3. Radio Silence

"Elias Kim?"

He hasn't seen me yet.

I'm glued to the floor when all I want to do is disappear.

Am I dreaming?

Hallucinating, maybe?

Eli bends to grasp the handle of the suitcase standing between them. "That's me. But you can call me Eli."

Jude looks up over him, and his eyes finally find me.

Eli straightens and pulls the luggage into the room. "Come in."

The paper in my hands crinkles noisily as my fingers close over it.

Eli says something, but I don't hear a word.

Jude doesn't move an inch past the threshold. His blue eyes bore into me, surprise evident on his face.

Surprise? More like shock.

Something pokes my arm.

Then a hand waves in front of my face.

I snap my eyes from Jude to find Eli trying to gain my attention.

He gives me a confused look. "Jo?"

I suck in a deep breath and drop the paper to the floor. "Bathroom. I need to use the bathroom."

I feel Jude's eyes on me as I close the distance to the bathroom—which is, in this situation, so inconveniently close to the front door.

The moment I close the door behind me, I rush for the toilet bowl. Out of nowhere, my stomach is queasy. But nothing comes out, only empty retches.

I sit back on the floor, pressing my back to the wall between the toilet and the shower curtain.

I pinch myself. Unfortunately, I don't wake from a dream.

This is real. It's happening.

That is Jude at the door.

Jude.

And he's Eli's new roommate.

How is this not a dream?

I try to calm down my breathing, but it proves futile. My heart isn't giving me a break either.

My hand reaches for my pocket, subconsciously reaching for my phone. The only thing I can think of right now is getting out of here. Once I'm out of here, maybe I can process what's happening. I mean to call Simon, but I realise my phone is still in Eli's room.

I don't know how long I remain there, huddled into myself. Probably a long time because I don't move until there's rapping on the door followed by Eli's voice.

"Jo? Are you okay?"

I come to my feet and wipe my clammy hands on my shirt. Eli's shirt.

I cross to the door and pull it partially open. I meet Eli's worried gaze through the small opening. "I need to go."

"Why? I'm done with breakfast. You haven't said hi to my roommate."

"It's an emergency."

"What's wrong?"

"It's my period. I need pads." The lie flies off my lips effortlessly. It's the best I can think of.

"Oh. Oh. Are you okay to get back like this? Let me get them for you. I can get one from the next room."

I shake my head. "I'll be fine until I get to my place."

"Are you sure?"

I nod.

"Okay. Umh—"

"Can you get me my phone? And jacket."

"I'll be a sec," he says and disappears. I pull the door closed and wait.

Eli gets back with my jacket and phone. I pull the jacket on, then reach my foot out to bring my shoes closer. After I put them on, I face him again with an apologetic smile. "I'll call you later."

He leans in and kisses my forehead. "Okay."

He steps to the side and opens the front door for me. This time around, the distance between the bathroom and the front door is heaven-sent.

I don't dare look back as I cross the threshold into the hallway. With a final wave goodbye, Eli closes the door.

I all but sprint down the hallway.

I dial Simon's number as I take the stairs.

When he receives the call, he grunts into the phone. He's still sleeping.

"I'm coming over," I tell him.

Another grunt.

"Jude is back."

Silence.

"What?"

He's finally awake.

~~~

Simon gulps down a glass of water, his fingers massaging his temple.

"Sit down, you're making me dizzy."

"That's your hangover, not me."

"This is all you. You cannot wake me up at eight o'clock after a night of drinking with such news!"

"It's nine o'clock."

"Not the point."

"What should I do?"

"I don't know. I don't know. I can't think."

Makes two of us.

Simon jumps to his feet. "I need a shower."

He's gone towards the bathroom before I can stop him.

I keep up with my pacing and nail-biting until he reappears, hair wet and looking much better.

He takes a seat on the couch in his living room. Simon shares a two-bedroom apartment with Isaac. But, Isaac went home for the weekend, so it's just him.

"Okay, now you can tell me."

"I've already told you."

He shakes his head. "No. Tell me how you feel."

How I feel? don't know how I feel! Totally confused would cover it.

"Shocked."

"That's expected."

"Simon!"

"Okay. So. You slept with Eli last night."

"Yes."

"Because you thought you were finally over Jude and had waited long enough. Then he shows up right after."

I groan and take a seat beside him. "And because I like Eli."

"Then you left without saying anything to him."

"Is there anything I could have said?"

He shrugs. "How did he react?"

"Surprised."

"There's only one way around this."

"Which is?"

"That closure you never got. You need to talk to him. Find out what happened."

"I've only recently managed to let him go, Simon. I can't."

"Is that why you are here? Because him showing up didn't shake you up?"

"You don't understand. It'll take me back. Everything I've done to heal all this time will be for nothing."

What if he confirms my worst fears?

He promised to come back to me, but he never as much as sent a text message. Three years of nothing but radio silence.

The only explanation I could come up with was that he let me go and decided I had no place in his life. I accepted that because was I not the reason he left in the first place? I was bad for him. If he had to cut me off to get better, I couldn't resent him for that.

But accepting that was way easier than forgetting him. My feelings festered long after I had given up hope of us, and the pain lasted even longer.

Not to mention the guilt. That maybe if I'd been more attuned to what was going on in his mind, we never would have ended up where we did.

One of my biggest fears was that he didn't love me anymore and couldn't care less. Would it not have been less cruel to at least let me know when he decided to let go of me? It would have hurt, but it would have been better than being in the dark. I wouldn't have waited for so long, keeping hope in my heart that only hurt me in the end.

My worst fear was that he had never truly loved me. That all along, I was an obsession and nothing more.

"That's the only way unless you plan on ignoring him forever. Or unless you really don't want answers."

I know Simon is right.

There's no way to escape him when he is Eli's roommate.

Besides, I've moved on. I shouldn't feel guilty for moving on. I'm sure he won't hold that against me. Just like I decided not to hold his silence against him.

Maybe we can start on a clean slate.

Simon chews on his bottom lip. "Jo, are you sure?"

"About what?"

"That your feelings for him are gone."

"I like Eli now."

"I know, but—"

"It doesn't matter, Simon."

I've come too far to turn back.

He lets that go. "What is he doing here, anyway?"

"It's a credit transfer. He'll also be joining the football team. That's why he's Eli's roommate."

"So you'll be seeing a lot of him."

I nod.

"Did he know you go here?"

I shrug. "If he bothered to ask, he knows."

"I've wanted to smack him for so long, and now here he is. Maybe I'll get my chance."

When Jude never kept his promise, Simon was the most incensed. Maybe because he's the one who was there whenever I broke down, and he's the only one who knows exactly how miserable I was.

Him and Cole.

"Maybe you should," I mutter.

So, yes, I let it go.

But now, I'm reminded of what I went through only because Jude chose silence. Whatever went on, he should have told me.

I take a seat beside Simon and sigh heavily.

Has he told Eli that he knows me?

Should I let Eli know that he's the person I've been hung up on all this time?

I guess I'll not know what to do until I see him again.

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