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Against all odds, p.12
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       Against All Odds, p.12

           Kira Adams
 
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  The sky is growing dark outside and I know I am going to have to make it home before too late. I glance at him and notice that he has dozed off silently. I’m relieved by this. Most days I feel terrible leaving him here alone. I press my lips to his forehead lightly before slipping on my winter coat and heading out the door.

  * * *

  “Jeff, congratulations you are the tenth caller! You just won tickets to Sam Smith. Please stay on the line. As for today, that’s it for Austyn and me, we hope you guys have a wonderful weekend and we will be back with you on Monday.” DJ Trik fades in the music and I begin removing my headphones.

  I can see Heath inching toward me out of the corner of my eye. Maybe if I ignore him he will just go away?

  “Hey Austyn,” he drawls. No such luck…

  I look up as I begin collecting my belongings, ready to go home for the day. I tilt my head toward him in a nod.

  “So, some of us are going out to celebrate Trik’s birthday tonight. You want to join?” Shit…with everything going on with Avery, it completely slipped my mind. I look past Heath and see Trik inside the dj booth.

  As much as I don’t want to spend any time outside of work with Heath, I’ve always liked Trik and I rather enjoy hanging out with him. I haven’t been out in close to three weeks, so I find myself actually entertaining the idea.

  “Where are you guys headed?”

  Heath’s eyes grow wide as if he can’t believe that I would actually want to go. “The Rabbit Hole, we’re all headed to the Rabbit Hole.”

  I’ve heard some really good things about the local club. It’s supposedly decked out in an Alice in Wonderland theme and even the floors are uneven. The club is widely popular and known for its crowd motivators who range from stilt artists to gogo dancers and even aerialists. It’s more like a show than a club. Avery and I have wanted to go for quite some time, just never made it.

  “Yeah, I’m in,” I say, locking eyes with Heath. “I just need to go home first and change.”

  He gives me a once-over taking in my black slacks and silk blouse. “You look fine. None of us are changing, we are just heading straight over.”

  I take a peek at the clock on my phone. “Now? Isn’t it a little too early for it to be open?”

  He shakes his head no. “We’re going to grab some appetizers and start the party early. You wanna ride with me?”

  I think I’m in shock. Is Heath actually being nice to me?

  “No, that’s okay. I’ll catch the BART.” I gather my coat and purse up and slip past him when I feel him grab my arm.

  “I said I can give you a ride, Austyn.”

  I shoot a quick glance from his hand on my arm to his face. “Okay, I don’t know what alternate universe we’re in…but I’m assuming this has to do with what is going on with my boyfriend…” I trail off, pulling my arm from his grasp.

  “What?” he asks, a confused look spreading across his face.

  “The fact that you are being nice to me. It’s a new development.”

  “Are you joking?” he asks, grimacing.

  I shake my head no. “No. Actually, I kind of wish you were treating me normally…with everything that’s changed recently, that’s always been my one constant.”

  A smile slowly begins pulling at his lips. “What? Me being an asshole?”

  “Yeah. For as long as I’ve known you, I’ve been able to accept the different sides of you. Asshole Heath, neurotic Heath, drunk Heath, but this? This I can’t accept.”

  He chuckles. “You should have said something sooner. You know that blouse makes you look fat.”

  I peek down at my size four frame and then back at my co-worker, shaking my head. “Don’t lie Heath, it’s not attractive.”

  He grins wildly back at me. “Now that’s more like it.”

  I end up letting Heath drive me. After all, it is pouring outside and I don’t really feel like an hour BART ride into the city anyway.

  When we arrive, there are already four people at our reserved table.

  “Happy birthday,” I greet Trik with a hug.

  “Austyn! You made it,” he says softly, releasing me.

  “Yeah, of course. I wouldn’t have missed this.”

  He smiles back at me, but it is apparent in his look that he feels bad for my situation.

  “Don’t,” I say simply. “This night is about you and I’ve had enough of those looks to last me a lifetime.”

  He laughs, nodding his head backward. “How about a shot?”

  “Now you’re talking.” I drop my jacket and purse onto the seat behind me and grab the blue shot from his caramel hand.

  I recognize Tameka from HR, Joe from the late night slot, and Sarah from our traffic reports. The other person at the table I assume is Sarah’s boyfriend as he clings to her like saran wrap.

  “To me!” Trik says enthusiastically before we all clink shot glasses and take the blue liquid down. My face twists up from the sour taste and the popping in my mouth.

  “What the hell?” I ask Heath.

  “Blue Kamikaze, awesome aren’t they?”

  I nod stiffly. “They’re different.” The pop rocks are still exploding on my tongue and I now remember how annoying I used to think the small candy was.

  There are bottles of what appears to be rum and vodka at the table and chasers of orange juice and cranberry juice. I decide to help myself to a Screwdriver.

  “Make me one too, will ya?” I feel Heath’s breath on my ear.

  I spin around. “Make one yourself.”

  “Ouch.” He pretends to be offended. “I thought I was the asshole?”

  I break into a grin. “You haven’t met the many sides to Austyn yet.”

  He raises his eyebrows, seemingly intrigued. “Am I going to meet them tonight?”

  I laugh, taking a sip of my mixed drink. “Hopefully not all of them.”

  A couple hours later and quite a few drinks in, and the club is just beginning to fill up. The acts have started and already we have seen a white rabbit on stilts with another model dressed up as the Queen of Hearts.

  Avery would love this place. The realization tugs at my heart strings that he isn’t here to experience it with me. I down another Screwdriver and the alcohol is coursing through my body, numbing my pain. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this way, but it’s familiar, nonetheless.

  Our group has nearly tripled since we first arrived, and now half are on the dance floor and the other half are drinking and conversing.

  I excuse myself to go to the bathroom and notice Heath exiting the men’s room. He notices me and his eyes light up. “Austyn!” He is about as hammered as I am, if not more. Unfortunately, the drunk Heath is actually kind of fun. The idea disappoints me. I had gotten used to hating him.

  I smile when I see him approach.

  “Where ya going?” he asks, throwing his arm sloppily around my neck.

  I motion with my head toward the ladies room. “Bathroom.”

  He doesn’t take his brown eyes off me. “Now, now Austyn, you have a boyfriend and I’m not a home wrecker.”

  My eyes about bulge out of my head. What did he just say? “You must be delusional if you think I was hitting on you.”

  He looks shocked and then his expression goes cold and dark. “And why is that? Because you’re so much better than me?”

  I remove his arm from my body and then turn to face him. “Because Avery doesn’t deserve that.”

  He appears to be contemplating something for a moment before responding. “Avery never deserved you…”

  I don’t know what comes over me in the moment but I push him on impulse, hard. He stumbles backward, eyes wide. “You don’t know the first thing about my relationship with Avery…and you never will.”

  I’ve had about enough of his antics and I continue to make my way toward the bathroom when I hear him behind me.

  “I know that a girl like you deserves more than a cripple in a hospital bed. You really think he’s e
ver going to be able to give it to you like he used to? Hell, maybe he’ll never be able to get it up again.”

  This is the Heath I know. He’s more vulgar and definitely has more guts because of the alcohol…but I knew sooner or later I would see the real person again. The bitter man.

  I turn back to give him a death glare. I take in his appearance. His blond hair is short and immaculately cut. His dimples have no doubt been able to seal the deal for him many times before. Even his perfect teeth. If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve always found Heath’s looks attractive…but his personality is so disgusting. He’s upset because I’m the one girl he hasn’t been able to woo into bed. I’ve just never fell under his spell and he’s reminded me time and time again why that is.

  I close the distance between us, inching close enough that our lips could touch. I hear his breath hitch. “It’s always killed you...hasn’t it? The fact that you can have anyone you want and I’ve never wanted you? Here’s the thing…” I continue, our lips lightly grazing. I can see him falling under my spell, closing his eyes and leaning closer. “I wouldn’t want you even if we were the last two people on the entire planet.” And then I twist on my heel and book it to the bathroom, leaving an obviously perplexed Heath staring as I walk away.

  Damn that felt good.

  Eighteen – I Love You Despite Everything

  Austyn

  It’s been three months since Avery opened his eyes for me. He’s been slowly making progress with speech therapy and slower progress with physical therapy. He is currently at a fifth grade reading level now. He is defying the odds. His long term memory has come back full force, but his short term memory is still shoddy. His anger is getting better. He is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel as we all are.

  He was released from the hospital a couple of weeks ago and taken back to his parents’ house in Sunnyvale. As much as I would like to have him home with me, it makes no sense because he still needs round the clock support and I still have work. Avery’s parents let me borrow one of their cars for the time being so I can come and go as I please. It’s an hour drive from Berkley, but I don’t mind it. I’m just happy to have him out of the hospital.

  It’s Saturday and I drove up early so I could spend the day with Avery. When I arrived he was seated in his wheelchair staring out the window at the falling leaves. It’s decently warm so I encouraged him to come outside with me. Now we are simply in his parent’s backyard, enjoying spring.

  “You hungry?” I ask. It’s a little after 10 am and I know he normally eats breakfast around this time.

  He shakes his head no. He’s been quiet since I arrived. More quiet than normal. I can tell something is bothering him.

  “Do you want to talk about it?” I ask, pulling some grass out and rubbing it between my fingers.

  He shifts his emerald eyes to mine and there is sadness emanating off of them. I swallow deeply. Seeing Avery upset kills me.

  “I wouldn’t blame you…” he finally says.

  “What?”

  “If you didn’t stay.” He keeps his eyes on mine for a moment longer before moving them to the ground.

  “What are you getting at?” I press. This is the first deep conversation we’ve had in what feels like forever.

  “I’m like not the same…” His eyes dart from the ground to my face and then aimlessly to the sky.

  I grab his hand in mine and give it a little squeeze. “Neither am I. We’re both different people…but we will learn to grow from this.”

  He turns his attention back to me. “You’re a good person, Austyn.”

  “You’re the best person I know.” I kiss him on the cheek then, savoring the close embrace.

  I know I could have left. I know my life could be easier. But those things…they aren’t what I want. I want Avery in my life. He’s been a constant staple for over six years. The idea of that changing terrifies me.

  “Let’s get out of the house today. Let’s do something fun.” My eyes light up as I toss the idea around.

  “What do you want to do?” he asks, intrigued.

  “I don’t know…but you’ve been cooped up for far too long. Let’s go!” Getting Avery out of the house is more of a process now and because he’s in a wheelchair, we have to borrow his parent’s handicap van. They are excited that I am taking him out to do something with just the two of us. It’s been a long time since we’ve had any alone time together.

  Without too much thought, we end up at the beach. Because of his mobility, we can’t go much farther than the lookout bench, but I can tell Avery is excited. He’s always loved the ocean like I have. I place his wheelchair on the side of the bench and I sit, grasping his hand in mine. We sit for hours watching families and children play in the sand and in the water. Breathing in the salty air.

  The sun is beginning to set when Avery breaks the silence. “I love you, Austyn.”

  I stroke his face gently with my hand. “And I love you, mi Amor.” And then I kiss him. It’s a small, gentle kiss but I can see how much he enjoys it.

  I press my forehead against his after I break off the kiss. “I’ve loved you for a very long time.”

  He smiles then lays his head on top of mine and we watch the sun as it meets the water’s surface and then slips beneath it.

  * * *

  My heart beats furiously against my ribcage, pounding in my ears. I’ve been waiting for this moment since we began dating and I’m sure he’s been waiting even longer. Although I’ve been ready for this for a couple of weeks now, I’m happy that we’ve taken the time to get to know one another; that we didn’t rush into anything.

  Dinner was perfect, wine was delicious and now there is an unspoken feeling lingering in the air that tonight is the night. I’m so thankful my roommate chose tonight of all nights to stay at her boyfriend’s place. I’m excited to have the dorm to myself.

  I’ve just finished off my second glass of merlot and begin pouring myself another. “Thanks for the wine,” I say as I finish pouring it.

  “No problem.” He cocks his head to the side grinning back at me.

  I walk to the couch and sit down beside him. He just sits there, staring at me. I begin blushing almost immediately. “What?” I ask.

  He continues staring at me like I am the only girl in the entire world. “Nothing,” he replies simply.

  “Then why are you staring at me like that?” I ask, averting his gaze.

  “Like what?” he presses.

  I shift my eyes back to his and his gaze is captivating. “Like that,” I say breathlessly.

  He chuckles lightly. “I’m sorry…am I making you uncomfortable?”

  “Yeah, kind of,” I reply honestly.

  “I just…can’t get enough of you.” He pauses, putting his wine glass on the coffee table. “You are so beautiful.”

  I can feel the heat traveling up my neck and into my cheeks. I fight back a smile.

  “Why do you always react like that when I call you beautiful?” he asks.

 
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