I'm Here to Fix You

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Chapter 25

RYAN

“I’m sure it’s not how you think it is, darling.” My grandma repeated for the third time, while I paced her living room.

“Seriously? She was there clung to him! And she didn’t even deny it!” This is ridiculous. I thought she’d be glad. I did all I could to switch plane ticket, I paid off some guy at the airport to convince him to leave a day later just so I could take the plane earlier and be with Silvia by midnight, but guess what, I got screwed. Again.

I don’t wanna think she did it, but how can I not? She was there, clung to him so tightly, and she didn’t seem willing to let go. Hell, I saw it so clearly, it was him to let go, not her. She didn’t pull back, not even when she saw me, it was him to do so. What should I think?

When I arrived at Tess’, she told me they’d been playing this stupid game, and Silvia was stuck in the closet with Jake. I thought ok, nothing wrong with that, but when I got there I saw her clung to him, and I ... thought of the worst.

I saw Alicia again, entangled with Jeff. I saw my girlfriend and my best friend so taken, so lost in their passionate sex that it took them a few minutes to finally acknowledge I was right there. The same now, Silvia was there, all lost in her “friend’s” embrace, as if I never even existed to her, as if she didn’t care for anything else in this world, as if ... as if his arms were the sole place she craved to be in.

“Darling, you know Silvia. She wouldn’t do that to you.” Granny repeated.

“Yeah, I thought Alicia wouldn’t either, yet look at how it went ...” I was convinced Alicia and I were fine, she couldn’t have a reason to cheat because we were good together. I loved her, I didn’t neglect her in any way, I gave her all I could. Yet it turns out, she was screwing my best friend on the side. The truth is, you can never really know the people around you.

I thought I knew Silvia, at least enough to trust her, but ... once again my stupid determination to see the good in people has come back to bite my ass.

Sighing, I dropped against the wall, crawling to the floor, stupidly nervous tears fogging my sight. “What do I do now? She didn’t even deny it.” When I faced her, asking her for an explanation, she could barely answer me. She didn’t fight back, didn’t say a single word. When I said I’d go back to Aspen she didn’t even stop me. As if she couldn’t care less.

What if right now I’m here torn by doubt yet she’s all happily clung to her Jake? Maybe that’s why she didn’t want to come to Aspen, just so she’d be with him. Maybe that’s why she keeps on dithering, because she’s not sure of us. She’s not sure of us because there’s him. There’s always going to be him.

“It’s a lost cause, isn’t it, granny?” I wondered out loud. “I’m never gonna win, am I? He’s always there, he’s always gonna be there ...”

“She loves you.”

“Maybe, but I think she also loves him.”

“How do you know?”

“Gran ... you haven’t seen them.” I sighed, raking a hand over my face. “When they’re in the same room it’s like there’s nothing else for them.” He does that. I’ve seen it. I would be stupid not to realize it. He’s in love with her, I know he is. I don’t even need to be told, it’s so freaking clear just by the look in his eyes when he sees her. I know that look. I see it every day in the mirror.

It’s the look of a man that’s so hopelessly taken as to even lose himself for her. I know how’s it like to love like that, because I do.

It wouldn’t bother me, but I keep wondering ... does she feel the same? She denies, she seems fine with me, but I know she misses him. Sometimes she talks about the office, recounting anecdotes, but when it gets to him, she stops herself mid-sentence, and I see it, I read it on her face just how much it pains her not to be able to even only talk to him. I’ve always wanted to believe it was just because she cares about him as a friend, but is it just that?

My grandmother came to stand before me, her gaze somewhat soothing and understanding. Of course I would come here, I always come to her when I’m lost and heartbroken. You see, I’ve always loved spending time with her. My summers with her in Boston were my favorite time of the year. She extended her hand for me to take it, so I did and stood, because I know she couldn’t kneel like once. The moment I was up, she engulfed me in one of her amazing hugs, one of those that always serve to comfort me.

It’s why I came here when I broke up with Alicia. When I couldn’t take it anymore I came to the one person that’s always been able to comfort me. I come here every time things between me and Silvia get difficult. Granny advises me, consoles me, and I get back the strength I need to keep on fighting for this love. I hoped she’d be able to do that this time to, but ... the more we go on, the harder it seems, the more I feel like I’m a third wheel.

“I’m so sorry, darling. This must be terrible for you.” Granny said.

I basked in her embrace the same as I did when I was a kid. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I love my grandma, and I love her hugs. Neither am I ashamed to admit tears streamed my cheeks. Is it unmanly? I don’t care. “I just ... I just feel like I’m losing her, granny. And ... God, it hurts so freaking bad.”

“I know, darling, I know ...” she rubbed my back soothingly. I’m triple her weight, yet she’s always able to take me in, comfort me, like only a grandmother could. There’s something about a grandma that is inevitably different from a mother. I mean, I love my mom to bits, but granny is granny.

I sighed, not even hiding the tears, she’s well used to them. After all, it was her to catch them when I broke up with Alicia, or when Christie left me, or even when our dog died when I was 12. Violet O’Neill is the most incredible woman I’ve ever known.

“You should talk to her, my boy. Get it out in the open. It will do no good if you ignore the elephant in the room.” She pulled back, caressing my cheek. “You should tell her how much this hurts you.”

“But it’s not right.” I admitted, pulling away from her touch to wipe away my stupid tears. “I can’t just tell her not to see him just because I’m jealous. Nor can I keep her from being with him if she really loves him. I can’t ...” I sighed, defeated. “I can’t keep her with me if she wants to be with him.”

“But does she? That’s the question you need to ask her.”

“She’ll say no, granny. She always says no, but I see it, I see how much she misses him, how much she cares. And their embrace last night ...” Rationally I know something did happen between them in there, because Silvia was all disheveled, and they were so wrapped up in each other, it can’t have been nothing. Yet ... emotionally, more specifically, my heart tells me she wouldn’t cheat. But I thought the same of Alicia ...

“You don’t know what happened last night. Speak to her.”

“I did! And she didn’t deny it. She didn’t give me a single explanation as to why was she so wrapped up in her ‘friend’s’ arms. She didn’t defend herself, she didn’t even try to.”

“Maybe because she had nothing to defend from ... have you considered that?”

“Gran ...”

“I know Silvia, darling. I know she would never do this to you.”

“Yeah, well, I thought the same of Alicia ...”

My grandmother grimaced, predictably. She’s the only member of my family that never liked my ex. I suppose she’s the only one that saw it right. “Silvia is not Alicia, Ryan.” Granny wrinkled her nose, something she does whenever she says something she doesn’t want to. “That girl never deserved you, my boy. I’m sorry. But Silvia ...”

“I don’t deserve Silvia instead, granny. That’s the sad truth. Or rather, I’m not good enough for her.”

“Oh, darling ...” she extended her hand to caress my cheek, but I pulled back.

“I’m right, granny. We all know I am. Simply I ... I can’t give her what she needs.” I suppose that’s the root of all problems. We’ve been good until now, I thought we were going somewhere, we both seemed to think it, but ... what if we’ve both been wrong all along?

***

JAKE

Way to start new year. First a nightmare I couldn’t possibly explain, now this ... meet up. Why did I even say yes, I have no idea, but here I am now, no point in ditching. Hence, I sat at the table by the window, and waited.

This morning I craved to call Silvia, to ask how was she, after last night’s breakdown, but I retained myself. I bet they’ve had one hell of a fight because of me, which would also explain the reason why he contacted me. I wouldn’t blame him if he felt like punching me or something.

Yeah, Ryan contacted me. To be honest, when I first read the text, I thought it was a joke. I thought it was Tess playing or something, because it couldn’t be true.

Unknown: You and I need to talk. Meet me at the Ice Café at 4pm. Ryan

A message like that coming from the boyfriend of the girl you’re in love with, the same boyfriend that’s caught you and her all snuggled up to each other in a closet, what would you think? To be honest, the café surprised me more, I thought he’d prefer a ring. But he’s not the violent type, I already know that. He’s had so many chances and reasons to punch the hell out of me, yet he never did. I suppose he’s a better man than I in this. That’s why I thought he’d be better for Silvia.

But if he can’t even handle her breakdowns, if he can’t be there for her when she needs him the most, then he’s just as much of a crappy excuse for a boyfriend as so many others are.

Let me tell you something, I’ve often been ‘the other guy’, the one women cheat with, and I can assure you, 9 times out of 10, if a woman cheats, it’s because she’s not been given enough. Be it sexually or emotionally. When a woman comes to me, it’s because her man couldn’t satisfy her properly, but more often than not, it’s on an emotional level more than just physical.

You see, in my experience, most men tend to take their woman for granted, think that, simply because they’ve settled, that’s it, it’s over. Wrong. Totally wrong. It’s exactly that kind of thinking that drives your women to men like me, gents. It’s exactly because you neglect her, take her for granted, that she comes to me.

Believe me, you don’t wanna know how many married women I’ve had. In my defense, I’ve never split any couple, never been a homewrecker. If the women then chose to leave their husbands, it was entirely their decision, I had nothing to do with it. All I did was remind them how enthralling sex can be.

The point however here is, is Ryan really what Silvia needs?

As I waited, I checked my phone. As usual, there were tons of messages from tons of people, but I ignored them all. The only ones I checked were from Serene and Elise, one asking if we could have dinner together tonight, the other ... well, the other asking the very same thing. Wait, what?

From Pebbles: It’s time you meet him ...

Huh? Finally? After all these months? After she backed out on Christmas Eve? Now?

To Pebbles: you want me to begin new year by beating up your boyfriend?

Pebbles: come on, Jakey, you have no reason to ...

Me: Pebbles, the jerk has had you hide this fucking relationship for months, I haven’t killed him yet only because I’ve never seen his face

Pebbles: it was my idea, he wanted to tell you right off the bat ...

Yeah, of course, why doesn’t that surprise me? She knows full well how would I react, of course she wouldn’t want me to meet him. It’s odd, though. She’s never been able to conceal it for so long ... last time she did, it was with some dude that had dared deflower her. That chicken didn’t even have the guts to face me after the deed, he quit coming over in fear he’d see me. I’ll admit I do love the panic-stricken face they make, but a guy like that, that fears confrontation so bad, is not at all deign of my sister.

Wait a minute, is this because ...

Me: Do I know him?

This gotta be the only reason why she still won’t let me meet him, even after all these months. The fact that she didn’t answer right away was suspicious, to say the least. While waiting, since Sir Douche was seemingly late, I answered to Elise’s message about having dinner tonight.

To Elise Sweet-Cheeks: you kidding?

Elise Sweet-Cheeks: LOL no, really ... so, you up for it?

This gotta be a joke. Wasn’t I clear since the beginning? What the hell is it with women? Can’t a guy be just friendly without you immediately hearing church bells?

Me: hell, no

Elise Sweet-Cheeks: oh come oooon I didn’t wish you Happy New Year!!!

Right. Right after Silvia reached her boyfriend I left, unable to endure the whole tacky sight. It was five minutes before midnight.

Me: So?

Elise Sweet-Cheeks: I want to!!! Pretty pleaaaaase!!!!

Again with the massacre of exclamation marks ... jeez, I thought I’d tamed her.

Me: NO

Still waiting for Sir Douche to show up, and for Serene to answer my goddamn question, I scrolled through the rest of my messages. There were none from Silvia, predictably, but neither from Tess.

As far as I know she and Trey decided to try it one more time, so they’ll be spending the remaining holidays together. I can’t tell you much of an awful decision that is from her part, but it’s not up to me, is it? Trey is my friend, but I know him, he’ll never be able to endure a fully committed relationship. Then again, they say the same about me, yet here I am, thinking of Mrs. Silvia Watson.

I also got a couple of texts from Hillary, one wishing me happy new year, the other wondering if I fancied to start it on the right foot. That’s the third invitation I got for tonight. Third actual invitation, that is, the rest were booty calls, a few also for the afternoon. I think I’ll have to change number, I’m seriously tired of being a call center.

Pebbles: Yes ...

Wait, what?

Pebbles: Yes ... you do know him ...

Huh.

Me: Who is it? So I can already know what name to put on his grave.

Pebbles: Jakey, come on ... be reasonable for once. It’s really important to me, okay? Just come to dinner tonight and ... you’ll meet him.

Me: You said the same about Christmas Eve, yet I got stuck having to eat with uncle Keith’s grumpy scowl ruining my digestion.

Pebbles: Well, I said that only to convince you to come the other time ... now I’m serious. It’ll be me, you and ... him.

Me: Mmh ... fine. But I promise nothing. You should tell him to get protections for his bones.

That won’t help him, but at least I can avoid giving him a cranial trauma.

Pebbles: Sure you grumpy cat ... see you tonight, Jakey, love you

I sighed, putting down my phone. Already five minutes since I’m here. I wonder, has he seriously chickened out? It was him to contact me, eh. I kept myself busy by answering to those texts that seemed necessary, checking my emails and all, until, finally, I heard a throat being cleared.

When I looked up, I saw Saint Ryan in all his glory. Well, his ragged glory. He looked pretty messed up, all disheveled. “Hi.” Wow, he was so tense, I bet he could be played with a violin.

“Well, hello there ... I thought you’d chickened out.” He sent me a dirty look, but sat in front of me nevertheless. I rolled my eyes when I heard the teen girls sitting at the other side of the coffee shop gasp shocked and sigh disappointed. “It’s not a date, you kids.” I pointed out loud, and they sighed, relieved. Last I need is for people to think I’m dating Sir Douche.

I mean, let’s be honest, I’ve been asked out by way prettier and sexier men. If I wanted to switch sides, I could call at least four people that would be all too glad to help me cross the bridge. Told you, I’m quite popular amongst gay men too. Perks of being me.

“So ... what brings Sir Douche out of his holy castle?” I wondered, clasping my hands together. Cue the glare. When the waiter came, I ordered a hot cocoa for two and a cupcake for me, since Ryan was too busy digging a hole in my head. “Come on, buddy, I don’t have all day.” I actually do, but I don’t wanna waste it here with him. There are tons of better ways to spend the first day of the year, you know.

For instance, I could loosen up the coy single mom that just came to pick up the teens that’d been staring at me ever since I sat here. Or I could teach a lesson or two to the clumsy nerd that just spilled coffee on her shirt while heading out. Or maybe I could hit up the waiter, since he just wrote his number on my hot cocoa cup. I’ve never tried the other shore, but why not? He looks cute enough.

“What happened last night?” Ryan finally spoke, his voice just as tense as his shoulders.

I frowned. “What do you mean, what happened last night? Wasn’t it clear?” And here goes the third glare. Wow, he must hate me real bad. I don’t blame him, I’m not his number one fan either.

Sighing, I leaned back in my seat, and I took a sip of my hot cocoa, winking at her when I caught the single mom’s gaze. Her cheeks turned crimson, of course, while the teens laughed.

Come on, you can’t seriously think that, just because I’m in love, I don’t look at other women. All the flings in this world won’t ever make me forget about my Angel with Horns, but since my situation is impossible, I may as well give others a bit of relief, don’t you think?

“It was all but clear, Jake. What happened?” Ryan asked harshly.

I rolled my eyes, putting my cup down. “Nothing happened, Ryan. Nothing. Obviously.” I arched an eyebrow at him. “You’re her boyfriend, you should know she’s a loyal type.” Despite all the not exactly ‘loyal’ moments we’ve had, that is.

“She is, but you’re ... well, you.”

Hard not to laugh at that. “I’m me? What’s that supposed to mean?”

He snorted. “Come on, women in this goddamn place are already devouring you with their eyes, you think I can’t see it?”

I grinned. “Well, truth be told, there’s a good half of them that’s ogling you, not me. I can be your wingman, if you like.”

“I’m not you.” He spat, hatred clear in his voice. Finally. Hate me for God’s sakes, you gotta hate me, buddy. I nearly stole your girl so many times, I was getting tired of your good boy attitude.

I smirked. “Not me? Care to enlighten me, please?”

“You’re a manwhore, Jake, we both know that. But I’m not you. I would never even think of cheating.”

“And am I? I’ll have you know, Mr. Good Boy, that I’m single. I could head to the back and offer some enthralling hours to the lovely lady that makes these delicious cupcakes, and I would be perfectly free to do that. That’s what being single is for.”

He grumbled something under his breath, but I didn’t bother. I just winked at the girl I just mentioned when she popped out of the kitchen, in time to hear me say that. I’ve seen her other times, I come here often. She’s exactly the type of girl I like to take and teach a few things to.

You see, I’m a womanizer, and as such, virgins shouldn’t be for my teeth, but the truth is, they are as long as they only seek someone that’ll rid them of that trouble called virginity. I’m exactly the kind of man a virgin needs to be set free.

Don’t look at me like that. Just because I’m in love, doesn’t mean I’m suddenly blind to the rest of the female population. But if it makes you feel any better, lately I’m more interested in shy girls to enlighten. Call me a good samaritan.

Ryan glared, again. Yawn. So predictable these jealous boyfriends are. “Either way, you may not trust me, but you surely trust her, I presume ...?” I wondered.

“Of course I trust her.” He spat, seemingly outraged.

“Then why are we even here? She told you nothing happened, I presume, so why ask me for confirm?”

“But that’s just it. She didn’t say it. She didn’t deny anything, she willingly let me believe it.”

I frowned, taken off guard. “What?”

Ryan sighed, finally loosening up enough to lean back against his seat and take a sip of his hot cocoa. I saw a 20-something girl bit her lip at that. Seems like Ryan and I together are being quite the eye candy today for these ladies, huh? Who would have thought? I mean, I’m me, so I know how it goes, but I didn’t think he’d be the type too. Must be the jock look.

Now that could be a non-cliché story. The bad boy and the jock fighting over the nerdy girl. I’ll have to tell the author about this.

Shhh, don’t tell her I told you about her, she can be even more vindictive and ruthless than I. I suppose that’s why I like her.

“When I asked for explanations, she didn’t give me any.” He said. “She didn’t say a single word, just let me go on a stupid rant ... she never denied.”

Cue the mental facepalm from me. “She’d just had a breakdown, you moron. Of fucking course she didn’t have the strength to talk. Jesus Fucking Christ, do you know your girlfriend one bit? Or women, for that matter?”

Other than glare, he startled. “A ... breakdown?”

Seriously? I gotta teach him how to take care of his own girlfriend? I gotta give my rival advice on how to make the woman I love happy? How fucked up is that?

Rolling my eyes, I took one more sip of the hot cocoa, trying to resist the need to correct it with some good old vodka. I’m starting to understand why does my therapist say I’m AA material, but whatever.

“Silvia is not a girl like others, Ryan, you should have understood that by now.” I began.

“Of course I know she-”

“Ha!” I held up a finger. “Keep quiet. Just listen.” He gave me a dirty look, but shut up. Not even the kinkiest foursome’s gonna sweeten this, I can assure you. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, of course. But at any rate, let’s be clear here.

“Silvia Wa-uh Banchi is ...” phew, nice save there. Sorry about the lapse, it’s just my mind that keeps on calling her Mrs. Watson for some reason. Stupid, I know. “... not a common girl.” I repeated. “She’s high maintenance, Ryan. Real high maintenance. And not because she’s an expensive girlfriend to please, no. Hell, you should know better than I how much does she cherish her independence ...”

We both half smiled for a moment as we thought of our fierce girl, and I suppose right this moment we found ourselves being somewhat similar. In the end, we both love the same girl.

“She’s high maintenance because she ... she’s got a past, Ryan. A past I presume you might have at least sensed it’s all but clear.” I said. He nodded, so I guess that’s a good start. At least he’s not entirely clueless. Finishing my hot cocoa, regrettably without correcting it, I sat up properly, thinking maybe I should seriously take one of these girls home later today. Just to take my mind off of this ungrateful task I’m up to.

“Silvia has issues, Ryan. Deep, deep issues. Last night she broke down in my arms, and I don’t even know why. What I do know is that I’ve never seen her so weak and fragile.” I sighed, playing with my cup. “Hell, if you love her even a half as much as I do, I honestly wish for you not to ever see her like that, because it tears you apart.”

I thought he’d scowl at the mention of me loving his girlfriend, but he barely blinked, I guess focused on the rest. “She broke down last night, and it’s worrying that it was possibly the first time she ever did in front of someone else.” I looked up. “It worries me to think that she represses all of this sorrow, deep down, because I know it’ll tear her down soon enough.”

“Set aside any grudge we may have against each other, I know you love her. I can see it. That’s why I’m telling you this, Ryan. Because you gotta be prepared.” I warned.

“You seem to know her quite a lot ...” he murmured, not sure if resentful or jealous or both.

“I do, yes. I’ve known her for quite some time.” More like, I’ve stalked her for quite some time, but her boyfriend doesn’t need to know that, don’t you think? “Though I can assure you she’s never once let out one single word about her past nor anything really serious.”

He nodded, playing with his half empty cup. “She’s not one to open up, I know ... I’ve tried so many times, but she always switches subject.”

I nodded as well. “That’s Silvia, yes. She’s one hell of a stubborn ox. She’s terribly proud. Last night’s tears baffled me for that exact reason.”

“Yeah, but the thing is, I’m her boyfriend, but she never once lowered her guard with me ... yet with you she seems ... different.”

I frowned. “Different how?”

He shrugged. “Different. It’s like she feels she can be totally free with you ... like she isn’t with me.”

Well, I never considered that. “That’s just because I ... let’s just say she knows I can understand her.”

“What do you mean?”

I pocked the inside of my cheek, considering another one of those delicious cupcakes. “Let me put it this way, we all have a past. Mine just happens to be more ... fucked up than the average person.”

His eyes widened in concern. “You’re suggesting Silvia is ... the same?” He can’t have just fallen from the clouds, can he?

“Sort of.” I raised my hand to call the waiter. I definitely want another cupcake. And the girl’s number maybe. If she bakes this good, I need to have her on speed dial. “I don’t know what happened to her,” I admitted, “but sure as hell it’s something huge. It probably happened when she was little.”

“You mean she lost someone or ... was submitted to ...” his voice cracked even only at the attempt he made at saying it, proof of how much of an unspoiled good boy he is.

“No, I don’t think she was abused nor raped.” I answered bluntly. He may be a cute little boy scout, but I’m not, I’m not afraid of words. “Or at least I hope she wasn’t.” But let’s admit it, when you know a girl has gone through bad things, those two are the first one that come to mind.

“But what could it be then?”

I paused the conversation to offer a little bit of a flirtatious smile to the waiter when he came to us. “Yeah, I’d like another triple chocolate cupcake, please.”

“Anything else?” He bit his lip, basically X-raying me, which also gave his words a whole different meaning in my dirty mind.

“Uh ... the baker’s number, if that is possible.” His face dropped as I said that. “I so badly need her recipe for these wonderful cupcakes.” I added with a wink, to which he grinned nervously.

“Ok, uh ... yes, I ... yes!”

I surprise myself sometimes. I mean, I’m used to women babbling around me, but not always men. I must be improving. They do say some men age like wine. As the waiter left, way more gleeful than before, I smirked, feeling Ryan’s gaze on me. “What, you jealous, Evans?”

He groaned, seemingly exasperated. “Be serious.”

I rolled my eyes, already seeing the waiter head our way. That was fast. “Coping mechanism, Evans. Ever heard of that?” I smiled at the waiter as he gave me three cupcakes, all on the house. “Of course you haven’t, you must have had a perfect life.”

“Louisa says she can’t give her recipe, though, sorry.” The waiter informed me.

I knew she wouldn’t. I smiled flirtatiously, licking my lips when a bit of chocolate remained on them. I would have sworn the man emitted a low moan. “I understand. Could you please ask her if I can swing by after closing time?” Seeing his disappointed look, I added: “As long as ... you too are okay with that, that is ...” Of course he is. He was dying to ask me, same as the others. Sometimes I wonder if I can I turn this off.

He eagerly agreed, scuttling away when another client called him. I was probably a bit of a jerk to lead him on like that, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate method. I’ll give him a pay rise when I buy this place.

“So ...” I turned back to Ryan, who was halfway between outraged at my shameless flirting and angry that I would so easily switch subject, I bet. “...we were saying ...?”

“How can you do that?” He questioned, baffled.

I chuckled, biting one of my cupcakes. “When you live a life like mine, Evans, you soon learn to divert thoughts whenever you can.”

“Yeah, but how does flirting helps?”

I shrugged. “It doesn’t help just me. It helps them. I forget my thoughts, they get self confidence. You should try it some time.”

He arched an eyebrow at me, scoffing. “Are you suggesting I should cheat on my girlfriend?”

I nearly spat out my cupcake not to laugh. “I would hope not. First because I’ll kick your ass in so many different ways if you do. Second because, if she found out it was my idea, Silvia would kick my ass.” Would you look at that, we almost seemed regular friends. In the end he’s not that bad. For being the douchebag that’s stolen the love of my life, that is.

When we recalled who we were and why were we here we returned serious. Funny, we might have been friends, had odds been different. But maybe it’s good, I might have driven him onto a bad route, he’d get along better with my sanctimonious best friend.

“The point is, whatever happened to her, it’s huge.” I restarted. “Whatever it was, whether it’s you or me or any other man to spend his life beside her, he’ll have to face it someday. He’ll have to live with it. Are you ready for that?”

“It’s not about that.” He argued, tensing up again. “It’s the reason why I asked to meet you in the first place.”

“Right. I forgot. Why did you summon me here?”

“I love Silvia.” He ignored my question with a statement that irked me, obvious. “I love Silvia way more than I could even explain, and it pains me to know that she’s suffered so much. Worse is being so well aware that she’ll probably never open up to me.”

“Give her time.” I vaguely suggested.

“No, it’s not about time.” He sighed. “Regrettably, I think it’s because she thinks I won’t understand. And she’s possibly right.”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, we’ve lived different lives. We have a different background, a very different character. You’ve said it yourself, I’ve had a perfect life. Or rather, it wasn’t perfect, no life is, but the most trauma I lived through was losing my dog when I was 12, something most kids go through.”

“You had a pretty regular life. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a blessing.” If I’ll have to console him because he didn’t suffer, I’ll punch him, I swear.

“Of course it is. I know I’m lucky. That’s not my point ... my point is, it’s because I’ve lived such a ... good life, that I can’t get behind what happened to her.”

“And you want me to do that?”

“Come on, Jake, I don’t even need to ask you. You’ve probably tried already, haven’t you?”

“Of course I have. What kind of boyfr-uh ... friend you think I would be if I didn’t even try to help her out?” He glared at my lapse, but he should feel lucky I didn’t say husband. My mind’s messing up situations here. I keep hearing Mr. and Mrs. Watson ring in my ears, which it totally bonkers, we all know that.

Ryan sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “My point is ... I can’t help her with that.” He looked up, serious. “Whatever that is.” He sighed again. “So that’s why I’m here ...”

I frowned, confused. “So ... you’re basically asking me to get intimate with your girlfriend?” Glare number five.

“You know what, Jake? If you’re trying to have me punch you, you’re getting real close to your goal.”

I smirked. “Oh, finally! A reaction! It took you months, for God’s sakes!” Glare number six. “Glares won’t bruise my handsome face, buddy. Be a man and punch me if you wanna. You don’t need to tell me first.” I leaned in, exposing my cheek. “Come on, I’m here.” Cue the ohhhs from the women around us.

Ryan clenched his jaw, but he didn’t touch me. “I know you’ve been trying to provoke me ever since we met. But I’m better than that.”

“Better than what? Better than the average male being?” I laughed. “Come on, Evans, with all the times you’ve found me in compromising situations with your girlfriend, you should have broken my handsome face long ago. I know I would have.”

For the first time, he let himself crack the tiniest smile. “But you see, that’s exactly the difference between you and I, Jake. I’m not a violent man.”

“And I am?” I wondered. “Oh, wait, right, I am.” And we have glare number 7, ladies and gentlemen. We’ve reached the perfect number.

“You’re proud of it, aren’t you?” Ryan spat, spiteful. “You’re a violent jackass and you brag about it.”

I shrugged, leaning back against my seat, rubbing my chest. “Say all you like, Evans, there’s nothing that can touch this armor.”

“Silvia can, though.”

Shit. That’s a low blow. I sent him a dirty look. “Say, does she know you asked me to meet you? Does she know we’re here today?”

He sighed, shaking his head. “I’m not even sure we’re still together.”

“What?” I nearly gasped.

“Oh, please, don’t even pretend to be sad about it.”

I scoffed. “Did she ever tell you it was me to throw her into your arms? Did she ever tell you it was me to convince her to run after your dumb ass that day over six months ago?”

He gasped. “What?”

“If you’ve been blessed with the best months of your life, you moron, it’s only because of me. I allowed it, I chose for her.”

He clenched his jaw. “So you’re telling me she chose me only because you rejected her?”

I knew he’d read it this way. I could have taken advantage of that to rub salt in the wound, but ... as much as I’d like the opposite, my job here is to teach him to be the right man for her. “I’m only saying I ... nudged her in the right direction. Like I’m trying to do with you right now.”

Ryan snorted. “I don’t need a manwhore to teach me how to be a good boyfriend.” He hissed.

I smirked. “Well, well, Saint Ryan isn’t that much pure, huh? I do tickle your worst side, don’t I?”

He groaned, evidently frustrated. “I’m not a saint nor an angel. I have my flaws, and yes, you do tickle my worst side, Jake. Hell, you can’t imagine how much my fists itch because of you.”

I took off my imaginary hat. “You’re welcome.”

He sighed, raking a hand over his face. “We’re losing the point here.”

“The point’s never been in sight, Evans. You never had the guts to tell me what the hell you want from me exactly.”

“I tried, but you’re too in love with your voice to listen.”

I’d have argued, but I can’t deny he’s right. Hey, admittedly, my voice is sexy, I’m not gonna deny it just to seem humble. I’m sorry for you that can’t hear it, but women get wet at the sole sound of it. “Alright, shoot. I promise I’ll shut up.”

Ryan sighed, clasping his hands together. “I’m here because Silvia needs help. We both know that, but she’ll never agree.” I merely nodded. “Well, as much as I’d like to be her savior, I can’t. I simply don’t have the means to.” I opened my mouth to argue, but he prevented me: “Yes, yes, I know, she’s the kind of woman that doesn’t need a savior, she’s her own savior, but you get what I mean, just listen.”

I zipped up my lips, causing the girls to giggle and him to roll his eyes, but he went on: “I was saying ... I can’t help her through her traumas, I know that. But ... you can. And before you say it, no, I’m not asking you to sleep with my girlfriend. Not every problem can be solved with sex.”

I disagree with that, but I didn’t say it. Sex doesn’t solve problems, but it helps one hell of a lot, I’ll never say it enough. It’s hard to think of anything else while you’re lost in a woman’s graces.

“I’m only saying, you should ... rekindle your friendship. Try to talk to her ... see if you can spill out something. Help her through it.”

“And you think I needed your permission to do that?” I scoffed.

“Of course not, but since you’ve been avoiding her these months ...” Ryan sighed. “Look, we both want the best for her, don’t we?”

I nodded. At least we can agree on something.

“Well, the best entails helping her through her traumas. And you’re the only one that can. Yet you’ve left her alone ... you’ve abandoned her to her means.”

I shot daggers at him. “I have not done such a thing. I never would.”

“Jake, you’ve spent the past months ignoring her. You seriously think she didn’t notice? She has, and so have I.”

“It was for her best ...” and kinda selfishly for mine.

“Maybe. But she felt like she lost you. And I think that also worsened her state ...”

“Ryan, get to the point.” I spat, unnerved. The sole idea that my decision to keep away worsened Silvia’s state made me sick to my gut.

He sighed. “The point is, you should ... spend more time with her.”

“So I’m right, you’re asking me to get intimate with your girlfriend.”

“Not in the sense you’d crave.”

I smirked. “And how do you know I crave it?”

“Oh, please. First of all, you clearly can’t keep it in your pants. Second, you love her, of course you crave it. Same as I do.”

I frowned. “Wait ... so you two haven’t ...” Cue my inner dance. I think the Cheshire grin nearly broke my face while Ryan scowled.

“We were supposed to, but that’s not the point ...”

“It’s exactly the point, Evans. You just said it, I can’t keep it in my pants and I crave to have sex with her. You seriously wanna have a manwhore, as you called me, spend solo time with your girlfriend, getting intimate and all?”

He shot me another glare. “Was it up to me, you’d be miles away from her. But regrettably, you’re the only one that can help her. And I’d rather try to heal her than be utterly sure she won’t cheat on me.” He sighed, dejected. “If she’ll choose you in the end, I’ll damn myself for the rest of my life, but at least I’ll know it was for a good cause.”

I bit my lip, actually surprised. “You really love her, huh?”

“Much more than you’d give me credit for.”

Eh. I know that feeling. I know what it’s like to be in love with Silvia Banchi, so I can understand how he feels more or less. Sure, he gets to cuddle her, but in the end, we’re in the same boat. Loving someone as unreachable as North Pole in the middle of a Winter storm.

“Fine.” I agreed. “I’ll rekindle our friendship. But if we wind up cuckolding you, don’t say I didn’t warn you, buddy.”

He gritted his teeth, and I smirked as I noticed his fists clenching. I’m this close to finally getting him to punch me.

In the end, he asked of me nothing I wouldn’t have done anyways, but I suppose it helps to have her boyfriend on my side on this one. Maybe our joint efforts can do something about it. Love may not conquer all, but receiving the help you need from the two people that love you the most should serve to something, don’t you think?

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