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Christein dropped Amadhay on her couch, flopping down to sit beside her before she could try to clamber onto his back again. She giggled, glad to have her old relationship with him back. All it had taken was a heart-to-heart about their illnesses and six successful missions with no sign of the Wonder Girls and Co. In the four days since their talk, she found she couldn’t stop thinking about how she had almost blurted out her secret to Christein.

She curled up at his side, ignoring his sigh because he was petting her hair.

“You never did finish your sentence,” he told her, making her look up at him questioningly.

“Which one?” she quipped. “You interrupt me a lot.”

He poked her in the side and she got off of him so they could look each other in the face while talking. He had a cut on his lip and she wondered how long it would take for it to heal. It had already stopped swelling and bleeding, so she would wager it would completely disappear within a few more clacks.

“You know, when we were talking about…being sick. You were listing reasons you didn’t want me to die and just kind of let it go.”

She flushed and looked away from him. He couldn’t possibly be going there. She swallowed, getting up and going to the kitchen. “I’m not sure I remember what you’re talking about,” she tried, pulling a bottle of water from her fridge.

When she closed it, Christein was behind her, having followed behind her. “Alright,” Christein said. For a moment she thought he was going to let it go. “You started with ‘Maybe because I,’ and didn’t finish. What were you going to say?”

She tapped her foot nervously. “Um. I guess I just…lost my train of thought?” she suggested.

He frowned at her and she could tell that he was almost to believing her, but the hurt in his expression made her think that maybe that wouldn’t be the best thing. “Liar,” he accused scowling.

She shrugged gracefully, turning her head from him. “I just couldn’t think of another reason,” she claimed.

The hurt that flickered across his face told her that she had said the worst thing possible. What was worse was that she had known that she was saying the wrong thing even as the words left her lips. She knew how sensitive Christein was to being wanted and needed, how much it bothered him that most of their family wouldn’t mind too much if he were just to die or disappear without a trace. She wasn’t one of them, but she had certainly just pretended to be.

That was never okay.

He stepped back from her and shook his head before turning to leave. “I’ve got things to do. See you later.”

She watched his back as he retreated. Biting her lip to keep herself from saying anything, she followed after him until he made it to the door. It was either let it lie or tell the secret and the secret was bigger than letting him have slightly hurt feelings for the few clacks it would take him to recognize that she was lying. Or at least, that’s what she thought, until she saw that he was actually leaving. He truly thought that she didn’t care about him enough to think up more than three paltry reasons she would care if he died.

“Maybe because I love you!” she shouted as his hand touched the doorknob. He froze.

His head tilted to the side and he looked back at her, but only slightly, turning the right side of his face to her so that his hair was obscuring her vision of his expression. “I’m…sorry. What did you say?” he asked with a chuckle, as if he had heard her wrong.

She bit her lip and didn’t speak until he fully turned and looked at her. His face was contorted in confusion, as if he honestly couldn’t believe what she had said. She took a deep breath to steady herself. She had said it. The words were out. It was no longer a secret. It couldn’t hurt to say it again. Her eyes flickered down and then back up to his face.

“I said…that…I love you. I would care if you died because I love you. Am in love with you. It’s not me loving my cousin. It’s me loving you,” she told him in a much softer tone this time. She gave him a small, hopeful smile. She didn’t know what she expected because she knew a return exclamation of love was hardly the response her cousin was likely to give her. Still, she didn’t expect the one she got.

He swallowed hard, shaking his head. “You’re sick, Amadhay, you need help.”

Her breath caught in her chest as he turned from her and this time he did leave. She didn’t move, didn’t try to stop him. She simply closed her eyes, trying not to break down.

The door slammed shut between them.

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November 2016

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