A Dash Of Him

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DUKE Chapter 26

It was Christmas Eve as I stood by the window and gazed at the backyard. We did a great job with sweeping the leaves and pulling out the weeds. Dash helped me when he came back from practice but the poor guy was so tired from his busy schedule. He spent most of his time at my house which I don't mind. I like his company especially when I buried my head into his chest at night.

Both our lives have been busy ever since we came back from Cancun. His team has had a winning streak ever since he joined them. He's the talk of the town and is hot in the media, even my neighbors seem to peek their heads to see Dash at times. Dash is sweet enough to give some of my neighbors autographs or do a selfie pose. He is quickly wrapping himself in my heart but deep inside I'm not ready to love. I adore Dash and my mind is telling me to go for it but my heart is still trying to protect itself.

I've tried to be intimate with Dash but I stopped myself. I know he gets frustrated but deep inside I feel like I'm still cheating on Emilio. I hate myself for torturing us but I'm afraid to get hurt. He's being so patient with me and I don't want to lose him. But my heart isn't ready to let him in.

I took a deep breath when suddenly I felt his big hands wrap around my waist. "What are you doing standing here?" He kissed my neck as I chuckled.

"Just thinking of the last time I celebrated Christmas," I swallowed the knot that formed inside my throat. The last time I celebrated Christmas was two years ago when Emilio was alive. I averted my gaze to my hand and opened it slowly. It was a gold ring with the number 7 engraved on the top. Inside the ring, he engraved "I'll always love you". He gave me the ring last Christmas we spent together. I closed my eyes as it was yesterday.



Emilio's parent's house was filled with warmth. The air was filled with home-cooked chicken and the sweetness of pan dulce (sweet bread). We sat in the lounge room as Emilio took a sip of his coffee and then gently put it on the table. It was Christmas Eve as we waited for his parents to bring the pan dulce his mother had made. "Merry Christmas, babe," his smile disappeared and his eyes softened. His lips opened and then shut, it's like he wanted to tell me something.

"Merry Christmas," I lightly grazed my finger on his scruffy face. "What's the matter?"

He cleared his throat and grasped my hand with his. He held it tightly as his eyes got watery. "Emilio, you're scaring me, what's going on?"

Then he revealed his porcelain teeth. "Babe, if I ever leave you I just want you to know that you're the best thing that has ever happened to me. Please don't be sad, be happy," a tear fell from his cheek. Why was he telling me this? He said something like this at our wedding. Is he dying? Why is he telling me all this?

"Emilio, is something wrong with you that I should know?" I squeezed his hand as he squeezed mine harder.

"No, babe. I'm just letting you know. If I ever die before you. Please don't mourn me for too long. I know how you can get," I saw him swallow as he kept his angelic smile on his face.

"You're not leaving me. We are going to grow old together and die together. You hear me," he averted his gaze downward but I moved his chin towards me. "Hey, don't say those things to me. I don't know if I'll survive if you're gone."

"Who's gone?" Esmeralda walked in with a plate full of pan dulce. Emilio quickly wiped his tears and straightened himself.

"The pan dulce, mom," he stood up and helped Esmeralda with the plate.

"Aww, you're so sweet, mijo." His parents sat across from us but Emilio stayed standing. He took a small navy box out of his pocket and kneeled in front of me. My heart thumped inside my chest.

I glanced at his parents who had huge smiles on their faces. Esmeralda's eyes were glossy and his dad held her closer.

"Babe, I love you with all my heart. This isn't another engagement ring but a ring that will always have the greatest love I have for you," he opened the small box and it was a gold ring with the number 7 engraved on top. My eyes melted as I grabbed the velvet box.

"Emilio, this is perfect. I love it," he stood up and held his hand out so I can stand. I held the box in my hand as he pulled me closer to him. His mossy green eyes held a sadness deep inside but his smile was as big as his heart.

"I'll always be with you, even when I'm gone," his lips locked with mine. My body went numb as an empty void enveloped my body. It was like darkness took over for a couple of seconds. Deep inside I knew something was wrong, it was a premonition that was trying to unfold. But I never thought it would come true.



Dash turned me around as our eyes aligned. He held my chin and glanced down at my ring. "It's a beautiful ring," my eyes got watery as I placed my forehead on his chest. His chest heaved gently. I glanced up again at his glossy blue eyes. "Duke, I like you a lot. I don't ever want to take Emilio's place but I'm here right now. I want you to open yourself to me. I promise you I won't leave you."

A warm tear fell down my cheek. "I know. It's just Emilio...," I stopped. I didn't want to ruin Christmas Eve. Emilio's parents invited us over and it was the first time they'll meet Dash. "Never mind, it's about you and me now," his blue eyes glowed like bioluminescence waves as he revealed his perfect white teeth.

"I hope that soon I could have a place here," he placed his hand on top of where my heart was.

"I think you've already have a place there," he leaned in and fused his lips with mine. I closed my eyes and let the friction of his lips send shockwaves throughout my body. He was slowly filling that void that was broken. My fingers tingled with tiny bolts of electricity and my heart jolted vigorously inside my chest. With those simple words, my heart opened. I'm in love with Dash. I just don't know how to tell him.

We arrived at Emilio's house as we stood on the doorstep. Christmas lights illuminated the house, Emilio always loved decorating for Christmas. He would do it all by himself and was always proud of his achievement. "Ready?" Dash held some presents and nodded. I gently knocked on the wooden door.

I heard feet shuffling when the door opened and Esmeralda's eyes widen. "Mijo, I'm so glad you made it," she stepped forward and gave me the warmest hug. She pulled away as a tear came down her cheek. "I'm sorry these are tears of joy," she quickly wiped them down. She pulled away and gazed at Dash. She studied him, it's like she a part of Emilio just like I did.

"I'm sorry, you remind me of my son Emilio," she didn't think of it and pulled Dash into her arms. He gave her the same kind of hug she gave me. She quickly pulled away. "You must be Dash. Duke has said so many great things about you and my husband is a fan of yours as well," he chuckled.

"Nice to meet you as well, Esmeralda. I'm sorry for your loss. Duke says so much great things about Emilio."

Her eyes got watery. "Emilio was an angel and I know he's watching us from the heavens above but I'm glad Duke has found someone else to love," my eyes widened as the blood rushed to my cheeks.

"Does he now?" I glanced over as he had a smirk on his face.

"I'm so sorry, Duke. Come in, come in," she moved to let us pass by. I caught a whiff of cinnamon in the air. The house was cozy as I heard steps coming from the lounge room.

"Duke! It's been a while since I've seen you. You look great," Emilio's dad pulled me into a hug. It brought memories from two years ago but I didn't want it to let it affect me at the moment.

"Yes, thank you for having us," he pulled away and studied Dash. His eyes gazed at him as Esmeralda did.

"You must be Dash. I'm glad you're playing again and you've been killing it on the ice. I'm a huge fan so was my son," his eyes got watery but he pulled Dash into a hug.

"I'm so sorry for what happened to Emilio," Dash said. Brian pulled away.

"Thank you. I know he's watching over us."

Dash took his phone out. "I'm so sorry. It's my brother. I need to take this."

"Of course, you can use the lounge room," Brian gestured towards the lounge room. It's too bad his brother was in jail. It's horrible that he killed a woman. Dash told me he took his mother's death worst than him. It happened around the same time when Emilio got killed. But luckily he was going to be out in a couple of months. Kieran looked like Dash just with blonde hair and grayish eyes. He had lean muscle and was kind of scary looking with his dark sunken eyes. He looked good but jail time has taken a toll on him.

Dash enjoyed home-cooked Mexican tamales. They are a traditional Mexican dish that is a paste of grounded corn that is filled with grounded beef or chicken. Some are sweet but Esmeralda skipped those this year. Dash rubbed his stomach with satisfaction. "Wow, those were great. Thank you," I think he had like six of them. He never let my hand go from underneath the table.

"You're very welcome, Dash," Esmeralda got up and took our plates. Dash averted his eyes and winked at me.

We laughed and talked about high school. "We needed a crowbar to unhook those two," Brian joked. They really did. I spent most of my time here in high school. My heart wanted to spilt for a second but then I glanced at Dash who was enjoying the night. I gave him a sweet smile as we continued to talk about the past.

We made ourselves comfortable in the lounge room as we waited for Dash to come from outside. He said he had our presents in his truck. He must have hidden them well because I never saw them unless he put them in the back when I wasn't looking.

I heard the door close as Dash stood by the entrance of the lounge room with three wrapped presents. It was all the same square size. I stood up to help him because he looked like he was struggling to hold them. I grabbed one present and it was heavy. "Woah, what are these?"

"You'll see," he winked and walked towards Emilio's parents. Brian grabbed one and then he handed the last one to Esmeralda. "You all got the correct one. Sit and open it."

I sat on the couch as Dash stood. I glanced at him as he was anxious for us to open the gifts. I gently tore the wrapping paper when my eyes gazed at the painting. It was a painting of Emilio and me at one of his games. The detail was exquisite and the colors matched the picture I had in my album. I glanced up at him as water filled my eyes. "I'm sorry I took three pictures from your album. I hope you don't mind."

Then Esmeralda gasped as she held her hand over her mouth. Her tears were already pouring down her cheeks. "My beautiful son," she held up a painting of Emilio in his football gear. "Thank you, Dash. You didn't have to but it's the best Christmas present I've even gotten."

I've only seen Brian cry at Emilio's funeral but right now tears were coming down his cheeks. He showed us the painting of Emilio and him fishing. They would go fishing over the weekend. "My boy would love fishing. A good friend took this picture of us. Thank you, Dash." Brian admired the painting as I stood up and stood in front of him.

"Thank you for this," he wiped the tear from my cheek.

"There's one more present," he took something out from behind him. He handed it to me. It was the colors of his team, the Los Angeles Saints, white and baby blue. I grabbed the soft shirt and opened it. My eyes widen when I saw the number, 77. "You're my double lucky 7."

My lips trembled. "Dash, you didn't have to," he had the number 9 since a began.

"But I wanted to. Now you can have a piece of Emilio and me. You're my inspiration. Whenever you're at my games I feel powerful. You're my lucky number 7."

He pulled me closer as I admired his lush full lips. "I...," I couldn't say it.

He placed his finger on my lips. "Whenever you're ready."

I did love him. I just don't know how to say those words.
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