Once again, due to the incredibly long delay (more than a year! Sorry!) since the last chapter, you may need a recap of the previous chapter to refresh your memory:
Previously: After getting kidnapped, Adel and Tristan wake up in a dark room. Tristan: "Don't be a hero, Adel." Adel: "Not even a little?" Justin comes in and says the mysterious man he's working for just wants to talk to Adel. Adel goes off alone and Tristan's reaction: "Oh great." Meanwhile, Adel's uncle Lee is somewhere in Nice, France searching for Adel's mother. Tristan, left in the dark room, spends his time questioning Justin's sexual preferences. Adel is taken to see the mysterious kidnapping mastermind who turns out to be Adel's mother's mysterious lover. He confirms that her mother had indeed ran away with him, but also reveals that her mother has been dead for years and that her father has known for quite some time now. While he's at it, he also questions Adel's decisions and her blind devotion to her father and Adel is speechless. Oy vey.
Tristan didn't want to go to the hospital, but she didn't think she could stand being cooped up in that car with Justin and his sidekick any longer in the long ride back to Tristan's place. She slipped her hand into his and even though she couldn't meet his eyes, Tristan seemed to understand. With a sigh, he agreed that Justin should drop them off at the nearest hospital and he'd phone Vincent or the others to pick them up.
"You sure?" Justin asked again as they slipped out of the car. "I could take you back all the way. Really, Adel, I could –" She slammed the door, deaf to his words, and walked away. Her bare feet slapped against the concrete since she'd long lost her heels when she'd chucked them during the tussle in the garden.
Tristan caught up to her and his hand curled around her upper arm. "Are you okay?"
She managed a smile. "Don't worry about me. I'm not the one who looks like he just got mugged in a back alley."
He wasn't amused. "What happened? Who did you –"
"Come on, let's get you checked out." She tried to walk away, but his hold wouldn't break. She kept her eyes down, centered on the buttons of his white shirt. They caught the light from the hospital entrance, gleaming dully. "Can't we just talk later?"
Another sigh, but he took her hand as they headed in. She didn't look up, but she could feel his eyes upon her all the same.
They descended on the hospital in a horde. Will was the first one she could see as he burst through the doors, still dressed in his tuxedo. He stumbled to the front desk and cried out desperately, "Where is he?"
"Excuse me?" The nurse blinked.
"Tristan! H-A-R-L-A-N-D! Really blonde with really blue eyes. Quiet with a sensitive soul. He's about yea high –" Will started to lift his hand up when his eyes landed on Adel. "Ah, Adel!" He rounded the desk at breakneck speed and grabbed hold of Adel, burying her face in his chest. "Don't worry, I'm here now. All is well again."
Sammy and Vincent followed in after, the redhead slightly breathless. Her eyes widened at the sight of Adel. She imagined she must have looked like a fright with her bare foot, mussed up hair, and bruises scatted along her arms, but she hadn't thought she looked that bad. Sammy looked like she was one step away from calling mourning services. "Oh, god. What happened?"
Adel tried to pry herself out of Will's arms, rolling her shoulders in a helpless shrug.
"You have bruises all over your arms!"
Adel blinked and glanced down at the scrapes and splotches on her arms. After all that's happened, she'd barely given any thought to her own struggle in the gardens. She waved a hand. "Oh, don't worry about me. This is nothing. You should see the state Tristan's in."
The redhead went stark white. "Oh my god," she breathed. "You killed Tristan."
"What?" Adel exclaimed. "No." Her eyes narrowed. "Wait. Just what did you hear?"
The nurse at the station aimed them all nasty looks. "It's really late now and visitation hours are over. Even though your friend is a special case –" Her pinched look showed what she thought about privileges. "- not everyone is so lucky and the patients need their rest. Kindly keep your voices down or I'd have to ask you to leave."
They murmured their apologies before Vincent turned back to her. "Tristan phoned saying that you two were at the hospital because you got into some fight. We figured you broke him."
"What - no, we got attacked and we were kidnapped and –" She stopped. "It's a long story."
"Oh, good," Sammy sighed. She threw Vincent a disgruntled look. "I knew they were wrong."
"Wrong how?" Adel managed to distract herself from Will and she couldn't help casting the couple a suspicious look.
"That … you guys were going to end up as a poster for domestic abuse," Sammy admitted.
"We don't fight that much," Adel protested.
"Then why is Tristan in a hospital?"
"We … got into a fight," Adel admitted. "But with other people. The –" she stopped again and sighed. "It's a long story."
"Really?" Caine's skeptical voice came from behind them. He closed in on them, followed by Danielle, Carrie and Jack. They were all dressed in their formal attire and even the dull hallway light did nothing to detract from the sparkling jewelry that adorned Danielle. As they passed the nurse, they nodded apologetically, but Caine's attention was focused squarely on Adel. "Enlighten us. What exactly happened now?"
She knew Caine had been irritated with her, but he seemed to be barely holding his temper in check now. Adel cleared her throat, "Some guys wanted to talk to me and things got out of hand. We're okay now."
"Oh, well, that explains a lot," Caine remarked dryly. "Mind clarifying who these mysterious guys are and what it was that was so important they felt the need to send Tristan to the hospital?"
She shifted uncomfortably and tried to respond evenly, "Tristan's not too injured. He was conscious and –"
A disbelieving laugh tore out of him. "You know what? Just save it."
Adel flinched; all she could do was stare at the hostile boy. Danielle frowned. "Caine, stop it."
"Stay out of it, Danielle. This isn't about you."
Danielle bristled, but Caine took a step back and glanced at the rest of the group. "Noticed how this girl basically ignored all my questions? I'm so glad you're all such a happy little bunch so willing to accept whatever oddball comes along …" His eyes swept over Adel in a derisive scan. "… but come on."
Will ventured, "It's not really up to you to say whether or not Adel is right for him."
"Sure, yeah, it's not." He shrugged. "But like hell am I going to go around fawning over this girl." He veered back to Adel and she took an automatic step backward. "Really, Adeline, what's wrong this time? Your dad decided to teach Tristan a lesson for messing with his daughter? Your mom's lawyers pulled a new stipulation out of their ass? Something like Tristan has to get his butt kicked to test his devotion to you?"
Adel stiffened. "Caine, I know you're upset, but I really didn't mean for Tristan to get hurt."
"Well, that's funny because whether you mean it or not, strangely enough, every time you're around, nothing seems to go well for Tristan," Caine scoffed.
Adel flinched. She only hoped her expression didn't reflect the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Will spoke up again, his voice softened. "I don't know about that. Tristan seemed more messed up when Adel wasn't around."
She knew Will was trying to stick up for her, but it only made her feel worse. When it got broken down to the basis, Adel was creating chaos for Tristan wherever she touched and her only saving grace was that somehow, Tristan was so masochistic, he felt worse when she wasn't around muddying up his life? Adel clenched her hands together, feeling a headache coming on. Nothing was going right.
Caine's laugh was humorless. "And just why was Tristan so out of it when she wasn't here? It was because this girl couldn't even be bothered to keep contact or explain why she freaking left in the first place."
Adel felt hot and cold at the same time and she wasn't sure if her face had lost all color or if the blood had rushed into her cheeks.
Vincent stepped forward and took Caine's arm, murmuring, "That's enough, man. You been drinking?"
Caine shrugged him off. "Relax, it's not like I'm going to punch her. She's still a girl." He turned his back on her, waving a hand. "Whatever."
Adel had always let her mouth run off before she really planned out what she was going to say, but this time, she felt completely drained. She kept her silence as Caine clapped Jack on the back and dragged the boy off to the nurse's station. She felt someone approach her and she glanced over at Carrie, with her petite features and her trusting blue eyes. The girl touched her arm, handing her a bag with the pair of sneakers Adel had asked for over the phone. "He just had a bit too much to drink. He doesn't mean it. Don't mind him."
Adel nodded, but she couldn't stop the guilt from solidifying inside her. Because what had Caine said that wasn't the truth?
Danielle came up to her too and in a loud voice, said, "Yeah, ignore Caine. He thinks he knows the best for everyone when he's the messed up one."
Caine stopped chatting up the nurses and he turned his head in profile, glancing over his shoulder at them. His fingers lifted in a mocking salute.
Danielle looked ready to yank off her heel and impale her stiletto into the guy, but a quiet voice cut through the tension.
"You guys are loud." Tristan's wan smile only seemed to make the darkened bruises and scrapes on his face more pronounced. The boy lounged against the wall just around the corridor, his torso swathed in fresh bandages underneath his white shirt.
Adel's heart turned over. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't they still be running tests on you?"
"I made a run for it," Tristan drawled, coming forward to meet her. "I'm fine. Skull hard as rock, remember? Let's go."
With a pained expression, Will tried to touch Tristan's face even as the blonde boy dodged. "Oh, my poor Tristan. They ravaged your beauty!"
"Say it isn't so." Tristan brushed off Will's grasping hands.
Tristan winced as a nurse in green scrubs came rampaging down the hallway. "Did I not tell you to wait in the room?" she demanded.
Adel narrowed her eyes at him. He sighed. "I did say I made a run for it."
The nurse grimaced at Tristan. "We'd like to keep you overnight to monitor your condition."
"You had a concussion and we're keeping you for overnight evaluation just to be sure there are no lasting complications," the woman insisted.
"It's a minor one. I can get enough bed rest at home –"
"I called your father. He's on his way."
"Ah, hell." Tristan sighed.
"I cannot believe you didn't immediately tell me about your brother!" Patrick Harland's voice thundered out in the hallway as he lectured his daughter.
Carrie's words were too quiet to be heard from inside Tristan's room, but the hurried, hushed tone suggested that she was trying her very best to soothe her father. The others had long gone home to get some rest while Adel chose to stay with Tristan, thinking to curl up in the ugly flower print armchair in the corner of the room for a brief nap if need be, but she hadn't been expecting to sleep easily tonight anyway even if she was in a comfortable bed.
Adel sighed and made to get up from the bed, where she had been perched on, but Tristan clamped down on her hand. She glanced back at him. His eyes remained closed, but he spoke, "Where do you think you're going?"
"To apologize to your father," she murmured.
"No need." His hand tightened on hers. "He already saw that I'm in one healthy piece. Stay with me."
She hesitated and his eyes opened to zero in on her. "You still owe me an explanation," he prompted her.
She sat back down on the side of his hospital bed, facing the door, her back to him. Their hands were still linked, resting at her side upon the white linen sheets. Slowly, she began to talk and he didn't interrupt. When she finally came to the end, the room was so silent, she half expected that he had fallen asleep.
But his thumb continued to circle along the skin of her knuckles.
"I need to go see my father," she finally said.
"Yeah," he answered quietly. "I know."
"I mean, it's so crazy, isn't it? All this time, I thought my father was looking for my mother when he knew all along that she was dead."
His fingers entwined through hers.
"And he didn't even tell me." She was getting that suffocating feeling in her chest again. "I guess maybe he thought I couldn't handle the truth. Maybe it's because I was too young to know –"
"You really think that's a legitimate excuse? That a child should be lied to about her own mother's death because she's too young?"
She mumbled, "He didn't really lie. He just said she disappeared and wasn't coming back and – and I probably mistook his meaning all these years. Yeah, he probably believed that I knew that she'd died, but I was too dumb to really -"
"Don't." He silenced her ramblings with one word and she sagged in defeat.
"Lee didn't even know," she finally said. Her gut twisted as if she was betraying her father now that she'd run out of excuses, now that she was saying the truth out loud. "Lee was old enough. He should've known about his sister's death." She closed her eyes. "And what about my brother? God. Why didn't he just tell us?"
Tristan didn't say anything and she knew it was because he couldn't lie to her, not for her father. And perversely, she kinda hated him then for not bothering to try to comfort her even with some lame bit.
Carrie and Mr. Harland's voices were no longer outside their room which meant that they had either stopped talking or they'd removed themselves to another location to continue their argument.
Now Adel wished that they were still there making a ruckus outside. Anything to break the silence, to distract her from the thoughts piling up in her mind. Left to her own devices, she knew she'd end up rambling off a bunch of stupid things to fill the silence. She just couldn't think about her father anymore.
"When you came out for me in the gardens, was it because you didn't trust me enough not to run away on you?" Adel blurted out. And there it starts.
There was a long pause of silence, but Adel didn't look back at him. "What?" was all he finally said.
"Just true or false."
"I don't understand …"
"Did you come back out because you suspected that I was going to run away? True or false."
"Just answer, please. True or false?"
She could feel his eyes on her back and then, reluctantly, he admitted, "True."
Well. "If you can't even trust yourself, how can you expect others to trust you?" The man's voice resonated in her mind, but she refused to let him get to her. This was stupid. So stupid. "That's okay." She nodded. "I'd probably have done the same if I were you."
He didn't seem comforted. "Adel, it wasn't as if I wanted to check up on you. I just thought maybe …"
'It's okay," she repeated. "We have trust issues. It's common with a lot of … people. It takes a certain level of commitment and I think we both know we haven't exactly had the greatest relationship since we're so different and all. And with how I keep disappearing on you. It's only natural –"
"Adel," he broke in gently, but firmly. "This isn't about some clinical definition of dysfunctional relationships or personality differences. Sure, maybe we need time to develop that trust between us, but I wouldn't say our relationship is as bad as you seem to think it is."
"It's not?" There was that sharp hint of bitterness and she swallowed hard, trying again. "Yeah, you're right. It's not. We can work things out."
There was another long period of silence. "Look at me."
His hand pulled at hers and he repeated, "Look at me."
She wanted to resist, but she forced herself to glance back at him over her shoulder. "What?"
He stared at her and she kept her eyes lowered. He murmured, "You're already writing me off, aren't you?"
"You're doing that shifty eyes thing."
"Lies. I have no shifty eye thing." And still she couldn't quite meet his direct scrutiny.
"Yeah, right. You can't even look me in the eye for longer than a second. What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I just figured since we're having problems already – completely understandable, of course – I thought it might be the mature thing to just stop dwelling on this whole relationship business thing. We are what we are. When I return home, it's going to be harder to maintain a label for us so I guess, if you want, I won't ask for any commitment and we can do our own separate thing –"
"You saying we should break up?" His voice was flat.
"No, see? We have no labels and hence, there is no such thing as breaking up or dumping what between us. We're mature people here and we will be … what we are."
"And what is that exactly?"
"Whatever we want things to be?" Somehow, that came out sounding more like a question than the statement she'd been trying for.
"So an open relationship?" There was an edge to his voice that made her realize that she was sinking fast.
"No, just … I don't know. Maybe, if you want."
"You're starting to piss me off."
"I know," she sighed. "I'm being stupid again. Sorry. You should be resting."
"No, keep talking," he said. "I want to know exactly what non labels we should be thinking about."
She winced. Even without looking at him, she could tell he was angry from the dark timbre of his voice.
"Just … I don't know. I don't know what to do."
She turned around, upset, and her fingers dug into the covers. "Look at us, Tristan." She swept a hand over her hair, shoving tendrils back behind her ears. "We fought so much, even Sammy thought we were going to maim each other blind one of these days. And then we – we got together and suddenly, we're on this high. We fooled around, acting cheesy, trying to be like any normal couple, but it was unreal. We tiptoed around our problems because we were trying to live in this bubble until the holidays ended and – how is any of this going to work in the end?" My parents, just look at them. There was a familiar prickling in her eyes and she was furious with herself. "How would we last?"
Frustration flickered over his face before he said evenly, "You think too much."
She didn't smash his face in with the pillow, but that was only because she remembered he was still recovering from a concussion. "Can you blame me?"
"Would you just look at me?" he snapped, starting to pull himself up to sit back against the pillows. She immediately tried to push him back down and his hands came up to hold hers against his shoulders. His blue eyes were glacial.
"Bubble popped, congrats. We're back to fighting again," he bit out.
At his stony expression, she tripped over her words. "I –I just didn't want you to expect that you have to wait for me so don't worry that – I mean, it was fun and you're very nice and I don't – you're free. You're a free person and – you're free," she finished lamely.
His expression got darker with each fumbling word and she instantly regretted what she just said. His brows knitted and he rubbed the corner of his mouth casually as he repeated her words. "I'm … free." The murmur of nurses making rounds outside filled the silence. He shifted on the bed and the way his lips pursed before he started to talk made Adel realize she was beyond sinking; she'd hit rock bottom. "Tell me, what exactly does that mean?"
Adel gave him a hesitant smile. "What – what do you think it means?"
He surveyed her with a cool, assessing look. "I'm free," he said flatly. He pulled his hand away from her.
She fumbled, almost embarrassing herself by making a wild grab for his hand, but she recovered and reached up to tug at her hair instead. "Yeah," she mumbled.
"That's it?" His jaw was tensed and she wanted to shrink into a hole somewhere.
"Yeah …" she ventured.
"Okay." He shifted in his bed and settled back down, closing his eyes. "I got it. You can go."
Bewildered, she plucked at the sheets. "Tristan …"
He glanced back at her and the look on his face chilled her.
She bit her lip. "Are you angry?"
He stared her down and she realized that until now, it had actually been quite a while since she'd last seen him this ticked off. "Why?" he bit off. "Do you think I have a reason to be angry?"
"I – I don't know. Why can't you just tell me –"
A derisive laugh burst out of him. "Yeah, sure, because you always like to talk about things instead of running away."
His words echoed the man's accusation so closely that her throat closed, unable to respond.
"You just don't get it," he said.
"What's not to get?" She pushed up onto her knees on the bed. "All I said was that I don't expect you to wait. I don't know how much time I'm going to need back home to sort things out with my father and I don't – I don't expect a long-distance relationship so you don't have to feel obliged to –"
"Did I ask for that?" he snapped so harshly, she flinched. "Did I tell you I won't wait?"
She looked at him, lost. "I … I was just trying to be nice …"
"Nice." Again, he repeated her words with such derision, she longed to retreat back. How much more embarrassed could she get? She probably sounded like an idiot telling Tristan he didn't have to wait. What was their relationship anyway? They were together for such a short period of time, it probably wasn't even serious to him. He probably knew it was going to be over the minute she got on the plane back to Beijing. She'd been thinking too much.
"Stop that," he barked.
"Looking like I kicked your puppy. Stop thinking. You seriously think too much."
She stiffened. "It's been a very long day and I can think whatever I want –"
"Like how to disappear on me again?"
"I said, I was just being nice!" she hissed, hurt and angry that he wouldn't let this go.
But his tone was equally harsh as he continued, "You think pushing me away again is being nice?"
She tensed. "I didn't push you away."
"What do you want me to say?" His scornful gaze ran over her face. "Yay, thanks, let's go off on our separate ways then? You think that's nice? You think I'm happy?"
She was quiet, digging her nails into the mattress. "I … just wanted …"
"You're not stupid," he said coldly. "You know that wouldn't make me feel better. So what do you expect from me?"
Adel couldn't meet his eyes. "I don't know. I didn't think this through, okay? It's been a long day and I'm tired and -"
"No." And he leaned forward, so close to her that she couldn't evade his eyes. She watched those dark flecks in those blue irises and she knew it wasn't over. She braced herself.
"You know what you wanted. You said it so there had to be some sort of meaning behind it. No excuses." His voice was quiet, but intense. "You wanted to break up with me."
"That's not true. I just –"
"Then why'd you say it?" he barked.
"I don't know – I just –"
"Please, Adel. Please don't go," he whispered lightly, mockingly, and she shivered. "I'll wait for you. Don't worry." He held her suspended by those icy eyes. She couldn't breath. "Was that what you really wanted me to say instead? Secretly, deep inside? Because you couldn't ask me yourself?"
"What?" she managed to choke out. Embarrassed. That's what she was feeling. She should get angry, like she always did. So why did it seem so hard to look him in the face? "I don't know what you mean," she said miserably.
He drew back. "I suppose it's just human after all." There was a resigned, frustrated look on his face and her stomach dropped. "You have to protect yourself first, don't you?"
Desperately, she lashed out, "He said that you didn't trust me!"
He went still.
"He said that you didn't really know me, trust me. And you just admitted it. Why else would you have followed me back out to the gardens? He thinks I run away from all my problems and that you can't – you can't believe in me."
The room was absorbed in silence and even thought she'd never been aware of the ticking of the clock on the wall she suddenly thought the sound could very well drum its way into her head.
"So?" His voice was brusque.
Her stomach plummeted and she clenched her hands together. As evenly as she could manage, she said, "If you can't trust me, then what makes you think I could trust you?"
Tristan raised an eyebrow at her and she stared back at him defiantly, but he gave her a slight, bitter smile. "Trust has to be earned, Adel. Give me a real chance to be close to you and then we'll talk."
Someone was using his arm as a doorbell. The finger prodded his arm again and again until it settled in, twisting into his flesh until he can feel the nail dig in. He swatted it away and curled his arm around his covers.
Again came the fingers. This time they closed around the cloth on his back and he was shaken gently. "Wake up."
He flipped over onto his back and blinked blearily up at Adel.
Her lips were set in a thin line and she shifted awkwardly, playing with the ends of her hair. "Nurse said we're supposed to wake you up every few hours or so to make sure you're not dead."
"I'm not," he replied and closed his eyes.
"Or in a coma."
"Not that either."
He could still feel her hovering over him, hesitating, and he sighed. "I thought you left." But she was still wearing the dress for the party which meant that she hadn't even gone back to his place for a change of clothes.
"I didn't," she said. "I just stepped out into the hallway for a bit. Got some coffee."
"You couldn't get a ride home?" he drawled.
"No," she retorted. "I chose to stay."
"Yeah? And for how long?"
She sighed. "Your dad and Carrie went home a while ago. They'll be coming back in the morning to pick us up."
Tristan grunted a response. His head felt groggier by the minute, his eyelids like lead.
She hesitated. "Listen … I don't want to argue with you anymore, but you know I have to go home."
He shrugged, dipping his head in a grudging nod as he burrowed deeper underneath the covers.
"So about what I said before, I'm sorry. Maybe I wasn't being entirely honest when I said I wanted to break up … but well, you know, you didn't have to be such an ass!" She prodded him in the chest and his eyes snapped open again. He blinked blearily up at her. Her dark hair was loose around her shoulders and her face was flushed as she stabbed his chest again. "And … that's it. I was being stupid. I didn't want to think about my father anymore and I blurted out something dumb and it was a pointless fight and … that's it. That's all I have to say. I'm sorry. I'm just so –" Her expression twisted in misery. "I just feel all messed up."
He stared at her, eyes half-lidded. Slowly, he pulled himself to a sitting position and ran his hands over his face. Then he beckoned at her and as she took a seat, he tugged her in close for a hug. "I'm sorry, too. I was a tad harsh on you and you didn't quite deserve that. I knew that you were upset and I shouldn't have thrown fuel on the fire. Please blame the concussion."
"I will not. You're always mean to me," she muttered, but her hands slipped around his back, clutching the fabric.
"Careful there. My hospital gown is fragile."
"Hmm," she tried to sound appropriately scandalous.
He groaned. "Normally, I'd like the sound of that, but right now, I feel like I'd just grated my brain with a nail filer and might just possibly pass out and start drooling on your shoulder in a bit. I fear you won't respect me in the morning."
"At least you're not vomiting."
"Hold that thought." He sagged backward until he was lying down again and swallowed hard.
She stared down at his pasty face, eye still puffy, sweat dotting his forehead, and a tightness squeezed her heart – in a good way. It was moments like this with him – this easy bantering, this feeling of comfort and calm - that reminded her how easily he can settle her mood.
He closed his eyes as he tried continuing, "Point is, I know you have to go home. I understand that. Doesn't mean I like it, but I understand it. And I know you have a lot more things to think about than to worry about us. Just please take care of yourself and hopefully, once you've settled things with your father, you can come to terms with what's bugging you about relationships and just stop driving me nuts."
A faint smile touched her lips. "I'll try."
"Okay then." Eyes still closed, he added, "Do you want me to go with you though?"
"Beijing?" She shook her head in surprise. "No, of course not." And then she added in a hurry so that he wouldn't take it the wrong way, "Not that I don't want you to come, but I'll be going back for more than just a talk with my father. I still have to finish the semester there and well, you have your own school to get back to. Winter break's going to be over soon and we're all going to be busy with college applications and –"
"Okay," he cut her off.
She hesitated. "Are you upset?"
"No," he mumbled. "Not unless you cut off all contact again. I expect phone calls. And emails everyday."
He sounded like he was drifting off and she carded her fingers through his hair carefully. "Alright. I promise. You can rest now."
"I'm … not …" He was out like a light.
Strangely enough, the fight with Tristan had helped clear Adel's mind. At least she wasn't running around with a head too full, she couldn't even breathe. It always came down to this feeling; that no matter what stupid fight she managed to get herself into with Tristan, she can loop around the block for a bit and return to find Tristan waiting. This heady rush of exhilarating relief and joy. She just had to trust that no matter what happens, they'd always be able to settle their differences and find their way back to each other. Adel watched him for a while, making sure he was deep in sleep, and then leaned down to press her lips gently against his forehead. I want to hold onto this. I want to hold onto you.
"Call me when you get there," Tristan held onto her duffel bag. People shuffled past them, pushing luggage carts and towing carry-on suitcases.
"I will," she promised. There was a faint reflection of the two of them on the floor, like faint watercolor squiggles, and she watched as his shadow reached out to hers.
His hand curved around her neck, just grazing her ear. "You're feeling okay?"
"I'm fine." Adel looked up at him and smiled. There were still faint bruises on Tristan's face, but he'd recovered from his injuries without any complications. "Don't flirt with any girls now that your face isn't puffy and blue anymore."
"Too bad I didn't get any scars. I'd be one dastardly handsome fellow."
"Yeah, I'd love to see you say that to some girl."
"Say what?" Will sauntered up, munching on a bag of peanuts he'd picked up somewhere.
"I'm a dastardly handsome fellow, Will," Tristan repeated.
"That you are, you dastardly bastard," Will cooed. "Peanuts?"
"No, thanks. I'll be getting my fill on the flight," Adel said, chuckling. "I'll visit as soon as I can. Tell me when you hear from the colleges."
"You, too. You're going to come over here as an international student, right?"
She reached out to take her bag from Tristan, but he refused to let go. "I applied to some places. Maybe. Why don't you come to China to study?"
Tristan gave her a dark look which was ruined as he asked hesitantly, "Really?"
Adel chuckled, "Nah, I'm probably going to come here for college."
"Well, we can also study abroad in Beijing for a semester," he suggested.
"Yeah, sure. We'll figure things out later." Adel hesitated, fumbling with the hair tie around her wrist. "Tristan, I'm going to need that bag now if I want to make that flight."
"Yeah, I know." His smile was rueful as he relinquished the bag to her.
"Bye, Adel. I'm going to miss you so much." Will kept chewing as a teary expression came over his face. "Please call, email, and facebook me everyday. And tweet me. I'm looking forward to hearing about what you eat every other hour or so." Will sighed. "Tristan, kiss her now."
Tristan jerked his thumb at the entrance. "Go back to the car, Will. I want to talk to Adel alone."
"Why? You guys already didn't want the others to come see Adel off. I'm the representative –"
"The only reason you came along was because you strapped yourself into my backseat and couldn't be pried out."
"I couldn't bear the thought of you driving back home all alone and crying behind the wheel. I will be here for you and hold you in your time of need –"
The look in Tristan's eyes turned chilling and Will flapped his hand at Adel in one last, heartbroken good-bye before executing an abrupt about-face and trudging off.
Tristan turned back to her. "Is anyone going to pick you up from the airport? Did you call Lee?"
Adel's eyes darkened and her grip tightened on the straps of the bag. This was one of the main worries that she'd been wrestling with the past few days. The man had said he was going to tell Lee about her mother and she wasn't certain what her uncle was going to do when he found out. But on the off chance that Lee didn't find out, should Adel be the one to inform him then? One way or the other, she could only foresee a lot of anger and chaos. "I tried. I couldn't get through. I'd probably just grab a taxi."
Tristan nodded. "Be careful. Take care of yourself." His eyes were a brilliant blue and the white sweater he wore underneath his unzipped jacket offset the golden hue of his skin – it was such a vast contrast from the sight of him all wan and pale in the hospital bed just days before. They both knew that there was nothing left to be said now and her breath caught at the intensity in his expression.
She reached for him the same time he stepped toward her. One hand took the bag from her and the other slipped around her waist as he bent his head to press his lips against hers. Her arms curled up around his neck and she leaned into him, kissing him back. Her heart thudded wildly in her chest and she had to blink back tears when she pulled back.
He scanned her face, concerned, and his lips twisted in a helpless grimace before he leaned forward to kiss her again, harsh and fast. A shuddering breath escaped his lips as he let his arm drop away from her. "You're going to miss me," he said, eyes a dark cerulean.
His hand took hers, wrapping her fingers back around the straps of her bag. "I know," she replied. The corner of her lips tipped up in a wry smile. "Try to miss me too."
He sighed. "No question about it." He nodded once and then turned around, walking away from her. She watched his back, restraining herself from running after him.
Halfway to the entrance, he stopped and she was curious to see his head drop forward heavily. She could imagine his sigh as he rubbed the back of his neck. He turned around and pointed at her. "You. If the next thing I hear is that you're hooked up with another fiancé, I'm going to personally fly over to Beijing and eviscerate Big Bird before your eyes and then destroy you."
She broke out into a brilliant smile and his lips curled. "Well, if you ever let Victoria drape herself all over you again, I'm going to personally fly back and –"
"Right. I'll call her up tomorrow then."
She scowled. He grinned. Then he waved her off. "Go on. I want to see you head through the gates. I'll watch you leave."
The sunlight from the doors behind him cast his figure in shadow, but she could still make out his tensed jaw. His hands were buried in his pockets and his shoulders were bunched up tight, but that faint smile stayed on his lips. She tried for an upbeat grin, but it felt forced and painful as she finally turned and walked away from him.
Sorry about the extremely long wait for this update, everyone! It's been more than a year and I apologize for the frustration. You all are the most patient readers on earth. Thanks for all the reviews and PMs, everyone!
Again, for those who were annoyed, I am sorry for the wait; please check my blog first whenever you're wondering if I'd stopped caring about the readers or if I'd died. This chapter was especially hard to get out because I wanted something major to happen, but Adel and Tristan's discussion got out of my hands and I realized that it wasn't going to happen until Adel gets back to China. But if I kept writing, I wasn't sure if I'd have a reasonable cut-off point and I doubt you'd want to read Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Encyclopedia.
Also, during the school year, the work basically killed my writing time and then I had a major case of writer's block. My Google Docs account now officially have about eight beginnings of various other stories because I was trying to write anything to get me out of the funk.
However, it is now summer for me and I do hope to finish Through Me once and for all sooner than later. I start school next month with a Neuropsych and Behavioral Sci exam the first day, but I am hoping to get out at least another chapter (maybe finish it?) before I start studying.
© Copyright 07/19/2010 Maeven (FictionPress ID:349779). All rights reserved. Distribution of any kind is prohibited without the written consent of Maeven.