One Year Stand
You know how they say time heals everything?
They are such dirty liars.
I had long since hidden anything that reminded me of Him, but even a month later, the tiniest connections to Him made it hard to breathe.
A glimpse of the couch instantly sparked memories of cuddling and watching late night television together.
Driving down the highway, I would acutely notice which exit I wasn't going down because I wasn't going to His house.
Even walking into my office, I would accidentally see the empty parking space where He always parked.
The worst was when I was alone at home each night. Each squeak in the house would make my heart clench in hope as I couldn't help but believe Kevin had broken in again, and was standing right behind me, ready to envelope me in that safe, warm embrace.
And finally, there was that little lump inside of me that was half Kevin's. How the hell could I forget about him, when he was always with me?
My happiness each day was controlled by how many times I saw something that reminded me of Him. Lisa, Sherry, and everyone tried everything they could to help, introducing new guys, taking me out to see friends, shopping. Nothing worked. I would always feel alone again at the end of the day.
So they brought out the big guns.
"He just has a slight cold. After a lot of rest, warm food, and he'll be better in a few days." I smiled at the little boy with the red nose. His mother thanked me and they left.
"If only that could be my cure too." I sighed and flopped down on the waiting room couch.
Lisa looked over at me and smiled, "I think there might be another cure." Alarm bells rang in my head. That was her conspiracy smile.
"Lisa, what did you do?" My heart flipped as my mind immediately thought she had called Him to come over.
She noticed the hopeful expression on my face, "No, Jess, I'm sorry. It's someone else."
I made an angry face, "Why would you think I want that loser to come over?" Inside, however, the disappointment sunk into my stomach.
"Because I'm not stupid. Anyway, he should be here anytime now."
Right on cue, the door opened and my jaw dropped.
I was transformed back into a naive little girl as I squealed, "Ryan!"
He opened his arms and I ran and crashed into him.
He grunted, "Still peppy as ever I see." He smiled, and put his hands on my shoulder and moved me away to inspect me better.
"It's been way too long since I saw you last. More than two years I think. And in that time you went and got yourself pregnant, kidnapped, and you've even fallen into a coma. What happened to the innocent, safe little girl I used to know?" He asked in a joking manner.
I looked at his caring, friendly face and felt the tears well up. Ryan pulled me back into a comforting hug.
"I miss him so much."
I sipped my hot chocolate slowly and analyzed my surroundings. Soft music, dim lighting, comfortable smell of coffee permeating the atmosphere. The perfect place for a date. I looked over at Ryan. He was so perfect. The most beautiful baby blue eyes, soft brown hair, tall, face that looked as if it were carved by Michelangelo, businessman at a large tech firm, single...The only thing he didn't have was anything more than a platonic love for females.
"...and that's about it?"
Ryan looked at me thoughtfully. I raised an eyebrow.
"You know what you need?"
I stared at him uncomprehendingly.
"You are going to take a two week health break. You are coming with me to England next Tuesday. I have a business trip there to deal with some mergers. We'll party it up each night somewhere where there is nothing to remind you of that bastard. I know some smashing clubs." He held my hand firmly and hit me with bright boyish blue eyes.
"Lisa has already arranged for Peter to come back. Sherry and Jeff have called up your neighbors to take care of your house. I know it may be risky for you to travel, being pregnant, but we've all agreed that your current behavior would be even less healthy for the baby. All you have to do is pack your sexiest man hunting clothes, get in the car with me, and have the time of your life in England. All expenses paid courtesy of yours truly. " He ended with a flourish of his hand.
I looked at him speechless.
He smiled cheekily. "I'll take that as a yes." He stood up, swept me up in his arms and said, "My dear damsel in distress, your knight in shining armor will now take you to his white horse."
Tearily I wrapped my arms around him tightly. "Thank you!"I looked up at him and sighed, "Ryan, why couldn't you be straight?"
"Because, darling, someone up there decided it would be unfair to let me loose on the females in the world." He kissed the top of my head. Still carrying me, he proceeded to walk out of the coffee shop. I snuggled my head in his chest.
However, upon taking a single step out of the doorway, he suddenly stopped. I looked up, and was about to ask what was wrong when my eyes connected with another pair of eyes, eyes that I had yearned to see for countless nights. My heart began performing flying acrobatics, the strength drained out of my body, and I could only stare weakly at those deep, black eyes.
"Excuse me, could I please pass?" Ryan's voice was cautious but held a sharp edge. He had probably guessed who the man in front of him was.
Bolts of heat shot through me as he spoke again, "Who is he?" His eyes held mine, and I could see a hard anger in them. His face was as emotionless as ever, but I could see his jaw tighten.
I opened my mouth to allow the stream of explanations out. He was my best friend from college, he was gay, we were just friends. And only friends. Nothing more. But then I closed my mouth. Why did I have to explain anything to him? He left me. I had no obligation to tell him anything.
"Who are you?" Ryan's voice was steel, and he wrapped his arms closer around me. His embrace comforted me, but I still couldn't help but want to jump out and explain everything to Kevin. I could see Kevin's eyes glance over to Ryan's arms around me, and when he looked back at me, I couldn't breathe. His stone-faced demeanor was lost. His jaws were clenched, hands fisted, and eyes pained. But as quickly as they were there, his emotions melted away. He looked straight back into my eyes.
"I see." He ignored Ryan's question. "How's the baby?" His voice was quiet.
I found my voice and hesitantly said, "The baby's good. I'm five months along. Should be born around Valentine's Day."
He silently nodded, staring at my rotund belly, partly covered by Ryan's hand. "I see." He said quietly.
Ryan nodded at him and stepped forward, "Well we should be going."
Kevin stood for a moment, finally staring Ryan in the eyes. I could feel Ryan tighten, and looked up at the two with apprehension. This would probably be a good time to pipe up.
But Kevin stepped back, though still tense, and looked away. Ryan stepped forward, and walked to the car. I couldn't help but stare back at Kevin, who was still in the same position, staring at the ground. My heart tugged towards him. Tug was the wrong word, it was more like a gigantic heave in his direction. I wriggled a little.
"Ryan, I want to go to him." I looked up at him, uncertainty in my eyes.
He looked at me, furrowing his brows in worry, "Think about all the reasons why you shouldn't. Where will the relationship lead? You'll be in danger every moment. Your baby will be in danger."
I bit my lip. "But I love him. I think I trust him to protect me."
"Do you really? Has he done such a good job before? The man shot you, Jess. His work has to be his first priority, or he dies. What happens the next time he bets your life and miscalculates?" Ryan's voice was kind, but the dark truth of his words hit me hard.
I could only stay silent in thought.
He gently laid me down in the passenger seat and got into the driver's seat. I stared at Kevin's diminishing form as we pulled out of the parking lot. The urge was intense to just run to him and have his warm arms surround me. I knew I still loved him.
The few days afterward, Ryan showed up at my door each morning to take me to work. His bright cheery jokes and laughter kept me afloat, taking up my time so I couldn't think of Him.
"Saturday is supposed to be my veg out day you know." I pouted.
He dragged me through the mall, grinning like a manic chipmunk. A large, hunky manic chipmunk. He was catching every girl's eyes. I wanted to paste a large sign on Ryan's forehead saying "Sorry, I'm gay. Don't bother. Yes I know it's a shame."
"You need adequately slutty clothes for Europe. All your clothes could be worn by married old mothers."
I huffed, "They're professional."
"They're 20 years too old for you."
He flourished a scrap of cloth. It took me about a minute to discern exactly how it functioned as a dress.
"If girls wear this to clubbing, why do strippers still have jobs?"
After trying on multiple barely existent pieces of cloth, I threw the last bikini top at him. "I'm not going to Europe to be a prostitute."
He sighed and rolled his eyes, "Dearie, the only way a guy is going to look past that depressing, stern face you always have on is if you show off more of those curves."
"What curves? She's pregnant." A familiar voice drawled. "That's not much of a turn on."
I spun around and spotted the man lounging against a table, chewing on a fry.
"Logan! What the hell?" I laughed in happy surprise. It had been so long since I saw him last. Then I remembered he had conspired to kidnap me. "What the hell, Logan?" My voice turned menacing.
"Hey, let's get past this whole, let's hate the guy that was trying to save you because it was all a big misunderstanding. I had my plan for getting you out perfectly calculated. It would have worked. What I didn't think was that Kevin would go crazy." He huffed.
I glared at him, trying to decipher whether he was being truthful or not. But then again, his voice was so caring when he saw me crying that day.
"Fine. Well, what are you doing here? Spying? Does Ben Kenza want revenge now? Because it's not going to work. Kevin wouldn't come save me. He doesn't love me anymore." I felt the words tumble out, and began to legitimately bawl my head off. "He's forgotten all about me." I sobbed. Some logical portion of me was gaping wide-eyed at my display of hysterics. Ugh, pregnancy hormones.
Logan and Ryan were both staring at me with deer in the headlights expressions.
"Jess! That's not true at all!" Ryan hurried over to comfort me. "You know it's not like that."
"He hates me!" I sniffled. "I'm never going to see him again."
"Ryan's right. It's not like that at all. It's actually why I'm here." Logan sounded so grave that I shut up and stared at him. Logan could sound serious?
Ryan stared at him too. "If this is a ploy to get Jess back..."
"Jess, Kevin's gone nuts. He's trying to dissolve the entire mafia. He was turning legit before, but now he's just selling it all off, piece by piece, to the highest bidder."
"So?" I didn't see how that was so bad. Stupid mafia.
"A mafia is part of a large, intricate, delicate, web of connections. Connections to people that don't like getting messed with. Scary people. You can't just disrupt it all and expect to come out alive."
I stared at him, half-comprehending, but also not wanting to understand.
"So...in a few days, they're going to announce a five million dollar reward out for his head, plus the promise of a high position in the new mafia. A hundred thousand dollars to the person that finds him first."
"He's going to die." I felt tears leaking out again. "Why?"
"He might not if he stops now. But you're the only one that can stop him." He gestured towards the door, where I saw his car waiting outside.
I felt like I was hopped up on some kind of illegal substance.
Or maybe sugar.
Either way, as I sat there in his car, huddled against Ryan, I wanted to scream, laugh, cry, and run around in large circles forever.
On one hand, I was going to see Kevin again.
On the other hand, I was going to see Kevin again.
Ryan rubbed a hand comfortingly on my shoulder. "Love, if you ever want to go home, to leave all of this, just tell me and I'll carry you right out."
I smiled weakly, "Thanks Ryan. You don't know how glad I am that you're here."
Logan glanced back through the rearview mirror. "You might not want to act as lovey dovey in front of Kevin. He's a little unstable. He might shoot you both." His voice was only half kidding.
Logan's eyes widened and he shut up.
As we pulled up the familiar tree-covered terrace, I panicked, "What do I say?"
"I don't know. Just save his life." Logan smiled in what he thought was a reassuring manner. He obviously never tried it out in front of a mirror, because he looked like a rabid beaver.
"Yeah, thanks for the advice Logan. You're always a big help." I clutched Ryan's jacket. "Help me!"
"I can't help you there, darling. All I can say is that ridiculously corny, but often true saying. Follow your heart. If you love him, and he loves you, you can make it work if you try."
"Unless we all get killed."
He sighed and patted my head, "Always so logical. But now you're paranoid too. No longer little Jess. Go talk to him."
"There's still no answer to my problem. Our kids will still be in danger."
"Just go." He motioned exasperatedly with his hand.
I turned to go, then turned back, "Thanks Ryan."
"I hope this can somewhat make up for my biological misfortune. You know I would love to have loved you back." He smiled.
The steps were never as intimidating before. But now the white marble staircase stretched ominously up to the upper floors. I eyed them cautiously. I seriously doubted my ability to climb up them without losing my nerve.
"He's going to let himself get killed if you don't go." A grave voice spoke from behind me.
I spun around. "Francis!"
"I don't know what's going through his mind, but I know you're the only one who can help him." He shook his head sadly, "He's never been drunk before, but one night Logan brought him home completely out of it. He only stared blankly and said, 'I never got my wish.' I'm assuming you have something to do with that?"
I instantly thought back to that winter night. I had almost forgotten. I never got my wish either.
I looked at Francis with a sad smile, "I'm not sure what to do, but I'll try to talk to him."
"He's staying in your room." He patted my shoulder and walked off.
I made my way to the room, trying not to lose my nerve. Finally, I stood at the doorway, staring at the handle that would open the door, and let me see Kevin.
A few seconds passed.
Seconds turned into minutes. Why was I such a coward?
"Whoever you are, I know you're outside. I'm not going to kill you. Just come in already." I hadn't heard his voice for so long, and yet the sound of it still made my legs weak.
I took a breath, opened the door and forced myself to walk inside. I spotted him immediately. His back was to me, and he was typing fiercely on a keyboard.
"If you're here to kill me, you won't get a prize for it until next week or so."
I didn't know what to say, so I just stood there.
He kept typing.
My eyes caught on that massive, wonderful bed that I had seen that first morning at his house. I was pulled to it, and I walked over and sat down, fingers tracing the cats engraved into the wood.
"I miss you."
Kevin's head turned around with speed fast enough to give him whiplash. He stared in amazement, as a single word tumbled from his lips, "Jess."
I felt like I was somehow in trouble, and bit my lip, avoiding eye contact.
Neither of us moved for a while. My heart was pounding with too many emotions to name. I couldn't think.
Then he slowly walked over. My heartbeat increased, and I started feeling light-headed as he got closer. His arm reached out. I couldn't breathe.
He touched my chin.
I looked up, straight into his eyes. "Don't die."
A corner of his mouth turned up, but his eyes were still sad. "Why not?"
"Why should you?" I shot back. Not the best comeback ever, but it bought me time to think.
He laughed, an self-deprecating laugh. "There's not much to live for. When the one you love, and your child, is with another man, you don't have much left. And I'm dissolving the Mafia. I can defeat the thing that destroyed me."
"While dying in the process."
"True. But why should that matter to you? You and our...your child will be safe."
"Because then my wish can't come true."
His smile vanished and he stared wordlessly for a few seconds. "What was your wish?" His voice was low and soft.
"I wished that I could live happily ever after with the man I loved." I smiled at him. "And I love you." It felt incredible to be able to say that out loud, to Kevin. I tried it again. "I love you." My smile was so wide it hurt my cheeks.
He walked over and sat next to me. I longed to wrap my arms around him, and just be with him for a while. Maybe a few hundred years. He clasped his hands together and looked down.
"Your wish can't come true with me."
His words knocked the happy feelings out of me. Tears formed at my eyes. Of course. He didn't love me. I felt sick. "Oh." I whispered.
He looked up, realizing what I was thinking. "No. No. No." He gathered me into his arms, and my poor tortured emotions swung back into a full blown happiness.
He buried his head into my hair and took a deep breath. "You can't know how much I've wanted to be with you again. Each day was a struggle to get through, and the most ridiculous things would remind me of you."
"But you won't be happy with me. Every day will be a danger. What you said was completely right. I don't know how much I could protect you and our kid. No. Seeing you fall to the ground that day was the worst day of my life. I'd rather die knowing you'll be safe and alive than live and see you die."
I was ready for this argument. "But see, they all know that I have your child. If you die, what's to stop them from killing me and the baby?"
"I've hired a squad of my most trusted members to protect you. You'll be safe."
"I don't trust them." I poked him with my finger. "I only trust you."
He was silent.
I looked up.
He was smiling at me with such love that I had to smile back. "I guess my wish came true then." He pulled me closer. "Are you sure you can trust me?"
"Do you think I should trust you?"
A smirk appeared on his face. I realized how much I missed that irritating smirk. "Not to be arrogant, but yes."
I narrowed my eyes. "So was this all just a ploy to get me to say I trust you?"
He shrugged. "Well I was all ready to die too if you didn't come to save me."
"So if I left now you would die?" I smiled.
He chuckled and got up. "You're quite evil you know? But yes, if you must know, I would decide to die. Is your ego sufficiently inflated?"
"Hey, marry me."
I whipped around and stared at him.
He smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, it kind of popped out."
"That must have been the worst marriage proposal ever." I began to walk out of the room.
He followed along, commenting, "No I'm sure there have been worse. So?"
"Ask me again later. In a sweet romantic way that is both meaningful and memorable." I began to walk down the stairs.
He knelt down on a knee at the top of the stairs. "Please marry me, my love?"
"Nope, try again." I continued on my way down, not even looking at him.
He grabbed a fake flower from a nearby vase. "Would you please marry me, my dearest snookums?"
I rolled my eyes. "You'll have to do something better than that. Make up for getting me knocked up and shooting me. If you can."
"I will. I am going to make it up to you your entire life." His arms pulled me into a blissfully warm, safe embrace. "I love you."
Author's Note: Sorry :D I've been busy. Then I couldn't write. Then I got lazy. I could write a whole list of excuses. But point is, here it is! End of the story. I think I may edit the story a little sooner or later. I don't quite like the ending. And I need to add a bit more earlier.
Thank you all for your support! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.