Chapter 7 - Part 1

“Jess.” 

 

Jessica shot up in the bed still sobbing, her lungs aching. “He… I couldn’t…”

 

Myles held her by the arms, as the tears streamed down her face. He pulled her into his arms and soothed her. “It was just a dream.” Gently, he rocked her while she continued to sob uncontrollably.

 

He eased her back to level his gaze with hers. “It’s me, Jess. You’re fine.” He tucked her hair behind her ear.

 

She shook her head. “I’m not…fine…  I’ll never be…fine.” She trembled as she hiccupped in between her tears. 

 

“Why?’ he asked gently, brushing her cheek with a thumb.

 

She let out a shaky breath, still trying to fight through the cobwebs from the nightmare still clinging to her mind. “Dylan.”

 

There was a mixture of understanding and sadness.

 

He hugged her to him tighter this time. This time he didn’t tell her she would be fine, because he knew it never would be—just like he never would be fine again.

 

When her tears began to dry up, she sighed, still not wanting to lift her face to look at Myles. She didn’t want to see his reaction to her meltdown. It had only been a dream, even though it had felt so real. At the time she had held so much hope, only for it to vanish—as Dylan had in the dream.

 

She wanted to stay where she was, in the protective embrace of a person who understood, to some extent, her pain and sadness. 

 

“You feeling better?” he eventually asked when he pulled back to study her.

 

She nodded, still feeling like she had parted the curtain and given him a front-row seat to her pain. Her only comfort was he had no idea the guilt she carried.

 

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, drawing back from him.

 

“Don’t be sorry. You lost someone you loved. It’s okay to feel, you have to feel something even if it hurts.”

 

His soft-spoken words hit at something in her and she stared into his eyes before moving her gaze to the door to try build the walls back up.

 

A whisper of a memory of Dylan lingered in the doorway, and a moment later he was gone. It took her breath away.

 

“I feel like I’m adrift at sea and I can’t save myself. There’s nothing but the sea on the horizon, wave after wave.” She sighed. “I feel like it’s only a matter of time before I give up and let my head sink below the water.”

 

He took her hand in his and held it tightly, like he could keep her from going under.

 

“I’m still in the moment when I found out. I can’t move past it. I’m there. Somewhere in between denial and the realization that things will never be the same again…” Her eyes found his.

 

He swallowed. 

 

“How do you cope?” she asked softly. His eyes dimmed with sadness.

 

He shrugged. “Sometimes I do, but most days, I don’t.”

 

“I’m sorry. I just keep bringing it up.” She pulled a hand through her hair. “Like I’m reopening the wound for you again and again, not giving you a chance to let it heal.” She felt like she was doing everything wrong, including being a friend to him.

 

Why couldn’t she just keep her shit together around him?

 

“I don’t think it’ll ever heal. Besides, I like talking about him. I can’t live like he never existed.”

 

The two brothers had been so close, closer than either of them had been with Karsyn.

 

“It’ll be two years next week and there still isn’t a day when I don’t miss him.” She swallowed, too emotionally drained to cry.

 

“Same.” He sighed, his hand still holding hers.

 

A heavy emotional silence descended. It was still dark outside. 

 

“What time is it?” 

 

“Early.” He studied her. 

 

“Is it worth trying to get some more sleep?”

 

“Yes. Are you okay to be on your own?” he asked.

 

She was rattled right through to her core. She didn’t even know if she could go back to sleep.

 

Slowly, she shook her head. 

 

He walked around the bed to pull the covers back to get into the bed beside her. She lay back down and pulled the comforter to her chest anxiously.

 

“Close your eyes.” 

 

She did as he instructed but felt too worked up to drift off to sleep. She shifted onto her side, facing Myles before shifting back onto her back. Then she tried to sleep on her side but she couldn’t feel comfortable in any position.

 

“Stop fidgeting,” Myles murmured, wrapping an arm around her waist to pull her back to his chest.

 

She stilled and held her breath. The length of his body cocooned hers. Slowly as his body warmed hers, she began to relax. He gave her a sense of security, and she felt herself drift off to sleep with his breath fanning the back of her neck.

 

The brightness of the sun shone through the slits in the blinds, and she closed her eyes, determined not to wake up. She burrowed deeper into her pillow, but it moved. Slowly it dawned on her that her pillow was a male chest with a strong heartbeat.

 

She lifted her head to allow her eyes to run over the man sleeping beside her. Myles. 

 

The sight of him brought back memories of the nightmare. He had come to check on her. Even now, it was still difficult to think about the dream without feeling helplessly sad that nothing was ever going to change. Every day she woke up, Dylan was still gone. 

 

Feeling drained, she shifted onto her back and pulled the covers up to her chin. She remained there, endlessly staring at the ceiling, trying to come to terms with the emotions heightened in her while Myles continued to sleep, free from any of the turmoil that plagued her.

 

Her eyes drifted down to the steady rise and fall of Myles’ very muscular chest. She bit her bottom lip while she allowed her eyes to wander up to his face. He looked so much younger while he slept. He had long, dark eyelashes that she envied, and his tousled hair made her feel a little weird inside. How many girls had woken up to the same sight?

 

Something foreign stirred to the surface. She wanted to reach out and trace his cheek but stopped herself. What was she doing? This was Myles, her friend. 

 

She gripped the sheet tighter, refusing to allow herself to touch him. Had her nightmare the night before made her more vulnerable to him? She frowned, not liking the strange things that sparked in her mind. Maybe it was the fact that he had been there when she had needed someone to soothe her fears.

 

That was it, she decided. She leaned over and grabbed her phone to see the time. It was seven already.

 

She nudged Myles in the ribs. “It’s time to get up.”

 

“Mmm.” He didn’t move.

 

She shoved him a little harder this time. “We’re going to be late.”

 

“I’m the boss,” he mumbled, turning onto his side with his back to her.

 

She smiled. “Lazy bones.”

 

“I thought you would be more grateful for keeping me up last night.” 

 

Reminding her about the night before made her feel self-conscious. She sat up in the bed.

 

He sighed and rolled over onto his back. “You okay?” He rubbed his eyes.

 

Refusing to meet his eyes, she nodded. “Sometimes I dream about him.” She shrugged. It wasn’t something she wanted to elaborate on.

 

“I used to.” 

 

Her eyes met his and she felt connected to him.

 

She reminded herself that there were people in her life who couldn’t understand the deep sadness she was experiencing, but the man beside her did. He understood the soul-crushing grief that she was struggling to deal with; he was struggling with the same.

 

He sat up beside her, rubbing his hands over his face. “Man, I could have done with a few more hours of sleep.”

 

“Sorry,” she mumbled softly.

 

“You feeling better?” 

 

She nodded. She didn’t want to admit that she still emotionally reeling from the dream about Dylan.

 

“How long have you been dreaming about him?” The question was softly spoken.

 

Her eyes found his. “Since he died. Sometimes it’s once a month, sometimes more.”

 

“Have you thought about talking to someone about it?” 

 

She knew he had the best intentions, but talking to a stranger about her innermost grief and guilt wasn’t an option for her.

 

“Have you?”

 

His lips thinned. “I don’t dream about him…not anymore.”

 

There was some sadness deep in his eyes. Was it something that he wished he could do? Just to be able to see him again, even if it wasn’t real? A few moments of peace before the reality of grief began to seep in with wakefulness?

 

“Dreaming about him doesn’t mean anything,” she argued, but he gave her a skeptical look. “It’s just…” She felt a little tongue-tied. “It was so sudden.” 

 

Would it have made it any easier to have known it was coming? At least then she would have had a chance to tell him that he had mattered to her. Even thinking about it now made her want to cry. She hadn’t had the chance one last time to tell him she loved him. 

 

But deep down inside, she knew it wasn’t the suddenness of Dylan’s death. It was the guilt that was eating her up inside. There was nowhere to hide from it, and eventually, when it came to light, she would have to face the consequences. 

 

At this stage she believed hiding it was worse than coming clean and accepting the consequences, as harsh as they could be. Maybe if she had been brave enough to admit it in the beginning she wouldn’t have been struggling with it for so long. 

 

“I’m here if you need to talk.”

 

She swallowed the emotion that clogged her throat before whispering, “Thanks.” His shoulders were already burdened with his own grief. How could she expect him to shoulder hers as well, especially when she didn’t deserve it?