Home > Watch Me Follow(22)

Watch Me Follow(22)
Author: Harloe Rae

“You make me feel so good, Ryker. Everything you do, I know it’s for my benefit. Wanting me to have the most beautiful workspace ever? That’s really sweet, and I’m sure your intentions were in the right place, but outright paying for a large chunk of something reminds me of my dad. I just wish this wasn’t done in secret.” My brain jams on the comparison to her father as she continues. “I like you, a lot, and this is new for us. I’m sure you weren’t doing this to control me. I haven’t told you much about my parents or the issues with them. Compared to the watching and following, maybe the money stuff shouldn’t be an issue. But it is to me.”

Her fingers massage my leg but I’m caught in the murky midnight blurring the edges of my vision. I don’t want to leave Lennon but the comfort of the familiar darkness calls to me.

How do I fix this?

Do I apologize until she forgives me? Give her another present? Kiss her senseless? Tell her how gorgeous she looks in the low lamplight? Ask if I can run my fingers through her glossy dark hair? Go home so I don’t make the situation worse?

I’m off balance and sliding all over with uncertainty. I’ll do anything to turn this conversation around and get back on Lennon’s good side.

“I don’t know what to say,” I mutter.

Way to go, genius.

“I want this to work out between us, Ryker. I’m not trying to be a brat and make this uncomfortable but it’s important we talk through this.” Lennon peers into me. The cold attacks my system as frost filters in but my heart keeps pumping warmth into my trembling limbs. My nails claw at the velvety fabric beneath me in an attempt to stay grounded.

“I’ve pushed too far and now you’re going to leave.” My lifeless words tumble out.

Lennon’s head snaps back and she blinks rapidly.

“What? No, Ryker. Why would you say that? We’re all right and I’m not angry, but you’ve gotta change tactics. I’ve never dated and don’t know what’s the best approach so please don’t get upset. I just,” she releases a deep breath, “don’t want to be a naïve fool that keeps overlooking significant things. I realize everything you’ve done has been solely for either my protection or happiness but still. Even you said it seems like constant confession time and that doesn’t sit right with me. There shouldn’t be a reason to come clean. I don’t think that’s asking too much . . . or maybe it is? I’m screwing this all up.”

Lennon pulls away before huffing loudly and losing her touch is catastrophic. My temples throb while my stomach quakes and I swallow hard to keep the nausea from building. I try to focus on her voice but suddenly my senses are spinning. My face tips down while I slam my eyes shut, trying to escape the madness. My soul begs for control but the insanity is waking up.

I won’t go back to being alone. I can’t.

“Ryker? Are you alright?” Lennon’s healing melody crashes through the fog.

I glance at her through a thin crack in my lids before shaking my head. I manage to mutter a pathetic, “I’m sorry,” through my strangled windpipe.

Lennon brushes along the leather wrapped around my wrist and the slight movement sends shocks up my arm. “It’s okay, I’m not mad. That studio is my dream and you wanted to make it come true, which I can’t fault you for. It’s extremely romantic that you wanna take care of me. I love that, alright? It was a shock at first but what you did is different than how my parents handle things. Next time, let’s decide together. This relationship stuff is a work in progress for me too.” Her chuckle falls flat when she glances at my face. “Can you tell me what you’re thinking? Please? I didn’t mean to talk so much. For some reason, you bring out a blabbing side of me.”

“You can’t help me.” My reply is hoarse.

“Ryker, don’t say that. Everything is alright. Did I say something that bothers you? Can we talk about it? Let me be here for you, like you’re always there for me. We can lean on each other,” she says softly.

“You don’t want to depend on me, Lennon. I’m a grown man incapable of figuring this shit out on my own. I’m trying to be better but it’s not fucking working,” I spit fury. “Wanna know the truth? I’m full of hate and darkness and disgusting memories that haunt me. You’re the first and only person who’s noticed me, by some unbelievable miracle, but my screwed-up mind won’t stop making mistakes. Even though you’re everything to me, I can’t be better for you. And you deserve better than me. You should be with someone . . . normal.” That last word is sour in my ashy mouth and the roiling in my gut returns.

What the hell am I supposed to do now?

I stumble to my feet and start pacing. Lennon stands too but remains in one spot, watching me meltdown like a freak. The shadows are calling, tempting me with quiet isolation where this trouble doesn’t exist. The shadows are sucking me back in and I’m letting them. This downward spiral could stop if my brain quits playing tricks but at this point, it was too late.

“Please stop. Why are you saying such awful stuff? Don’t you want to be with me?” Lennon calls out.

“Because I’m a fucking loser, Lennon. I can’t do anything right,” I growl.

Her hand flies up to her mouth. “That’s not true. You’ve done so many wonderful things for me. All the extravagant gifts, sweet notes, bagels and coffee, keeping me safe all these years, and so much more. Don’t put yourself down like that.”

Lennon’s words are meant to be soothing but all I hear is static. Each syllable is another reminder of how weird I am, a list of necessary improvements. “Anything good has been wiped away by this.”

“Please don’t twist my words, Ryker. Money has been a touchy subject for me so I reacted poorly at first. After hearing why you paid for part of the studio, I realize how different this is compared to shit with my dad. Next time—” I’m too far gone to listen.

“There won’t be a next time!” I roar. “You’re going to leave because I’m a fucking freak, just like everyone always said. Fuck!” My muscles strain to silence the poison in my system and my feet stomp restlessly on the floor.

“Stop yelling at me! How did this get turned around so you’re mad at me?” She wails loudly, freeing me from the debilitating chains.

My frantic movements come to a sudden stop as I face Lennon. She has tears streaming down her flushed cheeks and her chest is shuddering wildly. The inky black fades from my sight as her trembling sunshine pours through.

“No. No, no, no. I could never be mad at you. I’m furious at myself, for the stupidity and defects that make me an asshole. Everything is getting ruined because I’m not a normal fucking person,” I thunder loudly as my hands ball into painful fists.

“Nothing is ruined, Ryker. We’re okay. Let’s take a timeout for a moment,” her tone wobbles as she swipes at her wet face.

“Please don’t leave me. I’ll do better. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.” My voice cracks as the tension seeps out of my system. I’m shaking my head so fast, Lennon is a blur in front of me.

Lennon shuffles forward, tearing through the madness swirling around me.

“I’m not going anywhere, Ryker. You’re wonderful and amazing and everything I’ve always wanted, remember? Don’t ever doubt that.” Her upper half deflates with a huge exhale. “This is just a little spat, like a . . . lover’s quarrel.” She traces her fingers down my trembling hand. “We hash it out, make up, and move on. Just because we have a tiff doesn’t mean this is over between us. I hear this sort of thing happens all the time with couples.” Her shoulders bounce as her nose wrinkles.

“I never want to fight with you.” I expel the fiery chaos searing my lungs.

“This is just another first we had to experience. Sometimes arguments are necessary to work through the tougher stuff. That was mostly just flapping chaps and figuring stuff out.” She explains.

“I want to impress you and don’t know how. I’ve been wrong my entire life and never stood a chance of proving otherwise. I’m different and there’s no changing that.”

“I feel the same way, Ryker. That’s why what we have is special, because we’re different. Something no one else will understand, but maybe that’s the best part. What’s normal anyway? This is a major stepping stone, right? We’ll keep learning together.” Her beaming smile chases away the last storm clouds hovering on the edges of my vision. Lennon is the only one who can drag me from the darkness and keep me safe from the shadows.

I just have to let her.

“Okay,” I murmur. “Together. We have a lot of adventures ahead.” I manage a semblance of a smile and Lennon’s laughter lifts my lips into a full grin.

“I can’t wait for whatever comes next,” she whispers like these experiences are our little secret—and maybe they are.

A large yawn escapes her before she’s able to catch it. I glance at the clock and notice it’s past one in the morning.

“It’s late. Time for bed?”

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