A Month In Sin
26. My Shelter
“Luke. Luke. Luke!”
Luke didn’t immediately respond to my desperate cries, instead finished the rest of the coffee in his cup. Tossing it to the side, into the trash can we happened to be passing by, he took in a breath of the not so fresh air in Vegas.
We were home, with only a few days between now and Ellen. There was a lot we had to do in Vegas, such as have a Christmas with my family—with the exception of my sisters, which made it feel almost empty—and head to my shelter to find Luke a puppy.
Learning the way that my family had adapted, after learning about the place I had hidden so well for so long, it made me smile. They all dedicated their time, at least one day a week, to help out, and that meant more than money to me.
With his hand freed, Luke reached down to interlace our fingers. It was crazy how it had almost become habit, to hold his hand like this, but it didn’t make it feel any less incredible.
“Baby, if you’re going to keep me up all night, you’ve got to give me, like, half an hour to get fully awake.”
With all the traveling between places and all the chaos of the thirty days coming to an end, there hadn’t been as much time for intimacy. It was sort of silly, but we were both lively creatures, inside and outside of the bedroom. Obviously we were making it just fine without it, but that didn’t mean we had to like the fact that we weren’t spending quality time between the sheets daily.
Last night . . . it had gotten a bit out of hand, admittedly, but I saw an opportunity and took it on until the early hours of the morning. I was used to running on little to no sleep, and I imagined that Luke was as well.
“Day twenty-seven, I learned that Luke likes to complain about getting a lot of sex.”
I imagined his eyes were shining as bright as the smile he gave me, still empty of the lip ring that had become one of his trademarks. There was something mesmerizing about how he looked without it, when it was just Luke. First thing in the morning, without any semblance of effort put into his hair or face . . . that was the face I had fallen most in love with.
“No,” he disagreed. “I like to complain when I have to wake up early in the morning. I can assure you that I will never complain when you are in the mood to fuck all through the night.”
I didn’t think that it was possible to feel so warm at the very end of December, but what did I really know about cold?
I knew that I was tired, but I didn’t notice it so much in that moment, with our bodies connected together through the simplest form of intimacy.
When we made the decision to leave Vegas bright and early in the morning, to head to LA for our final days of the thirty day adventure, I thought I would be afraid, but I wasn’t so scared anymore.
It was the best thing for us both, to see how well we did together. At the beginning of it, I might’ve just thought about all the sex we might get to have, but there was so much more to this now.
I wanted to see how Luke woke up in the morning, without anything in the day ahead. I wanted to see the things he did in his free time, see the way he lived his life.
“What were you trying to get my attention for in the first place?”
I had gotten so lost in my thoughts, so lost in the beautiful simplicity of my husband in the morning, wearing nothing but a grey tee and black jeans with a hat turned backwards, that I completely forgot the horrifying thing I had seen standing at the end of the street.
The girl standing across the street, with only a crosswalk between us now, had her phone out, pointed right at us. She wasn’t even remotely subtle about it at all, and that was absolutely horrifying.
“She’s taking our picture.”
“Act natural and just keep walking.” He rubbed his lips together, though his hand fell from mine. His hands moved to cradle my face, just moments before his lips found mine. It wasn’t a long and passionate entanglement shared in the privacy of whatever room we were staying in, but it was gentler than that. Even when one hand fell back by his side, the other lingered, the pads of his fingers making small and velvety trails across my cheek. “Allow me.”
Luke was a man full of surprises, and this was no exception. With one hand held back towards me, the opposite hand that held mine before, he prepared to cross the street, to head in the same direction as the girl still taking pictures.
I took his hand and did my best to appear casual, and I was grateful the sunglasses on my face hid the truth in my eyes. With my hand in his, we crossed the street as if nothing out of the ordinary waited on the other side.
It wasn’t until we passed by the girl shamelessly taking our picture that I realized what Luke had just done. By kissing me, he had given himself a chance to . . . to put himself between the girl and me.
The feeling that came over me was hard to describe, but it was one of the best feelings in the world. Luke was the only person I had met who could make me feel that way, and the reality that I might have to live my life without that feeling, after discovering what it felt like over the course of the best month I’d had in all of my life, was terrifying.
I didn’t have to live with that fear long because just around the corner was our destination: the shelter I had tried my hardest to make as successful as possible. I had bound myself, put myself into this box with limitations that held me back, simply because I didn’t wanna tell my family.
Telling them was the best thing, it seemed, because I had never seen the place look so alive.
John stood next to the doors, and he immediately rushed to throw his arms around me. Luke didn’t even flinch, and I was grateful for that. John was a dear friend and definitely more interested in him than me.
His grip tightened. “You can’t just run off like that. You scared the hell out of me.”
“To be fair, I did warn you that my life was crazy, and I might just up and leave without warning one day.” I stepped out of his embrace, giving him the best smirk I knew how, and grabbed onto Luke’s hand. “John, I want you to meet Luke. Luke, this is John.”
Though his eyes shone, John’s smile remained tame, pressed together to dim the excitement I’m sure he felt inside. He didn’t necessarily listen to 5 Seconds of Summer all the time, but he was a fan of some of their songs, and he knew exactly who Luke was.
“You’re the first person in her life that I’ve been properly introduced to,” John informed him, though he shook his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Luke.”
“You as well.” Luke’s eyes darted to me, lingering. “I’m actually very curious to see what goes on here. She likes to play things down a lot, so I imagine there’s more to this than she talks about.”
“Believe it or not, I didn’t play anything down,” I said, and I turned back away from him. “Not about this place. It’s . . . my secret pride-and-joy, the only thing I’ve ever done in my life that amounted to anything.”
John pressed his hand against my forehead. “Are you feeling alright, hun? Last I heard you talking about this place, you refused to acknowledge the part you played here at all.”
“I haven’t done as much as you like to make it out,” I disagreed. “But I did at least have the idea.”
John rolled his eyes. “It’s a start. Come on. There are some other people here dying to see you.”
That shouldn’t have scared me, but it kind of did. People here dying to see me? This was supposed to be about Luke picking out a puppy, not about me in the slightest. Though I did want to see how things had changed with my dad pitching in to help, I didn’t imagine too much had actually happened yet. It had only been a couple weeks since he found out, so there was only so much he could do in that time.
We stepped through the doors of the shelter, into the main area of it all. The amount of places we had to choose from were slim at the time of opening. It had to be somewhere vacant, big enough to set up a place for people to eat, a place they could sleep, a kitchen to cook the food, and a place to store all the clothes and supplies and food that we had.
There had only been two options, but the one John and I eventually decided on—an old antique warehouse that had moved to a better part of town—ended up being the best. I had a vision, and it didn’t exactly go as I saw it. It was even better.
Just inside the door, my brother was waiting. He wasn’t exactly waiting. Instead, he stood
somewhere in the middle of the cafeteria part of the room, talking with a woman I didn’t recognize. She was probably the age of our parents, but I was always horrible with guessing ages and couldn’t really say for sure.
Elys, at the sight of me, dismissed himself from his conversation and came over to hug me. It wasn’t like he hadn’t just seen me an hour ago, but this whole “thirty day” thing had been hard for him. Obviously it was hard for Ori and me. We were always together. Elys did things separately, since Ori and I couldn’t exactly go to sleepovers with him, but we had still always been there.
Now we were gone, potentially for the rest of our lives. He wasn’t doing so well with the idea of it. We had all come to terms with Claire leaving. She was our big sister, so we didn’t have the close triplet bond with her. Still, we were a close family, and losing anyone in our family was hard.
We prepared for Claire, but no one had prepared for Ori and me to leave, too, especially at the same time.
On one hand, I wanted to hug him and promise that I would be back soon, that thirty days
were almost up, but I didn’t want that. When I had started, I never really thought about the implications of it all, just thought about how I liked exploring the idea that I might not have to live alone, at least for thirty days.
Now that it was coming to an end, the implications were right in my face, and they were terrifying. I had already discovered that I did love Luke, no matter how crazy it was. He was a good soul with a beautiful heart and spirit, and in so many ways, it felt like it was connected to mine. At the beginning of December, all I saw was an empty road ahead, a life of misery and aloneness even surrounded by people, but now that it was coming to an end, there were two possibilities, two things that could happen.
I could go back to that life of loneliness, except now it would hurt more because of the other option I had seen, or I could go to live a life of happiness, one that not everyone got. I could love and be happy, and one day, maybe I’d want a family of my own. Obviously kids were not even a thought right now. Our lives were too hectic and crazy to even think about bringing a kid into it, but one day, if 5 Seconds of Summer ever settled down, if they ever took more than six months between tours—I didn’t check the exact dates, mind you, but I knew that they toured often—maybe it was possible.
Maybe I could have the life that I never knew I wanted, with Luke.
That would require him to love me, but that was another issue to face in a few days. Right now, I was going to enjoy every moment I had so that if I had to savor only memories down the road, I would have plenty.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, pulling myself from his arms to give him a smile. “I know that I’m your favorite sister and all—”
His vibrant laughter cut me off. “Yeah, okay. We’ll go with that. Did you ever think that maybe, I feel like such garbage because of the way my sisters have been spending their allowance that I feel obligated to at least give my time to this noble cause of yours?”
“No, Elys.” I let out a loud groan. “That’s not why I told you. I actually didn’t tell! This is why I didn’t want anyone to find out—aside from the obvious reason of not wanting to take away from the amazing things Ori does.”
He cleared his throat, but his eyes didn’t remain on me. “Don’t worry, dude. She doesn’t get any less frustrating.”
“It’s become almost endearing at this point,” Luke informed him, something they both laughed about together.
I folded my arms over my chest. “Well, now that we have completely gotten off track of what we’re doing here.”
“Relax, Eris,” Elys said, letting his smirk grow when his eyes caught me again. “We know why you’re here. We know it’s not because you care about any of us.”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes, mostly because of the way Elys continued to just smile at me. He knew better, and I knew that he knew better. It was something he knew without it being said, but when I gave him an invitation to come to Ellen and watch Ori and me have the next step in our lives so publically revealed, to show the world the other triplet—it had become one of the most frequently asked questions on social media—he couldn’t ignore it. It was one of the biggest moments of my life thus far, and I wasn’t gonna go through it without my brother.
Claire had never said when she was coming back from her honeymoon, but since she wasn’t back yet, and Luke and I were leaving once we left the shelter, there was no way to invite her.
This was a big deal, for both Ori and me. I knew she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Besides, I’d need my brother to cry to when Ori’s life went on to happiness and mine didn’t, or maybe I was crazy. I didn’t like to think the worst because nothing had really been said, but nothing had really shown an answer, either way. Things had been good, even with the tension. Even though we were two young twenty-year-olds just starting out life, we were learning to live with one another, learning about one another.
Maybe, just maybe, my life was meant for somewhere good, through whatever I might’ve done to earn some good. I wasn’t meant to be lonely, just maybe.
John and Elys lead us both back towards the back of the shelter, a place John told me they had found to designate as the “puppy room.” The name alone was surprising, but I remembered that a lot had changed in the short time that I left.
One of the back storage rooms, which had been relatively empty due to lack of supplies to fill it with, now had a piece of paper taped to it, labeled “puppy room.”
Just standing on the outside of it, I could hear the quiet cries of puppies. They didn’t sound like sad cries, but instead those of a puppy or dog in a happy place, maybe in the middle of being fed or played with.
Sure enough, there was a woman standing inside, one that I didn’t recognize at all. She was rather tall, with blonde hair that stretched down her back, and though her eyes were soft, a baby blue that told a story of innocence, the features of her face were hardened, through whatever trials life had sent her way.
She shot straight up at the sight of us walking into the door, and her eyes were wide. “Shit! I’m sorry!”
The woman stood next to an open bag of food. She was clearly in the middle of feeding all of the dogs in here, but she was apologizing?
Elys laughed a bit, and I saw something in his eyes when he looked at her, something that had me grinning with just one look at that glow. “No, Aspen, it’s okay.”
“No.” She shook her head quickly, though her eyes were wide and focused on someone behind me. Since only one person stood directly behind me, it wasn’t hard to figure out. “I should really go.”
Luke was clearly catching on to what she was saying, from the way the skin of her face reddened at the sight of him, but he didn’t make it weird or uncomfortable. He just smiled at her and cleared his throat. “Actually, are you the one helping take care of the dogs?”
She nodded, though her throat visibly tightened. “I, uh, when they started bringing dogs from the shelter, I figured volunteering my time here was as good a cause as any, so any time dogs are here, I’m here.”
“That’s perfect.” He put both of his hands on my shoulders. “So I have to decide on a dog for
myself and this beautiful woman in front of me, and I don’t have long to get to know any of these dogs. Maybe you can help me?”
Her eyes bugged, and she had to physically bite back her smile. “Um, I mean, if you’re sure I’m not gonna . . . weird you guys out.”
“Of course not,” Luke insisted. “I see no better person to learn about my future dog from.”
She took a few large breaths and turned to the puppies all in the cage beside her. “Are you looking for a puppy, or an adult?”
“I think a puppy would be best, with traveling and all that,” Luke said. “I’d be a proper ass if I just left the dog at home while I toured, right?” His eyes widened. “I’d be an ass to bring it as well.” He suddenly turned to face me. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Positive.” I gave him the best smile I could, which was probably a lot bigger than I think even Elys was used to seeing from me. “I can watch the dog while you’re on tour.”
All fear left his eyes, replaced by something much brighter, and though his eyes were telling the story of a wildly free joy, his smile was small. “You can, can’t you?”
This wasn’t the first time we had said things regarding a future past the thirty days, but it was the first time I had seen any kind of real reaction from him about it. He had played along at Christmas, smiled at the idea, but this was different. This was more than just a bright future ahead—I saw uncertainty in his reserved smile.
So even though my heart felt as if it was squeezing to the size of a tiny ball inside of my chest, I said, “No matter what we decide. I can come puppy sit any day.”
It didn’t matter how crazy it was. I’d do it for him. At this point, I’d do about anything for him, no matter what happened at the end of our thirty days. It was scary, but it was the truth. If he called me up, six months down the road after we went our separate ways, and asked me to fly to Los Angeles for a night to watch whatever puppy he chose, I would because I’d also get to see Luke, even just a few minutes.
He was the only light I could see my life having. Around him, the hole that was somewhere inside of my soul was somehow filled, and I didn’t imagine anyone else in the world could do that.
Luke smiled a bit wider now, but his eyes were lost somewhere on me, on some feature he found beautiful that I probably never would. People stared when they noticed my eyes were two different colors, and mine wasn’t even the worst. There were people with heterochromia with one blue and one brown, making it completely noticeable, way more than mine. Though the blue and green of my eyes were quite noticeably different, because they were such striking colors all on their own, from a distance, someone might not notice.
He suddenly turned from me, taking a good look at the puppies inside of a fence that had been brought in, probably for the purpose of containing the puppies to feed them. The older dogs were in large kennels, with individual bowls to eat from, but the puppies were all locked in together, acting as if they were the happiest things in the world.
“We don’t usually have them locked up,” Elys assured me, when he noticed me staring at the fence and cages. “Just while they’re eating. We try to keep them out of the kitchen and cafeteria areas, but they’re usually pretty free to roam. The ones that are less social usually stay in this room, but not in the cages.”
“I found one.”
My brother’s information about the freedom of the dogs inside the shelter had distracted me from Luke, from the way he was watching the puppies. He had knelt down in front of the cage, and everything about his face was soft, like his skin had somehow become velvet.
Aspen seemed to notice which one he was looking at, though I couldn’t begin to tell with the puppies all jumping and playing on one another, and she smiled. “She’s relatively new, actually. She’s sweet, though a bit shy. She, uh, she was brought in a couple weeks ago, to the shelter. The people who brought her in were dog breeders, but she never would sell, so they brought her to us to ‘take care’ of her.”
I came to kneel down beside Luke, whose eyes hadn’t moved even as his smile grew. “Why couldn’t they sell her?”
“A lot of coloring issues,” Aspen explained, and that was a bit heartbreaking to me. I didn’t know why people wouldn’t buy a dog just because of color.
“Which one are you . . . ?”
I didn’t have to finish asking my question because I saw her, just as he stuck his fingers through the holes of the fence in front of us. I saw her approach, as if she knew that Luke was beckoning her specifically.
Her coloring was a bit different, with white on her chest and two front feet, circling around to touch the back of her neck and kissing beneath some tan on her snout, but the rest of her was a beautiful mixture of grey and silver and brown.
It wasn’t that coloring that I imagined Aspen was referring to. It was her one brown eye and one blue.
My sister sent me this chapter and I didn't have to bug her about it! XD
The description is from Never Knew I Always Wanted by Carrie Underwood. :)
Also, here is Eris's outfit for this chapter. :)
Well, as always let us know what you think! My sister and I love seeing them, and if one of us notices we got one (it's usually me that notices it first because I get e-mails as soon as y'all comment) we'll tell the other one.
Love you guys!! See you soon!!