Chapter 26: Tattoos And See-Through Shirts

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By the time we padded back into the house, Tyler had splashed me multiple times and I accidentally kicked him in the chest when he tried to dunk my head underwater. He kept whining like a little kid even though he was the one who had tried to drown me.

Moments before entering the Miller's mansion, I gathered my curls to one side, wringing them of any excess water before letting them hang heavily around my waist like sodden dreadlocks. Tyler, on the other hand, just shook his entire body like a dog, shooting me a smug glance as I screeched at him to cut out his animalistic behaviour.

As we exited the living room, he chastised me for leaving a trail of water behind on the spotless, wooden floorboards until I reminded him there were two trails: one of them belonging to him.

With an eye roll, I made sure to keep my eyes trained ahead, trying my absolute hardest not to ogle at his translucent white t-shirt. It clung to his body like a second skin, hugging every dip and curve of his toned torso whilst his jeans hung low around his waist; giving me a perfect view of his v-shaped hipbones, and a dark, circular pattern that I didn't recall ever seeing before.

"Is that a..." I trailed off, clearly astonished by this new revelation as I tore my gaze away from his hips and met his eyes.

"A tattoo," Tyler nodded, lifting his drenched shirt up a fraction to reveal his intricate inkwork. "Yeah, I got it done during the summer at this place near my parent's beach house across the country."

A broken pocket watch, the size of a baby's fist, lingered above his boxer short waistband. It was in ruins, like it had imploded just seconds before, depicting the screws and jagged glass that shot out of the watch, almost as if the tattoo itself was three dimensional. A purple haze surrounded the clock, like a cartoon representation of a time vortex into another dimension and I spent a minute gawking at it before Tyler let his shirt fall back down again.

"It's...so...awesome. Whoa," I breathed, feeling the sudden urge to trace the outline of his tattoo, especially the region that disappeared into his trousers. "What's the story behind it?"

Alarmed at my sudden train of thoughts, I pressed a hand against my burning cheeks and mentally smacked myself for thinking of something so absurd. Tyler spared me a confused glance, but didn't make a comment, choosing the answer my question instead.

"It's to remind me that all it takes is a split second and your world can just explode and spiral out of control. I don't really expect you to understand, but I just feel like time is a fleeting thing, you know? It's frail, short and doesn't spare us a single moment. Like no matter what happens, it just keeps going. It's doesn't care if you're not ready to move on..."

Tyler trailed off, blinking hard at the ground as he worked his jaw. His eyes were distance, faraway with a glaze of sadness that I knew would never leave him - not if he carried on mourning for his sister.

An uninvited numbness spread through my chest and I felt molten, gold eyes flicker across my mind, melting like they always did in my nightmares. Clenching my fists, I gnawed on my bottom lip when my insides tightened painfully. I felt like screaming at Tyler that I did understand, more than anything. I felt like snapping at him that he'd at least had months to prepare himself for Taylor's death.

What did I get when it came to my father? He only had a nanosecond to call my name before we were hit and it took me years to acknowledge his death; but even to this day, I still couldn't find it in my heart to brush off the overwhelming guilt.

Maybe I was being selfish in thinking that Tyler had caught the better end of the stick, but I just felt like I wouldn't be facing the recurring nightmares, tremors and guilt if I had been given months to prep for my father's death.

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