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Stay With Me
“So did I,” he spoke sadly, interrupting me with a slight edge to his voice. I sensed the frustration rolling off of him, though he was doing a good job of hiding it. If I didn’t know him as well as I did, I would’ve mistaken him for perfectly calm.
But that was the problem. I did know him, all too well actually. I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know what, and he refused to tell me.
“Carter,” I said softly, smiling a sad smile. I leaned over in the front seat of his car, reaching out to touch his arm. I rested my fingers on his warm skin. He flinched, but didn’t pull away. “Don’t do this.”
A hot tear slipped from my eye. I saw his hand twitch, like he was going to wipe it away, but it stayed where it was resting on his leg.
Apart from the sound of the rain pounding down on the roof, the car was silent. It was neither awkward nor comfortable. It was just silence.
His gaze was cast downward, so I couldn’t see the deep chocolate brown of his eyes. His hands were clenched into tight fists. His shoulders were tensed and rigid. After a few minutes, he abruptly shook his head and lifted his eyes to meet mine.
I sucked in a quick breath as his eyes bore into mine. The burning intensity of them felt like it was burning a hole in my soul. I didn’t back down, though, but kept my eyes locked on his.
A few more minutes passed, and Carter drew in a deep breath before letting it out as a sigh.
“Serenity, please,” he spoke in a hitched whisper. “I--I just can’t.”
“Yes, you can, Carter. You can,” I urged gently. “I know you can.”
I said the words, but wasn’t sure if I myself believed them. His eyes were hard with finality. I saw no indecision in his features. A few more tears slid down my cheek when I realized there was no changing his mind.
“No, Serenity,” Carter’s voice was barely a whisper when he spoke again.
My face fell, and I took in a ragged breath. I looked out the windshield of his parked car. I could barely make out the outline of my house in the pouring rain. The skies were a gloomy gray, parallel to how I felt right now.
I looked back at Carter, making my choice.
“I love you, Carter.”
With those words, I pressed my lips together to hold back more tears and stepped out of his car. The rain beat down on me, but I paid it no mind.
I held my head up as I slowly made my way to the front door. I dug my keys out of my purse and slid it into the lock. The door fell open. I snuck one last glance at Carter before I went inside.
His hands were gripping the steering wheel tightly. His head was resting on the wheel, his shoulders drooped in defeat. I wanted so badly to rush back to him and hold him in my arms, to make it all better, but I knew I couldn’t.
Instead, I touched my lips to my hand and blew it to Carter, whispering into the night.
As I looked around at my familiar surroundings, I wondered again how I had gotten here. I just remembered the days going by painfully slowly, and I needed to escape.
And now, here I was. Regardless of how I had gotten here, I was happy to have come. I slipped off my rain boots and left them at the edge of the field. I walked slowly to the middle of the clearing, the slick grass swirling around my bare legs.
A tear fell from my eye and a smile spread across my face. That was the way being here made me feel. My mind was flooded with memories. Carter and I had spent countless hours out here, just talking.
In fact, this was where we had met. I had come out after a bad day, and was sitting reading a book in the field. He had walked over silently and and snuck up on me from behind. After that, everything fell into place.
Until it fell apart again.
The rain was still falling heavily. I lifted my naked arms out to the sides, letting the water slide down my skin. I smiled as the raindrops mixed in with my tears. Tilting my head back and looking up at the sky, I spun around in a circle. The hem of my cotton dress, now soaked through with rain, swirled and stuck to my legs. I reveled in the silky-wetness of the long grass tickling my legs. I closed my eyes, and my smile grew.
I imagined all my worries, all my fears, just floating away. In my mind right now, everything was perfect. I was perfect. My life was perfect.
Suddenly, a force came out of nowhere and nearly knocked me to the ground. My breath tumbled out through my lips in a huff. I reached my hands out, as if to grasp on to something, but there was nothing there.
For a moment, I began to panic. I felt as if everything real had been lifted away, leaving nothing but my thoughts and fantasies. I opened my mouth to let out a scream, hoping that maybe the sound would bring reality back into my realms.
My scream drowned in my throat, though, when I saw what--or rather who, was there. This was no dream, no fantasy. This was real.
“Serenity,” he breathed. Needing no more proof that he wasn’t just a product of my imagination, I hurled myself into his outstretched arms. They immediately curled around me, hugging me closer to him.
I locked my arms tightly around his neck, and was surprised I wasn’t strangling him yet. I felt him try to pull back to look at me, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go.
“Serenity,” he whispered repeatedly into my ear. “Serenity, I’m so sorry. I had to leave you. I didn’t want to. I never wanted to. I never will want to.”
I pressed my face closer into his neck, and his hand came up to the back of my head.
“Carter,” I choked out. “It’s okay. You’re here now.”
Finally, I pulled back just enough so that I could see his face. His expression was worried. I gave him a smile as tears fell from my eyes, and his brown eyes twinkled.
“I should have never left you. But it’s all okay now. It will be alright.”
I didn’t need anymore explanation. His deep brown eyes--which were like windows to his soul, revealing every emotion he could never keep hidden--showed me all that I needed to know.
“Oh, and Serenity?” Carter spoke again, smiling warmly at me. “I love you, too.”