B E L L A M Y
As expected, Noah’s cryptic answers kept me busy for the rest of the night, and the morning after, when I should’ve been getting ready for my first day at the coffee shop.
I ended up only being a couple of minutes late, storming into the shop like I was being chased by something.
“Sorry I’m late,” I breathed out, closing the door behind me and straightening out my shirt.
“Bella?” I heard from behind the counter, and I looked up at a familiar face.
“Howard? You’re Reed?”
I walked up to the brown-haired man, wrapping my arms around his neck.
He chuckled, returning the hug. “Long time no see.”
“But, why do they call you Reed?” I asked as we let each other go.
He stepped back, handing me an apron. “You remember how much I used to hate my name? I asked David to call me by my surname and it kind of stuck.”
I nodded, placing my bag in the break room like I had worked there for longer than five minutes, and leaned against the counter when I came back. “That makes sense.”
“We should catch up sometime,” he offered, looking at the customer that just got in.
“Sure,” I replied, interested to see what Howard—Reed—had been up to since high school. He was one of my best friends, and basically the only one that hadn’t abandoned me.
We kind of lost touch when we went our separate ways in college, but I knew he would always be there if I needed him. And I was there for him if he needed me.
I had never seen so many cars in the driveway and the street in front of my parents’ house as I did that night, as we arrived for my dad’s birthday party.
“Did he invite the entire town or...” I retorted, placing my hand on the door handle, ready to jump out of the passenger side.
“Looks like it,” Isaac added, killing the engine and grabbing his phone.
We weren’t late—Isaac had made sure of that—but it felt that way as we walked into a busy house, looking into an even busier backyard.
“Dad!” I exclaimed when I saw a familiar head of hair in the crowd, his eyes sparkling with happiness as he moved through the sea of people.
“There you are,” Dad said, giving us both a quick hug before he lead us to the kitchen.
“I didn’t know this many people were coming?” Isaac mentioned, and I poured him and myself a glass of red.
“Your father wanted to celebrate his 50th with everybody.” Mom smirked as she walked into the kitchen, wrapping an arm around her husband.
I looked at my Dad’s happy and beaming expression, finding it hard not to smile myself.
“Where’s Noah?” Mom asked Isaac and I suddenly didn’t know where to look. What the fuck’s wrong with me?
“He had to finish up work with his friend so he’ll be a little later.”
I surrendered to the fact that my stomach would react in a certain way when it came to Noah, but that didn’t mean that I liked it.
Or, there was something in this wine.
“We’ll see him when he gets here,” Mom chirped, her cheeks a little red. I wasn’t the only one who liked a nice drink, but my mother’s tolerance was nonexistent, so she would be pretty tipsy after one glass.
Embarrassing, but cute.
“Right...” I trailed off, padding my mom on the shoulder before I walked past the couple, greeting everybody else.
It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen my family in a while, but it felt good to be all together again.
Watching the twins from next door run around the BBQ about an hour later, I didn’t notice that Noah had arrived.
It was when I heard his voice that I looked up, sighing at the man.
He wore faded black jeans with a white button up on top, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and showing off the artwork that I couldn’t get enough of.
His hair was as messy as ever, dark waves sticking up in every direction and falling in his face.
I snapped back to reality when my aunt took a seat next to me on the lounge set, placing her half-empty wine glass on the table.
“Aunt Mabel, how are you?” I replied, smiling up at my mother’s twin sister.
If I hadn’t come out of my mom, I would’ve had trouble keeping them apart.
“I’m good, you look beautiful,” she said, and I blushed.
“I don’t kn—”
“Accept the compliment, dear.”
I looked into the pools of blue that mirrored my own, giving Mabel a painful smile.
She brushed a hand over my shoulder and started to talk about my cousins, but all I could think about was how Noah leaned against the white fence, scanning the garden with those green orbs. And how he looked absolutely desirable doing so.
I filled up the rest of the night with drinking and chatting with my cousins, though when it started to get dark and people went inside, I took the opportunity to stay out and enjoy the serenity of the night.
Wineglass in hand, I started strolling down the street, though not wandering off too far.
The night sky was clear, and I sunk onto the curb, staring up.
It was beautifully calm here, so much so that I could almost forget about my drink.
I closed my eyes, knowing my little moment alone was already over before it could’ve started.
“What are you doing here, Noah?” I replied softly, staring straight ahead as I felt him taking a seat next to me.
He ignored the question, leaning with his arms on his knees, and staring off in the distance as I did.
We sat in silence, listening to the wind in the trees, a couple of crickets, and the occasional passing of a car.
Though it was supposed to be a relaxing scene, my entire body was on edge.
It happened more than usual recently, and the tension I normally felt shifted into something else. Something I really didn’t want to admit I felt.
“Why do you drink so much, Bellamy?” Noah asked, slowly reaching for my glass and taking it from me.
I let him do it, admitting that I had enough.
But was I going to admit to him that he was part of the reason I loved to drink?
“I...” I looked up at him, studying the worried expression on his face.
Where did this come from? And why did I like it?
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” he said, placing the wineglass on the ground behind him.
For some reason, I wanted to tell him. I wanted him to know that he hurt me with his words. Sure, it was in the past but it definitely contributed to the depression I developed later.
“I wasn’t in a good place a couple of years ago and I guess I’m not where I want to be today.”
He studied my face, and I felt shy under his gaze. The eyes that once startled me when I saw them, now had a different effect.
“Do you know what caused it?” he asked.
I didn’t say anything. I just kept looking at him, fighting a couple of tears. I wasn’t going to let him see me cry.
Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to catch on, so I took a deep breath and decided to finally tell him. Ok, the alcohol in my system helped.
After all these years it felt good to say it out loud, and the fact that I was telling Noah, of all people, made it even better.
I had always imagined him to be aware of the effect his actions had on me, but in the last couple of weeks, I had started to doubt that theory.
Was I wrong to give him the benefit of the doubt this time?
“What?” he said breathlessly, his eyes widening slightly.
I looked away, playing with my bracelet. I didn’t dare to face him as he processed what I just said.
“I didn’t know...” he whispered, so soft I wasn’t sure it was meant for my ears.
This was a side of Noah that I wasn’t familiar with. He was never one to let others see him vulnerable, weak, but I was somewhat satisfied that he let me.
“I mean, after two years—” I cut myself off when I realized where I was going.
Noah let out a harsh breath, but he didn’t say anything.
“I went...away,” he added, running a hand through his hair and turning to me. “Bellamy.”
I slowly looked back into his mesmerizing eyes, noticing how close he was. I could see little specks of brown and yellow, surrounded by that soft green I had admired so long.
“Yes?” It was almost a whisper, but it didn’t matter anyway.
“I...” He dropped his head for a second, before taking another deep breath and looking back up. “I’m sorry that I made you feel like you’re not beautiful, or worth it.”
I swallowed hard, relief flooding me at his admission.
Was he aware that I could feel his breath on my face? Or that I unknowingly scooted a little closer?
I’m that moment, my entire body was coursing with tension and desire, my limbs tingling to touch him. Even if it was only for a second.
But I knew better.
Not that I stood up and walked away. No. It’s what I should’ve done. But I let him come to me.
If there was anything I learned about Noah in the past month, it was that he didn’t like to be touched if he didn’t expect or allowed it.
And that was putting it lightly.
“I’m so sorry,” he breathed, his eyes flickering from mine to my lips.
Oh, fuck. We were in trouble.
Goosebumps spread over my arms when I felt his fingers in my face, tracing my jaw and brushing a finger over my lower lip.
He looked in trance as he let his gaze glide over my face, from my jaw to the little freckles on my nose, almost as if he was taking a mental picture.
My ragged breathing matched his, but we couldn’t look away. Not yet.
I was equally stuck, enjoying the sensation of his hand on me, though I desperately wanted him to do more, touch more.
“Noah,” I forced out, watching his pupils widen.
What the fuck was I doing? What was he doing?