"Close your mind and waste some time if you have to, I'm calling it love soon, it's not about you now, it's what we are."
Rubbing her arms, trying to warm her arms through her jacket, Marley watched her breath fanning out around her in a puff of fog, not taking her eyes off the figures skating below her. This was her favorite spot in the park, far enough away from the crowded ice skating rink for it to be peaceful, but still close enough to feel the uplifting atmosphere.
This is where she'd always come to think. She'd neglected the bench for a while, but being back in the spot where she'd always felt content and easy-minded, it felt like she could finally breathe again. Her mind was scrambled and the back-and-forth thoughts were starting to give her a headache.
She missed Joe. She couldn't deny it anymore. The weeks they'd been apart had worn harder on her than the weeks she was with him and he was gone. Him being so close, but still so far away was overbearing. Seeing him and not being able to know that even if they were forced apart in the public eye, she still couldn’t go home and be with him all she wanted. But she'd chosen this, and it was all her fault. He'd tried to fix it and she ran away.
A warm body settled next to her and she didn't have to look up to know who it was. Her message to Cassie telling her to tell Joe she needed to think wasn't a statement. It was an invitation. Joe had accompanied her here many times when she had something on her mind and as soon as Cassie relayed the message, he was on his way.
"You remembered." She whispered into the night air, keeping her eyes on the activities down the hill.
"Of course I did." His husky voice assured her, "This bench may as well have your name on it."
She smiled softly, still not looking away from where her eyes were transfixed on the crowd, not knowing if she could handle looking at him right now. A silence settled over them as the sea of people began to clear out, the echoes around them that were so vivid before were fading and the temperature was noticeably dropping.
A shiver racked through her body and she felt the goosebumps prickling on her skin under her coat and she wrapped her arms tighter around her arms.
"You must be freezing." He mumbled shrugging off his coat and leaning forward, wrapping it around her shoulders.
"No...You'll get cold, I'm..." She finally turned to look at him and her breath fell short, her mind filling with anything and everything that was him. The curly state of his hair, the glasses perched on his nose the layers of the red and gray hoodies he had on, the jeans hugging his legs in all the right places, the tattered shoes he insisted on wearing, and finally to his eyes, looking through his glasses to the soft pools of brown that had managed to be inviting and smoldering at the same time. She wanted to rip her eyes away so she could think, but she couldn't, seeing him like this was what she'd been thirsting for. Him. Joe. Her Joe. Not Joe Jonas with straightened hair and a tux, with a fake smile and a forced sense of humor. Her Joe who could make her laugh like no one else could and could read her like a book.
"Tell me." He said softly, keeping distance from her. He knew he couldn't jump in too quickly or she'd run again.
"Wh-what?" She stuttered, her eyes going wide, realizing he'd been able to see her drinking in his appearance.
His eyes narrowed slightly, trying to figure out what was on her mind, the corners of his lips turning up at the blush on her cheeks. "What're you thinking?" His head tilted to the side in curiosity.
A shiver rippled through her again as the wind picked up, and she readjusted herself on the bench, trying to inconspicuously move closer to him.
A smile fought to break out over his teeth and he swallowed back a happy sigh at having her close again. Here it was easy. They could be Marley and Joe with no interruptions. She was taking it slow, trying to reacquaint herself with his presence, and get comfortable with him before she broke into the talk they both knew needed to happen.
A silence washed over the two as the night got later. Both were waiting for the other to make the first move, to break the barriers of the restraints that were holding back both of their thoughts and feelings. Marley snuggled deeper into his coat, as the cold got the best of her. Joe sat still, his brow furrowed running over and over in his mind what he wanted to say, what he needed to say.
"Marley." Her name was barely a whisper, but she jumped as if a gun shot blasted through the space around them. Her eyes immediately caught his, giving him the attention he asked for.
Her nerves tingled at the vulnerability in his eyes. He'd always been the one to make it known what was on his mind. He was always so confident in everything he was going to say. He gulped back the nervous lump in his throat and smiled weakly at her.
"I…um...I guess I'm just going to put everything out there, okay?" He spoke quietly, fidgeting with the zipper of his hoodie.
Marley merely nodded, her throat closing up, making it impossible for her to speak. All of her questions that had swarmed her mind for the past couple of weeks were about to be answered.
"Alright." He sighed, leaning his back against the bench and looking back towards the now empty ice skating rink. "Well, when you left...I was a wreck...I'm not going to lie...you hurt me so bad, I didn't think it was possible to ever feel like I did. And when that raw pain turned into anger, I destroyed everything...I got an attitude, I was a dick to everyone, I stopped caring...then I got sad." His chest tightened at the memories of the tears and the emptiness that followed Marley's absence.
Wiping his hands over his face, he sighed deeply and continued. "You know, I just felt like everything was off balance. Nothing was ever complete just knowing that I couldn't go home to you or call you and tell you funny things that happened or just to see how your day was. There was just an empty space there. And I tried to fill it...so I went out."
Marley tucked her knees under her chin and twined her hands together, squeezing her eyes shut hoping to hold back the emotions that were fighting to be let out. Knowing that he was in so much pain, but went through his daily life putting on a front and acting out trying to think of anything but her sawed at her heart, hurting her more than she expected it would.
The air stood still around them while Joe got his thoughts together. He could hear Marley's breath getting shorter at the new information she was taking in and didn't dare chancing taking a peek at her with fear that he wouldn't be able to finish.
"There were three of them. I went out with Amber for lunch and she came with me to the Winter Ball, Courtney I just went to dinner with, and Miranda worked at an art gallery I went to after that day from where you worked." He paused, clearing his throat. "There was no way I was going back there with you after what happened."
"And you brought her back to our house." Marley spoke quietly. Joe's attention quickly turned to her and was surprised to see her eyes lock onto his. She wanted the truth.
"Yeah." He whispered. "I invited her back."
"Did you sleep with her...or any of them for that matter?" Her eyebrow arched and the words came out more acidic than she intended. She was scared of his answer.
His eyes narrowed and he stood, releasing his pent up frustrations by pacing the small patch of sidewalk in front of her. The nervous ball building in her stomach only grew as the seconds between her question and his answer grew longer and longer. Joe pushed a hand through his hair and let out a low growl. "Jesus Christ, Marley!" He lost his composure, stopping in front of her and letting his eyes bore in to hers. "Of course I didn't sleep with them, are you serious? I can't get you out of my head long enough to even think about being with someone else."
Relief surged through her veins at his answer. Realizing she had no business in his activities for the past month they'd been separated she rethought her question, deciding it was inappropriate for her to ask.
"I'm sorry." She looked away from him, biting her lip.
"I hate when you do that." He groaned, referring to her apology for something she said. He'd always told her if it came out of her mouth, somewhere inside of her was thinking it and getting it out was better than letting it grow.
"I know." She mumbled, feeling the awkwardness fall around them again. Her eyes traveled to his shoes where he was scuffing the snow into a small pile between his feet. For now, it served as a good distraction from his inquisitive eyes.
"What about this Kyle guy?" The jolt of nerves from the sound of his name, forced her eyes back to his to see him studying her face carefully.
"Kyler?" She asked, hoping to buy herself sometime. What about Kyler?
"Whatever." He shrugged.
Marley let out a sigh. "Nothing...there's nothing about Kyler."
Joe raised a skeptical eyebrow, "Nothing?"
Shaking her head, she slumped back on the bench. "I mean, don't get me wrong, there was chemistry, we got along, he was sweet and said all the right things..." She saw Joe's form tense in front of her and looked up to see his jaw clenched and his fist in balls at his sides. "But, I just couldn't...everything I did with him was just a reminder of how much better it was with you."
Joe visibly relaxed, his face softening and his shoulders dropping back to their natural position. "He tried to kiss me you know?" She tested the waters, wanting to let out a laugh when his face went hard again. "I said no." She clarified, rolling her eyes, letting her attitude shine through, she only had one date, compared to his three.
"Good." Joe settled on the bench next to her.
"Would it have mattered?" She crossed her arms.
He scoffed and shook his head, standing right back up and shoving his hands into his pockets. "Let me know when you figure out what you want, Marley."
She sat frozen on the bench, her jaw hanging open and her brow furrowed. What just happened?
When her mind finally caught up with her body, she was off the bench and running down the frozen path, his large coat hanging loosely around her smaller frame and flapping in the frigid wind. She could see his dark retreating figure in front of her and she picked up her pace, making it to him and grabbing his arm, spinning him around to face her.
"Don't walk away from me." She begged, quietly. His eyes looked over her head and she felt her lip trembling at his passive attitude. Her hands settled on the sides of his face and she forced his eyes to meet hers. "Don't." She whispered.
"You're one to talk Marley, you're the one who ran from me in the first place, I don't know what you want from me anymore! You say one thing and do another…I just don’t know what you want." She watched his expressions, so vivid on his face, he was at his wit's end. What was there to do anymore?
"I want you to get mad because you don't want anyone else to touch me or even look at me because I'm yours. I want you to see that knowing you went out with other girls kills me. I want you to need me as much as I need you!" The desperate tears finally streamed down her face. "Because I don't even care anymore, I tried to make myself happy again by pushing you out of my life, but I can't be happy unless I know you're mine!"
Within seconds his arms were around her, his face buried into her neck. Her arms encircled him, gripping onto his back. "I'll fight for you. I will, Joe. I swear." She coughed out. "I'll do anything for you...please." She plead, waiting for him to give in. Her last hope teetered on the edge of him accepting her.
He pulled back and pushed away the strands of her that stuck to her wet cheeks, leaving his hands there, his fingers gently stroking away the remnants of her crying. His eyes pierced through hers, shining and silently saying everything she needed to hear.
"I love you." He whispered. "My God, I love you." He assured her before his lips were on hers. Warmth flooded through her body and her grip on him tightened.
Pulling him closer and relishing in the closeness she'd been pining for she gently pulled her face back, only leaving enough room for her to speak, "I love you." She spoke louder than intended, laughing softly as her lips brushed against his.
A laugh pushed from his chest and he leaned back, pulling her feet off the ground, hugging her tighter, still not believing that she was back in his arms.
Smiling bigger than she thought possible, Marley nuzzled her face into his neck, placing a kiss under his ear. "Finally." She whispered.