“Tell me everything. What the hell happened out there?” Rachel asks while she hands me a warm cup of tea.
Paul throws a knitted blanket that my mom crocheted for my dad a long time ago around my shoulders. Paul sits to my right, and Rachel takes a seat to my left. I’m stuck in the middle with my bestie and my boyfriend’s friend.
I don’t know where to start. One minute, my dad goes berserk, threatening to kill Mike for being in my room, for crossing a line – a rule he must have put in place. The next, Mike declares his love for me to my dad. Then my dad takes off in a huff, squealing his tires as Mike follows.
The mug in my hands is hot. My eyes cast down to watch the steam stroll up when Rachel repeats, “Elena? Sweetie, what happened?” I smell something sweet from the tea. She must have put honey in it.
“I’m not sure.” I sound like a small child. What if Mike didn’t mean it? What if he just said it to throw my dad off his crazy train.
It sounded like he meant it. Without thinking, I suck in my bottom lip and squeeze the mug tight. I’ll leave out the details of what happened in my room and sprint towards when my dad came home.
My eyes concentrate on the steaming mug while I tell Paul and Rachel what happened. By the time I finish, all anyone can hear is the ticking of the clock above our front door.
“So, he said that he’s in love with you?” Paul speaks above the ticking clock’s solo.
I nod my head, entranced on the mug.
Paul leans back into the couch and mumbles something that I missed. I’m just about to ask what he had said when a feminine voice stops me. “How do you feel about that?” Rachel asks as she rubs my back like a mother would to an ill child.
“I feel like...” My body slumps. How do I feel about it? I need to know if he meant it first. I don’t know if he just said it in the heat of the moment or if it’s how he really truly feels.
If he is in love with me, then I’d have to tell him how I feel, too. “I just hope he meant it and didn’t just say it because he thought he was going to die,” I finally tell Rachel.
Paul touches my shoulder. I look over at him; his face is serious. “I know Mike. He doesn’t throw that word around -ever. If he said it, he meant it.” Paul’s dark chocolate orbs scold mine for ever thinking anything different.
The front door opens. For some reason, my heart lurches forward in anticipation of seeing Mike walk through the door, but it was the man that held the shotgun in his hands instead.
The room is silent, save for the sound of his boots and the clock ticking. The boots tread heavily on the wood floors causing them to croak beneath his weight. Only I can tell that he’s a bit embarrassed because he has a nervous habit of twitching his middle finger against his leg when he is. His lips gather to the side; his dark eyes look in the opposite direction of his mouth as he bobs his head. He isn’t making eye contact with me - he knows what he’ll see. He can’t stand my confused and frazzled glare.
“Right. Well, I think we all had an...interesting night...so...yeah. G’night.” The man clears his throat, turns down the hall for his room, and shuts his door.
“That’s my cue,” Paul says with a gurgle of his throat as he stands up.
I, too, remove myself from the couch and thank Paul for staying. He hugs me and assures me that everything will be alright. The blanket about falls off one of my shoulders, so I snug it back over and hold the corners with one hand beneath my chin and carry the mug that’s still glued to the other hand. I give Paul a small smile then pad my way down the hall to give them some privacy as they say good-bye. She won’t be able to see him at all tomorrow before she leaves.
In reaching for a Kleenex, I fold it into a square and place it on my desk to rest the hot mug on top of it. I have yet to take a sip. I don’t have the heart to tell Rachel that I don’t like honey in my tea.
My feet carry me over the air mattress then stop just before my bed. The light sheer golden color tie is mangled on the floor from when my dad threw it on the ground in haste for his shotgun. I bend down, pick it up, and climb into bed with it. Even though I’m still wearing his t-shirt from tonight, I hug his tie close.
A few minutes later, I hear Paul leave. There’s a click from the door to indicate that Rachel locked it behind him. The glow from down the hall vanishes from her switching off the lights. Then I hear the padding of her feet grow closer to my door. When she enters my room, she shuts the bedroom door, then climbs right on the bed and faces me.
“What a night, huh?” She tries to lighten the weight of my heavy heart.
“You could say that again,” I snort.
“The club was fun, though, right?” Rachel muses, then her face scrunches. “I mean other than getting a drink splashed on you.”
Somehow, someway, that erupted a soft giggle to break through my otherwise murky stupor. “It was, it was great after that, too. You know, before my dad went all Bruce Willis on Mike.”
We both laugh into the night. I was petrified at the notion that my dad was going kill my boyfriend for breaking a rule – a big rule – as it seems.
“My dad probably didn’t even have the gun loaded.” I sober in thought, praying that it’s true. Hopefully it was just a scare tactic.
Rachel sighs, “Yeah, he was just probably scaring Mike. You know your dad is very protective of you. It’s a ‘Y’ chromosome thing.” We both laugh at that because Mike is very protective of me too.
I shuffle a bit and prop an elbow to rest my head. “So, tell me, Rachel, where did you and Paul scurry off to?”
I don’t need the light on to know that Rachel blushes before me. She falls on her back then hides her face in her hands.
My mouth drops, and I gasp, “Rachel, you didn’t...”
“No! No, we didn’t do that. Gosh, why does your mind always go there?” She swats at my arm with amusement.
I shrug my shoulder. “It’s not like you haven’t done it before. You gave it up to Brad in a matter of a few weeks –”
“That was different,” she rebukes at a whisper as not to bother my father across the hall. “He made me feel like if I didn’t do the deed with him, then that meant I didn’t love him or want to be with him.” I suck in my bottom lip, knowing that’s what really happened. “I thought that maybe I did love him. But I never did - not like the way I’ve fallen for Paul. I don’t necessarily want to rush it with him. He knows we’ve only been with each other for a week, so he isn’t expecting anything from me.” Her voice drops lower. “He knows about Brad, the manipulation, and the things he’s done to me. Yes, I am more outgoing with my body, but the next time that I actually have sex - I want it to be with someone that I can absolutely trust with my whole heart. Someone that doesn’t force it on me in any way.”
I fall on my back. “I’m sorry for teasing you. I know Brad did a number on you...I’m sorry.”
It’s near inaudible, but I hear her say, “It’s okay.”
A moment goes by before I ask, “Do you think you could ever trust anyone with your whole heart?”
“I like to think so. I like to think that Brad didn’t completely ruin me. I trust Paul, and he’s not pushy or manipulative in any way. I’ve fallen hard for him, but I don’t know if I can trust him completely.” She sighs in the dark. “I’m leaving later today, and I don’t know if I’m ever going to see him again. I didn’t want to have sex with him because of that. I don’t know if I can trust him to be in a committed relationship with me from five states away. I mean, he’s a looker and a big flirt so...” I can feel the mattress give a little when she shrugs her shoulders. “I don’t know.”
“I think that’s very wise of you, Rachel,” I acclaim.
I find a nail and begin to pick at it. “Did it hurt?”
She shifts in the bed to prop up on an elbow. “What? Sex?”
The moonlight shining in through the window is the only light in the room. If I can see her face, she can see my head nod.
“It did a little bit. Brad wasn’t that big, so I got used to it rather quickly. We only had sex maybe three or four times. Each time it got a little better. To be honest, I forgot what it feels like; it’s been nearly two years...” Rachel pauses and gives me a stare that I know holds a bit of a twinkle. “Are you thinking about giving Mike your flower?” she teases.
I hide my face in my hands. Why does she have to phrase it like that?
Her gasp reaches my ears. “Elena Rose Cochran, are you gonna let him pop your cherry?” I can hear the smile in her voice.
My hands fly from my face to my sides -hitting the mattress. “I don’t know!” I scream in a whisper then quietly explain, “If he’s in love with me like he says, and if he’s able to trust me enough with his heart to open up to me, then in time, I can see it happening.” Rachel knows about his scars and that he lives on his own. She knows his dad left when he was eight, and she was there when Carol shared some inside information about Mike and his father. Rachel also knows from one of our late-night chit-chats that Mike is hiding something deep from me. Neither of us can figure out what it is.
“Do you love him?” Rachel corners.
My eyes close as I think about that. When I saw my dad holding a shotgun aimed at Mike, I knew right then that I’m in love with him. The very thought of losing him squeezed my heart so tight that I thought it would end me. “I do. I just...he’s guarding something, and until I know what that is, I won’t let myself say it back until he opens up to me about it.” I open my eyes. “What if what he’s not telling me is really awful?”
The frogs and the crickets sing their song in the silence that remains between us. A light breeze plays with a few strands of hair, causing it to dance along the side of my face.
A hand reaches out to touch my arm. “He will tell you when he’s ready. Also, whatever it is, know that true love will prevail.”
The events of tonight must have taken a toll on me. So much has happened, and my eyes are feeling heavy. My body is finally calming down to the point of relaxing - to drift away from the excitement, drama, uncontrollable sexual awakening, fear, and heart-to-heart talks. The last few hours were a crazy few hours, and it’s only the beginning of the year.