Excerpt #5

“I dream of him dying over and over. Over and over they jump him and he disappears under their bodies for so long…” Emily opened her eyes, but stared ahead, wide eyed and holding her breath. “And I hate… I hate that he was alone at the end. I should have been there, but I… I left him alone. He was all alone.”

Aaron was quiet, and so she continued: “Song used to think he’d come later, you know, find us. I never had the heart to… to really say the word. I dunno. I guess I was jealous Song still had that hope. And every time I dream it, I want to be faster but… I’m never faster.”

“You’re not gonna be, Em.” He’d not picked up that he’d shortened her name, but it came out that way all the same. “It’s happened, and it’s horrible. And I can’t tell you the nightmares get better, but you can’t blame yourself, you know. That is never gonna help.”

“He really likes you,” she whispered then, unable to continue without feeling like her chest was torn apart. “Song, I mean.”

“I like him, too.” He smiled again, catching some of her tears with his thumb and wiping them down her cheek. “He’s a good kid. You got lucky, huh?”

“Oh yeah,” she smiled, wet and tired, but she leaned into his touch. “He must have come out like this, all beautiful and smart and perfect.”

“He’s lucky to have you, too, you know.”

She couldn’t agree with him, and wanted to wave away the compliment, but this time there was just a hint of a smile. “It’s good to have someone…” she whispered and without meaning to at first, her lips brushed over his wrist.

His hand froze in place, but just for a beat.

“Yeah, I think so.” He breathed out, the exhalation warm on her face, close again, and the kiss that followed it was less of a surprise to them both, than the one just a couple nights before. It was wet and sticky with her tears, if less so than before, and they eased into each other faster, harder. Emily cradled his large face in her small hands; they had always been calloused and rough from her work with hard materials, and now they were cracked and dry. They could be tender though, girl’s hands still.

It was likely the wrong time to be kissing, but there seemed no right time for anything, not anymore—and both of them were lonely and aching, and whatever small amount of connection a kiss afforded seemed like enough, in the cold clear of the night, hidden off the road.

Aaron didn’t push further, but, at the natural break, didn’t pull away, top lip resting on her bottom one, eyelashes clotted with the moisture from her cheeks. Her fingertips brushed over his jaw, found the stubble of this beard. Her hands were shaking and she held on tighter.

“I like you, too…” she whispered finally.

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