Ryke’s black Infinity hugs the curb. He tosses in Lo’s duffle bag and closes the trunk.
Lo has sleepless circles underneath his weary eyes, and he looks beaten and tired. Three feet separate our bodies, and I wonder who will close the space first—if at all.
“What do we say?” I breathe. “Goodbye?”
“No.” He shakes his head. “This isn’t goodbye, Lil. I’ll see you.” I don’t even know which rehab he’s going to. Ryke won’t tell me the address, but I have to trust that it’s a safe place and maybe imagine it’s not very far away.
I give him a weak smile, desperately trying not to cry. But once I see a tear slide down his cheek, it’s over for me. I sniff. “Don’t change too much,” I tell him. I fear he’ll return and won’t fit within my life anymore. He’ll grow beyond me while I stay stagnant and alone.
“Only the bad parts,” he says. He takes the first step forward. And then another. And another. Until our shoes touch, until his thumb strokes my cheek. “I’ll always be yours. No distance or time apart will change that, Lily. You need to believe that.”
I place my hands on his firm chest and skim my fingers over his arrowhead necklace.
“I never wanted to leave you here”—his chest constricts underneath my palms—“and put you in pain, Lil. You have to know that…that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” He licks his lips. “It’s harder than saying no to my father, than rejecting the trust fund, this, right here, kills me.”
“I’ll be okay,” I whisper, trying hard to believe the words.
“Will you?” he says, doubtful. “Because I see you crying and thrashing in bed. I see you screaming for someone and praying to God for the pain to end. And I’m responsible for that.”
“Stop,” I breathe, unable to look him in the eyes. “Please, don’t think that.”
He opens his mouth, and I think he’s going to let me off the hook. He’s going to tell me that I can cheat on him and get a free pass. Instead, tears flow and he says, “Wait for me.” The words come out choked and pained. “I need you to wait for me.”
Someone put him up to this. I glance over my shoulder, and Rose has her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide. I look at Ryke, and his hard gaze says nothing.
This was Lo’s idea.
He knew the only way for me to truly fight is if I have something to lose.
I try to form a response, but my throat closes for words.
Lo draws me close and wraps his arms around my shoulders. “I love you.” He kisses me on the forehead and detaches from me, leaving me speechless and broken on the curb. He nods to Rose. “Take care of her.”
Rose says, “Take care of yourself.”
He nods again, and I wait for him to glance back at me.
“Lo,” I call.
He has a hand on the car doorframe. And he hesitates before looking my way.
I open my mouth, wanting to express all of my feelings at once. I love you. I’ll wait for you! You’re my best friend and my soul mate and my lover. I’m so proud of you. Please…come back to me.
His lips upturn in a hopeful smile. “I know.”
And with this, he slides into the car and shuts the door. The Infinity pulls onto the street.
And down out of sight.