A Place Without You (Page 28)
He clears his throat. I squeeze his hand tighter, like the way his voice constricts each word, stealing all the oxygen around us.
“I couldn’t even walk, and I only know this because the girl later gave a firsthand account of what happened. My dad tried to help me out of the house, but I passed out. And seeing as I was nearly as tall and big as him, when I went down, he went down—a whole damn flight of marble stairs. I landed on him with not so much as a scratch. He … never walked again.”
“Bodhi …” The world spinning in my head, my hopes and dreams, they slow like they’re dying as a heaviness suffocates everything inside of me. My tragedy was different. It wasn’t my fault. My guilt is different. Everything is different.
“And as if that’s not enough, my sister hates me. She not only blames me for what happened to our dad, she believes the stress of it all eventually lead to my mom’s heart attack.”
I turn in his arms, clutching his face in my hands. “I don’t know what to say,” I whisper.
He blinks a few times, a lifeless expression stuck to his handsome face. “There’s nothing to say. I fucked up. I can’t change it. Now, this is my life, and I have no reason to ever complain. I’m not in the wheelchair. I don’t have cancer—”
“Wait…” I pull my head back “…cancer?”
Bodhi nods slowly. “He didn’t tell you?” He grunts a laugh. “Of course he didn’t tell you. He most likely had it before the accident, but they didn’t discover it until the accident. He went through treatment … Jesus …” He closes his eyes briefly. “As if the paralysis wasn’t enough, he’s had to deal with feeling like shit while strapped to a fucking wheelchair.”
Still, I have no idea what to say, so I let him have his moment, the one where he imposes more self-hatred upon himself.
“Anyway…” he blows out a slow breath “…he went into remission. A year ago they discovered it was back and spreading. Did you not wonder about his liberal use of marijuana?”
I shrug. “It’s legal here. No big deal. I just thought he was the coolest guy in a wheelchair I’d ever met.”
Bodhi grunts a painful laugh. “I love your innocence.”
“You should since you took it.” I try a small smile to lighten the mood, tempting him to step away from the gates of purgatory.
It doesn’t work. He winces. “Henna, I …”
“No. No …” I roll on top of him. “Don’t go there. Don’t do it. No regrets. YOLO. Man up and show some pride for taking my virginity. So many men before you have tried and failed. You should get a prize or at least a bumper sticker that says I was in Hell and never wanted to leave.”
The most intoxicating laugh breaks from his chest, and in the dim lighting his perfect smile beams. My grin matches his. I love us so much it’s hard to find a complete breath when I think about leaving.
“I don’t want to go.”
His smile dissolves into a frown, and the same regret he had for his dad reappears, but this time it’s for me. I hate being his regret.
“Tell me you want me to stay.”
His head eases side to side as his hands feather down my back to my bare ass. “I want you, but I don’t want you to stay.”
“What if I want to stay?”
Bodhi shakes his head some more. “You don’t. We feel the same, and you know it. You want me, but you don’t want to stay.”
“You’re right. I want to go. I want you to come with me. And I know it’s selfish. And maybe nineteen is too old to play the young and selfish card, but even if it is, I can’t help how I feel.”
He presses his lips to mine, unmoving. It feels like he’s stopped time. I want him to stop time. I want to live with Bodhi forever without taking a single blink.
We spend the next three days talking on the phone, texting, and taking long walks along the snowy trails on the back of Snare. I find riding a horse with Bodhi sitting right behind me, holding me in his strong arms, is quite possibly the greatest experience I’ve ever had.
Between spending time with my family and him making an effort to be there with his sister, we don’t find any more time to spend in the back of Alice.
“Maybe something came up?” Zach looks at his watch as he and my mom wait with me at the bottom of the stairs to ZIP’s private jet.
I’m leaving today. California then … the world. It should be the best day of my life. But instead, I’m dying inside because I’m leaving Bodhi. What’s worse—he’s not here to say goodbye. He said he’d be here. He’s twenty minutes late.
“Sometimes goodbyes are too hard.” Juni strokes my hair below my white beanie as I keep my eyes glued to the entrance of the small airport. “You can FaceTime him from your dad’s house.”
Tears fill my eyes. I don’t want to FaceTime him. I want his arms. I want his lips.
Fuck … I just want him.
“What if he got into an accident? I know he wouldn’t miss this. I just know. Something’s happened. I can’t leave until—”
Zach points to the blue van stopped at the security entrance. “I’ll call down to have them let him in.”
I drop my purse and take off running like I did on Christmas night. Alice speeds toward me. Bodhi stops at the barricade, jumps out, and runs toward me.
“Where were you?” I squeeze my eyes shut, letting the emotions flow down my face as he hugs me, lifting me off the ground.
“I’m so sorry,” he says out of breath. “Alice wouldn’t start. I was so fucking scared that you were going to be gone.” Bodhi sets my feet back on the ground. He cradles my face, rubbing his thumbs over my tear-drenched cheeks before kissing the rest away, ending with a slow, miserable, my-heart-is-breaking kiss.
“I love you,” I whisper when his lips release mine.
He rests his forehead on mine. “I love you too. Forever.”
“Jesus …” I blink more tears. “This hurts. I already miss you. It’s already impossible to breathe. How am I supposed to get on that plane?”
“Show me the world, baby. Live like I’m there with you.”
I grip his jacket and press my lips to his like he did our last night together—unmoving. Time … please just stop. Just give me this moment with him forever. “You make me want to stay,” I whisper past the lump in my throat.
Bodhi kisses every inch of my face before letting his lips find the center of my forehead. “You make me want to go,” he whispers in return.
“Henna and Bodhi,” I say on a painful sigh.
He hugs me to his chest, resting his hand on my head, holding me like I’m his world. “Bodhi and Henna,” he softly echoes me.
I ease back. He holds my hand, slowly letting go until it’s just the tips of our fingers clinging to the final second.
“I love you,” I mouth.
Bodhi’s eyes fill with tears and his jaw clenches, trying so hard to hold it together. He starts to speak, but he chokes, shaking his head. He holds his fisted hand to his mouth. If he blinks, he’ll cry. If he speaks, he’ll sob. If he does either one, I’ll never get on that plane.
Forcing myself to turn, I walk back to the plane.
“Call me when you get there.” Mom gives me a final hug and so does Zach.
I climb the stairs to the jet and stop at the top. Alice’s brake lights shine red in the distance. He turns right and disappears.
“Okay, world…” I take a deep breath and wipe the tears from the corners of my eyes “…show me whatcha got.”
January and February – Japan
My dad takes my dropping out of school a lot better than I imagined. We spend a memorable New Years together, then he takes me to the airport for an emotional goodbye before boarding my non-private jet to Japan.
Bodhi messages me before I leave California.
Bodhi: I hope you’re wearing your best smile and lots of sunscreen. This is life, baby … LIVE IT!
I send him a short video of me kissing my hand and blowing it toward the camera.
Me: Living it. Missing you. Xo
Why Japan? Well, it’s where Juni met Zach. It’s a stunning mix of ultra high-tech and rich historic culture. I spend two months in Japan traveling from hostel to hostel, living like a nomad instead of a princess up the hill. Granted … my expenses are covered by the music king and fashion queen, but I only splurge when adventure calls and live frugally on days that require nothing more than my sketch pad and sharpened pencils.
I’m living. But mostly … I miss Bodhi.
“Hey!” I grin and it feels equal parts amazing and torturous as Bodhi’s face appears on the screen. We FaceTime once a month and text once a day. That’s what we agreed upon before I left. Anything less would have me running home and giving up on my dreams, anything more would distract me from living.
“Hey, yourself.” Bodhi’s smile could break my computer screen. “How was your last day in Tokyo?”
“Amazing. I can’t believe how many friends I’ve made in two months. I didn’t make that many in four years of high school.” My lips twist. “Okay, I’ve made four new friends in a couple months, but that feels like a lot.”