Chapter 21
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Jack


One call made me shave, take a bath, and change my clothes.

All I do the next day is wait for four o'clock. I'm waiting for the phone to ring. And when it finally does, I pick up and hear Aiden's voice.

Jack?”

Yeah...”

I feel relief, there was a part of me that doubted Aiden would call today. But he did. And I allow myself to raise my hopes up a bit.

We can meet at the cafe at 5. if it's okay with you.” Aiden says.

I try to guess Aiden's mood from the tone of his voice. I don't think he wants to meet just to say proper goodbye or that he hates me, does he?

For me it's a chance to explain myself, to say something more meaningful than “sorry”.

I'll be there.”

I came early, and now I'm just pacing back and forth, trying to get my thoughts in line. But when Aiden shows up, all my words vanish. In daylight I see his eyes looking straight at me and again all I have to say is “I'm sorry”. Because I am.

Hey...” Aiden hesitates.

Hey...”

And then silence remains. It's awkward maybe, but for me it's a chance to stare at Aiden, to check if he changed since our days on the farm. His hair is shorter now. But his face is the same and the way he's looking at me...

You wanted to talk?” I ask.

I'm not trying to push him, I want to help.

Yeah...”

Here?”

Aiden looks puzzled, maybe he didn't think it through. He glances back at the cafe and obviously discard the idea.

Do you want to take a walk?” I offer, and Aiden nods. We're going down the lane then turn to a park. We are silent all the time until we reach a pond.

Aiden looks at the glassy surface and seems to be lost in his own thoughts. But I don't mind. Maybe he did call me because he wanted to say proper goodbye. If so, I want to spend as much time with him as I can. So let him be silent.

I missed him. I didn't even know how much I really missed him.

I've been thinking...” Aiden starts to speak not looking at me. “About everything... But some things I cannot understand.” He turns to me.

Just ask me. And I promise I will tell you the truth.”

You said you were a coward. What did you mean?”

I need a moment to collect my thoughts.

I... never told you how I felt, never tried to know you better and when Brent told me about your scars I just ran off. “

Did you think I was crazy?”

No... no, I just... I knew you weren't alright from the moment I met you. I mean, I don't know if you remember that day... and then slowly you came to your senses. But we never really talked about it. And I thought I wasn't ready to be on that place.”

In this story I don't look too good, but a promise is a promise. And this is the truth.

Aiden is musing over my answer before he speaks again:

What about now? What do you want now? Do you want me to forgive you and that's all or...”

I want to be with you.” I say. Aiden's lips twitch for a moment.

Why do you think you're ready now?” He asks quietly.

I've had plenty of time to think it through... and... because of how I feel towards you. You matter to me, Aiden...”

He lowers his gaze.

Do you want to know about my scars?” He looks at me again.

Yes.” I say surely. It's like he wants to test me, to scare me off, and I get it. Aiden doesn't want to trust me, and after what I did, it's only fair.

I... tried to commit suicide because my father would have killed me anyway because he had found out about me being gay...” Aiden says in a would-be casual voice.

I suspected something like that but still it shocked me.

So, if you say you were a coward, that makes two of us.” Aiden adds and smiles mirthlessly.

No!” I protest. “It's not like that! You... I don't know how you felt but... you are not a coward. You found strength to live on and... trust again. That takes courage.”

Or stupidity.” Aiden interjects.

Don't say that. Look, I didn't know your father but I believe that you were in a very dark place and I'm sorry I couldn't help you.”

I see a glimpse of tears in Aiden's eyes and feel an urge to hug him, but I hold back, and put my hand on his shoulder, and squeeze.

It's not your fault.” Aiden says, averting his gaze. “You couldn't know and you didn't owe me anything.” He looks at me briefly and turns away. I let go his shoulder. I don't know why but despite his words are true in general, I feel different, like Aiden is trying to keep a distance away from me. “It just...” Aiden takes a deep breath. “Everything that happened between us was the first time for me, and I couldn't take it lightly... But again, it's not your fault and not your responsibility.” He turns to me with a bitter smile on his lips, and now it is starting to look like a goodbye.

Hey wait! It's not like that. I mean, fuck... Let me speak my mind, ok? When I met you I liked you, I wanted you, and you liked me back. It was all fun and felt good, but I didn't think of where it would go. I didn't want to think and I never asked you. So in a way I took advantage of you and then I left, you was hurt and felt used. And this is my responsibility! Because I didn't want to hurt you but did nothing to avoid it! I never wanted to hurt you but used you to feel good, and I hate myself for that. And it's my responsibility because I care! I care about you and I want your trust back!” I make a pause to take a breath, Aiden looks at me with surprise. “And even if my feelings for you had gone by now, I would have been responsible anyway for not telling you anything. I didn't tell you about my flight, about my thoughts, about the way you made me feel, and you deserved so much better.”

For a few moments there is just silence between us. I don't know if my words reached Aiden, but I feel better because I finally said everything loud and clear. Except for one.

And that's why I'm sorry. I'm sorry I can't turn back time and change it. I have feelings for you, Aiden, but you have every reason not to trust me. Just know that you did nothing bad, you are worthy and you deserve to be loved. Don't think less of yourself because of one jackass, okay?”

Aiden's lips curve slightly and he looks away.

Your friend Sean talked to me...” says Aiden.

Damn it, I told him to stay away.”

Aiden shrugs.

“Well... he sounded pretty convincing and after that I called.” Aiden turns to me. “So if it matters, you should thank him.”

Oh no, if I do, he will meddle in every affair.” I sneer, and Aiden chuckles. The tension seems to be gone.

Thank you...” says Aiden after a pause. “You didn't have to, but I needed those words. And I... don't hate you or anything... I believe that you didn't want to hurt me on purpose... “

He trails off and looks confused. I guess I know what he wants to say but I think, all things considered, I need to say it instead, so Aiden has a chance to turn down the offer.

Do you want to start over?” I ask softly. He blushed rapidly but tries to stay calm.

Yes.” He says, and my heart leaps. I can't hold back a smile and Aiden smiles too. I feel light as ever, like I shook off a great weight of my shoulders.

We both feel awkward and don't know what to do next. I've never been in this position. I reach out to Aiden's hand and take his palm in mine. He squeezes my fingers and smiles bashfully.

We go wandering the streets together till dark falls and then I walk Aiden home. He doesn't linger on a doorstep, so I don't make an attempt to kiss him. I'm happy as ever. I'm happy I could say what was on my mind and I'm happy he could forgive me. I feel like a better person now. And I've never felt this way before.

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