Fall Back Skyward (Fall Back #1)(9)
Written By: Autumn Grey
“Jesus. He really is here.” His voice is a whisper, full of awe. His gaze moves from Cole and back to me. He searches my face for a few seconds before taking in a deep breath, his face taking on a serious look. “I need you to do something for me. I have been holding on to the hope that I’ll see him before I go, even though I’d already made peace with myself. Cole is your dream. He has always been your dream--”
“Stop it, Josh,” I plead with him, shaking my head. “Please. Stop.”
“Shut up and listen to me, Eleanor.”
Wiping my cheeks with my free hand, I shoot up from the chair, but his fingers around my wrist are like shackles, pulling me back to down.
“I love you. You and the girls have made me the happiest man on earth.” He takes a deep breath. “Sometimes life throws you a curveball, just to test your limits. It happened to you and Cole. We never thought we’d ever see him again. Yet he’s here. Shouldn’t that count for something?” I nod and press my lips to stop them from trembling. “Promise me you’ll be selfish for once in your life and do something for yourself.”
I can’t do this. Losing Josh, even though I knew it was coming, is still painful. “I need to go to the chapel.”
“Darn it, Nor. Promise me this.” His voice is urgent and his hold on me strong, despite his weak state. “Give me that, at least. It’s my dying wish.”
I glare down at him, tears still running down my face. I feel the anguish and anger inside me leave my bones as I stare into his pleading gaze. The genuine love shining through them comforts me. I nod and kiss his forehead. “I love you, Josh.”
He lets go of my hand. I quickly dry my face before turning around to face Cole.
I shouldn’t feel jealous. She is not mine. She is his wife now and has been for a while now.
I slip the picture back in my pocket and shove my hands in my pants pockets, feeling like an outsider. I have to leave before I do something stupid.
I cross the room heading for the door, but stop in my tracks when I feel a gentle touch on my arm, and look over my shoulder.
“Stay,” Nor says, tugging my sleeve. Her other hand clutches my beanie tightly to her chest as if it might fly away. She follows my gaze and she licks her lips, her cheeks flushing. She wiggles her freckled nose in that cute way I adored so much and then hands it over to me.
I take it and put it on, then I glance over her head and meet Josh’s weary eyes. He lifts his hand from the bed and waves at me, then lets it fall back on the sheet. He inhales, but it’s cut short when a cough wracks through his body.
I walk back and hover at the foot of the bed, dread filling my chest with every cough. I refuse to allow my fear of losing him drive me into a panic, but watching him suffering like this drums the point home.
“You’re here,” he signs when he’s calm enough to move a part of his body. He can hardly sign the words, though he seems determined to do it. His usually vibrant blue eyes are dull with uncertainty as he stares at me with a hopeful, yet cautious expression.
I nod, watching as Nor hurries toward the bathroom without looking back. I pull my gaze back to Josh.
“Thank you. Thank you for coming, bro.” Josh signs, his brow is beaded with sweat from exertion.
I nod my head, a huge lump forming inside my throat.
Nor returns moments later, carrying a small white towel in her hands. I step back to give her space. She settles down on the chair and then leans forward and begins to wipe my brother’s forehead, smiling softly. It’s not genuine though. Her eyes are tight around the corners as if she’s trying hard not to cry.
Josh’s head rolls to the side to face Nor as he says something. He’s staring at her like she is his whole world. She returns the look with. . .affection. The kind of look a sister gives to her brother.
As much as I hate to admit it, this gives me comfort. He genuinely loves her.
Nor kisses his forehead and stands up. She walks toward the door, but then stops and turns to face me. She doesn’t say anything at all. We just stare at each other, reminding me of the very first day I saw her when they moved in next door. I hope to fuck my face is blank.
I can’t afford to lay all my cards on the table. Show her how much she still affects me.
I know my presence affects her too. What I don’t expect to see is the way her eyes soften when she looks at me. I’m not sure how to deal with that.
“Thank you for coming. It’s really good to see you,” she signs. “I’m sorry about earlier.”
My jaw tightens involuntarily. “He is my brother.”
She flinches at my words, a little frown forming between her eyebrows. She nods once. “I’ll be at the chapel, if I’m needed.” She lifts her chin in that defiant way that used to do crazy things to me and walks out of the room with her back straight and head held high.
I shouldn’t let it get to me, but it does.
She dumped you for your brother.
That thought is like ice water poured over my head. I shove my balled fists into my pockets and focus on Josh, the new scars still haunting my mind.
We eye each other, the room filling with tension. I have no idea how to begin talking to him after years of no communication.
“You look like hell,” I tell him.
He laughs. When he tries to sign again, his hands shake badly. He gives up and takes a deep breath. “If I knew you were coming, I would have worn my best tux and rolled out the red carpet.”