Over the next two weeks, Claire and Van were busy with schoolwork, but they tried to see each other at least once during the week. They sometimes even studied together in the library.
The library was quiet as everyone leaned over their textbooks. Claire looked up from her anatomy book and saw Van staring at her.
“Why do you keep looking at me?”
“I enjoy watching you study.”
“Your forehead crinkles when you concentrate.” Claire blushed and looked down. “It’s cute.”
“You’re going to make me self-conscious when I study now.”
“Nonsense. Just don’t look up.” Van smirked and Claire hit him with her book playfully. They both laughed. Van moved to the chair next to her. “There. Now I can’t look at you as easily.”
“Still won’t stop you.”
“Do you want me to stop?” Claire bit her lip as she smiled and looked down at her book.
“No.” Van leaned in close to her ear. She could feel his hot breath on her skin.
“Claire, will you be my girl?” Claire held her breath as her heart thumped hard in her chest and butterflies swarmed her stomach. She couldn’t think but just nodded yes. Van smiled and kissed her cheek.
“You’re in a hurry.” Van threw his shirt on. “You seein’ Claire?”
“Yeah.” Van grabbed a belt and put it on, getting ready to walk out the door.
“Van.” Van stopped and looked at his brother. “Can we talk?”
“Can’t it wait?”
“Don’t have time for your brother anymore?” Van shut the door and turned around toward Korbin. “How long have you been seeing Claire now?”
“Korbin. What’s on your mind?”
“Van, I just want you to be careful, that’s all.”
“Korbin.” Korbin held up his hand, silencing Van.
“Hear me out. I trust you, I do. I know you will make the right decisions and I know you have Claire’s best interests in mind, but you’re my family, Van. My only family. I just don’t want anything to happen to you.” Van looked at his brother.
“What do you think is going to happen, Korb?”
“I don’t know, but someone is bound to be hurt, either physically or emotionally.”
“Look, I like Claire…a lot. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but for the first time since mom and dad’s death, I’m happy and I’m living life.”
“Just be careful, okay?”
“I will. I promise.” Van then left to go meet Claire.
“How were classes this week?” Van and Claire were walking through the parks during a cloudy day.
“They were okay. Anatomy is challenging and the professor is boring. Yours?”
“I had trouble concentrating. I couldn’t stop thinking of you.” Claire blushed and smiled. They were holding hands. The breeze whipped around them and they could feel autumn approaching. “What do you want to do today? We have all weekend.”
“Well, I will have to do homework sometime, but for now, I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
“Nope. I asked you first.” Van smiled.
“Not fair.” Claire thought for a minute. “I like what we’re doing right now. I love being outside. It’s so much more free and relaxing and natural.” They kept walking, listening to the birds and wind. “Do you ever look up at the trees and wonder what they’ve seen?” They stopped walking and looked up at a huge white oak tree.
“I never really thought about it.”
“Really? You probably think I’m weird.”
“No. Tell me.”
“Well, I just think it’s amazing that these trees are hundreds of years old, and they continue to grow. We only live to about eighty years. They live for hundreds. It’s remarkable.”
“I suppose it is.” They looked up at the tree some more. Then Van turned and grabbed her around the waist and twirled her in a circle. Their foreheads were touching when they stopped spinning.
“How is this real?”
“I don’t know.” Van kissed the tip of her nose. “Claire, I never want to be without you.” She smiled.
“I’ll be a busy girl in med school.” Van’s smile faltered a little.
“I’m a patient guy.” They started walking again, hand in hand. They heard footsteps approach them from behind and turned to see Korbin and Nyx walking toward them.
“Hey.” Van looked at Korbin. “Nyx and I are going out tonight and wanted to know if you two would like to join us.” Claire smiled.
“Like a double date?”
“That would be great!” Korbin looked at his brother.
“Yeah sure, sounds fun.” Korbin smiled and draped his arm around Nyx before leaving them.