Chapter 2- Tattoos

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Jacob

Four years earlier, we'd been across the country on that damn bus: Riya and me, a boy band, a girl rapper, a country duo, and a YouTube gamer star dude. I met her in California. Held her hand in Arizona. She kissed me at a mall in Missouri, and then I kissed her all the way to Florida. In New York, we knew we'd fallen in love.

I remembered the exact moment. The moment at the top of the Empire State Building when I looked at her and thought, this may be new to me, but this is it. This is right. This is what love is. It's this talented, amazing woman. I watched her hair fly around with the wind, the sun light her from behind, her eyes examining the city below dreaming of things that I wanted to know about. Love was the force that drew me to her, making me want to connect with her, body, mind, heart, and soul.

If we'd had a lifetime, we probably would have waited... but we didn't have the luxury. Our days were numbered. The six-week "up-and-coming" stars tour was winding down, with only two precious weeks left. We'd become pretty intense, emotionally and physically, and we didn't want our first times to be on the tour bus, hiding from the others.

So we'd snuck away from the bus, pooled our money, and spent the night at the Ritz-Carlton. Naked, in love, and in pain, knowing it couldn't last. She was smart, talented, worldly, and gorgeous. I was a dumb ass from St. Louis, who happened to get lucky with his guitar. How could I know I'd fall in love that summer?

Riya.

After our night in New York, I begged her to stay in America with me. But only once. She said asking her was wrong because it put her in the position of having to turn me down.

That's not fair, Jacob. Please don't ask again.

Leaving her at the end of the summer was the hardest thing I'd ever done. But I couldn't regret it. Unlike the others on the bus, the two of us had made it big in our respective worlds, and, four years later, we were still famous.

Bollywood? What does that even mean?

I want to sing and dance in movies. I want fans. Lots of them. But mostly I want little girls to look up to me the way I looked up to the stars when I was little.

You are beautiful and talented. I have no doubt that you'll make it. Anywhere, everywhere.

And I have no doubt that you will, too, bear.

This is going to suck, isn't it, princess?

Leaving you? Yeah. It's going to suck hard.

Oh, it sucked. Big time. We agreed to stop contact, intent on following our dreams and being stars without suffering the certain heartbreak at hearing each other's voices. Meanwhile, for months after the tour I barely functioned. She was a world away. My heart, my soul, was a world away.

Maybe fate will bring us back to each other someday.

I hope so, Riya. More than anything, I hope so.

I never thought I'd see her again. But soon, I started seeing her newly-famous image everywhere. Happy for her, I could admit that it hurt to share her with the world. Bittersweet pain pierced my heart every time I saw her, reminding me of our time together.

In a way, I wanted to forget. I spent the next four years trying.

Riya

Carefully, I placed a hand on his chest. His heartbeat thumped against my palm. I moved my fingers to the seam of his shirt and slowly, silently started unwrapping him. My Christmas gift from the universe.

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