“Look, I don’t know who you are or what your deal is, but he needs help, and he is going to get it from me. Got it?”
She was halfway up the ladder before I could think of what to say. She left me feeling stumped, and I didn’t like it one bit. I didn’t waste any time grabbing the bar and following after her. She was disobedient, and disobedience had to be punished.
It was very easy for me to sneak up on her because she was so focused on Buddy. He must have seen something in my eyes because his widened in fear, and before he or she could react, I’d pushed her off.
I regretted it immediately after it happened, but it was too late. All I could do was watch her hit the ground with a sickening crunch.
She was still.
Too still and for a moment…
I thought I had killed her.
I don’t know what drove me here, but somehow, I had ended up at the playground. For some reason, I felt the need to be here. This was the place it all began. It was where I first laid eyes on my tormentor. He gave me a lot of memories to hold on to for the rest of my life. Most of them were bad, but it was all I had. The good memories were the ones I would cherish. An involuntary shiver ran through me when I remembered the hard way he took me, and the way he controlled my body and my desires. I would miss that. I would miss him.
“I am so stupid,” I grumbled and kicked at the sand beneath my feet.
“Then I have to be the dumbest shit in the world.”
I closed my eyes and kept my head down. It wasn’t real. He isn’t here.
“Look at me, baby.”
A small sound escaped me when I realized he really was there. “Why are you here?”
“The same reason you are… I think I came to find you. Were you thinking about me just now?”
“Why does it matter?”
“It matters,” he merely stated.
“But why?” Because my head was down, I didn’t see him come closer until it was too late. He lifted my chin with his finger, but I kept my eyes tightly closed.
Instead of deterring him, he pressed tender kisses, first on my eyelids, and then all over my face. “Because it means I have a chance.”
“A chance for what?”
“To make you stay.”
I felt his hands on both sides of my face. “Why are you doing this?”
“Open your eyes.”
“Tell me why—”
“Not until you look at me.”
Nope. No way. My knees weakened from the feel of his hands.
“Please,” he whispered against my lips before his connected with mine in a tender kiss. His arms wrapped around my waist and pulled me closer. The way he handled me made me feel fragile as if I would break at any moment. I probably would.
I finally opened my eyes when he delivered a final peck to my lips and rested his forehead against mine. When I looked into his eyes, they were no longer stormy. They held hope.
“I love you.”
I shook my head, causing our foreheads to rub together. He gripped me tighter as if sensing my need to escape. “I might have even loved you that day in the pharmacy. You were so beautiful… and so scared. For the first time since I met you, I didn’t want you to be afraid of me.”
“Could have fooled me.”
“My biggest regret in life was making you cry, and if I have to spend the rest of it making sure you never have another bad day, then I will die a happy man.”
“I thought you didn’t have regrets.”
“Only the ones I can’t change.”
“What about Mitch? And Lily? Will I have to spend the rest of mine convincing you I’m not her ghost?”
“I want to show you something.” He dropped his arms from my waist and pulled his shirt over his head. I gave him a crazy look. It was fifty degrees, maybe colder outside, and he was standing before me without a shirt.
“Keiran, what are you doing? This is hardly the time to think about sex.”
“No, that comes later.”
“Hopeful.” I softened at his words and the look in his eyes. “Remember when I told you I confess my sins the only way I know how? That’s why I had the tattoo made.
“I can’t believe I’m seeing this for the first time. It’s beautiful,” I finally said after I stared at his back in awe.
Even after the times we had sex, I realized I never actually saw his back. One of us would always run.
I ran my fingers down his back where the tattoo lay. The dark petals sharply contrasted against his skin. Some of the petals were broken in different ways and some looked mended. The mended petals showed a drop of moisture that touched precisely the broken parts. The raindrops were bright blue with a tinge of green reminding me of my own eyes. One particular petal stood out amongst the rest. The tip of the petal hung loosely from the rest barely hanging on and above it was a falling raindrop. The way it fell was peculiar… almost like a shooting star.
“It was for her?”
“No… It was for nothing.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“Then why a lily? Out of any flower or dumb tattoo teenage boys are inclined to get, why something that obviously means something to you? What does it all mean? The broken petals? The raindrop?”
He laughed and shook his head. “It was Keenan’s idea. I told him to make a lily. He—”