Archer

(Short Story)
Jane never got the letters, but she got the truth.

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1. Archer

I blinked once. Twice.

For a minute, I thought I was hallucinating.

That Asher wasn't standing in front of me, hands tucked into his pockets and his lips curled downwards in a slight frown. His copper hair was a mess. His plaid shirt wrinkled.

He looked thinner than I remembered him. Over the last few months, his image in my mind seemed to be distorted. Sometimes I could make out a small detail, while other times, I found myself fighting myself to remember anything at all.

"Hey, Janie." He rocks on his heels a bit, taking a shaky step around me.

"Ash...why...what are you doing here?"

I can feel my hand shaking at my sides.

My heart is slamming against my ribs and my lungs are working too slowly. Each breath feels like it has the possibility of being my last.

"I needed a change." He shrugs, moving one hand up to brush his hair out of his eyes.

"Isn't that why you left in the first place?"

I feel my cheeks getting hot.

"I left because I had to. I wasn't supposed to find my way here in the first place let alone stay. I was supposed to be in Wales. Not here."

"You lied to me. All of it was a lie."

"No. The way I felt about you wasn't a lie. I-"

I cut him off with a shake of my head. This was all wrong. He wasn't supposed to be here. I wasn't supposed to be falling back into him again.

"See, people don't just say things like that. It sounds rehearsed and fake. The truth, though, is that you lied. Asher, ever since you showed up in Jensen you lied to everyone. You could have told me the truth. You had so many chances to own up. And you didn't. You continued to lie to everyone. To me."

"God, Jane! I wrote you every single day I was gone, trying to think of some way to tell you I was wrong. But it all sounded like another lie. An excuse. I had to go all the way to Wales to realize that I didn't want any of that. I didn't want the crown or to rule a country. I didn't want to be king. And I haven't wanted to since the moment I saw you. Wales didn't feel like home. You are."

He takes and unsure step towards me and reaches out to cup my cheek. The feeling of his skin is so familiar. I never realized just how much I had missed him. His words and his touch and his presence.

Those familiar blue eyes staring at me with an intensity I had never seen.

They managed to seem too confident and insecure at the same time, in a way that only Asher could.

"Why now?"

"Why any time else?" He lets out a little laugh, his voice barely a whisper. Only loud enough to reach my ears. "There would have never be the 'right' time to come back. I knew if I kept putting it off, I would lose my nerve. I've wanted to be back here, with you in my arms just like this, for months."

"You can't just come back and expect everything to go back to normal."

I fight the urge to reach up and brush the hair away from his eyes.

"I don't. But, I know I am willing to work for this. If you give me the chance."

I know in the moment, it would always be Archer.

I nod once, completely surrendering my heart.

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