Home > Exodus(7)

Exodus(7)
Author: Kate Stewart

He has the good grace to chuckle. “Ouch.”

I want to crawl beneath his truck. Instead, he helps lift me into the cab and leans in. “It’s okay, Cecelia, I’ve been there.”

I gaze over at him, guilt-ridden. “I’ll pay for my half of dinner.”

“Just how much do you intend on insulting me tonight? And what kind of assholes have you been dating?”

Unforgettable assholes with a side of motherfucker.

“I wouldn’t blame you at this point if you make me take a cab home.”

“You’re painfully honest, but I like that.” He bites his lip, his eyes lifting to mine. “Painfully beautiful, too. I’ll just be flattered that I was your first attempt. And maybe,” he shrugs, “we can try again sometime.”

“I’d like that.”

We both know it’s a lie, but I rest easier in it as I click my seat belt while he rounds his truck. A silence ensues when he joins me, messing with his radio on our ride back. I’m thankful when he finally speaks up. “So, was it someone from around here?”

“No. It’s just some asshole I dated back home in Georgia.” The lies are getting easier to tell. But the truth is not an option.

Wesley leaves me at my front door with a friendly hug and an offer to call him when I’m ready. As he drives off, I curse my faithful heart and slam the front door aggravated with myself.

Disheartened, I haul myself up the stairs and into my bedroom. Sliding my sandals off, I pull my cell out of my purse and shoot off a message to Christy.

Project Get On With It was a complete failure.

Christy: Don’t give up, babe. Whoever it is will be a Band-Aid right now anyway.

I’m still not ready.

Christy: Then you’re not ready. Don’t rush it. You’ll get there.

What’s going on with you tonight?

Christy: Netflix and chilling. Wink emoji. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Go, girl. And you better. Love you. Night. X

I decide to make peace with my progress. I went on a date, successful or not. It’s a start.

After plugging my cell in on my nightstand, I pull the covers back, sit on the edge of the bed and run my feet through the plush carpet.

Attempting to live a ‘normal’ life after two octane-fueled relationships is exhausting. All these months later, I still miss the chaotic nights, the mystery, the anticipation, the connection, and the sex. God, the sex.

I’ve given myself enough time to grieve. If my heart would just follow my head, I’d be so much better off. I run my fingers across my untouched lips and decide to opt for a morning shower to scrub off my makeup. Tossing the throw pillows off my comforter, I move to settle in with a new book and freeze when I see the metal pendant waiting on my pillow.

Wrapping my fingers around it, I bring it eye-level, disbelieving of the weight of it and what it means before shooting off my mattress. My heart rockets into motion as I scan my room.

“Sean? Dominic?”

I walk into the bathroom. Empty.

The balcony. Empty.

Desperately, I search the house only to find all the doors are locked.

Not that that could stop them, it never has. The proof lays in my hand.

Hopes soaring, I secure the clasp around my neck and dash toward the back door. Gathering my rain boots from the hall tree, I shove them on and grab the pocket flashlight from my slicker. Seconds later, I scan the courtyard with the weak beam.

“Sean? Dominic?”

Nothing.

I make a beeline for the woods, past the football field of newly cropped grass, the warm metal on my neck giving me the first inkling of hope amongst the wreckage. I’m nearing a sprint by the time I reach the small hill leading up into the trees and the clearing.

The sight that greets me there takes my breath away. Tall grasses sway before me littered with yellow-green light from hundreds of fireflies. They float from the brush into the thick branches, glittering like diamonds high above before disappearing in the beam of the full moon.

“Sean?” I search every corner of the clearing, scanning every shadow in the trees with the flashlight. “Dominic?” I call out softly, in prayer that one or both is waiting for me. “I’m here,” I announce, searching the dark forest for any sign of life, the light in my hand doing little to aid me. “I’m here,” I say, fingering the cut of the necklace.

“I’m here,” I repeat in vain, to no one.

There’s no one here but me.

Utterly confused, I turn in dizzying circles, searching, hoping, praying for any sign of life, and come up empty.

All the hope I felt just minutes before scatters on the wind, rustling through the tall, shimmering pines above me. But I don’t dwell in the ache. Instead, I palm my chest and watch the symphony of light playing both above and at my booted feet, their melody soundless, but captivating. Entranced by the moon and light show, I thumb the raven’s wing between my thumb and forefinger.

One or both has claimed me as their own.

Someone put the necklace on my pillow.

I call out for them once more.

“Sean? Dominic?” The air seems to still around me as an inkling of a presence hits, hard. I go ramrod straight when a deep voice laced with French brogue sounds from feet away.

“Sorry to disappoint you.”

 

 

He emerges from the shadows of the thick cluster of trees to my left. I back away, clicking on my flashlight and aiming the beam at him.

“What do you want?”

“Want? From you, nothing,” disdain dripping from his tone as he comes into full view.

With the help of my pocket light, I can see his face clearly, not a single shadow clouding the smooth planes, strong nose, or the angular cut of his jaw. Too bad I hate him, or I could appreciate the beauty of his mask. I click off my light, willing the shadows to swallow him, but even in the darkness, he shimmers in masculine beauty under the brilliant moon and amongst the fairy-like bugs that surround us. He’s dressed much like he was when I met him, save the jacket and skinny black tie. He looks completely out of place in a button-down, slacks, and polished shoes.

“What are you doing here? Dressed like that?”

“I could ask you the same.”

I’m still dressed for my date, save for my polka-dotted rain boots, in full makeup and hair. Equally as overdressed for a midnight stroll in the woods. “I live here.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Semantics. And these aren’t your stomping grounds anymore.”

“I’ll stomp anywhere I fucking want.” His eyes are filled with the same flaming cruelty I remember from our run-in last year. His voice just as thick with condescension and grudge. And as easy as it would be to walk away, I want him to know that I’ve made my mind up about him, just as much as he has regarding me.

“You’re disgusting. This air about you,” I hold up my palm and wave it. “Like you have some right to act this way, to treat me any way you want to.”

“Is this going to be a ‘do unto others’ speech? Because I guarantee you’ve fucked me enough by existing.”

“You’re ridiculous, and not at all worthy of a conversation.”

“You forget who you’re talking to.”

“Yeah, well, you can tuck your cock back in, asshole. This isn’t a pissing contest.”

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