Bodhi: Room 312
Please be alone and not inviting me for a threesome.
I don’t text back. Instead, I hop on the first shuttle back to the hotel. Am I ready to be alone with him? No one to distract us from the elephant in the room? Probably not, but I take the elevator to the third floor and knock on room 312 anyway.
After a few seconds, he opens the door.
“Hey.” His gaze eats me up. “Nice dress.”
If before I showed up I wasn’t acutely aware of how little it covers, I am now. “Thank you.”
He holds open the door. I take cautious steps into his hotel room, inspecting my surroundings for any signs that a woman has been in here with him.
“Why are you here?” I ask, pulling open his shades to check out his not-so-awesome view of the roof to the pool area.
I look back at him as he bends at the waist and parts his hair just behind the crown of his head. There’s a row of stitches.
“I took a hammer to the head this morning. Some guys working above me dropped it. Five stitches.”
My nose wrinkles. “Ouch. Are you okay?”
“Yeah. No big deal. But I was told to take the rest of the day off. So … instead of baking my wound in the sun, I came back here.” He plops down on the king-sized bed. Leaning against the headboard, he turns on the TV. “Figured I’d binge-watch something.”
I grin, taking a seat in the desk chair. He’s mocking me.
“Where’s your dad?”
“Hanging out with an old friend. A woman.” I smirk. “He started acting all flirty with her, so I decided to ditch him for the day.”
“To come see me?”
“No. Yes.” My teeth trap my lower lip to stop my rambling. “I don’t know. I thought you were probably there, so I was just seeing if you …”
Touched me on purpose.
“If I wanted some fries with extra ketchup?”
Yup. I love him. If there was any question about it before I walked through his hotel room door, there isn’t now.
My cheeks burn again like they did last night. Bodhi can touch me without lifting a finger. I feel him in ways I’ve never felt anyone before. “Yeah. That.” I grin, keeping my eyes on him while I reach for the phone and press room service. “Hi. Can we get an order of french fries with extra ketchup and two bottles of water? Thank you.”
The hum of the air conditioner gets really loud in our awkward silence. French fries seemed like a good start. Now what do we do or say while waiting for room service?
“Last night I enjoyed hearing about your travels.” Bodhi knows what direction we need to go with this awkwardness, but now I can’t find all those brave words I wanted to say because I just want to hug him and ask him if there was someone else. If he made it up. If he fell out of love with me. So many questions.
“I felt like I was dominating the conversation. But Rayne had so many questions.”
He chuckles. “She was pretty elated when she figured out who you are.”
“So … how do know Rayne?”
“Coachella. We met years ago. A lot of us did. This is our annual gathering now. Strangers who became good friends through music.”
“Friends,” I repeat to myself more than him.
“Is there something you want to ask me?” He cocks his head a bit.
I shake my head.
“You want to know if Rayne is more than a friend?”
Well, she’s very pretty. Of course I want to know. But when my parting words to him included I hate you, I think I lost the right to know.
My heart is completely out of control, making my chest tighten. I thought I could do this, but I can’t. Digging into my bag, I pull out some cash and toss it onto the desk. “The fries are on me.” I stand and make my way toward the door.
“Jesus, Henna. That’s it?” He flies off the bed and presses his hand to the door over my head.
With my back to him, I look at my feet, holding my breath.
“I let you go. There wasn’t anyone else.”
“Why?” I say with a strained voice, teetering on the edge of losing it all.
“Because I had my dad, and he wasn’t doing well. Because I had a ranch to take care of and a job at the school to keep. And because you had the whole world and nothing holding you back … except me.”
I turn around, not caring that with one blink my tears race down my face. “You weren’t holding me back!” Anger fights with the pain. I don’t know which wants out more. I just know that they both hurt.
His face scrunches while he shakes his head several times. “I was. You weren’t living. You were tethered to me. I knew it when you told me about Noah. The guilt. That’s not living.” He rubs the tension along his forehead. “Trust me. Guilt robs you. It eats at you. It was going to destroy us eventually. I just … I wanted you to be free in every sense of the word.”
“That wasn’t your choice to make.” I wipe the endless flow of tears from my face.
“You’ve been gone for more than two years. Did you find someone?”
I lied. I still hate him. I hate him for asking me that.
“I found lots of people. I made lots of friends.”
“Did you find love?”
Biting my quivering lip, I shake my head.
“Did you let another man inside of you?” His eyes turn red, filled with unshed tears.
We stand toe to toe while years of emotions fill the air around us, while so much pain bleeds from both of us without saying a word.
“You let me go …” I whisper.
He takes a step back. My answer to his question is clear on his face. “I did. And that’s why.”
I cough a painful laugh. “You let me go so I’d have sex with other men? That’s fucked up.”
“My life is fucked-up, Henna!” He swallows hard. His face distorts as more unshed tears fill his eyes. “My father has cancer, and if I turn my back, he tries to end his life. My sister hates me. I hate my job because it reminds me of you. I hate every second of every day except the ones where I’m with you. And you left and I didn’t want to hate myself any more for holding you back. I didn’t want to be your dream that would never come true!”
“You. Don’t. Get. To. Choose. My. Life!” I ball my hands, so angry that he shut me out of his life. I’m so angry that he feels the need to suffer in silence. “I would have come home. You should have told me everything.”
“Sure.” Sarcasm drips from his voice. “I should have told the girl who was suicidal a few years ago to come home and hold my hand while I deal with my suicidal father. That would have been way more fun for you than surfing in South Africa or parachuting in Spain. Waiting for me until the wee hours to get my shit done just to watch me pass out would have been way more romantic than sex with a man who had something to give you in return.”
Running my fingers through my hair, I sob. “It was sex. They had sex to give me. Empty, meaningless sex.”
Bodhi takes another step back and another, resignation settling into his face. “I won’t apologize for what I did. I was there last night. I heard the excitement in your voice when you talked about the places you saw and the people you met. I wanted that for you. Everyone wanted that for you.”
“Funny …” I shake my head. “Because after two years, a million new faces, and countless cities … every place was simply a place without you. So it doesn’t matter that everyone wanted that for me. I only wanted you.”
There’s a knock at the door. Bodhi frowns, brushing by me.
“Thanks,” he murmurs to the guy delivering the french fries. After shutting the door, he brushes by me again, setting the covered plate of fries on the desk.
“Life House, ‘Broken,’” I whisper, reaching for the door handle to leave.
Bodhi wraps his hand around my wrist to stop me. His lips brush along my ear. I draw in a shaky breath.
He whispers, “Snow Patrol, ‘Chasing Cars.’”
Snow Patrol for the win. I turn slowly into his embrace. He presses his forehead to mine, threading his hands through my hair. We close our eyes for long seconds. In my head, Gary Lightbody sings about just forgetting the world. In the next breath, Bodhi kisses me.
So this is what it feels like to understand that the world is not a place or a destination. It’s a moment. When we touch, it’s the world. It’s life.
I slide his shirt up his torso. He breaks our kiss long enough to let me ease his shirt over his head, being careful of his stitches. Kissing him again, I run my hands down his chest. He groans deep in his throat. I love that I still can affect him this way.
My mouth moves from his lips to his jaw, neck, chest, and then … I stop.
Oh my god …
My fingertips ghost along his skin to the black letters stacked up his torso just above his hip bone.
Inked permanently into his skin. I look up.
He cradles my face in his hands, brushing the pad of his thumb across my lips. “In spite of what you believe, my Henna could never be temporary.”
His mouth replaces his thumb, and we kiss harder than we’ve ever kissed each other. He palms my breast over my dress for two seconds before he shoves it down. Hungry lips devour the skin along my neck, one breast then the other while he works my dress over my hips so it drifts to the floor, a blue puddle at my feet.