Authors: LK Collins
“I’m okay. I got your message. How’s Barb? What’s going on with her?”
“She’s doing the best that she can. She hasn’t been feeling well for a while now and recently got worse.” He catches me up on her medical situation, and I just feel awful.
“Christ, I’m so sorry. I had no idea. I should have stayed in better contact with you guys.”
“Arion, it’s all right, there’s nothing you could have done. And with Nate being back, had you tried to stay in contact, I probably would have stayed pretty distant. Speaking of Nate, he told me what happened. How are you feeling?”
“I’m better, now that I’m home. But my mind is just a mess.”
“I know, dear. I’m so sorry.”
“What happened? I mean, I have to know how this is even possible, that he’s alive.”
Jeff sighs heavily. “He’s a strong man, Arion. He has been through so much. His Humvee drove over a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. He and one other member of his platoon survived. They were taken hostage and somehow survived almost a year of torture.”
Tears fill my eyes, thinking of Nate being held hostage. I can only imagine the horror that he endured.
“Arion, I know you’ve made a new life for yourself, but you’re all that kept Nate alive while he was gone. He’s really having a hard time since coming home and not having you in his life.”
“Jeff.” My voice cracks as I say his name. “I never planned for any of this to happen. I thought he was gone, like we all did. For Pete’s sake, we buried him.”
“I know, dear, and Nate knows that too, but it wasn’t his time. I can tell you that he loves you more than anything in the world.”
“I know. I…” I trail off without finishing my sentence. I can’t bring myself to say the words, but the truth is that I never stopped loving Nate and I don’t know if I ever will.
“He wants to see you. He meant no harm when he came to your place. He’s in bad shape and is healing the best he can. He lost part of his leg when he was gone and mentally he’s pretty messed up.”
“I know he didn’t mean for anything bad to happen, it just caught me off guard. He was the last person I ever imagined to see.”
“Arion, I know you need some time to figure everything out, but please know that both Barb and I are here for you if you need anything at all.”
“Thank you, Jeff. I really don’t know what to do. I just need some space to sort things out. Please tell him that, but I’ll be in touch.
“Okay, I will.”
“Oh, how’s Zeus?”
“He’s good. He’s such a happy pup now that Nate is home. I know it was hard for you to leave him with us, but it all worked out with Nate coming back.”
“Thank you for taking care of him.”
“Of course, dear. You take care of yourself.”
He hangs up and Bain walks over to me with a huge cup of coffee in hand. “Was that Nate’s dad?”
“Yeah, he left me a voicemail and said Barb is really sick, so I called him back.” I take a sip of my coffee then settle into the couch.
“What did he say?” he asks.
“That Barb is sick and that’s partly why Nate came here.”
“Do you believe that?”
“I don’t know what to believe, Bain, everything is such a blur.”
“I know, baby,” he says pulling me close to him.
“He also said Nate was held hostage for almost a year and lost part of his leg.”
Bain reaches over and rubs my back. “I’m sorry, Arion.”
“This can’t really be happening, can it?” Tears well in my eyes and he takes my coffee from me, setting it down and then scoots closer, wrapping me in his hold.
“Don’t get upset, baby, we’ll figure this out…together. You hear me?”
Nodding my head, I hold on to Bain with everything I have.
Together…together…together. The word rings in my head. If only it were that simple.
“Seriously, Dad, you have to let me call her. I’m losing my mind over here…I need to talk to her.”
“Nate, I won’t do that to her and you shouldn’t either. You need to show patience and let her be, dammit. The poor girl has been through enough already. Do you really think it’s a good idea, when she asked for space?”
I shake my head knowing he’s right. The last time that I saw her, I put her in the hospital. The last thing that I want to do is cause any more harm. When she’s ready she’ll come to me. I need to give her time. It pisses me off that I have to, but I do.
“I got to get to a meeting, son.”
I nod my head, doing my best to stay calm; I have to keep my temper under control. It’s my own fault I can’t contact her right now. I made the decision to show up at her house and now I have to pay the price.
He gives me a hug and says, “Thank you for taking care of your mom today.”
I watch him leave, resting my hand on top of Zeus’ head, taking a few minutes to myself. Fuck, I just want to see her. But then I get a flashback of her collapsing in the hallway and it reminds me why I have to wait ’til she’s ready.
I take a few deep breaths and head down the hall to my mom’s bedroom. She is lying comfortably on her bed, with her Kindle in hand, reading being one of the last pleasures left to her.
“Hey, baby,” she says.
“Hey, Ma.” I set my crutches propped up on her dresser and lie on her bed; Zeus lies next to it on the floor. Since I’ve been home, he has been by my side non-stop. “How are you feeling?” I ask.
“I’m okay, how about you?”
“I don’t know, Mom.”
“Wanna talk about things?” she asks.
I can’t help but chuckle at this. That’s all I feel like I do anymore, from one doctor to the next. But I know she’s only trying to help. “What is there to talk about? Arion’s with someone else, and she wants nothing to do with me.”
“Oh, honey, you don’t know that.”
“But I do, Mom. I can’t even see or talk to her. I tried and we both know what happened.”
“I know it seems like there is no hope for you two, but just give it a little more time.”
Looking at my mom, I hide my true emotions. Inside I go from rage, to pain, to glum. She might think there is hope, but I on the other hand, do not. “I’ve given it time. Waiting around is killing me.”
“I know, dear, and I’m sorry. Let her process things and I’m sure she’ll come to her senses.”
“I’m glad you’re optimistic, ’cause I’m losing hope.”
“You can’t lose hope Nate, never no matter what. You hear me?”
Nodding my head, I roll to my side. “You’re her soul mate and that is something that Bain can’t change. Don’t give up on her.”
“I won’t. I couldn’t imagine living forever without her. I just want what we had before I left.”
“You will, dear. Remember hope, never let go of it.”
In a way my mom’s words soothe me. She has a way of calming me. I just pray that she is right. My biggest fear would be living this life, in my condition, without Arion. I push that all aside, not letting those negative thoughts creep in any more. Keeping myself calm, my eyelids feel heavy and I let them close. Thinking back to the last time she was in my arms…
Goddamn myself for making this decision. Staring at Arion’s tear-stained face, I hold it tightly in the palms of my hands. “I’ll be back, A, no matter what. You hear me?”
She nods her head sniffing, trying to stop herself from crying.
“I love you so much. Hold on to that and know that I’m always thinking about you. You’re always in my heart,” I manage to tell her.
“I love you,” she whispers.
“I love you too. Remember, I’m doing this for us. To give us a better life.”
“I know,” she responds and nods her head. But does she? Does she really know why I’m doing this and just how much she means to me? Checking the clock, I know I don’t have long. I have to go. I hug my parents, both with smiles as big as the sun. They are staying strong for me. My dad did this years ago, so he knows how hard it is to say goodbye before being deployed.
Leaning down, I give her one last kiss holding her chin with my thumb and forefinger. “I love you, Arion LaSalle, and I promise I’ll marry you the day I get home.”
She smirks and nods her head. “Love you too,” she whispers. So small and fragile, her usual confidence stripped from within. With those sweet words from my one and only, I turn and leave my family. But I have faith in God that I’ll be back. I know now is not my time, he won’t do that do me.
“She knows that, Nate,” my dad says sitting on the edge of my bed. “She knows you never intentionally meant to upset her, this is just a lot for her to handle. She cried herself to sleep for the better part of a year when she thought you were dead. Then when she finally moved on, when she finally got a new life and her shit together, it all came crashing down.”
“But it doesn’t need to. She can come back to me, we can figure everything out. And Bain…well, I’m sure he has hundreds of women throwing themselves at him.”
“Nate, it’s not that simple. I’ve seen them together; I don’t think it matters who is throwing themselves at him, he wouldn’t look in their direction. He actually reminds me of you, and how you and Arion used to be.”
“What the fuck, Dad, whose side are you on?”
“Yours. Always. But I’m going to be honest with you about all of this—it’s not as easy as Arion letting him down gently then she comes running to you. There’s more to all of this. And for now, you need to give her a little space, let her wrap her head around everything. She’ll come around and you’ll get your time with her, I can promise you that.”
“I just don’t get it…why isn’t she ready to see me now?”
“I think she’s scared.”
“Scared of what?”
“If I had to guess, I would say her feelings and what that means for her, or maybe another breakdown.”
My dad’s words make sense. I know I’ll get my time with her, but waiting is going to be absolutely excruciating.
“Listen, you get some rest, son. It’s been a long day.”
I give my dad a hug and sit alone on the edge of my desolate bed. Then as I look into my closet, the glint of metal of my dumbbells catches my eye. I’m not even sure I can lift them, but I need to start making a change. Leaning over, I pick them up and figure I’ll at least try. Surprisingly, they aren’t too heavy. I get situated, holding both of them while balancing my elbows on my knees and begin to pump my arms. Right away, everything inside of them burns, but it feels so good to be doing this.
I know I’m not the man I was when I left, but I can get back to him, minus my leg of course. Minor point. I continue to go ’til I can’t anymore and drop my dumbbells on the floor. Looking down at my scrawny arms, I know it’s going to be a lot of work to get back in the shape I was in.
Rolling over, I grab my laptop and turn it on, heading for my latest obsession: Arion’s Facebook page. It’s the closest thing I have to being involved in her life. I’m not sure if she knows that we are still friends, but we are. I’ve searched and been through everything possible on here, but maybe today there will be an update, something that will give me a hint as to what she’s thinking. Unfortunately there are no new posts like I’m so used to seeing. So, I click on her photos and scroll through to find my favorite one of her. She’s looking through a window. The reflection of her is gorgeous, so perfect and pure. The glass almost makes her look angelic.
Staring at it, I pray that she will come back to me. I mean, really, how can she not? She’s just scared and I’m sure trying to figure out how to let Bain down. That has to be what’s going through her mind. Plus she knows that we belong together. Even though it pains me, she can take all the time she needs.