“Pleaaaase!” I begged for the third time. “Please, please, please! You need to come! You’re the only one that can stop him!”
Silvia blinked her eyes, as if she didn’t understand a word of what I said. Gosh, what have I been saying until now? It’s as if she were in a totally different dimension. Tess says she’s been like this all week. “Stop him from what? It can’t be that bad ...”
Sigh. “You know Jakey ... he basically sees me as an asexual being that has no needs nor romantic feelings whatsoever. If I said I want to be a spinster for life and live with him and his wife, he’d probably be happy about it.”
She laughed, but there’s nothing to laugh about here. I’ve delayed this freaking dinner so many times now, I can’t anymore, but I dread it, oh, I so dread it! And Colin too is worried. Well, he’s more ... resigned. He’s simply resigned to his fate.
He says, “Whatever happens, there’s nothing that’ll spare me at least a punch in the face from your brother, and I’m ready for it. It’s not like he’s never punched me before.” Let alone this stupid fact about those two having already come to blows a couple of times, he may have resigned to his fate, but I haven’t.
I don’t wanna have to stand there watching while my brother beats up my boyfriend, thank you very much. Been there, done that. Jakey punched more than a few guys for me, not to mention what happened with Dave Murray ... I don’t even wanna think about it.
The point is, I don’t wanna stand there watching as they quarrel, that’s why I thought I’d bring in the hot shot ... but she seems always in a daze lately. I bet it was already enough that I was able to drag her to have coffee with me this morning. “Sissy, please ...” I begged. “You’re the only one that can help!”
She gave me a dirty look, predictably, I bet because of the nickname. Well, at least she’s waking up. As far as I know, she’s spent this past week huddled to my brother, but I’m not sure in what way. I mean, Tess says they were always together, having hush-hush talks in the office, and every time she proposed to go out, both always had other things to do. It turns out, they spent their nights at her place, officially just ‘talking’.
Normally I would be as happy as can be for them, but I doubt it’s the reason we’d all hope. Fun fact: all of us are rooting for Jakey and Silvia to get together. Tess and I certainly do. Colin says Silvia would do awesomely good to Jakey. Trey and Paul say my brother is definitely more cheerful after he’s spent time with her.
I suppose the only trouble is ... Ryan. I don’t know him much, I’ve only seen him a couple of times this week, but he seems nice. It’s a pity that he’ll have to be the one to wind up brokenhearted. I mean, I like him, but ... well, I’m sorry, but my brother needs Silvia. Badly. She does wonders to his mood.
“What should I do?” Silvia wondered, confused. Confused, really? I just spent the past ten minutes explaining to her that I need her to come to dinner tonight because I’m ‘introducing’ my boyfriend to my brother, yet now she is confused!
“I just told you!” I didn’t mean to yell, but all this situation is driving me insane. I keep on delaying, and I know it’s only making it worse. The more we delay, the madder Jakey will get. If there’s one thing my brother hates, is being lied to. He hates lies. Our relationship bases off utter honesty, yet I’ve been lying to him for months.
Gosh, he’ll get so mad, so, so damn mad! That’s why I need Silvia. “I need you to ... calm him down. Possibly keep him from beating up Colin ...”
“Oh, come on, it can’t be that bad ...”
I sighed. “Sissy, my brother is the most hot-headed irascible guy I know.” That’s one way to put it. “As soon as he finds out that, one, I’ve been dating his best friend for months, two, that we’ve kept it a secret for so long, three, that I ...” I bit my lip before finishing the sentence. That, not even Colin knows just yet.
Silvia frowned. “That you what?”
“Nothing. It’s ... it’s just that Jakey is so irascible and-”
“Serene ...” she eyed me intently, and I knew she finally got it. Well, at least she was finally out of the mist. “... are you pregnant?”
Never mind. No, she’s still clueless. “What? No.” I scoffed. “I’m the most careful girl you’ll ever know in that department.” I snorted. “Pregnant ... tsk.”
I sighed, playing with my mug. “I ... I want to quit Juilliard.”
“What? Why?” Predictable gasp. “Your brother says you’re an incredible pianist, and you’re going so well, why-”
“Because I’m tired.” I admitted, biting my lips. “I ... it’s getting harder and harder to spend time with Colin. With my lectures, and the concerts, and all the stress to keep up, not to mention college lectures, because uncle Keith still wants me to get a regular degree, so that means that I attend both Juilliard and Columbia, which is totally bonkers, but I guess it’ll be for the best one day.” I sighed. “All that obviously devours all my time, because you know, when I don’t go to lectures or practice, I gotta study for exams, and that makes it impossible to even only see my friends, let alone my boyfriend who lives four hours away!”
Wow. It feels good to finally say it out loud. I haven’t told anyone, actually. Not even my best friend, because I knew she’d take it badly, also because it means that we couldn’t see each other as much, since the only chances we have lately is in class at Juilliard. We live together, mind you.
I knew she’d get upset. I haven’t told Colin because I know he’ll be against it, and I bet Jakey too will get mad and blame my boyfriend. Uh, uncle Keith will blow a gasket. So I guess ... it felt good to say it out loud now to at least one person. The girl I wish to become family one day, but that’s another story.
Silvia looked at me intently, as if pondering, for a long, long minutes. She seemed wide awake now. I wonder what do she and my brother talk about, for her to be so weird lately. I’d think she’s secretly seeing both him and Ryan, but she doesn’t seem the type.
“Serene ... I wouldn’t want to be too blunt, we hardly know each other, and-”
“We’ve known each other for enough time for us to be friends.” Sisters one day, I hope.
Okay, okay, maybe I’m delusional, but ... gah, have you seen them together? My Jakey and his Sissy are so, so perfect together! They’re so alike, and they don’t even know it. And the way they look at each other! They’re so, so cute! I know it’s unfair to Ryan, but I really hope they’ll see reason sometime soon.
She inhaled deeply. “Okay ... well, let me be totally honest, then.” Silvia warned. “You cannot base your life choices off your boyfriend. Not even if he’s the man of your life.”
“No. No buts. You’re a clever girl, Serene. You’re building up a splendid career. Your brother is so proud of you, you have no idea, and I bet your uncle too is.” She sighed. “Hell, you’re only 19, Serene.”
“20.” I pointed out. “I’m 20.”
“Still. You’re so young.”
“You don’t get it, Silvia, I-”
“You love Colin, yes, I understand that. But you think he would like that you threw away your future for him?”
I knew she’d say that. “I wouldn’t throw away my future ... I’ve checked, and ... there’s a good piano program at Boston University, I can go there, and-”
“It wouldn’t be the same as Juilliard.”
“Why not? It’s piano. It’s piano in New York, it’ll be piano in Boston. What’s the difference?” I whined, even though I knew perfectly well the answer.
It’s not the same, obvious. Juilliard gives chances no other piano school could. This is my second year only, yet I’ve already received two offers from discography houses to make my own album. They like what I compose, they say.
I know I’m living a real golden age for my career as piano soloist and compositor, but ... I don’t wanna look back in 20 years and regret the time I couldn’t spend with Colin. Or my brother, too.
Living in New York is great for the career and all, but I see them so little. Jakey reserves almost all his weekends for me, but lately I’m always so busy, and when I’m not, I avoid seeing him because instead I need those two days for Colin.
It’s also one reason more why this situation is impossible. It would be so much easier if this relationship was out in the open, that way I could easily spend time with both without having to lie and deceive and ... ugh. I’m tired!
“You know there’s a huge difference.” Silvia scolded. “I don’t need to tell you what Juilliard can do for you.” Sigh. She’s not my sister yet, but she already rebukes me like my brother does. I hate it and like it at the same time. Although I’d prefer if my brother’s future wife would be my accomplice other than a Jakey 2.
“I know, but-”
“Serene.” See? Even the way with which she says my name sternly. Jakey uses that very same tone. They’re so alike, it’s bananas.
I sighed, giving up the mug to leave my head on the table. “Okay, okay, I know ... it’s stupid.” I admitted. “But I wouldn’t be giving up my career, you see? I would just ... postpone it a little. What’s so wrong about waiting a couple of years more?”
“You know full well that’s not it. I don’t know how your environment works, but I’m pretty sure they mostly bet on young cadets. The younger you are, the better. Besides, I like Colin, I think he’s one of the very few actually decent guys left, but ... Serene, even so, don’t you think it’s a little ... anti-feminist and old style, giving up your career to be with your man?”
I rolled my eyes. “As if I cared about that. No offense, but feminism has nothing to do with this.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Oh, come on, I called you here just to ask you to come to dinner tonight, not to lecture me on being a woman!” I whined, even though I was well aware I was in the wrong. I just ... didn’t like how reasonable she was being.
Silvia perused me carefully, and after a long, long moment, I spotted just a tiny bitsy smirk etching on her lips, one I’ve seen before ... okay, it’s more than bananas, it’s getting creepy now, seeing how she and my brother are alike. There’s nothing physically that binds them, but character? Uh, a lot. And in the end I guess that bad habits do rub off.
“Okay, here’s the deal ...” Silvia began, and it felt like I was hearing my brother with one of his ‘deals’ every time as a child I either didn’t wanna eat something or didn’t wanna let him go somewhere ‘so important’. I’m fairly conscious my brother spoiled me, yes, thank you. I mean, if I’ve been close to becoming one of those spoiled brats I’ve met in private high school, it was mostly Jakey’s fault. He’d never say no. Heck, not even uncle Keith did. It was mostly Colin to convince me to be more reasonable.
Okay, it is kinda creepy that I’m dating the one guy that’s basically raised me along with my brother, but ... I love him. Nothing brotherly about that.
“I come to dinner tonight,” Silvia began, “and ... you don’t quit Juilliard.”
I rolled my eyes. “Those are totally different matters.”
“Not at all. They all have one common denominator: Colin.” I hate when she gets that smartass tone, it’s seriously like hearing my brother. Ugh.
However, she did touch a raw nerve. I know full well that Colin would never agree ... heck, if he knew I want to quit Juilliard just to spend more time with me, he’d probably say we need to break up because he’s getting in the way of my career. Nonsense cheesy boyfriends say, you know. Ugh, these men and their need to be chivalrous when they’re in love. Tsk.
I poked the inside of my cheek with my tongue, thinking. What should I do? I don’t want to have to sacrifice time with my boyfriend in order to pursue my career. I love both. Why do I have to sacrifice either one of them? Can’t I have both? I have both now, but it seems impossible.
I’m always in neck deep with everything, and when I’m not, he is, because, you know, he is also pursuing his career. He’s a clever guy, my love. Would it be so awful to just make do with being piano teacher?
Silvia’s laugh had me frown. “What?” I spat, unnerved. This is not funny.
“Nothing ...” she laughed, “... it’s just that, you and your brother, you have that same habit. It’s cute.”
I frowned. “What habit?”
She poked the inside of her cheek, mimicking me. “This habit.” She claimed. “Jake does that when he’s in deep thought, you do the same.”
I rolled my eyes. Not the first one that tells me that. Jakey and I have a lot in common, people always say that. Despite the difference in age, we’re much alike, although it’s mostly physical, our characters are polar opposites. “We’re siblings.” I scoffed. “Of course we have features in common, Sherlock.”
She chuckled. “Okay, okay, no need to bite me ... geez, you have his same short temper, huh?”
I arched an eyebrow, tempted to be a little bitchy. “Say, you and my brother are spending a lot of time together, huh?” There, she froze. One point for me.
Silvia bit her lip, then cleared her throat. “It’s ... not what you’d think ...”
“No, no, sure it isn’t ...” Sadly no.
“Jakey is ...” oh, no, she turned sad, what did I do? “Jake is-uh ... helping me with ... um ... a personal issue. That’s all.”
I blinked my eyes, confused. But I suppose I couldn’t ask without hurting her feelings. better shut up, I already did enough damage for one day. If Jakey is helping her out with something, it must be big. I just hope it’ll be mutual ... he helps her, she helps him. God knows my brother needs it. No, he needs her.
“Okay, well, whatever.” I switched subject. “So, tonight you come to dinner. It’ll be in a restaurant ... less chances for too animated reactions.” At least I hope so, but I doubt it. My only safety valve is Sissy here. If she’s there to veer his temper tantrums, at least I have a couple chances more that my boyfriend will go home instead of hospital.
I wonder why did I let Serene convince me to do this. I wonder why do people say I have powers over Jake. Why? Just because of those feelings of his? So what? So fat he doesn’t seem much influenced by me, heck, he does whatever the hell he prefers even if I disagree.
For instance, I said I could easily take the bus to the restaurant, or subway, because it’s not too far from my place, but no, he insisted to come pick me up. See? It’s like talking to a wall.
Well, not quite. This past week, it was ... it was a nice change from crying on my pillow, I’ll admit. I’ve cried more this past week than in my whole life, I bet. We’ve been ... tackling, or trying to, huge issues of mine. Step by step. It’s like he’s my personal therapist.
I feel numb these days, but ... it’s a somewhat good sort of numb. I mean, it’s not a sorrowful kind of numb, it’s more of a, I feel numb because facing my demons so directly and relentlessly wears me out.
Tess can’t believe it, but ... Jake and I, we do spend nights talking at my place. Just talking. We talked my issues out. It’s ... refreshing. I never knew that actually letting out everything, every single emotion, unburdening myself without qualms, without holding back a single word, could feel this ... satisfying.
It’s numbing, it drains out my strengths, in fact we always need to take breaks, but ... it’s useful, very useful. I’m not saying Jake does miracles, but ... he’s done more in a week than the therapist I saw back in the day did in four months.
I suppose it’s because I ... I’ve totally abandoned my soul to him. I ... I have no qualm in saying it all, not anymore. I’ve never once talked it out before, but with Jake, it ... it feels natural. It’s obvious I won’t be healing from one day to another, but ... I am on the road to it. Someday, maybe, I ... will be free. And it’ll be all thanks to Jake Watson.
“Ryan again?” Jake wondered, eyes on the road.
I quickly typed my response. “Yeah ... just saying goodnight.”
“How sweet.” Yeah, I didn’t miss the sarcasm nor the bitterness there.
“He is, really. And so very patient.” I mused out loud, almost forgetting whom was I speaking to. When I did, I bit my lip, ready to apologize, but Jake prevented me.
“You can ... talk about him too if needed, you know ...”
“I’d rather not ...” I wouldn’t want to do more damage than I already am doing.
He half smiled. “I’m a tough cookie, baby, I keep telling you.”
“Yeah, maybe, but ... hearing the girl you love talk about her boyfriend can’t be that nice, can it? It’s alright, I’ve got Tess for that.”
“Mmh ... you didn’t hesitate this time.” He mused.
I frowned. “What?”
“Well, this past week, every time Ryan’s name came up, you hesitated in deeming him ‘boyfriend’, this time there was no hesitation ... I gather the lovebirds are back to their Eden?”
“Wrong metaphor. But what are you, some sort of creepy stalker?”
He laughed. “You got me there.” He turned to me for a moment, offering me that panty-dropping smirk of his. “But you should know that already.”
“That you stalk me? Wow, so sexy.”
He laughed, predictably. “Well, take it this way, baby, I only give my full attention to the things I’m most interested in ...”
“Jake Watson. Because stalking means you care.” I recited, scoffing. “You should make it your slogan for when you start up your stalker company.”
“Hey, it’d be a raging success, I’d beat Zuckerberg in the blink of an eye.”
“Hardly. He’d beat you in being, you know, a free man.”
Jake snorted. “They don’t send rich people to prison. Do I really have to teach you the basis?”
“You did go, though.” Damnit. Again this mouth of mine ... he still hasn’t told me about Dave Murray, but I’m trying.
Getting this guy to talk about himself is actually way harder than you’d think, you know? One would presume, as much of a narcissist as he is, Jake would talk about himself nonstop, yet no, he never shares details of his past. Never. I just hope I can persuade him someday. It’ll help him too.
As a response, Jake merely smirked, which is an improvement to his scowl when I touch the subject, I guess. “Keep trying, baby. Maybe someday you’ll get to hear the whole story.”
I scoffed, turning to look outside the window. “You’ll budge. Just you wait.”
When the car came to a stop before the restaurant, and I turned to him, Jake wetted his lips as once again that panty-dropping grin appeared on his lips. “You know, baby, there’s an age-old way for a woman to push a man to spill the beans ...”
“May I remind you, you get a punch for every gross comment you make?” It’s part of the re-educational problem I’m putting him through. That mouth of his can be more vulgar than the proverbial sailor’s.
“Hey, you have a talent, you should use it ... just saying.” He laughed as I raised my fist.
“It was a onetime thing. You lost your chance.” I quipped as I unfastened my seatbelt.
Jake smirked, unfastening his. “As long as Ryan doesn’t get his, I won’t have lost mine, you can bet on that.”
I rolled my eyes. This guy is unbelievable. But I guess it’s my fault ... I shouldn’t have told him that, even though Ryan and I are still, technically, together, we still haven’t ... well, consummated.
We will, I swear. We just ... need to get fully back to ourselves, and since I spend most of my time with Jake, rekindling my relationship with my boyfriend can be a little tricky.
Once Jake had given the valet his keys, we headed inside. I wondered if I should have cuffed him to my wrist first. Given how huge this whole dinner is going to be, I’m afraid I shouldn’t have left the dog unleashed.
We entered in silence, and gave our names to the man at the entrance. He told us our friends were already waiting for us, and I swallowed. When Jake frowned, I realized I’d grabbed his arm unconsciously. “What?” He questioned, confused.
“Uh ... nothing, I ... I was about to fall ...” I lied.
He smirked, and I yelped when he suddenly squeezed me into him, tucking me safely under his arm. “Here. Hold onto me.” Somehow he managed to make that sound much more serious than it was supposed to be.
“I’m not drunk.” I tried to wriggle out of his grip, but Jake chuckled, unfazed.
“Well, you know the song ... if you love me, don’t let go. I love you, I don’t let go.”
Damnit. That’s sneaky. If I pulled back, I’d indirectly hurt him, but if I stayed, I’d give him false hopes. Sigh.
Good thing Jake released me on his own, laughing it off. He always laughs it off after he’s let slip words like those. He doesn’t have qualms in repeating how much he loves me, yet he laughs it off right after. I bet it’s not to embarrass me, but it’s only worse.
“H-Hey ...” Serene greeted, super-nervous, leaping to her feet, the moment she saw us. Colin merely stood, as tense as a violin chord as well. I didn’t peg Colin for the secrets kind of guy, but then again, I don’t know him much.
Turns out, he’s been keeping this relationship with his best friend’s sister well secret for months, no, over a year. They may have split up when Jake came back, but they were indeed together when he was ‘away’ (read prison). That counts for me. Jake is gonna be super-pissed. Now I was really rethinking not cuffing him to my wrist.
“So, where’s the jackass?” Jake asked, cracking his knuckles, which was an awful sign per se.
“Uh ... let’s sit first.” Serene said, her voice shaky.
We did sit, but nothing changed. We were all tense except Jake, the only unaware one. Apparently, he knew Colin would be here as support for Serene’s boyfriend. Officially I was invited by Jake himself. Serene and I made it look like it was his idea.
“So?” Jake questioned.
“Let’s order first.” Serene grinned anxiously, ignoring my dirty look and her boyfriend’s exasperated sigh.
“No.” Her brother stated. “Tell me.” I could see the gears in his head spinning, and as a result, his jaw was clenching. He was slowly piecing two and two together.
Colin squirmed beneath his friend’s gaze. Scratch that, Colin was boiling under Jake’s scorching gaze, which was getting more irate by the nanosecond, the rate at which he realized what was going on.
“Yeah.” Colin sighed, making himself as small as possible. “It’s ... you’ve probably realized already, but ... that’s it. Serene and I are dating. Have been for a while.”
“Colin!” She reprimanded him with a gasp. “That’s not the way to say it!”
“Better than silence.” He shrugged, defeated.
I was more focused on Jake, though. His knuckles were turning red as he clenched his fists, somehow I felt like I could hear the sound of his muscles tightening. I didn’t like the livid look in his eyes one bit. And neither did Colin, because he leapt to his feet, backing up, his hands held in surrender. “Before you go ape shit on me, know that it’s not what you think it is.”
“Isn’t it?” Jake spat through gritted teeth. His eyes were bloodshot He stood, robot-like, slamming his fist onto the table, and I definitely, definitely heard it cracking. Just how strong is this man?
“Jake ...” Colin called, hands in the air before him, as if prefiguring the outcome. Meanwhile people were, inevitably, looking all at us. “Please, calm down ...” As if that ever helped soothing the bull, “...we wanted to tell you ...”
“Then why didn’t you?!” Jake hissed, and when I noticed he was taking deathly slow steps towards his best friend, I stood as well.
“It’s ... we knew you’d react like this ... please, calm down. We can talk it out.”
The bull was already seeing red, though. “For fuck’s sakes, if you gotta screw my sister behind my back, at least grow some balls!” He took a few steps away from the table, heading to where Colin was, menacingly furious. “Be a man for once, and don’t hide behind her skirt.”
Colin sighed. “I’m not ...” yet he backed up, hitting a table behind him, “... I’m just trying to make you reason, alright? It’s not the end of the world.” Yeah, tell that to a furious Jake nearing him. “We love each oth-” Punched straight in the nose before he could finish. Why am I not surprised?
Jake grabbed Colin by his collar, lifting him up effortlessly and slamming him onto our table, and I tried to think of a way to stop him before he got too far.
“Come on, go ahead. Beat me.” Colin dared, regaining some courage, as his friend’s fist raised in the air again. “It wouldn’t be the first time, but at least this one’s worth it.”
Wait, what? What does that even mean? I know Jake is an irascible type, but to beat up his best friend even? What the hell?
He slammed Colin against the table once again, causing it to crack and quiver enough to nearly break as he gritted his teeth. “She’s just a child.” He hissed, his jaw nearly smashing.
“Exactly! You were supposed to protect her! Especially after all she’s been through!”
“I did!” Colin argued, despite the blood flowing out of his lip due to the earlier punch. “I was there for her when you weren’t, and-”
“And sneaked into her bed?” I think I might have heard Colin’s back crack the slightest at the third time he was slammed against the table, which finally broke. Jake grabbed his best friend by his collar, and lifted him off the ground, his eyes blazing a raging fire that I think could only be compared to Achilles’ fury. Time to intervene.
“Jake ...” I tried calling. But he didn’t even hear me. He lifted his arm, but before he could actually punch Colin again, I swiftly rushed to break them apart, so that Colin fell to the ground, while I nearly got punched on his behalf. You see, in the rush, I wound up pushing Colin away, out of his friend’s grip, but that left me on the receiving hand of the punch. I dodged it just in time.
It gave me time to better look at Jake, though. There was something in him, something ... worrying in his gaze. A dark halo covering his face, a void in his hazel-green eyes, as if that ... wasn’t exactly him.
People around us gasped, because he didn’t seem quite himself, but I didn’t move. His fist remained blocked in the air, just a mere inch beside my face, his other hand was still up in the air, as if still gripping Colin’s collar, but in his friend’s place, there was me. I should have probably been scared, but I was more worried.
The mad fury in his gaze, the blankness of it, the harshness in his features. This wasn’t the Jake I know. This, right here, was the sneak peek into a totally different soul. I saw something lurking behind his eyes, something I didn’t like one bit. A monster.
A monster that seemed to have overpowered him, and was now ready to be set free, or rather, had already set a foot into the outer world. This wasn’t Jake Watson. It was the monster within him. A monster I had no idea ever existed. A monster that should have scared the hell out of me, but now as ever made me realize, Jake wasn’t wrong. There is indeed something connecting us, and it’s way more powerful than we could have ever known.
I’ve seen that monster. I’ve seen those demons lurking behind a leaden soul. This is not the rage of an irascible person. This is the rage of a monster that’s been unleashed, and the person behind it, the Jake I know, was being swallowed by it, and I had no idea how to help him.
He stared straight at me, but it wasn’t him. I knew it wasn’t him. I barely noticed the people around us were holding their breaths, while Colin was trying to stop the blood from flowing from his broken nose, Serene helping him.
I lifted my hand to grab his left one, and hold it, trying to soothe the monster inside him, but the moment I touched him, Jake jolted awake, and left my hand so abruptly and violently that I nearly lost balance.
Without a word, he stepped back, and stormed off. In the utter silence of the restaurant, all we could hear was the sound the front door made as he slammed it, so forcefully that it was nearly unhinged.
One thing is sure, I underestimated him. I made the very same mistake everyone makes with me. I assumed he was just a smug womanizer, but behind those hazel-green eyes, there’s a whole world hiding, and there’s no sane nor common person in this world that would dare trespass that door, but hey ... I’ve never been much sane nor common. So I followed him.
If you love me, don’t let go. Isn’t that what the song says? It might not be romantic, but I do love Jake, and I’m not going to let go. Not now, nor ever.