I’m simultaneously disappointed and relieved.
I wasn’t sure what I was, but it was definitely not okay. Cooper had just told me he loved me and my heart was racing and my mind was racing and I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know if I should grab hold of him and never let go or run the other way because he might change his mind and destroy me for good.Cooper’s smile fell as he looked between Elliot and me. I’m too late? he asked. I’m too late. His face was painted with pain. What can I do? A duel? He met my eyes with a sad smirk, sharing our inside joke.
No, Cooper, I said.I have to walk away, don’t I? Let you go this time?I didn’t speak, and I wasn’t sure why. Maybe I wanted him to feel the torture of that thought for just a moment. Cooper took the three remaining steps between us and crushed me into a hug that eradicated the rest of my anger. I’ll wait as long as it takes, he whispered. Then he left.
He finally figured it out? Elliot asked.I nodded. I’m sorry. I need to go.
I ran through the maze of the underground garden and up the stairs. The sun blinded me for a moment when I made it outside, breathless. When my vision cleared, I saw Cooper’s car in the parking lot. I ran to it, but he wasn’t inside. I turned a full circle, but he wasn’t anywhere, not up the street walking it off, not at the small gift shop where the admission tickets were sold. Nowhere.
I turned and practically slid back down the stairs underground again. When I reached the bottom, Cooper came stumbling out of one of the side rooms. I skidded to a halt.I nodded slowly. His eyes locked on mine and told me he knew that this was a big step in the right direction, which made me happy, though I wasn’t totally sure what to make of this gesture. Was he opening his life up for me?
I followed him forward, stepping onto a comfortable shaggy rug that warmed up the space. The wooden plank floors creaked lightly as we walked. I liked that I had somewhere to picture Braydon when we were apart.He showed me the living room, which included a framed photograph of his mom and dad, his tiny but ultraneat kitchen that contained an impressive coffee and espresso maker that I was dying to try. I imagined waking up to the smell of roasting beans. Then we ventured down a narrow hallway that led to his bathroom, with a glass-enclosed shower, and his bedroom at the far end. It was open and bright with a large bed dressed in white and gray linens. He had a tall dresser and a small writing desk and a chair positioned against the far wall. It was here that I imagined him working on the finances for Ben and Emmy’s charity. Black-and-white photography prints were hung on the walls and a small throw rug was positioned at the foot of his bed. It was a lovely room, but I was hit with a pang of sadness that he was only just now sharing it.
My gaze lifted to him, pushing away the solemn thoughts. It’s a beautiful place.His frown lines deepened. You don’t look well. His hand raised to smooth down an unruly lock of hair. You’re pale. Are you sure you feel okay?