Ellie hadn’t slept in a few days. She was mentally and physically exhausted when she entered her room, locking the door behind her. Kort was still asleep on the bed but began to stir as soon as she entered. Opening his eyes, he reached out to her, hoping to find some comfort in her arms. His eyes were still red and watery from the tears that had fallen before he’d found his slumber.
“Kai, we need to talk,” Ellie said, the fatigue prominent in her voice. She wasn’t sure now was the right time, but she wasn’t sure when the right time would be. “You’ve been so…” she paused for a moment searching for the right words. “Well, you’ve been so different since you’ve been back. I’m not the only one who has noticed. I’m worried about you. Did something happen while you were out there?”
“Oh geez, Ellie, I told you that my parents are dead and THIS is what you want to talk about?” Kort was surprised at her lack of empathy. “I need you right now. I need you to love me and care for me and be here with me and all you want to do is point out that I haven’t been myself.” The emotion boiled out of him. He was so utterly defeated and exasperated. At this point, he didn’t even know what he was fighting for anymore.
“I didn’t mean that… I’m sorry,” Ellie felt horrible for mentioning her concerns. Maybe Kai really did just feel guilty about not spending more time with his parents. Maybe he really had just been concerned for her well-being. Maybe that concern had consumed him and it was all he could think about and that’s why he hadn’t mentioned his men at all. “I’m so sorry.” A tear slid down her cheek.
“It’s alright, Ellie. Don’t cry, please don’t cry,” Kort whispered, wiping the tear with his finger. “You’re so much stronger than I ever knew.” Suddenly he felt exceedingly guilty for all he had done to her. She was everything that he had ever wanted. He just wanted her to want him too. Him, not Kai. But as far as Ellie knew, he was Kai and so he still didn’t have anything he had wanted.
Ellie threw her arms around him, squeezing him tightly and resting her head on his shoulder.
“I need to tell you something, Ells.” Kort swallowed the last of his pride and his mouth went dry. “I need you to try to understand. Promise you’ll try.”
Kai never called her Ells. Ellie let loose her grip and looked Kort in the eye. “I’ll try,” she said. “I promise. I’ll try.”