After washing the tearstains from my face, I brushed my teeth. It was still early, but I couldn’t face going back out there, so I changed into my shorts and tank top and climbed into bed. Sleep would be impossible, but at least here, I was safe.
Most people felt lonely in solitude, but I welcomed the silence. I embraced it even. Something about the quiet, the knowledge no one else was around, comforted me. I knew it made me different. I didn’t need a shrink to tell me that, but it didn’t change the fact that I found sanctuary in being alone.
I lay there not really allowing myself to think. Thinking was dangerous; it led to remembering, and my memories were stained with pain and hurt and the kinds of things that made most people’s nightmares look like a walk in the park. Instead, I tracked the uneven cabin ceiling. My eyes followed the planes of the wood from one end to the other and back again until they grew heavy.
A knock on the door startled me sending my already restless heart into overdrive and I rubbed at my eyes.
“Hello?” I called out hoping to hear Marissa’s voice, but I knew it wasn’t her. She wouldn’t have knocked; she would have barged right in and demanded answers.
“Penny, it’s me.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, but my mind betrayed me as an image of Blake’s face filled my head.
Forcing myself to sit up, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed. He wasn’t going away. Blake—our connection—was something I was going to have to deal with sooner or later, and from Blake’s admissions over the last few days, it seemed that he was making the decision for me.
My legs were like lead as I walked to the door. It swung open and Blake stood there looking at me with such reverence in his eyes I almost crumpled. Maybe I did crumple because, before my head had time to process what was happening, I was in Blake’s arms, and he was holding on to me like he needed me to breathe.
“I’ve missed you so much. I’ve tried to stay away, to give you space, but I can’t. I can’t spend another day feeling like you might slip through my fingers again.”
One of Blake’s hands buried itself in my hair and cradled my head holding me to him. My face pressed up against the collar of his hoodie, and I breathed him in. He smelled familiar, like damp grass and fresh air, of a time when things were less complicated, and my heart ached for us. At that moment, we weren’t two strangers reunited by chance; we were sixteen-year-old Blake and Penny.