When I found his stare, he tried his best to blink his emotion away. I could see the pain that still lived fresh in his mind, in his heart. I stepped toward him. “It wasn’t your fault, Tristan.”
He shook his head in disagreement. “It was. If I hadn’t been running around trying to start a stupid career, I could’ve been there. I could’ve kept them alive.”
“What happened? What happened to them?”
His head lowered. “I can’t. I can’t talk about that day.”
I lifted his face to find his stare. “That’s fine. I get it. But, I just want you to know that it wasn’t your fault, Tristan. I need you to understand that. You were the best father and husband you could be.” His eyes told me he didn’t believe me. I hoped one day he would. “What was the hardest part for you when you lost them? What was your lowest moment that first week?”
A hesitation hit him as his lips parted to speak. “The day before their funeral I tried to kill myself,” he whispered, extremely raw and uncut. “I sat in my parents’ bathroom and I tried to end my life.”
“I remember staring at myself in the mirror, knowing that my heart had died right along with them. I knew I was dead. I’ve been dead ever since, ya know? I was okay with that. I was okay with being mean and callous, because I was convinced that I didn’t deserve to have people care for me. I pushed my parents away because I was my own ghost. I wanted so much to be dead, because I felt like it would be better, easier. But then you came, and I started to remember what it felt like to exist.” His lips lay against mine, and my heartbeats sped up. His voice was giving me chills. “Elizabeth?”
“It’s easier with you.”
“What’s easier with me?”
His hand found my lower back. My hips arched toward him, our bodies slowly becoming one. He ran his fingers against my neck as I closed my eyes, and he spoke softly into my soul. “Being alive.”
I took a deep breath. “You’re good, Tris. You’re good enough. Even on the days you feel worthless.”
“Can I see your soul now?” he asked. I nodded, nervously, and I led him inside my house.
“Love letters?” he asked, sitting on my couch as I opened the heart-shaped tin box.
“From Steven to you?”
I shook my head. “My mama wrote them to my dad, and he wrote them back to her, almost every day since they met. After he passed away, I would read these every day. Just as a way to remember him. But then one day, Mama threw them out. I found them…and I still read them all the time.”
He nodded in understanding as he picked one up and read it. “You’re sleeping beside me and each second I love you a little more.—HB.”
That one always made me smile. “They weren’t always happy like that. There were some things I didn’t even know about my parents until I started reading these letters.” I went digging into the box for a certain one. “Like this one. ‘I know you think you’re less of a woman. I know you think you’re less of a woman and blame your body for our loss. I know you think you’re less of a woman because of what the doctors said. But you’re wrong. You’re strong, wise, and unbreakable. You are more than a woman. You are everything beautiful in the world, and I am a mere man lucky to call you my goddess. –KB.’ I didn’t even know they lost a child before me. I didn’t know…” I smiled tightly at Tristan, who was taking it all in. “Anyway. My parents are where I first saw true love. I just wish Steven and I had written each other letters. It would’ve been nice.”
“I’m so sorry,” he said.
I nodded, because I was too.
I closed the tin box and moved closer to him on the couch.
“How did your mom handle losing him?” he asked.
“She didn’t. She used men to forget. She lost herself the day she lost my father. It’s just sad because, well, I miss her.”
“I miss my parents. After Jamie and Charlie passed away, I ran away from them because they were comforting, and I didn’t think I deserved their comfort.”
“Maybe you could give them a call.”
“I don’t know…” he whispered. “I’m still not sure I deserve their comfort yet.”
“Yeah. Maybe soon. So…” he said, changing the subject. “What was the hardest part for you that week? What was your lowest?”
“Um, telling Emma. I didn’t even do it right away either. The first night I lay in her bed holding her, and she asked when daddy was coming home. I broke down crying, and that was when it became real for me. That’s when I knew my life would never be the same again.” Tristan reached out and ran his thumbs under my eyes, wiping away the tears I hadn’t known had fallen. “It’s okay,” I promised. “I’m good.”
He shook his head. “You’re not.”
“I am. I’m good. I’m good.”
His eyes narrowed. “You don’t have to be good all the times. It’s okay to be hurt sometimes. It’s okay to feel lost like you’re wandering around in the dark. It’s the bad days that make the good ones so much better.”
My hands ran through his hair, and I set my lips against his. “Kiss me,” I whispered, placing my fingers against his chest, taking in the feeling of his heart resting in my hands.
He hesitated. “If I kiss you, we can’t go back. If I kiss you…I’ll never want to stop.”