As she climbs the final steps up to the top of the wall, Delilah gasps in astonishment at the breathtaking views stretching out before her.
“Oh, Kieran!” she cries. “It’s magnificent!”
Kieran doesn’t even bother to turn around, preferring to gaze upon Delilah’s awe-struck smile instead. “I love it up here,” he tells her quietly. “This old fortress has been abandoned for years now, and the hike is too long and arduous for most of the villagers to trouble with it. I come here to think sometimes when I want to be alone.”
Delilah nods and walks over to the edge of the crumbling old wall. “It makes you feel so insignificant,” she whispers, “standing beside such majesty.”
Coming up behind her, Kieran gently runs his hand along her smooth, delicate shoulder. “You will never be insignificant to me,” he murmurs in her ear. “Never.”
Delilah feels a shiver course through her body as Kieran’s warm hand lightly caresses her exposed skin. Sighing, she leans against him and allows her worries to float away with the afternoon breeze. Here in her dreams, she can forget about all her insecurities and doubts, brush off her fear of dependency and commitment, and ignore the voice in her head urging her to run. Here in her dreams, she can tell him how she truly feels. She can say those three elusive little words that so stubbornly evade her in the real world.
“I love you, Kieran,” she breathes.
Kieran awakens from his dream with a start, his mind suddenly in overdrive. As the blissful memory of last night slowly trickles back to him, he realizes with a heart wrenching jolt that he is bitterly, painfully alone. Delilah is long gone, her side of the bed as cold and empty as the knot in his stomach.
Kieran doesn’t get a chance to speak with her until after the band’s concert that evening. Roscoe, their agent, wanted to drum up some local interest in the group before their first album comes out late next month, and so he booked them for a weeklong charity gig at a night club downtown.
With Delilah’s smooth vocals and energetic stage presence, Kieran’s expert guitar and keyboard skills, Rigby’s much improved drumming, and Austin’s… enthusiasm, the band thoroughly impresses the audience, charming even their most disparaging critics.
After several failed attempts to get Delilah alone, Kieran finally manages to corner her in her dressing room during intermission.
“Last night?” she asks, feigning surprise. “What about it?”
Kieran feels his stomach drop. He knows that look in her eyes all too well, and he can sense the cold fear lurking behind her facade of innocence. “Lila…” he frowns. “Don’t do this.”
“Do what?” She giggles, but her voice sounds just a little too high, too tight. “You’re the one who wanted to talk to me…”
“You were gone when I woke up this morning.” He states it matter-of-factly, with no hint of anger or hostility.
“I had an early photo shoot, and I didn’t want to bother you,” she replies, trying to sound relaxed and carefree.
Kieran, however, isn’t fooled. “Lila…” he begins.
Placing her hands on her hips, Delilah assumes a defensive stance. “I broke up with Beau this afternoon,” she tells him bluntly. “I said that I didn’t want to be tied down, and I explained to him that I’m not looking for a serious relationship right now.”
Kieran’s face brightens slightly at the news of her breakup, but Delilah doesn’t give him a chance to cut in. “I’m not looking for a relationship, Kieran,” she repeats again. “Let’s just be friends, okay?”
Kieran stands there silently for what feels like hours, his heart sinking under the crippling weight of her rejection. Friends. The word echoes through his mind like a jingle from a catchy radio commercial, only with each repetition a fresh wave of pain rips through his chest.
Unable to watch his heart break any longer, Delilah silently turns to leave, but Kieran grabs her arm before she can slip away.
“Did last night mean nothing to you?” he demands, his voice cracking slightly. “Do I mean nothing to you?” he adds softly.
“It was a mistake, Kieran!” she snaps. “Can’t we just forget it ever happened and go back to the way things were?”
“I love you, Lila! I-”
“Don’t say that!” she screams. “Don’t make this any harder than it needs to be.”
“You’re the one making this hard!” he exclaims. “You’re so terrified of standing on your own two feet that you let people walk all over you, yet you’re too stubborn, too proud, to admit that you might actually need me, that you might actually love me, too!”
Furiously tearing her arm out of his grasp, Delilah turns around and storms away.
Exhausted, dejected, and overwhelmed, she eventually makes her way back to her apartment after the show, but sleep eludes her that night as she replays her fight with Kieran over and over again in her head.
For the rest of the week, Delilah obstinately ignores him, filling the piercing loneliness with a new fling instead, the first of many over the following weeks.
These relationships, these flings, never last long, one or two dates at the most. They start with a bad pick up line, some light flirting, a couple of drinks, and a bit of dancing, and they end in a strange apartment with a strange man wrapped up between her legs.
In the morning, regret and self-loathing quickly replace any lingering sense of pleasure or satisfaction from the night before.
Sometimes, rarely, the guy disappears after their evening together, but more often than not a few days later Delilah receives the dreaded phone call. He wants more from her than a single night, another date perhaps or a friends-with-benefits type of arrangement or simply to see how she is doing, but her response never varies. She was only looking for once, so please don’t call again.
Rejection stings no matter the circumstances, and after every fling, every phone call, every letdown comes the inevitable backlash, the name-calling and slut shaming, the snide remarks and callous jabs. And every time she hangs up the phone, after every insult and every putdown, Delilah finds herself falling back into Kieran’s ready arms.
“Kiss me,” she pleads one night after a particularly nasty encounter.
Kieran freezes, his eyes glued to her sad, watery gaze. It’s been just over a month since they slept together, four brutal weeks since Delilah tore up his heart and threw away the pieces, but Kieran’s feelings for her remain unchanged. He loves her with every ounce of his being, and he craves the touch of her skin and the taste of her lips like a drowning man craves air.
And so he kisses her, recklessly shoving aside all his many, many reservations to enjoy these few precious moments with her when he can earnestly fool himself into believing that she loves him too.
Her passion spent, Delilah quickly falls asleep to the soothing sounds of his beating heart, but Kieran forces himself to remain awake all night, clinging to her with the desperate hope that this time will be different, that this time she’ll stay.
When she leaves the next morning without so much as a second glance, Kieran tries not to let his disappointment consume him. He should have known better, really. He should have known that every time he kisses her, every time he holds her, touches her, makes love to her, she pulls further away from him, that by sleeping with her he’s irrevocably damaging their relationship. He should have seen a pattern in her bad decisions and impulsive behavior, recognized the cycle of self-destruction currently dictating her actions, understood that she needs a friend right now, not a lover.
But still, watching Delilah make out with another man right in front of him a few nights later ignites a fire deep within his chest, a jealous blaze that threatens to burn him up from the inside out.
Rigby worries about his roommate often these days. He may be Delilah’s stepbrother, but he and Kieran are friends, best friends even, and he hates to see him in so much pain. Between Kieran’s unusually bad mood, abnormally short temper, and numerous, unexplained disappearances, Rigby knows that his friend has a girl. He just hopes that whoever she is understands Kieran’s sensitive, compassionate nature and doesn’t take advantage of his fierce loyalty, but if this girl is, as he suspects she is, his sister Delilah, Rigby has a sinking feeling that his buddy’s in for a rude awakening.
Two long weeks, three major meltdowns, and countless one night stands later, Delilah feels her already chaotic world come crashing down around her ears. Tired of the drama, the pain, and the heartbreak, Kieran almost doesn’t come over when she calls, but the raw desperation in her voice alarms him.
Walking into her apartment, Kieran immediately senses her despondency, but it isn’t until he finds her lying on the bathroom floor huddled up beside the toilet that he realizes the cause of her anguish. With a sickening lump in his stomach, Kieran crouches down beside her just as another wave of nausea overtakes her worryingly frail frame.
“K-Kieran,” she stammers, struggling to speak through her tears. “I-I-I’m- I'm-” But the word refuses to leave her lips, and she breaks down into another bout of violent sobbing.
Pulling her into his lap, Kieran runs his hand up and down her back as he murmurs comforting words of sweet nothing in her ear.
“B-But you d-don’t understand!” she cries when he tries to tell her that it will all be okay. “I-I’m-I’m-”
“Shhh,” he soothes. “I know, my love. I know. I’ll drive you to the doctor this afternoon, and we can talk about the rest later.”
“K-Kieran?” Delilah whispers after she’s regained more of her composure.
“Yes, Lila?” he murmurs absently.
Taking a deep breath, Lila snuggles her head into his shoulder and says, “I-I love you.”
So… Unhealthy, pathetic, and depressing? Or sweet and poignant in a misguided sort of way? ;)
I don’t know how clear that all was, but there are a couple of things that I want to address before anyone decides to thrash Delilah and/or Kieran in the comments. You are more than welcome to do so, of course, but just hear me out first. To start with, Delilah has some serious issues that she needs to work through, insecurities and fears that stem from her mother abandoning her as a toddler as well as her own inborn self-esteem problems. Although she does not have many memories of Maeve (her mom) from her toddler years, Luca (her father) never kept it a secret from Delilah that Emily (her eventual stepmother) was not her biological parent and Maeve wanted nothing to do with her or their family. Actually, he was probably pretty aggressive about it, as he was deeply hurt by Maeve’s sudden departure and either consciously or subconsciously passed on those negative vibes to their daughter. As far as her esteem issues go, well, in my opinion some people are just more prone to internalize their anxieties and self-doubt, and during her childhood and especially her teenage years I tried to show cracks forming in Delilah’s veil of confidence. She hid her insecurities quite well though, but seeing as no one really knew how she was feeling Lila became like a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. With every additional pressure, each new stress, her fuse grew shorter and shorter, until finally she just shattered from the strain and went into full-blown self-destruct mode (hints all the casual sex and one night stands). Unfortunately for Kieran, the sudden transition of their relationship from platonic to physical, and the subsequent loss of their comfortable and familiar friendship, is what finally triggered Lila’s implosion.
Now, Kieran admittedly did not handle her meltdown very well, and you could even argue that he took advantage of the situation to get in her pants. However, I don’t think he fully realized the extent of her condition until after they slept together the second time, and by that point he’d become so embroiled in his own emotions and heartbreak that he had trouble stepping back and seeing just how desperate Delilah had become. All Kieran knew is that he loved her, and she had rejected him. The pain blinded him, at least for a little while, to Delilah’s own problems.
Sorry for the long-winded explanation! I just really hope that at least some of that came through in the story itself. I’m trying to work on creating better characters this generation, and so I decided to devote this entire chapter to developing Delilah’s personality.
But anyway, enough of that. =) Despite how it may seem, Delilah’s dream at the beginning of the chapter was not merely an excuse to show off Kieran or the drop dead gorgeous world of Praaven (a work-in-progress by the insanely talented jje1000, found here). They do, in fact, mean something, and they are (or will be) important at some point. Just as a heads up.
So, any guesses as to who her baby daddy is? >:)