutting through the silence that was starting to feel smothering between us again. Snow immediately reached for her phone.
“Hi, Mom, did you hear anything?” Snow sounded tightly wound, immediately.
Her face contorted into a little frown, then she smiled. “I’m so happy to hear that. We’ll go visit him this morning.”
Her mom said something on the other end, and then Snow took in a sharp breath. “Really?”
My eyebrows rose, waiting for a clue as to what could be going on.
“Okay. Tell her to be ready in about an hour.”
Snow put her phone down and shook her head, her lips parting in surprise.
“What’s going on?” I pulled her closer into me again, tucking her head back into the crook of my shoulder where she belonged.
“Connor is out of the woods, apparently. We can go see him this morning. But perhaps most surprisingly, Hailey has asked to come with when I go to the hospital,” Snow couldn’t keep the surprise out of her voice.
“Didn’t you say that they had a fight yesterday?” My eyebrows rose, because this situation between Snow’s sister and Connor confused the fuck out of me.
“Yeah, they did. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it didn’t end well - again. And then, when she heard that he’d been in the accident, it was as though a switch flipped somewhere inside of her, and she realized that she could’ve lost him. I... I think she wants to apologize to him,” Snow’s lips curved into a smile, and I couldn’t help but smile slightly too, seeing that smile of hers reappear.
“That whole thing between your sister and Connor has been dragging on for far too long. The tension is thicker than fog whenever they’re in the same room together. Who knows, perhaps something good can come out of this accident, after all,” I sighed, silently feeling kind of sorry for Connor, because Snow’s sister seemed like very high maintenance, from what I’d seen so far. She was so different from Snow in every single respect, that it would’ve been hard to believe they were sisters if they didn’t look almost-identical.
“Yeah, I hope so. Connor is a decent guy, and he has been trying so hard. Hailey has been acting completely out of character for a while now, whenever he’s around.”
We got up, had coffee, and then I took Snow home, and I waited for her as she took a quick shower and got changed. Thankfully her parents were nowhere to be seen because I had no idea what the hell I’d say to them about leaving their daughter in four days’ time.
“Hi, Knox,” Hailey appeared, and I could see the girl made one hell of an effort with her appearance. The Davis-sisters were knockouts, that was for sure, but there was just something about Snow that made her stood out more. Snow had depth; she radiated calmness and compassion. Her sister, on the other hand, seemed more emotional, more volatile. And I had the idea that navigating Hailey Davis was like navigating a minefield - you had to watch every single step, or you might get yourself into a shitload of trouble.
“Hi, Hailey,” I smiled, not really knowing whether I should broach the subject of Connor or not. “Merry Christmas,” I added, remembering.
“Merry Christmas to you as well. Mel will be here soon - she said two minutes,” Hailey sounded uncharacteristically nervous, wringing her hands together.
“Thanks,” I nodded, not really sure what else to say to her.
A long silence stretched out between us, and it was clear that neither of us really had anything to say to each other.
“Are you looking forward to going to London?” She asked, trying to make conversation, but just hearing that name caused my insides to shake. Unbeknownst to her, she probably couldn’t have asked me a worse question right then.
I had no fucking idea how to respond, because the truth was, I was starting to dread it. It all sounded so much damn easier and uncomplicated when those plans lay were laid, so many months ago, long before Snow was in my life. But reality was a completely different story, right now.
“Yeah,” I said noncommittally, and just then, Snow entered the room, and there was this vulnerability in her expression, which gave me the idea that she’d overheard that last answer. But she put on a brave face, like she always did.
“You look beautiful,” I said to her, taking her in. Snow always looked beautiful, though, no matter what she wore. Whereas her sister was dressed in heels and a figure-hugging dress that would make traffic stop, Snow was dressed in skinny jeans, a plain black top, and flats. But she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, by a mile.
“Thanks,” she smiled. “This is nothing special, but I’ll take it.” Her fingers were fumbling with that pendant again.
“It’s not the clothes, Snow. It’s you,” I couldn’t help but saying because it was true.
How the hell was I going to let her go?
We arrived at the hospital and found out information about Connor’s location.
We finally located his room, and Hailey suddenly stopped dead inside her tracks.
“I don’t know...” she looked like she was about to pass out, she was pale as a sheet, and her eyes were wide.
“Hailes, don’t be a coward,” Snow gently reprimanded her sister. “Let’s do this - I’m right here, okay?”
Hailey nodded, swallowing visibly, looking nervous as hell. “I hope he’s not too mad...”
“If he feels the way I think he does about you, you have nothing to worry about,” Snow tried to encourage Hailey again. “Did you want to go in first and talk to him alone?”
Hailey nodded, taking a deep breath. “That might be a good idea, if you don’t mind?”
“Of course. Knox and I will wait outside and give you a minute,” Snow placed a hand on her sister’s arm. “You’ve got this Hailes,” she smiled, and right then, she looked like a fucking angel. Her smile, her heart, everything about her was so damn pure; I couldn’t stop looking at her.
Hailey smiled and exhaled, then went inside the room. But the next moment, Snow and I looked at each other in surprise as Connor’s voice boomed...
“What the hell are you doing here?”
And by the tone of his voice, it was fairly clear that Hailey’s presence wasn’t a welcome surprise...