I'm Here to Fix You

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Chapter 21

JAKE

I shouldn’t have come. I so shouldn’t have come, damnit. What the hell was I thinking when I said yes?

“You nervous?” Elise asked, innocently batting her eyelashes. I won’t deny she’s way more gorgeous and sexier than I’d ever considered, and the little black dress she wore did nothing but enhance her already breathtaking frame. Temptation personified.

“Kinda.” I admitted. Either I didn’t digest lunch or butterflies were banqueting in my stomach.

Elise tilted her head to the side, seemingly confused. “You said these are your best friends ... why are you nervous? I should be.” She giggled – something she does a lot -, huddling closer to me. “I’m the one they’re going to inquire on.”

I bit my lip. Why did I even take her with me, I have no idea. “Yeah, well, it’s ... let’s say there’s someone in there I’m not ... quite sure I’m ready to see again just yet.” I’ve never been so nervous in my life, I won’t deny it. I haven’t seen Silvia in ... well, months. Or rather, I do see her, from afar, when she enters the office in the morning, but that’s just it. We don’t get to be any closer than that.

“Is it the girl you told me about?” Elise inquired, a cute little pout molding her heart-shaped lips. Damnit, she really is temptation personified. Yet we do nothing but talk. Well, she talks, I mostly listen ... Jesus, I’m going nuts trying to find her off switch button. I’m one mere rash moment away from shutting her up with a kiss one of these days. I don’t only because I’m afraid she’d get strange ideas.

“Uh ... yeah ...” Why did I even tell her about Silvia?

Elise bit her sexy lips. “So she’s taken but you have feelings for her ... right?”

“Nice way of rubbing salt in the wound, but yes. Why?”

She grinned for some reason. Before I could inquire, the door opened, and in front of me I found none other than her, the bane of my existence, the torment of my heart, the answer to the lifelong question, why am I still alive?

“Hey ...” I heard myself greet awkwardly. Silvia stared at me wordlessly, eyeing me from tip to toe, but I couldn’t quite decipher her look. When her gaze shifted to Elise, I noticed a quasi imperceptible twitch in her expression, but I couldn’t tell whether it was surprise or irritation or both. “Uh ... this is Elise. She is ... uh ...”

“His girlfriend!” The redhead at my arm butted in, and I had to do my best not to gasp out loud.

I turned to her, flabbergasted, unable to ask with words just what the fuck was she thinking. We’re not together. Not in that sense. She’s just a stray cat that’s stuck to me no matter how much I try to send her away.

We’ve texted four days non-stop, or rather, she never stopped texting me, until I started sending vocal messages because I was tired of typing, and she decided it was the cue for us to finally meet because, now that she’d heard my voice, she was dying to see me too.

We met in one of those coffee shops where college students go waste their time. I let her choose the place just so she would be at ease, but, to be honest, more and more I feel like it’s not me to be luring her in, it’s her to be dragging me into her overly enthusiast crazy world. Good thing the idea that she reminds me so much of Serene keeps me from making regrettable mistakes.

Even though, it doesn’t look like Elise wants more than a friendship. She says it’s nice to talk to someone older, someone that doesn’t focus solely on having fun and getting laid. She got the wrong guy if she thinks that of me.

Let me introduce myself, I’m Mr. Fling, an average of one, often three, sometimes five girls per night. My days basically go like this: get up; work through the maze of dark thoughts and heartbreak; either get drunk or laid or why not, both. In the middle there are MMA matches.

So when a sweet girl like Elise snuggles into my arms, claiming I shouldn’t beat myself up, I can’t help but think she’s the umpteenth girl that’s been misguided by the whole bad boy romance trope that is regrettably making Lion’s Publications, and by extension me, so rich. Publishing houses go with the wind, you know. If it sells, we print it. Last time I presented her with a cliché romance to edit, Silvia nearly threw a stapler at me.

Ah, well, that was ... long before this ... never mind. It’s fine. I’m fine. It’s everything alright sentimentally speaking. Sometimes I’d rather focus on my darkest thoughts instead of torturing myself by thinking of her, but ... it’s fine, I’m fine.

Silvia finally had a reaction at Elise’s words, though. She blinked her eyes when my perky friend grinned like a Cheshire cat as she extended her hand. “You must be Silvia! My Jacky boy told me so much about you!”

Jacky boy? Seriously? What the hell do I have to do to stop people from butchering my name? It’s Jake. Jake. You can’t make it shorter than that, you can’t change it any other way. It’s just Jake for freak’s sakes.

It’s already enough I give Serene the privilege of calling me with such an ambiguous nickname. Have you ever noticed, Jakey and female Jackie sound the same? It annoys the hell out of me every time, but again, I’m weak when it comes to my baby sis.

“Hi ...” Silvia warily responded, grudgingly shaking Elise’s hand.

I wonder if she’s in the least bit annoyed by all this. Tess says she thinks of me, but wasn’t she all happy with Chicago guy?

“Well, come in ...” Silvia said after a few moments of awkwardness filled with Elise’s nonsensical blabber. “Everybody’s already in the living room ... you’re the only one missing. Even though we ... definitely weren’t expecting you, Elise, I must say.” Did you see that? That tight smile can’t belong to a woman that’s so totally indifferent to her ‘friend’s’ love life.

Ugh. Why do I even consider all this? I sound pathetic. Damnit, I need a drink.

We walked in, following Silvia, and she very formally and blankly introduced: “Guys, this is Elise. Jake’s girlfriend.” Cue the shocked gasps all around. Trey and Tess even quit fighting when they heard. Of course, me showing up with a girlfriend, they couldn’t believe their eyes.

“You kidding?!” Trey exclaimed, leaving Tess to come stand before me and Elise. He checked her out from tip to toe, causing her to, probably unconsciously, take refuge in my arms as she blushed profusely. “WOW!”

“Trey ...” I warned. Elise was evidently embarrassed, so I did what a good friend would do, I simply slid my arm around her in protection, letting her lean her head against my chest, but the very simple gesture was obviously misread, if the gasps were any hint.

My friends circled us, as if we were aliens or something, all asking questions altogether about how we met, what happened, how did she ensnare me, how was it possible ... the only exceptions were two people. Silvia stood in a corner, a glass of white wine in her hand, smiling at her phone. Tess split her gaze between me and her best friend, frowning.

“Ok, guys, that’s enough.” I intervened when I felt Elise seriously trying to be swallowed by my chest. “You’re scaring her.”

“What? We’re only curious!” Trey laughed. “I mean, no offense, honey, but to see this guy here ...” he patted my shoulder heavily, “with a girlfriend ... it’s more than once in a blue moon, it’s a pure miracle!”

I scoffed. “It’s not like I’ve never had a girlfriend before ...”

“Olivia doesn’t count.” Fitz cut in, giving me an odd look. Like Tess, he eyed me and Silvia. I wonder what will it take these people to understand that all of that happened between us is water under the bridge. She’s happy with Ryan, I’m happy for her ... in my messy way, but I earnestly am.

“We technically dated, so yes, it counts.” I argued. With the corner of my eyes I noticed Silvia finally looking up from her phone, a curious look on her face. I bet she was convinced I’ve never once committed to a girl. Well, not that Olivia and I were exactly ‘committed’, but it’s true that she was sort of, more or less, very broadly speaking, my girlfriend for a while.

“You’re confusing her with Cynthia.” My best friend stubbornly argued. I knew what he was doing. He was trying to get a reaction out of Silvia ... but if seeing a girl clung to me like that didn’t cause her anything, to what would it serve to let her know I did sort of commit once?

I sighed, ignoring the others as they bombarded Elise with questions, and I took her with me to the couch, where we sat. Needless to say she clung to me like a koala to a tree. I thought she’d be as perky as usual, but I bet that being assaulted with questions and gasps like that scared her a little. In the end, she’s a very sweet and somewhat insecure girl. She reminds me of Olivia a little, at least in her early phase, before the cliché happened, when the bad boy taught the clumsy nerd how to be self confident.

“Cynthia was a parenthesis, you know that.” She was the Queen Bee, I was the so called ‘bad boy’, of course we dated, isn’t that what cliché commands? “Olivia was-” I cut myself off when I realized that all eyes were on me, especially Silvia’s, who was listening intently, her phone long forgotten. “Uh ... never mind. It’s New Year’s Eve, shouldn’t celebrate?”

Phew. She turned back to her phone. I don’t even know why was I so relieved. It’s not like Olivia is this big of a secret. There’s a girl I cared for long before Silvia, so what? It’s not at all the same.

Olivia was ... she was my little protégé. This one too is cliché, I think. She was the clumsy nerd that gets bullied by the Queen Bee, I was the bad boy that protected her. She came to my school, was only one years younger than I, but I knew her because she was Serene’s babysitter.

I won’t deny it, Olivia meant something to me. She was important, she has been important, but ... it would have never worked, we all know that. Besides, it’s not at all the same as with Silvia’s.

It’s ... a totally different level of feelings here. I suppose now I understand Olivia’s side. I’m basically walking in her shoes, longing for someone I’ll never really have, not entirely, not emotionally.

Olivia and I were together for a while. A couple of months. Enough for me to be a horrendous influence on her. Enough for me to break her heart.

I’ve always used women without a single remorse, simply because it was mutual. I used and I keep using them to distract my mind, women use me for the sex. Sure, sometimes there are those that get strange ideas like, just because we had sex, it means we’re dating, but overall it’s mutual. I use you, you use me, it’s as simple as that. How do you think it works with my booty calls? Whenever they need a fix, they just text me and that’s it. But Olivia was different. A lot, lot different.

My friends went back to their business finally. Well, almost. Trey seemed particularly interested in talking to Elise, not sure if to inquire on her or just to make Tess jealous or both. Fitz sent me side glances when he wasn’t busy texting. I bet it’s that girl he’s seeing, the one he still won’t tell me about. I don’t understand it, both him and Serene are so secretive about their relationships. I understand why would my sister be, but him?

However, I didn’t have time for that, because Tess and Silvia headed to the kitchen, and I decided to follow them for some stupid reason. Needless to say I caught their conversation fully. Come on, I came to the kitchen for this exact reason, who do you think I am?

“So ... Jake got himself a girlfriend, huh? How does that make you feel?” Tess wondered with an impish grin while grabbing something from the fridge. I was spying from the ajar door. Yes, it’s pathetic. No, I don’t care.

Silvia shrugged as she took the plates from the cupboard. “How should it make me feel?”

“I don’t know ... a little pang to your cold stone heart? Some green monster lurking behind your impenetrable gaze?” Tess teased. “I mean, you were ready to throw Serene out of a window that time at the mall, now you wanna tell me sweet little Elise there doesn’t affect you?”

Wait, what? When did they see us? I’ve taken Serene to the mall more than a few times these months, how the hell can I know which one was it? Damnit, it could help a lot ... ugh, no.

No, no, no. It’s not good, not good, not good. I broke off every contact with her purposely not to let her develop any feelings for me, and now I’m here ... hoping. Fuck.

“Why should she?” Silvia asked as she brought the plates to the counter. I could hear the others chatting in the living room, Elise asking where was I, but I didn’t bother. And yes, I know this is not ‘normal’, but when was I ever?

“You tell me.” Tess said as she put food – I didn’t even bother knowing what it was – into the plates. “You didn’t look too thrilled to see her clung to our ‘Jacky boy’ like that.”

Silvia rolled her eyes, going back to the fridge to grab bottles of whatever. “Please, don’t restart, Tess ... it’s over. Hell, it never even started between Jake and I.”

“And that makes you feel ...?”

“Nothing. That makes me feel nothing. I’m with Ryan. I love my boyfriend and that’s it. Jake is ... well, was a friend.”

Heard that crack? Yeah, that was my heart. Stupid muscle still holding on hope for some absurd reason.

“Was?” Tess wondered, skeptic.

“We haven’t been talking since six months, Tess. You see how he ignores me, avoids me. It’s not like I’m gonna beg him to be my friend. He doesn’t want to be, well, fine with me. One less Christmas present on my list.”

I’d say she’s damn cold, but ... I actually like this side of her.

Tess rolled her eyes. “Oh, please ... you care. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here tonight.”

Silvia rolled her eyes as well. “I’m here because otherwise I wouldn’t have heard the end of it from you. For what it concerns me, I’d have been perfectly fine reading a book at home.”

“You could have gone to Aspen ...”

“Tess ... how many times do I have to say it? I couldn’t impose myself on a family reunion.”

“You’re his girlfriend. Of course you could. Hell, that’s supposed to become your family too one day.”

Ouch. And here’s crack number two. I’m one hell of a masochistic idiot, I know. The fact that, as I’d expected, Silvia didn’t deny she did wish to form a family with Ryan made it only worse.

“It’s exactly for that reason that we need to tread carefully.” She said instead. “He and Alicia broke up less than a year ago. His family knew her, they were all used to her, hell, I’m pretty sure his parents had already gotten used to the idea of her being their daughter-in-law.”

“Tough.” Tess scoffed.

Silvia sighed, leaning against the counter as she sipped her water. “I’m dealing with one hell of a ghost here, Tess. She may have been a bitch because she cheated, breaking his heart, but what they had ... it’s huge. It’s like I’m walking in a giant’s shoes.”

Tess frowned. “Does he ever compare you to her?”

“Oh, no ... no, no. Ryan doesn’t even mention her. If he ever does, it’s because I push him to talk about her. We’ve talked about our exes, you know.”

Tess gave out a half laugh. “And ... does our Jacky boy count as ex too?”

What? We’ve never even been ... hell, it’s never even started.

Silvia had my same reaction, frowning and looking at Tess like she was crazy. “You think because we kissed once or twice and I gave him a blowjob, that makes us exes?”

Tess nearly choked on her wine. “You gave him what??”

Silvia chuckled. “Long ago.”

“You didn’t tell me!”

“Because you’d think too much of it.”

Tess double over as she gasped. “You kidding?! Of course I would have! Coming from you, it’s huge!”

Silvia bit her lip, her gaze wandering off, not sure what she thought of. Well, I didn’t know until Tess scoffed. “Don’t say it.”

“What?”

“You know what.”

Silvia rolled her eyes. “I wasn’t going to. I’m not you.”

“Sure, sure ... but you think it.”

“Well, you said the word ...”

“Huge?” Tess laughed, they both laughed.

Wait ... are they talking about what I think? It can’t be ... Silvia wouldn’t talk about such things, or would she? I mean, I know women have talks that we men would never wish to hear, but ... sizes? What does she know about sizes? Unless ... oh, shit, no. I seriously hope no ...

Once they quit laughing, Silvia sighed. “Either way, just because there were a couple of kisses and a blowjob, doesn’t mean Jake and I were ever an item. By that criteria, you’d have more exes than shoes, don’t you think?”

“Ha. Ha. Very funny.” Tess gave her a dirt look.

“Speaking of exes ... Trey?”

No, no, who cares about that. I need to know about her and Ryan, damnit. Ugh, why should I even ... Jesus, this is so fucked up.

“Don’t change subject.” Tess chastised. “Just tell me, if Ryan is the man of your life, why is Jake still in your thoughts?”

“Tess ...”

“No, just be honest for once.”

“I always am, damnit! You just don’t believe me.”

“Of course I don’t! You keep saying you love Ryan, and you guys are serious and blah, blah, blah, yet you keep asking about Jake, you’re spending New Year’s here with him instead of with your boyfriend and his family. Every time you see him you tense up. And do not freaking lie to me, Silvia Banchi, I saw you there, watching Elise, I spotted the hatred in your voice when you introduced her as his girlfriend.”

Huh. What ... I’m confused. I mean, I did see something, but I didn’t think it was annoyance. Just surprise. After all, why would she bother? She’s happy with Ryan. Or is she?

I don’t wanna be a paranoid wuss, but come on, it’s New Year’s Eve. What man agrees to spend it with his family instead of with the girlfriend he claims to love? I smell fishy here. So I perked up my ears to listen to Silvia’s answer, but before I could, I found myself assaulted by a redheaded hurricane. Sigh.

“Here you are!” Elise giggled, lightly punching my arm. “Don’t hide!”

Good thing the girls were too busy talking to hear. Now I’m gonna spend the rest of the night with this doubt ... what’s really going on? Why is Silvia alone on New Year’s Eve? And what does it mean that she doesn’t like knowing me with a girlfriend?

Jeez, I sound so childish. Love really fucks you up, I’ll never say it enough.

***

SILVIA

I smiled when I checked my phone for the umpteenth time since dinner started. Of course he would do this. He said he would. Ryan never quit texting me tonight. Said, just because we gotta be apart, doesn’t mean we actually have to. I thought it was a weird phrasing, but now I realize what he meant. We’ve been texting all night. To be honest, I sort of regret not going to Colorado with him, but it was the right choice. We need to tread carefully.

By the time the dinner was over, we decided to play something, so the discussion was, what?

“Beer pong.” Trey proposed.

“Seriously? On New Year’s Eve?” Tess scoffed.

I frowned. “What’s beer pong?”

“Some stupid drinking game college kids do.” Jake butted in, bored.

“I don’t.” Elise naively argued as she looked up at him. She’s stuck to his side all night, always snuggled in his arms. It was an odd sight, to be honest. I mean, Jake with a girlfriend ... who would have ever imagined it? Even though I’m curious about this Olivia Colin mentioned. Jake seemed uneasy talking about her.

Jake who half smiled at his girlfriend, and on cue she snuggled in his arms, again. What’s with all this snuggling? It’s not like he’s gonna fade if she leaves him one minute.

“No drinking games.” Colin interjected, eyeing his best friend, who rolled his eyes, scoffing. Another odd thing. The looks these two exchanged now and then tonight. Though Colin was more focused on his phone. I didn’t dare ask because, like I said, I don’t think she really likes me, but I’d dare say he was texting his girlfriend. I’m not the only one spending New Year’s Eve far from my sweet other half apparently.

“Ok ... strip poker?” Trey proposed, and I rolled my eyes, while the others groaned.

“I have an idea.” Tess mentioned, eyeing me, which was already a bad, bad sign, and when she grinned, I realized she was up to no good. “Truth or dare.” She said. “Let’s play truth or dare.”

“Why don’t we-”

“Yes!” The chorus that agreed to her idea cut me off mid-sentence. Well, I guess I’ll have to go with the flow. I’m not very good with truth about my life, though. I guess I’ll have to keep choosing dare until she gets tired.

How was it? The game is on. Let’s never truth, always dare.

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