Her voice sounded so distant. I felt so disoriented about where I was- even if I remember getting home last night, albeit not in the state I was hoping to do so. I stir anyway, a sign to her that I was awake. But even stirring felt… wrong. I open my eyes, and there it was- a headache from hell, accompanied by the inability to keep my eyes open because of last night's incomprehensible turn of events.
Sandra placed her hand on my forehead, and I realize that I really don't feel well at all. I recognize how clammy I must feel to her, and there wasn't any way to hide how horrible I was feeling.
"I feel like…" I tried to state the obvious but couldn't find the words. I felt so many things at once.
"You're burning up, Rina," she does it for me. There isn't a proper response for the obvious, so I nod and pull up the blankets.
"I've got rehearsals today," I manage to croak. I notice how nasal I sound and curse it to hell.
"You sound like shit. Take the day off, people will understand," she tells me as she hands me a glass of water. I sit up and gulp down its contents. We both hear a knock on the door and Sandra leaps up to answer. I bide the quiet time I can get and lean on my headboard to ease the absurdly painful headache I was feeling, hoping it would go away with the pressure. I bury myself under my covers once again, tuning out the banter going on outside. It must be one of Sandra's friends. That girl has just got too many for me to keep track of- I couldn't believe she was just a freshman like I was.
But the tapping, and then that voice… while I tuned out every sound that surrounded me, it was all too familiar, and all too displaced. I needed to pry myself out of my covers to sate the curiosity and the disbelief.
I hadn't made a mistake. It was Kevin.
"Hey" I do my best to sound stoic and unsurprised. I do my best to mask the hurt that I could not explain from last night. I'm oddly thankful at how sick I feel right now- it was a perfect mask to the tears that threatened to spill. I didn't have answers for him if he asked what the tears were about. At least feeling awful was a good enough excuse.
"I hope you don't mind that I dropped by." he says, folding his hands atop his cane. I smile and I'm really realizing how absurdly irrational my emotions are starting to become. "A chair anywhere nearby?"
"To your left, at your 9 o'clock. It swivels though, I have to warn you." I respond, tucking myself back into the covers as I feel a wave of chills running down my body. He sighs and sweeps his cane in an arc in front of him, sitting when he found the seat. He pulls himself closer to the bed after he's collapsed his cane and he runs his hand on the bed to find mine.
"I was waiting at the auditorium for you for our usual rehearsals. I got worried when you didn't show," he tells me. I groan and grab my phone to check the time.
Twelve o'clock noon? That late?
"I understand," is all I say. "I'm sorry, I should've texted you."
"I hope I didn't overstep by coming over to check. I tried calling," he tells me. I check my phone again and find a notification for 13 missed calls- all from Kev.
"I'm sorry" I say again. I'm running out of breath, I realize, and it's taking all of my energy to keep awake. Kevin sees through all of it. He moves his hand from mine, up my arm to find my cheek. I'm too weak to fight the urge to lean into his touch.
"It's ok," he whispers. "Have you taken any medicine?"
"No," I respond. "Just water."
He digs into his sling bag and pulls out a bottle of paracetamol and hands me one.
"Is there water nearby?" he asks.
"Sandra left a glass at the side table."
I think I wasn't supposed to see it, but a split second of hesitation crossed his face before he traced his hand along the bedside table. I took his hand and told him I could do it. "It's okay," I say. I gulp down the paracetamol and fall back to the comforts of my duvet.
"My head hurts so much," I'm unable to keep my thoughts to myself apparently, and on instinct, Kevin reaches for my hand on the bed, then up my shoulders, to my cheek.
"It's okay." Kev says back. "Sleep."
I fall asleep to him stroking my hair. I wonder if I'd said "stay," out loud as well.
I was on stage. There wasn't any other explanation to the rate my pounding heart was going. I embraced it though. I knew I had to- I didn't want another panic attack today.
Definitely not with him watching. Today's personal goal was to make him happy with how I did- he was rarely home for these little shows, and I wanted to put on my best.
Where was he sitting anyway? I knew where he liked to listen when I sang. He'd be at the back of the room, always when he was there. Had he even arrived? Mom has been awfully silent today about his arrival. I asked him what time he was coming this morning and all she gave me was a kiss on my cheek and an assurance that he would be around. "Early enough" were her exact words.
You have to understand my confusion when I scanned my audience, only to find that my family didn't sit in their usual seats- the place they had promised to assure me that everything was good and beautiful and that all I should do is sing...
Mother is at the door in tears- I never see her cry. I know what it means. My world stops and I sob 'til there isn't a tomorrow.
"Shhhh... Rina, you're ok, you're ok."
I hear him. He's trying to pull me out of this dream, this nightmare. I can see his face- I can feel his touch.
I cannot understand the resistance.
"Calm down. Shh, you're alright, I'm here."
And like a trance, the thread that binds me to my dreams snaps. He holds me close to him, runs his hand through my sweat-riddled hair. I don't open my eyes. I just sob into his arms as he continues to hush me.
"No one's going to hurt you, Rina," he whispers into my ear. I open my eyes when I can bear it, when the shaking sobs stop coming. I cling to his hands even more, making sure he hears me this time.
"Stay," I say. "Promise you'll stay with me,"
He doesn't say a word, but he pulls me to his chest. I hear Daddy's voice in my head, a whisper:
It isn't very long until I drift off to sleep.
It was the oddest thing to wake up to him beside me. He too, had fallen asleep, and his arm had draped around me as if to protect me. I turned to my side, watching his features under the light of the moon. I smile.
He was such a handsome guy- molded from the gods, I may even dare. He didn't belong in this dormitory I was in… the way I would never belong to him.
I didn't understand the wetness that fell on my cheeks until I remembered last night. The perfection of the evening spiraled into the mess it had been threatening to become since last night. I fought to stay away from him, unwrapping his arm from my body. This wasn't right. He wasn't mine, no matter how much I wanted it.
Did I just admit that? The sobbing was back, and he woke up with a frown as he found his bearings. I wanted to wail, to scream as he said my name.
"Kev… why are you here?" My incoherent thoughts are able to put together one sentence.
He rubs his eyes with the heel of his palm. They mirror his confusion. He doesn't even bother to wear his glasses again.
"Rina, you asked me to…" His response was a dagger to my heart- I had. I had asked him to stay. Twice even. I shook my head, even if he couldn't see me. I backed myself into the corner of our dorm room and I curled like a ball into it.
"No, no, no!" I say it in so many different ways, in between sobs and drawn breaths. "I shouldn't have… you should never have!"
He finds his way to the edge of the bed that didn't lean on the wall. I see him reach out to me tentatively, only to take back his hand. He tugs at his hair in frustration and it hurts me so much more to see him there, acting like he didn't know why he shouldn't have. My eyes could've burned him the way I was looking at him.
Even in distress he looked so perfect. He looked so other worldly. I shook my head again. I couldn't want him. Not even in my dreams. He belonged somewhere else- not in my arms like I couldn't deny I wanted him to be.
I remember last night. The woman with him at coffee cat. The smile on his face. She too was his level of perfect. She was everything but plain. Her blonde curls fell loosely just below her breast. If Kevin Sinclair was molded out of the gods, she must have been as well. They belong together.
And they are together.
I dug my head into my hands- sobbing like I had never done before.
"And why the hell shouldn't I have?" he asks me. I wanted so much to punch and hit him, and I realized how lucky he had been to be more than an arms length away from me.
"The coffee cat… last night… her…. she's… beautiful," I can't make sense of what I am saying, but I hoped to God he'd know. I wouldn't ever want to repeat that statement. I wouldn't ever want my heart shattered into pieces as I voiced out my thoughts.
And then the unexpected. My room fills with laughter- his laughter. My sobbing came to a halt, and I watch him with so much contempt. How could he laugh? Was he really so masochistic to take pleasure with this situation? He heaves a sigh and faces me- I swear to God he was looking at me, even if he can't see me. Somehow, that stings even more.
"You were there." It was a statement, not a query. It didn't answer things, though. "You saw her."
"Of course I did! I'm not blind, Kev! Everyone in that place saw her!" I lashout. How he had the nerve to step towards me was beyond me. If there was a way to back off beyond the corner I was stuck in, I would've taken it.
"You're jealous." He smirks. At this point, I'm seething. What a lucky man he is to have me sick as of the moment.
"Oh, you're so full of yourself." I mentally smack myself for the lack of a response. I couldn't lie to save a bone in my body, so I decided not to. But I knew, from the very few moments Kev and I had spent together that he saw through all my bullshit far better than anyone ever has.
"You shouldn't be. I'm not seeing anyone, Rina. Not now… probably not ever." The last part of his statement was a breath. I felt the hurt, and I felt compelled to believe every word he had said.
Every lie he was trying to make. I was such a gullible person.
"Explain to me last night then. You had a business meeting with someone you were extremely chummy with? It really didn't appear that way, Kev." The walls were back up. I couldn't let him coerce me to believe otherwise. I'd seen him with someone else, and there was no goddamn way he could deny that. He wasn't allowed to play pity party with me. He came closer to me and sat as his fingers grazed the wall I was leaning on.. My gaze followed him as he assumed the same position I was in.
"That was my sister."
The walls crumbled as quickly as they had been put up. I feel so ashamed of myself.
"Oh God." It was all I could come up with. Tears continued to pour down my face. I watched him tilt his head towards my direction, his hand tentatively reaching over with his palm up. Almost as if it was instinct, my fingers intertwined with his. He scooted closer to me and almost immediately, I leaned into his shoulder.
"I feel like an idiot," I meant it- for assuming, and well, destroying his polo shirt I was staining with tears and… other things.
"I felt like one a few days ago, too. Remember our last trip to the Coffee Cat? Together?" he says. I laugh. "Hey, I missed that laugh. You've just been crying all day." His fingers trace my jaw and I sigh. How had everything turned around so quickly?
"You kept apologizing. I should probably do the same." I tell him. "Assuming too much really can hurt people. I'm sorry that green eyed monster came out. I just… I like you, Kev. So much. I just… couldn't put together that others could feel the same way. I'm sorry." Traitor tears escape my eyes, but he wiped them away with the pad of his thumb.
"It's ok. You didn't know. I care for you too, Rina. I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel that way." He kissed my hand and let go, only to pull me into an embrace.
we stayed that way for a while, as all the surging emotions came to a calm silence. He held me so tightly that it felt like he didn't want to let me go one bit, and it was fine with me because I didn't either.
He didn't break the contact when he finally spoke. "Hmmm," he hums as he kisses my temple. I smile with the different kind of contact. "You're not so warm anymore."
"I feel much better," I tell him. "But I'm so drenched, I feel like I'm such a mess. Let me get dressed and then you should get going." I had stolen a glance at my watch. I see him do the same too.
"I hadn't realized how long it's been," Kev replies. He finally lets me loose, and I slowly pull myself up as he did the same. "I'll wait for Sandra. She said she's on her way back from the pharmacy. I hope you don't mind but I asked my mother what to get you. She's a doctor" I tap the back of my hand to his and we fell to our normal stride. I led him to my bed.
"Give me a few minutes to freshen up." I tell him. I exit towards our bathroom and stare at my ghostly pale reflection. My eye bags had their own bags. Not even a splash of cold water could help my state. I do it anyway.
He wasn't taken. That goddess of a woman was his sister. It felt absurd. It made me feel so stupid to make such assumptions. I laughed- they'd won the lottery gene pool over here, and I looked at myself- plain old RIna.
I knew why I acted the way I did last night. Kevin saw through it too- he'd called me out on it. But what right did I have to act that way? He wasn't mine.
"I'm not seeing anyone, Rina. Not now… probably not ever."
Another splash of water. What in God's world would make me think I'd ever be that exception to the statement that rang so clear in my head? I was nothing to Kevin.
Yet he stayed. He held me as I cried over a nightmare I've had for so many years. And he was out there, waiting with me.
A sign of hope, maybe?
No. I can't set myself up for failure again. I'll let him go home and keep a safe working distance for him. He deserves so much more than me.
My resolve crumbles when I see him in my bed, looking so dashing even in the dark. I breathe in, willing the tears away. This time, will wins.
"It's not fair that you get to stare at me, you know? I can't do the same to you," he says. Kevin's smile disarms me. It's almost painful to fight.
So I don't. I fall into his arms as we wait for the evening to pass.
Sandra never came home. I look at the flutter of his eyelids when he wakes, the butterflies in my stomach doing the same. I smile. There was no way I could remove him from my life as I had initially wished. My life, from the moment I had met Kevin had been entwined with his. To which extent was what I needed to understand. But right now, as I watch his Hazel eyes glow in the morning sun, I could let that pass. This moment was simply too beautiful to miss.