CHAPTER NUMBER/ONE SHOT: 3/7
GENRE(S): Romance, Drama, Angst
FIC SUMMARY: Charlotte Wolf and Leighton Jones have had a wonderful relationship but Charlotte can’t help but feel like Leighton is hiding something from her and she’s curious to find out.
AUTHORS NOTES/WARNINGS: I’m so sorry for the delay. It’s been quite hectic for me lately but I really do appreciate everyone who’s stuck it out with me so far! I hope you enjoy this next installment! Also, special shout out and thanks goes to <a href=”https://theodditywriter.wordpress.com/“>Daniel</a> for all of his support for not just this story but for my work in general. If you guys haven’t, please check his blog out on WordPress and Tumblr! He’s a talented writer and person as well.
Oh and just in case anyone didn’t know, italics are normally used when someone is thinking something. Please don’t repost without credit!
Leighton was getting sick a lot lately. My brother told me it was because flu season was finally picking up and unfortunately, his roommate was one of the unlucky people to catch it. I didn’t know if he was hiding something from me again like I thought he was, but whatever the case, that lovable dork still worried me. I saw him less and less. I tried seeing him but Natalie told me repeatedly that I should let him rest like he should be doing instead of coming over and making him lose even more energy. And when I didn’t listen, she found a way to stop me from going. So instead, I waited and waited by the phone, waiting and worrying for what seemed like endless hours until one day, Leighton decided to surprise me. And even then, I still was pretty wary of surprises.
“Char, I haven’t seen you in so long!” My boyfriend exclaimed, his voice raspier than usual. “Let’s go to the park today!” He declared through the phone.
I bit my lip and pulled on a strand of my hair. My heart was fluttering in my chest. I badly wanted to see him since I hadn’t seen him in the longest time but I was scared– not for me but for him. Something just wasn’t right and with Leighton’s health issues, I didn’t want anything worse to happen to him. “Leigh…” I began, trailing off.
“Finally using my first name! Not that hard, is it?” He chuckled briefly but was interrupted by erupting into a fit of coughs.
I shot up from my seat, pressing the phone closer to my ear. “Leighton! Oh god, are you alright?!”
Leighton eventually calmed down and I could hear his breath evening out. “God, Char, can you just not act like that? Frick…” He groaned, and I could just see him running a hand through his hair. “Noah has been getting on my arse everyday for being sick and I don’t need that right now.” He paused and I could hear the pain in his voice. “It’s just… I haven’t seen you in so long.”
I sighed. “You know I want to see you, you dummy. But you’ve been sick lately and I don’t want you to get sicker.”
“I’m fine. I just want to spend time with my girlfriend since I haven’t in a really long time! Please? Please? Pleeeeassse?” He pouted. I could just imagine his sad attempt at a puppy dog pout that could still somehow make me do or say the stupidest things (even if it was a little over the top). I was terribly afraid that I was about to make a stupid decision.
I clicked my tongue. “Alright. Alright! Just please stop talking like that, Jones. You’re killing me here.”
“You love it.” He retorted, chuckling as well. I didn’t disagree. “I’ll pick you up soon, darling. Love you.”
He arrived twenty minutes later with a bouquet of flowers in hand, and his favorite military green overcoat over his outfit. He had a light gray scarf wrapped around his neck and smelled like cinnamon and soap. “For you.” He grinned cheekily and handed me the bouquet. They were red tulips and smelled lovely.
“Thank you.” I smiled and blushed and put the flowers in a vase of water.
Then he put his hand out, raising his brow. “Ready?” I grabbed his hand and we were off.
After a few minutes of riding on his motorcycle, we arrived at the beginning of what looked like a clearing. The birds were chirping and the air was crisp and clean. I turned to Leighton with a small smile on my face. “Are we having another picnic?”
“No.” He smirked. “It’s even better, love.” He pulled my hand and we both followed a dirt path that winded between the trees before we stopped suddenly. “We’re going to play on the playground!” He exclaimed in excitement, pointing to his right. I turned and saw a tiny playground that had a swing set, slide, jungle gym, and sandbox. There were three little kids taking turns sliding on the slide while their parents watched. It reminded me of when I was a kid.
I raised a brow and saw his radiant face. “You’re kidding, right?”
Leighton snorted and his eyes sparkled in mischief, making him look almost like a child. “Don’t you know? We’re never too old to play on the playground, Charlotte. Come on!” He beamed. I stayed where I was. There was no way I was going to go through humiliation by playing on that playground. That was where I drew the line. “Come on, Char. Please. For me?” I still didn’t move an inch. His begging wouldn’t make me move. “Please? I promise no one will see us. Pleeeassse?” He began pouting loudly with his puppy dog face and got down on one knee.
I scrambled to his side, my eyes wide with panic. “Are you crazy, Jones?! People will think you’re proposing!”
“Please? Please!” He begged and clutched onto my hands. “Please!” His pleas were growing louder by the minute and I felt like I could die from humiliation.
“Ok! OK! I’ll play on the playground with you, alright?” I huffed, trying desperately to hide myself from the awkward stares of the parents. “Just get up please!”
Leighton smirked and hopped right up, never missing a beat. “Yes, ma’am.” He even gave a salute. I rolled my eyes as he tugged on my hand. It was official. I was in love with an idiot.
Still I fought back a grin. “What should we do first then?”
“Hmm…” Leighton tapped his chin and bit his lip. Then he turned to me with sparkling eyes. “Last one to the jungle gym is a rotten egg!” He squealed and began skipping towards the jungle gym. The three little kids stopped playing there as soon as we came over and took over their spot. Of course, being the person that he was, Leighton beat me to the jungle gym and joked around about me being the rotten egg.
He climbed to the top of the jungle gym with a smug expression on his face and I climbed up next to him and sat down. His eyes sparkled mischievously and he stood at the top and screamed, “I’m the king of the world!”
“Jones!” I hissed and tried forcing him to sit down next to me. I shielded my face with my hand. “Stop it. You’ve had enough embarrassing moments today.”
Leighton raised a brow and shook his head. “God you’re no fun, Char.” He sighed and looked around himself. “I mean, haven’t you ever wanted to do something like this, sail into the middle of the ocean or climb to the top of a mountain and just yell at the top of our lungs?” Leighton’s eyes lit up and he faced me enthusiastically. “We could be Peter and Wendy or we could be Jack and Rose — you know — from Titanic.”
I slapped his shoulder playfully. “I know where that’s from, you weirdo.” And he shrugged with a chuckle. I looked around at the expanse of the trees and playground around us and grinned. “So I’m your Wendy or your Rose, huh?”
“But we’re not even on a boat–”
“That’s the best part! Don’t you see, Char? We don’t actually have to be on a boat. Hell, we can even be on a plane or in a spaceship or a submarine or on a dragon or something! Anything! Whatever we want! We can play pretend and imagine like we did when we were kids and we can do and be whatever and whoever we want to be! We don’t have to worry. We can pretend that nothing’s wrong with life and that for once, every fucking thing is alright!” He was practically screaming now and going into hysterics, throwing his hands in the air. The birds around us fluttered away, frightened by the sound and the parents and kids had long since left us alone. I was pleasantly surprised they didn’t call the cops on us.
I tugged gently on his coat sleeve, noticing something was amiss. “Jones?” I asked and without warning, he sat down and scooped me into a hug. He was breathing heavily, as though he had just run a marathon. I didn’t understand what was going on with him. “Leigh… Leighton?”
“I love you, Charlotte.” He whispered and kissed my lips. His lips were dry and chapped.
“Are you alright, Jones?” He didn’t answer. He only whispered another “I love you” and we stayed there in that position for the time being.
It seemed like hours had passed. We were still in the same position with him holding me tightly against him with my head on his shoulder and his head on top of mine. Then suddenly, he lifted his head from mine and tilted my head up to face him. “Hey, Char, let’s go on the swings!” He said with sparkling eyes. I nodded and we both sat on the swings, holding hands in the cold breeze. The birds had come back and were chirping again. It was peaceful.
“Jones, I swear, your hands are always freezing.” I remarked, examining his hand in mine. They were ice cold and I shivered at his touch. I hesitated before looking up at him with a small smile. “You know, my mother always told me that the people with the coldest hands have the warmest hearts.”
Leighton’s eyes shone and he snorted. “Me? Warm-hearted? Darling, do you even know who I am?” I snorted and he started examining my hand as well. “Well, your hands are really warm.”
“What can I say? I’m evil, I suppose.”
Leighton shook his head and chuckled before pushing a stray hair from my face. “No, it’s not that. You’re just an exception.” I blushed and he squeezed my hand, giving me a gentle kiss on the lips. “Char, I have an idea. Let’s have a swinging competition.” He grinned, turning back to look at me.
“I don’t know, Jones… I don’t want you exerting so much energy.” I replied.
“I’ll be fine. Just can we? Please?”
I sighed. “But — ”
“Please? Just this once? I promise I won’t ask again.”
“…Fine. Just this once.”
He grinned and we both began kicking our feet in the air as hard as we could to go higher and higher. “I’m going to win! I’m going to win!” He exclaimed with a smirk. I didn’t respond at first until he stuck his tongue out at me and said, “Charlotte Wolf is going to lose and will have to owe me a shit ton of ice cream after this!” Then he began giggling like a child.
I found myself giggling along as well. “No, I’m going to win and you will have to owe me that ice cream, Jones!” His eyes sparkled and suddenly I wanted to win. I wanted to prove that I could do it and I wanted to win. We were both going higher and higher, faster and faster. “I’m winning! I’m going to beat you!” I cheered as I faintly saw Tanner’s swing begin to slow and lose momentum. “Ha! I win! Who’s the rotten egg now, Jones? ” I exclaimed before I heard loud, violent coughing and my heart seemed to stop in my chest. “Leighton?!” I immediately stopped in my tracks and the swing jerked forward as I dug my feet in the sand. I looked to my side to see Leighton doubled over on his swing, coughing as though there was no tomorrow. It looked like he couldn’t catch his breath.
I ran to his side and began rubbing his back in circles. “Shit. Stay with me, Jones! Stay with me!” I touched his forehead. It was burning hot; he was sick again. His overcoat was stained pinkish red with his coughs. He’s coughing up blood?! My heart raced as I continued trying to help him, and after what seemed like an eternity, it was slowing down. Then it stopped and Leighton lay limp on his swing with blood staining his face. “Let’s get you to the hospital–”
“No, not the hospital!” Leighton screamed before his voice broke and he began coughing again. I pulled him to me and began rubbing his back until his coughing seemed to die down. “Please, no hospital…” He croaked. “Please…”
I bit my lip. throughout our relationship, Leighton had always been the strong one. He had always been the one supporting me and helping me get through all my hardships but now I was terrified. I was terrified that I might lose him, that his coughing might not stop. I wanted to take him to the hospital so he would heal.
“Jones — Leigh — stop. You’re sick–”
Leighton tried pushing me away from him. “I said I don’t want to go, Char.” He snapped and I recoiled, shrinking away from him. He immediately noticed my reaction and stopped. He reached his arm out towards me and shook his head. “God — fuck — I’m sorry, Char. I’m sorry.” He whispered.
I felt my heart ache and break at the sight of him. He could barely stand. “It’s okay. It’s okay. Let’s just go home. OK? Let’s just go home.” I slung his arm over my shoulder and slowly we stood. He stumbled forward and I almost lost my footing. Then I hoisted him up on his motorcycle and I held him to me while I rode to his apartment (thank God he taught me how to use the damn thing).
“I’m s… sorry…” He told me. His voice was a cracked, hoarse whisper. He was breathing heavily and slumping over again. My expression softened and I held him closer to me. We made it to his apartment in due time. I knocked on the door and Noah opened it.
“Fuck.” Noah cursed as soon as he lifted Leighton from me and began helping me to his bedroom. I stepped inside to see Natalie with her face pale.
She gave me a quick hug before asking, “What happened?”
“We were just racing each other on the swings and then suddenly he couldn’t stop coughing. I didn’t know what to do. I told him he shouldn’t push himself since he keeps getting sick but he was so stubborn.” I panicked, shaking all over. “It’s my fault. I should’ve been firmer. I shouldn’t have let him get to me. I should’ve–”
She wrapped his arms around me again. “Hey, stop that. It’s not your fault.” I squeezed my eyes shut and hugged her. I wished everything was a dream.
After another moment, I broke off. “I need to see if he’s alright.” She nodded and I raced upstairs only to bump into my brother.
“Noah, can I see him? Please?”
He hesitated. “He’s resting right now so be quiet, alright?” I nodded and he moved out of the way so I could step into Leighton’s room.
The room smelled of him but also smelled stale, like there hadn’t been any fresh air let in for a while. Leighton was curled up in his bed, the blanket stopping at his mid stomach. I drew the blankets further up and put my hand on his forehead. He was still sick. His whole body was so pale and there was a thick line of sweat upon his brows and dark circles under his eyes. Thankfully, Noah had cleaned off the dried blood off his face. My hand trailed away and grabbed his hand. It was still freezing cold and now it was sweating too. I brought it up and hugged it to me.
“God, you’re such an idiot, Jones.” I bit my lip, trying to stop myself from crying and placed my head against his chest to hear his heartbeat for a moment. “You scared me so much.”
I stayed there for another moment before I began to let go when I felt his hand tug on mine.
“It’s okay, love. I’m here.” I said softly and wriggled my hand from his grasp. He groaned as my hand slipped away and I moved his hair from his forehead. Then I quickly made one ready for him and placed it over his brows before I realized that I needed to get him some water in case he woke up. I walked out and grabbed the lukewarm water quickly. I turned towards his room but I stopped upon hearing Noah and Natalie conversing in the adjoining room.
“But it’s not fair!” Natalie groaned.
Noah sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He licked his lips before continuing. “I know, babe, but we promised him.”
She stomped her foot on the ground and I could see her pale cheeks grow pink and rosy. “But she’s his girlfriend and your little sister! For god sakes! She deserves to know. Everyone else knows but her. I’m sick and tired of lying and covering up everything when it’s something this big. We need to tell her.” My heart started speeding up and my breath caught in my throat. They were talking about me again.
“Yeah and then what, she’ll be scared away? Nat, it’ll crush her.”
“It’s already crushing her, Noah, can’t you see it? She knows we’re hiding something. She needs to know before it’s too late.”
Noah scoffed and crossed his arms. Then he leant over the couch. “Oh, sure because you know it would be so easy to go up to your little sister and tell her just right out of the blue, ‘Hey, Charlotte, how are you? Lovely weather we’re having this evening. Oh and by the way, your boyfriend is having heart failure and needs a transplant.’” My eyes widened and my heart seemed to stop in my chest. Heart failure?! Suddenly it all started making sense… the whispers, the confusing excuses of Leighton being sick, the weird way Noah and Natalie were acting around me lately as if there was something I was missing, him breaking down on the swing, and the constant, strange way he assured me he loved me and surprised me… It was because of his heart. My head was spinning and I felt my knees grow weak like jelly. The glass of water I had slipped from my hand and shattered. The water splattered on the hard wood floor and the couple whipped their heads in my direction.
“Shit. Charlotte!” My brother exclaimed but I didn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do so I ran out of the apartment and into the cold, night air. I didn’t really know where I was going but I knew I wouldn’t go back to that apartment and I wasn’t going back home.