chapter twenty-six

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Minutes passed by of Ben in my arms with his face buried in my shoulder, and I began to wonder if he had fallen asleep. My speculations were proven wrong when he lifted himself off of me and gave me a small but faltering smile. I opened my mouth to tell him something but was cut short when he reached his hands to my waist and pulled me onto his lap.

I gasped slightly when he cupped my face in his large hands and looked into my eyes with a feeling that only could be described as love in its purest form. I couldn't help but reach my fingers out to quickly brush away the last stray tear on his cheek.

Leaning his forehead against my own and speaking just over my lips, he asked, "What's stopping us, Samar?"

"What do you mean?" I responded, unsure if I was catching on correctly—maybe having his body this close to mine made my brain go slightly fuzzy.

"I mean," he began, tilting his head downwards and brushing his lips against my neck. "I mean, what's stopping us from being something together? Why does it have to be so complicated?" He placed a small kiss against my skin, and I held on tighter to his arms. Meeting my eyes again, he asked, "Why can't you just be mine?"

"Ben, I don't think it's the time—" Wasn't he just crying over his parents?

"It's exactly the time, Samar," he replied, shaking his head. "Life is so damn short, I've learned, and every minute we spend apart is a minute less we can spend together. Was twenty years of hating each other not enough?"

"It's more complicated than that," I tried to reason with him because truly, it was. I had just never opened up my heart to him.

"Then tell me, babe," he coaxed, lifting my head up from facing the ground with his fingers under my chin. I stayed silent for a few moments, trying to look away again, but his gaze seemed to follow me everywhere.

"It seems selfish of me to open up about my personal problems right now."

He shook his head. "That's not selfish, Samar. What's selfish is you keeping things from me that could actually be resolved between the two of us."

"Fine, do you really want to know?" I asked, widening the space between us but not leaving his lap. "In high school, I had an eating disorder, and it was all because of you. All because of the innumerable times you called me fat when we were younger, all of the times you'd poke fun at my awkward looks and tease me in gym class, all those names you and your stupid hockey friends would hurl at me as I walked down the hallway, and all of the times you made me feel so horrible for something I could hardly control."


"Please, just let me continue. You asked me to be honest with you." He nodded, and I ran a hand down my face and sighed. "I almost can't believe I allowed you and the things you said to drive me to the point of starving myself. I was terrified of food and later would binge on my whole pantry and let that soul-sucking process repeat over and over and over again. But what killed me more than the pain of hunger was the fact that only when I had lost weight and looked prettier—which you thought happened all on its own—did you look at me in the way I had always wanted you to. God, Ben, I was so obsessed with you, and you never even gave me the time of day until the middle of high school."

As I looked into his two hazel eyes, I could almost see the gears grinding in his head and the missing puzzle pieces finally being added to the picture. He opened his mouth to speak, but I cut him off.

"Looking back, I wouldn't have fought fire with fire and fooled you into thinking everything was okay by being your girlfriend that year. I wouldn't have dumped you in front of the whole cafeteria and broke your heart, but goddamnit was mine already broken in two." I looked away, realizing if I made eye contact any longer I'd burst into tears, and I didn't want this conversation to end so suddenly. His hand touched my face ever so slightly, his thumb swiping away the runaway tear from my left eye.

I continued. "Looking back, I wish we could start over. But the reality is, you hurt me, I hurt you, and I hurt myself. Eating disorders don't just miraculously disappear. I mean, yeah, I got help, but it still messes me up to this today." I tightened my arms around myself, wishing I could just disappear. There was nothing more I hated than being an open book.

"Samar," Ben began, and the look on his face already said the next few words that came out of his mouth. "I'm so, so sorry. I'm sorry for every word that I said that hurt you, and you know what I'm even more sorry for?"

"What?" I whispered.

"Having not said this sooner." He grasped my hand that was resting against my thigh and squeezed it. "I used to be an asshole, and it took life teaching me a couple of lessons to realize it."

"I was an asshole too, Ben," I admitted, the broken look on his face that day I dumped him clear as day in my mind. "And I have to apologize for that as well—"

"Hell no, you don't," he answered, shaking his head. "I deserved that and more. I just want you to forgive me."

"Of course I forgive you, Ben," I replied, locking our gazes again. "I mean, that would have really hurt my ego to say before, but I want us to be together as much as you do."

His eyes lit up. "Really?"

Chuckling, I replied, "Well, maybe I can see why that's not always so obvious, but it's very much the truth." I placed my hand against his chest randomly and was surprised when I felt his heart beating a little faster than normal. "There's really no one else I could imagine annoying for the rest of my life."

"Is that the Arabic way of telling someone you love them?" he joked, his lips curling into a smirk.

I fought a smile. "No, that's actually...bahebak."

I wasn't sure what I was expecting after having admitted to him that I loved him—and this time, wholeheartedly. I couldn't say I was disappointed when his hands clasped my face, and he brought his mouth to mine.

His lips felt soft, and they moved slowly at first, savoring every second of this moment. Then his hands moved down to my lower back and lessened the distance between us so he could kiss me harder and deeper.

This kiss felt nothing like the few we shared five years ago; it was raw and passionate and sprinkled with the one thing it was always missing.


"I love you, Samar," Ben mumbled against my lips, taking a break from kissing the life out of me. "I always have, and this I can promise you: I always will."

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