Part 5

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Della refused to cry. No matter how harsh, how bitter her father’s words were. She sat there on the sofa, her chin held high, taking the insults. Each one hurt a little bit more. But damn it to hell and back. She wouldn’t cry. Her father continued, telling her how she was a disappointment to him and his family legacy. How she’d brought shame down on her family name.  How he would never be able to stand proud in public again.

“Go to your room and think about what you have done!” he finally demanded.

She left. She couldn’t get away from him, or her mom, fast enough. Her mom had stood stone-faced and let him say those horrible things.  All of it a lie. She wasn’t taking drugs, or selling her body to different men to feed her obsession. She’d given her body to one, Lee, whom she loved, who loved her. When she got to her room and slammed the door, she tried to swallow the shame, the anger, the fury that filled her throat. 

Then the sweet smell of roses filled her nose. Her gaze shot to the arrangement.  Suddenly, all she could think about was Lee. She needed him to hold her, to tell her it would all be okay. Rushing to the window, she flung it open and stared down at the grass two stories below. She stood on the edge for several seconds, unsure how she did this, but desperation made her jump. 

Landing on her feet without feeling any of the impact of the jump, she took a deep breath and started to run. At first, it was slow, then faster and faster still. Soon she wasn’t even sure her feet touched the ground. As the wind whipped her hair around her face, Della formed a new plan. 

She didn’t have to go live with Chan in Utah; she and Lee could get their own place. They had talked about it already. They would work part time and go to school. They could do this.

In less than five minutes, she stood in front of Lee’s house. She saw his window, it was dark. Of course it was dark, it was two in the morning, but she didn’t care. She leapt up, grabbing hold of his ledge, and then she forced the window up. Thankfully, it wasn’t locked.

When she climbed inside, Lee sat up. He blinked, stared at her with his dark brown eyes, and then he raun a hand through his hair. “Della?”

She moved closer. “I . . . I had to see you.  I missed you.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You mom said the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with you.”

“They didn’t, but I’m well now and I’ve been thinking . . . I want to be with you. I want to get our own apartment like we talked about.”

He stared at her, his hair mussed. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and he looked good. Sexy.  She moved to the edge of the bed.

“How did you . . . get inside?” He looked back at the window.

“It was unlocked.”

“But it’s the second-story window.” He scratched his head.

She sat down beside him. “I love you, Lee.  I want to be with you, always.” She reached out to touch him. His skin was so hot, felt so good. She just wanted to lie down beside him, have him hold her.

He flinched and pulled away. “You’re cold. Really cold.”

His words brought back something Chan had said when she’d been half out of it. Something about her body temperature changing, about how she couldn’t let her parents take her temperature anymore.

“What’s wrong with you?” he said, scooting away. “You must still be sick.”

“No,” Della said.  “I’m fine, I’m just . . . I mean . . .” What did she mean? Was she going to tell Lee the truth? “I’m not contagious,” she said.

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