Will You Still Love Me?

Nahla lost many things in the fire.


The box set of the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, she watched so often she could recite all the lines, was easily replaced. As was her iPad. She easily bought another pair of her favorite J-Crew jeans even though they had yet to get back to the comfortable, worn-in feel she’d loved so much. But, there were some things she could not get back. The blanket her grandmother knitted for future generations was a pile of soot on the burned out floor. Destroyed. The love letters exchanged between her parents that she’d carefully compiled after their deaths became ashes mingled with the charred concrete. Gone.

Nahla fingered the fabric of her gown and squeezed her eyes shut to stop the tears from leaking remembering her best friend, Miranda’s, warning to not dare ruin her mascara. Nahla lost many things in the fire and there were many hours afterwards when she was sure she’d lost him too. Of course Cree had been nearly three hundred miles away when the fire started. He’d been busy strumming chords on his guitar when she awoke to orange flames dancing around her room in aggressive staccatos. Yet, when the bandages came off she was certain that she’d lost him just as surely she’d lost patches of her hair and skin to the burns. But Cree stayed. His warm, brown eyes were often the first things she saw when she woke in the morning, the chords of his guitar was the lullaby that carried her to sleep at night.

When the surgeries failed to make the ugly, angry scars disappear; she swore she lost him then. But Cree stayed. He held her hand as people stared when they went to supermarkets, movies, and doctor’s appointments. He mastered the art of ‘gentle’ kisses because he was afraid they’d hurt.

She prepared herself for the packed suitcases and fading footsteps when the nightmares came. In those nights when she woke with screams on her lips and clothes wet on her back she swore he couldn’t still love her. This scarred, broken woman was as far away from the woman he’d fallen in love with as the Arctic Circle from the Sahara Desert.  Yet, Cree stayed. His thumbs became the handkerchiefs that wiped away the tears. His voice and hands splayed against the small of her back would coax her back to sleep. Then she’d awake, later, in his arms remembering what it was to feel safe.

Nahla tried taking deep breaths but it didn’t calm the erratic beating of her heart. But this time it wasn’t fear that slammed her heart so hard against her chest she feared for her ribs. She couldn’t wait to walk down the aisle to those same warm, brown eyes and to hold the same hands that coaxed her to sleep on those nights. She couldn’t wait to plant ‘gentle’ kisses on Cree’s lips and promise to love him forever. She couldn’t wait to promise to love him through the bad times the way his love shone like a lighthouse unto the dark, stormy waters that had become her life.

Despite herself and despite Miranda’s warnings, Nahla went ahead and ruined her mascara.

Nahla lost many things in the fire.

Cree stayed.

Copyright, Rilzy Adams excerpt from Love Bites.


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