I was so excited to get out of their apartment that I felt like I practically ran out of the elevator when it hit the ground floor.
I knew they had girlfriends. I had seen them and even talked a little with Aidan about his. But knowing and seeing were a lot different than hearing.
The guys tried to make it less awkward by giving me headphones and acting like nothing was happening. It didn’t stop me from thinking about the fact that Colt was up there with some girl. I know they didn’t know about my crushes on them. There was no way they could, and even though it wasn’t fair of me to feel so possessive of them, I did. Even after nine years I still felt like the five of us belonged to each other.
I was jealous.
I was jealous and I didn’t know how to handle that.
“Lark!“, Luka’s worried voice infiltrated my thoughts and I realized that I had spaced off. “I’m sorry my head was somewhere else. What’s up?” I looked over and met his eyes quickly. “I was just asking if you were okay. You tore out of that elevator like it was on fire.“, he joked.
Luka was taller than me, but I realized he was taking long strides to keep pace with me. I really was walking fast.
Slowing down, I laughed before taking his hand. It had been a long time since touch meant anything more than pain, and it felt good to take his hand in mind. Luka would never hurt me.
He squeezed my hand tighter before leading me down to the subway station. The guys’ penthouse was in Midtown whereas mine was in Tribeca. We weren’t too far apart as far as NYC goes, but it was still about a 15-minute ride to get from one neighborhood to the other.
When we got to the platform Luka let go of my hand and raised his camera to his face. I looked around to see what he was going to take a picture of and couldn’t see anything of note. I heard his camera shutter a few times before he brought it back down from his face and started checking the images.
“What do you see?“, I asked. He looked so enthralled with whatever he had captured.
“Here go ahead and look.” Luka brought his viewing screen down so I could see it and scrolled to an image of a woman sitting down. I had seen her upon my quick scan of the platform but didn’t think she looked interesting enough to take a photo of.
I was so wrong.
The way Luka captured her, it looked like she was filled with silent joy. The tiny curve of her lips and the angle of her head as she rested it against the wall, made it look like she was relishing in a memory that the rest of us only wished we could share with her. The wild curls that adorned her head were perfectly lit up with the fluorescent light from above.
It was a beautiful shot.
“Luka this is gorgeous. I wish I could see like you.“, I hoped my compliment didn’t sound generic. He was so talented.
“Thank you. You just see differently than me. Remember all those journals you used to have that were filled to the brim with stories you created. I just look a little deeper into what’s in front of me. You turn what’s in front of you into something bigger.“, he replied. Luka brought his lips to my forehead and let his lips rest there for a moment.
Being with him like this brought tears to my eyes and tried to blink them away before they spilled over onto my cheeks.
When our train came, we climbed inside and found seats together near the back. We almost missed our stop because I was so enraptured with the photos he was showing me on his camera. We were still laughing about it when we finally made our way back up to the street level.
My apartment was only a few minutes away and I realized that none of them had been there before. I was suddenly worried about if I had food left out and I couldn’t remember if I had made my bed before I left.
When we finally got to my building I turned to Luka. The way the streetlights highlighted his bone structure in this light took my breath away for a moment and I suddenly forgot all the words I had planned to say.
Clearly, the crushes I had on them didn’t go away after nine years of being apart. I finally got a hold of myself, but not before a knowing smirk appeared on Luka’s face.“Something distracting you Lark?“, he asked sarcastically. His smirk turning into a breathtaking smile.
“Yes, actually I just cannot believe how weird your face is. It still surprises me every time I see you”, I joked. His roaring laughter echoed into the night and I was glad he allowed me to play it off without embarrassing myself. I had been caught checking him out and he knew it.
“But, I was wondering if you were planning on coming up. I don’t want to distract you from taking photos.” I hoped he couldn’t hear the desperation in my voice. I wanted him to come up so we could keep hanging out. Every interaction I had with them felt like a drug.
Having lunch with Aidan earlier was amazing and I hadn’t wanted to leave him. Which is how I ended up agreeing to spend some time at his place.
Luka’s response broke up my reverie.
“Yes. I’d like that”, his reply was soft and he looked at me wistfully.
I turned around and nodded at him to follow me. When we got upstairs and I unlocked my door, I suddenly felt exposed. This was my space and I hadn’t been alone in a room with someone since being in Italy.
Luka followed me in and set his stuff down on the small table I used for eating. He looked around for a minute before taking a seat on the couch I had pushed against the wall. I know my place must have seemed like a shoebox compared to where he and the guys lived, but it was mine. My sanctuary.
I was proud of it.
“This is nice Lark. The space feels like you and it’s really relaxing.” Luka’s praise meant more to me than I thought it would. I was glad he felt happy here.
“Thank you. Yeah, I love it. It isn’t much but it’s mine. Do you want a glass of water or anything?” I moved around the apartment as I talked to him. Setting my stuff down before heading towards the kitchen. Luka declined, but I still wanted one for myself. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I needed to do some homework. Are you cool to just chill while I get my stuff done?”
He laughed before giving me his reply. “Of course. This is your space I’m just visiting. I’ll put the TV on so I don’t distract you.” He got up off the couch and walked over to me. I had sat down at my table and started bringing my stuff out of my backpack.
“Thanks for letting me be here. I know we’ve all been kind of full-on with you. We just, we really missed you Lark. We looked for you every day and now that you’re here. It still doesn’t feel quite real. I know all of us just want to monopolize your time because we’re scared that we’ll wake up the next day and you’ll be gone again. You might have to tell us to back off if you start to feel smothered.” He looked at me with so much emotion that I felt the tears returning to my eyes.
This time I knew I wouldn’t be able to control them before they spilled over.
“Trust me when I say you aren’t smothering me. You, Aidan, Colt, and Greyson are my soul. Being separated, it made everything I went through so much harder.” The words came spilling out before I could stop them, and I realized my mistake the second I finished speaking.
Luka sat down next to me and grabbed my hand. “What happened Lark? Please just give me something. You’ve been so tight-lipped about it and the cold girl I saw in class yesterday was so different from the girl I remembered. I was terrified that you had changed so much that we’d never be able to rebuild what we lost. I just want to help. Please let me, let us, help.”
The honesty in his gaze and in his words felt like arrows against the wall I worked to create.
“I’m scared, Luka. I hated running away from Greyson and I hated the look you gave me when I turned and saw you in class. You looked like you were preparing for me to hurt you. But I’m so scared. I feel like every protection I’ve created is falling apart when I’m with you guys and I don’t want my mistakes to put you in danger.” I tried pleading with him.
He was quiet for a moment before speaking again.
“Don’t you think you are putting us in more danger by not telling us? If, you are scared, let us in so we can protect you. That’s all we’ve ever wanted to do. If you don’t tell us something that could end up hurting us later, wouldn’t you rather avoid that?“, he asked.
I thought about that for a moment before taking a deep breath.
I know he’s right.
“Okay. I’ll try to explain everything. Can we do this with everyone though? I don’t – I just.” I cut off mid-sentence, trying to calm down and get control of my breathing. I was about to have a panic attack.
Luka’s eyes widened as he realized I was struggling. He pulled me into his chest and held me tightly. “Focus on what you feel Lark. What do you feel? Come on Angel, talk to me.” His voice was strong and I clung to it.
“You. I feel you.“, I gasped out. My body wasn’t shaking as much and I could think a little clearer.
“Good. Now focus on my breathing. Try to breathe with me and feel our chests rise at the same time.”
I did as he asked and felt myself calm even further. Before long, my breathing returned to normal. Neither of us said anything. I didn’t feel pressure to break the silence either. Luka just held me and let me put myself back together.
“I’ll tell you, I will. Please don’t make me do it twice though. What happened to me, it’s a long story and not one that I’m really eager to talk about. Can we just have a family meeting so I can get it all out at one time?” I turned my head to look up at him and he stared back at me with an understanding that made my heart feel too big for my chest.
He nodded at me before releasing his hold on me and leaning back. He started arranging my school supplies on the table and opened up my notebook. Grabbing my pen, he held it out to me.
“Didn’t you say you had homework?“, Luka asked knowingly.
This is why he meant so much to me. He knew me inside and out. I freaked out and he was trying to give me back a sense of normalcy.
Before he stood up to go back to the couch, he leaned over to me slowly and pressed a kiss to my cheek. With each second it lingered, I felt my heart rate pick up.
Luka pulled back, headed towards the couch, and without a word turned on the television.
I snuck a glance at him before turning back towards my notebook.
I had been so naïve to think I could run from them yesterday.
I should have known they’d never let me.