I'm Here to Fix You

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Chapter 16

SILVIA

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Ryan asked for the third time, arching an eyebrow at me.

I blinked my eyes to get back to the conversation, and forced a smile on my face. “Yes, I ... sorry, what were you saying?”

“Babe, what’s wrong? You’ve been weird all week ... well, month. Is this because I couldn’t make it? I’m sorry, I-”

“No, it’s not that, Rye, don’t worry. You had to work, it’s fine.”

He sighed. Even through the laptop’s screen I could see how bummed he was. I understand him, I’ve been kind of ... aloof lately. I’m not even sure why. He thinks it’s because we had to cancel our celebration for the first month together and we haven’t been seeing each other, since he has to work through the weekend lately, but it’s really not.

“I’m not one of those clingy girlfriends that hold it against you for being a responsible adult, Rye. I’m not mad ... just ... bummed.” I bit my lip, reading the answer in his eyes before I could voice it.

“I miss you too, babe.” He cracked a sad lopsided smile, one that makes him look like a cute puppy, but I don’t like it nevertheless, mostly because his face lights up when he smiles cheerfully, and I hate seeing him sad, as mushy as that sounds. “I’m sorry about all this ...”

I opened my mouth to restate what I already have these past weeks. He doesn’t need to worry about anything, his work is just as important, he has ambitions, I’ll never ask him to pick between his job and me. That would be absurdly childish and I don’t understand how could there be women that do that. But Ryan prevented me.

“I know, I know, ours is an adult relationship, we don’t need to be together 24/7 and all that, but ...”

“The long distance is starting to wear you out, isn’t it?” I read through his words. I guess it was good until it lasted. I should have predicted it wouldn’t be that long before distance started getting in the way.

“Yes, but not for the reason you think.” Ryan said instead.

I blinked my eyes, surprised. “No? I mean, I would understand it, Rye. It really is exhausting. I would understand if you’d prefer something ... simpler.”

He heaved that sigh. That sigh he heaves every time I try to unconsciously test his determination. I mean, sometimes I mention that I know it’s hard, we live so far, and there’s not even the-uh ... fun side of things, so I would understand if he wants to back off, but lately he gets frustrated, with reason, I’d say.

“Babe, I’m here. I’m in. I told you. I don’t care about distance or whatever. I wanna be with you.” His standard response. It’s cliché, I guess, but I won’t deny it does warm my frigid heart.

“I know, but ...”

“Long distance is wearing me out, quite simply, because I miss you, babe. I miss you real bad every day. And it’s frustrating that I can’t just drive up to your place or surprise you at work whenever I can’t take it anymore.”

“Oh, Rye ...”

“I’m frustrated, I won’t deny it.” He gave me a half grin, the same he had on when he was a little scoundrel, I saw the pictures. “But it’s not because I’ve ... gotten as intimate with my right hand as I was when I was 13.”

I chuckled. “Gross.”

“What? You think I don’t do that? I do. Thinking of you every time, of course.” He winked.

Amazing how he can look terribly sweet even when he’s being a bit cocky. Amazing how my heart flutters every time he laughs. Astounding and ... unsettling just how much I miss him.

We haven’t seen each other in weeks, unfortunately. His boss makes him work through the weekends because they have this huge project going on, they have to be sure it’ll be alright. We Skype every night, but it’s not the same as seeing him in person, snuggling in his arms ... God, I’ve never been so cheesy in my entire life.

“I know you do that, Rye.” I laughed. “I just ... liked to think you didn’t. I like this sweet and lovely image of you.”

He grimaced, though half grinning. “You know, babe, men don’t really like being called lovely.”

I chuckled. “Why? It’s an adjective you men stick to us women no matter what.”

“Backfired, huh?”

“You’re a sweet and lovely guy, Rye, and I lo-uh ... like you for that.” Uh oh. That was close. What was I just going to say? Oh, God.

Judging by his arched eyebrow, Ryan caught my quasi lapse, but he didn’t seem worried nor agitated. Actually, once surprise had washed over him, he smiled sweetly, one of his smiles that make even my frigid heart melt.

We’ve been together for how long, though? Like ... over two months?10 weeks? It’s too soon for that kind of lapse. Although it’s true that we’ve known each other for over six months, so I guess it’s uh ... normal? Due? I don’t know, really. I mean, we haven’t even had sex yet. How can I lo-uh ... feel that much deep for him when we haven’t even explored every side of our relationship?

“I really can’t wait for summer holidays to start.” Ryan switched subject, I bet because he knew that questioning my lapse would make me uncomfortable. I suppose he’s come to know me a little bit even with the distance and all.

I smiled. “Me too.” We’ve decided to go on vacation on the same days, so we can spend them together. Tess still can’t believe it, but I’ve actually agreed to spend a week hiking in Rhode Island, although on condition that the next one is reserved to culture. We’ll visit museums in Washington D.C.

I know, it’s kinda lame for most people, but it’s actually a great mix of what we love. Ryan is a sportive type, he likes trekking and hiking and all that, while I love having educational vacations, so ... also, if we can persuade our respective employers to give us one week more, we’ll head to Disney World as well.

Ryan should make it, I ... uh ... considering I haven’t been talking to my boss except ‘hi’ and ‘ok, will do’, it’ll be kinda hard. We communicate via email mostly, can you believe it? We’re like ... 20 steps from each other, yet we communicate via email.

It’s not even my fault, eh. It’s him. I was pissed real bad last time, but it would have cooled off, hadn’t Jake decided to be the jerk he usually is. He acts as if he should be the one mad at me, tsk.

“I need to tell you something.” Ryan broke out through my angry thoughts, luckily.

I blinked my eyes, confused. “Is it bad?”

His barely cracked smile answered yes. “It’s no big deal, but ... uh ... I feel like I should tell you ...”

Oh, boy, this sounds awful. Please, don’t be what I think, please, don’t be what I think ... he didn’t cheat on me. He never would ... right?

“It’s about Alicia ...”

Damnit. “Go ahead.” I spoke as calmly as I could. In the end I can’t even be that mad. First because going on over two months with the sole help of his hand can’t be easy, and I doubt he’s slept with anyone after the breakup, so it’s actually over 10 months ... oh. Wow. Now I realize just how hard it is this on him ... pun unintended, you dirty minds.

But anyways, I can’t really be mad also because I had my little moment with my “friend”, about which I still haven’t told my boyfriend, so ...

“She’s been calling.” Ryan mentioned. “I mean, she’d stopped when I told her I had a new girlfriend, but she’s restarted. And ...”

One night she came over, you talked, then kissed, then had a little fallback? Sigh. Be calm, Silvia, be calm. He didn’t cheat. He didn’t ... I hope he didn’t.

Okay, maybe I’m a hypocrite. But if he cheated, I swear I’ll fly straight to Chicago and cut off his balls. I’m a living contradiction, remember? Besides, it’s not like I cheated. We didn’t even exactly kiss, Jake and I.

“Last night she came over.”

Oh, sweet Jesus ... give me patience because I’m gonna strangle him. “And ...?” I did all I could not to grit my teeth. Boy, you can’t just sweet-talk me one minute, saying how much you miss me, that you’re in on this, committed, and then tell me you’ve slept with your ex without expecting me to, at least, want to rip your heart out and feed it to pigs.

Okay. Maybe I’m a hypocrite and a jealous girlfriend. So much for being frigid.

“Don’t look at me like that, Sil, I did nothing.” Ryan claimed, I bet noticing the murderous glint in my eyes even through the screen.

“Then don’t get on the defensive, Rye.”

“I’m not, I’m just ...” He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I just wanted you to know that, we talked, Alicia and I. We spent hours talking. And-”

“Talking or rolling in the sheets?” I spat.

“Babe ...”

“Ryan, you tell me there’s something I need to know. You keep hesitating. And you’ve got a terribly evident guilty look on your face. I work with words, Sherlock.”

“I didn’t cheat, alright?” He spat, outraged. “I know you’re thinking it, so let’s just get it out in the open. I didn’t cheat on you, Silvia.”

“Then why are you so hesitant? What is so bad that-”

“I felt guilty, alright?”

“Yes, because you cheated ...?”

“No ... because I spent three carefree hours with my ex, and it felt like I was doing you wrong. That’s all. That’s why I wanted you to know it.”

“It doesn’t make sense, Rye. If all you did is talk, then what’s there to feel guilty about?” I’m a lie detector, honey.

He sighed. “Okay, on top of the talking there was ... uh ...”

“Some sex? Some good old hanky panky? What, Rye, what? Just speak the hell up, because the more you hesitate, the more I think bad, and I’m one mere minute away from telling you to fuck off.” I snapped. Hypocrite, jealous and possessive. Wow, feelings really do fuck you up.

“Ugh, seriously, Silvia, I thought you trusted me!” He snapped. He snaps? He’s the cheater and he snaps?!

“I did. Now I’m not sure I can anymore.”

“If you just let me speak-”

“I have, and you keep on dithering. You have that guilty look on that only cheaters have. What should I think?!”

“I don’t know, that maybe I’m your boyfriend, and I told you I’m in on this barely 4 minutes ago, so you can’t think I cheated! For God’s sakes, I trust you, why can’t you?!”

Sigh. I suppose we’re gonna have our first real fight, huh? “I’m not the one sleeping with my ex.”

“I didn’t! And I never would!” Ryan hissed, I think more outraged and hurt at my assumption than I’d ever expected he would be. “Alicia and I talked. We talked about our relationship, spent carefree time together, but it was just that. Nothing more than a good time spent with an old friend.”

“A friend you slept with, Rye.”

“Sil ...”

“No, come on. Be honest. If I spent three hours home alone with my ex, what would you say?”

“I-”

“You’d get mad, that’s what. And it’d be your indisputable right to.”

“No. If you told me nothing happened, I would believe you.” He clenched his jaw. “Because I have this bad habit ... I trust my girlfriend.”

“Last time it didn’t go too well, did it?” Oh, fuck. Why did I say that? Why did I say something so mean? I really can be such a bitch sometimes, even Tess says it. I could read disappointment, anger and sadness on his face the exact moment the words left my mouth, and I felt like shit. I know how awful it was for him, how much he was hurt, why did I have to dig it up? “Rye, I ... sorry, I didn’t mean ...”

“You meant it, that’s the problem.”

“Rye ...”

“So you don’t trust me. And I shouldn’t trust you.” He laughed cynically, something I’ve never heard him do. “Wow, that’s really a great foundation for a relationship, huh?”

“I’m sorry, I ...”

“Say, have you cheated on me instead? If you’re not to be trusted, I gotta presume you have, right?” He barked, his gaze betraying the real anger he was feeling. I couldn’t blame him for that. Especially when, I think, my face gave away my guilt. “Let me guess ... Jake?”

“Rye ...”

Again with that dry and hysterical laugh. I hate it. “Oh, of course it would be Jake. Who else could it be?”

“No, I ...”

“I mean, if there ever was a threat to our relationship, that was him. How stupid of me to believe you when you said he was just a friend, huh? But then again, I must be stupid if I decided to trust my girlfriend after what happened with my ex.”

“Rye, it’s not what you think, I ...” Really, Silvia. The very words of a cheater. That’s definitely the right way to contradict him, huh?

“I just can’t believe we’ve been planning summer, we’ve been making projects together, yet all the while you were ...” Anger left its place to pain, and I hated myself even more. God, me and my stupid mouth!

Sighing, I tried to think of the right words to say before he decided to do the best thing for him and break up with me. It would be, wouldn’t it? I’m really not the right girl for him, am I?

“I’m sorry I said what I said. I didn’t mean it. Or maybe I did mean it, but I shouldn’t have. It was stupid of me. I ...” Open heart, Silvia, open heart. It’s the only way. “Over six weeks ago, when I told you I was going to his birthday party, Jake and I ... we had a moment. But ... we didn’t kiss. Or not quite. I mean, it was kiss-non-kiss, it’s ... it’s hard to explain.”

“Did you or did you not kiss him?”

“I didn’t. But ...”

“But ...?” Ryan was calmer, but evidently hurt and disappointed, and it was awful to witness. That look in his eyes, that pained look in his eyes, I bet it was the very same he had on when he caught his ex with his best friend. See why I’m not good for him? I can be an unthinking bitch sometimes and the result is that ... I hurt him.

“But ... I didn’t exactly ... not respond to his touch. It was ... I don’t know, it was odd. But as soon as I realized what I was doing I pulled back.”

“And that should make me feel better?”

“Yes. Because ... it was when I thought of you that I pulled back. The thought of hurting you had me snap out of my reverie. It was the thought of betraying you that had me realize and consequently feel like shit.” I waited a moment, to let him process my words, then I went on: “I’m sorry, Rye, I really am. I’m sorry for thinking bad, for jumping to conclusions. I’m sorry for bringing up your past ... troubles. I’m sorry if I hurt you, I didn’t mean to.”

He remained silent for five long, long minutes. But I didn’t end the Skype call. Nor did I speak. I gave him the time he needed, while inside my heart burned in guilt and ... fear at the same time.

I knew he’d talk in the end, I knew he was processing everything, and ... I was afraid it would mean the end of our thing. I ... I don’t think I’ve ever been that much scared of a breakup. Then again, I’ve only ever had one, and it was me to break up with him.

I was really afraid now, though ... I guess I’ve ... I’ve come to see Ryan in my life. Like ... really see him. Beyond the summer together, that is. I might have ... reserved a spot for him in my life, and ... the idea that now he might leave me is ... it makes my heart quiver. And I know it’s an awful sign, because I care more than I ever considered, I want this more than I ever admitted to myself, and ... it’s dangerous.

Feelings really fuck you up, goddamit.

Every minute that ticked by in his silence was a minute more my heart quivered and my brain cells spun, pushing me towards one, ghastly realization.

I’ve know Ryan for over six months now. Before being my boyfriend, he was my friend. We spent a great time together all these months, and every day it feels ... somewhat brighter because of him. If that makes any sense.

I once told Jake that still waters runs deep. I’m not sure he ever got what I meant. I have ... issues. Deep issues. My past is a dark place, and I won’t deny it, it still kinda messes with me. My mind is a mined field I fight every day in an attempt at keeping the doors that lock those haunting memories safe, and it’s not easy. Nightmares are proof.

But the thing is, ever since I met Ryan, ever since I started talking to Ryan, it’s ... it feels better. I don’t even know how to explain it, but it feels like he chews up a bit of that darkness deep within me day by day. It feels like the sole ... contact with him erodes that darkness, pushing me towards light.

Jake says he knows ... I am the one because he sees light in my eyes. Well, I ... I think I see light in Ryan’s eyes. Or rather, I see hope. Hope for a better future. Hope for a real future.

His silence frightened me like nothing ever has because it allowed my heart to give in to the worst possible scenarios. I saw ... myself, after this. And it wasn’t a nice sight. I put into this much more than I should have, much more than I considered. I wanted to be careful, to tread as carefully as ever, but every time Ryan pushed me into crossing one more limit even without knowing, with his ever smile and cute act he nudged my heart, and ... and now here I was, for the second time ever terrified that I would lose someone.

I suppose it made me think. I suppose he didn’t consider what he was doing, because, had he, he would have given me a quick answer, instead of letting me lose in his silences. But he didn’t. And my mind wandered. It wandered off to dangerous routes, and ... I realized something.

“Maybe we should end this.” I heard myself say in a murmur.

Ryan’s blue eyes widened. The same fear I felt deep down crossed them, that’s why I closed mine, not wanting to see nor to let any stray tear fall. “What ...”

“It’ll always be complicated, so let’s just ... go our separate ways. It’ll be for the best, Rye, you know that.” I ended the call before giving him the time to reply. I was scared he would agree with me.

You see my heart, it’s always been set on chilly mode. I’ve never cared, it’s just how I am, so cold, but ... when a guy like Ryan enters your life, even one like me can hardly fend off the blows.

I just ... I’ve been feeling different. This ... brighter side of things, this hope in a better future Ryan gave me, I was terrified he would take it back. In the end, I simply acted on my motto, leave before being left, always prevent the worst from happening. It’ll hurt, I know it will, but less than how it would have had he been the one to pull the trigger. At least I hope so.

Lying in my bed, I heaved a deep sigh, trying hard to retain every single pathetic drop.

To Tess: you’ll be glad to know I just broke up with Ryan

Times like these, I would need time alone, but at the same time I need someone to keep me from balling up in a corner and starting to pity myself.

From Tess: Awww poor babe ... gigantic dose of junk food and beer coming right up. I’ll be there in 20!

See? That’s why I love her.

Leaving my phone on the floor, I curled up under the blankets, hugging myself. It’s pathetic, and stupid, and idiotic, but ... it hurts. I turned off my phone when Ryan started bombarding me with texts and calls, predictably.

I’m not crying. I’m not. Screw it, I am. Last I cried this hard, I’d just lost my sister.

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