I must have stood by the front door like an indecisive fool for longer than I realize because Joakim steps out of the kitchen—eyebrows drawn together, asking did you sneak out?—and approaches carefully, as though he’s unsure of whether I’ll flee like a spooked antelope or attack like a hungry tiger.
When he’s within reach, he hooks his index finger in the belt loop of my jeans and tugs once. Gently. “Come, please. I’ve made tea.”
I don’t even like tea, and I don’t know why I drink it, but I let him lead me by the tiny scrap of fabric to the kitchen. I don’t object when he nudges me into my spot and hands me a steaming mug. I wrap my fingers around it and take a careful sip—he always makes the tea too hot—and the earthy flavor of the chamomile finally loosens my tongue. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you.”
“Because we need to talk, don’t you think?”
I take another sip and allow myself to look at him. He doesn’t quite meet my eyes and the lines above his nose have deepened. He’s surprisingly pale, which is unexpected for him in August after a warm, sunny season. He’s an outdoorsy guy, his smooth skin always turns golden in the summer, but looking at him now, I’d think it was February, after many long months of cold and darkness.
He presses his lips together as though he’s trying to stop himself from speaking, as though he’s waiting for me to say something.
And he’s right. I should say something, but I’m still reeling from him showing up on my doorstep when I was about to call him.
Has he, too, spent sleepless nights fighting with himself on whether to call or not? Has he felt utterly alone and miserable? Has he walked by my building, has he stood on the street below my apartment and looked up, trying to find the courage to take the first step? And if he has, how come he did it today?
“Why now?” I ask.
“It was time.” He shrugs. “Long overdue really.” He scooches his chair closer and lays his hand next to mine on the table, hooking his pinkie in mine. “We should never have let this stupidity go on for this long.”
The hairs on my neck rise to attention at his light touch, and I want more. I want his entire hand covering mine, his arms wrapped around me, his body crowding mine. I want him to stake his claim, growl at anyone who looks at me with interest, I want him to take my breath away.
My eyes start to prickle. I try to blink the feeling away, but my vision grows blurry, and I let my eyelids fall closed. “You’re too hot-headed,” I mumble, voice thick.
“And you’re a stubborn fucker.” He squeezes my finger.
He’s not wrong.
Neither am I.
“Eight fucking months.” What was meant to be an angry roar comes out as though I’m choking back tears. But I can’t be; I’m not a crier. I haven’t cried since I was five and fell off my bike. I didn’t cry when my grampa died, I didn’t cry when Joakim left—or rather when I realized he wasn’t coming back—so I’m not going to cry now.
Joakim sighs. “I needed time to cool off.”
“That usually takes you eight minutes, not eight months.”
“Would you look at me?”
I shake my head, refusing his request. The prickle is still there—more intense now— and I’m not risking anything by looking at him.
“My blood was fucking boiling, Sami. I was afraid I’d say something I could never take back.”
“So instead, you said nothing.”
“You didn’t say anything either.”
Finally, I find my roar. “You called me a liar and a cheat. I was fucking hurt.” I rub my knuckles over my heart.
“I was hurt, too,” he roars back.