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Authors: Kathryn Thomas

Scars (8 page)

BOOK: Scars
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“Are you sure? I’m sorry you couldn’t come.”

 

Holly smiled fondly. “Matt, nobody comes during their first time. Anyone who says they did is lying."

 

“Really?”

 

“Really. I promise.”

 

Matt grinned. “All right then. How’s the pain?” he asked after a moment.

 

“Manageable and not nearly as intense as the pleasure.”

 

Matt turned on his side and wrapped an arm around her. “I’m glad to hear you say that.”

 

Holly smiled. She tucked her head in the crook of his neck. They slipped into that intimate, comfortable silence of theirs, and they fell asleep.

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

Holly awoke the next morning with a strange feeling in her belly. It was contentment, she realized after a few moments. For maybe the very first time in her life, she was perfectly content. She turned languidly in the bed and smiled when she saw Matt lying asleep next to her. The soft light of the morning sun was streaking through the beige curtains of the motel, and Holly was happy. She didn’t mind that the motel was cheap or that she could detect a faint smell of something deep fried wafting through the air from the diner across the street. Right now, for all she cared, an asteroid could hit the Earth, and she would be happy.

 

She stretched lazily, yawned, and climbed out of bed. She didn’t check her watch. For the first time in her life, she didn’t care about time at all; she felt like she had all the time in the world. She walked into the bathroom and into the shower stall, and she let the warm spray hit her back and wake her up, washing the last remnants of sleep away. She took her time, because she knew she wouldn’t need to rush today. Today, she felt like the world was hers.

 

The wonderful, blissful sensation evaporated quickly, however. As Holly toweled herself dry and put on some clean clothes, she came to the realization that all of this was about to end. Her connection with Matt was as strong and intense as ever, but she knew their time together was at an end.

 

There goes Time again. What a bitch.

 

Holly sighed heavily. No matter what happened to her in the future, she knew she would treasure her time with Matt for the rest of her life. She hoped their paths would cross again someday, but she wasn’t about to delude herself; she knew the chances were very slim.

 

“Holly?”

 

She startled when she heard Matt’s voice come from the other room. Holly pulled herself together and walked out of the bathroom, finishing to button her shirt as she did.

 

“Good morning,” she greeted.

 

She had to smile at the sight. There it was, that innocence she had thought Matt had lost forever. It didn’t show up when he slept; it showed up when he was barely awake, first thing in the morning. His dark hair was all tousled from sleep and his eyes were almost at half-mast. He was rubbing his eyes with a heel of one hand as he sat up in bed.

 

Holly walked up to the bed and knelt on the mattress with one knee, leaning down to press a swift but heartfelt kiss to his lips. He still tasted like sleep and afterglow. She knew, even though she had just found it, she would miss that taste dearly.

 

Matt stretched languidly, like a cat. He gave her a sleepy smile and stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom. When he emerged twenty minutes later, he was back to his alert self.

 

“Wanna grab some breakfast from the diner across the street?” he asked.

 

“Sure,” Holly said immediately, desperate to have as much more time with him as she could.

 

“I had a thought,” Matt said as they walked across the street and into the small but cozy diner.

 

Holly looked at him quizzically. “What about?”

 

“I’ll tell you in a minute, in front of coffee and food,” he said with a grin.

 

Holly shrugged. They found themselves a table near one of the large windows and placed their orders with the steadfast waitress that came to greet them. They waited in silence for the food to arrive. Holly would miss that silence, too. She would miss everything about Matt and being near him.

 

They didn’t have to wait long. Soon enough, Amy, the middle-aged waitress, was placing plates of steaming food in front of them. Holly inhaled the smell and her stomach promptly grumbled. She had not realized how hungry she was. Then again, she had forgotten all about skipping dinner the night before. She snatched the maple syrup and poured a generous amount on her French toast before digging in. Across the table, Matt was happily setting out on the mission of devouring his eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast.

 

“I love diner food,” he said with his mouth full.

 

Holly had to laugh at the delighted expression on his face. “I can see that. You look like you’ve just found Nirvana.”

 

“I might as well have.”

 

Holly shook her head fondly and took a hearty sip of her black coffee. “So what were you thinking?”

 

“Huh?” Matt said.

 

She rolled her eyes. Why was it that men forgot about everything else the minute they had a fork in their hand? “Before, you said you had a thought.”

 

“Oh, that. Yes.” Matt swallowed a mouthful and wiped his mouth hastily with his paper napkin. “I have a question for you, but please don’t feel obligated to say yes.”

 

Holly’s heart began to hammer loudly in her chest. She did her best to cover up her trepidation. “What is it?” she asked.

 

“Are you still going to wander aimlessly for a while?”

 

“I guess…” she said, uncertain. “Why?”

 

“Because as you know I’m headed nowhere, too,” Matt said. “Or rather, hopefully I’m headed somewhere, I just don’t know where yet. So I was wondering if…uh…I was wondering if you would like to head nowhere together, travel together for a bit. You know, until our paths become a little clearer.”

 

Holly stared at him. She had not expected that. She had thought Matt would want to keep going on his own, to better find himself. She said as such.

 

Matt shrugged. “It’s easier to be lost together rather than alone,” he said. “But please, like I said, don’t feel like you have to say yes. I’d understand if you wanted to go off on your own instead.”

 

Holly smiled. “I don’t want to go off on my own,” she said. “I’d much rather get lost with you.”

 

He lit up instantly. “Really?”

 

“Really,” she said. “I’ve been dreading saying goodbye to you. I’ve been trying to find a painless way to do it since I got up this morning. I couldn’t come up with anything.”

 

Matt smiled brightly. He reached out across the table and took her hand in his. “It makes me really happy to hear you say that.”

 

Holly smiled. “And it makes me really happy to say it.”

 

Matt leaned in and she met him halfway. They kissed tenderly, but passionately. When they pulled back, Matt was smirking.

 

“What?” Holly asked.

 

“I like the thought of you in the shower.”

 

Holly laughed and let go of his hand. “Shut up!” She squealed playfully.

 

They spent the rest of their meal trying to figure out where they should go next. At the end they decided they would just show up at the bus station, point at a random spot on the map, and go from there. Despite their best intentions, however, they didn’t move for another hour or so—they merely sat, drinking coffee and enjoying each other’s company, talking about everything and nothing at the same time.

 

Holly felt light. She felt lighter than she had ever felt, and she wondered if maybe she had been wrong all along—maybe there was a God, and He had sent Matt on her path to help her find her bearings, and He had sent her on Matt’s path for the very same purpose. They were both lost, but together they knew where to go and what they were doing.

 

The peace was only interrupted when Matt’s cell phone went off. The sound startled Holly; she had not expected him to have brought a phone with him, just like she had not expect to find her old—and now destroyed—one in her duffel bag.

 

Matt sighed. “It was too good to be true. I should’ve known someone would reach out to me sooner or later,” he said with a bitter smile. He dug his hand in his jeans pocket and took out an outdated flip phone. He groaned out loud at the number and name flashing on the display.

 

Holly frowned worriedly. “Who is it?”

 

“It’s my sister.”

 

Holly cringed. “You should probably answer it.”

 

“I’m not sure I want to…”

 

“I get that, but what if something has happened?”

 

Matt blew out a frustrated puff of breath. “You’re right.” He flipped the phone open and brought it close to his ear. “Hi, Becky.”

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

“Don’t you fucking dare ‘Hi, Becky’-ing me, you son of a bitch,” his sister voice all but hissed in his ear.

 

Matt cringed. She sounded a lot madder than he would have expected. “Becky, just let me explain—”

 

“You left.” She cut him off sharply as though she hadn’t heard him. “You ran. And you left me one single, lousy post-it note on the coffee maker. Are you fucking kidding me, Matt?”

 

Matt sighed. “I had to get out of there.”

 

“And by ‘there’ you mean my house? Was it too terrible for you over here? Was it that awful for you to share your space with someone who loves you?”

 

“I had overstayed my welcome, Becks. You know that.”

 

There were a few seconds of silence from the other end of the line. When she spoke again, her sister sounded somewhat calmer. “Oh, Matt,” she said, in a regretful tone that made him feel like the biggest asshole in the world. Was he really making
her
feel bad? “You know Joe didn’t mean it. He loves you. He was just frustrated because you had been doing so good lately, and now you were sending everything down the drain again.”

 

Matt did his best not to hear the disappointment in his sister’s voice, which he was sure she was also doing her best to hide. “But that’s the thing,” he said. “I had
not
been doing so good. I had just gotten better at hiding it, that’s all.”

 

Becky was silent for a moment. “What are you saying?”

 

“I’m saying I’ve been a mess, Becks. I’ve been a mess and I’ve been a burden, and I don’t want to be either anymore.”

 

Matt was horrified to feel tears spring to his eyes. He forcefully pushed them back and turned in his chair, hoping that Holly hadn’t seen.

 

“You’re not a burden,” Becky said softly. “You’ve never been a burden and you never will.”

 

Matt sighed. “You have other things to worry about, Becks, more important and pressing things to focus on.”

 

“Don’t you dare make this about my cancer, Matt,” she snapped. “You and I both know it’s got nothing to do with it. This is about you being a coward and running.
Again
.”

 

Matt clenched his jaw so hard that he could almost hear his teeth creak. He was getting angry now. “I’m not being a coward,” he said. He made a conscious effort to keep his anger in check; he knew a fight with Becky over the phone was about the last thing they both needed. “For the first time in my life, I’m actually doing something to resolve my issues.”

 

“And how exactly are you planning to do that?”

 

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “But I know I’m not going to find out in Clarksonville, in your house. I appreciate all that you and Joe have done for me, Becks, I really do. You’ll never know just how grateful I am to the both of you for not giving up on me. But it’s time I stand on my own two feet, and I can’t do it in Texas.” He paused to take a deep, steadying breath. Luckily, for maybe the first time ever, his sister didn’t take advantage of that pause to sneak in her opinion again. “I’m sorry, Becky,” he said sincerely. “But I need to do this. Please, try to understand.”

 

Becky was silent for so long that for an oddly terrifying moment he feared she might have hung up on him.

 

“I don’t,” she said quietly. “I don’t understand—”

 

“Becky—”

 

“Let me finish.” She cut him off, firmly but not unkindly. “I don’t understand,” she said again, “but if it this is what you need to do to begin a
serious
healing process, then so be it.”

 

Matt let out a huge, relieved sigh. “It is. It really is, Becks. I’m really on my way this time.”

 

“I hope so,” she said. “Look, I’m not even going to ask where you are, just…get in touch every once in a while? Even just a text to let me know you’re doing okay.”

 

“Fair enough,” Matt said after a moment’s reflection. “I’ll do that.”

 

“And promise you’ll come back once you have it all figured out?”

 

“I promise.” Of that, Matt had no doubt. He wasn’t about to say goodbye to his sister. “Will you let me know if there’s any news on…well…you know,” he finished lamely. No matter how hard he tried, he still couldn’t bring himself to say the word “cancer”.

 

“I’ll call you if there’s any news,” Becky promised.

 

“Thank you.”

 

There was another moment of silence.

 

“Stay safe, okay?” Becky all but pleaded.

 

“I promise.”

 

Matt wanted to tell her more. He wanted to tell her that he was sorry for being such a failure as a big brother. He wanted to tell her that he was sorry for worrying her and being one more thing on her mind when she already had so much on her plate. He wanted to tell her that he was sorry for scaring her, for making her feel like she might lose him too, when they had already lost so many people they loved and cared about.

 

“Bye, Matty. I love you.”

 

Matt’s heart jumped to his throat and a knot came to squeeze his vocal chords. She had not called him with her childhood nickname for him in years. He swallowed hard in order to be able to speak.

 

“Bye, Becks,” he said.

 

They both disconnected the call at the same time. Matt took a shaky breath and pushed the phone back in his pants’ pocket. A few moments passed before he was able to bring himself to look up at Holly. Predictably, she was watching him, but there was no trace on her face or in her eyes of the judgment he had feared would be there.

 

“Is she all right?” she asked.

 

“She will be,” Matt said, after a moment’s reflection over the question. “She just needs to make peace with the fact that this is not me running away and that I really need to do this right now.”

 

Holly nodded. “Are
you
all right?” she asked after a moment.

 

Matt thought this question over, too. “I will be,” he finally said. “Eventually. At least, I hope so.”

 

He reached out and took Holly’s hand again, bringing it up to his lips to press a kiss to her palm. He didn’t say so to her, of course, but she made him feel invincible. Next to Holly, Matt felt like he could conquer anything.

 

They paid for their breakfast, splitting the check. He was impressed with her, with the way she handled herself. She may come from a rich family, but she didn’t expect everything to be owed to her. Matt took her hand as they walked out, and he kept holding it on the way to the bus station. It made him feel good to hold Holly’s hand. There was a sense of belonging to the gesture, the same kind that spread through his entire being whenever he was around her. He couldn’t explain it. He had never met anyone like her. No one had ever made him feel like Holly did—she made him feel like the man he wanted to be. Put together. Whole. Unbroken. Not damaged. She made him feel like himself.

 

They stopped in front of the large map of the United States that hung in the bus station’s waiting room. They looked at it for a while, and when neither of them could decide where to go next, Matt took Holly’s hand, lay his forefinger over hers, and told her to close her eyes and point. He did the same. Their joint fingers laid in New Orleans, Louisiana.

 

“Ever been?” Matt asked.

 

“No,” Holly said. “You?”

 

“No.” He smiled and spun her around to face him. “What do you say? Feel like a little jazz?”

 

Holly lit up. “Always.”

 

Matt pulled her to him and kissed her passionately. God, but he couldn’t get enough of her. It wasn’t just about her body, either; her very presence in his life was intoxicating. He knew he wouldn’t be able to keep her with him for very long, that sooner or later—and probably sooner rather than later, because that was just his lack—their paths would take them in two separate directions. For the time being, however, Holly was there with him, and Matt intended to make the very most of it.

 

BOOK: Scars
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