✍️✍️✍️✍️ The Kiss 馃拫馃拫馃拫馃拫 18+ Reading Episode 218 || 219 || 220 || 221 & 222 ✍️✍️✍️✍️

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 13✓
[218] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~DONOVAN~|

〰️❤️〰️

"What happened?" That was the first thing her father asked.

I've always imagined and dreaded the day her parents will confront me for hurting her and this is the time.

"I'm sorry." I couldn't look at any of them. I dread their wrath, I am ashamed, sad, and scared. Scared that something might happen to Mariana.

"Sorry? Don't tell me that! I just want to know what the heck happened to her." Pablo demanded in a stern voice. I haven't heard him talk this way to me before, this voice is commanding,harsh, serious, angry and protective. A voice of a father who loves his daughter to the moon and back.

"I prepared a bath for her then went to get her something to eat. When.. when..I came back, she..she.." I paused and tried to swallow the lump in my throat and also to clear the liquid welling up in my eyes.

"She what?" Paula's voice is calm but I could hear Pablo boiling inside.

"When...I came she'd passed out and the water was at the brim. That was what happened.."

Pablo sighed heavily and walked away probably to see the doctor.

"I'm sorry," I said to a devastated Paula but she also just walked away.

The couple stood by the glass door and watched with Pablo trying to console her wife.

Standing in the corridor for what seems like forever, the doctor came out. I didn't know when I even got in front of him to know about her status.

"How's she?" Pablo asked.

" We can't tell. She's not responding and neither is she improving. She consumed a lot of water and as a result of the chemical from the soapy water, she's receiving intravenous therapy to stop any reaction of the chemical in her system faster so for now, we just have to wait in hope that her heartbeat picks up to normal and begins to breathe on her own."

"Are these the only things?"

"Yes. She also had a cold but it's being managed. Once she's received enough oxygen and her ability to breathe bounces back, we can be sure of her recovery."

"Can you guarantee that she'll be alright? I hope she doesn't have so many complications?"

"Until she wakes up, I can't say anything. She's been stressed out and that's one of the major reasons her heartbeat is slow and for other complications, I can't say unless she allows it."

What the hell is he going on about?

"What are you saying, doctor? She's my daughter. If there are other things affecting her health don't you think it's our right to know that?"

"I am aware but don't forget she's an adult. If she wanted you to know, then she'd have said it. It's quite confidential, please don't cause me to deviate from my professional duty."

"But she's..."

I saw Paula hold her husband's hand to calm him. "Can we see her then?" She asked.

The doctor looked among us. "Her boyfriend should go first unless, if you two don't mind that he goes mad."

Before they can try to make me go, I spoke. " I won't. You two can go."

Even though I so badly want to see her, I am allowing her parents first. They're just as tense as me but I don't deserve to be with her at the moment for causing all this.

I found a bench to sit on as I waited but it wasn't up to a minute before I got up and paced to and fro. At last, I walked out of the hospital into the crisp weather.

I leaned on a wall then gradually reduced to a squatting position not far from the main entrance. It's almost midnight so the hospital isn't busy like day time.

I turn my hands then peeling out the dead skin on my knuckles. I can't remember the last time I used my hand on anyone or item. However, the scar is present. I turned my ring on my finger then removed it and put it back on. I didn't study her finger when I came but I hope she still has hers on. I studied her name on my wrist as if seeing it for the first time, then tracing it with the tip of my finger. I also removed the chain before rounding it back on my wrist.

"Hey, kiddo."

I looked up to see Nicholas. I want to say I am not a kid but what does it matter?

"How's she?"

"She's still not awake." I simply said.

"Tell me what happened?"

"I can't. It's all my fault."

"How is it your fault?"

"I don't know why I have to set a bath for her."

"To bathe. What else? She needed it anyway."

"You see. She was dozing. She didn't need any bathe or I could be with her. I left and when I came back, she drowned. I was supposed to take care of her, not endanger her."

"That doesn't make it your fault."

"It is. It's my fault. I shouldn't have left her alone. Fuck, there wasn't even any need for a bath. Oh God, what the hell was wrong with me?" I bury my hands in my hair in frustration.

"Don't blame yourself for what you didn't do."

"I did. I did."

"You didn't. You just wanted the best for her." A third voice said and I looked up to see her parents.

"What?"

"We were looking for you. You can go see her now."

"What of..but you...I mean. I caused this.."

"Don't talk as such. We do not blame you. I just hope you've now seen that everyone is eligible to make a mistake. We saw how mad you were at us earlier for letting her out of our sight but it wasn't intentional. We love our daughter just as much and now that it happened to you, we understand. I just hope she gets better."

I only nodded and got on my feet. It also means I can also make the mistake my parents committed. It's a duty to understand that and try to forgive as mistakes come with every human.

I dragged my feet to Mariana's ward and took a seat beside her. Kissing her on the forehead, I took her hand in mine and saw the ring. Her skin color is changing from the blue it was when I brought her. Her pulse is still very faint and irregular.

"Mariana." I touched a part of her face as the oxygen mask had almost occupied all and watched her for a long time.

Her body that used to react and makes her pulse quicken and heart pounding against her chest just by a single touch from me now seem dead. She can't even sense me.

I pulled my seat close and dropped my head on her thigh when my eyes couldn't stay open.

A strong cough and a hand tightening around mine wake me up from my slumber. I pressed the emergency button by the bed and held in place to not fall off with how her body was jerking violently from the cough.

The nurses rushed in, followed by the doctor. The mask is taken off and she struggles to breathe as she coughs along.

I couldn't look. Couldn't look because I can't watch her suffer while having nothing to do to save her. Worthless and pathetic is what I am.

And so, the doctor didn't chase me out this time, in defeat, I did on my own after disjoining our hands.

I know I did. No amount of what Paula says. I know I am the cause of this. Only I am to be blamed.

For the last two hours, I stayed outside until the doctor came.

"How's her condition?"

"She's getting stable and her breathing is returning but she still hasn't opened her eyes."

"Thank you." I walked back in and sat beside her by the bed. I moved her a little and laid beside her. I can't hear her breathing but I see the slight movement of her chest rising and the way her lips are parted. Her skin color is also coming back. That's an improvement and I am relieved even if it's little.

The doctor did say she has other health problems. What is it and why did she never mention it to me? I've seen her a couple of times taking some pills but it always escapes me to ask.

I didn't want to slumber again so I watched her closely. I must've dozed off a little because all of a sudden, I feel a treading in my hair. I looked up and my eyes met hers. The relief and weight of the thought of my possible loss of her lifted off of me. I felt so relieved that tears pricked my eyes and trekked down my cheeks.

"Why are you shedding tears?" She asked slowly.

"No." I shook my head and hugged her. "Are you alright?"

"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be? I just slept and you brought me to a hospital. Are you crazy? Yeah. How did I forget? You're crazy. Please get me out of here."

"You didn't sleep in the bed but the tub."

"This isn't the first time. I like to sleep in it and even when I am swimming I sleep."

Thank God she wasn't trying to kill herself.

"This didn't go well with you. You drowned."

"That's impossible. There's no way I will ever drown."

"But that's what happened."

"Who saved me? Was it Toby? He saved me when I was just a child too. did I tell you?"

"Yes."

"So where is he? I can't believe he saved me once again."

"No, he didn't."

"Then who?"

"I did."

She stayed silent for a minute. "So where's he?" Tears welled back into her eyes.

"You know."

"So it's true that...that.."

"He's dead Mariana. He's dead." I'm blunt but the earlier she accepts this, the good it will be for us.

She brought herself to a sitting position and made a sick face. Her hand went to her chest then she brought it to her stomach. Before I could ask what was wrong, she got out of bed.

"I want the bathroom."

I looked around the ward and pointed to the first door I saw. It has to be a washroom.

"There."

She almost ran towards it but opening it when she got there was a problem. She started retching so I had to run to open it.

I held her hair out of her face as she let it all out into the toilet. It weakened her by the time she finished and I had to take her off the floor. I walked her to the sink and she rinsed her mouth then wet her face.

"Are you alright?"

She chose to ignore me.

"I'm sorry."

She looksld at me briefly and began to walk out while I take a step at a time behind her.

"God! We almost got a heart attack seeing the empty bed." Her mom is at the entrance of the ward with her hands to her chest.

She walked in and the rest of the family trouped in. Each of the questions that were thrown at her by her worried folks, she replied with a nod or just shaking her head. The only time she had to talk is when she wanted to leave.

"Dad please can you take me out of here?"

"Sure. I will get the doctor."

The doctor didn't discharge her until the next day afternoon. Marion opted to wheel his sister to the car since she was still very weak. I wanted to carry her but she said she prefers the wheelchair.

Once we got home, everyone wanted to attend to her. Her mom cooked the food and her dad ran the errands. Marion and Nervisa sat by her to keep her company.

There was nothing for me to do but watch and even when I asked her if she wanted something, she just shook her head.

It continued the next day. Mariana and I didn't exchange any words and I had to sleep in the guest room. I really didn't want to cause any problems but it hurts that she won't speak to even me or allow me to do anything for her.

Her condition got better as the days rolled by to the end of the week. She can now do everything by herself except that, she doesn't want to speak to anyone except for Nervisa and Marion who even it's when they force her to talk by all means. Betsy and her boyfriend visited her a couple of days but had to rush back because of their exams while I on other hand felt suffocated leaving here with a lot of people. It was awkward for me that I decided to leave or go back to my house.

On Sunday evening, I planned to go back the next day while sitting at her balcony and going through my phone to purchase a flight ticket.

"Are you buying tickets for our trip to Russia or what are you doing?"

Lifting my eyes from the phone, I see Mariana in front of me, her eyes on my phone screen.

How's it possible that I didn't notice that she was here? And what is she wearing? I better look away.

"You still want to go?" I'm surprised that she still asked about the trip after she's been coldly ignoring me the entire week.

"Yeah. Why not? Have you forgotten what I said?"

"No, I haven't." She did say she'll support whether rain or shine.

"Good. So now when can we go?" She sat beside me and I shifted to create space between us which caused her brows furrow at the act for a second. I have to because she's looking so tempting right now in just a thin transparent nightie. I can see the shape of her full round breast,her nipples and coming down..oh. so damn sexy.

I looked back on my phone. She's mourning and doesn't even want to talk to me, if I look too long, I will be forced to touch her and I am sure she won't like it.

"I am ready whenever you are."

" Tomorrow afternoon or night? I've already googled everything, Russia. The flight time is fourteen hours so if we should leave in the morning, we'll be there in the evening and vice versa. You decide."

"You sure want to come?" I have to be sure she wanted this.

"Yes. Why do you keep on asking?"

"Nothing."

Silence reigned between us with none of saying anything.

"I'm sorry." I finally said. "For what happened last week. I shouldn't have.."

"It's past. Please don't apologize to me when you didn't even do anything."

"Thanks"

"You're weird."

"I'm also grateful that you want to come with me."

"Look. I'm sorry if you felt bad that I ignored you. It's just that I lost someone very important to me.."

"I know. I haven't taken any offense." I told her.

"But you're sad about everything."

"You're talking to me now, explaining and telling me that you'll travel with me so that makes up for it." I still tried to not look at her.

"So tell me the truth."

"What?" I had to move my eyes back on her.

"What were you planning?"

"Nothing."

"Oh come on." She pushed.

"Fine. Was about to get tickets to travel back."

"You don't mean it. You wanted to leave me, in this state where I am still recovering?"

"I didn't know what to do. Especially that I caused.."

"Novan. I told you to stop blaming yourself."

"The facts can't be denied."

"Hmm. I loved that you prepared a bath for me and filled it with my favorite scent. I loved that you rushed to make my food and that is all that I know. The rest is my mistake."

"Not yours."

"Not ours then."

"Yes, not anybody's fault. I'd much rather go for that." I said.

"Me too." She concurs.

"As I said. I've not completely out or over his death. Please be patient with me." Il she added.

"I will and I am still sorry.."

"Shut up and buy the tickets already or I will."

"For?" I smiled.

" Tomorrow Morning."

"So it's settled then?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"Are you not the sweetest things of all?" I put my arms around her and pulled her to me. Feels good to be this close to her after so long of her pulling away from me.

"Oh please." She gave me a plain smile and swat at my hand.

I put my hands by my side.

Since we're leaving tomorrow then we must as well get some sleep and the weather is too crisp."

"Yeah." She got up and I followed. When we got to her door, she held the handle, looking at me and I waited for her to invite me in.

"Uhm...Goodnight." She said and my face dropped instantly but I held it.

"Yeah, goodnight." I turned around to the room I stay in for now and threw my body on the bed.

I wonder how it will feel like again to be able to sleep in the same bed as her and when the fuck will she be over what happened and get normal with me?

I look forward to having a nice time with her in that country and maybe, it might fast forward her recovery.

|•MARIANA•|

I knew one day he'll be gone but then, I didn't know it was going to hit me this big. I should be done with my exams and dreaming of As and preparing to come home for Christmas but now all is just messed up. Once again, my life has been thrown into the dust along with all my plans. It's like I will never complete college. I have a full resit to take and that too, next semester which is also a new academic year. I hope I will be promoted to the next level and not get repeated.

Even if I had gone ahead to school to write it after seeing the lifeless body of Toby at the foot of his bed, I wouldn't be able to pin anything on the paper. The image keeps popping and crowding my mind. I don't know how to make it stop.

Maybe a couple of days out of the country will be able to get my mind off Toby for a while. I hope.

If nothing works for me in college, then I guess I will have to drop out, sit myself down, and think of what next to be done. I thought my life would be so simple after finally meeting my parents but life only got harder. Life was once simple for me, I had everything under control and it was working for me despite that I lacked luxury but now that I have the luxury, it turned. This really proves that we can't have it all in this life and rich people aren't really problem-free like the poor and middle class thinks they are. I didn't have Novan back then but I do now and despite our problems, I am happy that he came into my life.

I walked to the mirror instead of the bed after saying goodnight to Novan. I actually thought he'd insist and step inside. I swear I wouldn't have stopped him but he just accepted and walked away. I don't even know where he sleeps even yet. Looking in the mirror, it looked like the word ugly is now a best friend of mine. I'm a wreck. My hair needs a trim and proper washing, my eyebrows need shaping and my lashes need some plugging. My lips need some lotion to look attractive and I have to also do something to get rid of this sickly look. I don't look alive; dull and boring is what it is. What if this is why Novan didn't try to come inside? Why he shifted away from me when I sat beside him. He doesn't see me attractive anymore because of my looks? Well, I don't blame him. I look ugly anyway.

I walked to the bathroom and began to shave my legs then waxed. I tried to wash my thick lengthy hair but it was so difficult. Seems like all my energy has been drained.

I ended up just rinsing it then drying and combing. A knock sounded at my door and thinking it's Novan, I shouted. "Go on and come in."

From the mirror, I saw my mom walk in. "Hey, what are you doing up at this time? Thought you'd be sleeping."

"No mom. I am traveling tomorrow."

"Wait. What. Traveling? Tomorrow?"

I got up from the chair and walked to her. "Stop panicking. I'm fine and I won't be going alone."

"Who will you be going with and where?"

"Novan and I are going to Russia to see his mom."

"He wanted to or you suggested."

"He did. I am surprised and also very happy that he's taking this step. It's what I've been preaching to him all this while."

"That's good. He needed to change, to forgive, in order to have a happy life. I'm proud of him."

"That's enough praises. You know, to be honest, I hate that you're close to him."

"Whoa! Where's that coming from?"

"Nowhere. You guys are getting too close. He takes you on lunch dates and I didn't know you two had been singing this song.
' lean on me when you are the storm. I be your friend.." I sang in a strange accent while my mom laughed, she's laughing so hard.

"That is not how we sing it."

"Oh, the hell I care." I said.

"Of course you do. It goes like this;
馃帣️ 'Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on'馃帣️ " My mom sang it perfectly as if she's the composer.

"Yeah. I think that is it but I am still not happy."

"Come here, baby."

"No."

"You know we all need someone to lean on in this world at a point in time of our lives. That was just it for us."

"You made him dress up. You achieved something I've been working on for so long."

"Oh, that? It was a deal we made."

"A deal?"

"Yeah. When you two were fighting, he came to me to help him. A bit of advice or something and I told him that unless he dresses up from time to time. He didn't want to but boy, he was eager to get you back so he agreed finally. It shows that when you're involved, he'll do anything, anything at all to get you back. He really loves you."

"Is that it?" A fat smile is trying to break on my face. I didn't know this was the story.

"Yes, now come here."

"This is not the time to chit-chat mom. What if I was in bed with..well." I couldn't finish. It's weird to say that in front of her.

"I knew he wasn't in here that is why I came to check if you've slept or not."

"He just left for his room." I crossed the room to sit on the bed and she sat beside me.

"Why? Is anything happening?"

"No. Nothing."

"Okay. If you say so but he was really scared when you weren't waking up. I haven't seen him like that before. After seeing that, your dad and I didn't want to say anything to hurt him more. We were all very worried darling." She half hugs me from the side.

"Why would you want to say anything to him? He'll never endanger my life on purpose."

"At that point, we weren't thinking. I mean he was mad at us for leaving you alone but he also did the same thing. I thought that was a good punishment for him."

"Don't do things to make him feel bad." I sighed. I put him through torture the entire week and I don't know what to do to let loose of this pent up tension and steady pain in my chest.

"We won't."

"Thanks."

"So when are you going to be back?"

"I don't know yet but it should be a few days."

"We'll be celebrating Christmas together right?"

"I think so."

My mom's face is in my neck and she kissed me there. "I miss you."

"Stop getting close to my man first."

"You started it. Pablo has never been mine. I told you I have someone, it's him. Your Novan."

I remember that day when I went to work with my dad leaving mom behind and she said she has someone. That was very long ago.

"Wonders will never end! I still can't believe you two agree now!" I exclaimed dramatically.

"Me too."

I looked at my pretty mom and smiled. She didn't like Novan. In her eyes, Novan was everything she resents but now, that is all changed. She sees him differently in a positive way.

"Tell me something, Mariana." She disengaged from me to look in my face.

"What?"

"What are you keeping from us about your health?"

My heart skipped and I tried to get away from her but she held me back.

"Hide it from everyone but not me. I'm your mom, If you don't share it with me, who else will you share it with? You don't even have Tobias anymore."

"Mom." My voice breaks and I bury my face in my palm. Must she remind me of that now?

★★★

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 14✓
[219] of the LIFE SERIES.

NOT EDITED ‼️

|~MARIANA~|

〰️❤️〰️

"You can talk to me."

"I know Mom."

"Is it really serious?"

I nodded and lifted my head, wiping my tears, and doing everything possible to avoid eye contact with her.

"I had the check-up you insisted I go do and it happened that the accident affected me more than we can all imagine."

"What.. what did the result say?" My mom's voice is shaky. Even the hand that she has on my shoulders is trembling.

"I have failed as a woman mom. I failed terribly." My tears flow down my cheeks rapidly.

"I don't understand."

"I.. can't...I can't have.." I got up and turned my back to her. "I can't have a baby mom. I have faults in my organs." A shocked gasp left her lips.

"What are..you saying?"

"It's the truth mom. I got the wrong medication while in a coma since it was a poor hospital. I found out late and..and.. there's nothing that can be done about it.." I covered my mouth to stop my sobs from breaking out loud.

I felt mom's hand on my shoulder then slowly turned me around. Looking at her and remembering her plight as well, I broke into uncontrollable sobs. "Mom.." I threw myself on her and she welcomed me.

"I'm so sorry. I can never make you a grandma. I..am sorry." I couldn't get the words out as my throat is all tied up.

"No. I am sorry. You don't deserve all of this...I don't know why things like this keep happening to you. Why must my challenges affect you?" My mom couldn't stop her tears from flowing. It flooded her face just like mine.

"I.. I.. don't.. know." My face is on her chest as I cry and her head is on top of mine.

"I'm sorry baby. I'm deeply sorry. You never did any wrong yet you're paying so much...I can't...I can't take it...I can't bear to see you suffer like this Mariana. Please forgive me."

"Forgive me too mom."

"No. There's nothing to be forgiven for. I know what you're going through and it pains me that it has to be you. I feel your pain dear."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't say that." She wailed, hugging me motherly as if to take soothe my pain or take it away. "You had a terrible month back also and you hid it from us. Please don't say that again. I am your mom. You won't disturb me if you share your worry with me."

"I didn't want to worry all of you."

"It's our duty to worry about you Mariana. If anything please just tell me...I will always be here for you. I promise."

"Please don't tell anyone else about this. Not even dad. I feel like a loser right now." I don't have Toby, my education is in a mess, and no child to call my own in the future. Where at all have I gone wrong in this life?

My mom lifted my head off her chest to look me in the face then she wipes my tears with her thumb.

"You didn't tell him?"

My head danged in response.

"Why?"

"I'm scared... Scared that he's going to leave me, mom. I don't wanna be alone. Who else will want me if not him? You said it, mom. You've been right all along. If he leaves me I will be alone. Nobody will want someone who can't even conceive and I don't even want anybody apart from him."

"Are you not going to ever tell him?"

"Not now at least. I want to enjoy more time with him. I want to be with him for some time, make a lot of memories then I can finally tell him. If he leaves me after that, somehow I will be okay because I have spent some amount of time with him. I will revisit those times in my mind and hold them, dear, until the day that I die mom.."

"I.. I..oh my child." My mom holds me back to her chest to comfort me but going back to the reality of my situation weakened my knees and made way under me.

I slide to the floor with my mom, each of us a crying mess.

Maybe it is only my mom who will ever understand me and I am with the hope that there's also a nice woman out there who knows how much it hurts to be denied motherhood, that pain that feels like your heart has been ripped forcefully out of your chest and then pricked with needles. Even more excruciating when you see cute kids and know that you'll never be able to have any.

"I am truly sorry my baby. I am sorry. I never imagined that you were going through this. I am sorry."

"I am sorry to mom." I put my head on her lap and I feel her tears pouring on me and her hands moving into my hair slowly while the other rubs my back in circles.

***

I woke up alone in my bed and first looked around, wondering how I ended up in it before getting up.

I looked for my phone then dialed Novan's number.

"How are you?" He asked once he picked.

"Not bad. When are we leaving?"

"8 am."

"And the time is.." I brought my phone down to check. "7:13. Why didn't you wake me, Novan?"

"First, I thought you changed your mind and second, I didn't want to interrupt your sleep. You need it."

"Wrong answers. I'm getting ready. Will be down soon."

"Okay." He waited on the line till I ended it and rushed to the bathroom. Just a quick bath, drying up, cream on my body, body in anything suitable, light makeup, hair in a high pony, and feet in sneakers. I took my backpack and dumped my toiletry bag in it then a dress and underwear. Cash, my passport, my phone, and the charger, and then, my medicines. I'll shop for clothes if we get there.

I put the bag over my shoulders but returned to pick a novel with me. I can read while on the flight. It should help me stop thinking about my heart to heart discussion with my mom and Toby's death.

Getting down, I saw Novan and Nervisa waiting in the living room. I walked to hug my dad and the rest, replying to their questions regarding my health this time.

"Take care sis." Says Marion.

"Would you have loved to come?" I looked at Nervisa then to him.

"No. I am okay. Just be careful."

Strange.

"I will." He hugged me again then ran back in the direction of his game room.

"Please be careful." Mom said while hugging me.

"I will."

"Remember always that I love you."

"I will." I gave the same boring answer.

"My regards to Tricia."

"She'll hear."

She kissed me on the cheek and a hug on the cheeks and lips before pulling back. Mom loves me but it seems her love for me has grown in million folds after what I told her.

"Bye, everyone." I wave them.

"Call us when you get there." My dad hollered before disappearing into his study. I would've loved to see Betsy and Morgan but their all busy freaks now.

Just like always, Novan took my bag and I gave my key to him. I got in the backseat with Nervisa just to keep her company and Novan went to the front.

"Here's breakfast for you." He gave me a pack and I gladly took it.

"Thanks."

"You're welcome."

I invited his sister but she just shook her head and concentrated on her phone.

I hurried up with breakfast and started reading. That caught Nervisa's attention.

"What are you reading?"

"Ugly Love."

"Ugly Love? Is it written by Colleen Hoover?"

"You're right."

"Is it interesting?"

"Just started."

"Oh. I hope I get to read when you're done."

"Of course but if you're so eager to read, then I have it in an epub form on my phone. Bought it from Amazon." My eyes met Novan's from the rearview and he quickly looked away. It's late. He was staring.

I fetched my phone and opened the soft copy format for her and anytime I raise my head, her brother's eyes will be on me.

"Thanks." She placed her phone on the seat and took mine.

"It's nothing."

I should be reading but I'm not. Novan is looking at me and he thinks I don't know.

|~DONOVAN~|

〰️❤️〰️

We reached the airport and after going through the checkpoints, we headed to the plane and I only prayed that she sits beside me or Nervisa doesn't sit between us. I wish I had let her stay with her so-called friend but then, what is the essence of going when Nervisa is not with me.

"Is it a surprise visit?" Mariana asked beside me as we walked to board the plane.

"Yeah."

"Okay." She smiled and that was it. My prayer got answered when she sat beside me and Nervisa behind us with another girl of the same age as her.

But then, Mariana had her head dipped in the book she brought with her, barely exchanging any words with me. When the plane was about to take off, her hands moved to touch mine.

"What?"

"Nothing."

"Do you still get scared?"

" A little." She whispered.

I entwined our hands while her eyes went shut as the plane lift off the ground.

My eyes stayed glued to her face. She looks so young and innocent that it was hard to look away. She'll think I am weird but there is something about her look this morning that I couldn't put a finger on.

She relaxed when the plane was up in the sky. I didn't want to let go but slowly, she got her hands from mine and focused on the book.

Before long, she began to doze and I chuckled anytime the book fell from her hands.

"Don't force it." I took the book from the floor. "Just sleep. We still have 13 hours."

"No. I won't sleep." She took the book back and fixed her eyes into it. After an hour, it started to fall again and I collected it for her each time until she gave up.

I flipped through the pages of the book she was reading, taking in a few lines. I got a little interested and decided to start from the beginning. After the first ten pages, I knew how it was going to end. Same stories every day, just different scenes and writing techniques.

Boy and girl meet. They hate each other. One said he doesn't date, the other said she doesn't have the time. Then something happens. They realize they have a force of attraction but not love so they hit an agreement, set some boring rules which eventually gets broken when love starts to appear. They disagree a little then have a happily ever after. Pretty cut and dried. It's not the same in real life.

I dropped the book next to her.
Same shit all the time but beautiful unique writers. I hope all of them have unique ideas too. Some stories deal with real fucking problems while some are just exaggerations and cringe clich茅s.

Mariana loves to read so that is why she doesn't get bored with them. After she made me read those books, I tried others but I got turned off by similar trends. Some are just so so predictable and fucking boring. I wonder why she loves them.

I looked back at my sister and she was engrossed reading it from Mariana's phone.

"Take this and give me the phone Nervy."

"No. You didn't give it to me."

"I care about your eye. Mariana is sleeping so you can read the hardcopy while she sleeps okay?"

"I don't want a hard copy."

"Don't be stubborn. I said give me the damn phone." I said between my teeth so as not to draw attention. The girl sitting by her blinked at me, looking panicked.

"Why do you wanna take her phone from me?"

I tried to think of something to say to make her agree easily.

"Her phone battery might get low and I realized she didn't bring a charger along." I lied. Her eyes lower back on the phone.

"Okay." She took the book and gave me the phone.

I logged out from the e-reader and went to her gallery where I transferred anything, Mariana, onto my phone.

I put her phone back down then went through her pictures and short videos one after the other, smiling and drooling over them. Such an asshole.

I've been meaning to have her gallery on my phone for some time now so having it now is like winning a lottery. I am grinning like a homeless drunk who's been offered free treats.

After another hour, I heard a book falling from behind. I needed not to be told who it fell from. I just picked it up.

"I'm not sleeping so please give it back."

"So that when you finally sleep you'll put your drool all over it?"

"No. I don't drool."

"How would you know?"

"Just give me the book." She demanded.

"Okay. If it falls from your hand again then that's it."

"Yeah."

I gave it back and she continued reading.

I wonder why they're all sleeping anyway. It can only be that the book is boring but this book isn't. It's the usual love stories everyone likes and this particular one is a bestseller. As for Nervisa, I know she's hardly understanding the grammars and the vocabularies but for Mariana, she's just tired. The doctor said she's stressed up and needs a lot of rest so I won't blame her if she's fallen asleep.

I felt a tap on my shoulders and when I turned, the girl by Nervisa pointed to her. "She said she's not gonna sleep again but look."

I smiled and took the book from my sister. Instantly her eyes opened.

"Sleep."

She pouted, shaking her head. "It's gone."

"What is gone?"

"The sleep."

I remember a girl in grade ten who when a teacher is not around is active, talking and teasing others but once a teacher enters and starts to teach, she starts to sleep. Strange. And once when I went to church on Christmas because of Nervisa, a woman was busy gossiping with her friend at my front and once the priest started delivering the sermon, there the two adults slept with their mouth wide open, drooling and snoring like no man's business.

I always wonder why it's like that with some people. I am sure when I give the book back to Nervisa, she'll start dozing again but when I keep it back, she won't. It's so crazy.

"How many more hours until we get there?"

"We still have ten hours."

"Oops."

"What's the matter?"

"I want to take a piss."

"I can take you." The girl beside her offered.

"No, but I will like my brother to take me."

"Okay but I am going there also so I thought maybe we could go together but it's okay."

I got up at the same time the girl also did. "Come let's go, Nervisa."

We walked to the back and I showed her the tiny bathrooms while staying behind. The last thing I want to do now is to walk into a lady's washroom. I wouldn't mind if it's Mariana I had to follow but not my sister. I have nothing doing in there with her and besides, Nervisa won't allow me inside. Yeah. She has started hiding herself from me. And what is she hiding? A pair of flat boobs and ass cheeks.

I chuckled, causing a woman and a girl who I was making way for to look at me. They looked at me as if I am a terrorist so once my dear sister came out, I took her hand and walked her back to the seat.

"Where did you go?" Mariana asks, yawing.

"To the bathroom. Wanna go?"

"No. I woke up and didn't see you or Nervisa."

"We couldn't have gone anywhere."

"Yeah. Are you hungry?"

"No. thanks." She picked the book and started reading again. Nervisa also started conversing with the girl beside her and that was the journey.

The air service brought food in between but I settled for just snacks and so did Mariana. The journey was in silence until the plane landed at 2 pm in Russia.

Mariana and Nervisa's eyes were glued on the window like villagers as I drove through the city. I don't blame them, Russia is a big country and beautiful as hell. That's what it gets to be in-between Europe and Asia.

I glanced at her every minute just to see her wowed face but it wasn't for long. She started sleeping again. Nervisa occupied the back of the rental car with her small body. Soon, the car turned into a damn choir room. Mariana snored in base then her assistant, Nervisa backs her with Auto.
While I am here getting anxious over the fact that I will be meeting Tricia who's my mom soon, they are busy having a musical concert.

Unfortunately, Tricia is a rich man's wife whose estate mansion is heavily guarded so it will be difficult to give her a surprise as childishly as I planned like kids on Halloween.

Since I didn't say I will be coming, the security kept stopping the car to inquire in Russian English which I found very difficult to comprehend. Finally, I made it to the sky-high mansion and made a stop.

I take in deep breaths before tapping my companions awake, also bringing an end to their live concert.

"Wake up Mariana." I tapped her. She jerked awake and instantly surveyed the area.

"We're here?" She breathed, wiping her lips to clear any drool. Am sure.

I nodded and watched her try to adjust her clothes.

"You look perfect," I said without thinking about it.

"Thanks but are you okay?"

"What?"

"We're about to meet your mom and her new husband who's also your stepdad. How are you feeling?"

"I don't know.."

"You're nervous right?"

"I guess." I ran my hands over my hair. I hope things end well. What if I can't actually forgive her. What if I get angry seeing her and her husband? What if...

"You'll be fine. Let's go." She cuts into my negative thoughts.

"You're saying this because you had a musical concert earlier."

"What me?"

I chuckled.

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing." Of course, she wouldn't understand. "Wake up, Nervisa."

She didn't wake.

"Ner..vi..saaa," I stressed her name in a sing-song voice.

"Mmm."

"Please wake up."

She recoiled and nuzzled further into the seat like a baby.

"Nervisa!" I shouted and she jumped upright.

"Are you mad? You scared me!" She put her hand on her chest.

"Did you mind me when I was calling calmly?"

"So you'll have to shout at me?" She fired back.

"Nervisa!" I warned.

"Leave me." She got out angrily and banged the door.

Fuck her for being so damn aggressive.

I looked at Mariana as I released myself from the bondage of the seatbelt.

She got out as well and I came last with her bag as well as Nervisa's and mine.

Okay, so I didn't tell Tricia before coming. What if they send us away? Right now we're standing in the corridor of the mansion surrounded by guards in every corner. Mariana and Nervisa are both waiting for me to enter first but I am also reluctant. This is so awkward. Maybe it's a wrong idea to come here. Who sent me? Now I will end up looking like a fool. Who pays a visit without notice? What if they've traveled? Worse, what if they no longer live here? Oh no!

"Are we like, going to stand here all day?" Nervisa had to say and I eyed her.

Mariana just kept looking around the entire area.

"Shut up." I moved forward to get the door opened but before I could touch it, it opened by itself, revealing a jaw-dropping huge room. Fucking technology. I scanned it only once, not taking full details. I could care less about the classy room. Taking a step, it felt like walking on glass. Another step and truly, glass from nowhere dropped to the floor and shattered.

Raising my head, I saw her at the top, looking down at us with eyes threatening to fall out. I stopped in my movements, took a moment, and started to think of this whole decision of mine for the last time. I could be somewhere, thinking of a way to lift Mariana's mood than coming here.

I took a step back then another when a man dressed neatly in a uniform walked with all smiles to us.

"锌芯卸邪谢褍泄褋褌邪." He said and tried to take the bags.

"Huh?" What the hell did he just say?

"锌芯卸邪谢褍泄褋褌邪." He repeated in a thick Russian accent.

"I don't understand."

"I mean, you're welcome."

God!

★★★

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 15✓
[220] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~MARIANA~|

〰️❤️〰️

Everything is screaming expensive and beautiful and my eyes just couldn't look away from admiring every little thing they meet. So engrossed and enamored with the beautiful environment we've landed in that I failed to pay attention to the little fight brewing between an adult and a kid. Sometimes it's cute to watch them fight the way they do so I try not to interfere. Nervisa hates nonsense and so does Novan and they both can't hold it up or tolerate it from each other and I will not even talk about their temper.

The sound of a shattering glass brought my mind back and I had to look up. I saw Tricia while from the corner of my eyes, Novan was retreating. I know this is not easy for him and I just want to hold his hand and tell him that it's going to be fine but I just can't. I also feel like I need that from him or somebody else.

A man approached Novan and tried to take our bags but then, he spoke a strange language. Well not strange but to our ears. Me in particular but by Novan's expression, he's also just as lost.

I missed hearing him speak French. Wish he could speak this one too.

"OH MY GAWD...!" Tricia screamed and the next she's running down the flight of zigzag stairs at a scary speed.

"Oh my God. Oh my God!" She kept saying as she come.

I love her shocked face. Nervisa walked to her brother and tugged on his shirt. Lastly, she leaned her body on him and Novan placed a hand on her shoulders.

I thought they just fought? This is the beauty of having a sibling. No matter what, they always stand together and never hold a grudge after a fight. When there's a grudge, It all gets forgotten and as if it never even occurred.

"This isn't true. I got to be dreaming. Someone tell me." She screeched.

I folded my arms over my chest and watched her. Her eyes are only on Novan but he was looking everywhere but her. By the look on his face, he seems to be regretting the decision.

Tricia finally reached the end of the stairs and though I know she wants to hug her son, she walked to me, her hands on her chest as she breathed loudly. Looking at me unbelievably then to Nervisa.

"Please tell me this isn't true." Her voice is emotional as she opens her arms.

To prove that it's true, I walked into her open arms. "Miss me?"

" Of course but this..this is so freaking unbelievable and I am beyond shocked. Pinch me please."

"What?" I laughed. "Stop being dramatic now. We're actually here so wake up."

"What will I do without you Mariana? Why are you so good?" She whispered in a tearful voice.

I didn't do anything, ma'am.

"Hey." I pulled back to look at the beautiful blonde. Tears poured down her cheeks and I wiped it away. "What are you doing?"

"I can't...I can't.." she hugged me again.

"I am not the only one here Madam. You're going to bore your people if you give me too much attention or you know your son. He can change his mind very quickly then get in the car.."

"No way." She pulled back and wiped her tears. "Forgive me. I am too emotional these days."

"It's okay." My eyes divert on Novan who was looking elsewhere but I know it's a lie. He was certainly looking at us. He's just sharp to have looked away before I could catch him.

"Don't keep them waiting. Go." I whispered.

"Yeah."

I watched her walk to her children. "Hi, Nervisa."

"Hi, Tricia." She sang in a tiny voice.

"Hi." She directed that to Novan and he nodded and out of nervousness, began to shift his weight from one foot to the other.

"Please come with me. I want to give you a Russian welcome." She took the lead and then we followed.

She didn't walk far, almost in the middle of the room, she stopped and urged us to come.

Walking on the floor is like stepping on glass. I took my steps carefully as if the floor would break beneath my feet. My eyes moved to Novan and the boy who used to walk as if he owns the Earth was also walking carefully and slowly as his lips moved. Obviously cussing the hell out of the architects or the fact that rich people always want to have things out of the ordinary and extravagant.

His eyes fell on me then I raised my gaze to his. He looked back down at me and me too the same then we both laughed. We're walking as if on a skateboard.

Once we finally got to the area, I felt a shift under my feet.

"It's a lift to the top. Please don't panic. Okay, ready?"

Novan wouldn't answer and Nervisa looks scared so I nod. It was Swift and smooth. Within a blink of an eye, we were outside.. wait. Not outside. We were at the top, an open area but there's a transparent sort of glass around the large area and with natural scenery.

"Welcome to Moscow and to my villa. I'm so glad to have you. Make yourself comfortable and.."

"Do we stand to get a room?" Novan interrupted her.

"Yes, why not?"

"Then please, take me. Your Russian welcome can wait for now. For me though. I don't know of the others but I would like to get myself in a room."

"Sure, no problem." She made a phone call and two young ladies in uniform appeared.

"Me too I would like to freshen up," I said and got up.

"Alright. Then I am guessing Nervisa too will join. Tell me Nervisa, will you spend the night with me?"

"I don't mind but don't you have a husband?" I heard Nervisa asked.

"Uhm..yeah but he's not around," Tricia replied.

"Okay."

We took another lift to a floor where the ladies ushered us into a room, not any other room. This room is thrice bigger than mine back home. The bed is above a king-size and everywhere is sparkling with expensive things.

"This is your room and there's an intercom. Feel free to call anytime and we'll be here. I am Calina, and I will be at your service throughout your stay here." Calina smiled kindly at us.

"And I am Anoushka. I am here if you need anything" The red-haired girl is smiling but not at me. "And you can call me Anu for short." She stretched her hands forth towards Novan.

Novan surprised me by shaking hands with the Anoushka girl and even smiled.

I stomped into the room and tried not to pace around as he does but I did.

"Seriously, Novan." I met him at the door once he entered.

"What?" He leisurely walked past me into the room. "Did I do something?"

Did he do something?

Well, nothing much I can talk about but I don't like it. I hate a lot of things but this is the biggest of all.

What is the meaning of 'I am here if you need anything?'

And she said he can call her Anu?

Anu my foot. It should rather be Anus. God, fuck her. How can she flirt so openly with my husband?

Novan might be a good catch but he's my catch, mine to catch. Mine only.

"Are you okay?" He asked.

I looked at him and walked from the door after closing it. I saw my bag and picked it up.

"You didn't answer me, Mariana." He pressed.

"Why do you think I am not okay?" I sat on the bed and began to empty my bag.

"Nothing. Are you going to bathe?"

"You can go ahead. I will come after you."

"Alright."

Like he always does, Novan began to take his clothes off in front of me. I lost my concentration to him but tried to hide it. Novan's muscles are more prominent and perfectly defined. His tan is glowing and..and..his hair. It's long, almost touching his shoulder. How did he do it? I didn't notice earlier.

"Novan? Is that your hair?"

"Yeah. What?" He flipped it back, shaking his head while my hands also itched for a touch.

"It.. it's so long. What did you do to it?"

"This." He showed me a hairpin then walked to the washroom, leaving me with clips of his beautiful body that refused to leave my mind soon.

I received a call from Tricia that dinner is almost done so we should hurry and join.

I got the only dress I brought out and lined it on the bed. I didn't bring
any shoes to match it with and my hair is not properly washed. It's all tangled up.

Novan came out and I literally closed my eyes to be able to walk past him to the bathroom as he was naked.

I thought my bathroom back at home is the biggest but walking into this, that idea changed. Actually, everything is just so big around here. I didn't know Novan's mom lives in paradise.

I washed down and came out to meet Novan already dressed in his usuals but still looking dap. His hair has been clipped back in probably with the pin he showed to me to make it shorter.

"Are you not going to get a haircut?"

"I will. Just haven't found the time or a good barber to do it for me. I've only had one barber and he's around my old apartment back at school." He sits close to my dress and bag.

"Okay." I put the toiletry bag on the bed then fetched a bra and panties. I'm suddenly conscious of his eyes on me, watching me, and calculating my moves while setting me on fire. Those intense gorgeous sexy hazel eyes of his.

"Uhm.. please..can.you.turn around? Or excuse me? I need privacy."

"Wha..what? You need privacy from me?" He is awed.

"Uhm...yeah."

Without a word, he got up and walked out of the room, instantly filling me with regret.

I wanted to call him back, to tell him that it's okay but he already left.

I wore the knee-length fitting dress with a bonnet at the front I brought with me and boringly held my hair in a messy bun,. leaving fringes to fall on the sides of my face. Just mascara and drawing a thin line under my eyes, I walked out in bedroom slippers, expecting to see Novan waiting outside but he wasn't.

Finding my way and to where became the problem. Whatever direction I chose to take seems like a maze. I could hardly make anything out.

I walked back in and dialed Tricia's number.

"Hi, Mariana. You are coming?"

"I should find my way first."

"What?"

"What I mean is that I am lost in your maze of a mansion. Please help."

"It's okay. Where are you now?"

"In the room." I chewed on my lips while admiring the magnificent ceiling.

"Good. I'm calling Calina to fetch you."

"Alright."

"We're at the table and waiting for you..."

"Waiting for me? Wait, is Novan there?" I got up from the soft bed.

"Yeah. He's here."

"Okay. And where's Anoushka?"

"She's here."

I don't trust the two ladies but I distrust Anoushka the most.

"Please send Anu to fetch me instead."

"Alright. She'll be there in a minute."

"Thanks."

Truly, within a minute, a knock sounded at the door and I got up. Opening the door, I am faced with the red-haired Anu, smiling at me but it somehow annoyed me.

"I've been sent to fetch you." She said in a flat Russian accent.

I nodded and stepped out.

"I don't know your name but you seem to be familiar."

"Mariana is my name." I simply say and refused to go further.

"Oh okay." She moved some feet from the door and a glass enclosure which I didn't see before, she walked into it. "Join me?" Her smile is too big and I badly want to tell her to reduce it.

Looks like another lift. I walked in with her, pressing a button, we lowered below and stopped in front of a large dining table. I saw Nervisa, her brother and her mother.

Novan's eye raised to look at me for a moment before he brought it back down to his front. His demeanor is unreadable but I know there's something unpleasant he's feeling inside and also, I could tell how awkward all this is for him.

"Isn't he so handsome?" Anu whispered to me. With my jaw hanging, I traced her gaze and it was on Novan then back to the dreamy look on her face.

Never have I been violent or hate on anybody but right now, I want to do all of it.

"Just my kind of guy." She whispered again and before I could react, she walked away, smiling like a teen who has found love at first sight.

Burning inside, I walked forward to pull a chair close to Novan and maybe apologize but then, the clicking of heels on the floor pulled everyone's focus.

"Hi, Isha." A skinny lady appeared with a bright smile that disappeared when it set on me then surprise took over. She's a slim beauty and has the flattest tummy I've ever seen.

"Hey. Who are they? You didn't tell me we have a guest Isha." She walked to my side and the chair beside Novan that I pulled out to sit on before she interrupted, she sat on it, right beside Novan.

"Hi." With a flirtatious smile, she flipped her blonde back.

I walked to sit beside Tricia and gulped water first. I'm yet to settle in Russia and look. Husband snatchers everywhere. I look forward to leaving soon. Russia is not doing me good.

"I'm sorry Ellie."

"Don't say that to me. You made me walk in here in these clothes when there's a hottie in here." She looked at Novan and smiled at him broadly.

"I would've told you if I wasn't surprised by them also. I fucking freaked." Tricia gushed and my balls rushed to look at her. Did she just curse?

"Well, who are they? No, I mean the guy?" Ellie asked, still looking at Novan seductively.

Really?

Tension rose between mother and son when their eyes met but Novan quickly looked away.

"He..he is my..my..he is Everett and this is Mariana."

And tell her that we're married, Tricia. What the hell!

"Oh wow! Everett and Ellie. Sounds like a good match." Ellie grinned.

You wish.

"Isn't it?" Ellie fucking nudged Novan and what we heard is another glass falling and reducing to nothing when it hit the floor.

"Sorry." Anu apologized and walked away probably to go find something to clean the mess.

Oh no!

Why did I come here with Novan? Everybody seems to be wanting him and I just want to turn into a zombie, scratch their faces, and rip their extensions out.

"Mariana, meet my sister-in-law, Ellie Salvatore.."

"And her mother-in-law." An elder woman also walked in and took a seat beside Nervisa.

"Start the introductions all over again while the food comes Tricia."

"Alright, mom. That is Everett, my son and this is his wife Mariana then the little princess here is my daughter, Nervisa."

"Wait. Husband?" Ellie blinked her fake lashes at me like a Barbie and I smiled cheesily, positioning my left hand properly so that she could see the beautiful ring. I looked around for the Anu girl but sadly she wasn't around.

"Oh wow! Finally, I get to see your other family!" Aliya exclaimed and it's just natural that I looked at Novan.

He's holding a fork with his hand wrapped tightly around it, I could see his knuckles turning white and the grave look sitting on his face.

Now I just want to hold his hand under the table or rub his lap to assure him that all is going to be well.

How do I do that when there's a skinny bitch sitting beside him instead of me?

"So she never brought Nervisa here and you had to send her back?" Novan countered, staring at Aliya with scorn.

"Of course. That was because it could ruin my son's career. I didn't want that."

"So you fucki..."

"You know how politics can be Everett, please understand." Tricia was fast to cuts in before Novan spews his deadly venom on the poor woman.

"Fuck that! This was some of the reasons why you left us to suffer. You..you cared about your lover...we meant nothing. Just nothing. This..this is a wrong idea." His chair screeched back and at once I am on my feet.

"Since you're here we can talk about it. Please.."

"There's nothing to be talked about. You're mean and I can never forgive you. I can't."

"Novan?"

"No Mariana." He lifted his hand to silence me. "In order for her to live in this excess luxury, she sacrificed our happiness, my happiness. Now she has the luxury but she lost us. I am a fool to be here.."

" Novan." I walked to his side and grabbed his hand. I didn't know where I was taking him to but I knew we're definitely getting away from them.

We appeared in a dimly lit area and suddenly, I saw something big, mouth wide and it's very close to me.

"Novan!" I screamed and jumped onto him.

"What? Are..you alright?"

"I saw something. It has a big mouth with a lot of teeth."

"Where?"

"There?"

"Open your eyes and look."

"No." I pressed my face against his chest.

"Come on, are you not a water goddess? These things shouldn't be new to you."

"What?"

"It's just a fish. I think this place is a mini aquarium."

"Aquarium? Are you sure?"

"Open your eyes and see or am going to take advantage of you in this dim room."

"Huh?" I stepped back with a peal of small laughter as my eyes opened and scanned the area. "Wow." I moved to a small goldfish and touched it through the glass.

This is what can be expected of a house mainly made up of glass. For a moment, I got lost in the beauty around me which also whisked me back to my times in Paulo where I get to see these fishes most of the time when swimming close to the deep sea that I forgot why I brought Novan here in the first place.

"You've forgotten me again."

I wheezed my head towards him then stepped to close the gap between us.

"No. I haven't. Actually, I want you to calm down and think of why you decided to come here in the first place. I know it's hard but if you can think of that one reason."

"You. It's you."

"What?"

His big hands found my face and they stroked my cheeks gently that I melted inside at the same time, on fire.

"Yes. I just want to be good in all aspects of my life for you Mariana. I want to resurrect my broken relationships so I won't have any more bitterness or resentment towards anyone. I just want to let everything go then dedicate the rest of my life to loving you."

"Why are you forgetting it now?"

"You don't know. That Aliya woman is a snake and my mom is no different. For her lover to succeed, she has to doom us in deprivation. It hurts that our own biological mother has to do that to us."

"I understand but it's all in the past now and I love you even more that you took this step. Seriously Novan, I am so proud of you."

"Really?"

I nodded. "Yes. Please don't stop on the way. Your presence here is not a mistake and you don't have to regret it."

"You love me? Even more?" He asked and his thumb rubbed my lips slowly.

"Yes, I love you."

"Mmm." He lowered his head to mine then his hands tilted my face for a kiss but I stepped away and turned my back. I want to but I am not ready yet to do this with him.

"Why are you pulling away from me?" He groaned.

"I told you Novan."

"It's just a kiss."

"I'm sorry."

He sighed. "It's okay and I am sorry too. I shouldn't have tried to."

"Let's go." I took the lead and I heard him follow by the gentle thud of his boots on the glass-like floor.

At second thought, I stopped, turned, and faced him. "Promise me you're going to be on your best behavior Everett."

He just smiled and took my hand in his, "I am hungry." He mouthed to me.

"For?"

"Don't make my mind wander dirty Mrs. Anderson."

I couldn't control the satisfaction and happiness this simple sentence of his just brought me. My heart swelled and burst into my face in the form of a wide smile as I looked at him then forward, smiling. I couldn't contain it. This is the first time he's referring to me as his wife by the name.

"That makes you happy doesn't it?" He admonished.

I nodded.

"And you didn't know that you are and will always be my wife? How did you not know?"

"I.." I'm lost for words. I feel too giddy.

"You even mean more to me than that. Marriage is just a label. What we have is one of a kind."

"Novan." I removed my hands from his and walked ahead.

I heard him chuckle as we both found our seat back around the table. I want to apologize but I heard Novan clear his throat.

"I'm sorry." He apologized to everyone, making me prouder but a shocker to his mom.

★★★

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 16✓
[221] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~MARIANA~|

〰️❤️〰️

Tricia's shocked yet remorseful face didn't leave Novan's before she silently said.

"It's okay, I am sorry too."

"So..uhm, can we eat now?"

"Sure." Ellie smiled at him and he returned one awkwardly. This is my Novan trying to be nice.

The servers arrived and I went for a salad which was heavily made. I can see potatoes and mayonnaise with flavors coming from beets, onions, pickles, and various kinds of meat. Tasting it, I gave a nod. It's actually delicious.

"What do you do Everett?" Ellie tried to make a conversation.

"First off, please call me Donovan."

"Why? Your mom says your name is Everett."

"That is her choice and I won't stop her from calling me that but not you."

"Alright, tell me what you do Novan?"

Huh?

"Don't call him Novan, please. He said Donovan so please just call him that. I'm sorry." I tried not to sound harsh or rude.

"Why's that?"

"Because it's reserved for her alone. Only my wife has the right to that name."

"Whatever." She rolled her big blue eyes with a loud hiss that made Aliya chuckle.

"So will you answer me now?"

"I manage a restaurant as a cook in LA."

"Wow. A chef just like your mom. Well, I am also a model."

"Good."

"A famous one." She added.

"I can tell."

"And I don't have a boyfriend. I'm just 22."

The fuck! My fork stilled in my hands.

"I'm also 22 and married," Novan replied nonchalantly while packing food on his spoon.

"Well, we're still young. Anything can happen."

I shifted on my seat.

"Something like?" Novan asked.

"You and I ?"

"You must be crazy."

"We'll see." She bites her lip and when she released it, a smug smile danced around it.

I've since stopped eating since their conversation. Can she be anymore of a whore? She's shameless to be toasting my man in front of everyone and me.

"That is enough messing around Ellie." Tricia chided when she looked at me. Perhaps she saw my anger simmering under my jealousy and the smoldering fire in my against her.

"Don't interfere!" She snapped.

"Ellie, you can't do this. He's a married man as he said so back off." Aliya came in.

"He doesn't look married to me and I don't care. I have a right to be with anyone I want, be it him or anyone."

I feel threatened by this lady that I lost all appetite for the food I was enjoying.

"You don't make a move on a guest, it makes them uncomfortable."

"Stop it, mother. I like him and he doesn't really look married to me. Who knows, it's not even real because she's not his type of girl."

"And you are my type? Oh please, don't flatter yourself."

Surprisingly, she didn't feel insulted. She smiled at Novan and got up. "I've had enough of this dinner. I will be in my room."

My breathing hitched when her slender fingers squeezed Novan's shoulders then my heart skipped, causing me to jump out of my seats when she placed her lips against his cheeks, leaving a lipstick stain.

She walked away, shaking her flat bums along like a duck out of a pond.

"Novan?" I finally dropped the fork and left the table. Luckily I saw the entrance and ran out to the back of the mansion. I ran down a path with hedges that led me to a small house. I stopped by and leaned to collect myself.

Why the hell did Novan allow her to do that? He didn't mind her doing all that. He just sat there. Could he be enjoying it?

I shouldn't have come here in the first place. This is all pain for me. I thought coming to this place will help me forget about Toby and my troubles for a while but it added to me another pain.

"Mariana."
Of course he'll come after me.

"Leave me alone."

"Are you serious?"

"You're just flirting around with every girl here."

"Me? What are you saying?" He walked and squatted in front of me.

"Nothing." I hate it even more that he doesn't know what he's doing.

"Let's go back in."

"What?" Is that what he'll say? I thought he's going to say something to make me feel better.

"You can go."

"I'm leaving with you."

I didn't fight his protest. I gathered myself up and walked with him back inside with my head hanging low.

|•DONOVAN•|

"Mariana, I am really sorry for her behavior. Ellie has always been that way." Tricia apologized to her once we got in.

She just nodded with a tight smile and perched on the seat. We ate in silence and I watched her intently as she struggled to finish the new course that was brought; borsch.

She's upset and I am disappointed in her. Why does she not know that I love her alone? And, that bitch actually took me by surprise. I will lose my shit if any guy does that to her but Mariana knows me. She knows how incomplete and useless I get without her. She's my future and forever and that is undebatable.

I didn't explain or try to say what she was expecting to hear from me because I also expected her not to react the way she did. I love her and she knows it. There's no way...

"We will be pleased to have you here for a month," Tricia said after the table was cleared and wine was brought, interrupting my thoughts.

I looked at Mariana for any reactions but her focus was in the glass as if determining what went into making the wine.

"I don't think we'll stay for long. We might leave tomorrow. What do you say, Mariana." I tried to involve her.

"I will be fine, whenever you want us to leave."

"You sure?"

"Yeah." She said and I watched her gulp water and rolled it in her mouth before swallowing.

"Then it's tomorrow."

She just shrugged and chug more water. I'm not pleased with her attitude as it's a worry but I am surprised that she's not taking wine. Her lip is curled in a frown showing that she's definitely mad at me.

"Tomorrow? That's so quick."

"Is it?" She should be happy that I even came and brought her favorite person along.

"I thought you'll stay a couple of days more so I can show you around the city."

I shook my head with my eyes still on my cute angry bird.

"Things are so awkward here. I'm going back to my room so you can sort your problems. Tricia please send Vladimir to my room in case he comes."

"I will."

"Yeah. And you two are always welcomed here. It's your home and I am happy to meet you two especially... Mariana. You're Pablo's daughter right?"

"Yeah." She mumbled.

" It's a pleasure meeting the apple of Pablo's eyes and pride. He talks about you a lot wherever he goes and I met him only once through my son, even that, your grandfather made that happen because he was with him and also I've heard a lot about you two that's why I didn't scold Ellie too much when she began with her nonsense but I am still sorry for the mood her actions set."

"It's okay. You don't have to apologize for anything."

"Yes but this shouldn't have gone this way, our hospitalities are usually great and so I render my apologies for that. Also for the things that happened; intentional and unintentional. The past can't be undone but the future can be changed, it's up to us. I don't seek for my words to make a reflection on any decision you make though that is what it may seem."

"It's alright. I've already decided."
Yeah. I don't want to continue this trend. The harm has already been caused and can't be rewind even if I try to.

"Good. I will leave for now. Tricia, you know what to do."

"Yes."

"Make them feel super welcomed."

"Sure."

It's left with the four of us when Tricia's mother-in-law left. I take a sip of their expensive wine and as if with a change of mind, I chug it all. I need to find a way to cheer Mariana up before we leave or else everything will be a disaster. We'll go back and just like always, we won't be talking. While I have her around, we need to settle this.

|~MARIANA~|

Silence reigned between us when Aliya left until Novan spoke.

"I didn't know you live in heaven." He said and I saw something that can be called as a smile. I blinked to make sure I wasn't hallucinating it. He actually said that with a smile at his mom though I feel the hurt behind his voice.

"Heaven?"

"Yes, heaven."

"This is not it.."

"All the same I just want to say I am happy to see that you're living good."

"I'm really sorry Everett, for everything. And to you too, Nervisa."

"I don't have a problem with you, Tricia. I had a brother, but he didn't have anyone until Mariana."

Novan's eyes including his mother's turn on me so I had to look down on my lap.

"I'm still sorry and I am over the moon a hundred times that you came to visit me. That is a lot and if there's anything I could do to show it, I will."

"Be our God and take us around your paradise because I seriously still can't believe a human lives here. Damn!" He took another look around and I also did but it was a surprise when our eyes fell on somebody else.

It's the main speaker of the Russian federation. What is he doing here? I've seen him so many times on the TV and now...

"Sorry, I heard that." The tall built man with ebony skin and dark curly hair strolled towards us in his three-piece suit.

Tricia got on her feet and removed his blazer then gave it to a maid along with his portfolio. The latter pulled his sleeves up as he complete the journey to us.

Now I get it.

"Hi everyone and you're welcome. My wife didn't tell me that we'll be having these important guests. I don't know if I should bow down for the man and lay face flat for the woman..."

"Geez. Why would you do that?" Nervisa chuckled.

"It's not so easy to see the Dominguez heir and one of the best cooks you ever find. It's an honor."

"What about me?"

"You-you're a princess who's supposed to be in a palanquin that is why I am going to lift you.." with that, he carried Nervisa onto his neck amid her laughter.

The man smiled, revealing the tiny holes in his cheeks and his white dentine. His smile is pure and very beautiful that I smiled at the action going on.

I didn't know this was how it was going to be meeting Tricia's husband. The man is so cool and look what he's doing with Nervisa. So nice. Here I thought I would be seeing a pot-bellied man with fat hands and a tiny head on a big body but look. He's nothing of my imagination.

"Then I guess we don't have to make any introductions since you know us." Novan also spoke to him.

"Of course, your mom wouldn't stop talking about you two and I never got tired of listening though it's the same thing all the time."

I saw Tricia who's standing beside him pinch him on the arm and he laughed loudly with Nervisa still on his neck who has even started playing with his curly hair.

"Good then, it saves us all the stress." Novan replied.

This is not awkward like I assumed.

"Hi." He smiled at me, opening his palms to me where I placed my hands on. "Hello."

"You look more beautiful in real life." I smiled and tried not to look at Novan when he raised my hand to his lips and placed a kiss there.

"Thanks."

"She's my wife." Novan seethed,Al of a sudden shooting daggers at his step dad.

"Chill bro, I saw the ring." Vlad smiled.

"Good."

"And I can get you one of your so-called paradises." Vladimir approached the table and Novan stood.

"What?"

"Let's talk about it."

"No please."

"We can negotiate, let the ladies go."

"Huh?"

"Yes Tricia, please go with Mariana." He said and brought Nervisa from his neck to his lap as he sat down.

"You haven't had dinner Vlad."

"I will, soon."

I got on my feet and Tricia held my hand as we walked out with a glass of wine in her other hand. I am blessed to have this type of friendship with my mother in law.

"Are you still mad at us?" She asked and I thought of it for a second.

"It vanished."

"Whoa!"

"But I am not going to let it go easily with Novan. He shouldn't have let her kiss him."

"Sure." We're outside and it's night but the powerful light installed made it seem as if it's day. You wouldn't know it's night until you look up. Everywhere is so bright and clear and I love the atmosphere. Though there's technicality everywhere, around the house, it has a natural feel.

"Your husband seems like a nice man," I commented when we passed a cocktail plant. There's fruit on it and I suddenly felt for it. It won't be bad taking a fresh cocktail.

"Yeah, he's not bad."

"He's not bad? Is that the only way you can talk about your husband?" I laughed.

"Not actually. Vlad has been the best thing to ever happen to me and I love him a lot. That's the only thing I can say."

"He makes you happy?"

"A lot. There's never a dull moment between us. He's fun and easily fits into wherever you place him. An easy-going man who doesn't let his status be intimidating to others below him. He doesn't discriminate and he thinks everyone is special."

"I have to ask this. He didn't make you bring your children. Why?"

"He wanted to but you know how mothers-in-law can be and Jude was also busy threatening to put his career in jeopardy if I brought them. We didn't want the opposition to hear about this and the president could've easily fired him. There was a lot at stake but then, he was still ready but Aliya was against it and..."

"It's okay." I squeezed her hands.

"Do you think Novan has already forgiven me or is he ever going to?"

"You're not asking that. He came here for goodness sake Tricia. He wouldn't have come not for that reason."

She stopped and faced me. "I am heavily indebted to you Mariana. You're purely godsent and I am grateful you came into me and my son's life."

"To what do I owe these praises, Mrs. Salvatore?"

"For everything, you've done and still doing and will be doing."

"Be specific."

"One of them which is the biggest of all, for bringing him here."

"I didn't."

"You didn't?"

"Yeah."

"Then...?"

"He wanted to so he asked if I could come with him. I will be crazy to decline."

"Oh, God." She put her free hand over her mouth. "I still feel somehow you're responsible. You've always been. You make him want to be good. You're doing good making an honest man out of him Mariana. Have this." She stretched the glass of wine to me.

"No thanks. You can have it." I fold my arms across my chest.

"Why wouldn't you? Are you also..uhm.. going to have a baby?"

My heart dropped before my feet. "No, I'm just not in a jubilant mood."

"What happened?"

I sighed. "I lost someone just recently." Tears pricked my eyes at the rememberance of Toby all over again.

"Oh my God. I am really sorry." She hugged me and I sniffed as I bury my face in her neck.

"Yeah. It's all over now. I'm just trying to get over it." I pulled back and wiped under my eyes.

"Is it the oldest man?" She asked.

"Yes."

"Tobias?"

"He's the one."

"I'm sorry."

"It's fine." I put on a smile.

"I knew something was off once I saw you. It wasn't on your face as you're too good at masking your problems but your appearance was off. You failed to take care of that. I was also carried away by the shock of seeing all of you especially Everett so I couldn't ask. I'm sorry once again."

"Yeah. So.. wait..you asked if I'm also going to have a baby?"

She nodded.

"Does that mean.. you're.." my eyes fall on her tummy. I can't see a bump. Maybe because her dress is loose-fitting.

"Yes, I am." She beamed beautifully as her hands went to her stomach.

Novan and Nervisa are going to have a cute sister or brother soon. Wow.

I just wish..

★★★

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 17✓
[222] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~MARIANA~|

〰️❤️〰️

"Congratulations!"

"Yeah, thanks."

"Then it's no wine for you." I took the wine and poured it away.

"Do you think Novan will be happy with this news?"

"You want to tell him?"

"I would like to but if it's going to disturb him, I wouldn't."

"I really want to say he won't mind but your son can be unpredictable sometimes."

"I know right." She chuckled and I nodded as we turned back into the house.

I gave the glass to a servant then we walked to the dining room hoping to see the two men but it was just Tricia's husband at the table.

"Hope you two had fun," Vlad said when he lifted his head and saw us.

"What fun?"

"Gossiping."

"We weren't."

"Alright, I won't argue about that." Tricia sat beside her husband while I looked around for Novan.

"He went inside." Novan's step dad said. I can't wait for him to tell me how their conversation went.

"Oh, thanks." I looked around the room for the exit.

"Since Anoushka brought you, lemme call her to take you back." Tricia volunteered.

In no time, Anu arrived with her signature smile right on her face as she gladly lead me back.

"I hope you like me," Anu asked when we got into the lift.

"Why do you ask?"

"Because.." by the time she answered we were at my door and I stepped out.

"Because I like your brother. I don't know, I think it's love at first sight for me and as his sister, I thought I can win you so you can talk him into giving me a chance. I really like him."

"What?" I gasped. I didn't say more. I walked inside and gladly, I saw Novan laying on the bed shirtless with his phone raised as he scrolls.

"Come with me, Novan."

"Why?"

"Please."

"Okay." He placed the phone down and got up. I grabbed his wrist and matched him out of the room. Luckily, we got there in time to see Anu getting into the lift.

"Wait Anoushka."

She turned and her eyes lit when they fell on Novan.

Shyly, she walked to us, twisting her fingers.

"I thought you got angry...I didn't know you'll actually go and bring.."

I didn't make her finish. On my tippy toes, I held Novan's face between my hands and crushed my lips on his. Novan didn't hold back though he was taken aback for a second. He wrapped his arms around my waistand kissed me back, deepening it. I pulled back and looped our hands then with my head on his chest, I waved my ring finger in front of the shocked girl in front of us.

"He's not my brother but my husband so back off bitch!"

"But..but.."

"You'll leave from here this instant and if I see you making advances while we're still here, consider yourself fired. Now leave!" I said sternly and without a word, she run off, taking the stairs instead. I'm sure she's going to cry her eyes out but then, there's nothing I could do about it.

I detached my arms from his and walked inside.

"I can't believe you just used me." He complained with lips pouted.

"I hate nonsense."

"What did she do?"

"She likes you, same as that skinny bitch. I hate her already."

"You know nothing can happen between us. I can never love anyone else but you."

"Okay." I tried to stop the way the words make me feel inside so I walked inside the bathroom.

I stripped and with a towel around me, I came out. Immediately, Novan got up to leave.

"You can stay." I stopped him.

"Will you be okay with it? I can go."

"I want to talk to you."

"Now?"

"Now." He came back to sit. "Tricia shopped somethings for you. They're in the closet."

"Oh really? Thank her so much." I walked to the wardrobe and saw nice dresses neatly packed inside. I took a nightdress then wore it over my towel before gradually pulling it out from under the dress. I feel Novan's eyes on me then go and come.

Novan couldn't stop looking at me no matter how hard he tried so I didn't mind.

"I want to tell you something, Novan."

"Tell me."

"Promise me you're not going to get mad."

"It depends. Did that man make advances?"

"What man?" My brows furrowed.

"Vladimir."

"You mean your stepfather?" I laughed.

"Yes. I don't trust him."

"You can't be serious." I chuckled more. How can he think that way?

"I want to tell you something, Mariana." His tone and expression dropped dead serious. When did he turned all serious?

"What?" I walked closer to him. "I also want to tell you about something."

"I'll go first."

"No, I'll go first." I protest.

"Let me go first please."

"No Novan."

"Okay.

"It's about your mom." I waited for an action from him.

"What about her? Don't tell me she wants us to stay a week." He frowned.

"That's not it."

"Then?"

"You're going to receive a new member soon."

"Don't go in fucking circles. Just hit it right in the fucking middle for me."

My stomach tightened at his words and the way he said them. I should be crazy for letting those mere words that are not even related sex affect me.

"Okay. You're going to have a little brother or sister soon." I gulped and studied him intently.

"What? You mean she's.. she's.."

"Yes, Novan. She's going to have a baby."

Silence rested in our midst and when he finally said something, I regretted telling him and also felt his pain.

"She has really taken this far. Good, she has a complete family now." He turned around to sit on the bed then buried his head in his lap.

I know what he's thinking now.
Novan is still insecure.

"You're also her family." I tried to make him feel better about the whole issue.

"We're not. This is her family. She has everything now and now a child coming. Where does that place us? She'll soon forget us then what?"

"You're getting it all wrong. Nothing is going to change the fact that you're her children."

"Not now that she has a baby coming. Trust me, Mariana, we're finally orphans."

"No." I tried to raise his head for him to look at me.

"It's the truth. She's going to give all the attention to that baby. Once that baby comes she'll forget everything about us. The small love she had for us will all be given to someone else." He looked at me with glossy eyes.

"Tricia won't do that."

"You can't be so sure. She's the same woman...the same.." he sighed and stormed out of the room.

I didn't stop him or follow him. I just let him go. Novan needs this time alone to himself. I know it's not easy to find out that the woman who was never there and finally when there was a tiny hope of her return, something came in the way to stop her from delivering her all to her children.

When I was little, I wanted a sibling simply because I needed someone to play with but I know if I had been with them without separating, I wouldn't want them to have another child because I will want all their love. That is common with a large fraction of kids.

After waiting around for almost an hour and a half, I walked out. Not for anything but I can use the opportunity to thank Tricia for the things she got me. I think she saw the size of the bag I came with then I have to wear those bedroom slippers for her and everyone to see.

I didn't know where to go so I just walked with the servants giving light bows wherever I passed. Passing through a narrow hallway, I met a flight of stairs, looking down to the foot, I saw Novan and Ellie standing at questionable proximity. They were talking undertone and those slender fingers of hers were playing on his chest, to his face and all over his torso.

I thought he needed the space to gather his thoughts but...

I couldn't watch it. I run down the stairs towards them but when he looked at me with that face, I turned back and ran inside.

|~DONOVAN~|

When I stormed out, I didn't tell my legs to carry me towards a maid and to ask where Tricia is. I found her in the aquarium room with a glass between her fingers instead of her room that was directed to me.

When she heard the footsteps, she quickly put the glass away and wiped her lips. I get it, she's secretly taking alcohol.

"Hey!"

She turned with bright red cheeks as a thief caught red-handed which is a fact. This pregnant lady is secretly taking alcohol.

"Hi, it's you. You're here."

"Yeah. What are you taking? Fanta?" I raised my brows with a smirk.

"Yes." She lied.

"Let me see." I went for the glass.

"I'm sorry, it's alcohol." She admitted before I could taste it to be sure.

"Why are you taking it secretly?"

"Nothing."

She's lying again. "Is it because you're going to bring forth another baby?"

"What?" She moved away from me.

"You're pregnant."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to.."

"Seriously? What are you saying? You wanted a baby right?"

"Yes but I am sorry if it disturbs you."

"Having a baby is not a bad thing Tricia. I just have to deal with the fact that I'm going to have another notorious cute brat to deal with." I surprised myself as well as her. When Mariana told me about the news, I felt bad and jealous. Just like I can't share my woman, likewise, I don't want to share my mama even with my siblings especially that we don't have a father. I know I want to forgive her but I didn't dare to approach her, I didn't know how to go about it but this news fueled me to meet her.

"So?"

"Tell me why you did all those things, Tricia. I know you've said it a lot of times but I want to hear it all now with a calm mind."

I moved to sit on one of the sofas. "Make it brief."

"Alright. I don't know where I will start from but I was just a helpless immature woman who made a lot of mistakes before realizing and it was too late. I wasn't supposed to marry your father but I did even when the love was only coming from my side to him, I kept on loving him with all my strength even through the endless problems and his maltreatments. I don't really blame your dad. He got tired of me and unleashed his frustrations on me and unfortunately, you two were at the receiving end. I had to cowardly leave which was the worst of worst things a mother can ever do and I will keep regretting it. I really want to have a relationship with you and I want my son back but I guess that is never happening..."

"It's happening. You just have to promise you won't love that nigga coming more than me."

I must've shocked her. Tricia stumbled back yet again with eyes popping out of their sockets.

"What are you saying?"

I got up and walked slowly towards her. "You think you're the only one who wants her son back, I also want my mama back."

"Please tell me you're joking. I feel like I will die." She cried and lowered herself to the floor.

"Hey. I won't forgive you if something happens to my little brother." I kneeled in front of her and watched her smile through her tears. It was beautiful. Her hands reached to touch my face and I unintentionally flinched and moved my face back from her.

"I'm sorry." She brought her hand down, the smile is gone but the tears stayed and came more. I saw her pain.
Who am I if my mom can't even touch me because she's scared?

"You can touch me."

She looked in my face to make sure I was okay before she held my face and I closed my eyes, remembering the last time she touched me and comparing it to this. It's still the same and all I've been missing. I craved for her affection for long but my hatred wouldn't allow me. Not again.

"Everett."

"Mo..mom." my lips trembled as my voice breaks. I hold her face and wiped her tears.

"I'm sorry."

"Me too."

"No."

"For being so hard on you."

"You weren't. I deserved all of it but not this you're giving me now even though it's what I've been pleading for."

"It's okay. We all make mistakes. I didn't know that."

"Can you call me that again? It's been so long and I miss it. Please."

"I will but not now... it's so hard for me. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. At least you said you will."

"You know I don't have to say I forgive you. Coming here alone is enough."

"I know."

"Good. Don't take alcohol again or I will report you."

"I won't."

I smiled the truest, a smile that lifted away the heavyweight and brought me peace. I feel so free. Nothing is weighing me again.

***

After meeting Tricia then leaving her in tears after doing my best to console her, I left her to her husband to take care of. I just wanted to go back to Mariana because I am feeling as good as fuck. I didn't know how this is to be able to let things go and let the bygones be bygones.

I met the annoying bitch on the way and she quickly followed me. She thinks she can make me want her. That is long gone because I only want to touch Mariana. I will feel disgusted to put my hand on any other girl who's not her.

"Wait Everett." I stopped and assessed her skinny body. Everything is so tiny tiny. Not my taste. I have only one taste and that is Mariana and everything her.

"You're not going to say you don't like me. That you don't want to touch me." She said in what seems like a sexy tone.

I reached for the stairs to climb when she pulled me back and began to move her hands on my chest.

"I know you don't want that plain girl. Hell, she is as boring as fuck."

I chuckled. "Boring but I love her and she's not even boring."

"If only you'll try me first."

"You're a slut."

"Whatever." She waved her hand in my face then stepped even more closer.

"I don't want you and never will." I told her.

"I don't care. All I want is you now. I want to be able to touch you then feel you. You can continue with your boring wife after." I feel disgusted and I don't want to go all rude and harsh on her as her hands keep moving all over me.

"Stop it," I whispered and began to look around when I saw Mariana. My heart skipped at once and before I realized, I've whacked Ellie somewhere but gently and ran after her.

I will hate myself if Mariana interprets this wrongly and get mad at me. She'll divorce me and that will be it.
As I opened the door, all I imagined is Mariana throwing my ring back in my face.

I saw her sitting too calmly on the bed and went straight to the point. "I swear I wasn't doing anything with her."

She didn't mind.

"Mariana." I kneeled in front of her. "Please, believe me, I wasn't doing anything."

"Are you crazy? Get the hell up." She yelled and got into bed.

"What?" I breathed loudly.

"I trust you"

"That?"

"Novan you're crazy to assume that I will make issue out of what I saw."

"You got angry earlier."

"I didn't like that she did that and you allowed. It doesn't mean I don't trust you that you love me alone."

I sighed in relief and dropped down on the bed beside her. I thought I've lost it all the way she ran off.

The last thing I want is to be fighting with Mariana again over these things or anything else.

God, I am so fucking relieved.

★★★

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