Lieut was dumbfounded when he saw Alden and Delia walk into the house with their fingers lacing them together. Love-drunk smiles plastered on their faces. These were important times. Didn't Alden realize he needed to focus?
An image of the helpless boy who only wanted to taste waffles for the first time popped into his mind.
The boy deserved happiness and love. There was no telling what turmoil was brewing in his mind. To have someone to listen to him, comfort him, and tell him when he's being stupid... That was something he needed, perhaps now more than ever.
"What are the two of you up to today?" Lu asked, taking them by surprised.
They dropped their hands like they were in trouble and he smiled, shaking his head.
"How about we play our game?" He asked. "But, your romance in real life shall have no bearing on the alliances we've forged in the game. Alden, I want you to write that down in the rules."
Alden was quick to grab the old notepad and Delia helped Lu set the game up.
After they tired of the game, Lu went into his office to attend to some business. Alden helped Delia to put the game back away in the bookshelf that was its home. It was moments like this that still confused Alden. Moments when he want to place his hand on her arm for reasons he couldn't explain beyond I want to touch her. And that made him mad, because he also wanted for her to know that he respected her and that she was more than just someone to touch and kiss. And he'd get lost in his head too long with these inner battles. She'd already gone and sat on the back porch to pet Steven.
He stepped out onto the porch and sat down beside her.
They had not kissed since that night in the gym. Something told Alden that she was waiting for him to make the first move. But, he was terrified. How does one kiss well? What if he was terrible? What if she felt like she had to put up with a bad kisser?
She took his hand in hers and smiled.
"What goes on in your head all the time?"
He didn't want to tell her.
She was wearing the red lipstick today. It made her teeth look larger and whiter when she smiled big enough to show them. If he kissed her now, would the color stick to his lips?
"You're staring at my mouth," she said. "Is there something in my teeth?"
She covered her mouth with her hands, and that was his limit. He pulled her hand away and leaned his face in slowly toward hers. He could smell her breath, coffee and peppermint. Her eyes flickered shut and he gently placed his lips against hers. She pressed her lips further against his, parting them open just slightly. Their mouths were warm. He pulled back. Her eyes looked heavy, her skin was flushed. She looked like she was trying to remember how to breathe.
"You should wipe that lipstick off before my dad sees you."
"Too late," Collin said in between pants as he bent over with his hands on his knees. "Doesn't matter. Your mom. The baby. He's coming."
They ran to the other house with Collin. Lu was quick behind them.
The labor seemed to last forever. Delia played cards with Lilly to keep her occupied. Alden kept an eye on the door to the master bedroom, waiting.
After hours of endless muffled screaming and busy noise, there was silence. Alden remembered that being closely followed by a baby wailing when Lilly was born. There was no baby wailing.
Alden placed a hand on Delia's shoulder.
Collin came out of the room, arms covered in blood, and went straight outside. Alden could see him rip his gloves off and throw them to the ground. He dropped to his knees.
Delia stood quickly and ran to the bedroom before Alden could stop her. Lilly looked up at Alden to try to figure out what was going on. She was already tearing up. Alden picked her up off the ground and held her. She cried against his chest. He wanted to see to Delia, but he couldn't take Lilly to that room if what he was imagining was true.
Delia ran from the room to her father's side on the porch and put her arms around him. He cried into her lap. She looked through the screen doors to Alden, tears streaking her face.
Lu was the last person to leave the bedroom. He looked to Alden and shook his head, as if denying him his last hopes that something turned out okay.
That night, Delia couldn't sleep in her house. She knocked on Alden's window. He helped her climb into his bed and he wrapped her in his arms. She cried into his chest until she fell asleep.
They buried Molly and the baby the next day. Alden had not seen the effects loss had on people until this happened. Delia had told him once about her real father. That he had died in a car accident when she was very little. She didn't remember very much about him, but she remembered her mom crying for a long time. Alden hadn't been able to picture that until now.
After the burial, they ate a bland meal and dispersed. Collin focused his attention on Lilly. Lu found something to work on. Delia and Alden found their way into the gymnasium.
"I want to try something," she said and sniffled away a few tears.
"What's that?" He asked.
"I want to throw tennis balls at you as hard as I can, and I want you to stop them," she said.
He laughed, but thought it was probably a good idea for her to release some aggression.
He stood in the center of the gym and she stood several feet away from him with a bucket of tennis balls at her feet.
"Have at me," he said and stood as openly as possible.
She picked up a tennis ball, tossed it straight up, caught it, then pitched it straight at him. It hit him square in the stomach and he dropped to his knees.
She quickly ran to him and dropped down in front of me.
"You were supposed to stop the ball," she fretted. "Are you alright."
He chuckled and looked up at her.
"I guess I don't have very good self preservation instincts," he smiled and gingerly touched the spot on his ribs where he hit him.
"I'm sorry," she said and shook her head.
"It's okay," he smiled and tilted her chin up with his hooked index finger. "I'm not hurt. Besides, I'll heal. In fact, I'm sure I've already healed."
She pulled up his shirt before he could protest and watched as a light bruise over his ribs continued to fade until it as completely gone.
"I could give you a hickey and no one would find out," she said.
"What's a hickey?" He asked.
"It's something I regrettably found out about when I noticed one that my mom had put on Collin's neck."
Alden furrowed his brow in confusion and she rolled her eyes.
"What is Lu good for if he only teaches you school stuff and doesn't teach you about life? All he does is scour the net and make sure no one has found us or started to look for us. He's become a useless old man."
"That isn't kind at all," Alden frowned. "He's a good man. He's like my father."
"Anyway, I didn't mean it," she sighed.
"You still haven't explained what a hickey is," he reminded her.
"Here, sit still," she said and pulled on his shirt collar away from his neck.
She placed her lips on his neck. He felt a their warmth, and then he felt a pinch.
"Ow," he said as she pulled away and sat back down across from him.
She reached out and touched the dark red spot on his neck.
"That's a hickey," she said. "You can't give one to me because my dad would see it and kill you."
"He'll probably notice the lipstick on my neck and shirt collar," he laughed.
"Crap, you're right," she said and spit on her fingers.
She tried to scrub the lipstick away with her saliva. She could feel Alden's pulse speeding up under her fingertips. The hickey was gone already, but she wished I hadn't faded.
"I, um," Alden coughed into his hand nervously. "I think we should head back upstairs."
She shook her head and wrapped her arms around his neck. She pressed her mouth to his and let the tip of her tongue touch his lips. He breathed into her, then pulled away against his own will.
"What are you trying to do to me?" His breaths were ragged.
"I don't know anymore," she let her head drop onto his chest and listened to his heart's wild rhythm.
He put an arm around her and laid them back on the floor.
"I don't know what to do with all of this sadness, Alden," she whispered. "It's too much."
He kissed the top of her head.
In many ways, Molly had been a mother to him, too. The only example of a mother he'd ever seen up close.
"You can share it with me," he told her and felt her body shudder as she began to cry once more.