Everlasting Bonds ( A Reverse Harem Story)

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Chapter 29

POV: Luka


Ugh.

Orange juice and toothpaste were never a good combination, but I still downed the rest of the glass that Greyson had poured for me.

It was Saturday morning and my fingers played a nervous beat on the countertop as my knee bobbed up and down. I was meeting Lark today to work on our Italian projects together, and I was excited, to say the least. Something else crawled into the back of my mind as I thought about her interactions with me and the guys throughout the week.

She wasn’t as distant as she was when we first found her, but there was a wall up that hadn’t existed the previous weekend. I couldn’t tell what was going on with her and it was driving me crazy.

“What is up with you today dude? I mean normally you move at light speed but you seem more jittery than usual?” Greyson’s voice took me out of the tunnel my thoughts were going down.

“I’m hanging out with Lark today so we can work on this project we have for our Italian class. I- I’m just a little nervous I guess. She seems a little off again and I don’t want to spend today feeling like I have to look over my shoulder to make sure she hasn’t left again”, I spoke quietly.

Greyson was quiet for a moment before responding in his matter of fact Greyson way.

“She’s been through a lot, Luka. I wouldn’t be surprised if she seemed “off” for the rest of her life. She told us she wouldn’t leave again without saying goodbye. We have to trust that”. He squeezed my shoulder before heading out of the kitchen.

He was right.

I knew that and still, I couldn’t help to worry.

The time on the home screen of my phone read 9:30 am. “Fuck”. I was supposed to be meeting her at 10 am and was definitely going to be late for that now. I fired off a quick text letting her know I’d be about 10 minutes late and rushed upstairs to my bedroom to grab a coat, my backpack, and my camera.

The rest of the guys were piled onto the couches in the living room occupied with their phones and the tv. I gave them a quick goodbye as I headed out the door and made my way out into the bustling city below.

***My feet hit the grimy floor of the Roosevelt Island subway station at 10:03 am. Lark had asked me to meet her at the Roosevelt Island park which was still about another ten-minute walk. Kicking it into gear, I jogged up the subway station steps and made my way out into fresh air. The people around me were dressed in everything from shorts and t-shirts to coats and scarves.

One of the things I loved about this city is that even though everyone did their best to fit in with whatever was trendy at the moment, people’s personalities still shone through. I was itching to take my camera out and photograph my surrounding’s but I was already late enough.

As I walked I let my thoughts drift from topic to topic and picked up the pace. Before I knew it I had made my way to the park. Just as I was about to take my phone out to give her a call, I heard my name being called.

“Luka! Over here!”

Recognizing the voice, I scanned the park to find her. The second I did, my feet were moving before my brain had told them to.

As I got closer to Lark, I wondered if I would ever get used to her. To having her back in my life and to her beauty that seemed so effortless. She was smiling at me in a way that let me know she wasn’t upset at my lateness. Just happy that I was there now.

I picked up her in a hug, loving the way her arms squeezed tightly around me. As I set her down, that off feeling crept back into my stomach. She still looked happy, but there was something behind her eyes that let me know her emotions weren’t entirely being displayed.

“It’s about time you got here. You’re burning daylight, kid”, she teased me. Linking my arm in hers, I let her lead the way towards whatever our ending destination was. She hadn’t told me what place in the city she had chosen for the project, instead we had both opted to surprise each other.

My smile grew as that sense of comfort between us wrapped around me. “Hey who are you calling kid? I’m a year older than you. A year wiser, if you will”.

She laughed and rested her head on my shoulder. “Oh yes, you are incredibly wise Luka. So wise that you’d never fall for me telling you that girls had different senses of smell than boys, so you had to wear twice the amount of Axe body spray for them to notice you smelled nice”.

“I was 14! How was I supposed to know? Besides you took advantage of my trusting nature. That was rude and now that I think about it, I don’t ever remember getting an apology from you,” I teased her.

She shook her head and turned me. “I am so very sorry, Luka.”

“All right, you’re forgiven, Lark”. I felt her hand tighten on my arm and instantly knew I had f*cked up. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking,“, I whispered hurriedly.

Looking around to see if anyone had heard me, I sighed in relief when I saw that we were at least 20 feet from the nearest person. The tension that eased out of her shoulders and grip let me know she had come to the same conclusion.

With a tight smile, she reassured me. “It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean to”.

We walked in silence for a moment, before I attempted to change the subject. “So, umm, where are we going? I had kind of assumed this park was the place you had chosen for the project”.

“Nope”, she replied, popping the p sound on the word. “That is where we are going”.

I looked ahead to see where she was pointing and saw a sign that read Smallpox Memorial Hospital. My eyebrows knitted together as we approached the fence that surrounded it. I was about to ask her why we were here, but she seemed to guess my train of thought.

“Just look around for a minute. What do you see? Use those keen eyes of yours”. She released my arm and walked ahead of me. Letting me take in my surroundings undisturbed.

The hospital was mostly in ruins but didn’t have the same forgotten feel that most ruins acquired over time. As I kept looking I started to notice something odd. There were tons of cats within the fenced area. Most were lounging about, but some seemed to be playing with each other and some leaped from stone to stone.

“Why are there so many cats here? Did you know that they would be here?“. I must have looked very perplexed because she let out a small giggle.

“Of course I knew. It’s why I chose this place for the project. After I got settled into my apartment, I wanted to get familiar with the subway system so I would just choose random places to get off and on and figure out how I could find my way back home. I ended up at the Roosevelt Island station one day and decided I wanted to walk around. Found this place and instantly loved it.”

As she spoke, her eyes drifted over towards the cats and the ruins. She was talking to me, but she also seemed to be reflecting on something else. She dug her phone out of her pocket and handed it to me.

“Will you record me,” she asked. “I already know what I’m going to say”.

Opening up her camera app, I turned her phone to the side and hit record; giving her a nod to let her know I had started recording. Instantly, a stream of perfect Italian flowed from her mouth.

“Ciao Vera. Il posto che ho scelto è il Smallpox Memorial Hospital di Rosevelt Island. Sebbene le rovine stesse siano bellissime, ho scelto questo posto perché funge anche da rifugio per i gatti randagi”. (Hello Vera. The place I have chosen is the Smallpox Memorial Hospital on Rosevelt Island. While the ruins themselves are beautiful, I chose this place because it also acts as a sanctuary for stray cats).

On and on she went. Never stopping and never seeming to struggle to find the right words. Even though the language was introduced to her in a cruel and horrific setting, she seemed to feel comfortable speaking Italian.

When she finished speaking, she gave me a thumbs up to cut the camera.

“Damn. It sounds like you were born to speak that language. I almost don’t want to embarrass myself when we go to do mine”.

“Hey, don’t say that. You’ve been doing good in class. I think if you practiced more you’d start to pick it up faster and the sounds would feel more natural to you”. She grabbed her phone from my outstretched hand and turned back to watch the cats.

“So, what all did you say? I picked up bits and pieces but I don’t know if it was enough to get the full story”.

The corners of her mouth turned up slightly, but she didn’t look at me as she responded. “I gave her a brief history of the place and my reasons for choosing. It started as just a place people would dump cats they no longer wanted or strays they found on the street. They think that other cats started finding this place on their own and now it’s become a home for them. A sanctuary”.

There was a longing in her voice as she told me about the history of this place. It made me want to gather her closer and hold her. Instead, I stood still and listened.

“I chose this place because the idea of discarded cats creating a sanctuary for themselves is funny and brings me a lot of joy. I want to do that for myself. No matter what happens or where I end up, discarded or not, I want to find a way to create a sanctuary for myself”. As she finished talking, I noticed that tears had begun to fall. Kissing her cheeks as they left shimmering trails.

Taking her hand in mine, I gave it a quick squeeze. I was surprised when she turned around and embraced me in a hug. Her head fit just under my chin.

There were so many times over the past nine years that I had thought about what it would be like to hold her just as I was now.

It was perfection. She was perfection.

Her voice was muffled as she started to speak again. “I’m sorry. I know I’ve been a little weird lately and I know you’ve noticed. You are the guy that everyone comes to for a laugh, but I also know that you are the guy that feels more than anyone else. You’re like a sponge, just absorbing the emotions of everyone around you and someone how never exploding”.

She leaned back slightly, tilting her head to meet my eyes. “Luka, you four mean... the absolute world to me. You’ve all been my sanctuary since the day I met you and I’m scared of losing that”. Unfurling my arms from her back, I brought my hands up to gently cup her face.

“You aren’t going to lose us. No matter what. However much we mean to you, that’s how much you mean to each of us”.

Her whole body seemed to move as she inhaled and exhaled. Letting the fresh air into her lungs. Briefly, her eyes closed. When she opened them again, she gave me a small nod.

Taking my hands from her face, she started walking us away from the cat sanctuary. “Come on, let’s go to your project place now. I’m excited to see where you are going to take me”.

As we walked back towards the subway station, I kept thinking about why she felt like she was going to lose us.

It wasn’t possible.

We all loved her.

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