Right Where I Belong
Charlotte could feel the tears biting her eyes as she looked into the crowded attic stacked with toys that once belonged to the kids. Now they were all grown up and begging to be set free into the harsh world. Why couldn’t they just stay young forever and reliant on their parents? Being a Gray was difficult, and she didn’t want her babies to get hurt. Especially not Graciela who was easy to deter as it was. “Can I help?” Jeff’s voice echoed through the tiny room, sending shivers down Charlotte’s spine. For some reason as of late, she had wanted him more than ever. Everything set her off. His voice, the way he scratched his head when he didn’t know what to say, even the way he he walked.
Every time she saw him, she wanted to hug him and tell him that she loved him. Years too late, she was sure, but her admission was there ready for him. It was like she was getting to know him all over again, learning about the man he had become when she was bed ridden and he had taken charge of the household. He was different, much stronger. She wished she had let herself see that sooner. Turning to face him, she gave him a quick nod. “Pax wants that action figure you got him for his seventh birthday. He refuses to leave the house without it.”
“Ah, good old Elasto Man. I remember he cried so hard because it wasn’t the right hero. Now he wants him?” Jeff walked up behind his wife and slid his arm around her waist.
“Memories,” Charlotte said simply. “He’s lucky he can hold onto them. When I was seven, I didn’t have a memory of my dad to hold on to. Dad was off saving the world and I hadn’t the clue…” Her voice trailed off. “Apparently I’m clueless to a lot of things. I’m sorry.”
Jeff leaned his head on his wife’s shoulder, inhaling the scent of lavender perfume that Graciela had gotten for her mother on her birthday. “We all go through things. What matters is that you found your way back from that dark spell and you’re here.”
“I’m right where I belong,” Charlotte said in confirmation. “I know that now. We won’t get those years back where I took you for granted.”
“We’re not going to talk about that and you’re not going to harp on it,” Jeff whispered into her ear. “I love you no matter what. I can’t ever stop loving you. Committing to another person is hard. But we got through the rough patches, baby. We will get through them every time.”
Charlotte turned around to face her husband. She reached up to look into his face. Years of stress had worn his usually youthful skin down. But to her, he still looked like the twenty something year old that she had tried to one up. Who knew that after all this time, he’d still be here?
I’ve never felt stronger than when you’re with me.
It was a beautiful spring day and Charlotte had insisted on Jeff bringing her to Callen’s coffee house. She had wanted to support his business, and with Ethan watching the toddlers the two were able to sneak away. “How are you feeling?” Jeffrey asked, placing a hand on the small of her back. It was the first time she had wanted to leave the house in a while. This was a good sign.
“I’ve never felt stronger than when you’re with me,” Charlotte admitted. “Is that cheesy?”
Jeff chuckled and shook his head. “Not to me. I feel the same way. You build me up.”
“Even when I’m not?” Charlotte asked with a frown. “I’m sorry I come with a lot of baggage.”
“We all do,” Jeff replied. He pulled his wife in for a hug which she gladly returned. “Doesn’t mean I stop loving you, right?”
“I keep forgetting that not everything has to be like Dad and Declan. Dad and that woman who called herself my mother…”
“There’s a huge difference. Declan and Aria are bad people,” Jeff said. “I wouldn’t do to you what they did to your dad.”
“I know,” Charlotte said quietly, looking up into Jeff’s eyes. “I know, that’s why I love you.”
You’re not alone.
Graciela stared into the vast park, too afraid to look Maric in the face lest her face burst into bright red flames. She could see he was visibly uncomfortable under the sun, still he insisted on sitting here with her. “You can go inside,” Graciela suggested finally.
“It’s a lovely day out here,” Maric said calmly. “Why would I want to go in?”
“Your arm is really hot,” Graciela said. Maric’s arm was pressed against her, and she wasn’t sure if he was burning or if it was her heat she felt. “I don’t mind being alone out here.”
“You’re not alone,” Maric said softly. He grinned that gorgeous charming smile of his and Graciela felt her stomach do a flip. “If you want to stay out here, I’m going to do it too.”
“Not buts. That’s it.” Maric shut his eyes and leaned back, basking in the sunlight.
Graciela felt a surge of happiness wash over her. He was willing to harm himself for Graciela. She tugged on his arm, standing up. “We can be together inside. I’ll still have a good time. I promise.”
Begrudgingly, Maric stood up. “But I love to see your smile out here.”
“My smile is because of you, not the sun,” Graciela mumbled, looking away from him. She tried to hide her blush but Maric had seen it. He curled his fingers around hers.
“Then, let’s go inside and smile together.”
I won’t lose you too.
Alistair rolled the dough out evenly. Cooking was not something he was particularly good at. He cooked in order to eat. Ethan was the chef who cooked up the crazy delicious meals. Alistair was happy with cereal and milk in the morning. But today was different because Callen was short staffed and he needed someone to help him bake goods for the coffee house before it opened. Alistair didn’t want to be up at the crack of dawn, but for Callen…
He shook his head, kneading another pile of dough with his fists. No, he wasn’t going to do this today. Callen and he had an agreement. They were just friends and they would keep their relationship at that level. before Alistair had realized it, he was pounding on the dough with all his might. “Woah there tiger, calm down.” Alistair’s face grew red when he saw Callen standing near the stairs with a mischievous grin.
“Sorry I…” Alistair’s voice trailed off. “I was thinking about something.”
“Something bad,” Callen commented. “Declan?”
“No,” Alistair muttered. “Never again.”
“Oh good.” Callen came up behind him and threw his arms around the male. His proximity made Alistair nervous. How could Callen just get so close and personal all the time? Not that he minded but…he didn’t understand it. “I thought I was going to lose you.”
Alistair looked up at the man and shook his head vehemently. “No, I won’t lose you too.” It was more of an admission to himself, as he pulled away from the man’s grasp. Getting too close would ruin what they had. “I’m sorry.”
“Pushing me away is going to make you lose me, Al,” Callen said softly. “Don’t do that.” But Callen got the hint and headed to the other side of the kitchen where he began to roll the flattened dough into croissants. “Thank you for the help. Truly.”
Alistair gulped and turned his attention back to the task at hand. “Er..yeah. You’re welcome.”