Soft and sweet with a hint of innocence. A small gasp leaving her. Her arms wrapping around my shoulders, bringing me closer, holding me tight.
That’s what I envisioned—fantasized about—when I thought of kissing Shiloh.
But that had changed over time until I’d seen her as my best friend, the other half of me. All I’d wanted to do was keep her close, to make sure she was safe. I didn’t want her hurt, didn’t want to see her cry. Because seeing her in pain caused me pain, had me crying, wanting to lash out.
And until she’d come along, I’d never believed in soulmates. What did I know about that kind of stuff? I was a kid who stayed out too late, got dirty, and didn’t listen to my parents. I wasn’t thinking about girls, about having someone close to me always.
But as soon as I’d met Shiloh, I knew that everything I’d ever known about myself was wrong. Something had opened up inside of me, like an epiphany, my life coming full circle.
I’d been a twelve-year-old who played kickball in the street in front of my house. She’d been the new neighbor. A little ten-year-old girl with a raggedy ponytail hanging crooked on the side of her head, dried ice cream on her face, and the brightest blue eyes I’d ever seen.
I remember that day like it was yesterday, how she’d come out of her house, her parents unpacking the moving van, a flurry of activity coming from her place.
She’d had a little plastic bag filled with loose candy, reds and blues, oranges and greens all mixed together, yet she only picked out certain colors to eat. She’d stood on the corner of her driveway as she watched us play.
Even then, without saying one word to her, without knowing who she was, she’d seemed so strong as she silently watched us, intelligence in her gaze as she followed the ball with her eyes.
Shiloh had intrigued me instantly and I knew that one day I’d make her mine.
I never thought she’d leave me. I hadn’t even envisioned it because all I’d ever seen was her as mine. But she wanted to go to college, wanted to leave town.
And here I was, working in the construction company my old man owned, raised to take over the business one day. What classes I would take would be done at the community college, my business associates degree easily obtained there. It was easier that way, because then I’d be able to shadow my dad, learn the tricks of the trade and all that shit.
I hated it. Because if Shiloh wasn’t here with me, it was like living in hell.
“You gonna play your hand or what?” Alec said, and I blinked a few times, being brought back into the present. I saw Shiloh in the kitchen with Alec’s girlfriend, Mona, and I felt my heart drop to my belly at just the sight of her.
She’d walked into Alec’s parents’ place and I’d instantly been distracted from everything and everyone. It wasn’t just her presence, but the fact I knew she’d be finding out if she got into her dream college and would be leaving me.
That had a low rumble leaving me.
“What the fuck? You hiding a lion under the table or some shit?” Alec started laughing and I looked at him, narrowing my eyes.
I tossed my cards in the center of the table and flipped him off before standing and heading into the kitchen. Since her high school graduation this past spring, I’d been consumed with the fear of Shiloh leaving. I’d kept that worry to myself, bottling it up, working extra hours with my father, and avoiding her.
It was a counterproductive move seeing as that was time I couldn’t get back with her.
But I hadn’t been able to think of how to go about telling Shiloh that I cared about her, that us being friends, going to movies, eating dinner, even playing games of basketball, had meant a lot more to me than it probably did to her.
That needed to change before she left. Because I’d come to the realization that not having her in my life would be too hard.
I walked up to the kitchen, but right before turning and heading inside, I could hear Shiloh talking with Mona.
“So you have a date with him?” Mona said.
My heart dropped to my belly.
“I mean, he asked me to dinner and I was kind of put on the spot. I didn’t know what to say.” Shiloh said, her voice instantly having my body tightening. “And he looked so nervous that I felt bad saying no.”
My heart raced. She always had that effect on me, but it wasn’t until years after we’d first met that I’d realized why I reacted like I did.
I loved her. I was in love with her.