“I have no idea when I’m going to ask her, but when I do, I’m not taking no for an answer.”
He let out a short laugh. “Sounds promising. Great plan.”
I blew out a breath. I wasn’t sure how to make Darren understand this situation, or if he even could. We didn’t have many heart to heart conversations about anything, let alone women, and he wasn’t the most intuitive person in that department.
“I know this is probably going to fly right by you and get filed under touchy feely chick s**t, but I’m in love with her. I’ve been in love with her since the day I left her. Nothing’s changed, except now I love her more. What I did…it was a mistake. We both made mistakes, and we both have regrets. I’m not letting her go again.” My heart twisted with the declaration. The familiar pang of regret gripped me as I thought about how I’d let her go. Like an immature jerk, I’d never given her a chance to change her mind.
“You need to get your f*****g head together, because last time things went downhill with her, you weren’t the only one who suffered.”
“Yeah, I get it. Liv never lets me f*****g forget it.” I stood up, leaning in to meet his glare. “The way you two talk, you’d think you were the ones up all night listening to bomb blasts and watching your friends get sent home in boxes for three years. I’ve had it with the lectures, all right? It was my choice. No one forced my hand, and I’m on the other side of it. I’m sorry that you all went through what you did, but blaming Maya for it is ridiculous. She’s been through enough, in large part thanks to me. So that s**t is going to stop right now.”
He straightened, crossed his arms over his chest, and stared back. The hint of acceptance in his features was the only thing stopping me from wrestling him to the ground to make my point.
“You’re serious about this.” The way he said it was less of a question and more of a resigned statement.
“You think I’d torture myself in a jewelry store for three hours if I wasn’t serious?”
“I can’t possibly imagine.” His lips curved into a sarcastic smile.
“No s**t,” I grumbled.
He smirked. “How the hell did you become the romantic of the family?”
I laughed and rolled my eyes. “Maybe someone will make you understand what this is like someday.”
“I’m good. Watching from the sidelines while you get your heart thrown in the blender should fill that void just fine.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
He sighed, raking his hands through his hair. He dropped into the seat across from the desk and stared blankly away from me.
“I want you to be happy, Cam. I really do. And I hope Maya’s the one who will do that for you.”
“She already is.”
He nodded. “You have to admit that this is kind of sudden though. Don’t you think you’re going to give her whiplash?”
“I told you, I don’t have any plans to ask her right now. I know it’s too soon. I just… I decided, that’s all. We’re still figuring things out between us and getting to know each other again. She’s changed a lot, and frankly so have I. But something happened, and—”
“It doesn’t matter. What matters is that something clicked for me. Maybe it was obvious, but all this time that has kept us apart has been hell for me.”
“It was obvious, but I thought you were finally over it. Now here we are again.”
“I’ve never been over her. Not a single day can I say I was safe from caring about her or regretting what happened between us. And as miserable as that’s been, I realized she went through it too.”
“She told you that?”
I hesitated, not wanting to even hint at the debacle with her mother or how I’d come across the poems. Everything she’d written came across as so raw and vulnerable, I couldn’t possibly unleash Darren’s novice opinions on them. The words were hers, and while I was guilty of trespassing on them, I was grateful that I had. I might have never known how she really felt otherwise, or it might have taken months or years to strip her down and get the truth out of her. I couldn’t wait that long. I wanted her now, to know who she was on the inside now. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less.
“In a way,” I finally said.
“Well for your sake, I hope you’re right, and that when you do ask her, she gives you the answer you deserve.”
“I don’t deserve her, but I really want to. I hope she gives me the chance to.”