I was at his doorstep, cold because of the bitter rain that probably matches how H is feeling right now. When I looked up to meet his gaze, I saw relief, pain, anger, and sadness on his face all at the same time. We stared at each other for a long time, not speaking, our eyes doing the talking. I let my tears fall freely, my lips quivering, and he started shaking his head, his eyes filling with tears.
“I…” he started off but he couldn’t continue, his words failing him. He raised his hands in the air in frustration, letting them fall back down to his sides. He heaved a sigh, and then said, “I don’t know if I am going to hate you or if I should get mad at you, or just be thankful that you’re finally back,” he said, and I could tell by the way that his jaw had hardened that the hate and anger was winning over.
I reached out and he flinched back when my fingers were close to him, and I smiled sadly, bringing my hand back to my side. I know I deserved that.
“I’m fine with the first two, because I deserved that for leaving you,” I said, and I took a step back. I produced the package that I got safely tucked away in my coat to protect it from the rain, and I presented it to him. “Happy birthday,” I said, my voice cracking towards the end. “I’m sorry I left and I’m really sorry I hurt you. I was selfish, and I…” I stopped, choking back a sob. He took the package, careful not to let our fingers touch. He inspected the small box with a little wonder, as if I had lost the ability to surprise him after I packed my bags and left.
I shivered in my coat, realizing that H wouldn’t budge and let me in. I stared at his crazy hair going in all directions, at his bitten-probably-due-to-stress nails, at his oversized shirt that I practically claimed that is my own, at his lips that I missed, at his eyes that are expressing hate on me now.
At that moment, we were at a standstill. I know my choices, and I didn’t know why I had to think about this—or why I had to run away.
While I hated his “world,” I know I should start to adapt to it if I wanted to be in his life. And while the magnitude of love that this 19-year-old had to offer for me scared me like hell, I should suck it in.
Because I love him. And there isn’t any other valid or perfect reason to adapt to life changes and fear than love.
I moved closer to him, and he didn’t move away this time. I leaned in, giving him a very chaste peck on the cheek, and then I turned to leave, welcoming the rain as it was eerily offering me company as I plan to trek the three blocks that separate my place from his.
I was already close to my home when I heard some footsteps behind me. Someone grabbed my arm, making me face them, and I saw H, also drenched in the rain like I was. I opened my mouth to speak but he beat me to it.
“I hated each day you weren’t around. And I didn’t like it that you left—why in the world did you leave anyway?” he said, and I blinked away my tears and the rain that fell on my face as I looked up at him. I told him my reasons, and he scoffed at them.
“I may not like the world I live in half the time, but it is a part of me. It’s part of my package—the press, the sometimes unwanted publicity, the fans following me around and the online trolls. And you have to accept them because I am trying to live with it. It’s been three years of this and it’s still crazy as hell, but…” He stopped, and he reached over, his cold hands cupping my face. “I want to go through all of this with you in my life, K. I may be asking for too much, enough to probably scare you off again—”
I shook my head, as hard as I could, with his hands on my face. “You’re not asking for too much,” I said. “And it’s not gonna scare me away. Again.”
I held his hands on my face, and I didn’t say anything more.
“Stay. Stay this time, and don’t ever leave,” he pleaded, and I smiled at him, with what probably is the coldest smile ever as I was freezing already. “You didn’t open the gift, did you?” I told him, and he shook his head.
“I was busy thinking if I would run after you or not.”
I removed his hands on my face, held it, and then pulled him so that we could trek the two blocks back to his house again. He didn’t ask me why we’re heading back at this very instant when I haven’t answered his request yet, and I was glad he didn’t.
When we got to his house, we both shook off our boots at the porch and headed inside. H went straight for the package, untied the ribbon, and lifted the lid of the box.
I watched his face as he absorbed my gift, and when he looked up at me, he was holding what was inside the box in his hand, hope on his face.
It was a lock—almost similar to the lock that we placed at the Pont des Arts Bridge. This time though, instead of Sharpie-handwritten promises on the lock, I had it engraved.
Fresh starts. Moments. You are the end game.
H + K
I reached into the box and lifted the note that served as a bed for the lock inside the box. I handed it to him.
H dropped the note and the lock back into the box and pulled me closer to him, his body engulfing mine, as he whispered into my ear, “Stay.”
I nodded. “I will,” I promised, and I held him tight, like I wouldn’t let him go.