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Worth the Wait
Your curls are perfectly sculpted now, rather than frizzy, wild, and unruly, tousled about your face. They fall gracefully over your shoulders and I feel strangely compelled to reach out and touch those locks as they glisten in the light of the setting sun, looking as lustrous as silk. They’re probably just as soft too. Softer than I remember. I remember what a mess your hair used to be, with burs and pine needles entangled in it. You were such a tomboy then, beating up the monstrous young boys who dared poke fun at you.
You have bangs now too, hiding the scar half way between your hair line and left eyebrow. I’ll never forget how you were inflicted with that scar—it would have been a tiny gash at the time, stitched up at the hospital. It happened the day I met you. I still can’t believe that repulsive little weasel had the nerve to hurt you. He was eleven, and you were nine, and I guess he thought he could get away with bullying a frail looking little girl as yourself. Of course, he didn’t know what a tough cookie you were. I didn’t either. That’s why I came to your aid when out my bedroom window, I saw him shoving you off your bicycle, sending you crashing to the pavement; your head colliding with the curb. As I came rushing out to the rescue, I witnessed you quickly getting to your feet and corking that loser in the nose. From down on the ground, he blinked up at you in shock, and I smiled as I realized you were perfectly capable of looking out for yourself.
When that boy saw me approach, he took off down the street wailing for his mother. Your back was to me, and your shoulders were shaking, making me think you were laughing, but when I complimented you on a job well done, you turned and looked up at me through tear-filled lashes. I was rather alarmed by the blood seeping from your forehead, and I assumed you were crying from the pain, so I knelt to your level and inquired about your ‘booboo’. You scoffed at the word ‘booboo’, stated that it was for babies, and assured me your head was fine, so I asked what you were really crying about. Your answer caught me by surprise.
“I don’t like what he said.” You sniffled. “I’m not a Jesus Killer. I love Jesus. I like to learn about him in Sunday school…”
And that’s how I discovered your family was of Jewish decent. That didn’t matter to me. What mattered was that some porky eleven year old had assaulted you because of it, and I wanted to ring his chunky neck. I assured you he was wrong about you, and he was just too stupid to know better. You silently contemplated my affirmations, sniffling and wiping your eyes on your sleeve, before finally speaking again. You asked if you were ugly, looking to me on me for reassurance, your eyes full of typical insecurities for someone your age. I suddenly felt a bond form, and all I wanted was to make everything better. I had never had a sister, or any siblings for that matter, so I guess in that moment I chose you to fill that lonely void.
“You’re the prettiest, toughest, and coolest little girl I’ve ever met.” I’d told you. And I meant it. I never felt more alive than the moment that a huge, beaming smile spread across your face, right before you threw your arms around my middle, your head only reaching my lower ribs. I’ve never admitted this, but I wanted to cry then. I had never felt so needed and appreciated before. I then lifted you into my arms to carry you home and have that cut attended to, but before I took my first step, I gently kissed your right cheek, making you giggle bashfully.
“I’ve got your back.” I’d said. “I won’t let that jerk hurt you again.” I stayed true to that promise, and became your own personal body guard, even though I knew you didn’t really need one…
I stare at your right cheek longingly, wishing I could simply kiss it one more time, but it would be rather inappropriate now. You’re not a little girl anymore. You’re a young woman of sixteen going on seventeen. When you were eleven, you would force me to sit through The Sound of Music, and all you wanted was to be sixteen. You were positive that like magic, you would fall in love, and someone would sing to you under a gazebo. I have half a mind to re-enact that musical scene, and make that dream of yours come true. I still remember all the words, however, I can’t really dance.
After spending a week with you, reconnecting, I see you’re still the same spunky, Kali-Claire. You’re still the same kick-ass K.C. You’re still my girl. The only difference is your outward appearance, and I wish I could say that doesn’t make a difference, but it does. It makes a world of a difference. It changes how I look at you. I want to tell you you’re beautiful. So, so beautiful. But I can’t. You’d probably think I was a creep. I’ve always been a big brother figure. I can’t be anything else… Can I?
We’ve been walking aimlessly for about an hour, simply enjoying the warm weather and warm colours of the sunset. We chatter about nothing and everything, until you abruptly stop in front of me, and making intense eye contact. I can read you perfectly. You have something to say—to ask, but you’re not sure how. The question I’ve been dreading, is on the tip of your tongue.
“James, I was eleven when you just disappeared… and you never said good-bye.” Tears glaze over your dark eyes. “Why’d you do that James? Why’d you do that to me? I had nightmares for months. I thought something bad happened to you. I thought maybe I did something to chase you away. I felt so… abandoned.” Your r eyes drop their gaze from me to the deteriorating sidewalk, tears dripping off your face and hitting the pavement as you hug yourself.
“I’m sorry.” I whisper, consumed by guilt. “I just… I couldn’t risk my dad finding out that I was leaving. And I never contacted you because I didn’t want my dad knowing where I was. My dad…” I pause. “He’s not what everyone thought he was…”
You look up, with an expression of incomprehension. “What do you mean?”
“My mom disappeared just like I did.” I begin. “That’s the only way to escape him.” I look beyond you, and down the street where I used to live. Where my dad lived right up until the moment he died. I only came back for the funeral, and to claim the little money he left behind. “He can’t hurt any one now though…”
Your face slowly forms an expression of horror, as understanding falls over you. “You left because…” you don’t finish.”
I sigh, uncomfortable with this never before discussed topic. But you’re old enough to know now. And you deserve to know the truth. “I left because I was sick of the fist fights.”
You shake your head in disbelief. “The bruises.” You recall. “You always had bruises… how did I not realize?”
I shrug. “You were just a little girl.”
New tears stream down your face, as you throw your arms around me, apologizing for hating me. You’re completely unaware that your close proximity tortures my desperate, hammering heart. You have no idea that the sweet smell of your golden, brown locks makes me anxious with desire. You don’t know that I see you differently; that my love for you has been completely redefined this past week.
“You were always looking out for me.” You say against my chest. “I thought you were like Superman , unable to get hurt…”
I chuckle at that. “Is that so?”
You nod. “You were my hero, from the day we met.”
My heart’s internal temperature rises to a cozy warmth and against my better judgment, I press my lips against the top of your head, wishing I could tell you how much I love you. You look up in surprise, with questioning eyes. I feel stupid. I shouldn’t have done that… To change the awkward atmosphere I suggest we take a walk to the ice cream parlour; the one we always went to in the summer when we were younger. My first girlfriend, Penny, hated that I always let you tag along. I’ve never told you this, but she broke up with me because of you. She didn’t want to hang out with a kid, so she made me choose between her and you. I chose you.
As we come to the cross walk, I instinctively take your hand in mine, just like so many years before. When we reach the other side of the street and stand before the ice cream parlour, you pass me a glace of utter confusion, which reminds me of how much older we are now, and how inappropriate it is for me to be holding your hand. I immediately let go and do my best to explain myself. I express my natural instinct to protect you, regardless of whether or not you need it. I don’t mention how much I want to take your hand again and never let go, because, whether I like it or not, I have to let you go. There’s no point in entertaining thoughts of us ever being a couple. I’m not right for you. You would only get hurt. Not to mention your parents would never approve. I don’t approve either. I want to kick myself for even finding you so irresistibly attractive.
“It’s okay.” You assure me, boldly taking my hand back. “I don’t mind.” Your hand feels so comfortable there, like we were meant to be conjoined in this way. I become rather nervous as I realize I could get used to this, and I’m appalled by the fact that you’re okay with that. You silly stupid girl! This is hardly okay! You’re only sixteen! I’m twenty-two!
“You’re not ten anymore.” I say, reclaiming my hand. “People will talk.”
“Let them. I don’t care. I…” You stall, and bite on your bottom lip, bringing my attention to your mouth. I want nothing more than to feel those plump lips against my own. I assume you feel the same, judging by what you say next. “I love you.”
Those words fill me with both joy and horror. I fail to respond, staring back silently in shock.
“I used to have a huge crush on you. And I still do.” You confess, blushing. I think you’re even more beautiful with that flush of colour on your cheeks. But I wish you weren’t blushing, and I wish you weren’t telling me exactly what I want to hear. How am I supposed to let go?
“K.C.” I manage to vocalize. “I’m too old for you.”
“It only seems that way now.” You point out. “It wouldn’t seem so wrong if I was twenty, and you were twenty-six.”
I sigh, knowing you’re right. It wouldn’t be weird four years from now, but right now you’re not twenty; you’re sixteen, and I can’t speed up time, no matter how much I would love to.
“James, please tell me you love me too. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, from the moment you kissed my cheek for the very first time…” I see in your eyes that you’re laying your heart on the line. It’s on the verge of breaking. I could wound you permanently if I’m not careful, and the last thing I want to do is hurt you. I hate that you’re putting me in this situation. I’m your protector, not a heartbreaker, so I confess the truth; that I care about you so much more than I should.
“Who says you shouldn’t?” You contradict.
“Society.” I answer.
“Screw society. They’ve never been all that accepting of me anyway.” You sink into the nearby bench, frustrated. “I love you James.” You repeat the proclamation with despair. “Even after all this time…”
I take a seat next to you. “You’ll meet someone else.” I insist, but you shake your head in disagreement.
“No one can take your place James. You mean more to me than anyone else ever could.”
“The feeing’s mutual. But, we can’t be together. I have a life in a different province. You still need to graduate from high school and go to university. Our lives do not intertwine.”
“They could one day. I’ll go to school where you are—
“Wait for me.” You plead
I sigh yet again, at a loss for words that will help you see things my way, but as I get lost in your desperate gaze, the world and my worries fade away, and the only thing that I can think to say is “I love you,” as I wrap my arms around your shivering body. I feel your heat beat against mine and it’s the most amazing, most exhilarating thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I tend not to look ahead too far into the future because I never thought I had anything to look forward to, but suddenly I feel like I could look forward to a future that includes you. The smell of your hair. The warmth of your body next to mine as I hold you tightly in my embrace. The sound of your heart beating for me. These are things worth waiting for.
I gently kiss your cheek, feeling overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. On one hand, I love you more than my vocabulary is capable of expressing. I always have, but now it’s more powerful. I truly didn’t know that I was capable of feeling anything with this much intensity; throughout my entire body and with my whole being. On the other hand, I’m afraid of what is taking place here. We’ve both confessed our love for each other, and tomorrow I have to get on a plane. We will be separated again.
I will be lonely. My only comfort will be dreaming of you. I don’t know when I’ll see you again. Needless to say, I feel inclined to make the most of this moment and kiss you as passionately as I can muster, but I am a man of honour and integrity and I will not do something I would not approve of for anyone one else. I simply gaze into your eyes, finally entangling my fingers in your hair, and discovering those locks really are soft as silk. I trace every detail of your face with my finger, not wanting to forget a single one. You stop me, grabbing my hand and filling the spaces between my fingers with your own dainty fingers, boldly asking me to just kiss you already.
I shake my head, and smile. “No way. You’re too young to be making out with a twenty two year old.”
You sigh with disappointment.
“I’ll kiss you on your eighteenth birthday.” I promise.
You break into a grin, chuckling to yourself.
“What?’ I inquire.
“I was going to say I can’t wait, but the truth is I can. I’d wait forever for you.”
I smile, and place a kiss on your forehead. “True love waits.” I tell you. “And you, K.C, are worth waiting for.”