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He turns away.

I can’t stop hoping he’ll be okay; he only has twelve hours to pull himself together. Because tonight, we go over the plan, one last time.

And tomorrow, it all begins.


“Aaron?” I whisper.

The lights are out. We’re lying in bed. I’m stretched out across his body, my head pillowed on his chest. My eyes are on the ceiling.

He’s running his hand over my hair, his fingers occasionally combing through the strands. “Your hair is like water,” he whispers. “It’s so fluid. Like silk.”


He leaves a light kiss on top of my head. Rubs his hands down my arms. “Are you cold?” he asks.

“You can’t avoid this forever.”

“We don’t have to avoid it at all,” he says. “There’s nothing to avoid.”

“I just want to know you’re okay,” I say. “I’m worried about you.” He still hasn’t said a single thing to me about his mother. He never said a word the entire time we were in her room, and he hasn’t spoken about it since. Hasn’t even alluded to it. Not once.

Even now, he says nothing.


“Yes, love.”

“You’re not going to talk about it?”

He’s silent again for so long I’m about to turn around to face him. But then.

“She’s no longer in pain,” he says softly. “This is a great consolation to me.”

I don’t push him to speak after that.

“Juliette,” he says.


I can hear him breathing.

“Thank you,” he whispers. “For being my friend.”

I turn around then. Press close to him, my nose grazing his neck. “I will always be here if you need me,” I say, the darkness catching and hushing my voice. “Please remember that. Always remember that.”

More seconds drown in the darkness. I feel myself drifting off to sleep.

“Is this really happening?” I hear him whisper.

“What?” I blink, try to stay awake.

“You feel so real,” he says. “You sound so real. I want so badly for this to be real.”

“This is real,” I say. “And things are going to get better. Things are going to get so much better. I promise.”

He takes a tight breath. “The scariest part,” he says, so quietly, “is that for the first time in my life, I actually believe that.”

“Good,” I say softly, turning my face into his chest. I close my eyes.

Warner’s arms slip around me, pulling me closer. “Why are you wearing so many clothes?” he whispers.


“I don’t like these,” he says. He tugs on my pants.

I touch my lips to his neck, just barely. It’s a feather of a kiss. “Then take them off.”

He pulls back the covers.

I only have a second to bite back a shiver before he’s kneeling between my legs. He finds the waistband of my pants and tugs, pulling them off, over my hips, down my thighs. So slowly.

My heart is asking me all kinds of questions.

He bunches my pants in one fist and throws them across the room.

And then his arms slip behind my back, pulling me up and against his chest. His hands move under my shirt, up my spine.

Soon my shirt is gone.

Tossed in the same direction as my pants.

I shiver, just a little, and he eases me back onto the pillows, careful not to crush me under his weight. His body heat is so welcome, so warm. My head tilts backward. My eyes are still closed.

My lips part for no reason at all.

“I want to be able to feel you,” he whispers, his words at my ear. “I want your skin against mine.” His gentle hands move down my body. “God, you’re so soft,” he says, his voice husky with emotion.

He’s kissing my neck.

My head is spinning. Everything goes hot and cold and something is stirring to life inside of me and my hands reach for his chest, looking for something to hold on to and my eyes are trying and failing to stay open and I’m only just conscious enough to whisper his name.

“Yes, love?”

I try to say more but my mouth won’t listen.

“Are you asleep now?” he asks.

Yes, I think. I don’t know. Yes.

I nod.

“That’s good,” he says quietly. He lifts my head, pulls my hair away from my neck so my face falls more easily onto the pillow. He shifts so he’s beside me on the bed. “You need to sleep more,” he says.

I nod again, curling onto my side. He pulls the blankets up around my arms.

He kisses the curve of my shoulder. My shoulder blade. Five kisses down my spine, one softer than the next. “I will be here every night,” he whispers, his words so soft, so tortured, “to keep you warm. I will kiss you until I can’t keep my eyes open.”

My head is caught in a cloud.

Can you hear my heart? I want to ask him.

I want you to make a list of all of your favorite things, and I want to be on it.

But I’m falling asleep so fast I’ve lost my grasp on reality, and I don’t know how to move my mouth. Time has fallen all around me, wrapped me in this moment.

And Warner is still talking. So quietly, so softly. He thinks I’m asleep now. He thinks I can’t hear him.

“Did you know,” he’s whispering, “that I wake up, every morning, convinced you’ll be gone?”

Wake up, I keep telling myself. Wake up. Pay attention.

“That all of this,” he says, “these moments, will be confirmed as some kind of extraordinary dream? But then I hear you speak to me,” he says. “I see the way you look at me and I can feel how real it is. I can feel the truth in your emotions, and in the way you touch me,” he whispers, the back of his hand brushing my cheek.

My eyes flicker open. I blink once, twice.

His lips are set in a soft smile.

“Aaron,” I whisper.

“I love you,” he says.

My heart no longer fits in my chest.

“Everything looks so different to me now,” he says. “It feels different. It tastes different. You brought me back to life.” He’s quiet a moment. “I have never known this kind of peace. Never known this kind of comfort. And sometimes I am afraid,” he says, dropping his eyes, “that my love will terrify you.”