Maybe you never did.

“We’ll chat later, okay?”

He nodded and walked back to his car. “Hey,” he hollered in Tristan’s direction. Tristan turned and looked his way with narrowed eyes. “You missed a patch to your left.” Tristan blinked once, then went back to what he was doing as Tanner drove off.

After Tristan finished, he walked over to the porch and gave me a semi-broken smile. “Elizabeth?”


“Can I…” His words stuttered off, and he cleared his throat, scratching at his beard. He stepped up closer to me. I watched the sweat sitting at his hairline began to fall against his forehead and such a big part of me longed to wipe it away.

“Can you what?” I whispered, staring at his lips longer than I should have.

He inched closer, making my heart rate increase. I stopped breathing and simply stared at him. My head tilted slightly as his brown eyes seemed to be staring at my mouth, the same way I stared at his.

“Can I…” he muttered.

“Can you…” I echoed.

“Do you think…”

“Do I think…”

He looked into my eyes. My heartbeats somehow slowed yet sped up all at once. “Do you think I could use your shower? My hot water is out.”

A small, low breath passed through my lips and I nodded. “Yes. A shower. Yeah, of course.” He smiled and thanked me. “You can borrow some of Steven’s clothes, so you don’t have to run over to your place.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I want to.” I nodded. “I want to.” We headed inside and I grabbed a plain white T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants from my bedroom for Tristan. Then I picked up some washcloths and towels for him to use. “Here you go. There’s shampoo and soap in the shower already. I’m sorry but most of it smells girly.”

He chuckled. “Better than my current smell.”

I hadn’t heard him laugh before. It was such a welcomed sound. "Okay, well, anything you need can be found under the sink, too. I’ll be around.”

“Thank you.”

“Anytime,” I said, and I meant it.

He began chewing on the inside of his cheek and nodded once before closing himself into the bathroom. A sigh left me as I disappeared to go put Emma to bed to keep myself busy until Tristan was done in the shower.

Walking down the hallway toward the bathroom, I paused when I reached the open door. Tristan was standing in front of the bathroom sink wearing only the sweatpants I’d given him.

Tristan ran his hands through his long, wet hair that he tossed into a man bun on his head. He brought a razorblade to his upper lip, making me twitch. “You’re shaving?”

He stopped his movement and glanced my way once before he made his mustache cease to exist. He then trimmed his beard to the point that it was almost invisible.

“You shaved.” I sighed, staring at a man who looked so different than mere minutes before. His lips looked fuller, his eyes brighter.

He broke his stare away from me and went back to studying his now nude face in the mirror. “I didn’t want to look like a serial killer, or worse—Hitler.”

My stomach dropped. “You overheard Tanner.”

He didn’t reply.

“You didn’t look like Hitler,” I said softly, making him turn and notice that I was gawking at his every move. Trying my best to gather my scattered thoughts, I kept speaking. “His comment didn’t even really make sense because you know Hitler had the”—I placed my finger under my nose—“little mustache and you had the”—I moved my hands all around my chin—“lumberjack type beard. Tanner, he was just being…I don’t know…protective of me in a weird way. He’s like my big brother. But he was wrong to say those things. And out of line.”

His face was stone as his gaze searched mine. He had such solid bone structure that made it almost impossible to look away from him. Tristan lifted the shirt from the countertop and slid it over his body before he walked past me, brushing against my shoulder. “Thanks again,” he said.

“Again, anytime.”

“Is it hard? Seeing me wearing his clothes?”

“Yes. But at the same time, it just makes me want to hug you, because it would kind of be like hugging him.”

“That’s weird.” He smiled, playfully.

“I’m weird.”

I didn’t expect it, but when his arms wrapped around me, I slowly melted into him. What was shocking was how far away from sadness I felt in that moment. There was something about the way he softly massaged my back and gently rested his chin on my head that brought me a level of peace I hadn’t seen in some time. I felt selfish, holding on to him tighter, because I wasn’t ready to release the feeling of not being alone. Within those few minutes of Tristan holding me, my mind stopped reminding me how lonely I was. Within those few quiet moments, I found the comfort I’d been missing.

I hadn’t even noticed I was crying until I felt his thumbs rubbing beneath my eyes, wiping the tears away. We were closer together, my hands twisted against the T-shirt, his hands pulling me closer to his body. When his lips separated, my own parted, and we breathed against one another. As his eyes closed, mine faded shut, and we stayed quiet together. I wasn’t certain whose lips touched whose first, but we kept them pressed together. We weren’t kissing, but merely holding our mouths together, sending breaths into one another’s lungs, holding each other up from falling into our own obscurity.