My brain scrambled to catch up to his words. Then a different kind of pain hit me, like I’d been publicly gutted. Raw and exposed, I was on display for all to see.
“You…you went through my things?”
He shrugged, but the motion wasn’t casual. His posture was on edge, like mine. “They were sitting out. I read some of them.”
“That’s why you got me the notebook.” My eyes burned with threatened tears. “I can’t believe you’d… How could you read something so personal and think that was okay?”
A slow tear journeyed down my face. My hand went to my mouth to stifle the sound of my shock. His betrayal—because that’s what it felt like—weighed down the already crushing pain I was struggling against. What had he read? And God, why? Why had he pried? I scolded myself for being careless, for writing any of it down in the first place. Foolish, stupid words because I couldn’t keep my f*****g emotions in check.
He sighed and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. “The words… I think I know what you’re trying to say with some of it, a lot of it. I feel the same way. I want what we could have had. I need you to believe that it’s not too late for that.”
His eyes dimmed. “We can fix this. Together, you and I. It doesn’t have to be like this. This crutch… You don’t need it.”
A painful laugh tore from my throat. “A crutch… Right. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t ever ask you to be that for me.”
“Maya. I didn’t…”
His eyes squeezed shut, and I knew he remembered. Those terrible last words that he’d delivered, that well-aimed blow to my heart.
“I wish I could take everything back from that day,” he whispered. His shoulders sagged, his head bowed with defeat.
“You left me, Cameron. And now you want…what? My heart? The adoration that I once gave so freely? You want the satisfaction that after breaking me, you’ve saved me? There’s no saving me, okay? I can’t give you the person I used to be, even if I wanted to, because she’s all gone now. And, yes, sometimes I need to drink to put it all away. I don’t know how else to explain it to you, but right now, that’s what I need.”
I moved to the loveseat and sat. I circled my arms around my belly, leaning into the dull ache. I shivered, suddenly cold, a bone-deep cold deep in my soul that he’d never be able to fathom.
Visions of my mother haunted me anew. I’d kept her full of life in my memories. I never let myself visit the reduced person she might have become after all these years. She was still young, vibrant, and beautiful in my mind. I loved her with the selfish, greedy, and consuming love of a child. Her life had always been for me, and then suddenly, it wasn’t anymore. How could I feel anything but a devastating kind of rejection from it all?
That she’d reappeared under my radar cut through me. Years of worrying and taking responsibility for her disappearance were thrown in my face.
I hated her. I hated her as much as I loved her. She’d become an abstract, because she’d ceased to be real. The pain twisted in my gut, sore from my earlier sickness but still wanting the relief I so craved. Effectively trapped, all I could do was cry. I let the tears flow, praying silently for relief.
Cameron crouched down beside me, his hands on my knees then moving over my legs and up and down my arms, warming and soothing me. He hushed me until I caught my breath, wiping away the tears as they slowed. His touch was tender, melting my earlier rush of anger. How could he do that? With a touch, he could take me someplace else, bring me out of the dark confines of my mind, the emotional wasteland that my life had become.
I shook my head, grasping his hand in mine. I squeezed it, wishing he could take it all away somehow, every last shred of it. But why on earth would he want to?
“How could you possibly want to be with someone like me?”
I chanced a look in his eyes, afraid of what I’d find. The calm shadow of his blue eyes and the firm set of his jaw made a face void of pity, but full of something else, something unfathomably deeper. I couldn’t name it, but it rippled off him like a heat wave and seized my heart. I parted my lips and sucked in a sharp breath between them.
“I want to be with you, Maya, because we belong together. You may not believe it, but you’re strong and you’re beautiful, and we may fight like hell, but you’re mine. And now I want you to fight for us, for the girl who used to dream with me, who made me believe we could do anything together. I’ve never known what the future held, but I’ve never been able to stop imagining you were the person I’d go into it with.