“It’s time,” Alexander said.
We’d slept most of the afternoon, then, stuffed ourselves with almost everything from room service. Finally, the time had come for me to leave.
“Okay,” I said.
We made an unspoken agreement to not mention yesterday. Any of it. We packed my things in silence. Caramel ran around the room, weaving through my bags and the furniture.
“Caramel,” Alexander called, and she skidded to a stop in front of him. He slipped her collar over her head and attached her leash. “Wait one sec, girl,” he said to her.
I put on one of Alexander’s jackets and hats, so that I wouldn’t be easily noticed.
“Ready?” he asked.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I sighed.
He picked up my duffel bag and handed me Caramel’s leash.
“Thanks,” I said and picked up Caramel’s bag.
He opened the door and we stepped into the hall. We quietly walked to the elevator. Once we were on the elevator, I stared at the floor the whole time, afraid to look at Alexander.
He was right about the friend thing. I didn’t want to miss having the one person who understood me like my dad had.
Alexander had seen me happy, sad, angry, vulnerable and me just being me. He saw the real me and still cared. I doubted that I would ever meet someone that was like that again.
Was I really okay with walking away from all of this?…All of him?
I glanced at his reflection on the elevator doors. He looked like he was spaced out. Like he didn’t care about what was happening. I knew he’d said he wasn’t going to stop me from leaving, but I’d thought he whine and complain up until I’d gotten on the train. Instead, he was just distant and agonizingly quiet and calm.
“You’re staring,” he said and I noticed he was looking at my reflection too.
I looked away and quietly said, “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. I was too.”
“…I don’t want to go.” Hearing me say this surprised him, but not me.
“W-what? Why not?”
Why not? Because the answer was in front of me, around me and next to me the whole time.
“…I love you,” I said.
He was quiet. I thought that I’d made him really upset. I expected him to criticize me, laugh at me, make a joke or something, but even as the elevator doors opened and we walked into the lobby, he didn’t acknowledge that I’d said anything.
“No. You don’t love me. No one does.”
“No,” he said sternly. “I’m not the kind of person who gets loved.”
I was scared to say anything in response, but I couldn’t help but to whisper, “But I do.”
The walk to the train station was quiet and uneventful, but the previous conversation made it feel tense.
We stopped in front of an old, grey train. Alexander handed me my ticket and knelt down to pet Caramel.
“Bye, girl. Keep Alex safe,” he said to her.
Caramel barked and licked his hand.
He laughed and said, “I’ll miss you, too.” I watched him as he stood and looked at me.
His once warm eyes looked so cold. I didn’t want to say goodbye like that. I wanted him to send me off smiling and making jokes that I’d better answer my phone when he’d call. But in that moment he looked as if he never wanted to see me again.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
I shook my head and smiled a little. “I just panicked,” I said. “I just came up with an excuse because I’m afraid to be on my own again. I shouldn’t have lied to you like that.”
He half-smiled. “It’s okay. After all this time of me begging you to stay, you finally say you will and I tell you to go. Funny, right?”
I laughed a little. “Yeah.”
“You owe it to yourself to start over.”
I nodded. “I’ll miss you, though.”
He smiled. “I’m only a phone call away. Don’t forget that.”
“I’ll never forget you.”
He hugged me. “You better not or I’ll go to Celia City, drag you back here and turn you in as punishment.”
I laughed and he looked at me and smiled.
“You don’t think I’m serious?” he smirked.
“I’ll miss you, too, Zander,” I laughed.
He let me go and pet my head. “Stay safe, Alexia.”
I nodded, as the conductor called, “All aboard for Celia City!”
“That’s you,” he said, glancing at the train.
“Yeah,” I said. “Goodbye, Alexander.” He gave me a small smile.
I took my bag and walked to the train door, as Caramel trotted at my side.
“Ticket, miss?” The conductor asked and I handed my ticket to him. He punched it and smiled. “Have a nice trip,” he said, as he handed it back to me.
“Thank you,” I said and boarded. I found a window seat that was on the side that Alexander was. I put my bags on the floor and Caramel jumped into the seat next to me. I glanced out the window and smiled at Alexander. He smiled back.
The whistle sounded and the train began to move. I waved to him and his smile faded. He started to run after the train. I could barely hear him calling my name over the sound of the moving train and Caramel’s growling.
Then, I saw a familiar figure reflected in the glass.
“Hello, Lexi,” Elliot said. Before I could turn around, he’d hit my head with something and I’d begun to faint.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he whispered in my ear, as I fell into his arms.