It’s all a matter of waiting.
Talk to me. Where are you? Nik messages me.
Hospital. He’s not okay. As I write the last word and press send, that sick feeling of loss weighs me down.
You really love him, Nik answers and I don’t wait to tell him that I do. To admit it.
I want to stay with him, Nikolai. I need him to be okay.
I wait and wait this time as he types but doesn’t send anything. All I’m given is a bubble of dots, letting me know he’s there, but the words don’t come.
I don’t want to lose you, I write to him before he can answer. I can feel him slipping away in my heart. As if him realizing I truly love Carter and Carter loves me, is the last string breaking that once held us together.
He’ll never let us be friends. If I was him, I wouldn’t.
I know he’s right, but it hurts. Saying goodbye is never easy.
I won’t work under him, Aria. I have to leave.
I don’t even know if he’ll be all right, I message him back. It’s selfish of me to want for him to be there for me, even knowing this is goodbye, but Nikolai has always let me be selfish. He’s always loved me. And I’ll forever love him. Just not the way I love Carter, and he deserves for someone to love him that way. Everyone needs someone to love like this. With your whole body and soul. To be consumed by it.
He’ll be okay. Carter knows how to fight. And there’s no way he’d let me have you. He’ll come back just to keep me from you.
Nik’s words break me. I know this will be the end of us and whatever we had. All he’ll ever be anymore is a memory.
I’ll always be here for you, but you have to reach out to me. I won’t be something that comes between the two of you. I’m here for you, but when he comes back to you, you know I can’t be there anymore.
I love you, is all I can tell him. My last words to him.
Always, he messages back. His last words to me.
He’s right. I already know Nikolai is right. Whether he’s just a friend or more, doesn’t matter. It’s either Nikolai or Carter and between the two, there’s no decision to be made. It was always Carter.
But he needs to come back to me.
“I need you,” I whisper the words, gripping my phone in both of my hands as I lean forward, praying to anyone who will listen.
The last time the doctor came out, they said the surgery was done. It’s only a matter of whether or not he’ll wake up. And they don’t know that he will.
He can’t leave me like this. It’s all I keep thinking. How selfish am I in this moment, but I am. I need him. Carter can’t leave me. He can’t leave me alone. Not when it’s finally over. My hand slips to my belly. Not when I didn’t even tell him he has another life to care for.
My bottom lip wobbles as I let my head fall back against the hard wall and stare up at the stark white ceiling of the waiting area outside Carter’s room.
“I need you,” I whimper the words and I don’t know if I’m speaking to Carter, the man I love who can do nothing but try to survive, or my mother. Praying to her to do something. To save him and to keep me from being left alone in this cold world.
“I need you,” the whispered plea that comes from me is ragged as I close my eyes.
The last time I spoke these words like this was when I held my mother’s dead body as she lay on the floor. In the room above where my father used to work.
My eyes slowly open as Carter’s story comes back to me.
He said I knocked on the door.
He said I told my father I needed him.
He claims it was my voice.
And all the while I thought he was wrong because I never went to that side of the house. Not since I last spoke those very words and my mother died. All because I swear I used to feel her there. I never roamed to that side; it scared me to even think of going, because I felt her and I know she was angry. Bitter and waiting for something I couldn’t give her.
Slowly the twine unravels in my mind. The truth pricks chills down my spine.
I don’t know who knocked on the door. I don’t know if that’s why my father stopped and let Carter go or not.
But I know where those words came from.
How could my words, spoken on the floor above Carter when my father nearly beat him to death, be echoed years later? How could he have heard my pleas and think they were meant for him?