A Place Without You (Page 26)
She nods slowly several times as another tear appears on her other cheek. “I’m glad we ran into each other. I needed this closure.” Inching the tip away from my neck, she swings a leg over my head and continues on her way.
“Well, I don’t have closure!” I dig my ass out of the snow and chase after her, with nothing to offer, with no grand explanation, with nothing but a bleeding, aching heart and a need to feel us again.
Giving her a good ten feet radius from my throat, I run ahead of her and hold up my hands in surrender. “Please, just …”
Henna holds her pole out like a sword and takes another step forward so that the point of it marks the center of my chest.
“It’s okay,” I whisper as emotions sting my eyes. “Without you, I’m already dead.”
She clenches her teeth. “You don’t deserve me.”
“No. I don’t.”
Like a leaf slowly floating to the ground, she lowers her pole.
“I owe you an explanation.”
“No,” she murmurs so softly I almost don’t hear her. “I know you have your reasons. I know they’re probably very self-sacrificial in comparison to my indignation, but if I’m not at the top of your list, that’s okay. I don’t need to see your list because I’m leaving. I’m making my own list, and you’re …” her voice cracks.
She inhales a shaky breath and swallows hard before biting her lips together to keep them from quivering, but I already saw them losing their battle with her emotions. Her pole is no longer pointed at my heart, but I feel it tearing through my chest with each word she speaks.
“I’m not on your list,” I say it for her.
Mr. Malone would be so proud of her for putting one foot in front of the other and walking away from a doomed relationship. He would commend her for having a list. But the man in me who simply loves this woman more than life, well … that man can’t seem to get his lungs to draw their next breath, let alone put one foot in front of the other and walk away from her.
Taking the two steps that puts me so close to her I can feel her warmth cut through the cold between us, I remove my gloves and slide off her sunglasses, revealing red, tear-filled eyes. “Where are you going?”
She swallows again and blinks more tears, silenced by her choking emotion.
“To experience the world?”
She nods once, keeping her gaze to the ground.
I’ve never been this sober, and I know this because I’ve never felt this kind of pain.
Bodhi slides his finger under my chin, lifting it until I look at him. I give him more tears since all the words are trapped in my throat.
“I hope the world treats you like the incredibly special person you are. I hope your list is long and daring. I hope you experience joy, surprise, anticipation, passion, and … love.”
Bodhi … I already have …
“I hate you,” I manage to get those three vitally important words out.
He nods. “I know you do.”
Easing off my gloves, I let them and my poles drop to the ground. My cold hands press to his warm cheeks, guiding him close to me, so we share the same breath. “But I love you more.”
His eyes search mine, and when he seems to find what he’s looking for, he smiles. “I know you do.”
The Law of Henna and Bodhi: When love breaks, fall inward, fall together, and fall hard. Then let time pick up the pieces.
I pull him to my lips because that’s how we fall. He kisses me like my mouth was meant to be kissed only by him. When his lips finish with my mouth, he kisses my nose, cheeks, forehead, and jaw.
“When are you leaving?” He doesn’t give me a chance to answer before his mouth covers mine again. My hands slide from his face to his neck, desperate to be closer to him.
In the distance, his horse makes a noise. Bodhi pulls away, out of breath and harboring a pang of disappointment in his eyes as he glances over my shoulder to his horse. “I have to get back.”
“Yeah.” I release him and grab my poles and gloves, putting them back on.
After fumbling with my gloves, feeling shaken by his kiss, I glance up.
“When do you leave?”
“I’m uh …” I shake my head. He’s completely rattled my senses. “California. I’m going to California for New Years with my dad. Then I’m going to Japan.”
“Japan?” He jerks his head back.
I nod. “Starting with places I haven’t been. So don’t expect postcards from Paris or Rome.”
“You’re sending me postcards?”
“No. Well, yeah, sure … I can. I just meant …”
He nods. “I get it. I know what you meant. I don’t expect anything. Well, actually …” Bodhi rubs the back of his neck. It’s so Bodhi. He does it when he’s nervous. “It would be nice to know that you’re okay. But don’t feel any obligation.”
“Come with me.” The words are out before I realize they were even on my tongue.
“Can’t or won’t? Because you could have said something in the parking lot that day, but you didn’t. You could have contacted me, but you didn’t. You could have done a million things that you just didn’t do. And I don’t think it’s because you couldn’t.” It’s just the beginning. I have so many questions for him, it would take several lifetimes to ask them all.
He exhales, sending a plume of evaporation between us.
“Don’t.” I shake my head and hold up my hands. “You know what? I think it’s best if I don’t know all the answers. I know the ones that matter and that’s good enough.”
“What answers are those?” He narrows his eyes.
“Well, just one I guess.”
“And that is?” His head cants to the side.
“I asked you to come with me. You said no. That’s the only question that matters.”
“I said I can’t.”
“Yeah, well … that’s just another way of saying no.”
“No…” an edge of irritation hijacks his words “…I can’t means I want to but I just can’t. A simple no leaves it open for interpretation that maybe I don’t want to go, but I do. I just can’t.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“It matters a whole fucking lot, Henna!” I step back. He rubs his gloved hands over his face. “I’m sorry. I’m frustrated and angry and …”
“It’s not fine.”
“Jesus, Bodhi …” I shake my head, holding my hands out to the side. “What do you want me to say? Because for months I’ve wanted to knock on your door and ask you to just be with me, but I knew you’d choose your dad, your job, your reputation over me.”
“Then ask me to stay.” I stab my poles into the snow next to my shoes, gripping them tightly. “Ask me to move in with you. Ask me to marry you. Ask me for absolutely anything that keeps us together.”
He closes his eyes. “You deserve—”
“Stop assuming you know what I deserve or what I want! I want YOU! Don’t you get that?”
“It’s not that simple.”
I unhook my boots from the snowshoes and bend down on one knee.
His brows knit together.
“Marry me, Bodhi. I love you. It’s just that simple. I want to spend my life with you. I want to have kids with you. So, marry me. Please.”
This hurts. Bending down and handing over my entire heart to him just hurts, but I know that the regret of not giving everything I have to offer him will hurt more.
His eyes fill with tears as his head moves side to side. “I don’t have a life to offer you right now. You said it yourself. It’s a cage. That’s my life. That would be your life. And you can’t live like that. I can’t watch you live like that.”
I stand and turn. Ripping my hat off my head and throwing it as far as it will go, which is only a few feet. “Why do you live in a cage? Why can’t you hire someone to watch your dad so you can live too? Why is it okay for your sister to have a life, but your life is always taking care of your dad? It makes no sense!”
“I have to get back.” He walks past me.
“Why you?” I follow him.
“Why not me?” he mumbles as his boots kick up snow behind him.
“Because you deserve a life too.”
He stops when he gets to his horse. “Merry Christmas.”
“Why you, Bodhi?” I ignore his holiday greeting.
He mounts his horse.
“Tell your sister you’re getting married, and she needs to split the responsibility of watching your dad.”
“I can’t tell her that.” He stares off into the distance.
“Because he’s my responsibility.”
“Jesus … I just told you because he’s MY responsibility.”
“That doesn’t answer my question, why? Why? Why? Why? Why?—”