I had not moved or said anything since Artem had picked me up to carry me out of the mall. I didn't try to get off his lap when he sat with me in the back of Chay's car. I think I was in some sort of shock, afraid to move or speak because that would just lead to me screaming or crying, or both.
What was I going to do? How could I live my life if my family kept trying to get me whenever I left the house? What kind of life was that for me?
Yeah, I may be free of them, free to roam around the pack house and free to do as I pleased. But if I couldn't leave the house, if my family still made me a prisoner in a different type of cell, then how could I really count myself as free?
No, I wouldn't let them rob me of my freedom. I wouldn't let them hold me down any longer. Yes I was scared by this episode. Yes, I felt like I was nearly traumatized and wanted to hide away, but I wouldn't. I was going to be stronger than that. I was going to be the one in control here. It was time for the real me to rise up.
After a few steadying breaths, and once the mall was starting to recede in the distance, I raised my head and looked around me. Momentarily avoiding Artem's eyes and his worried look. After a few moments though, I looked into his eyes and felt how much he cared for me with the look he was giving me.
"Are you alright?" He asked me. He knew I wasn't truly injured, he had looked me over briefly before carrying me away. So that must mean he was asking about my emotional state.
"I'm alright." I gave him my answer in a calm and steady voice, something I didn't think I would have managed.
"It's OK to be scared or nervous." I heard Chay call back to me from the front seat. "What happened to you just now would scare just about anyone."
"I know. And I am scared, but I'm also OK. I know I should be falling apart, but I'm not going to. I want to be stronger than that. I want to be stronger than them." There was a smile on Artem's face, something that spoke of pride.
"Is there something I can do to help you?" He was looking at me so intently, with a warm soothing look. "Anything." He added, emphasizing his willingness to help me.
"Just be prepared for me to stumble a few times. Pick me up if I fall."
"Always." He grinned. "I will be there for you whenever you need me, I will pick you up when you fall. But I am going to believe in you too. I am going to believe that you can do this."
"Thank you, Artem." I smiled as I felt the blush spread across my face. I had never really felt like this before. I felt embarrassed but happy as well.
"I should be thanking you." He was still smiling, still looking at me with one of the happiest and most content looks I had ever seen.
"Why?" I wondered as I tilted my head to the side while staring at his handsome face.
"Because you're talking to me." That's when it hit me, I really had thrown all caution to the wind and had started talking to him.
"Oh." I think I was blushing again, I was very embarrassed now. "W-well, to be fair, I was ready to talk to you for a few days now."
"Why didn't you?" He looked hurt, heartbroken.
"Your reactions to me writing out my responses were kind of cute." I don't know why but I answered him honestly.
"Really?" He didn't look upset anymore, quite the opposite actually, he looked really happy as he beamed down at me. I couldn't think of what to say so I just nodded at him.
"Then I will forgive you, because you're so very cute yourself." Ok, now I knew what he felt when I called him cute just now. I felt like my heart was going to beat a hole right through my chest since it was pounding so hard. What was wrong with me?
I suddenly realized I was still sitting on Artem's lap with his arms wrapped protectively around me. That just about made my heart stop altogether, the shock of it felt like it was lethal.
"Uh, um, I uh, I think I-I should s-sit in the seat now."
"We're almost home now, you might as well stay." Artem smirked, the look heated with something that I couldn't figure out just yet.
"B-but-." I trailed off after that since he had tightened his hold around me, making my heart start beating again, at a super sonic pace.
"I really don't want to let you go just yet. Is that alright? I will set you down when we get home, but will you stay with me for now?" How could I refuse him when he asked so sweetly? How could I refuse him when he looked at me with such a heartbroken expression? Once again I just nodded to answer him. "Thank you." He beamed at me with a look that could chase away any and all negative feelings.
Artem was right though, we got back to the house after just another five minutes or so. It was indeed just a little while longer that I rode on his lap. When the car came to a stop I felt his arms tighten for just a moment before he opened the door. He slid from the car with me and placed me on my feet all in the same motion. He had lived up to what he had promised me.
"I love you." His words were so quiet that I almost didn't hear them but they warmed my heart nonetheless. I hoped this was real, because I think Chay was right, I like Artem, a lot.