Bliss – Chapter Three

“They’re here,” she said. She must have fixed her hair before they arrived, because it was down now, no trace of the flour.

“I don’t care,” I said, lying back down.

She came over to the bed, knelt in front of me, stroked my face. “It’s just a couple of hours, baby,” she said, her voice gentle, soothing. God, this woman had the patience of a saint.

I wasn’t going to disappoint her, not when she looked at me like that. I hated the idea of this, but I had to suck it up. I sat up, gave the longest sigh, trembling the whole time.

“Fine, but can you please kiss me? Because I—”

She cut me off with the kiss I’d requested, not needing a reason. Then she gave me another, for good measure.

“That enough?” she said with a smile.

“For now.”

She got to her feet, took my hand, and we left the room together.

I saw him first. Despite the four people with him, he was the one my eyes immediately drifted to. He’d shaved, was wearing a crisp white shirt and a tie. As soon as his eyes met mine and he caught the pure, undeniable hatred in them, the look of joy that had been there upon seeing me soon vanished. With my glare, I tried to turn him to stone! Through the corners of my eyes I could see everyone watching me.

“Dakota,” Dove said, stepping forward, trying to break the tension and my death-glare, “This is Luke and Josie, and their mom Sarah.”

My eyes drifted away from my father and to the two redheaded teenagers shyly hanging close to their parents. And, quite unexpectedly, something inside me broke. My heart. It was as though I were looking in the mirror of my youth. They favored me and Dove so much… aesthetically, but with one key, missing element: that broken look wasn’t there. They looked… happy. Not malnourished, or distrustful of the world, not lonely or aware of how unloved they were. They looked like two normal teenagers. They were me and Dove without the pain. Josie even wore her hair the way I used to, a long braid hanging over one shoulder.

“Hello,” I managed to say, my voice small and grainy, choked.

“Hi,” they said in bashful unison. Luke waved. But Josie, after some hesitation, slowly walked toward me, her gait nervous, then threw her arms around me, taking not just me but the whole room by surprise.

I didn’t know what to do, not immediately. This stranger had just hugged me and wasn’t letting go. Except… she wasn’t a stranger, she was a part of me. It didn’t take long for me to feel that connection. And slowly… I hugged her back. The room did a collective sigh of relief, it seemed.

“…Luke plays the drums. He’s actually really good,” Sarah, the doting mother, said while we ate dinner.

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