We started into less trafficked roads and I knew we were almost to Ward.
Thirty minutes later, Alex pulled into a drive way of an old log cabin sitting in the forest in the middle of no where. There were several out buildings scattered in the trees. I wondered if this was a farm of sorts.
Alex turned the car off and I immediately got out and stretched. Alex sat for a while. I dropped my sunglasses in the seat. “I’m going for a run.”
“Wait…” Alex called at me but I hadn’t moved yet. “You don’t want to come in first?”
“I can’t Alex. I’m on edge. Answering any question from a stranger is gonna push me over the edge. I need my head around me again.” I gave him a weak smile, “I have my phone so if I get lost I can find my way back. And you have me all chipped up so you know where I’m at.” I lifted the watch to tell him I’d not forgotten. “I’m barely holding it together with you Alex. Please, let me run.”
Alex nodded and smiled, though the smile wasn’t for me, as he climbed out of the car and headed for the front door.
I’d been dismissed. I sighed and started back up the gravel driveway to the road. I remembered being here once. I found Alex’s box under the floor boards in one of the outbuildings. Rooms rented to others. We weren’t far from HQ nor my mom’s.
I just ran. The air was thin, the scenery was beautiful, and the slopes were steep. I had run for forty five minutes before I was having a hard time breathing. I was in better shape than this, but these were the mountains, not flat city streets. I walked for longer. I was in the process of putting Alex’s cars GPS point in my map to head home, but as I rounded the bend I recognized the house on the hill. It was still a mile away, but there was no mistaken the home my mother threw me out of. It sat up high on the mountain with few trees around it, a large crop of boulders sat off to the side overlooking the view. I’d fallen from there once and thus started my fear of falling and heights. But it never stopped me from sitting atop the rocks and looking out when I was little. I had loved the mountains. I had loved my mother.
Now, it was my brothers who I loved. I had family in New York but they weren’t even half as close as Rider and Laker were to me. Funny how that happened, my human brothers accepted me and my Venatori family didn’t.
I walked the mile to the house and hoped Jesse was home. I didn’t really want to intrude, but I was here, and maybe Jesse could give me a ride back to Alex’s.
I walked up the long drive just as a woman was leaving. She kissed Jesse good-bye and waved at him as she got in her car. She waved at me as she passed. Jesse stood in the doorway. “Well holy hell, look who it is.” I tromped up the steps and Jesse wrapped me in a hug and I lost the shred of control I had. Tears fell and I slumped against the man who’d married my mother. “What’s wrong?” Jesse asked.
I couldn’t answer I just let the tears run down my cheeks. His arms were strong as he guided me to the swing and sat down I had no choice but to join him. My heart was crushed. My body was aching. I was lost and I’d lost it in front of my step-father who was never a father to me.
By the time the tears stopped Jesse had already gone back into the house. He’d brought me a glass of water, and then later a glass of lemonade – made fresh he said. There was a rumble of a car in the drive way and I frowned as Serenity pulled up around the corner and parked. Jesse was coming out of the house before Alex even got out. The older man met my boyfriend out by the car and they had a whispered conversation. It was too far away and the wind blew in the wrong direction I couldn’t hear a thing. But I knew they were talking about me. So I got up from the porch and headed down the back way to the rock out cropping and found my favorite spot and stared out into the vast expanse that was the Rocky Mountains.
I blanked out – thought of nothing just stared off into space.
Gravel crunched behind me and I flinched but I didn’t move. But I was aware someone was coming, and I was upwind so I couldn’t tell who it was. “You okay?” Alex asked.
“I’m cried out.”
Alex snorted “That’s not an answer.”
“I’m never okay. My mind is a mess, everything sets me off. I’m out of work, off schedule, learning the ropes with someone new in my life. I’m trying not to piss him off but that’s all I seem to do. I’m fucking stressing out and the only thing I want is to be in your arms and forget the world. But even that will set me off so no, Alex, I’m not okay.” I didn’t turn to look at him. Instead pulled in on myself, my knees to my chest and my chin on my knees staring out into the depths below.
“Does this help?”
“Not really. But it’s peaceful despite all the fear raging through my body. But fear I can control it’s about all I can control right now. I know I’m safe here. I won’t fall. The rock hasn’t shifted in thousands of years. I’m good right here.”
“Do you need me to go?” Alex asked softly.
“I don’t want you to go anywhere,” I said and moved over to make room for Alex. “What did Jesse have to say about me?”
“He asked me a bunch a questions about how well you were eating, how much sleep you were getting, what your schedule was like, if you were getting in yoga, and runs and things.”
“What did you tell him?” I asked as he sat down next to me. The warmth of his leg sending a shiver through my body.
“I told him you were all sorts of fucked up today.” Alex grinned at me.
“It’s not a lie.” I smiled at him and pressed my shoulder against his. “I’m sorry. Jesse didn’t need to call you. I just needed a break down. It doesn’t fix anything, everything’s still bothering me, but I’m numb to it.”
“I’ll be honest, Nox. I can’t do this.” I stopped hearing what Alex said after those four little words. My chest started shaking and I was sweating again. There were no tears, I was all teared out, but the rest of me shook with fear and rejection.
“Fuck Nox, you gotta stop this. I’m not going anywhere. What did I say?”
The gravel crunched behind us and Jesse’s voice was soft so not to spook me, “You said you can’t do this…”
I was still not really comprehending anything, but I felt Alex turn to face Jesse but his hands was pressed to my shoulder and he flung a leg over my lap pulling me closer to him. He wasn’t thinking about it as he wrapped his arm around me and pulled me against him, his attention was all on Jesse. “How long have you been listening?”
“Just long enough to know what triggered him. The boys have been training with various behavioural therapists. It’s their new thing other than soccer. Something about their big brother makes them want to help.”
Alex laughed, “I think they just want to help him. He says they are pretty helpful.”
While they continued to talk about me like I wasn’t there I was calming down. The smell of Alex filled my nose. His warmth warmed my body. He was my rock, and I was his – forever and always. And he really didn’t understand.
I interrupted with a hushed whisper, “I’m sorry.” I looked up at Alex from under his chin and pressed a kiss to the bottom of his jaw. “Next time just hold me first and I should be able to focus on what you actually say and not what my mind thinks you are saying.”