I sat up, and glittering stars formed in my eyes. I fell back against the bed, feeling nauseated.
I swallowed. My throat was dry and scratchy.
T.J. walked over to a small table at the end of my bed and poured water into a cup. I took it from him and sipped. It burned all the way down, even though it was ice water.
I touched the top of Trenton’s head. “Does he know?”
“Everyone knows. About you. About us. But not about me. I’d like to keep it that way. For now.”
I looked down, feeling a sob well up in my throat. “Then why is he here?”
“The same reason I’m here. Because he loves you.”
A tear fell down my cheek. “I didn’t mean to . . .”
T.J. shook his head. “I know, honey. Don’t cry. It’s going to be okay.”
“Is it? Now that everyone knows, how could it ever be anything but awkward, and tense, and . . .”
Trenton’s right fingers twitched. His cast became dislodged and his arm fell. He jerked awake, and then grabbed his shoulder, clearly in pain. When he realized my eyes were open, he immediately stood, leaned over, and touched my cheek with his left hand. The bridge of his nose was swollen, and the skin under both of his eyes bore matching purple half-moons. “You’re awake!” He beamed while his eyes scanned my face.
Trenton laughed once, leaning his head down until his forehead touched my lap. He hooked his arm around my thighs and squeezed gently, his entire body shaking as he cried.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, hot tears burning down my cheeks and falling from my jaw.
Trenton looked up and shook his head. “No. This wasn’t your fault. Some drunk son of a bitch ran a stop sign and T-boned us.”
He shook his head again, begging me with his eyes to stop. “Ssh, no. No, baby. Even then, he would have plowed right into us.” He put his hand on top of his head, and his eyes glossed over. He sighed. “I’m so f**king glad you’re okay. Your head was gushing blood, and you wouldn’t wake up.” His eyes closed as the memory replayed. “I’ve been going out of my mind.” He rested his head on my lap again, and lifted my left hand to his mouth, gently kissing around the tape.
T.J. still stood behind him, watching Trenton’s display of affection with a pained smile. Trenton turned around, sensing someone was behind him.
“It’s okay. She doesn’t belong to me anymore. I’m not sure she ever did.”
“I love her,” Trenton said, glancing back at me with a smile. He wiped his red eyes. “I’m not f**king around. I really love her.”
“I know,” T.J. said. “I’ve seen the way you look at her.”
T.J.’s brows pulled together as he looked at me, but he spoke to Trenton. “What does she want?”
They both turned to me. I stared at T.J. while I slowly reached across the wrinkled sheets and blanket for Trenton’s hand. Trenton sat down next to me, lifted my hand to his mouth, and kissed my fingers, closing his eyes.
He shook his head. “For reasons that have nothing to do with me. Or us.”
I let out a sigh of relief, and the tears fell again. “I love you.”
Trenton gently cupped my jaw in his hands, and then he leaned in, kissing me tenderly. “Nothing else matters.”
“It matters to me,” I said. “I don’t want to . . .”
T.J. cleared his throat, reminding us that someone else was in the room. “If it’s what you want, Cami, we’ll make it work. I won’t get in the way. It won’t be an issue.”
Trenton walked the few steps to where T.J. stood and gave him a bear hug. They held onto one another for several moments. T.J. whispered something into Trenton’s ear, and he nodded. It was so surreal, watching them interact in the same room, after keeping T.J.’s secret for so long.
T.J. walked slowly over to my bedside, leaned over, and kissed an area of my forehead that wasn’t bandaged. “I’m going to miss you, Camille.” He kissed the same spot again, letting his lips linger on my skin for a while, and then he walked out the door.
Trenton puffed out a sigh of relief, and then squeezed my hand. “It all makes sense, now.” He shook his head, and laughed once without humor. “Now that I know, I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out. California. You feeling wrong about being with me, even after you broke things off with him. It was all right there in front of me.”
I pressed my lips together. “Not all of it.”
Trenton rested his cast on the bed and intertwined the fingers that poked out the end with mine. “I don’t feel an ounce of guilt. You know why?”
“Because I’ve been in love with you since grade school, Chamomile. And everyone knew it. Everyone.”
“I’m still not sure I believe that.”
“You wore ponytails every day for years. They were perfect.” His smile faded. “And that sad look in your eyes. All I’ve ever wanted to do was make you smile. And then you were mine, and I could never get it right.”
“I’ve had a lifetime of wrong. You’re the only thing that’s right.”
Trenton pulled something from his pocket, and let a small, silver key dangle from a key chain. It was a black strip of felt fabric with C-A-M-I spelled out in bright colors, bordered with black stitching. I pressed my lips together and then pulled my mouth to the side.
“What do you say?” he asked with hope in his eyes.
“Move in? Give up my apartment?”
“All in. You and me. Drinking to weird toasts after work, and Chicken Joe’s on Monday nights with Olive. Simple, just the way you like it.”
There was so much to think about, but after what we’d just been through—twice—the only thing I could focus on was what Trenton had said. There was only one thing that mattered. “I say yes.”
“Yes,” I said, giggling at his expression, and then winced. My entire body ached.
“Hell yes!” he yelled, and then offered a sheepish grin when I motioned for him to keep quiet. “I am so f**king in love with you, Cami.”
I scooted over in my bed, clumsily and slowly, and then Trenton—carefully and with much effort—made his way in. He was just as sore as I was. He pushed a button on the side rail that leaned us back until we were lying flat, facing each other.
“I know you don’t believe me, but I really have loved you since we were kids,” he said quietly. “And now I get to love you ’til we’re old.”
My stomach fluttered. No one else had ever loved me as much as he did. “Promise?”
Trenton smiled with tired eyes. “Yes. And then I’ll promise you again after I dance around in a thong to Britney Spears.”
I managed to let out a small chuckle, but the pain was making it difficult to move. He adjusted and readjusted until he finally got comfortable enough to close his eyes and fall asleep. I watched him for the longest time, breathing in and out, with a small smile on his face. Everything was out in the open now, and I could breathe, too.