I continued to hold her, not quite sure what I was feeling. She was still wiping her lip gloss off my lips and I was desperately trying to wrap my head around what just happened.
"Thank you," she whispered and I blinked.
"For kissing me like that," she answered. "I should probably go, though. It's getting late."
"I'm really confused," I blurted and she laughed.
"I'm not surprised. You have my email address?"
"Yeah but what-?"
"Send me those pictures when you take them."
I gawked at her as she gathered her bag with a smile on her face.
"That's how you're going to leave it?" I asked and she laughed.
"Well, what else did you expect?" she asked.
"I-I don't know," I said. "I mean...." Come on, Caleb. "We could go see a movie or- I don't know, go to the studio or something."
She laughed again. "I think I've made my point," she said. She looked nervous suddenly and walked back over to me. "Maybe, if you change your mind, we could make something work," she whispered.
She kissed my cheek and left. I stared at the door for at least ten minutes. What the hell? I sat down heavily on the couch and Luther walked in shortly after.
"Hey, dude, I just got off the phone with Carol. We'll be going this weekend at- What's wrong?" he asked, seeing the look on my face.
I stared at him. "I have never been so confused in my life," I said and he frowned.
"What do you mean?"
"She-She asked me- And so we kissed and then she- She went to- I'm so fucking confused!" I groaned and put my head in my hands.
Luther sat beside me and I knew he was trying not to laugh.
"All right, start from the top," he said. I told him everything and he stared at me with an open mouth. "Are you really that stupid!?"
"What are you talking about?" I snapped.
"Don't you realize what she just told you?" he asked and I shook my head. He smacked my forehead. "She just told you that she likes you, dunce."
"She likes me?" I repeated. "Why in the world does she like me? I've been a dick on purpose!"
He shrugged. "I don't know. That's something only she can tell you. I can tell you this, though: you're passing up on an awesome opportunity there."
"I don't know the last thing about relationships, Luther, you know that."
"So let her teach you," he said.
"How many women have you taught to have sex?" he asked and I shrugged.
"I dunno. A few."
"It's the same thing," he said. "Well, there's one catch."
I narrowed my eyes. "What is it?"
"You can't sleep around if you're in a relationship with her."
I stared at the floor. "I can't believe I'm saying this but... when I'm with her, I don't feel the desire to look at other women."
"What do you mean?"
"Like, if we're walking down the street and a hot chick walks by, I don't really care anymore."
Suddenly, Luther started laughing. I glared at him. He stood up, gripping his stomach, and pounded me on the back.
"Oh man, you're fucked," he snorted, putting his keys on the counter.
I frowned. "What do you mean?"
He smirked, taking his coat off. "You love her, dude."
"Wha- No I don't!" I said defensively. "I've known her for like, three weeks!"
He leaned against the wall, still smirking. "And when's the last time you've even thought about a one night stand with another woman?"
"Well... it's been.... I've been busy with work," I retorted. "Work and my brother."
"No you haven't," he said, suddenly serious. "Be honest with me."
I looked at my hands. "I can't love her, Lu. I mean...."
"Why not?" he asked.
I stood up. "Because love doesn't exist!" I shouted. "Love is just something you hear about in fairy tales! Love doesn't destroy! Love doesn't ruin your family and mess up your brother! Love doesn't make you question the life you're living!"
He shrugged. "Actually, it does make you question your life. But you can't let your parents' divorce be your comparison on what love is to you. How many times a day do you think about Mirela?"
"I'm not answering that."
"You don't need to, Caleb. I can see it."
I opened my mouth to argue when my phone rang. It was Mirela and my eyes widened. Had she heard our conversation? Had I butt dialed her!?
"H-Hello?" I said nervously and Luther started to grin.
"Caleb?" she whispered and I frowned at the tone of her voice.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
She sobbed. "My mother. She w-went on-on a business trip and I-I keep having-" She sobbed harder and I gripped my phone. Luther was frowning now. "He-He's going to-"
I understood and I snatched the keys. "I'll be over in a second."
"What's wrong?" Luther asked when I hung up.
I opened the door and stared at him, gripping the doorknob.
"You're right," I said. "And she's having nightmares about her dad. She's alone and she needs me."
I slammed the door and jogged down to the car we shared. I got in and cursed myself and Luther. Damn it. I sped down to her house. How could I have done this? How could I have fallen in love!? I told myself I never would!
When I got to her house, her front door was locked and I rang the doorbell.
"It's me," I said through the door. "Mirela?"
She opened the door and launched herself into my arms, sobbing. I held her tightly and pushed her gently into the house, closing the door behind me. I had no idea where her bedroom was. I looked around, trying to think of something to do. What would a man in love do? Fuck.
I sighed and just held her, waiting for her to calm down. I thought about my mom. When I was really upset, she would rub my back. Would that work? Or would she think I was trying to make a pass? It was worth a try.
I rubbed her back gently and tried to think of something to say.
"Is today the day?" I whispered and she nodded, her sobs doubling. Damn. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"
She took a few deep breaths, gripping my shirt.
"We-We were in Romania. Grandmama just died. He-He was depressed." Her knees gave out. "I tried to talk him out of it."
"Oh shit," I breathed. "Shit. I'm so sorry, Mirela."
"He said he'd only do a little. I should've tried harder!"
I groaned and lowered her to the floor. "No, Mirela. No, there was nothing more you could have done." My eyes were stinging with tears. "You did as much as you could."
"I keep seeing his face!" she cried.
I pulled her onto my lap and she sobbed into my neck. I shut my eyes tightly, a few tears falling down my cheeks. God. No wonder she wanted to help me so badly. She was there to see him....
"How old were you?"
"Seven," she whimpered, and I groaned.
"You couldn't have done anything, Mirela," I repeated.
"I should have been a better daughter! He wouldn't have done it if I-"
"Stop that!" I said firmly. "Don't you even go there!" I made her look at me, not bothering to hide that I was crying. "You are not responsible!"
"But nothing," I interrupted. "You didn't put the needle in his arm. You didn't make him snort anything. He chose to do that on his own! He may have been a good man, but he couldn't fight his demons." I brushed some tears from her face. "I may not have known him, Mirela, but I know you were his angel. It could be that he really did try to not overdose. It could be that he made a mistake. It wasn't you. I swear to God it wasn't you."
She erupted into more sobs and I pulled her to me, rocking her. She sobbed for another hour until she made herself sick on the wood floor. I sighed.
"Where's your room?" I asked.
"S-Second door on the right," she whispered.
I picked her up. She was surprisingly light. I found her room and put her in bed.
"Wait here. I'll be right back." I went to the bathroom and dug around her medicine cabinet until I found what I was looking for. I got a glass and filled it with water. "Okay, take this. It'll help you sleep."
I passed her two Benadryl but she shook her head.
"I'll just have more nightmares," she said.
"No you won't," I said. She looked at it doubtfully. "How about this? I'll stay with you. Will that make you feel better?" She nodded, turning a little pink. "All right, you take this and I'll be right back, okay?"
She nodded again. While she took the Benadryl, I went to the front hall and cleaned up where she had been sick. I washed my hands and went back to her room, kicking my shoes off. She was crying quietly but I could tell she was falling asleep. I got in and she immediately wrapped her arms around me. She was shaking and I knew she was scared.
"Don't worry," I whispered. "Fall asleep. I'm here."
"Thank you," she said in a small voice.
I wrapped my arm around her and sent Luther a text before putting my phone on silent. She fell asleep and I stared up at the ceiling. I sighed and closed my eyes.