As I walked away from Grey I could feel his eyes on me.
I didn’t turn around though. I knew if I did I’d run back to him; attempting to stay in the comfort and safe space I felt whenever I was around him.
Or any of my guys.
I kept my resolve and walked ahead. One foot in front of the other. The fact that I didn’t have a flashback in class despite how startled I had been meant I was making progress. I think that I’ll always carry the scars of what happened to me. Physically and emotionally. One day though, one day I hope that’s all they will be to me. A simple reminder of what happened instead of jagged claws hooked into my brain and heart.
I reached into my pocket and grabbed my phone. There were a few texts waiting for me.
Luka: I’ll save you a seat in Italian today!
Aidan: Heard you are sleeping over tonight. Do you want me to put a few extra pillows in your room?
Their messages instantly brought a smile to my face. I loved having Luka in a class with me and form the sound of our first class, he’ll probably need me to help him with his Italian.
The fact that Aidan remembered how much I loved having an excessive amount of pillows made me smile even wider. When we were younger, I used to claim all the extra pillows that the boys weren’t using. Most of the time they just ended up scattered around my room. Sometimes when I had a nightmare or when I had a rough day, I’d get under the covers and surround myself with the pillows. It used to make me feel safe. Like I was in a nest where nothing bad could touch me.
I quickly responded to both of them, giving Luka a smiley face and Aidan an appreciative yes.
When I put my phone back in my pocket I realized that this class was the last thing standing between me and telling my story to the guys later. I instantly felt my hands go clammy.
Shaking my head to clear the dark thoughts that were threatening to take over, I made my way into the building where Luka and I had our Italian class. When I walked in, I saw his bright smile beckoning me to the back of the classroom.
I had gotten through so much on my own. Almost a decade of darkness and I’m the one that found light. Looking at Luka, I knew that I didn’t have to be alone anymore. Finding the guys again after all these years was a gift.
A gift that I wasn’t going to waste.
“Honestly Lar- I mean Emily. Please tutor me. I’ve been trying to learn for the past two years and I don’t think I’ve improved past the basics,” Luka pleaded with me. We were packing up our things after Vera dismissed the class and I don’t think he was too thrilled about the project she just assigned.
We were supposed to find a place in the city that we feel is beautiful even if most people don’t think it is. Then make a video where we explain why. The catch was that it had to be all in Italian and we weren’t allowed to read from a script. Piece of cake for me. A nightmare for Luka. Well, maybe not a nightmare. Just a really bad dream.
“Okay okay, I will help you!” I laughed at him as I agreed. “Just don’t expect me to walk you through every single project or assignment in this class. You are perfectly capable of learning this”.
“Oh I know I’m capable. What I don’t know is how you do that tongue thing that makes all your r’s sound perfectly rolled and relaxed,” he said. Now that we were outside, the noise of the city beyond campus forced us to walk closer to hear each other.
Not that I minded being close to him.
I laughed at the face he made in an attempt to replicate rolling his tongue the way I do. “Fine! I will help you. Just promise me you’ll never make that face again or I won’t be able to take this seriously.” I bumped his shoulder with mine as I finished talking.
“Deal”. Luka stopped walking and brought his hand towards mine in what looked like an effort to shake hands. I rolled my eyes but took his hand anyway. The feel of his skin, warm and smooth, made my stomach do a small flip.
As we walked, I realized we were heading to the subway. Even though I wanted to go back to the guys’ place and just relax, I knew that’s not what was going to happen.
Luka and I chatted about class and some locations he had in mind for the project. I think he could tell I was getting nervous and he was filling the space. Trying to get me to relax. That was one of the things I loved about him. He was always good at being able to tell what other people were feeling.
“So what do you think you are going to do?“, Luka’s question interrupted my thoughts and I struggled to answer him. Mostly because I had only been in New York for a few weeks and I hadn’t done a lot of exploring. Fear of getting kidnapped (again) and killed sort of had me sticking to my apartment and the bodega down the street.
“I’m not sure yet. I haven’t really seen much of the city. I was, sort of, preoccupied. I’m glad we have a month to work on it because most of my time will have to be scouting places”, I told him.
The subway car came to a stop, and we both got up. I couldn’t stop thinking about how when we got out of the car, it was only a short walk to the exit. Which was only a short walk to their apartment building. Which was only a short elevator ride to their penthouse. Which meant I likely was going to be asked to lay my soul bare in the next 10-20 minutes.
I felt Luka take my hand and I looked up at him. He wasn’t looking at me, but I could tell he was still watching me. He gave my hand a squeeze, anchoring me to him. I appreciated that more than I could tell him.
We stepped out hand in hand and made our way to the exit. Even though he was taller than me, our steps were perfectly in sync.
When the sunlight and fresh air greeted us, I was able to breathe a little easier.
The shadow of the buildings cast down over us as we made our way into their building and towards the elevator. Luka let go of my hand to push the button and leaned back against the wall. He was looking at me as if he was trying to peel back the walls I had put in place over the years.
The sharp ding of the elevator broke the silence between us and we stepped inside.
“Are you ready for this Lark? Just say the word and we don’t have to talk about it. We can watch movies and hang out like old times”. I knew he meant it. If I wanted to we could call this whole thing off and they would respect that decision.
Which is why I knew I could trust them.