Chapter 27 | Brando

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I don't notice him at first.

      I'm wearing my signature goofy smile as I walk down the first cabin without looking at anyone around me. If anyone looks up at me, they'll probably wonder why the hell I'm smiling at nothing.

      I'm not smiling at nothing. I'm smiling at everything. If I was in a Disney Channel Original Movie, this would be the part where I sing about yesterday being duller; now everything's technicolor.

      My body is suspended in blissful adoration for one human being who, as it turns out, feels the same way I feel about him. I'll take that. I never, ever expected this, any of this. I never expected to be walking freely down the aisle of an airplane. I never expected to meet someone who awakens and stimulates every strand of my being.

      I'm seeing the world for the first time. I'm breathing air as if I've never had the pleasure of that sweet oxygen before. What seemed mundane in the past is now revolutionary. I'm born anew. Everything looks different, smells different, feels different.

      I don't even realize that I'm walking straight into him.

      'Oh, sorry!' I almost shout in surprise when I bump someone's shoulder. His shoulder.

      Nick looks down at me. 'You look different.'

      My shock quickly subsides. 'I'm glad you noticed,' I retort. I cross my arms when I realize he isn't letting me past.

      'That isn't your sweater.'

      'It's Daxten's. He's letting me borrow it. It feels good on my skin...'

      I know I shouldn't taunt him, but man, I feel that good about myself that I don't care. For once, I'm facing him with dignity. I've never had that before I allowed myself to fall for Daxten. I'm endowed with power, Daxten's power and my power, together concocting this strength that is escaping from the valves of my heart.

      My heart is strong now. Protected, no longer abused by Nick and my previous dependence on him. No matter what he does or says, he's never penetrating my heart again. Or any of me. I'm closed for business. I belong to one man and one man only.

      'I was worried about you,' Nick tells me, causing my smug smile to simmer. 'When the plane dived, and you hit that ceiling, I really fucking worried about you. I thought we were going to die.'

      'Okay, now you care about me? Now you worry about me?'

      'I've always cared Brando, don't tell me I fucking didn't.'

      A part of me starts to feel sorry for him. I have to shut my empathy out. He doesn't deserve it. I know that for a fact. No matter what, I can't allow myself to feel anything for this man standing in front of me.

      'You stamped on my heart that many times I didn't think I'd ever recover. You beat me into submission so that I would think I deserved it, and that I deserved it from you and only you. You manipulated me into thinking that was love. I thought that you were the only person who could ever love me. You twisted me up inside so that I would believe that to be true. I would believe that my breath was yours, and my blood and my love.'

      'I gave you a reason to live. You took and took and took from me until, what, you got bored and left me?'

      'You gave me nothing!' I shout at him. The low roar of the airplane's engine keeps the people nearby from hearing. 'You threw money at me like I was some kind of rented sex-slave. You gave me nothing of true value. And now you want me to grovel at your feet, asking you to take me back because, what? It would be a privilege? I should be lucky to have you as my boyfriend, as my husband? I don't deserve anybody else but you? I don't know what love is, is that what you're telling me? I don't know what I deserve? I'm too immature, too naïve to know better? I was, Nick. I really was when I was with you. But I woke the fuck up.'

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