Starting Point is available now on Totally Bound!
(It will be another four weeks before it’s available on Amazon and other third party sites.)
I walked in through the front door and found Kira in the kitchen. He was wearing cargos and a black T-shirt, which matched the color of his hair perfectly. “Hey,” I said, putting down the brown paper bag of groceries so I could kiss his cheek.
“Hey,” he said, leaning his cheek out for me to kiss. Then he looked up from the chopping board at me for a moment. “You look happy.”
“I am happy.”
“How was your appointment with Tamara?”
“Good,” I answered, then told him how it had taken the shine off my day for a short while, but I was smiling again by the time I left. “She said she’d discuss it in more depth on Thursday when we go in.”
Kira nodded and continued chopping the bell peppers. “No worries,” he said.
It was great to see him smile again so freely. He had such a beautiful smile and for a long while, I was the reason he didn’t. But in the last six months, since we’d been working through our problems, he’d been smiling more and more often. It still warmed my chest to see it.
“What do you need me to do?” I asked. “Your mom and dad will be here soon.”
“Did you get the pie?” he asked, eyeing the paper bag.
“I did. And everything else you asked for.”
“Then you can set the table,” he said. “I just have to finish this salad, and we’re done.”
When I was almost done setting the dining table, there was a knock at the door. Before Kira could leave the kitchen to let his parents in, I stopped him. “I’ll get it.” Then as I turned and walked two steps toward the door, the room tilted, my head spun and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor.
The floor was on an angle and even with my face pressed against it, it still wasn’t where it should be.
Then strong hands were on my shoulders, and Kira pulled me onto the sofa. There was another knock on the door, and Yumi’s voice followed, “Boys? You there? Why you make us wait? You better be dressed in there. I not want to see that.”
I smiled, despite the buzz in my head and the queasy feeling in my stomach. Kira was kneeling in front of me. “One sec, Mom!” he called out. He looked at my face, concerned. “You okay?”
I nodded. “Yeah. I must have turned too quickly or something. Sorry.”
He kissed my forehead as he stood up. “Don’t apologize.”
Kira let his parents in, and when Yumi and Sal saw me sitting on the sofa, they knew straight away what was wrong.
“Oh, Matty,” Yumi said, rushing over to sit beside me. “You okay? You look pale. Did you fall?”
“I just turned too quick, that’s all,” I said quietly. “I’m fine.”
This was the part I hated. Fucking vertigo from my middle ear injury which I’d received from fighting in unsanctioned, underground cage fighting. I’d almost lost Kira—I’d treated him so badly—and yet, he was nothing but concerned and attentive. The vertigo was a direct consequence of my actions, a physical reminder of what I had done, as was the deafness in my right ear. And every time I had a dizzy spell or a fall, Kira and his parents doted on me.
But this time, I refused to let the guilt eat at me.
I wouldn’t let it fester. I wouldn’t let it control me. I wouldn’t let it come between me and Kira again.
I hated the fact that it served as a reminder, for me and Kira, that I’d betrayed his trust. And I did feel as though every time he helped me through an episode it was like a step backward.
But still, I knew it would hurt him more if I allowed the guilt to consume me again.
Yumi put her hand to my face. “You sure you’re okay?”
I smiled at her. “I am. It wasn’t a full-blown vertigo episode, just a bit dizzy, that’s all. I just need to sit for a minute, then I’ll be right as rain.”
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll just go see Kira in the kitchen.” With a pat on my leg, the tiny woman jumped up then darted through the door.
Sal sat down across from me. He raised his hands and spoke in sign language, “Did you fall?”
I nodded, and signed back to him, “Yes. I went to get the door, and the ground wasn’t where it should have been.”
Sal frowned. “Are you hurt?”
I shook my head slowly. “No. I’m fine, really,” I signed. Then something occurred to me, something I should have thought about long before now. Oh, dear God.
Sal was adept at reading people and when my eyes met his, I could tell he knew something was up. “What’s wrong?” he signed quickly.
I swallowed hard, and with a quick glance over my shoulder to double check we were still alone, I turned back to him. “I need to ask you something,” I signed, then kind of laughed at just how nervous I was.
He narrowed his eyes, curious. “Yes?”
“I should have asked before now, and I’m very sorry I didn’t,” I signed quickly, probably getting a word or two wrong. “I guess I’m not asking permission, but I’m asking if you’d mind terribly if Kira and I got married?”
He laughed then signed slowly, “You must be nervous, because that didn’t make sense.” Sal’s reaction was not one I had been expecting.
I barked out a laugh and nodded. I didn’t think I’d got the words right. I wiped the palms of my hands on my thighs. I exhaled through puffed cheeks. “I am nervous, yes.”
Sal grinned at me, then his smile slowly faded and his eyes widened. I could almost see the pieces coming together in his mind. “Married?” he signed. “You and Kira?”
Before I could answer, Yumi and Kira walked into the room. “Dinner’s ready,” Kira said, then looked slowly between me and his father.
Yumi picked up on the mood in the room too. “What you two talk about?”
I stood up slowly, making sure my head didn’t spin. “I just had to ask Sal something,” I told them, knowing Sal would read my lips.
Sal stood up, and as his gaze fell on Kira, he grinned.
Kira glanced at me and raised one eyebrow in question. So I told him, “I was trying to do this properly, but my sign language isn’t as good as I thought.”
“What you ask him?” Yumi asked, looking up at the three men who towered over her. “Why you not ask me?”
My eyes darted to Kira’s, realizing this conversation was about to happen right now. “I wanted it to be a surprise…”
Kira looked genuinely shocked, even a little emotional. “Did you just ask my dad?”
“Tried what?” Yumi interrupted. “Ugh, you boys!”
Kira stepped in beside me and put his hand on my lower back. “Mom, we were thinking blue and silver as a color scheme.”
Yumi stared at us blankly. “For what?” Then she glanced round the living room, trying to find a clue of what we were talking about.
Kira smiled at his mom. “For the wedding invitations.” Then he turned to his dad. “Matt asked me to marry him, and I said yes.”
I guess in my head, I’d imagined Yumi throwing herself at us, or at Kira at least. But she didn’t. She just stood there, as though she’d not heard what Kira had just said. Or, that she wasn’t too pleased with what she had heard.
“It’s okay, Yumi,” I started. “I know I haven’t been perfect, and I’m really working on being a better person for Kira, but I love him and I know I hurt him and you and Sal, but I promise—”
My words stopped cold with the first of her tears. “Oh, please don’t cry,” I whispered, not really meaning to say it out loud.
Kira left my side and wrapped his arms around his mom’s tiny shoulders, and I was about to panic at her reaction when Kira turned to face me. He was smiling.
I looked at Sal then, who was also smiling. “Speechless?” he signed.