Chapter 17- Time to Heal
In the garage buzzing from the news, Aiden and Dakota stand there trying to find the next thing to say.
“Well, I guess that makes you first to have a kid. I don’t know what to say other than congrats.”
“I don’t mean to poke more into your life or change the subject, but…” Dakota pauses in the middle of his statement.
“I’m listening, go ahead.”
Rubbing his hand over his eyes, he’s unsure of how Aiden will react.
“In my opinion, you need to put some space between both you and Ally. Aiden, just hear me out, and don’t get me wrong. I like Ally, and she made a new piece of you come to life. That being said, at the same time, you two have tortured and created some majorly bad damage in each other.”
With a single deep breath, Aiden places his hands on his hips, thinking it over.
Dakota’s look on his face says it all, “Do what?”
“You’re right, and if she contacts me, I will sit down with her to discuss the last almost six months that’s torn us both apart.”
Patting Aiden on the back, Dakota slips his free hand into his pocket to take out Aiden’s cell phone.
“She’s texted and called all week. She’s worried sick about you. All she knows is that you’ve been in bed at my place. She was not welcome to check on you in person. I hated being like that, but you needed a clean break from the world.” Dakota says to inform Aiden of the lost time.
When he takes his phone, Aiden flips it open, looking at the messages.
“Yeah, love isn’t the problem, it exists obviously, but you’re right. We both need time to heal. I feel horrible for treating her the way I did. I honestly don’t remember much since Cindy left.”
“You haven’t been you, that’s all I can say. Speaking of which, let’s head inside and get your stuff, and I’ll run you home.” Dakota mentions and waves him toward the house.
Aiden nods, walking side by side with Dakota to gather his bag and soon make the drive back to Ona in silence.
They park behind the Supra, and Aiden gets out soaking at the moment that he’s home.
“I love it here for the most part. The house has some pretty nasty history within the last year, but it’s home.”
Smirking as he tries to slide back into his car, Dakota is stopped when Aiden walks over to prevent him from leaving.
“Hey, come inside. I have something for you, and NO isn’t an option.”
Curious about the statement, Dakota gets out of his Mazda sports coupe and follows Aiden into the house. When they walk inside, Aiden is blown away at the sight of Rey and Eddie finishing up the fresh coat of paint in the living room.
“Holy shit, guys, this is amazing. You didn’t have to do this.” Aiden admits, almost in shock.
“Yeah, we did. A fresh start requires a fresh feel that begins at home.” Rey implies off the ladder to welcome Aiden home.
“It looks fabulous! This is the only thing that’s changed, right?” Aiden asks, gawking over the redecorated living room.
He’s blown away that the white walls are now a powder blue.
“Maybe, maybe not, bro, go scope it out.” Eddie teases and looks at Rey.
“Dakota, follow me, guys, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.” Aiden begins to make his way through the rest of the house to check out every room along the way back to the bedroom.
“Holy hell, you guys have been busy!” He shouts when he flips on the light seeing the shade of lilac cover his bedroom walls.
Behind him, Dakota can’t believe how much they got done in a short amount of time, “Damn -A- they busted ass but look at it this way. Fresh start all the way around.”
“True, but as long as they didn’t rearrange my drawers, I got something for you, and for Heather too.”
After Aiden drops his bag on the bed, he heads over to his dresser for the top drawer taking out a small key-locked portable safe.
He tosses it on the bed, and with the key, opens the safe for a pamphlet and a ring box.
“Oh no, Aiden, I can’t give her that.” Dakota begins taking the hint.
“It’s my gift to you to say thank you. It’s a full karat diamond ring and my reservation information for a cabin in Tennessee in September.”
“I can’t take that from you. That’s too much to give away.” Dakota battles to stick with his answer.
“Listen to me, I had this planned for Ally to attempt to correct things, but that’s not happening now, and it’s nonrefundable. Take her, propose in the Smoky Mountains and take her breath away.”
Dakota stands there fighting his urge to give in and just snatch it from Aiden’s hands.
“I have money. We all know that, and I’ll take some time to disappear myself and continue my path to recover from this year. Dakota, this is my gift for the two of you. You’re my brother. I want you to take it.”
Overwhelmed, Dakota walks over and takes a page from Aiden’s book earlier with a solid, tight brotherly hug, “Thank you,” he whispers.
Released from the hug, Aiden hands over the items.
“Enjoy it; after all everything from this year, I don’t see myself getting married or wanting kids anymore. That doesn’t mean Uncle Aiden won’t spoil the hell out of my niece or nephew.”
“It’ll come back in time. You just need to figure out who you are now. Thanks again, and I’m going to hit the road and get home.”
Aiden escorts Dakota back through the house and watches him drive away.
“What’s on the agenda today?” Rey wonders, joining Aiden on the front porch.
“I don’t know, a shower and maybe ordering food for you guys, but first and foremost, I need to dump out the rest of the liquor in the kitchen.”
Shoving off the porch post, Aiden, Rey, and Eddie gather into the kitchen to celebrate the liquor farewell party.
“Alright, bro, we’ve gathered it all up, and it’s your turn now,” Eddie says and hands the oversized box of beer, wine, and spirits to Aiden.
He gazes into the box and pulls out a partially dust-covered bottle of wine, “Not this one, I won’t drink it. I’ll tell you why. This was the wine mom and dad had when they got married, Chantueal ’75. It took me years to track down this stuff. That’s the ONLY exception.”
Eddie places the bottle where he found it over the refrigerator.
“Alright, now dump that poison down the drain!” Rey shouts, pointing to the box.
“With pleasure…” Aiden answers as he cracks open the bottles and pours them out as fast as he can.
“Jack, it’s been real, but now you’re on the 5:15 to Hell. Wild Turkey season is over, and now the only bird I’ll enjoy will be on Thanksgiving. Vodka, time to go.”
The guys laugh at his corniness.
“Tequila, I gotta kill ya. Bye-bye now, buh-bye, see you later, alky-gator.” Aiden teases with a renewed tone to his voice.
Rey and Eddie can’t help but cut up at the goofiness, feeling relieved.
After the box is empty, the three of them cheer for a couple of minutes.
“Alright, it’s food-thirty boys. I’ll order take-out from Ruben’s Steakhouse, and then we’ll enjoy some quality time to ourselves.” Aiden lays out his plan, hoping to get some time to reflect on the past few months.
After he calls in the order, Aiden takes off to pick up dinner. He rushes to make it there and back to sort through the order to hand Eddie and Rey their meals.
“Thanks, dude…” Rey says.
“Yeah, thanks,” Eddie mentions taking a seat at the kitchen table.
“Any time, guys, just glad everything is getting back to some normalcy.”
All three of them shovel down the food, they relax for a couple of moments in their chairs, stretched out feeling the effects of overfilled stomachs.
“Oh, that hit the spot,” Rey comments, patting his gut.
When they go back to the living room, they begin rolling up the plastic sheeting on the carpet and place the furniture close to the walls.
“Hell of a day, I tell you what.” Eddie begins flopped down in the chair.
The peace doesn’t last long as they listen to a car pulling into the driveway.
“Who in the world…” Eddie begins as he rotates around to see a car in the driveway.
“I think it’s Addie’s ride,” Rey says, twisting his head towards the window.
A few seconds later, there’s a knock at the door.
“Come on in,” Aiden announces from his recliner.
“Hiya boys wanted to come to see what’s going on,” Addie mentions walking through the door and winks at Rey.
“Just finished up dinner and relaxing, trying to get my head back on straight,” Aiden reveals with his hands together in his lap.
Taking a seat between Rey and Eddie, Addie leans back into the couch.
“How are you feeling, Aiden? I heard it was a pretty rough week. I know Rey didn’t want me to say anything to Ally, but I wanted to check on you too.” She begins with a concerned stare in her eyes.
“I’ll be fine, gotta get back to life and find a way to handle things, you know. These guys took a hell of a risk, but it paid off.” He replies, able to keep his eyes locked on Addie’s.
“Good deal then; you guys are heroes.” She mentions slapping Rey and Eddie on the knee.
Suddenly her phone begins to buzz. Taking it from her purse, her facial expression says it all.
“It’s Ally, I can tell. Answer it and be honest, besides I need to speak to her privately.” Aiden tells her before she can hit the ignore button.
“Alright.” She says and answers the call, “Hey girl, everything cool?”
“No, I still can’t get ahold of Aiden. My gut tells me something is wrong. I don’t know what to do, and I’m here at your place, and now you’re not here. What in the hell is going on?”
Addie squeezes her eyes shut to think of what to say.
“Well, I’m actually at Aiden’s with Rey and Eddie right now. I’m sitting here across from Aiden, and he’s fine. He appears to be healthy and better than the last time I saw him.”
There’s a gasp in the phone. Ally loses her calm demeanor, “You’re there! You bitch, you know I’ve been worried sick about him. He falls off the face of the Earth, and you’re there without me!”
“Listen, he’s been away from everyone beca… Ally, hello?” Addie doesn’t get very far with her explanation before Ally hangs up.
Addie is frustrated at her best friend’s short temper, “Bitch hung up on me!”
They realize Ally is on her way there. Everyone sits tight to create small talk as time slowly ticks away.
“You look healthier already,” Addie comments, slightly rocking back and forth.
“Thanks, just gotta shave this beard off and buzz off this hair,” Aiden mentions and runs his hand through his hair, feeling its weight move.
Eddie offers up to be the one to buzz his head, “I’ll do it. I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on all that hair.”
Everyone shares a chance to laugh just before Ally slides into the driveway, indicated by tires squalling.
Aiden looks over to Addie, Eddie, and Rey, “Give us a few minutes alone, please.”
“Nah, man, we can’t afford…”
Aiden places his hand in the air interrupting Rey.
“I got this; my head is clear now. Please just go to the back deck and let me handle this. It’s going to be tough enough, and I don’t need an audience.”
“C’mon, boys. I’m probably going to have to handle the fallout anyways.” Addie states, smacking each of the legs to lead the way.
Out on the back deck, they shut the door, so Aiden knows they’re not eavesdropping.
“Shut up and listen,” Addie says with her hand against the deck door, cracking it just enough to hear Aiden open the front door.
“Hey beautiful, come on inside. We need to have a little talk.” Aiden greets her.
Ally leans in to kiss him before she heads into the living room.
“You sound and look a lot better than last time I was here.” She says, scratching his beard as Aiden smiles.
Waltzing up to the recliner, Ally stands there waiting for Aiden to take his seat, “Nah, let’s sit on the couch as this is serious. I want us to look each other in the eyes.”
Ally sulks to the couch, prepared for a fight, and begins to frown—her gut slams against her body with the force of a tidal wave.
She signals for Aiden to place his hand over hers. He does before he begins the speech.
“Ally, I love you.” He begins as she responds.
“I love you too, Aiden.”
Sucking in a deep breath, he begins.
“This isn’t going to be easy, and it’s going to kill me, but this, us, you and me, it needs to end for a while. We need to create some personal space so we can both heal from the past few months. We’ve torn each other apart. It’s not forever, just until we feel that we’ve found ourselves again.”
With her lips quivering, Ally’s eyes start to fill with tears, “Fuck that, I have you. I can’t lose you. You’re everything to me; after I did what I did to you, I found what you mean to me. I won’t give up on us. I love you and only you!”
He rubs the top of her hand with his fingertips; and tries to keep the blow soft, “Then we will come back to each other in time. I’ve done you so wrong, and I feel horrible about it all. I spent the last week shivering and sweating like a pig. I’ve gone through hell. I’m finally sober and thinking straight. I don’t want to do this, but we need it, Ally.”
“No, we don’t! What we need is to work this out and figure it out together. We’re stronger and better together. I can’t picture my life without you. I tried that once after I hurt you, and it nearly killed me. I love you so much, Aiden, and that’s another thing. I dream about being Mrs. Aiden Hart, and you can’t take that away from me!”
Aiden does his best to comfort Ally.
“It’ll be alright. I’ve changed my mind on quite a few things. For starters, I don’t want to get married, and I don’t want kids. You opened my eyes to these things.”
Ally screams at the top of her lungs and stands up as her face turns blood red, “I ruined you! When we met, you couldn’t wait to have kids and get married. You were even engaged when we met. What the hell, Aiden? All I want is to be with you, even if it means we don’t get married. I am willing to do whatever it takes to make this work again. I even went as far as just letting you fuck me whenever you called. I belong with you!”
After he wipes away his tears with his hand, Aiden pulls himself to his feet.
“This isn’t easy for me either, but look, this is what we need. There is no one else for me but you. If you think this doesn’t further crack my already splintered heart and darken my soul. Then you’d be wrong. I love you more with every beat of my heart.” Aiden tells her.
“Then let me stay, I’m almost through school now, and I can move in full-time. Please don’t push me away. I-I-I-I can’t breathe without you near me. I was worried sick all week without knowing what happened to you.”
Resting his hands on her shoulders, Aiden divulges the details, “I’ve been out at Dakota’s recovering. I even came home and dumped out all the alcohol in the house. I quit drinking, it needed to happen, and I’m not fully recovered yet. My mind and heart are a wreck, and yours are too.”
“Please God no…” sobbing as she lowers her head, Ally makes one final push to get her way.
“Aiden, please, I need you, you need me, and it’s going to ruin us if we stop now. What we have isn’t perfect how it is now, but it’s still us together. All I need is to be here with you. We can talk every day.”
“Our talk is done, my love. My mind is made up and, in a few months, we can put all this behind us and move on. I will never love another woman like you. I don’t want us to leave anything unfinished. You need to be free. Your spirit isn’t anywhere near as bright as it once was. It would be best if you rekindled that fire. I need to find out who I am now. We can’t do that if we’re worried about the other. I love you, and they say, if you truly love something, let it go, and if it comes back, then it’s meant to me.” Aiden explains.
Using his hand to wipe her eyes, Aiden brings Ally in for a farewell hug.
“But I just love you so much.” She says, pressed into Aiden’s shirt.
“I love you too, my dear sweet Ally. It’s not forever. We’re just pushing the pause button.”
The pain takes control, and Ally shoves away with a familiar stare to her eyes that Aiden once possessed.
“Fine, you want me to go, then fuck you! I’m the best damn thing to ever happen to you. You’re going to regret this. I can promise you that!”
“Then make me pay I can take it,” Aiden reveals with his eyes shut.
“I’ll make you hate me by the time I am done. You want to hurt me like never before, then fine, you son of a bitch let the games begin.”
Ally storms out and Aiden stands there with his eyes shut, knowing the storm is about to begin. He embraces the pain to motivate him back into music as he walks into his music room, locking the door to get back to work on the other thing he loves.
The three of them look at each other, listening from the deck.
“Damn, he did it,” Rey says with a look of shock in his eyes.
“I better get going and check on my girl. Rey text me later, sweetie.” She winks over to him as she takes the long way around the house.
“Guess I better take off. Mom might need a few things done before it gets too late.” Rey mentions following Addie.
Eddie gives a hard swallow and heads inside, knocking on the music room door.
“Give me a second,” Aiden calls out.
Opening the door, he waves Eddie into the room.
“You good, Aiden?”
“Yeah, I’m good just playing to kill the pain.”
“Come on, let’s head out for a bit, take the Supra out, and hit the backroads or something.”
Aiden thinks it over, quickly agrees, “Yeah, sounds like fun, but I’m driving this time.”
The drive kills the wave of negativity with loud music, swerving hard in the turns. The boys make the most of a bad situation as Eddie’s hopes are realized when Aiden lets go of the fight.
“Just takes time, bro, it just takes time,” Eddie says when they pull into the driveway.
“I know, but it had to be done. Anyway, let’s call it a day. I need to shave and let you buzz off this mop-top.”
Walking into the bathroom, Aiden collects everything and shuts the door. In the mirror, he sees someone he doesn’t recognize, “I don’t know who the hell you are, but I will find out. I will find a way to become stronger, smarter, and better. I have a woman who loves me. I owe Ally the world.”
After Aide finally shaves all the beard off and takes a seat in the kitchen. Eddie gets the clippers and a short guard buzzing through Aiden’s thick dark hair.
“And there we go, now you look like a man again,” Eddie says with laughter in his voice.
Aiden laughs “sounds good; it feels a lot lighter, thanks, bub.”
Cracking his neck, Aiden gets out of the chair.
“Time to get a shower and return to being me,” Aiden states, rubbing his hand over his head.
“Cool, I’m going to get ready to crash early. Glad to have you back home.” Eddie picks up his stuff and returns to the guest bedroom.
Aiden sweeps up the mess and dumps the hair in the trashcan. Once he’s finished, he gets a warm shower and prepares to discover a new path to discover the new side he needs to embrace. Inside, he’s a mess after letting Ally leave in anger.
Dried off and flopped in bed, Aiden takes the book on his nightstand to read until he passes out.