“It’s good to reflect on the past, but only to learn from it in the future,” Erik said, and his pupils dilated as he stared back at me.
He had a past too. Maybe I could tell him.
“I just…I don’t know…It’s like I can’t fully escape it.”
Erik shrugged, cocking his head at me. “Maybe you shouldn’t try to escape it. If you keep running you’ll lose yourself–“
“I think I already have.”
I’d wanted Adam to find me, but he was too busy finding himself and I was…my eyes lifted to Erik. I was here with this man who obviously cared about me.
I watched as his Adam’s apple rose and fell. “The only person who can find you–the real you–is yourself. Maybe you ran from who you were because you weren’t that person anymore. Now you just have to find out who you are now and learn to love that person.” His eyes dropped and he flipped my arm so I could see the tattoo he gave me. “I think you have that strength, River. You just need to realize it.”
“Everyone kept saying I was so strong when everything was happening,” I replied, and I could feel the tears forming in my eyes. I was dancing around telling him what really happened, but I was finally saying the things I held in. Erik’s hand lifted to my face, cupping my cheek and I closed my eyes. “And I was so weak.” I let my eyes open to find Erik’s bearing into mine. “No one ever saw it– no one tried to help. They just kept saying you’re strong. I was completely fading.”
“Maybe what they saw was that you were being strong for everyone else–but you really need to be strong for yourself. If you’re not strong for yourself, eventually everything else falls away.” Erik’s thumb stroked my cheek, and the aching hollow that had returned seem to move away. “I don’t know what happened before, but I don’t think you’re weak for moving here–away from what was dragging you down. I think it took a lot of strength to make the decisions you did.”
The breath I’d been holding kept out in a whoosh as I shook my head. “He’s always right.”
Erik’s eyes narrowed, and I took his hand to press it to my lips before letting it fall. His jaw slackened, and I blushed as I realized exactly what I just did.
Crossed the friend line much?
He withdrew his hand slowly, letting it fall into his lip and I put my hand over my mouth as I glanced down at the floor of the car. Erik coughed and my eyes lifted. He was blushing too.
“Whose always right?”
“Oh,” I replied, shaking my head. “Ah, Jesse.”
“Why what did he say?”
“That we needed each other,” I began and when his eyes widened I quickly added; “as friends.”
“Ah,” Erik said, looking ahead and tapping his hands against my steering wheel. “Yeah, he’s usually right.” His gaze moved the corner of his eyes and he asked, “What else did he say about us?”
We’d be good together.
I pursed my lips and it was my turn to avoid his gaze. “Nothing really.”
Erik chuckled to himself. “I hope he’s right about that too.”