Point of Retreat
And you know what? Some of them are the things that life has thrown our way.
I do love you because you're the only other person I know that understands my situation.
I do love you because both of us know what it's like to lose your mom and your dad.
I do love you because you're raising your little brother, just like I am.
I love you because of what you went through with your mother.
I love you because of what we went through with your mother.
I love the way you love Kel.
I love the way you love Caulder.
And I love the way I love Kel.
So I'm not about to apologize for loving all these things about you, no matter the reasons or the circumstances behind them.
And no, I don’t need days, or weeks, or months to think about why I love you.
It’s an easy answer for me.
I love you because of you.
I take a step back from the microphone when I'm finished. I keep my eyes locked on hers and, I'm not sure because she's pretty far away, but I think she mouths, "I love you." The stage lights come back up and I'm blinded. I can't see her anymore.
I gather the items and place them back inside my satchel and jump off the stage. I immediately head to the back of the room. When I get there, she's gone. Kel and Caulder are both standing up. They let her get out. They let her leave! Eddie sees the confusion on my face so she holds up Lake's purse and shakes it. "No worries, Will. I've still got her keys. She just walked outside, said she needed air."
I head to the exit and shove the door open. She's in the parking lot next to my car with her back to me, staring up at the sky. She's letting the snow fall on her face as she just stands there. I watch her for a minute, wondering what she's thinking. My biggest fear is that I misread her reaction from up on the stage and that everything I just said meant nothing to her. I slide my hands in my jacket pockets and begin walking toward her. When she hears the snow crunch beneath my feet, she turns around. The look in her eyes tells me everything I need to know. Before I take another step, she rushes to me and throws her arms around my neck, almost knocking me backwards.
"I'm so sorry, Will. I'm so, so sorry." She kisses me on the cheek, the neck, the lips, the nose, the chin. She keeps saying she's sorry over and over between each kiss. I wrap my arms around her and pick her up, giving her the biggest hug I've ever given her. When I plant her feet back on the ground, she takes my face in her hands and looks into my eyes. I don’t see it anymore…the heartache. She’s not heartbroken anymore. I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders and I can finally breathe again.
"I can't believe you kept that damn gnome," she whispers.
"I can't believe you threw him away," I say.
We continue to stare at each other, neither of us fully trusting that the moment is real. Or that it will last.
"Lake?" I stroke her hair, then the side of her face. "I'm sorry it took me so long to get it. It's my fault you had doubts. I promise, there won't be a day that goes by from now on that I won't show you how much you mean to me."
A tear rolls down her cheek. "Me too," she says.
My heart pounds against my chest. Not because I'm nervous. Not even because I want her worse than I've ever wanted her before. It's pounding against my chest because I realize I've never been so sure about the rest of my life than I am in this moment. This girl is the rest of my life. I lean in and kiss her. Neither of us closes our eyes. I don't think we want to miss a single second of this moment.
We're two feet from my car, so I walk her backwards until she’s up against it. "I love you," I somehow mutter while my lips are still meshed with hers. "I love you so much," I say again. "God, I love you."
She pulls away from me and smiles. Her thumbs move to my cheeks and she wipes at the tears that I didn't even realize were streaming down my face. "I love you," she says. "Now that we have that out of the way, will you just shut up and kiss me?"
And so I do.
After several minutes of making up for all the kisses we missed out on for the last week, the cold temperature begins to affect us. Lake's bottom lip starts shivering. "You're cold," I say. "Do you want to get in my car and make out with me or should we go inside?" I'm hoping she chooses the car.
"The car," she says and smiles.
I take a step toward the car door when I realize I sat my satchel on the booth where everyone's sitting. "Crap," I say as I step back to Lake and wrap my arms around her. "My keys are inside." Her whole body is trembling against me now as she grows colder.
"Then break your butterflying window and unlock the door," she teases.
"A broken window would defeat the purpose of trying to keep you warm," I say. I do my best to warm her by pressing my face against her neck.
"I guess you'll have to try and keep me warm in other ways."
Her suggestion tempts me to break the damn window. Instead, I take her hand in mine and pull her toward the entrance. As soon as we walk inside, but before we pass through the entryway, I turn around to kiss her one more time before we head to our booth. I was just going in for a quick peck, but she pulls me into her and the kiss lingers.
"Thank you," she says when she pulls away. "For what you did up there tonight. And for trapping me in the booth so I couldn't leave. You know me too well."
"Thank you for listening," I say.
We head back to the booth hand in hand. When Kiersten sees us walking in together, she starts clapping.
"It worked!" she squeals. They all scoot toward the center so Lake and I can slide in. "Will, that means you owe me more poems," Kiersten says.
Lake looks at me and then at Kiersten. "Wait. You mean you two were conspiring this whole time?" she says. "Kiersten, did he put you up to begging me to bring you here tonight?"
Kiersten shoots me a look and we both laugh.
"And last weekend!" Lake says. "Did you knock on my door just so he could get in my house?"
Kiersten doesn't answer her as she looks back at me. "You owe me an early return fee," she says. "I think twenty bucks should do it." She holds out her palm.
"We didn't agree to monetary compensation if I remember correctly," I say, pulling twenty dollars from my wallet. "But I would have paid triple that."
She takes the money from my hand and puts it in her pocket with a satisfied look on her face. "I would have done it for free."
"I feel used," Lake says.
I put my arm around her and kiss her on top of the head. "Yeah, sorry about that. You're really hard to manipulate, though. I had to rally the forces."
She looks up at me and I take the opportunity to give her a quick kiss on the mouth. I can't help it. Every time her lips come within a certain proximity to mine, it's impossible not to kiss them.
"I liked it better when you two weren't speaking," Caulder says.
"Same here," Kel says. "I forgot how gross it was."
"I think I'm gonna be sick," Eddie says.
I laugh because I think Eddie’s making a joke about our public display of affection. She's not. She covers her mouth with her hand and her eyes get big. Lake shoves against me and I hop out of the booth, followed by Lake and Kiersten. Eddie scoots out of the booth with her hand still over her mouth and she makes a mad dash for the bathroom. Lake runs after her.
"What's wrong with her?" Kiersten asks. "Is she having nausea?"
"Yep," Gavin says flatly. "Constantly."
"Well you don't look very worried about her," Kiersten says.
Gavin rolls his eyes and doesn't respond. We sit quietly through another performance when I notice Gavin watching the hallway with a concerned look on his face. "Will, hop up. I need to go check on her," he says. Kiersten and I get back out of the booth and Gavin exits. I grab Lake's purse and my satchel and we all follow.
"Kiersten go inside and see if she needs me," Gavin says. Kiersten opens the door to the women's restroom. A minute later, she returns.
"She said she'll be fine. Layken said for all you boys to go on and head home and us three will follow you in a few minutes. Layken needs her purse, though."
I hand Kiersten the purse. I'm a little bummed that Lake isn't riding with me, but I guess she did bring her own car. I'm anxious to get back to Ypsilanti. Back to our houses. I'm definitely sneaking into her room tonight.
We head outside to my car. I crank it and wipe the snow from the windows then walk over to Lake's car and wipe the snow off of her windows as well. When I get back to my car, the three of them are making their way outside.
"You okay?" I ask Eddie. She just nods.
I walk over to Lake and give her a quick peck on the cheek as she unlocks her door. "I'll follow you guys in case she gets sick again and you have to pull over."
"Thanks, Babe," she says, unlocking the doors for everyone else. She turns around and gives me a hug before climbing into her car.
"The boys are staying at my house tonight," I whisper in her ear. "After they fall asleep, I'm coming over. Wear your ugly shirt, okay?"
She smiles. "I can't. You stole it, remember?"
"Oh yeah," I whisper. "In that case…I guess you just shouldn't wear one at all." I wink at her and walk back to my car.
"She okay?" Gavin asks when I get back inside the car.
"I guess so," I say. "You want to go ride with them?"
Gavin shakes his head and sighs. "She doesn't want me to. She's still mad at me."
I feel bad. I hate that Lake and I just made up right in front of them. "She'll come around," I say as I pull out of the parking lot.
"Why do you two even bother with girls?" Kel asks. "Both of you have been miserable for days. It's pathetic."
"Someday you'll see, Kel," Gavin says. "You'll see."
He's right. Making up with Lake later tonight will make this entire week of hell worth every second. Deep down I know it'll happen tonight. We're both way beyond the point of retreat. I suddenly become nervous at the thought.
"Kel, you want to stay at my house tonight?" I try to act casual with my plan to corral the boys at my place. I feel like Kel can see right through me, even though I know he can't.
"Sure," he says. "But it's a school night and Lake takes us to school on Fridays. Why doesn't Caulder just stay with me?"
I didn't think about that. I guess Lake could just sneak over to my house after they fall asleep at her house. "Whichever," I say. "Doesn't really matter where."
Gavin laughs. "I see what you're up to," he whispers.
I just smile.
We're about half-way home when the snow begins to fall pretty heavily. Luckily, Lake is a pretty cautious driver. I'm still following behind her even though I would normally drive about ten miles an hour faster than this. It's a good thing Eddie isn't driving though; we'd all be in trouble.
"Gavin, you awake?" He's staring out the window and hasn't said much since we left Detroit. I can't tell if he's lost in thought or passed out.