Here’s another one of my picks for my “Favorite Scenes” blog series. It’s from HOW TO HEAL A LIFE. I love the contrast of how great Seth feels in this moment vs. how vulnerable Vargas is when he shares his fears with Seth.
Ten minutes later they were dressed and Seth was headed out the door, his cell phone in his pocket. In one hand, he had the end of Charlie’s leash, and in the other was his cane. Vargas watched from the apartment door as Seth and Charlie made the trek down the hallway toward the back of the club.
Seth hesitated at the top of the stairs.
Vargas gave him a nod of encouragement. “You can do this.”
“Yeah.” Seth faced the steps once more, and without another look back, he started down.
Vargas waited until he heard the door at the base of the steps open. Before it closed, he wanted to shout that Seth shouldn’t be ashamed to call if he needed help, but he held back. Seth knew he could count on him.
The door clanked shut.
After thirty minutes, Vargas was pacing his living room, glancing at the clock on the wall every two minutes. He’d been driving himself crazy running through possible scenarios of what was happening to Seth. Hell, he would’ve gone down the back stairs and waited at the door that led to the parking lot if he didn’t think that might hurt Seth’s feelings.
He quit the pacing and dropped onto the couch. Leaning forward, he held his head in his hands. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand to wait.
He checked the clock again.
Then he heard low voices outside the apartment, followed by the door unlocking. He shot to his feet.
Seth opened the door, and Charlie bounded in, heading straight for his water dish in the kitchen. Seth set his phone and the dog’s leash on the hall table by the door, moving deliberately, carefully. Vargas couldn’t read the expression on his face, and he hated that. He thought he’d gotten pretty good at knowing what Seth was feeling or thinking, at least whether it was a positive or negative emotion.
Seth leaned his cane against the wall. He kicked off his tennis shoes, continuing with the measured movements. When he was done, he straightened and finally met Vargas’s stare.
The smile was immediate and lit up Seth’s entire face. “I did it.” He bounded forward and lunged for Vargas. “I did it! I did it! I did it!”
Vargas hugged him. “Yeah, you did. It went okay, then?”
Seth pulled back, that huge-ass grin still locked in place. “Yep. I didn’t freak out at all. It felt great to be outside with Charlie, in the sunshine, with the breeze and the fresh air. We made it all the way to the park on Summit.”
He gave Vargas a look of appreciation. “Thank you.”
“You did this. Not me.”
“I know. But I don’t think I ever could’ve gotten here without you.”
“That’s not true at all.”
Then those stark, honest words Seth had said struck Vargas in the gut like a punch. All this time and he hadn’t ever thought that maybe…
His stomach churned as that doubt spread and took on greater life.
Seth stepped away, moving with a fluidity that he never had with the cane. “God, I feel so good.”
The last thing in the world Vargas wanted to do was deflate that happiness. He plastered a smile on his face right as Seth turned back to him.
“I feel like I could do anything.”
Seth nodded. “I want to go to school and study accounting.” He whirled around and took a few steps away again as if he couldn’t keep still. “That probably sounds boring to most people, but I’m really excited about it.”
“You should be. It’s a great idea.”
Seth faced him again. All at once his expression fell. He returned to stand before Vargas. “What is it?” He grasped Vargas’s face in his hands, searching his eyes for something. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Vargas pulled away.
“I’m going to make us some of that baked apple oatmeal you like. We can climb back in bed and have breakfast there if you want.” He started for the kitchen.
He kept going. His hands shook as he got the oatmeal out of the cupboard and then went for a pot in the cabinet next to the stove. Fuck. He had to get himself together.
Seth halted in the kitchen doorway. “Why are you lying to me?”
Vargas turned away. He couldn’t face him. He got out the bag of apples and began washing them. “Can we talk about this later?”
There was a tug on his arm. Seth didn’t let up until he had him spun around. The stare was insistent. “If this thing between us is going to work, you have to talk to me. No matter what it’s about. No matter when.”
He was right about that. After all, Vargas expected Seth to do the same. He propped himself against the counter and let the words spill out. “What if you only think you love me because of everything I’ve done for you? What if your gratefulness is coloring your feelings, and you don’t even realize that. Maybe you’ll wake up one day and it’ll be clear that you only thought you loved me because I was there for you when you needed someone.”
In response, he expected either anger or acceptance of a realization neither one of them had wanted to see before then. He didn’t expect the boisterous laugh that followed. He threw Seth a confused look. Seth just laughed harder. Then he took a couple of steps back and leaned against the fridge, the laughter still pouring out of him.
“What’s so damn funny?”
“You.” Seth held his stomach as if the laughter was giving him cramps.
“It’s a legitimate concern.”
Seth shook his head, chuckling. “No, it’s not.”
“Because I had feelings for you before I ever woke up in the hospital and saw you sitting beside my bed.”
Vargas gaped at him. “We’d only talked once.”
“Yeah.” Seth looked away for a breath, then focused on Vargas again. “When I first came to the club for my interview and I met you, I was immediately enamored. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. I could barely form words. I made such a fool of myself, I never thought you’d approve my membership. After you walked out of that meeting, I was shattered. I knew I had to see you again, but I had no idea how to make that happen. Then I got the call that I was accepted. Most nights when I came here, at least at first, I didn’t care if I met someone or hooked up. I came to see you. I came hoping for just one glimpse, to hear your voice for one minute, to hear anything about you at all. I think, even then, I was in love with you. Or at least completely obsessed.”
Vargas took a step forward, and Seth held up a hand to stop him.
“I know you might never have noticed me or been interested in me before everything that happened. But I’m not letting that keep me from being with you, from trusting that you’re honest with me about how you feel. Dr. Arteaga said what I’ve been through has changed me and my life, but that doesn’t mean I have to settle for less. I’m going to have an amazing life. I’m going to apply to school, toss out the wheelchair, and live here with you. I’m going to love you forever.”
Vargas swallowed down the lump that had formed in his throat. He went to Seth and slipped his arms around him. “If I would’ve just opened my damn eyes, I would’ve noticed you. Trust me. That recording of you I watched all those times… It wasn’t just about me feeling guilty. I kept trying to figure out how I missed seeing you.”
Seth wrapped his arms around him and buried his face in Vargas’s chest. “It doesn’t matter. We see each other now.”
“Yeah, we do. How did I get so damn lucky?”
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(c) Sloan Parker, 2017. All Rights Reserved.