We Were Once - Page 137

I hate the distance she’s put between us. It’s hard to tear down walls with the emotional miles keeping us apart. She looks down, and as much as I want to see her eyes again, I wait, wanting her to unburden her thoughts and words because she’s right. I lost my faith in us. I couldn’t. “You were in a coma, Chloe. I snuck in to see you, hoping you’d wake up and make that nightmare go away.”

I won’t tell her she didn’t because I can’t have her taking the blame. That’s not why I’m telling her. “I need you to know I was there. For days, I begged anyone and everyone to see you.”

Touching her cheek like a memory, she lifts her gaze, her eyes searching mine. “I know.” As the storm begins to pass, the words don’t rush but stay locked inside as she troubles her bottom lip. “When I said I know, I’m telling you that my soul felt yours. I knew you were there.” Closing her eyes, she takes a deep breath and then slowly exhales. “I remember you there, your heat to my cheek, your words whispered in my ear.” Tears fall for new reasons as a small smile appears. “I remember you, Joshua.” Thank God.

“I’m a part of you. You’re a part of me. Always.”

She pushes into my arms, wrapping around me. I clasp one of her hands, our fingers folding together, and hold her with my other arm.

“I know you,” she says, “better than anyone.”

Please forgive me.

Staring into my eyes with hers on bright again, she says, “I know your heart.”

I know yours.

Bringing her hand to my chest, she releases the pain. “You know my soul.”

You are my soul.

“I thought I lost you, Joshua.”

“You never lost me, baby. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. You were always with me. Was I with you?”

A myriad of emotions flickers through her eyes, but the one thing that doesn’t happen is a denial. “You were the only thing I could never reason my way out of.” Looking back as if called to do so, she adds, “We made it through the storm.”

This time I put my hand out, hoping to God she takes it. She eyes it and then rests her faith with mine. We duck out from under the awning into the early morning hours. Standing side by side, we stare up at the big sky. The clouds have blown over, leaving the moon exposed for a little longer. “We never did catch the moon that night, but we can chase the sun if you’re up to it?”

“What did you say?”

“What part? Chasing the sun?”

“No, the moon. What do you mean we never caught it?”

“The night of the accident. You wanted to chase the moon.”

Rubbing her temple, she clenches her eyes closed. Her breathing becomes erratic, her hand trembling in mine.

“What’s wrong, Chloe?”

“Oh, my God! We were chasing the moon.” This isn’t the look of a woman who’s seen a ghost. This is a woman who’s touched heaven and lived to tell about it. “I remember, Joshua. I remember getting into the car with you in that purple dress and laughing so hard.” She hugs me with all her strength, resting her head against me again.

I embrace her—her crazy moods, her ambitions, her kind heart, her laughter, her staring at me at close range in the middle of the night, her moans of pleasure, and her love for my bonsai. I embrace everything about this woman and kiss her head.

She jumps up, covered in goose bumps and still soaking wet, and smiles like the sun rose inside her. “I remember the night of the accident. Everything. I remember the feeling of freedom, of flying, the wild abandon, the love, God, the love I felt . . . I still feel so deeply for you.”

The tears have stopped coming, but her smile falters. Placing her hands carefully, so gentle on my chest, she says, “I remember you tried to buckle the seat belt, the deer . . .” She swallows, her eyes briefly leaving mine as if the memories are too powerful to fight. “I remember you trying to save me.”

My chest is tight as I listen to the highs and lows of what her memory returns to her. “We lived a lifetime of pain in a span of a few short years.” I hold her hands between mine and kiss the tips of her fingers. “I thought I lost you that day, and I couldn’t survive losing you again. I signed the papers that I thought would give you the life you deserved. I’m sorry for hurting you.”

With her eyes on mine, she caresses my face. “I died that day, but your love saved me.” She takes my hand and aligns our tattoos together again. “I thought you were my hope, but you turned out to be my salvation.” Lifting on her toes, she kisses me with passion, hope, and a long love that took years to grow.

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