Finding Cinderella

Page 17


“Daniel,” I hear her say through her muffled tears. She lifts her head and looks up at me. “Daniel, I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” Her tears become sobs and her sobs become too much. It’s too fucking much.
I pull her to my chest. “Shh,” I say into her hair. “Don’t. Don’t apologize.”
Her body becomes limp against mine and everyone in the cafeteria is beginning to stare at us. I want to hold her and tell her how sorry I am for allowing her to walk away last night, but she needs privacy. I wrap my arm tighter around her, then scoop her legs up into my other arm. I pull her against me, then stand up and carry her out into the hallway. I keep walking until I round the corner and find our room. She’s still crying against my chest, wrapped tightly around me. I open the door to the maintenance closet, then I close it behind us. I back up to the door and slide down until I meet the floor, still holding her in my arms.
“Six,” I say, lowering my mouth to her ear. “I want you to try to stop crying, because I have so much I want to say to you.”
I feel her nod against my chest and I remain quiet, waiting on her to calm down. Several minutes pass before she’s finally quiet enough for me to continue.
“First of all, I am so sorry for letting you walk away last night but I don’t want you to think for one second it was because I was judging your choices. Okay? I’m not about to put myself in your shoes and tell you that you made a bad choice, because I wasn’t there and I have no clue how hard that must have been for you.”
I adjust her and straighten out my legs so she’s forced to sit up and look at me. I pull one of her legs to the other side of me until she’s facing me. “I’m just sad, okay? That’s all this is. I’m allowed to be sad about this and I need you to let me be sad because this is a whole hell of a lot to process in a day.”
She pulls her lips into a thin line and she nods while I wipe away her tears with both my thumbs. “I have so many questions, Six. And I know you’ll answer them when you’re ready, but I can wait. If you need me to give you time I can.”
She shakes her head. “Daniel. He’s your son. I’ll answer any question you ask me. I just don’t know if you want to hear the answers because . . .” She squeezes her eyes shut to hold back more tears. “Because I think I made the wrong choice and it’s too late. It’s too late to go back now.”
She’s crying hard again, so I wrap my arms around her and hug her.
“If I knew he was yours or that I would eventually find you I would have never done it, Daniel. I would have never given him up but I did and now you’re here and it’s too late because I don’t know where he is and I’m sorry. God, I’m so sorry.”
I shake my head, wishing she would stop. It’s hurting me more to see her upset with herself than anything else about this whole situation.
“Listen to me, Six.” I pull back and look her in the eyes, holding her face firmly between my hands. “You made a choice for him. Not for yourself. Not for me. You did what was best for him and I will never be able to thank you enough for that. And please don’t think this changes how I feel about you. If anything, it just lets me know that I’m not crazy. For the past month I’ve been thinking my feelings for you couldn’t be real because there are so many of them and they’re so much. Too much sometimes. I constantly have to bite my tongue when I’m around you because all I’ve been wanting to do lately is tell you how much I love you. But it’s only been a month since we met and the only other time I’ve said those words out loud to a girl was over a year ago. Right here on this floor. And you wouldn’t believe how real I wanted that moment to be for us, Six. I know I didn’t know you but my God, I wished I did. And now that I do know you . . . really know you . . . I know it’s real. I love you. And knowing what we shared last year and now knowing what you had to go through and how it’s made you exactly who you are right now . . . it just blows my mind. It blows my mind that I get to love you.”
I feel her hands wiping tears from my cheeks when I lean in to kiss her. I pull her against me and she pulls me against her and I have no plans to ever let her go. I kiss her until her hands move up to my face and she pulls her lips from mine. Our foreheads meet and she’s still crying, but her tears are different now. I feel like they’re tears of relief rather than tears of worry.
“I’m so happy it’s you,” she says, keeping her hands locked on my face. “I’m so happy it was you.”
I pull her against me and hold her. I hold her for so long that the bell rings and the hallway fills and empties and another bell rings and we’re still sitting here together, holding on to each other when the silence in the hallway returns. I’m periodically pressing kisses into her hair, stroking her back, kissing her forehead.
“He looked like you,” she says quietly. Her hand is lightly trailing up and down my arm and her cheek is pressed against my chest. “He had your brown eyes and he was kind of bald, but I could tell he was going to have brown hair. And he had your mouth. You have a great mouth.”
I rub my hand up her back and kiss the top of her head. “He’s got it made,” I say. “Looks just like his daddy, hopefully acts like his mommy, and he’ll have a nice Italian accent. Kid won’t have any problems in life.”
She laughs and hearing that sound immediately brings tears to my eyes again. I squeeze her tight against me and rest my cheek against the top of her head and sigh.
“It’s probably for the best that it all happened like it did,” I say. “If we had decided to keep him I would have ruined him with some stupid nickname. I probably would have called him Salty Balls or some shit like that. I’m not cut out to be a dad yet, obviously.”
She shakes her head. “You’d be a great dad. And one of these days, Salty Balls will be the perfect nickname for one of our kids. Just not yet.”
Now I’m the one laughing. “What if we have all girls?”
She shrugs. “Even better.”
I smile and keep her held close against me. After last night and being apart from her, knowing how much she was hurting, I know I’ll never want to feel that way again. I never want her to feel that way again.
“You know what I just realized?” she says. “We’ve already had sex. I’ve been kind of bummed because if I had sex with you, it would have made you the seventh person I’ve ever had sex with and that’s a lot. But you’ll still be the sixth, because I was already counting you and I didn’t even know it.”
“I like six,” I say. “That’s a good number to be. It’s actually my favorite number.”
“Don’t get too excited now that you know we’ve already had sex,” she says. “I’m still making you wait.”
“I’ll wear you down soon enough,” I tease.
I bring one of my hands up to her head and I hold it while I lean forward and kiss her softly on the lips. I stay close to her mouth and make a confession. “I haven’t brought this up because we haven’t been together that long and I didn’t want to scare you off. But now that I know we have a kid together, it makes it less embarrassing.”
“Oh, no. What is it?” she asks nervously.
“We graduate in less than a month. I know you and Sky and Holder were planning on going to the same college in Dallas after the summer. I had already applied to a college in Austin, but after I met you I might have applied to Dallas, too. You know . . . in case things worked out with us. I didn’t like the thought of being five hours apart.”
She tilts her head and looks up at me. “When did you apply?”
I shrug like it’s not a big deal. “The night Sky had that dinner for you.”
She sits up and looks at me. “That was twenty-four hours after we went out for the first time. You applied to my college after knowing me for one day?”
I nod. “Yeah, but technically I knew you for a whole year. If you look at it that way, it’s way less creepy.”
She laughs at my logic. “Well? Did you get accepted?”
I nod. “I might have already made living arrangements with Holder, too.”
She grins and it’s probably the most I’ve ever loved a smile. “Daniel? This is serious. This thing with us. It’s pretty intense, huh?”
I nod. “Yeah. I think we might really be in love this time. No more pretending.”
She nods. “Things are so serious now, I think it’s time I introduced you to all my brothers.”
I stop nodding and start shaking my head back and forth. “I may be exaggerating. I don’t love you that much.”
She laughs. “No, you love me. You love me so much, Daniel. You’ve loved me since the second I let you accidentally touch my boob.”
“No, I think I’ve loved you since you forced me to stick my tongue in your mouth.”
She shakes her head. “No, you’ve loved me since I let you kiss me in a crowded restaurant next to a dirty diaper.”
“Nope. I’ve loved you since you walked through Sky’s bedroom door with that spoon in your mouth.”
She laughs. “Actually, you’ve loved me since the first time you told me you loved me a year ago. Right here in this room.”
I shake my head. “I’ve loved you since the moment you fell on top of me and said you hated everybody.”
She stops smiling. “I’ve loved you since the moment you said you hated everybody, too.”
“I used to hate everybody,” I say. “Until I met you.”
“I told you I was unhateable.” She grins.
“And I told you unhateable isn’t even a real word.”
Her eyes focus on mine and she takes both my hands, then laces her fingers through them. We stare at each other like we’ve done so many times before, but this time I feel it in every single part of me. I feel her in every part of me and the feeling is new and heavy and intense and I realize in this moment that we just became so much more together than we could ever possibly be alone.
“I love you, Daniel Wesley,” she whispers.
“I love you Seven Marie Six Cinderella Jacobs.”
She laughs. “Thank you for not turning out to be an asshole.”
“Thank you for never asking me to change.” I lean forward and kiss the smile that just spread across her lips as I silently thank the universe for sending her back to me.
My fucking angel.
The end.