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Behind You Chapter 20

by Oneg In The Arctic 3 months ago in Young Adult
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T is for Time

Image by Dan Mountford, edited by author

Beginning | Previous Chapter

~

Time is a son of a bitch sometimes.

When you’re stuck at an appointment, or waiting for the bus, time feels as if its slower than a sleepy turtle. But when you’re having a great time with a friend, or with a partner in the sheets, time flies by in barely a blink of an eye. It’s the moments you wish to hold on forever, when time just slips through your fingers.

Time with Lilah felt like a waterfall, all at once with such beauty and intensity. But a drought was coming, and I did not know how we would emerge.

It wasn’t hard to notice that Lilah was growing weaker as the days passed us by. I had tried to persuade her to quit her PR firm, but she was determined to work as long as she could. She had a pretty decent financial cushion and Gal had a stable job managing a garage as well, but I knew working was a way to avoid the depression of sitting around at home. We tried to keep things light around Uri, unsure of how or when to even tell him about what was happening. I wouldn’t be surprised though if he had already suspected something, he was quite the observant child.

Gal knew what was going on. Lilah had invited him over a week after the accident to spill the truth. Though I had emerged from the accident without a scratch- thanks to Lilah- I still struggled to comprehend reality. I knew Lilah was trying to be strong for all of us, but I could feel how it was killing her inside.

Speaking of Gal…

He’s not my biggest fan at the moment. After his mini shouting-match with Lilah, he resolved to shoot me dirty looks any chance he had. Of course, he cared for Lilah and her well-being, and therefore he blamed me for her demise. To be fair, I blamed myself as well, though Lilah wouldn’t hear anything about it. She would end the conversation with the fact that it wasn’t even up to me, and that it had been her decision before anyone’s birth to strike the deal with the devil. Damn devil and his damn deals.

We all worried about Uri, the summer break was about to start, and he would be entering his last year in Kindergarten in September. Lilah wouldn’t quite make it to see that day. That broke all our hearts.

When Lilah told me that her D-Day was sooner than expected, I immediately felt worse. I blamed myself for shortening the time she barely had, but there was no arguing with her. We were lying on the couch, her gently hand playing with the front of my short hair, when she told me she had another dream. She had lost some life-time when she rescued me from the car crash. I didn’t remember much from that night, but the image of the hooded winged figure stayed prominent in my memory. If I hadn’t been so impulsive, I could have had more time with her. A part of me hated myself for it, but another felt that it was probably inevitable that something would happen one way or another.

And honestly, I felt at a loss. I hadn’t really told Erin about any of this, but I knew that I needed to. She’d message me often, but I struggled to find the words to respond to, “are you okay?”

It was a few weeks after the accident that Lilah turned to me and snapped.

“Are we just going to spend the rest of our time together moping around? Are we just going to turn into sacks of potatoes?”

“Huh?” I looked up from setting the table to see Lilah staring out the kitchen window, her hands still sudsy from doing the dishes.

“I’m tired of feeling useless Noa. I don’t want this feeling and dread to be the last thing we remember of one another.” She rinsed off the soapy dishes and dried her hands before turning towards me, leaning on the counter. “We deserve better than this.”

I came around the table towards her, clasping her hands in mine. “A part of me knows you’re right but I don’t know how to stop the avalanche feeling in my chest…”

“I know…” We leaned in, our foreheads resting against one another’s and just breathed.

“We’ve got… two, three months left, right?” My voice was barely a whisper, still scared to speak the truth out loud. Lilah nodded.

“We got to figure out what to say and do about Uri… and… well, I guess we should make the best of our remaining time together.”

“I’ve always wanted to go canoeing, and on a rollercoaster, and you know what? Screw work! I want to spend what’s left of my energy on thrilling things, not on managing some asshole’s social rep case. What do you say Noodle?”

“Did you just call me Noodle?” I snorted at the nickname, not having heard it in ages.

“I did.” She playful bumped my shoulder, a cheeky grin displayed across her hypnotizing lips. I just had to give her a quick peck.

“So, what? We make like bucket list or something?”

“I guess so. I mean, you do have evenings and the weekends off, and if I drop down to part-time hours, I think we can make it work.” Lilah walked over to the refrigerator where we had a monthly calendar on display.

“You’re sure you still want to put in hours?”

“Yeah, I don’t want to sit on my ass all day waiting for you and Uri to come home, I still need a distraction...” Her voice trailed off at the end, and I felt the vibe in the air change again.

“Okay, so let’s make this list. And where is Uri even? Why is it so quiet?” I walked towards the staircase and called out for Uri. Moments later he popped his head around the corner, his curls bouncing along. The kid needed a haircut.

“Hey Uri, want to help us come up with a bunch of awesome things to do this summer?”

“Okay.”

Uri sat down on the top stair and butt-bumped his way down, his curls bouncing along, before running into the kitchen into his mother’s arms.

“Can we go to the aquawium? And build a chocolade volcano that shoots out mar’mallows?”

“Sure cha’mude (cutie)” Lilah wrote it down on the calendar list on the refrigerator with a whiteboard marker. “Any other requests?” She turned towards me winking.

“We could maybe go Go-Kart racing? Oh, and camping, definitely a great opportunity to canoe.” I added, as Lilah took the ideas down.

Together we came up with a list of over twenty things we wanted to do. Lilah added a few for just the two of us, and for a moment everything felt almost normal again. Maybe we could pretend that this summer wouldn’t be the last one.

~

Unknown Number: Hi this is Gal. Can we meet to talk? Tomorrow at 5

Noa: Oh, okay. Where?

Unknown Number: Let’s meet at Café Chat in the plaza by your work.

Noa: Okay.

~

Gal and I had an interesting relationship. We both loved Lilah and Uri unconditionally. Gal knew that he and Lilah had no romantic feelings between them, and that their past love was exactly that: in the past. That never stopped him from wanting the best for his ex and his child, and he would stop at nothing to protect them. So, when Gal asked me to meet him, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. He knew my intentions were pure and that Lilah and I had a unique bond since birth. That wouldn’t stop him from trying to protect her from me. I couldn’t blame him.

The Café Chat was named exactly for the two things it was known for: coffee and cats. It was recently opened in the neighbourhood and attracted the young adult population. They worked with a local animal shelter to help find homes for the kitties and was quite popular. The coffee smell masking the cat odour was an added bonus.

“I’m surprised you asked to meet here.” I sat down opposite of Gal at a small table and tried to keep an open mind to the meeting.

“I wanted to check this café out for a while, and I hoped it could help keep the mood light… in leu of the current situation and all.” He already had a fuzzy black kitten in his arms, and another was rubbing against his leg.

“Got a thing for cats?” I raised in eyebrow and smiled playfully. It was pretty cute seeing him in this light.

“Maybe, I think they have more of a thing for me.” He chuckled lightly, as a third kitten jumped onto his shoulder from a bookshelf nearby. This café so far was definitely helping to diffuse the tension.

“What did you want to discuss?” I asked in a more serious tone, hoping to cut to the chase (or rip of whatever band-aid this was).

“Well,” Gal cleared his throat and tried to search for the right way to start. “Lilah doesn’t have much time left. She has made it abundantly clear that there is nothing anyone can do about it. She won’t listen to any reason or consider seeing any doctors. I just don’t understand her sometimes.”

He paused and shook his head, trying to keep calm before continuing, “I know that you and my son, Uri, get along very well. And I appreciate all the time and love you have dedicated to him. I think the question that remains for me is, will that continue? Once Lilah is… gone. What are your intentions her-“

“I don’t mean to cut you off Gal, but I need you to know right now, that I love Uri. I know he is your son, but I view and love him like a child of mine. I would never dream of abandoning him.” My heartrate escalated as thoughts of Gal trying to keep me apart from Uri entered my mind. Gal cleared his throat again and put down the black kitten he had had in his arms.

“I didn’t think you would, but to be honest, it helps to hear that.” He looked up at me and I saw a vulnerability in his eyes that I had not expected. “I’m not really sure how to go about all this, you know. I, well, this is all just so twisted.”

I nodded in agreement, and instantly felt ashamed for having thought he would rip Uri away from me. “You are not alone in this Gal.”

“Yes, I know, though it often feels like it.”

“I suppose Lilah tried to pull the wool over our eyes for as long as she could… but enough about that, as much as I rather not, we need to start talking about the future, don’t we?” In my heart, I knew I’d never abandon Uri. He was like my own kid, and I hoped Gal believed me enough to consider letting me take care of him.

“Yes, well, if you are interested in stay in Uri’s life, then we’d have to look at the legalities of it all. I want you to understand though, that I am not giving up my child here. He is and will always be my son… but I have to be honest that the shared custody with Lilah has worked well in my favour. Have you considered anything along the lines of custody? Or brought it up with Lilah at all?”

In my mind, I was part of the family, but legally I hadn’t put too much thought into the matter. Would that mean marriage? Thoughts began to jumble in my mind, and I closed my eyes and tried to re-center myself and remain present. “We hadn’t talked about it yet, no.”

“Is it something you are even interested in? Ready for? Because if you’re not then I need to know now, so that I can make arrangements at home and wor-“

“I am interested. I would be honoured to be Uri’s parent.” I hurriedly answered, I didn’t want Gal to think I had any doubts or second thoughts. I really would be honoured to have Uri be my kid. But in reality, I had no idea how to go about the process. “I’d have to talk about it with Lilah though, obviously. And see how to go about the process. But I would be honoured.”

Gal just nodded, still somewhat avoiding making direct eye contact. I could sense that the whole subject was quite bizarre and stressful for him. “How’s Joey by the way?”

A tiny smile danced on Gal’s lips, loosening some of the tension in the air. “He’s doing well. I’m not sure Lilah told you, but we moved in together a few weeks back. It’s been nice.”

“That’s really great dude, I’m glad to hear that.” He smirked at my use of the term “dude”, though his posture relaxed a tad more.

“Yeah, it’s a lot better than having to always leave the wrong set of clothes or whatnot at the other’s house. And he gets along well with Uri.” The last part brought the topic at hand back to the forefront, along with some tension.

“Have you told him? I mean, like, about the whole situation?” I tried to keep calm once again, retelling myself that shared custody was something Gal wanted, so I didn’t need to stress.

“I told him a little bit, he didn’t really get the whole thing, but he understood the gist. And I don’t know if he’d be ready to be a fulltime parent yet anyhow. He wants to travel and stuff. I mean, I get it, Uri wasn’t really planned at the time. I guess it’s good that you’re not taking off or anything.”

“Definitely stickin’ around.” I reaffirmed.

His phone started dinging, the notifications disturbing the awkwardness. Gal quickly checked the screen to an oncoming storm of texts, his brow furrowed, and I could feel that our meeting was coming to an end.

“Let me talk with Lilah about all this, and then maybe we could all meet together soon?” I suggested, bringing the attention back to the subject.

“Yeah, yeah. That sounds good. Sorry, I got to get going. But yeah, just let me know when. I guess we’ll just have to get through all this eh?”

“Yeah, I guess we will.”

Gal excused himself and left pretty quickly after that. I remained at the café a little longer, trying to digest the conversation and the reality of everything. It helped that I had kittens purring at my feet. The same black kitten that had been all over Gal now hopped onto the table and rubbed it’s face against arm.

I had a feeling that the next little while would be filled with a lot of these awkward conversations, but at least I knew Gal wasn’t trying to get rid of me. Maybe I really am part of this family. Speaking of family, what would I even say to mine? It had been such a long time…

Great.

That’s another awkward conversation to add to the list.

By The Lucky Neko on Unsplash

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Who doesn't enjoy awkward conversations and kittens? Hope you enjoyed this chapter!

I have reached the point where I am actively writing the rest of the chapters, so posting will become weekly. I will be aiming to have chapters published for your lovely weekend-reading-material time.

Feel free to leave a heart, some insights, comments, or even a tip; anything is appreciated!

Young Adult

About the author

Oneg In The Arctic

Stories from the TRUE NORTH with a side of humour, adventure, good food, and snowy poetic dreams

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (2)

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  • Rick Henry2 months ago

    You have done a great job developing your characters and a strong story line.

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    Awkward conversations I could do without, but kittens? Bring it in.

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