Chapter 27 - Melody
My heart shook when our eyes met. I trembled. It felt as though my bones shook inside my body.
After an intense moment where we just looked at each other, he gave a few steps forward, and finally, he was standing right in front of me. My eyes hungrily darted over every feature. His dark hair, those blue eyes, that defined jawline, those lips that used to drive me to desperation. He was right in front of me, but at the same time, he felt so far away. Even though he looked the same as the Knox that I knew, he reacted to me like a stranger.
A hesitant smile curved on his lips. “It’s great to see you. You look beautiful, Mel.”
I swallowed and tried to smile, as well. I craved to touch him. I craved for him to kiss me. This situation where we were looking at each other like strangers, was undiluted torture.
“Thank you. You look great as well.”
“Can I... can I give you a hug?” He asked with so much hesitation that it hurt.
‘This whole thing is so fucking painful; I should just go home.’
“Yeah, of course,” I said, and he stepped forward again, and my heart stopped for a moment as his arms circled around me hesitantly at first, then he tightened his hold.
And for about two seconds, my heart slammed against his again before he let go again. This was pure torture...
“Thank you for making the effort.” He said so damn politely again.
“I said I’d come to visit you when you left,” I tried to downplay the situation, because I knew I shouldn’t have come here.
“Did you have anything in particular that you’d like to see or do today?” He asked, fumbling with his keys, looking uncomfortable as hell.
“Um... no. It would be good to go for a walk, though, after the long flight.”
We were strangers. Strangers having a conversation about topics as mundane as the damn weather. How the hell did this happen?
“That can be arranged. Come on, this way,” he said with a little smile, and for a moment, it was as though a sliver of my Knox was there again before he disappeared, and this unfamiliar stranger took his place again.
We exited the hotel lobby and started walking in silence. It wasn’t a comfortable silence, though. It felt forced. Tense. How the hell did we become like this?
“How are your studies going?” He broke the silence first.
“Really well, thanks. I’m getting close to graduating now - two more semesters to go.” I forced a smile onto my lips that I wasn’t feeling.
“She just finished this semester, actually. Her degree was shorter than mine. She’s applying for jobs at the moment.”
“Connor must be finished, too?” He asked with a frown, sounding even more distant for some reason.
“Yes. He just finished as well. He got an offer actually, to play in the NFL, for the same team as his dad. His dad is so proud; he can’t stop telling everyone within earshot about it. And Connor is so determined, he was never going to let that setback with his collarbone deter him,” I tried to smile.
Knox nodded. “Good for him.” But he didn’t particularly sound enthused about it, either.
“He was always going to make it big, just like his dad,” I kept babbling on nervously, almost too afraid that there’d be another uncomfortable silence between us if I stopped talking. “He’s so extremely talented and is already training with the team, although he hasn’t had a start...”
“Sounds like everything has worked out for him, then,” Knox interrupted me, and I went quiet, wondering what the hell I said wrong, because he sounded irritated all of a sudden.
Another tense silence followed. This was painful, so painful. It felt as though I was walking next to a complete stranger...
“I’m sorry...” he started, but then I interrupted him this time.
“What the hell is going on with you, Knox?” I had to ask the question. Because I was lost here. So damn lost.
He sighed, and we both came to a standstill next to a big, leafy tree.
“Are you and Connor... seeing each other now?”
My jaw dropped.
"Where the hell did that question come from?”
He frowned and sounded a mixture of exasperated and apologetic.
“I’m sorry. That was way out of line. It’s none of my business.”
I just looked at him, shaking my head, my lips still parted in astonishment.
“Do you really think I’d be here if I was seeing Connor Blake?” I planted a hand on my hip, because this conversation was going downhill fast. What the hell was wrong with Knox?
“No... of course not. Shit - that was a stupid question - forget I said anything, please.” He had the decency to look embarrassed.
And then that tense silence hung between us again, and it was even worse than before. It was as though we were too afraid to say anything to each other again. I had no idea what was going on with him, but for me, the problem was that I couldn’t tell him how exactly I was feeling. How much I loved him. How much I missed him. How much I wanted him to call me Snow again, take me in his arms and kiss me like we used to kiss before, even if it was just for one damn week.
But just then, it was as though something broke within me. Something snapped.
“You know what - let’s just call this a day. I can see you don’t really want to be here. That you don’t really want me here.” I abruptly stopped dead in my tracks.
“Mel, please...” he started, but I interrupted him.
“I’ve had enough, Knox. There’s only so much I can take. I can admit when I’ve made a mistake. And coming here was a big mistake.”
I kept it together - barely. It hurt like hell inside, but hell would freeze over before I started crying right now.
“I’m going back to my hotel. I can’t even say that it was nice to see you - because it wasn’t. I have no idea what happened to the guy that I said goodbye to a few months ago, because the one standing in front of me right now is behaving like a complete stranger. A stranger who is an asshole, incidentally, as well.”
“I’m not done, Knox. I want you to tell me one thing, and then I’ll go.”
I could see that he was burning to say something, but he bit his tongue and nodded.
“Was any of it real to you, back then? At all?”
His jaw dropped. ”How the hell can you even ask me something like that?”
“Because the way you’re behaving right now is making me question everything. Everything! I thought I had something real to hang onto. That every time I felt that necklace of yours resting against my skin, I had something tangible to remind me of what I had. But it’s starting to feel like a giant lie. And I can deal with a lot of things, but I don’t do lies.”
My nails were digging into my palms again; it was going to leave marks. It hurt, but it hurt a lot less than my heart did, just then.
“And you’ve answered my question with yet another question. I’ve had it. Have a nice life, Knox Vaughn. I think I deserve better than this.”
I spun around, but the next moment he grabbed onto my hand.
“Snow, please, I’m sorry...”
I tremor skated right down my spine when he called me Snow again.
"Now I’m Snow again, all of a sudden? You can get lost, Knox.”
I ripped my hand from his, feeling this damn close to tears.
“You don’t get to do this. You don’t get to go hot and cold like this. Because it is destroying me inside. It’s like being on a rollercoaster, blind-folded. Not knowing which way you’re going to be flung next, at maximum speed.”
He placed both hands on my arms, and he looked at me with the intensity of a cyclone that was about to hit land.
“Please just listen to me. This is hard. This is so hard for me, too. I don’t have the faintest idea how to be friends with you, because I still want you, Snow. The thought of you and Connor Blake is driving me insane. Every time I call you, you talk about him, half the time. And I get that Connor is a great guy, but fuck...”
My jaw dropped. “You’re jealous of my friendship with Connor now? The one guy who has actually been there for me this whole time? That’s rich of you, Knox. I don’t need to remind you, that you were the one who walked away from me, and not the other way around.”
“I know,” he sounded tormented now. “I can’t be with you right now. But I can’t be without you, either. This is driving me nuts.”
I laughed bitterly. “You think this is driving you nuts? You’re being stubborn about this whole thing, Knox. Not once have you asked me if I’d be willing to...”
I stopped right in my tracks as a tear finally made its way down my cheek.
“Nevermind. I’m wasting my time here. I’m going home on the next flight,” a sob escaped, and I closed my eyes for a second to try and regain my composure. Damn - this conversation hurt so much.
“Stay,” he said just above a whisper, sounding so damn lost that I opened my eyes again. And then his eyes were alive... so damn alive with licking flames...
I was mesmerized; I couldn’t get a word out. My lips parted, slowly... it was as though everything was happening in slow motion, all of a sudden. Because the look he gave me, just then, was the way that my Knox used to look at me. It was familiar. It was exhilarating. It was filled with electricity and anticipation.
“This is going to burn us again,” he said, his eyes transfixed on my mouth, but this time there was something different altogether in his voice.
“Wouldn’t you rather feel alive for a short while, than emotionally numb for eternity?” The words came out of nowhere. Why the hell did I even say them?
“This isn’t going to end well,” he groaned out the words.
“It never does with us; it seems,” I laughed bitterly.
“Come with me,” he insisted with a sudden urgency.
“Where to?” I frowned.
“You’ll see,” he dragged me by the hand, and I had to run the first three steps to keep up with his pace.
“You can’t keep doing this, you know?” I tried to argue with him, but he wouldn’t have a bar of it, and didn’t even bother to respond.
We turned right, then left again, and walked for half a block before he pulled me into a building entrance.
“Where are we?” I asked, taking in my surroundings. It looked like some sort of foyer if I had to guess.
But he didn’t answer me again, and impatiently pressed the call button for the elevator. A couple was having an animated discussion in the foyer, and I tried my best not to look at them, even though it was clear from their conversation that things weren’t going too well between them, either. Must have been the day for a good fight, it seemed.
The elevator doors opened, and Knox pulled me inside, pressing a button to go up to the eighth level.
“Fucking finally. Took long enough.” He murmured impatiently, and I frowned again.
“What the hell is going on? Where are you taking me?” I tried again, and just as those doors closed, he finally looked me in the eyes...
“Let’s start over. Snow, I missed you. I’ve counted the days since you said you were coming to visit. And although this thing between us scares the shit out of me, because we can’t be together right now, and it hurt like a fucking bullet hole to the lung when we had to say goodbye the last time, what we do have, is right now. I still can’t make you any promises. And we’ll have to end again in a week’s time. But do you want this, for as long as we have?” His indigo eyes threw flames at me, and his words burned with an intensity in the atmosphere between us.
And right then, Knox Vaughn stole my breath once again with his lips, but without even kissing me this time...