It's brighter somehow. I walk along the path now strewn with cherry blossom and magnolia petals, a path colored pink to my delight. The light shines down and everything is soaked, lush and clean. Glorious. It's cool but not bone-chilling, it's vaguely scary without being terrifying anymore.
It's also very hard to turn the wheel that opens the door into the concrete room when it's slick with rain.
He was waiting though, and I got it open because I wouldn't have accepted anything less. I just do it if it needs to be done even though I hurt my hand and pulled that muscle just a little more which means once again when I lie flat on my back and take a deep breath pain roars through my whole body and Ben likes that and presses hard against me. It's alright, I will just sleep on my side afterward, wedged in tightly under Ben's arm, my head pressed underneath his hard chin, his breath warm on my hair, my skin still flush from the agony. I won't move a muscle.
Sleep and heal, sleep and heal. It's the ultimate dragon to chase these days but I'm trying. I bought sleeping pills yesterday because I'm out of ideas. I never get the coffee I want at the right times so I'm not jacked up on caffeine, maybe it's just the adjustment of not being cold, not being alone, not being pushed down under the weight of an unwelcome Prairie sky, perhaps.
I held the magnolia blossom carefully, tucking it into my pocket when I opened the door. Once inside I took it out again, glad that it will still uncrushed, intact. Sort of the way Jacob must feel when he inspects me for further damage than what he has caused, that enables me to utilize his guilt to keep him here.
As if I could let him go.
Is that for me?
Yes. I want you to see what it's like here.
Are you still happy?
Yes. I needed the water back.
I know, princess.
I made a useless motion to touch him and he abruptly stepped back and frowned at me. Dark blue flooded into his pupils and his hair darkened too and he was suddenly closer to me and I dropped my chin accordingly.
Hey, baby. You look beautiful.
Caleb's looking after you.
It wasn't a question, it was a statement, and I nodded in an almost unconscious admittance.
What does Ben say?
Ben's world is ruled by his wants, what do you think?
I think the world is ruled by what you want.
Ha. Then you don't know me so well anymore. maybe you've been gone too long.
I'm right here beside preacher man, and let me tell you he is no less annoying in this state once you get him started.
But it's okay? This arrangement? I know it isn't easy, Cole, but I need things to stay this way just for a little longer.
He desaturated and grew before my eyes and the face I adore beyond words cracked into another soft smile, the kind that melts butter into broth.
Then what, Bridge? What happens next?
I can't tell you that. Because then he will know.
He isn't allowed to hurt you. Be careful, princess.
It's far too late for that, Jake.
He frowned and suddenly I was the one bathed in the bright lights, which only served to pinpoint how small and dirty I was, especially on my knees and around my mouth, from keeping up this race in which the only winner is the one who pays the officials to look the other way while the spectators murmur in horror but do nothing. It's a trainwreck and you don't look away, now, do you?
Jacob shook his head and mirrored my gesture from earlier, the one that hurts worse than that muscle inside my body, because he wants to touch me too but for some reason we can't seem to accomplish it, haven't more than once or twice since he spread his wings and they failed him in a way that forever changed everything.
I ignored the failure and I threw myself into his arms and they closed but he wasn't there. He wasn't there and I could hear Cole begin to laugh because that's what he does when he feels pain because he doesn't like knowing that I don't care that he's dead and everything still revolves around Jacob and maybe Ben will never ever get a fair shake unless something changes.
I stepped backwards and stumbled and then I felt him, his huge hand with the nimble thin digits that have traced every millimeter of skin that I wear, closing around my elbow so that I didn't fold to the floor. Ice cold today. Uncharacteristically ice old.
You need to go, princess. This isn't safe for you either.
And then I blinked and he vanished into the rain again. I'm really fucking sick of not being allowed to ever say goodbye. I need to figure out how to leave him on my terms instead of his. He gets everything and it isn't fair.
They get everything and it. isn't. fair.