Finding Perseverance(2)By: T. E. Black
If I let Rook stay, he will eventually resent me. He will slowly stop loving me altogether. Yes, he loves me, but he loves fighting just as much. Who am I to ask him to give up his dreams and settle down in a shitty dive bar? It isn’t Rook’s dream.
“I won’t do that.”
“Leigh, what the hell are you talking about? I’m telling you I’ll stay if you want me to. Isn’t this what you want—what you’ve been hinting at?”
Removing one of his hands from the back of my thigh, I hold it in mine. The rough texture and the countless scars from fights he fought to protect me leave me speechless—broken even. My chest burns from the lack of air, and when I turn my eyes from his hand to his face, there is hurt in his eyes. I’ve never seen him look at me this way, but his tell-all green irises give away every ounce of pain he feels.
“Do you see this scar?” I trace the one sitting on his knuckle.
“Yeah. I see it. I saw it the day I cracked Tim Lewis in the mouth for calling you a bitch, too.”
I give him a caring smile before continuing, “See, the thing is, you’ve always done things for me, Rook. You’ve always given a hundred percent to our relationship, and I’ve always taken it with the utmost gratitude. The problem is I’ve never been able to give anything back.”
Before I can even keep on with my good-bye, he stands abruptly and pulls me against his chest. The feel of his hard body against my softer one is enough to make me take back all I’ve said and let him stay.
“Don’t stand here and belittle yourself so you can send me away. I don’t care if you think this makes my leaving easier. You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I won’t let you say otherwise. I’ve loved you since I was twelve, Ryleigh O’Donnell. I loved you before I had anything else to love besides my family, so don’t act like fighting will ever come first. It won’t. You will always come first. I won’t leave Boston unless you’re coming.”
“Rook … I can—”
“Fuck, Leigh! What do you want from me? I say I’ll stay, and you tell me to go. I tell you I’m leaving, and your eyes beg me not to. You have to give me something here. I have to sign a lease in California in less than twenty-four hours.” He takes a deep breath. “I’m trying to do the right thing. I’ve given you every option I can come up with, and yet, we’re still standing here without a damn answer. I need you to tell me what you want—what you need. I’m not trying to force this on you, but I need you to decide if I keep packing my suitcase or not. Please, babe. Tell me what you want.”
Swallowing down the bile rising in my throat, I look away from his love-filled gaze. The weight of this decision rests on every inch of my heart, soul, and body, but I have to make it. He’s right.
He has less than twenty-four hours to sign a lease on a condo in California and less than twelve before his already booked flight takes off. So what the hell am I waiting for? Why don’t I tell him to cancel his plans and climb back into bed? Why don’t I tell him I want him to stay?
I have always given him something when it came to our relationship without even knowing. When I smile at him, I give him a piece of myself not many get to see. When I kiss him fearlessly, I am being brave for him. They are silent but sincere gestures, but it is the way I show him how much he means to me. I put him before myself. In every aspect of my life, I have thought about Rook Wallace before my own needs. I have taken his feelings into consideration when it came to making decisions.
I have loved him selflessly.
“You should go to California,” I say with a fake confidence.
“You should go. You’re going to be an amazing fighter one day, and I won’t stand in the way.” I pause before cracking a joke to lighten the now heavy mood. “Plus, I’ll still be here when you want to come back. All you have to do is look for Max’s neon sign and the bad-ass, blonde bartender who makes a mean cocktail.”
“Please don’t tell me you want me to go if you don’t. I need you to tell me the truth. I don’t want to lose this—us.” He waves his hand between us.