I didn’t want to stop.
“You don’t want me, Blair, and honestly I don’t want you.”
Tears burned my eyes as I sucked on his lips, tasted them, wanted more, wanted him to touch me, to feel me close.
“What will Holden think if you have sex with me?”
But those last words did it. I was not my father. I was not a cheater. This wasn’t me acting. This was rage, and while rage is a wonderfully warm feeling, it wouldn’t do me any good.
So I took a step back from Liam, wiped my lips clean, and ordered, “Get out.”
He spared me one last sympathetic look that slapped home the realization that he was doing it all out of pity, and left. As he did, I slumped on the floor and stared at the closed door.
Everybody in my life was a liar. My family. Holden. Liam. What did it say about me that I allowed myself to be in close proximity with such scum? And apparently... Men were all the same. All the fucking same.
That last thought steeled my heart and dried my eyes. I couldn’t go back to how I used to be before Holden, sure, but I could take my perks and flaws and turn them for the best. I didn’t need a man to hold the reins. I didn’t need a man to make me feel things. I didn’t need a man to make me feel whole and reach stupid oblivion.
I was Blair Sheridan. I needed no man. I required no love. I could make whatever the hell I wanted on my own.
The decision burned inside me. Tomorrow, I would call Holden and tell him I hoped he would get better, but he would not have a hysterical woman waiting for him if he got worse. And, of course, I would appear in his funeral if he had one. Also, I’d tell him I was glad I didn’t fall for him. I was specifically glad about it.
Then I would go to the park, where Andrew the saxophonist was. Because life didn’t give you much time to hesitate, and I wanted to see if maybe, perhaps, there was a chance for my idea to actually occur. That would require some paper work but I was willing to give it a shot. Andrew deserved better.
That was my life. Who needed love and passion when you had music? Who needed anything when you were strong enough to stand on your own?
I didn’t. I was truly alone and I reveled in it.
* * *
Since I decided to be a grown up, the next morning I discarded the idea of simply calling him and instead went to visit him at the hospital.
Holden was awake and laughing with someone when I arrived. As I knocked on the door and opened, I saw for my utter delight (cue sarcasm) Ford and Emma, along with Heath and Avery, their friends. All four, however, stopped laughing when they saw me entering. Even Holden seemed like someone sucked what little life he had out of him.
Whoops. Cruel joke right here. But I was too tired to be politically correct.
“Blair,” Emma greeted me, feigning a smile. “How are you doing? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
I shot her a bored look. “I’m doing marvelous. You got hitched yet?”
Ford’s jaw locked and Emma’s face darkened. Ah oh. Something had happened. “No, we delayed the wedding,” she explained in a sweetened voice, “because of the best man’s condition and all that.”
I arched an eyebrow and Holden, who chuckled uncomfortably. Someone didn’t want to be the one to blame, it seemed. And someone didn’t cut the assholes’ off like he said he would. Another lie.
“I’m very sorry to hear that,” I said, and then decided to screw with this shit. “Or rather, I’m really not. You both are dickheads, you see.”
Silence fell on the room, and Holden sent me a look of alarm. “Blair,” he said softly, “don’t let your anger about me on them – “
“Oh, so you think I’m still angry at you?” I snorted out a dry laughter. “I’m way past over it, my dear. I’m not angry at you now. I just don’t like you anymore.”
He looked like I slapped him. Good. I could feel my blood boiling and my head spinning. I needed to get the secrets out. I needed them out so I wouldn’t have to suffer through them on my own. So I looked at Ford and said lowly, cruelly, “Since you’re not in a hurry to tie the knot right now, let me give you a couple of advises, future brother-in-law,” I said and stepped forward, feeling the wrath burning in me. “First of all, you don’t get to dictate my life anymore. You telling every guy that might or will cross my path about how bad of a person I am is more evil than I could ever be. It’s none of your business who I date and fuck, so stay out of it or I’ll make sure you won’t have a say in anything ever again in your sad little life when I pluck your tongue out of place. Capiche?”
Ford tried to remained stern at what I just hit him with, but I could see my mean voice cut deep when his eye got a little twitch. Good.
“Also,” I turned to Emma, smiling sweetly. “I think it’s time for you to tell Ford about your previous occupation, don’t you think? What if Ford finds out you’ve been selling your body for money?”
Emma paled immediately and Ford’s eyes widened and snapped to her. “What is this?” he asked in an animalistic growl. God, it was so easy to play the puppeteer with them; they were so easily manipulated. Maybe it was because of their jobs at the glamour world. Maybe it was the simple minds they had. Whatever it was, I relished the easiness of it all.
With tears in her eyes, Emma fled the room. Ford, still in shock, went after her. Two down, two more to go.
I gave one scathing look to Avery and Heath and the two immediately stammered out something about bathroom and left me alone with Holden.
That’s when the hardest part came.
Looking at Holden, I remembered everything we shared together. Everything he’d done for me. How he’d made me to open up to him. How he’d made me agree to marry him. And as I looked into his sad, quicksilver eyes, I tried to feel again something of what I felt before, some of the caring and anticipation I always felt with him, but instead I felt numb again.
And I realized that the blow I’d gotten from him was even harder than I thought. Lies were such an ugly thing. They also shaped me to be who I was. Anyone who lied was dead to me, and that included even the best thing I’d ever had in my entire life.
“I’m breaking up with you,” I told him in my flat voice. He didn’t look surprised. “I wish you to get better and I’m sad that you have to go through this, but I can’t support you anymore. Not after this.”
His jaw locked, his eyes on mine, he nodded curtly. “I figured that’s what you’re here to say.”
“Good,” I said, feeling relief washing over me so suddenly, I almost fell to the floor. “I’m glad you did.”
“But I also wish you would stay,” he smiled weakly. “But that’s my own psychosis, I guess. I don’t love you, yet I want you to be here next to my dying bed so I wouldn’t die alone.”
“You’re selfish more than you’re selfless,” I told him. “You might twist your selfishness into helping people, but in the end, you only help yourself. You’re both a priority and not.”
He smiled sadly. “Never mistake, Blair. I showed you the real me since day one. I did lie to you, and I know it irrevocably hurt you to the point you can barely be in the same room with me, but I never lied about who I was. That’s who I am, Blair. Take it or leave it.”
“I’m leaving it,” I told him, deciding that him being honest now required me to be too. “I will never be able to fall for someone who reminds me of my family.”
He closed his eyes tight and swore. It was as good time as any to leave. So I left, not saying anything else, because there was nothing more to say.
I should’ve never set foot in the glamour world to begin with. And I would never do that again.
* * *
As I played the piano, last passionately than usual, Andrew appeared with his sax. As he started unzipping the case, I stopped playing and turned to him. He stared at me curiously and put his sax gently on the ground.
I asked, “How’s your foster family?”
He shrugged. “They decided I was too much maintenance and dumped me back in the orphanage. I’m supposed to get new foster parents in a month’s time.”
Nodding, I rose and stepped closer to him. He was about my height, and he looked like a young man. Handsome and so, so much gentler than he thought he was. “What would you say if I adopted you?”
He stilled, eyes widening. “What?”
“I can make you a better musician,” I told him. “I can also make you a better person. I can teach you how to open up to the world, to show you that not all people are bad, even if sometimes you need some serious convincing of that. You got a lot of potential ahead of you, Andrew, and I’ll be sad to see it wasted because life isn’t fair. I’m trying to make it fair.” My eyes made contact with his. “I won’t be the perfect parent, but I can sure as hell do my best. It might even be therapeutic for me.”
When a few moments passed, I realized I rendered the boy speechless. But then, silent tears filled his eyes and began to fall. “Will it be just you and me?” he asked, voice quivering.
“Yes,” I said, “just you and me. And think about the plus side,” I cracked a grin. “You’ll get into high-school, go to college, and have a normal life like you’re supposed to have. I’ll be your mentor and mother rolled into one. And if you ever decided music isn’t your future, that would be fine too. I already think of you as a disciple anyway. This is just a way to make it official so it wouldn’t be weird for a twenty-four-year-old woman to meet up with a sixteen-year-old.”
He still seemed stunned. I decided to nudge him some more. “I could do it without your permission, but I’m asking you because it’s a lot to take. You can say no, of course, and I’ll let it drop, but you can say yes and take a step into a better future.”
“How, though?” he finally spoke, looking at me with confusion. “Will you be able to adopt me, being so young?”
“I’m legal, Andrew,” I gave his head a little pet. “I have money. I can make it work. But I need your agreement first.”
“Yes,” he said without hesitation, and flushed a little. Then, for my utter shock, he pressed his forehead against my shoulder, leaning on me so I wouldn’t see the tears soaking my shirt, “please, Blair, do it. Please.”
And while I was a babe at emotions, I knew what he needed. I wrapped my arms around him and petted him gently on the back. “I will.”
He, in return, cried harder. And I closed my eyes and felt the world finally stop spinning out of place. I found a steady ground. I found an axis.
I found exactly what I needed.