XXIV: BECAUSE I LOVE YOU

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songs for this chapter:

how do i tell a girl i want to kiss her - modern baseball.

author's note: double update! with a little something special....

chapter twenty-four; because i love you.

The cold hardwood floors made Luke regret the fact that he had decided to not wear socks, the apartment growing colder as the New York air did, the dropping temperatures managing to creep their way into each and every room, including Luke's which already had heating that rarely cooperated. He had just woken up, finding his bed empty and himself alone with messy sheets that reminded him of his heart. After last night, he felt sad, but he didn't know why because he had reunited with his best friend and he was feeling the opposite of how he was supposed to feel. Maybe he was just being afraid again. Maybe he was being a coward. But then again, maybe he was also allowed to react that way; love was never easy, that much he knew, but no amount of movies made him realize how goddamn difficult it was to admit it to yourself.

And so, he walked into the kitchen after brushing his teeth, the morning sunrise lighting up his hair, making it look like strands of gold. Rubbing his eyes, he noticed that no one was in the kitchen or living room—even Becca was still asleep in Calum's room, and she usually woke up early to eat whatever was in the fridge before anyone else could; right now, her favorite thing to do was eat the chocolate pudding that Ashton bought for himself—and he wondered if Ava was even still there. He shook his head, knowing that Ava wasn't that type of person who would suddenly start running once emotions were flying. No, that wasn't who she was. That's who he was.

He turned on his heel, almost going back to his room, but stopped due to hearing a door slam and bumping into a velvet-faced Ava, her eyes a frightening mixture of raging and insecure. She simply stopped walking when she saw Luke, eyebrows furrowed, forehead creased, angry eyes with tears falling onto her skin, and mouth shut tightly, like she was trying her best to keep in an aggravated yell. Or perhaps she was keeping in a cry for help. Nonetheless, the expression on her face scared Luke dearly, and it was like he was stumbling upon a new person. Not only had Ava now seemed more physically intimidating, he now knew that something had happened and she was struggling to calm herself down. She hadn't looked at him once, staring at nothing but the blank space next to him, yet he felt burning from her strong, harsh glare.

Her fists were balled with her cellphone in one of them, knuckles becoming white as she clenched and unclenched, sometimes closing her eyes and opening them in sync with her hands. She was shaking almost violently, but Luke also noticed that she was making an attempt to stop, though her buckling knees gave it away.

"Princess," he started slowly, his voice croaking since it was still dawn, deeper than usual. He made small steps towards her, knowing that she was already overwhelmed enough, most likely experiencing a panic attack or an anger attack. "It's okay, just breathe with me and I'll bring you to the bed so you can sit."

When he was close enough to make physical contact, he held her hand and her cold fingers wrapped around his immediately, giving it a squeeze, using that as her way of indicating that she was agreeing with going to the room. Her voice felt weak, so she didn't feel like talking and she just practiced the breathing exercises her and her therapist would talk and read about. She continued this up until she reached Luke's bed, her heart rate becoming less intense and slowing down. Her mind was elsewhere at the moment, so Luke knew that the best he could do was just stay there with as she sorted this out on her own.

Ava was never a damsel in distress—no one was. She knew herself the best so Luke didn't interfere because he knew that she could save her damn self, and no one could downplay her as someone else. Her features softened as the minutes passed, the both of them not saying a word to each other, the buzz of the central heating system being the only sound audible. Suddenly, Ava whirled around to face him, eyes focused on his lips before they quickly readjusted and flickered up to his eyes.

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