The Fear Of

Chapter Twelve


I can't breathe. I cannot breathe. Why can I not breathe? Honest to all the fictional and nonfictional deities people believe in, I am starting to see black spots swimming in my vision, and my throat is gasping desperately for a lungful of sweet, precious oxygen. May I just say once more that I—

"Can't breathe… suffo… choking," I sputter unattractively as I attempt to dislodge myself from Sam's vice grip on my torso. Since when has my little brother developed muscles? I blame videogames. "Sam, please… get off."

"But I feel like I'm missing you already," he whines petulantly, embracing me even tighter. Oh god, I think I see the light.

"Sam, get off."

After what feels like an eternity and a collapsed lung, Sam releases his hold and tosses an innocent smile in my direction before handing me a post-it note. Turning it over, I read what's written on the yellow page:

Meet me upstairs in the old study room please. :)

You know who.

Immediately, a rush of anxiety and anticipation and adrenaline shoots up from my toes to my spine and to the tips of my hair strands. This sudden emotional overload strikes me as humorous because just a short while ago, I can recall that I was actually looking forward to meeting up with him, but now that the opportunity finally presents itself, I can't find it in me to climb those stairs. Darn it, he will be the death of me one day, I swear it.

Despite my knowing whom the note is from, I still ask, "Carter?"

In turn, the brown-haired boy nods enthusiastically and smiles again. Then, he hands me a very familiar-looking notebook. Taking in its black leather cover, gold and gray curlicues and little wrinkles, it soon dawns upon me that the notebook is mine, the one wherein I write all my letters. Now the question is—

"Why is that of all things with you?"

Grinning unabashedly at me, he simply explains, "Lucy."

Of course, my meddling vixen of a sister would get her hands on my personal belongings. Why did it not occur to me earlier? The number of times I want to roll my eyes is… well, I don't know, but it's probably within the three-digit bracket.

After shaking my head as if to rid myself of my internal musings, I take the notebook from Sam, thank him, and leave an affectionate kiss on his forehead. He pokes his tongue out, shows me a hasty double thumbs-up, and sprints off in a parallel direction. I shake my head again, fighting off a grin despite the jelly-like feeling of my legs and the recurring hammering of my heart.

For a moment, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Once I open them, I head for the stairs, but in my mind, I am thinking of Carter: the whiteness of his teeth whenever he smiles, the warmth of all his embraces, the melodious sound of his laugh, the boyishness of his smirk when he told his ex-girlfriend Blake: "She's herself. I think she shouldn't change a thing," the one time he apologized to me by leaving a cup of my favorite frozen yogurt on my doorstep, the way he teases me whenever I wax poetry about his car and jacket, the way his lips tightened into a frustrated line when I avoided him for a month and a half, the way he gently caressed my hair as he kissed me, and the way he makes me feel whenever he calls me beautiful. I recall everything written in Mom's letter, the advice I received from Roth Donohue, and even the last part of Lucy's speech:

You deserve so much, and I want you to know that if the opportunity presents itself, go for it.

But above everything else, I remember and think to myself of how much I want Carter, how huge and life-changing the risk I'm about to take is, and how much he's worth taking that risk and everything else in between.

Soon enough, I reach the door of the old study. By this point, I'm actually feeling calm and in control, now strengthened by my thoughts, realizations and inner pep talks. Because of my new bravado, I don't bother with knocking on the door's mahogany surface. However, I do take a moment to fluff my auburn hair and to tug lightly on the hem of my dress.

Then, I twist the doorknob revealing the sight of him in his golden hair and slightly disheveled glory casually leaning on an old desk, and almost instantly, my knees weaken and my heart pumps faster once more. The self-confidence I initially had vanishes, and all that's running through my mind is: Damn him. Damn him. Damn myself for loving him.

Still, I manage to utter—albeit very softly, "I'm here."

Carter lifts his gaze from the documents on the table to me in my flustered state. Aside from noticing the brilliance and depth of his green eyes, I note that he has taken off his suit jacket, leaving him in a white polo that reveals a portion of his abdominal muscles. Damn him. Damn him. Damn him.

He says nothing; instead, his eyes merely sweep my being in a calculating manner while one corner of his lips lifts up into a gentle half-smile. Without meaning to, the hormonal teenager in me is squealing over how attractive he looks without even making an effort. Feeling emotionally conflicted, I look away as I enter the room, and biting my lip to avoid the temptation of doing something stupid and inane, I close the door shut behind me.

A silence ensues, and for a moment, Carter casts an inquisitive glance towards the leather notebook I'm holding. Knowing the content scribbled within its pages, I shyly shift my body, hiding it behind my back and curling my lip innocently for only a second.

Our eyes finally meet. He tilts his head adorably and says, "Hey, birthday girl."

"Hey yourself, neighbor."

"Ah, so that's how it is then? That's all I mean to you," he remarks jokingly, but strangely, the smile on his sculpted features fades and I detect an underlying tension in his voice. Before I can investigate further, his expression reverts into a mask of easygoing nonchalance, and he smoothly changes the subject. "I wanted to give you your birthday present in person and in private."

I nod, understanding this.

Despite his effortless charisma, Carter has an inherent, reserved persona. Sometimes I wonder to myself that maybe if I hadn't befriended him all those years ago, he would've ended up being an introverted hermit, that maybe I have, in some ways, changed and morphed his life in the same manner he has done with mine.

"Here," Carter gestures towards the big leather chair near him, a silent invitation that I come over. And I do. I walk over to his side—unintentionally catching a whiff of the familiar mixture of mint, caramel and a kind of spice I can't name—and look at him expectantly, ignoring the constant churning of my stomach and the flopping of my heart against the confines of my ribcage.

"… So, what do you think of my little tirade a while ago? Did you like it? Was it too incoherent for your taste?"

I can't refrain myself from giggling like a school girl who just discovered a dirty secret. With a smirk, I ask, "You're stalling, and I wonder why?"

"Yeah," he admits with a slight sheepish tone. "Honestly, giving this to you… it makes me kind of nervous."

"Don't worry," I assure him with a teasing grin, "you're not the only one. I'm kind of nervous too."

He takes another quick glimpse of the notebook in my grip before looking directly in my eyes.

"What are you kind of nervous for?"

"You'll see." My grin widens as I say, "But you first."

Now Carter appears to be very amused by shift in behavior. I try to tone down the wattages of my grin, feeling the slight stiffness forming in my cheeks. Although I'm feeling at ease once more, a tiny yet significant portion of me is still coiling itself in anticipation, fear and adrenaline. Knowing that he may share the same anxiety I have aids in calming me down.

"Okay," he agrees, caution and amusement flickering back and forth in his eyes. "But you have to let me stall first."

The nod I make is accompanied with an obvious eye-roll. Nevertheless, Carter accepts this and gently grasps my hand in his before proceeding to play with my fingers as if the action is merely an afterthought. Clearly, he is more uneasy than he originally let on. I bite my lip to resist smiling.

"So," my best friend drawls before lifting my hand and pressing a quick kiss on the pulse near my palm. "It's your eighteenth birthday." He suddenly pauses. "Okay, that opening line sucked. Let me try again." This time I bite my lip to prevent myself from chuckling like an idiot. He brushes his bow-shaped lips against my knuckles before lightly kissing each one.

"Get on with it, Carter. The anticipation is swelling and evolving into an urge to expel yellow bodily fluids."

In response, a highly entertained chortle escapes his mouth and his eyes shift heavenward as if silently saying: 'What a charming young lady you turned out to be, yeah?' I merely stare at him expectantly once more.

Finally, Carter continues, "I'm assuming that you've noticed how I haven't been sketching when you're around for several months." Knowing what I'm about to ask, he rushes to clarify, "It's not that I quit or anything. In fact, it's really the opposite. I've never been so inspired in my entire life, you know?" Now I'm confused. Where exactly is he going with this train of thought and words? "It's just that," by this point, his voice trails off, unsure and anxious.

Holy hell, Carter, get on with it. Are you trying to make me smack you in the face? This is like the most intriguing suspense novel I've ever read, except for the fact that this is actually my life, not a novel.

"It's just that," he repeats himself, straightening his posture and leaning away from the wooden table. He tugs on my hand, pulling me closer to him and to the aged chair. "This inspiration of mine led me to draw only one subject in particular… and here," he says, using his other hand to spin the chair into facing me, revealing a dark-covered, fairly dilapidated sketchpad wrapped in a bright red ribbon.

I am stunned. Does this mean…? Does he mean…? Could it be that…? There are so many questions floating around in my head, and I struggle to maintain a normal breathing pattern.

Pulling my hand away from the guy I love's grip, I pick up the sketchpad and run my fingers up and down its smooth surface. Then, after briefly making eye contact with Carter who nods encouragingly towards me all the while chewing on his bottom lip, I place my notebook on the desk and untie the ribbon that hinders me from seeing the drawings. Once it's out of the way, I open the sketchpad. Despite the infinitesimal part of me that has expected it, I am still greatly surprised.

It is a quick yet elaborate black-and-white sketch of a sunset by the docks of my favorite beach. However, what catches me off guard is not the multitude of boats nor the flock of seagulls but the backside of my figure, sitting on the dock with my feet in the water and my messy, wavy locks swaying with the wind.

I continue to flip through the pages, assessing each black-and-white sketch and drawing and artwork.

The next is basically a blank page if not for the rough strokes that form my eyes, which in that particular work sparkle more than they actually do in real life. This is followed by a sketch of me sleeping in his car with my head leaning on a window pane, my hair sprawled messily and my body snuggled up in his favorite gray jacket. Then, there is one of me carrying a baby rabbit in the animal shelter I volunteer in. There is also one of me biting my lip as I look down at my shoes. More and more, there are drawings of me, just me being myself, and the more I see of me, the more I am left speechless and bewildered and exhilarated. But above everything else, the more I see of me, the more I feel beautiful.

When I flip to the last page, my heart literally skips a couple of beats. There, in colored pencil this time, is a sketch of Carter and me. I remember having this as a framed photograph in my bedroom, and I remember having that photo taken. It is of Carter and me leisurely sitting side by side on the edge of his tree house, each holding a huge bowl of ice cream. Despite the disarrayed state of my hair, I am beaming while holding a metal spoon in triumph. On the other hand, Carter's grinning expression matches mine, but his cheeks are stained with the chocolate ice cream from my spoon. While I am looking straight ahead, his face is slightly tilted, making it evident that he's directing his attention towards me and nowhere else. In a way, looking at it feels intimate, like I'm seeing things in a totally different light. Like I'm seeing the guy I'm in love with in a totally different light.

I look away from the sketchpad and turn my attention to Carter who is oddly fidgeting and carefully watching my reaction at the same time.

"I love it. I absolutely love it," I tell him, resisting the urge to put my arms around him and to never let go.

A relieved smile makes its way on his face, and his response is: "I'm glad."

By this point, I am utterly and deliriously happy. I am beyond ecstatic because of what all of this—his birthday speech and the sketchpad filled with his art—might mean. It might mean that he still cares. It might mean that he still feels the same way I do. It might mean that I'm not too late.

With this train of thought, I enthusiastically grab my notebook from the table and hand it to him with perspiring palms and trembling fingers. In turn, he tosses me a look of bewilderment and confusion.

My answer is vague: "What are you waiting for? Read it."

Hesitantly, as if the notebook is merely a figment of his imagination, Carter flips through the pages, mesmerized by the black ink and the slant of my handwriting. I lean back against the desk, studying his expressions which shift from cautious to hurt to surprise to hurt again to that of understanding. I don't know how long it takes for him to finish, but it feels all too soon to me when he reaches the last letter.

"Letter No. 152… Letter to Carter No. 83…" he reads out loud, entirely focused on the particular page. "Carter Logan Tanner, I'm sorry. I just had to address you by your full name in this one. I love how your name rolls easily off my tongue, you see. Then again, I love every single thing about you. But I'm getting way too ahead of myself."

I start to shift uncomfortably, not liking the blankness and seriousness his face reveals. It seems to me that he is closing himself off from me once again, and I do not like it. I do not like it at all.

"For God only knows how long, I've been rereading Mom's letter to me and I've been recalling Roth's piece of advice from that day in the playground. I just can't help it, you know? I have come to realize that I do need to seize the day, but more than that, I have grown to realize that my day won't ever be completely seized until I tell you that I am in love with you and that this time, I'm ready for it." Carter inhales sharply after reading this tidbit, briefly casting a glance towards me. My face starts to feel very warm.

In what feels like a painfully slow pace, Carter places the notebook back on the table, and looks me in the eye. I am intimidated because just like a few months ago, my cards are all revealed, laid down and waiting for judgment.

There are a few beats of silence before he grins and asks, "You're in love with me?"

A part of me wishes to hurl a chair at his face. What an idiot. He clearly knows the answer, yet he simply wants to see me squirm in discomfort. I was never one to really vocally express my feelings.

"I believe we've settled that," I mutter petulantly. His grin does not waver at all. Then all of a sudden, words tumble from my lips. "Yes, you absolute moron, I'm in love with you and I don't want to be afraid of it anymore."

"And what ever happened to not believing in forever?" It seems to me that he is so solely focused on my bold declaration that he overlooks my half-hearted insult. If anything, Carter begins to beam even more.

"Yeah, well," I reply with a scowl, hating how embarrassed and shy I feel. "Maybe I've started to see what you see. The one of us… never separating and… and," I can't bring myself to continue, the words caught in my throat. Everything is so surreal. It's as if all that's taken place is a mere dream.

Fortunately, Carter seems to understand and finishes my sentence for me, "And being in love forever." Amused chuckles rumble from his throat. "So you're in love with me."

This time, I punch his shoulder half-heartedly before laughing. "We're going in circles here, Carter."

All of a sudden, he puts his lean arms around me before smirking roguishly. "I can't help myself though. I'll never get tired of hearing it." He uses one hand to tilt my face towards his, and then he teasingly skates his lips over mine. "I love you too."

Finally, finally, Carter kisses me, and my eyes close on instinct. In my opinion, it's long overdue, but his lips are unbelievably soft and they mold perfectly against mine so I think I can forgive him for it. A moan escapes me as his mouth caresses mine tenderly and lovingly. I open my mouth to give him better access, and he takes the opportunity to really taste me, not stopping his self from holding back. The kiss evolves into something beautifully rough and wonderfully passionate.

He pulls me closer against his body, letting his calloused fingers trace my cheeks and collarbones before burying themselves in my hair. In turn, I wrap my arms around his neck, wanting to feel the warmth radiating from his skin as much as possible, all the while playing with his blonde locks and deeply inhaling the spiciness of his scent.

Soon, we break apart, needing to catch our breath, but we refrain from releasing each other completely. As I gasp for air, I arch into him. In response, he leaves a trail of deliciously warm kisses from my jaw to the pulse on my neck while his hands run up and down my waist. I lift his face towards mine and our lips meet once more. And we kiss again and again and again. It's amazing. He's amazing, and I cannot for the life of me understand how I could wait for so long.

However, like all good things, the kissing comes to an end. The both of us breathe heavily, yet we share identical stupid grins.

Then, Carter places a gentle kiss on my forehead before telling me, "I've waited for you for years, and now that I have you, I have no intentions of ever letting you go. I hope that doesn't sound too possessive for you."

"It doesn't," I answer with a genuine smile. "It sounds perfect, really."

"Great," he says. "Now let's head downstairs, birthday girl. Your guests must be waiting."

And we do. Once we reach the staircase, I am instantly overwhelmed by the sight of everyone watching us with eager and knowing smiles.

Noticing this as well, Carter takes my hand in his and laces our fingers together. His firm grip makes me feel safe, protected, and above everything else, courageous. Hand in hand, we descend the stairs at our own pace, and once we reach the bottom step, all my family members, friends and guests start to applaud. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that they have been waiting for this, that they have been waiting for me to face my fears head on and to finally catch on.


Murmuring obscenities to myself, I pick up the phone and growl in irritation, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't stab you with a fork and offer your bloody corpse to the walrus god."

I have never been a morning person. In this case, nor a A.M. person. But I digress. My point is simple: I am trying to get some sleep here, and a sleepy Kaye does not appreciate a phone call during her sleep. What can I say? Sleep deprivation is an imperative matter, in my opinion.

At first, I tried to ignore whoever is calling me, but after the ninth call, I broke. The unwanted—not to mention unappreciated—noise was irritating every brain cell in my head.

"So yesterday," a familiar male voice drawls nonchalantly. I nearly groan in annoyance, not even bothering to muffle the sound with my pillow. "I woke up pretty early. I shoved my curtains aside, watched the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen and immediately thought of you."

Hearing the slight British lilt, I become much more awake yet the vexation I feel does not lessen. I sit up and stretch my arms after placing the phone between my ear and shoulder. Once I hold the communication device with my hand, I mutter sardonically, "That's funny. I was thinking of you yesterday morning too."

"Yep, I realized how infinitely glad I was that I wasn't seeing your face," the idiot practically sings back. Honestly, how can anyone be any extent of enthusiastic and optimistic and downright cheerful in the wee hours of the morning? But two can play this game.

"I got some Pocky yesterday," I say just as indifferently, "and it reminded me of the thickness of your lower anatomy." At the end of my sentence, I can barely contain a smirk. That'll show him.

Ignoring my implication, he barrels on, launching a made-up story, "Then, I went outside for a better view and accidentally stepped on a mud puddle… which made me think of your poop-colored eyes."

I gasp in an exaggerated manner before commenting, "What a coincidence!" My voice becomes casual once more. "This cow vomited grass on our front porch, and the resemblance between its throw-up and your eyes is hilariously uncanny."

"Afterwards, I got hit in the face by this bamboo that appeared out of nowhere," he pauses dramatically, which in turn leads to me rolling my eyes, "and it felt like being assaulted by your nonexistent curves."

"Ooh, and then it rained outside. Can you believe it? I instantly reminisced that time you told me you're afraid of taking a bath... which explains your atrocious body odor."

"I'm only scared shitless," he clarifies patiently which somehow leads to his faint accent becoming more pronounced, "Because you constantly insist on being in the shower with me."

"Aw, it's adorable how you're so insecure about my seeing your embarrassingly tiny genitals."

He exhales a sharp breath. "You might want to rethink that once I get there and prove you wrong... if you know what I mean."

Hearing this, I nearly scream. For what reason, I do not know, but I feel like yelling at him for being so stupid and such a nuisance and screaming at myself for liking every bit of it. Instead, I manage to calm down.

"It's 4:27 am," I protest. "You are not going in my house."


I stare disbelieving at the phone in my hand. He hung up on me. The idiotic caller hung up on me. Oh well. I drop the phone on my bed and snuggle under the sheets, sighing blissfully as I do so. Unfortunately, just when I think that I finally, finally get to sleep again, I hear an irritating tapping sound coming from my window.

Tap, tap, tap.

I ignore it.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.

Grouchily, I walk towards the noise, push the curtains open and let the culprit through the window. Then, I place my hands on my hips and stare expectantly at him, an eyebrow raised accordingly.

"Top of the morning to you, gorgeous," Carter greets, using a stronger British accent on purpose because he knows how much I love hearing it.

"What, pray tell, are you doing here?"

"I'm here to prove you wrong regarding the issue concerning my 'embarrassingly tiny genitals'," he clarifies, even having the gall to wink suggestively at me. I moan in complaint dramatically. Still full of his self, I see. "And I'm here to take you out on a date."

Hearing this, I can't help but laugh at my boyfriend. Or maybe it is more of a giggle. Either way, I playfully remark, "God, you're clingy."

"Yeah, yeah," he brushes the insult off. "You've been saying that for almost two months now. But," a meaningful pause, "we both know you adore it."

Not wanting to admit it out loud, I stick my tongue out at him and deliberately change the topic. "Dear lord, Carter, did you climb up the trellis to get into my room?"

"Of course not, I brought a ladder."

"…All for a date?" I inquire in an amused tone, grinning unabashedly at him. He is just too sweet, romantic and spontaneous sometimes. I don't know how I can bear with it.

Carter lies down on my bed, crossing his arms behind his head. I feel the sudden urge to join him and to ruffle up his blonde tresses. He tosses a smile in my direction as he answers, "Yep. I plan on making the most out of the time we have before college starts." He suddenly turns his gaze towards the ceiling. "I'll miss you, you know."

Again, I chuckle at his antics. Why was I blessed with the most adorable boyfriend in the world?

"We're going to the same university, Carter. It's not going to be long distance or anything."

"I know that," he says defensively like a child, "but you'll be busy playing doctor and I'll be busy playing architect. I mean, the courses we're taking are difficult and the workload is unmerciful."

"At least neither of us is taking up chemical engineering. I think I'd die if I did," I muse, humoring him.

"Quit the sarcasm, baby," the blonde boy drawls, knowing how much I hate the particular term of endearment, "and get dressed already. There's frozen yogurt in my tree house, and it'd be a waste for it to melt just because you're slower than a dead slug."

"All right, all right," I say, putting my hands up as a sign of surrendering. "Just one last thing though."

With that said, I walk towards him, aware of his eyes watching my figure and my actions. He's confused, I bet, while I'm just as giddy as ever.

As cliché as it sounds, the thought of just being with him causes butterflies to wrestle within the confines of my stomach. With Carter, I never wish for anything extravagant or fancy because I swear, that boy can make the idea of being in an old tree house worth looking forward to.

A smile tugs at my lips as I sit on the bed with him, my body feeling the warmth radiating off his. I lean forward until my hair serves as a dark curtain between the two of us and the rest of the world and our lips brush against each other. Without further hesitation, I close the gap completely and kiss him as sweetly and as lovingly as I can.

The reaction is immediate. I can literally feel a smile identical to mine curving on his lips as Carter kisses me back with the same amount of force and with the same amount of emotion. He pulls me closer, and consequently, I end up practically sprawled on top of him. But I don't mind at all. Instead, I relish the feeling of his hands firmly holding my hips and of our legs entangling together the way our lives have always been intertwined. I gasp a little once he starts to suck on my bottom lip, and I grasp his hair to pull him even closer to me. The moment his hand glides under my shirt and starts drawing patterns gently on my skin, I lose almost all forms of thought completely.

Minutes later as we lie on my bed, the frozen yogurt all but forgotten, I realize yet again that Carter Logan Tanner is mine. But more than that, I realize that I am his and that I will continue to be his for months and years and decades to come. And that makes all the difference. It really, truly does.



Copyright Eiya Weathes (Author ID: 697805). All Rights Reserved.