by death cab for cutie is the song for the chapter.
The sound of a twig snapping wakes me with a start. I must’ve dozed off. I’m still up in the stand. I look around for anything out of the ordinary. The ladder vibrates and I look down to see Nik climbing up.
“What are you doing? How long were you out here? You could’ve fallen while you were sleeping, or worse, been attacked by a lone wolf.” Nik scolds.
“I know, I was just so tired. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
I take in his appearance. A long sleeve tan shirt, black jeans and boots. His face is handsome as ever even with the dark circles under his beautiful brown eyes. He wraps me in his arms and I welcome the warmth and security it brings.
“You’ll get sick up here in the wind. Let me at least warm you up.” I snuggle closer and he begins to stroke my arm in a soothing manner. His touch is electrifying even through the layers of clothing. Snow begins to fall and I mentally curse the weather here.
“C’mon, let’s get you home so you can rest and warm up.” Nik climbs down first and I follow. He grabs my hand and begins to walk.
“Do you think we could go to your house? I’m not ready to face my family after last night.”
“Did they tell you then, about Raven?” His eyes shift to the forest floor and he kicks at it.
“Yeah, they did.” I don’t know what else to say.
“That doesn’t have to be us, y’know. We aren’t doomed to repeat history.” He tries to reassure. I smile half heartedly and his eyes hold a sadness. I don’t like it. I want the bright eyed Nik back. We continue our walk in silence.
I reach out for his hand and the boyish grin he gives me makes butterflies form in my stomach. When we get to his house his parents are there in the kitchen. Nate hugs Tatiana while she is chopping vegetables. She laughs as he kisses her and refuses to let go. I feel awkward like I’m witnessing something personal. Nik rolls his eyes at them.
“Didn’t expect you back so soon.” Nate says and Nik shoots him a look.
“Neither did I but I’m glad you’re here! Lunch will be ready shortly. I hope you like venison.” I tell her I don’t want to impose and she playfully scolds me for saying that.
Lunch is delicious. She serves up the pan fried venison with tender celery and carrots. She even takes time to show me how she makes my favorite, hot chocolate. She makes me feel so welcome and at home. Nik smiles at us from the table like this is the perfect day before returning to the conversation with his father.
They use their tribe language and I can’t help but feel it’s so I don’t know what’s being said. The conversation doesn’t seem hostile though so I assume it’s not about me. Nate doesn’t seem fond of me. After learning my families history with the tribe I can’t find it in myself to blame him.
We set the plates on the table and Tatiana fills in some of the silence with questions that will help her know me better. I answer them all genuinely. Nate finally speaks up and when he does I wish he wouldn’t.
“Are you going to be going home today or will you spend the week hiding here?”
His question stuns me. He’s suggesting I don’t really want to be here either, that I’m here because it is less uncomfortable than facing my family.
I’d like to say Well, it was less uncomfortable until you opened your mouth. But, I hold my tongue. He’s got a point. I am hiding. He called me out on it and I can’t blame him. I can see he’s trying to protect Nik.
“Father!” Nik and Tatiana go into full on other language mode. They are all so busy yelling they don’t notice me slip from the table and out the door.
I’ve barely made it off the porch when Nik comes running out.
“Elliana, wait!” He grabs my shoulder and spins me around so I have to face him.
“He’s right. I should go.”
“He is not right! Look, I don’t know why he’s being such a pain. He’s usually not like this. I promise if you just come back inside he won’t bother you again.”
“Stop being so blinded by the fact you feel obligated to need me!” Nik drops his arm from its hold on mine. He looks wounded by my words.
“Nik, listen to me. Your dad is right. I’m avoiding them. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to spend time with you. I even had a great time cooking with your mom. I just, I haven’t even begun to unravel all these thoughts and feelings. He is trying to protect you. I can understand that.” Nik swallows hard and his jaw ticks in frustration.
“I know how you feel Elliana, I feel it. You care about me as much as I care for you. If you didn’t you wouldn’t have come home after all these years. Admit to yourself that the reason you came back was because you needed to think I wasn’t real so you could move on. Well, guess what? I’m real and I’m right here.”
He grabs my hand and places it on his warm chest. My hand is over his heart and I can feel the strong heartbeat beneath his shirt.
“So, have you moved on or not? Is what we feel as real as when we were kids or was it all some sick, twisted dream?” He waits for me to respond. Staring into his eyes I lose all ability to speak.
“I-it’s real. You’re real. I know that I just...”
“You just what?”
“I am afraid...” I whisper. He grabs my face gently and bends down to my level. Our eyes meet and I know I’m a goner.
“Afraid of loving me or afraid of rejecting me?” He whispers. My heart shatters at his words.
“I’m afraid of losing you. Of repeating mistakes. Of one day you realizing I’m not special. Of you dying.”
“None of that will happen. I swear it.”
“Nikan, please. I need time.”
“Don’t call me that. You always call me Nik. Don’t create space. Not now that you’re back. Elliana Rose Mayfield, I love you and I’m not giving up.”
“Nik, I-.” I don’t get the chance to respond.
He suddenly brings a hand to my hair and his mouth crashes into mine. The snow flakes trickle slowly around us. His lips are warm and inviting. I can’t think about anything except how right this feels.
The kiss that started out rough turns into something slow and soft. When we come up for air I find myself disappointed that it’s over. I’m dizzy on the euphoria. Maybe even drunk on it.
“Don’t say it back until you have decided what you want. This is enough for me, for now. What we are is good enough until you know what you want.” His forehead rests against mine. We catch our breath before he walks me home.
Meet me in the woods tomorrow?” He asks hesitantly.
“And every day after that.” He grins and kisses me swiftly and I’m left with nothing but the breeze.