He tells me he loves me and I feel that drop in my stomach again, but I make sure I tell him I love him too and that I can’t wait for all of the unknowns I’ll face with him.
That’s just before I go around the back of the shed to where the faucet is to wash my face. It’s just before I get sick in the field. It’s just before I look down at my hands as I’m cleaning myself up and see nothing but blood.
Three more times, I cough up blood and my eyes water. My face heats and then all at once, it stops. It’s not a lot, it’s not a lot of blood. It’s because of whatever Miss Caroline put in the soup for all that time. I know it is. She made me sick. I’ll get better now; Jake knows that too. I’m not sick, I’m recovering from what she did to me.
I hide what happened from Jake, though, all the blood I just coughed up. I don’t want him to see.
I just want to be loved and to love him. Isn’t love enough?
“Are you okay?”
Hearing Jase before I see him startles me. I hadn’t noticed how erratic my breathing was until he came in. I set the book down on the nightstand.
“Yeah, why?” I ask him as I rub my eyes, and try to come back to reality. I catch a glimpse of the clock and realize nearly two hours slipped by. The uneasiness and shock that the book left me in won’t shake off when I look back up to Jase.
“You look horrified.”
I answer him, “It’s just a book.”
“What happened?” he asks me like he really cares as he takes off a black cotton shirt, damp with sweat. His body glistens, his muscles flex with every movement and with the increase of lust, the problems of my fictional world fall away.
“She might really be sick,” I tell him, although my eyes stay glued to his chest.
“Who?” He stands still, a new shirt in his hand as he waits for my answer.
“Don’t worry about it,” I tell him. “She’s invincible.” Hearing those words come from me with confidence makes my stomach drop.
Jase has a different reaction. His lips pull up into an asymmetric smile at my remark and the way his eyes shine with humor is infectious. I feel lighter, but still, the sickness of the unknown churns in my stomach.
“I can’t stay here,” I tell him, knowing I need to do something and just as aware that there’s nothing for me to do here. He removes the space between us, climbing up onto the bed to sit cross-legged in front of me. He doesn’t love me like… like I feel for him. That’s the truth that sinks me further into the bed.
Being around him, knowing what I feel for him and coming to terms with that, but not feeling the same from him… it’s killing me. It makes me want to run. It’s scary when you realize you love someone and that they may never feel the same for you. Not in the same way. Nothing like what I feel for him.
It doesn’t stop me from breathing him in though.
The sweet smell of his sweat is surprising… and heady. The way he looks at me, it’s all the more intoxicating.
“You agreed to twenty-nine days,” he reminds me.
“Twenty-eight now,” I correct him in return.
“I can’t stay here like this. Doing nothing day in, day out.”
“I don’t expect you to.”
“What am I supposed to do?” I ask him, truly needing an answer.
He considers me for a moment. “I really don’t know what to do,” I tell him when he hesitates to answer me. It’s harder for me to admit that than I thought it would be.
“I don’t have any answers for you,” he tells me beneath his breath, quietly, like he’s sorry.
“I love work. I want to go back to work.”
“I don’t know that you’re in the right mindset to do that.”
My voice rises as I ask, “How am I supposed to get better when I have nothing to do to make me better?”
“Time.” He answers me with a single word, joining me on the bed. “You could start with putting your mugs in the kitchen.” Looking at the box still where he left it yesterday, he tells me, “You could do whatever you like.”
“I can’t leave,” I answer him boldly, letting him know it pisses me off.
“Yesterday I didn’t want you to, no. But that doesn’t mean you can’t leave. I’m not trapping you here, you’re locking yourself in this room.”
I hate him for his answer, although I don’t know why.
“Where would you go after you’re done with work to let loose?” he asks me.
“I like that,” he says and scoots closer to me, pulling me into his lap. I settle against him, resting my back to his front.