Authors: Salina Paine
"Yes. But not one nearly as perfect as you." I reply shyly laying my head on his chest.
"Sweetheart, I am far from perfect, and I have many flaws. One of them being the inability to leave you alone."
"I don't want you to leave me alone." I counter, far too quickly. He smiles and holds me tightly. I could die right now, in this very moment and be perfectly content with it.
We laugh together as he holds me to him, my heart hammering out of my chest. In a rush to break the heat building within me I abruptly ask, "So what exactly did you do in the Navy?" He smiles, realizing what I'm doing and releases his grip on me.
"I was a Navy corpsman. Basically a Marine with medical training. I went out into the field with them. I did everything that they did, rifle range and all, but I also had to take care of them if they got hurt or needed immunizations. I fought alongside them and if they got shot I would run to them to save their life."
I can't help but to smile. A hero that's what he is. He takes my hand and pulls me to him with a delicacy one would use holding a newborn baby. Leaning down he gently kisses my forehead.
"You know you are more than welcome to stay here if you want."
"Thank you, but I don't think I should." I say laying my head back the comfort of his chest.
"Ok let me get another shirt on and we can get back to the movie."
I sit down and grab the popcorn, hitting play. Brandon comes back in a tank top and I can't even concentrate on the movie. Keeping my face forward I find my eyes constantly looking over at him. I see him smile out of the corner of my eye and I know I've been caught. "Screw it." I say facing him.
"What?" He asks.
"You're just too damn hot in that shirt that I can't even keep my eyes on the movie."
His eyes grow wide and he fights the smile on his lips. "And the truth finally comes out. I knew I was more than just cute." He says with a smirk.
Smacking his arm I can't help but grin like an idiot. Brandon puts his arm around my shoulders and pulls me as close to him as he can. Lifting my head up I softly kiss his neck and he sighs.
"Are you trying to make me crazy, because if so you are succeeding." Pulling me onto his lap he brings his forehead to mine, his lips only centimeters from mine. My heart hammers in my chest and my cheeks begin to blush. "What is it about you?" He whispers.
I smile because I feel the same way. In the past two weeks I've grown to feel something a bit more than like towards him. It could be love, but I don't feel like I'm ready to admit that. "I know what you mean. Brandon, I really like you and you have been nothing short of a miracle to me, but I'm damaged. I don't know what to feel or how to say what's on my mind."
lacing his hand behind my neck he leans. When his lips touch mine I melt, everything in the world disappears and he is all I can see. I pull back breathless, unable to speak or move, any sense of direction or purpose is gone. In a daze I kiss him again, running my fingers through his hair. One lighter kiss and I pull away, looking at him and smiling. "I think I should go," I say trying to stand up.
"Please don't. I'll behave myself. I promise," He says."I'll even go put on another shirt."
Standing there looking up at him I try not to laugh. "Only if you behave," I say.
"Of course." He says getting up to go get another shirt.
After a few minutes Brandon comes back out with an Alabama sweatshirt on. "Nice." I say patting the couch beside me.
"Can we please watch something else?" He asks.
Raising my eyebrows I ask, "What do you have in mind?" He smiles, gets up and goes over to the movie cabinet. He pulls out a movie, careful to hide the title from me and puts it in. "What movie is this?"I ask when he hits play.
"It's just a movie." He replies with a smirk. I roll my eyes and lean my head against the couch. The movie begins and in an instant I recognize the music.
" Nerd." I say grabbing the popcorn.
"What can I say? That chicks pretty hot." He replies.
"Ok, same rules apply to you. I don't want my ass compared to hers. Got it?"
He laughs and grabs my hand. "Ok, no reference to her great ass, got it." I smack his arm and rest my head on his shoulder. "You know, Jasmine, she really doesn't have anything on you. Yeah she's pretty but shes unattainable and you're sitting right here with me."
Looking at him I dont know what emotion to feel. I'm happy that he feels this way but then again I don't know if I'll ever be enough.
Three in the morning I wake up to find myself lying on his chest, the blue screen of the TV casting a faint light across his face as he sleeps. I slowly wiggle myself out of his grasp and go to the bathroom. My reflection is frightening so I wash my face and run my fingers through my hair to try and fix the tangled mess. Creeping back into the living room I notice he is no longer on the couch.
"I'm in here." He says. I enter his room and he tosses me a t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants. "I figured this would be a bit more comfortable for you."He says with a yawn. Looking at the clothes he's given me I just laugh."I know they will be a bit big, but I'm sure that it's better than jeans." I nod and start to walk out. "You can use my bathroom, if you'd like." He says pointing to the other side of his room.
I nod and go in to change, folding my clothes and putting them on the hamper. Pulling my hair into a ponytail I sigh, best I can do, before walking back out.
"Are'nt you just cute." He says with a smile.
"Yeah, yeah" I say crawling onto the bed. Brandon turns out the light and crawls in beside me. I lay there staring up at the ceiling unsure of how I feel about this.
"Is everything ok?" He asks moving closer.
"Yeah, Im just thinking about Caleb."
"Who is Caleb?" Brandon asks and I can feel his eyes on me, even in the darkness.
"Caleb was my baby brother." I reply,
"Was?" he asks.
"Yeah, was." I say feeling the tears begin to slide down my cheeks.
"What happened to him?"
"He died when I was almost eight, he had leukemia." I reply in a whisper. The bed shifts a s Brandon turns towards me, pulling me into his embrace.
"Tell me about him. That is, if you want to.
"Ok, sure." I say facing him. I can't see his face, but I can feel his breath on my shoulder. "He wasn't blood related but it didn't matter to me, and he was the only one I've ever had. Caleb was almost a year old when my parents adopted him. My parents had tried after I was born, because they had always wanted a big family. From the moment I laid eyes on him I loved him. His bright blue eyes and crooked smile always had a way of tugging on my heartstrings. I would do anything for him and I do mean anything."
"When he was five he got really sick. After that we spent many long nights in the emergency room, trying to figure out the cause. One night he woke up with a fever of one hundred and six. He was hallucinating and it felt like his skin was on fire. When we got to the hospital his fever was gone. They were about to send us home with just an antibiotic, but the doctor on duty decided to do one more test, a blood test. His results came back with a very high white blood count."
"Just like that, in a whirl wind my mother and I were on an ambulance with him heading to the Children's hospital in Birmingham, AL. After being admitted and tons of testing we got the bad news, cancer. In that moment everything changed. With my mom being unable to work and my dad having to carry everything, we lost our house. As his health declined they begin to withdraw and turn to other things for comfort."
"My mom began to drink heavily and my dad turned to alcohol as well as cocaine and prostitutes. I became the scapegoat for all their issues. At that time it was never physical, only emotional. It wasn't till after he died it got worse."
"The treatments had quit working and the only option left was a bone marrow transplant. Since we were not blood related none of us were a match. For months we waited and hoped but no one was found. Three days before his eight birthday his little body gave out. One by one, his systems shut down. I was with him when he took his final breath."
"Everyone else left, they couldnt take it, but I couldn't just leave him there. I couldn't bear to leave him alone. A final kiss on his cheek was all I was allowed before the nurses ushered me out.
I hear Brandons' breath catch as he starts to speak. "I'm so sorry." He says kissing my forehead and I can feel the dampness on his cheeks.
We lie there holding each other in silence until sleep finally comes.
As I process everything Jasmine has told me my heart breaks for her. From her brother's death to the abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to love her, I feel an overwhelming need to protect her regardless of the consequences.
The sun begins to softly trickle through the curtains as I'm watching her sleep. I kiss her cheek and stroke her hair, lightly running my finger down the scar on her face. She shivers and turns over pulling the blanket up around herself. A faint whisper brings me out of my daze and I realize she's talking in her sleep. "I love you" she says over and over, and I can only wonder who she's referring to.
The alarm clock goes off and she wakes up with a gasp. She looks around trying to focus, her eyes finding me. She smiles and stretches before saying, "Good morning." I smile and wrap my arms around her. "Good morning, sunshine." I reply.
"Do you work today?" She asks, crawling out of bed.
"Nope." I reply wiggling my eyebrows at her. She shakes her head and goes into the restroom. I slowly get out of bed and head to the kitchen. I fill up the coffee pot and grabbing two cups from the cabinet when she comes in.
"I thought I smelled coffee brewing." She says sitting at the bar. "I was thinking." she says with hesitation."I would like for you to go with me to Calebs gravesite."
Without a word I go up behind her and hug her to me."Of course I will go with you." I whisper softly into her ear. She smiles and bites her bottom lip,
"Thank you, but first, I need to go by the room and get a change of clothes before we go. We also will need to stop by a flower shop, so I can get some fresh flowers for him." I nod and kiss her cheek. "Oh, and I need to go look at that apartment, would you be willing to do that with me also?" She asks, her voice laced with a hopeful tone.
I just laugh."You know I will." We get ready to leave and I can see her filling with emotions. "So where is the cemetery?" I ask backing out of the driveway.
"Take 81 to I-181 and turn left, about three miles down is Cerro Gordo Lane, turn right and at the end of the road you'll see the cemetery.
I nod not knowing what to say. The ten minute drive to the hotel room feels like an eternity with the blistering silence. She gets out and motions for me to come in. "I want to show you something." She says. I get out and follow her inside. Jasmine goes to the closet and pulls out a tattered old book bag and sits on the bed, patting the mattress beside her. I sit and she pulls out a handful of old pictures. The first one is a little boy, with stark blue eyes, whom I assume to be Caleb. As she flips through the pictures, giving me the background for each one, I find myself on the brink of tears. She hands them to me and smiles.
"Im going to shower and get changed. Make yourself at home." I sit there staring at the pictures trying not to cry.
Her sweet smile and bright eyes were the same as they are now. I sit there the whole, while she's showering, thinking about what she was like at her younger age. I hear the doorknob turning and quickly wipe away the tears that were forming.
"Hey." She says twisting the towel around her hair. I smile at how unbelievably beautiful she is. Looking at her with makeup on and messy hair is an incredible turn on.
"Do you know how beautiful you are?" I blurt out before I can stop myself. She smiles and her cheeks begin to turn bright red. "You're not accustomed to compliments are you?"
"No." she says lowering her head.
I get up and walk over to her."Dont do that" I say, bringing her up to meet my eyes. "You are beautiful, regardless of some scars or your past. I've never met anyone quite like you and I dont know what to say or do to help you overcome what you have been through. I know we've only known each other a couple of weeks, but I feel something for you. I cant put my finger on it exactly, but I hope you will hang around so I can find out." I say hugging her to me.
Huge tears form in her eyes and she smiles, kissing me."We better get going." She says pulling her hair into a ponytail. Taking her hand I lead her out, opening the truck door for her. We needed to stop and get some flowers before we got to the cemetery, So we pull into the parking lot of a little shop, and she runs in coming back out with a bouquet of daisies.
"Caleb liked these flowers." She says as if she read my mind. "Did you ever do the, 'she loves me, she loves me not', with flower petals?"she asks.
"No, I cant recall doing that." I reply.
"Well you pull a petal and say, 'loves me and then loves me not', alternating with each one. The last petal is the most important."I nod and she continues. "Caleb and I did 'love you, love you more.' He always seemed to love me more and I knew he was being sneaky, but he was five when we started doing that and I'd always let him win. He liked daisies best because they had smaller petals."
The entrance to the cemetery is on a long and bumpy dirt road. The twisted branches of the trees open up into a small open space with everything overgrown and untouched, except for a small headstone near the back of the cemetery. 'Caleb Michael Greyson' sits across the front in childlike script with an engraving of a familiar cartoon character covering the middle. There are cars and trucks lining the small filled grave square in front and a plastic butterfly sits atop the small marble structure.
Jasmine sits cross legged in front of the grave and places the daisies in front of her. I feel strange like I'm invading a private conversation, but she motions me to sit with her. Squeezing in between the two small statues on either side of the plot, I'm so close to her I can hear every breath she takes. She pulls a letter out of her pocket and begins to read it to Caleb, as her tears begin to smear the ink. When she is finished, she moves aside some of the gravel and folds it back up, placing it in the spot she's made. Covering it up she looks over at me with her glistening eyes.
"He would have liked you because you drive a big truck." She says smiling through her tears.
As we are leaving she looks back and whispers. "I love you, Caleb and you will always be with me."
I pull her closer to me and put my arm over her shoulder. "Do you realize how amazing you are?" I ask. She shrugs and climbs in the truck.
"Do you remember where I told you the apartment complex is?"
I nod and buckle my seatbelt. I watch her as I pull out, and she sighs deeply. "If all this is weird to you I don't know what to tell you. This is me coping with life."
"I dont find it weird at all, we all have our quirks and coping mechanisms." I reply taking her hand.
The small two bedroom apartment she found is perfect and its only three blocks from mine. What she doesn't know yet is that I've paid the first three months and the deposit. I'm sure she'll be upset with me, but I'll feel better when she is in a safer area.
I drop her off at her hotel room and head back home. I'm lying there in the darkness and can still smell a faint hint of her perfume. Closing my eyes I keep thinking about her, the way her hair swings when she walks, and the blushing of her cheeks when she is embarrassed. My phone whistles indicating I have a text message and I almost ignore it. After a few minutes, curiosity gets the best of me and I open the message.
"You awake? "
My heart thumps a little faster as I answer it."Yeah. Everything ok?"
"Yeah, I'm just bored and my bed is cold."
I smile because Im feeling the same way.
I reply, waiting for the invitation.
"Want to come watch a movie with me? "
"Good, come on then and bring a good movie."
"Ok, be there in a few."
I sit there for a good ten minutes before I rush over so that I don't seem expectant or anxious. She answers the door in a pink tank top and black running shorts.
"No wonder you're cold. I say, jokingly.
"All my jeans are dirty, I need to go to the laundry mat tomorrow." She says, embarrassment in her voice.
"How about this, you gather your clothes, wrap up in a blanket and you can wash your things at my place, tonight."
"Ok." She says slowly, looking at me.
Trying to decipher the expression on her face is impossible. I wonder if I'm being too available and that it
turning her off?
"Thank you, I dont know how I will ever repay you."
Loading up the clothes basket into the back of my truck, I chuckle at myself then take off back to my house."I have to go to work tomorrow but you are welcome to hang out here, if you'd like."
She nods pouring the soap into the washing machine. "Why dont you go put on a movie and pop some popcorn."
"Yes, ma'am." I reply with a salute. She laughs and shoos me from the laundry room.
I put in a movie and have the popcorn waiting when she comes in. She sits down close to me pulling the blanket over her and laying her head on my shoulder. The feel of her bare skin against mine makes it hard for me to concentrate on the movie. When she puts her legs over mine, I do everything I can to control myself.
She looks up at and smiles. "I get to go back to work the day after tomorrow."
Well then, after work we will get you into your apartment." I reply.
"Its fine.I really don't have anything but my clothes to move.
"Don't you worry about anything, ok? You will have everything you need. As a matter of fact, I have a bed in the spare room you can have and I'll check with my parents and see if they still have anything in storage."
"You would do that for me?" She asks, surprised
"Of course. Thats what friends do, they help each other." I reply with a sly wink.
She kisses me and hugs me tightly, each move making it hard to control all the blood rushing south. She pulls away and her leg skims across the fabric of my pants making me groan.
"Are you ok?" She asks.
"Im fine." I quickly reply in a strained whisper. Closing my eyes I try to think of everything that turns me off.
Thirty minutes into the movie and she's asleep on my shoulder. Picking her up gently I take her to my bed and cover her up. Taking my place on the couch I smile knowing I'm never letting this one go.