We sat in his truck, watching the rain pound against the windshield. In the darkness of the car, the heater hummed reassuringly and he held my hand. I gripped his tightly, afraid that if I let go he'd disappear.
We didn't talk for what felt like hours. There was almost no need to, though I knew there was so much to say. Where did we stand? Where did we go from here? They were questions that deserved answers but in that moment, in that hour, they didn't even seem to matter.
After what felt like a long time, he looked at me and I looked back at him. My heart tightened when our eyes met. He was here... I was here. This wasn't a dream. I ran my gaze over his face, the familiar planes of it. He seemed thinner, evidenced by the sharp cut of his cheekbones and the hint of sunkenness to his eyes. I felt a pang in my chest. My fault.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" he asked and I looked away.
"Nothing," I said and then squeezed his hand. I wanted to tell him how much I'd missed him, how grateful I was to him for hearing me out, for giving me- us- another chance, but the words got stuck in my throat. Tread softly, I told myself, because there was still so much to say, so much to recapture between us.
Instead, I leaned back against the headrest of my seat, closing my eyes. I could have fallen asleep just then. I was exhausted, of course, but the desire to sleep came more from the fact that he was sitting next to me. And for the first time in five weeks, I could imagine sleeping without fearing the horrible bad dreams that always came to haunt me whenever I dared lay down my head for rest. The pain I'd grown so used to carrying in my chest was gone, replaced with a contentment I hadn't felt in what felt like forever.
When I next opened my eyes, I realized we were on the highway and I'd fallen asleep.
"What happened?" I mumbled, sitting up. Ryan's head turned towards me but his expression was lost in the darkness. By the clock on the dash, I was able to tell that I'd only been asleep for fifteen minutes or so. I wondered belatedly what'd happened to my car.
"I hooked up your car to the back of my truck," Ryan answered my unspoken question and I tried to see it in the mirror on the side, but it was too dark, the rain fell too hard.
"Good thinking," I said. He was still holding my hand, a fact that hadn't gone unnoticed to me. I wanted to ask him about these past few weeks, I wanted to know every detail about every moment that we'd spent apart. But something warned me that the Ryan sitting next to me wasn't the same Ryan I'd torn myself away from all those weeks ago, and I was almost afraid to say the wrong thing, to hurt him anymore than I already had.
"Why are you so quiet?" he asked after a long moment of listening to the rain on the roof, squinting in the barrage that was attacking the windshield.
"Just thinking," I said softly and his fingers tightened ever so slightly.
"Us," I mumbled.
I didn't know if his thoughts had weaved their way through the labyrinth of doubts and expectations that mine had- and I didn't know how to ask- but all he said was, "me too," and then we were both quiet again.
I thought about my parents and about the long trip home. Dad hadn't mentioned a curfew but I was smart enough to figure that there was one, established or not. It was past eight now... I gnawed on my bottom lip as I wondered how long it'd take to drive back - for Ryan to drive me back, and then get himself back to Lancaster in this awful storm.