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I'm Not Letting Go

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“Mavi!” I shout, rushing into the kitchen.

I turn the corner of the kitchen, finding her at the front door, hand on the handle. She turns slowly around, & even though we're meters apart, I can tell she's crying. I take a step towards her, but she steps back, pressing herself against the wall.

“Just… Stay back,” she says.

I stand still. “About what you saw… It's not what you think.”

She stares at me in disbelief. “Not what I think?!” She says. “Okay, here's what I’m thinking. My boyfriend has been spending the night, dancing away with some schoolgirl, who he’s clearly falling in love with, but does the typical male thing & denies it.” She crosses her arms. “How am I doing?”

I don’t know what to say. But my silence is just as bad as any words. She shakes her head as she sighs, turning & opening the front door.

I rush over, pushing it shut so she can't leave. She glares at me.

“She's just a friend,” I say, calmly.

“Do you love her?”

I don't reply. She tries to leave, but I don't budge my hand.

“Just let me leave.”

“Not until we talk.”

She sighs. “What do you want to talk about?” She asks, shrugging. “I just want you to be honest, but you won't answer. And yet you say you want to talk.”

“I… I don't know how I feel about her,” I reply. “We just… Click. We get each other better than…”

“Be honest, Tyler,” She replies. “Don't feel like you have to step around things because you're worried about my feelings. I just want to know where we stand. About us. About her. So just say it. Say that you get each other better than anyone else. Better than me. Because that's what you were going to say, wasn't it?”

I just stare at her for a minute, & then nod. She looks at her feet.

“You know, we were having trouble. Things weren't right, & I…” She sighs. She looks at me. “I thought it was just the stress of Mark’s accident. But… Now I see that that wasn't all of it.” She wipes away tears. “I'm losing you to her.”

I lean against the door, & close my eyes for a minute. “I'm sorry.”

She scoffs. “What for?”

“I never meant to hurt you,” I reply, softly, placing my hand on her cheek.

“We can't help who we fall in love with,” She says. “It takes a lot of strength to do the right thing, & admit that you're with the wrong person.”

“You're okay with this? Even though I’m breaking your heart?”

She nods, before turning in to my hand. “I just want you to be happy, Tyler,” she says. “Even though it's not with me.”

“Come here,” I say, moving off the door & holding my arms out to hug her.

She falls into my arms, her arms wrapping around me. We hug for a long minute. I hold her tight, knowing this is the last time we’ll hug. As we part, I kiss her cheek. We stop, still holding each other.

“I hope we can be friends,” she says. “Our relationship didn't work, but… Doesn't mean we can't still be in each other's lives.”

I nod. “Yeah,” I reply, with a smile. “I hope so too.”

She smiles. “And let me know what happens between you two.”

I nod. She leans forward, pressing a light kiss to my lips that I reciprocate, & then she slips out the door. I shut it, before sighing as I rest my forehead on the door.

****

“You know it's a wedding not a funeral, right?” Paige says, leaning on the bar, brushing my right arm with her left arm. “I mean, I know it's in the Brennan genes to have that brooding look, but… There's a time & a place.”

“It's nothing for you to worry about.”

She nudges my arm. “We're family now.”

“Yeah, but it's your wedding day. You shouldn't be burdened with my problems.”

She leans closer. “I always have time for you to vent to me.”

I smile a little. “Thanks, but… I’m okay.”

“You sure?”

I nod. “What's your poison?”

She looks confused, & then it hits. “Oh, sparkling apple juice,” She says. “Mum's tip. Looks enough like champagne that people who don't know about the” she lowers her voice, “pregnancy.” She then continues normally. “They’ll think I’m drinking it, but I’m being good & not.”

I reach for a bottle of sparkling juice, filling her champagne glass as I reply, “I’m no expert, but I thought you'd be able to have a glass or two.”

“Yeah, I can,” She replies. “I’m just spacing things out. Having one for the speeches, cause I feel like I can't toast with this stuff.”

“And the other one?”

She smirks a little. “Saving that one for… Later.”

I nod, grimacing. “Thanks for that mental picture of you two in the Lassiters’ honeymoon suite later on.”

"Oh, don't be like that, Tyler!” She says. She raises her glass to her lips, as she continues, “Some day that will be you.”

I scoff. “Don't think so.”

She frowns. “You don't picture yourself settling down with a pretty woman?” She asks. “Like Mavi?”

“I did for a little bit.”

Her frown deepens. “But not now?”

“Not with Mavi.”

“Did you two have a fight?”

I gulp down half my beer.

“Tyler?”

I hesitate, preparing to break the news to her. “We broke up.”

What?

“As of twenty minutes ago.”

“I'm so sorry, Tyler,” She says, hugging me.

“I didn't want to tell you.”

She pulls back, frowning.

“Today's about you & Mark.”

“Like I said before, you don't have to put this aside just cause it's our wedding,” She says. “We care about you.”

“I feel like I'm pulling things down.”

“Awww, you're not!” She says, draping an arm over my shoulders. She rubs my left arm. “Why don't, instead of drowning your sorrows here, you go over to Piper & just… Dance the night away. Put aside all this brooding, & just keep enjoying tonight.”

I sigh. “Not with Piper.”

I catch her frown in the corner of my eye.

“Why not? You two were having so much fun before.”

I down the rest of my beer.

She sighs. “Okay,” She says. “I'm not leaving till you spill.”

I shake my head.

“Tyler, I'm worried about you.”

“Don't be. I’m older than you.”

“Yeah, but you're my family,” She says. “And you're also my friend. So let me in.”

I sigh, running a hand over my face. “Piper’s part of it.”

“Of what?”

“Of why Mavi & I split!” I shrug her arm off. “Why don't you just go be with your husband, & stop worrying about me?”

“Ty.”

“I'm fine, Paige,” I reply. “I broke things off just as much as she did. Now, if you don't mind, I’d like to be alone.”

“To wallow in your misery?”

I shrug. “Better than being asked a million questions.”

And with that, I walk off.

****

“Paige,” I say, stepping up to her.

“Piper,” She replies.

“You were talking to Tyler before… Right?”

“Yeah,” She replies, confused.

“Is he okay?” I ask. “He ran after Mavi earlier & ever since he came back, he's been avoiding me.”

She looks awkward. “I think it's best you keep your distance for the rest of tonight.”

I frown. “Why?”

Her awkwardness grows. “It's not my place to explain.”

Urgh!” I exclaim, throwing my arms up. “How am I meant to keep my distance if I’m not allowed to know why the closest person I have to a friend is giving me the cold shoulder?”

"He just needs some space."

Space?! Why?”

Her awkwardness returns.

“Paige, please!” I beg. “I'm worried.”

She sighs. “Fine, but… It stays between us.”

“Pinkie swear,” I say, holding my right pinkie out.

She stares at it, a little surprised by my actions, but then links her right pinkie with mine. “He & Mavi…”

I wait for her to reply. She doesn't.

“What?” I ask.

“They…” She sighs. “Broke up.”

I’m shocked. “What?! Oh my god!”

“I don't know why, but he really doesn't want to talk to you.”

I frown. “What did I do?”

She shrugs. “All he said was that you were ‘part of it’.”

I frown harder. Then it comes back- the way Mavi reacted right before she left. The way I’d been standing so close to him, my head on his chest as we swayed. The way Tyler had been resting his head on mine...

I groan, covering my face with both hands. It's all making sense now!

“Are you okay?” Paige asks, concerned.

I lower my hands. “I think I understand what's happening.”

"It doesn't… Happen to be anything to do with the fact that there was some sparks flying between you two earlier,” she says. “Does it?”

I sigh. “Possibly.”

She smiles sympathetically. “The best thing to do right now, & it may seem like the hardest thing to do… But you have to give him the space he wants tonight.”

“Really?”

She nods. “He snapped at me earlier when I tried to get him to talk about it,” She says. “I’d hate for you to walk into the firing line.”

I nod. “You're right.”

****

I roll over, sighing heavily. I check the time- 4 a.m. I groan. Almost two hours since I’d come home. Almost two hours of lying in bed, not able to sleep.

But most importantly, not being able to stop thinking about him.

I know I shouldn't go talk to him, but not going is killing me more than risking him yelling at me if I do go.

I slip out of bed, get dressed & sneak downstairs, wary of every sound around me. Mum would kill me if she knew I was sneaking out at 4 a.m to go see a guy. Especially when that guy happens to be the one she thinks “isn't a good influence” on me. I head for the backyard, knowing exactly the right spot to climb over the fence.

Once I'm over, I quietly make my way to the windows I know lead into his bedroom. I stop, right at the edge, & peer in. The lights are off, but I can just make out that he's lying in bed. He always sleeps with one window open in Summer, so I slip through it- surprised my movement doesn't rouse him. I even manage to go all the way over to his bed & touch his arm before he even moves.

“Mavi?” He sleepily asks.

“No, it's me,” I reply. “Piper.”

He bolts up, making me step back in shock. He turns on his bedside lamp, before rubbing a hand over his face.

“What are you doing here?”

“I can't sleep.”

“So you came here?”

“Yeah, well, you're the reason I have insomnia.”

He looks confused. “Huh?”

“I know about you & Mavi.”

He looks even more confused, then it hits. “Paige.”

“Only cause I begged her to,” I reply. “I was worried about you.”

“Why?”

“You're my friend. And you were ignoring me.”

“Yeah, well, that happens sometimes.”

“Don't do it to me.”

“I needed space.”

“Why?”

“Because-”

“Because I’m the reason why she dumped you.”

“Piper.”

What, Tyler?” I ask. “It's true, isn't it? She saw us dancing, got jealous, stormed off, you chased her & then the next time I see you, you're ignoring me. And then I find out that you broke up. So basically you got dumped cause of me.”

“We mutually broke up.”

I look confused. “Is that even a thing?”

“Yes.”

“But I'm right? About it being about me?” I ask. “About the way we were dancing.”

He sighs, breaking eye contact. “You know the world doesn't revolve around you.”

I scoff. “Way to make it blatantly obvious I’m right by giving me a crap change of subject.”

"Ever consider the fact that I may be avoiding the question cause it's my private life & I don't want you to know about it?”

“Uh… I’m involved,” I reply. “That gives me the right to ask.”

He sighs. He then stands. “You should go.”

“Not until you tell me.”

“Piper, it's four a.m!”

“So?”

“One of my brothers may be staying at Lassiters tonight, but the other is here. What do you think is going to happen when it gets out that you’ve snuck into my room at four a.m?”

"We're friends.”

He looks shocked. “Piper, friends don't sneak into each other's bedrooms at four a.m to chat.”

“Well, I do.”

Clearly.”

“I’m sorry. She was… Nice.”

He shrugs. “People come, & people go.”

“And how many of them leave because of a friend?”

He stares at me. “You should go.”

“No.”

He sighs. “Piper, please.”

“No! I'm not going until you explain things to me.”

“Now’s not the time.”

“Fine,” I say, crossing my arms. “I’ll just stand here till it is.”

He places his right hand on my back- my heart rate increases. I flashback to when we were dancing- how it felt to be against his chest, to be in his arms. How incredibly good it was.

I try shaking the thought, the emotions from my mind. Just when I think I’ve succeeded, my eyes fall on his chest- the lamplight casting soft shadows across his abs. I swallow. Hard.

But I don't have much time to recover, for he guides me back over to the window.

“Leave.”

No.”

“Why?”

“We need to talk about this. Us.”

He sighs. “Not tonight.”

“No. Now.”

“Piper!”

What?

“Why are you so determined for answers? Why right now?”

“Because I can't sleep! I can't sleep without knowing exactly why I’m a part of your breakup. Why Mavi got so upset over us dancing together,” I say. “But above all… I wanna know why you thought it was such a good idea to shut me out for the rest of the night.”

“You really want to know all that?”

“Yes, & I'm not leaving till you do.”

“You really want to know?”

Yesssssss.”

He stares down at me for an incredibly long minute. His lips crash into mine, & for a few seconds I’m too stunned to do anything. I kiss him back, eager to feed the longing I’ve tried to hide for too long.

He pulls back, holding me away when I try to chase.

“That… That shouldn't have happened.”

“Why?”

“Because you're too young for me.”

“I'm the same number of years younger than you as Paige is with Mark.”

“They're different.”

How?

“Because Paige isn't still at school!”

“Why are people so quick to use that against me? Why do people think that I can't do things, that I can't date someone just because I'm sixteen? Why is it that Mum thinks she can smother me with her parenting despite the fact that I just spent two years living without her in Canada?” I ask. “I'm more mature than people think.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Mature? Really? How mature do you think you're being, sneaking in to my bedroom at four a.m when you're meant to be not seeing me?”

“How mature do you think you were when you chose to ignore me tonight?”

He stays silent.

Urgh!” I say, lifting my arms. “You know what? I’m sick of this! The way you're pushing me out. We used to be able to talk about anything, & now that you ‘mutually’ broke up with Mavi, I'm getting punished. So here you go, you're getting what you want. I’m leaving. And you don't have to speak to me ever again.”

I turn & start to climb back out the window. I’m straddling the sill, when he grabs my right arm. I stop, looking at him.

"Mavi knows."

“Knows what?”

He sighs. “She figured out I… That I have feelings for you.”

“We're friends.”

He swallows. “What would you say if I said I might be falling for you?”

“Like that kiss didn't indicate that.”

He narrows his eyes. “You know the whole biting back act is infuriating,” He says. “You say you're more mature than people think, but yet you talk like you're immature.”

I tilt my head. “Oh, thanks for that. Talking to me about how you're falling for me, & then calling me immature.”

We stare at each other. He then steps closer, cupping my face with both hands. It feels so good having his hands on me like this.

"I shouldn't do this,” He says, softly.

I swallow. Hard. “Do what?”

He leans down, pressing a soft kiss to my lips. He pulls back, but before I know it his lips are back on mine. We're both desperate for each other. But the fact that I'm straddling his window rather than him is hampering us. So I push him back, breaking our kiss.

“We can't do this.”

Piper,” He pleads.

“No… I mean… Just not like this,” I reply. “Straddling your window isn't the most romantic seating arrangement. I don't think it's even on the list…”

He drops his hands from my cheeks. “So what do you want to do?”

“Right now?” I glance down then up his body. I meet his gaze again. “All I want to do is fall asleep in your arms.”

“Piper, I…” He says, rubbing the back of his neck. “I don't think we should do that yet.”

“I don't mean have sex, stupid,” I reply, lightly hitting his arm. “I just feel like…” I sigh, looking at my hands. “It's gonna sound dumb, but I feel like I won't be able to sleep without you.”

He sighs, rubbing his face with his right hand. “Okay, but you're sneaking out in the morning & if your Mum catches on, I’m going to be dead.”

I climb back in, stepping closer to him. “I promise she won't see me sneaking back in.”

He nods. I reach up & kiss him. He walks me over to his bed, getting me to sit down.

“Take your shoes off,” he says, turning away.

He crosses to his wardrobe as I undo my boots. I take my boots & socks off, watching him the whole time as he looks through his wardrobe.

“What are you doing?”

He returns with a shirt, & holds it out to me.

"What's that for?”

“For you to sleep in,” He replies. “I thought you wouldn't really want to sleep in your clothes, so here's an old shirt of mine. I can get a pair of shorts too, if you want. I’m not sure what you normally sleep in.”

“This is fine,” I reply, taking it.

He nods. “I’ll, uh… Go stand over there, with my back to you, so you can change.”

I nod. I watch as he walks back over to the window. I admire his toned body for a moment. Never thought I’d see him in nothing but his boxers so soon. I snap out of my thoughts, stand, & swap into his shirt. I drop my jeans & shirt on the floor beside the foot of his bed, & then walk over to him. I slip my hand into his, & he turns to look at me. His eyes slowly take me in, & I notice him swallow. He wants me so bad!

We walk back to his bed, & he gestures for me to get in first. I let his hand go, & crawl far enough over so he can get in. I lie down, tucking my legs under the sheets. He then joins me, pulling the sheet up to cover us. I shift closer, turning so my back is to him, tucking my hair to my right side, intentionally leaving my neck exposed. He hooks his left arm around me, gently pulling me closer- pressing me flush against his chest. I wonder what it would be like to make love to him…

“Comfortable?” He asks.

“Very.”

He shifts, withdrawing his arm, & then the light flicks off. Seconds later, I feel his arm wrap around me again.

“Goodnight,” I say.

“Goodnight,” he replies.

I drift off to sleep, the last thing I remember is feeling him kiss the base of my neck.