Alight [Completed]

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Chapter 25 - Melody

It felt as though time stood still. As though every day took ten times longer than it should. Every day since Knox had left for London had felt that way.

I’d cried myself to sleep most nights than I care to remember. Three months had passed since he left. Three months - the same amount of time we were together, but it felt like a whole damn lifetime in comparison. Because time just went slower when pieces of your heart were missing, and it didn’t work like clockwork anymore.

We still talked, but not like we used to. It was every second, or third day now. And I knew I was being stupid, but I lived for the times that my phone would ring and I’d hear his voice. I even slept with my damn phone on, next to my bed so that I wouldn’t miss his calls.

But then, at the start, there would be an uncomfortable silence or two. As though neither of us quite knew how to start a conversation with each other anymore. And it absolutely killed me that we’d become like that...

“Hi Knox,” his name would tear from my lips every time, and my heart would ache even more for an instant, knowing I was about to hear that velvet voice.

“Good morning, Snow...”

Then he’d hesitate and sigh, and my heart would pound faster and faster, wondering if he were about to tell me he’d met someone else... My eyes would start prickling, as would my throat. And then, he’d go on to tell me something about his day. Somewhere he went. A new friend he made.

And then, after a minute or two, we’d be the way we were before, and then all of those feelings would come rushing back like a giant wave, rolling right over me. And then I’d realize just how much I was still in love with him. Just how much I wasn’t over him, and then that feeling of grief would overcome me, because I’d realize all over again just what I’d lost.

Someone once said that grief was like the ocean... some days, the waves were huge and kept smashing into you again and again, and it felt as though you might just drown. Other days, the waves were smaller and farther apart. Those were the better days. And I’d been told that with time, those waves would become smaller and smaller, gradually, until one day I’ll wake up and realize that the ocean was calmer again. That I could swim against the tide again.

I was still waiting for that day, though. That heartbreak was still fresh. I wore his necklace every day, and I’d cried more tears than I dared to admit to onto those angel wings. But it felt as though I carried a piece of him with me when I wore it. I never took it off - not when I showered, not when I went to bed. It had become my most prized possession. I had something tangible to hold onto, for now...

*****

“How’s the collarbone feeling, Connor?”

“Did you bring snacks?” He asked with a cheeky smile, and I shook my head at him in mock-admonishment, throwing him a protein bar.

I was visiting Connor again at his parents’ house. Since Knox had left, we’d become even closer than we were before. It was like he instinctively knew how much I needed a shoulder to cry on, and he’d become just that in the weeks that followed. It must’ve helped that I kept turning up with some of his favorite varieties of protein bars to keep him going, because of course, there was no way that Connor Blake was going to sit on the sideline for weeks, doing nothing on a couch.

He had access to some of the finest physiotherapists, doctors, and personal trainers that money could buy. And together, they ensured that he recovered at maximum speed, while keeping up his muscle tone like a finely tuned machine. Incidentally, the guy could eat like a machine too - damn - I had no idea where he packed all of the food away, while still looking so muscular and lean, but that was probably a trade secret of athletes.

“I’m cleared to play a full game again,” he said with a massive smile. He’d been attending training sessions with the team for the past two weeks, but had been advised to avoid playing an actual game for a further two weeks, to make sure everything has healed.

“So happy for you,” I smiled.

“We actually have a game on Saturday. Will you come watch?”

“Definitely. Wouldn’t miss your comeback for the world.”

Due to his injury, Connor had missed most opportunities to be considered by professional teams after graduating at the end of the semester. He had to sit on the sidelines and watch his teammates get offers from teams around the country, while knowing that he was just as good, if not better than most of them. I felt for him, but to his credit, he was immensely driven and determined as hell not to give up on his dreams.

“Dad put in a word or two to a few scouts, apparently. No pressure, right?” He sighed but smiled at the same time. He was excited for this, I could see - he had that glint of determination in his charcoal eyes.

“You’re going to blow them away, my friend. I look forward to reading about you in the papers one day,” I teased, and he flung an arm around my shoulders.

“I’m not going to be one of those guys who get a big head and forget about their real friends, Mel, I swear. One of the things I learned from my old man, is that once you’ve made it, everyone suddenly wants a piece of you. But it’s so damn important to surround yourself with the people who stuck with you through the good times and the bad, who are not just looking for a free ride,” Connor said bluntly.

“Well, I hope I make the cut,” I winked, and he laughed.

“No doubt.” His face became soberer. “How’s Knox?”

Immediately that smile disappeared from my face.

“Fine, it seems. He seems to be... settled in there now.”

It hurt just to talk about him. About the fact that whenever we talked, he always seemed to have a new story about a new adventure and a new place to tell. It sounded like he was having a ball in London, actually. He’d made friends; he knew his way around. And even though I wanted to be happy for him, it hurt like hell. Because he was okay. He was okay without me - without us - and I was not. I was the one who’d been left behind.

“Melly - I hate to see that sad face,” Connor said with sympathy, and I shrugged.

“It is what it is. I knew exactly how it was going to end.” I tried to keep the emotion out of my voice - failing for the most part.

“Still,” he said, shaking his head. “The guy is as emotionally unavailable as a freight train, Mel. Perhaps it’s time to let him go,” he looked at me pensively, looking as though he wanted to say more.

I decided to change the topic because my heart already hurt, and I didn’t want it hurt even more by talking about Knox and hearing just how far-fetched it was of me to still want to hold on to us.

“Have you considered talking to Hailey?” I countered, knowing that he despised that topic as much as I did the topic of Knox these days, for exactly the same reason.

“No. End of discussion,” he said abruptly.

“She’s still single. Just saying,” I threw out some bait.

“Good for her. I’m sure she’ll find someone else to amuse herself with soon.” He said with complete apathy, but I knew him better than that - it was a defense mechanism. And damn, Connor was like a solid concrete wall whenever the topic of my sister arose. I still had no idea what exactly had happened between them, but if I had to venture an educated guess, I’d say that there was some form of romantic relationship there, albeit brief, which ended going up in spectacular flames. Somehow, Connor did something that hurt Hailey. He tried to apologize, but by that stage, Hailey was hurt, and being her stubborn self. Add an extremely stubborn guy to the mix, and you have a recipe for a clashing of wills that was never going to end well.

“Oh - a few of us are going out for a few drinks Saturday night after the game. Want to come with?” Connor asked, and I raised a brow.

“Define ‘a few of us’...”

“Guys from the team. You should come.”

I laughed. “I don’t know. Probably not.”

“Why not?”

“I’m... not ready for it. I’m not stupid, Connor; I know you’re probably going to try and set me up with someone.” I was onto him, big time.

He laughed and shook his head. “You’re no fun. And I won’t. There’ll be other people, but you don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to.”

“Promise this isn’t a set-up?” I looked at him through narrowed eyes.

“Promise, hand on heart,” he flashed that killer-smile of his, and I caved.

“Fine. Please make sure I don’t drink too much. Because we don’t need a repeat of that time at the gala dinner when I felt sad, and I drank too much...” I sighed, and his smile faltered, too, remembering the ugly scene with Hailey that followed that next morning when she found us trying to sneak Connor out of the house.

“If you drink too much again, I’ll bring you around here instead of taking you home,” he said dryly. “No chance of running into certain people that way.”

And I just let that comment slide, because I knew it was futile to try and reason with him about Hailey. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling slightly bitter inside. Because they had all the time in the world, and they chose to spend it apart.

*****

Connor had a spectacular comeback on the football field that weekend, and I just knew that there was no way that he wasn’t going places after his performance in that game. The crowd went wild every time he handled the ball, and the opposition never really stood any chance. It was one-way traffic by anyone’s standards, and it was plain to see that Connor had that hunger inside of him that would drive him to reach the peak of the game one day. He was an absolute machine - unstoppable and strong, and his forced break from the game seemed only to increase his determination.

Afterward, a big group of us went out to an already-crowded bar not far off-campus, and the whole place started cheering when Connor and the rest of his teammates arrived.

The atmosphere was infectious, and I was actually starting to have a good time despite my reservations. I was just onto my third drink when someone suddenly tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned around, frowning, not in the mood to fight off the attentions of some asshole I had no interest in even talking with.

But my eyes widened when I saw that it was Heath - my ex - standing there with a broad grin. He looked boyishly handsome with his tousled sandy-blonde hair and a cheeky glint in his hazel eyes.

“Mel - you look amazing, really. How are you?” He asked jovially, leaning in to hug me.

I indulged him for a few seconds, then stepped back.

“Fine, thanks. How are you?” My tone was substantially cooler than his.

“Good, thanks. But I’ve been better, actually,” he said with a sigh.

“How so?” My eyebrows rose.

“The truth is, I’ve missed you, Mel. And I’m starting to realize... I’ve made a mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking. It just isn’t the same.” He raked a hand through his hair, looking slightly uncomfortable.

“Really?” My eyebrows shot up higher. “What exactly isn’t the same?”

He looked me straight in the eyes. “They aren’t you, Mel. None of them are you. And none of them make me feel the way I felt when I was with you. Like it all mattered. Like there was a future ahead.”

I let that explosive statement sink in, gathering my thoughts.

“And... I’ve heard that you’ve broken up with whatever-his-name was, recently, and...”

“Knox. His name is Knox,” I interrupted him coolly.

His eyebrow shot up. “Right. Knox.” He didn’t sound impressed. “So, clearly, it hasn’t worked out too well for you, either.”

I had a less-than-impressed expression on my face, just then. “It didn’t quite happen like that. He moved overseas,” my tone was Arctic.

“Semantics. The fact is, Mel, I think we should try again. I’m ready this time. I swear, that itch is gone. I’ve seen what else is out there, and not one of them was you. I’ll know exactly what I have this time, and I’m ready to get serious about us,” he pleaded, taking my hand in his.

I pulled my hand right out, feeling slightly offended by that statement, too. “I’m afraid it’s not that easy, Heath. We had our time, but it’s over. We’ll inevitably run into each other from time to time, and I’m happy to go back to being friends, if you’re willing to accept that. But, I’m not going there with you again,” I stood my ground, looking him right in the eyes, not feeling a shred of feeling apart from wishing so damn hard that it was Knox standing in front of me right now, asking for a second chance. My heart clenched inside my chest just at the thought...

He looked slightly irritated but nodded. “Okay, friends, then, for now.”

And right then, I made a decision. I was going to London to visit Knox. I missed him like hell. Seeing Heath again, made me realize just how much my relationship with him lacked, compared to what I had with Knox. I had to see if that unstoppable spark between us was still there, or whether I’d been exaggerating things inside my mind.

Because it still felt as though I didn’t have closure. I was unable to let go. And I had to find out if what I felt was one-sided, or whether I was right to hang onto hope that we’d find each other again. Because despite everything, it simply didn’t feel as though we were finished...

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