By: Winter Renshaw

“He basically made me promise to marry you someday.” Royal smirks. “More or less. Maybe not in so many words. But the threat was there. Implied, really.”

I roll my eyes. I can see my dad putting the fear of God into Royal.

“He won’t have to worry about that.” I chuckle and amble toward the landing of the stairs. With my hand on the railing, I look back at Royal, standing in the middle of the dark living room bathed in moonlight. For a fraction of a second, he looks older, wiser, more worldly. I blink, and he’s back.

“Won’t he, though?” Royal winks.

“Night, Royal.”

“Night, Demi.”


Demi, Age 18

{18 months later}

I love him.

I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him.

The curtains to my bedroom window are pulled, and I’ve been watching the driveway for hours. Royal had to head upstate to visit some family. I didn’t even know he had family. He never really mentioned anyone, never really talked about his past in any kind of detail. But apparently, someone needed him, because he left in a hurry late last night with a backpack and a half-charged phone. Said he’d be back by dinner Sunday night.

I roll to my stomach, propping my head in my hands and tapping my fingers along my cheek to the beat of the song pumping through my ear buds.

Every song reminds me of Royal. I can’t listen to the radio anymore without feeling all the feels, every emotion magnified, every sensation intensified. Nobody ever warned me that being in love was like a constant Dopamine high.

I’m addicted. Obsessed. Consumed.

And so is he.

He is mine, and I am his.

We’re going to be together forever.

Never thought I’d be almost nineteen years old and already head over heels in love with my soul mate. And I think I always knew it would be him. I just didn’t want to admit it.

The clock on my dresser reads eight. He should’ve been back hours ago.

I try his cell again, but it goes straight to voicemail. I send a text I know he’ll never read because his phone is obviously dead. The irrationally optimistic notion that maybe he’s home, and I missed him, creeps through my mind, so I tiptoe to the basement, where he’s been staying since he was kicked out of foster care last year when he turned eighteen.

His room is empty, but I linger for a moment because it smells like him, and I need my fix.

I crash on his bed and bury my face in his pillow. A smile creeps across my lips when I remember all the naughty things we’ve done in this private little corner of the basement. Thank God for locks on the door, because my parents would flip their shit if they ever walked in on us.

But we can’t help it.

We can’t keep our hands to ourselves, and why would we want to when being together feels stupid amazing? The cheesy smile on my face has become a permanent fixture in the last year and a half because of that boy.

And I hope it never fades.

I pull myself off of Royal’s bed when I hear Mom calling out that dinner’s ready. We’re eating late tonight. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one waiting for Royal to come home.

Selfishly, I hate that he had to run off and help someone. Every hour apart is torture. We’ve spent every waking moment together this summer, woefully counting down the days on the calendar as we get closer to the weekend my parents move me to my dorm at Hargrove College.

We’re staying together. Royal promised. But we’ll be a couple of hours apart for a while. He’s going to try to find a job closer to me, but until then, we’re soaking in these carefree summer nights like they’re going out of style.

Climbing the stairs, I amble down the hall and see Mom removing an extra place-setting at the end of the table.

My heart drops and my hands weaken. I take another step and grab onto the back of Delilah’s chair.

“Why’d you do that?” I ask Mom. “Why’d you take Royal’s plate away?”

She turns to me, her expression sullen. “He’s not coming.”

“He’s not coming . . . for dinner?” I need clarification. I need context.

Mom’s gaze lifts across the room to meet my father’s. His lips straighten, and his chest rises and falls with one loaded breath. And then he nods.

They know something I don’t.

My chest flutters, opposite my churning stomach.

“He’s not coming back, Demi.” Mom’s shoulders fall and she turns away, returning his plate and a handful of flatware to their rightful places in her meticulously organized kitchen.

I laugh. This is a joke. It has to be. Royal’s always messing with people. He’s going to pop around the corner and surprise me with a dozen red roses and two surprise tickets to see the traveling Broadway rendition of Les Mis in the city. He’s random like that. It’s why I love him so.

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