Chapter 20 – Updated 1/3/17

A single word stops us both in our tracks, “Sara?”

Sam’s the first to respond to her presence, “Oh for God’s sake.” She approaches the intruder and I know a fight is about to start by the look on Sam’s face and her clenched jaw. But I can’t stop her because, before I can move, she’s in Jesse’s face with a venomous tone of voice, “What in the hell are you doing?” There is fire and hatred in her eyes. It’s so thick that it almost chokes me even from this distance.

You can’t be serious, Jesse. Not now. I am not about to do this right now. I crawl out of the front of Sam’s car, “What?” I hope that I can halt the physical fight by stepping between them. As soon as I do, Sam places a hand on my hip and steps right up against my back, like a silent reminder she’s there. I don’t need a reminder, but it’s also a non-verbal way to stake a claim. And maybe, just maybe she’s using me as a physical barrier so that she doesn’t beat the living shit out of the girl we both wish would disappear like a vapor.

The move isn’t missed, causing Jesse’s eyes to not meet mine and her hands are shoved into her pockets, but her voice is strong, “May I talk to you a minute?”

I turn to face Sam, trying to keep my voice calm, “If you go get my purse, my keys are in there.” She eyes me suspiciously. I keep my voice low and the right amount of huskiness is there when I speak to her, “It’ll be over by the time you get back. Just let me get rid of her.” I pull her head to mine in a kiss that says I have no intention of delaying our plans any longer than absolutely necessary. In return she grabs my ass and pulls me against her. I melt all over again with a not-so-soft groan.

“I’ll be right back. And then you’re all mine,” she awaits my nod before giving Jesse a long, hard stare. She turns on her heel and takes her leave but throws one last jab over her shoulder, “For once I’m going to take her advice.”

As she walks away, I watch her long, sure strides, and realize I want her more than I ever thought I did. I turn back to Jesse, “What’s up?”

She’d been watching me as I watched Sam. There’s a pain on her face I hadn’t expected. She seems to be groping for words, “I don’t know how to say this to you.” Her eye contact stutters then drops completely, “I’m so mentally fucked up right now.”

It actually hurts to see her like this so I take a deep breath and try to focus on something other than the way Sam’s lips taste and the feel of her against me, “Okay,” I step up to her, a little closer to her height since I’m standing on the sidewalk, “the best place to start is with the beginning.”

When she looks up at me, she smiles the most perfect, heart-melting smile, “In the beginning there was you,” she pauses and then whispers, “only you.” I can’t look away, the wind is blowing her hair a little bit…and the sun’s lighting her face just right… and… those eyes. “And you were beautiful, and I had you in my hands. I never wanted to let you go. Ever. And then there was this distance created on a misunderstanding and petty jealousy.” She looks away for a moment, “And I didn’t know how to speed up or maybe I should have slowed down.” She reaches out and brushes hair away from my face, “But I didn’t do either one.” Her jaw tightens as she puts her hand back in her pocket. She fights the urge to look away because her eyes are watering, but she doesn’t, “Instead, I did something so…” she sighs, “fucking stupid. And it hurt you. Not just your heart, but actually and really hurt you.” A single tear slides rapidly down her cheek and I can’t help but watch it. “And I went to apologize,” she finally looks away and shuffles her feet before looking back up at me, “but you weren’t alone.” I realize she must have heard or seen Sam and I in the hospital room. She doesn’t stop to let me reply, “I couldn’t blame you. I hurt you and I hate myself for that. I don’t blame you if you never want to speak to me again. But…” her tears fall in greater numbers now, “I..” she swallows hard and almost chokes on a sob, bringing her balled fist to her mouth to help, “I love you.”

You know how people say that the world stopped and you think to yourself, “It didn’t stop, the world kept right on spinning, you fool”? Well, it does stop sometimes. Because my world stops when Jesse Cooper tells me she loves me the first time. I blink several times, “What?”

She almost laughs outright, “Damn, Mayze, you gonna make me say it again?” She steps back and wipes her cheeks with the backs of her hands before coming close again and looking me in the eye, “Okay,” she nods, “for you, I’ll say it again.” She swallows and looks away from just a moment then, to her credit, she looks me in the eyes, “I love you, Sara.”

I can’t breathe. I take a deep breath but I don’t think I’m getting any oxygen because I’m dizzy as hell, “Why are you telling me this now?”

“If you’ll remember, I came to your room that day to talk to you but Ashley was there. That’s what I wanted to talk about…us.”

“But you and Megan…”

She sighs, “Sara, I told you, I ordered a pizza. She ate a slice of it. That’s it. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t a date. I swear. I haven’t had anyone but you and I don’t want anyone but you.”

I run a hand through my hair, my heart is racing and I can’t figure out why. What do I say? What do I feel? What the fuck is happening? I sigh, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t have anything to come back with, Jesse. I…”

She cuts me off by leaning into me, close enough to touch, but without the actual contact. The tension is almost visible, like a mist surrounding us and blocking out everything else, “You don’t have to say anything.” I find that I’m holding my breath and waiting for her lips, “Because you what you’re not saying is speaking louder.”

The loud, loud voice in my head that sounds like Ashley screams for me to move. Just step back and walk away, it pleads. Then there’s a quiet, calm voice that sounds like Courtney who urges me forward. Happiness is right there…just lean forward a bit and take it.  I teeter on the edge of not knowing what to do and almost panic, then Jesse makes the decision for me.

“Ok,” she breathes, “I’m not going to push.” She takes a very small step back but doesn’t break our gaze, “If you’re meant to be mine again…you will be.” She tilts her head to the side and leans forward. When her lips touch my cheek, I close my eyes and take a sharp breath. Bad idea. She smells the way you think ecstasy would. The breath I took comes rushing out when she whispers, “I love you.” She takes a few steps back and smiles that devastating Jesse Cooper smile at me, before turning and walking away.

Well, what the entire fuck?

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