I pull his mouth to mine and I kiss him. I kiss him for always having the perfect thing to say. I kiss him for always being there for me. I kiss him for supporting whatever decision I think I might need to make. I kiss him for being so patient with me while I figure everything out. I kiss him because I can’t think of anything better than climbing back inside that car with him and talking about everything we’ll do when we get to Hawaii.
I separate my mouth from his and somehow, in the midst of the worst day of my life, I find the strength to smile. “Thank you, Holder. So much. I couldn’t do this without you.”
He kisses me softly on the mouth again and smiles back at me. “Yes, babe. You could.”
Sunday, October 28th, 2012 7:50 a.m.
His fingers have been slowly lacing through my hair. My head is resting in his lap and we’ve been driving for over four hours. He turned his phone off back in Waco after receiving pleading texts from Karen, using my phone, wanting him to bring me back home. The problem with that is, I don’t even know where home is anymore.
As much as I love Karen I have no idea how to grasp what she did. There isn’t a situation in the world that could ever make stealing a child okay, so I don’t know that I’ll ever want to go back to her. I plan on finding out as much information as I can about what happened before I make any decisions on how I need to handle this. I know the right thing to do would be to immediately call the police, but sometimes the right thing to do isn’t always the best answer.
“I don’t think we should stay at my father’s house,” Holder says. I assumed he thought I was sleeping, but it’s obvious he knows I’m wide-awake since he’s talking to me. “We’ll get a hotel for tonight and figure out what we need to do tomorrow. I didn’t move out of his house on the best terms this summer, and we’ve got enough drama to deal with as it is.”
I nod my head against his lap. “Whatever you want to do. I just know I need a bed, I’m exhausted. I have no idea how you’re still awake.” I sit up and stretch my arms out in front of me, just as Holder pulls his car into the parking lot of a hotel.
After he checks us in, he gives me the key to the room and leaves to go park the car and get our things. I slide the key card into the door and open it, then walk into the hotel room. There’s only one bed, which I assumed he would request. We’ve slept in the same bed several times before so it would have been a lot more awkward had he requested separate beds.
He returns to the room several minutes later and sets our bags down. I rifle through mine, looking for something to sleep in. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring any pajamas, so I grab a long t-shirt and some underwear.
“I need to take a shower.” I grab the few toiletries I brought and carry them into the bathroom with me and take an extremely long shower. When I’m finished, I attempt to blow dry my hair but I’m too exhausted. I pull my hair up in a wet ponytail instead and brush my teeth. When I walk out of the bathroom, Holder is unpacking both of our bags and hanging our shirts in the closet. He glances at me and does a double take when he sees I’m only wearing a t-shirt and underwear. He eyes me, but only for a second before he glances away uncomfortably. He’s trying to be respectful, considering the day I’ve had. I don’t want him treating me like I’m fragile. If this were any other day, he’d be commenting on what I was wearing and his hands would be on my ass in two seconds flat. Instead, he turns his back to me and takes the last of his items out of his duffel bag.
“I’m going to take a quick shower,” he says. “I filled up the ice bucket and grabbed a few drinks. I wasn’t sure if you wanted soda or water, so I got both.” He grabs a pair of boxer shorts and walks around me toward the bathroom, careful not to look at me. As he passes me, I grab his wrist. He stops and turns around, carefully looking me in the eyes and nowhere else.
“Can you do me a favor?”
“Of course, babe,” he says sincerely.
I slide my hand through his, then bring it up to my mouth. I lightly kiss his palm, then rest it against my cheek. “I know you’re worried about me. But if what’s happening in my life is causing you to feel uncomfortable about being attracted to me to the point that you can’t even look at me when I’m half-naked, it’ll break my heart. You’re the only person I have left, Holder. Please don’t treat me differently.”
He looks at me knowingly, then pulls his hand away from my cheek. His eyes drop to my lips, and a small grin plays at the corner of his mouth. “You’re giving me the go-ahead to admit that I still want you, even though your life has turned to shit?”
I nod. “Knowing you still want me is more of a necessity now than it was before my life turned to shit.”
He smiles, then drops his lips to mine, sweeping his hand across my waist and around to my lower back. His other hand is planted firmly on the back of my head, guiding it as he kisses me deeply. His kiss is exactly what I need right now. It’s the only thing that could possibly feel good in a world full of nothing but bad.
“I really need to shower,” he says between kisses. “But now that I have the go ahead to still treat you the same?” He grabs my ass and pulls me against him. “Don’t fall asleep while I’m in there, because when I get out, I want to show you just how incredible I think you look right now.”
“Good,” I whisper against his mouth. He releases me, then walks to the bathroom. I lay down on the bed just as the water kicks on.
I attempt to watch TV for a while since I never have the opportunity, but nothing can hold my attention. It’s been such a grueling twenty-four hours, the sun is already up and we haven’t even gone to bed yet. I shut the blinds and curtains, then crawl back into bed and throw a pillow over my eyes. As soon as I begin to welcome sleep, I feel Holder crawl into bed behind me. He slides one arm under my pillow and one over my side. I can feel his warm chest pressed against my back and the strength of his arms around me. He slides his hands through mine and kisses me lightly on the back of the head.
“I live you,” I whisper to him.
He kisses my head again and sighs into my hair. “I don’t think I live you back anymore. I’m pretty sure I’ve moved beyond that. Actually, I’m positive I’ve moved beyond that, but I’m still not ready to say it to you. When I say it, I want it to be separate from this day. I don’t want you to remember it like this.”
I pull his hand to my mouth and kiss it softly. “Me, too.”
And once again in my new world full of heartache and lies, this hopeless boy somehow finds a way to make me smile.
Sunday, October 28th, 2012 5:15 p.m.
We sleep through breakfast and lunch. By the time afternoon hits and Holder walks in with food, I’m starving. It’s been over twenty-four hours since I’ve eaten anything. He pulls two chairs up to the desk and takes the items and drinks out of the sacks. He brought me the same thing I requested after the art showing last night, but that we never actually got around to ordering. I remove the lid from the chocolate shake and down a huge drink, then take the wrapper off my burger. When I do, a small square piece of paper falls out and lands on the table. I pick it up and read it.
Just because you don’t have a phone anymore and your life is crazy dramatic, I still don’t want your ego exploding. You looked really homely in your t-shirt and panties. I really hope you buy yourself some footed pajamas today so I don’t have to look at your chicken legs again all night.
When I set the note down and look at him, he’s grinning at me. His dimples are so adorable; I actually lean over and lick one this time.
“What was that?” he laughs.
I take a bite of my burger and shrug. “I’ve been wanting to do that since the day I saw you in the grocery store.”
His smile turns smug and he leans back in his chair. “You wanted to lick my face the first time you saw me? Is that usually what you do when you’re attracted to guys?”
I shake my head. “Not your face, your dimple. And no. You’re the only guy I’ve ever had the urge to lick.”
He smiles at me confidently. “Good. Because you’re the only girl I’ve ever had the urge to love.”
Holy shit. He didn’t directly say he loves me, but hearing that word come out of his mouth makes my heart swell in my chest. I take a bite of my burger to hide my smile and let his sentence linger in the air. I’m not ready for it to leave just yet.
We both quietly finish our food. I stand up and clear off the table, then walk to the bed and slip my shoes on.
“Where you headed?” He’s watching me tighten the laces on my shoes. I don’t answer him right away because I’m not sure where it is I’m going. I just want to get out of this hotel room. When my shoes are tied, I stand up and walk to him, then wrap my arms around him.
“I want to go for a walk,” I say. “And I want you to go with me. I’m ready to start asking questions.”
He kisses my forehead then reaches to the table and grabs the room key. “Then let’s go.” He reaches down and laces my fingers through his.
Our hotel isn’t near any parks or walking trails, so instead we just head to the courtyard. There are several cabanas lining the pool, all of them empty. He leads me to one of them. We sit and I lean my head against his shoulder, looking out over the pool. It’s October, but the weather is pretty mild. I pull my arms through the sleeves of my shirt and hug myself, snuggling against him.
“You want me to tell you what I remember?” he asks. “Or do you have specific questions?”
“Both. But I want to hear your story first.”
His arm is draped over my shoulders. His fingers are stroking my upper arm and he kisses the side of my head. I don’t care how many times he kisses me on the head; it always feels like a first.
“You have to understand how surreal this feels for me, Sky. I’ve thought about what happened to you every single day for the past thirteen years. And to think I’ve been living two miles away from you for seven of those years? I’m still having a hard time processing it myself. And now, finally having you here, telling you everything that happened…”
He sighs and I feel his head lean against the back of the chair. He pauses briefly, then continues. “After the car pulled away, I went inside the house and told Les that you left with someone. She kept asking me who, but I didn’t know. My mother was in the kitchen, so I went and told her. She didn’t really pay any attention to me. She was cooking supper and we were just kids. She had learned to tune us out. Besides, I still wasn’t sure anything had happened that wasn’t supposed to happen, so I didn’t sound panicked or anything. She told me to just go outside and play with Les. The way she was so nonchalant about it made me think everything was okay. Being six years old, I was positive adults knew everything, so I didn’t say anything else about it. Les and I went outside to play and another couple of hours passed by when your dad came outside, calling your name. As soon as I heard him call your name, I froze. I stopped in the middle of my yard and watched him standing on his porch, calling for you. It was that moment that I knew he had no idea you had left with someone. I knew I did something wrong.”