Chapter 8: Apologies and Toxic Ends
The past two months being Dave’s girlfriend had been more amazing than I ever thought was possible. Of course we were still us with elevated tempers, but it was still more than I thought it would be. It was like senior year all over again without the complication of Clarissa and John’s presence. It was like we were scared of something all over again. I didn’t know what we were so afraid of or why we were, but we were. Was it finally labeling us as more than friends? Could it be finally speaking our feelings out loud? Or did we still fear that taking this step would ruin everything we already had. Now that everything had changed it felt stupid to have once been afraid of that change. Yet the feeling was still one that was hard to shake.
He knew me better than I thought. For the past two months or so, it had felt like a new adventure being with him. When we weren’t fighting that is. We still did all the same things we did before, but it felt different now that we were together. When he came over to hang out, we’d cuddle and goof about as per usual, but now if we wanted to make out nothing was holding us back. If we wanted to engage in foreplay leading up to sexual activity we could. The only thing stopping us was if my father was home. Which he had been lately.
My relationship with my dad was better than ever. He came home the next morning to find Dave and I asleep on our respective beanbags. Thankfully we had the sense to put the food up first before going out to watch movies together. Dave was smart to get containers for the snacks so bugs wouldn’t crawl in it, and the text had done a pretty good job of keeping the sun off of us. At some point we’d even said fuck the movies and just began talking.
He was just as curious as I was to learn more about each other’s first year of college. I didn’t particularly enjoy hearing about his escapades and he kept kissing me whenever I talked about mine. It was kind of cute how jealous he’d get over the past, but it was also kind of possessive. After hearing everything though, I kind of understood why he was like that. Then things took a turn because I had to open my big mouth, but I was just trying to be honest.
At some point I confessed that I believed only one part of Phoenix’s story besides the fact that they were clearly rumors. I told him that I also thought he was obsessed with Natalie too and that was why it took me so long to reveal my feelings. It had fueled some deranged part of me to give him my virginity. I felt like I had one up on her afterwards. Still, I felt like I could never measure up to her and I had too much low self-esteem to even try. At some point I felt like all I would ever be to him was a sex buddy. I talked about hearing how he compared the two of us and how even I had to admit how much in common we had. I felt like a Natalie 2.0 that he was allowed to fuck. I even went as far as to point out how we were both freshmen in secret relationships with seniors that we knew wouldn’t go over well.
That didn’t end too well. It made me feel insensitive to say it, but it was the truth. It was a hard thing to come to terms with, but somehow I had. As soon as the words hit his ears, I could see the little monster taking over before the words left his mouth. He said, ‘although the both of you have a similar amount of stupidity getting into situations that you were nowhere near ready for, there’s still a difference. Your stupidity led to you almost being raped, but hers lead to her death.’ and then he walked off. We didn’t talk for a few days after that. It was the weirdest thing, the most perfect night ended with us not talking. He only stayed because he didn’t want me to be alone after everything I revealed. I’m pretty sure that he knew about my breakdown also. I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad had told him. They’d grown closer in the year I’d been gone.
We spent the rest of the night with him ignoring me and me too afraid to even bother opening my mouth again. I didn’t want to fight and I didn’t want to argue. It was bad enough that our relationship was already starting off on bad terms. It had taken me two months before I got to this point where I knew I had to do something. We would only continue to fight and argue if we didn’t deal with the things that made us how we were and those that we affected because of it. I knew Dave wasn’t going to like it, but he had no choice. The same way he wanted to fix his past, I wanted to fix mines. It was the reason we’d stopped talking this time. Two months together and already we weren’t speaking for weeks at a time.
Still, I had to talk to Phoenix and try to get him to understand things somehow despite how Dave felt about it.
First, I had to talk to Dave, but I’d be lying if I said I wanted to be the first to break. I didn’t want to start with him having the upper hand. For too long he’s had the upper hand and it bugged me. I was always too afraid of losing him, but I was different now. My confidence had grown and I no longer cared about being alone. I wasn’t as alone as I used to be. Besides, he’s the one that walked away from me after he threw shit in my face. Then he wants to be pissed at me for doing the same he’s done. If anything he should be the one to text me first. I just wanted to make amends with my past, same as him.
Then again I didn’t want to start this relationship off with that kind of thinking. Our friendship itself had already been so trying. This transition should have been smooth sailing. It should have been everything I’d dreamed of, but I guess in the end the past matters more than you think. What you do in that time really does change you and your perspective of things.
We’re still learning about each other from under a different lens and didn’t need the extra hurting us right now before we even got the chance to really start. Still, I didn’t want to be perceived as the weak one. I couldn’t go through that again. Yet, I didn’t want to be the one to lose. I know that I shouldn’t look at our relationship as some kind of competition, but I couldn’t help it. Sighing, I picked up my phone to text him. I could lose this one time. Just as I was beginning to message him my phone vibrated with an incoming message from him.
Mickey: Hey, I know that things haven’t exactly started off the way that we wanted, but I miss you. I know that I was the one too walk away and I truly am sorry for that. I apologize for what I said and throwing the situation in your face like that. It wasn’t fair of me and I won’t even attempt to try to make an excuse for it. My dealings with Natalie is something that I will have to face one day. I know that. It’s been a little over four years and I still haven’t gone to visit her grave. It’s not now nor will it ever be my attention to hurt you because of her and I truly apologize if I have before. Look, I’m getting off topic. I hurt you, and I apologize. I miss you. I want to cuddle and nuzzle up with you. I want to cook with you and for you. I want my girlfriend to still be my best-friend. I just want us to still be us.
I read over the message half a dozen times. It was saying all the pretty words, but I couldn’t help feeling like it was all just being brushed under the rug.
Minnie: I miss you too Mickey and I love you, but it can’t be like this anymore. You can’t just not like something I say, get disrespectful, walk away and come back a week later with some weak ass apology and pretty words and think that’s all it takes. It’s not going to change my mind. I need to talk to Phoenix that same way that you had to talk to his sister. The difference is I’m not lying to you about doing so. Since you felt so keen to say it, let me help put the thought at ease. No it won’t end up like my talk with Jace. All the shit you did while I was away and never will I throw it in your face. In reality my past doesn’t concern you. I wasn’t with you when it was done, but I thought after everything I could at least be honest with you. You need to be careful Dave or you’ll end ruining this relationship and ending it before it starts. You already know firsthand, that I can love you from afar.
I reread the message before pressing send. The words didn’t sound like they were coming from me at first. I hadn’t spoken to like this before unless I was pissed off, but I really wanted to change. I didn’t want to continue the same toxic behavior with him or anyone else.
Mickey: You’re right. I’m sorry. We’ve come too far for things to end up like this. Do whatever is it you have to do, I’ll still be waiting when you’re done.
I knew those words had a double meaning and the demon in me was pressing me to respond back just as harsh, but I held back and decided not to respond. Instead I was going to do as he suggested.
Spice: Can we talk? I need to make amends with you.
Nix: I was already on my way to your house.
Spice: Meet me in the backyard.
I guess fate was going to force me to fix things with him either way.
I knew they were out in her backyard. I knew there were extremes I could go through to eavesdrop on their conversation, but I wasn’t going to. I had to prove to her that I trusted her. I had to show her that I was willing to be better. Besides, I had other things to do. A better way to deal with it out instead of lashing out. A way to get it off of my chest once and for all.
I’m in a new relationship and one of the first things I’ve done is get pissed at her for being so much like you. It wasn’t fair. If I’m being honest, it was those similarities to you that attracted me to her in the first place. It’s not in the way that everyone is thinking though. When I first met her of course it was easy to notice how beautiful she was, and just like you she wasn’t quite aware of that beauty. She had been beaten down into the shadows like we were and forced to believe she had to be a certain way to fit in.
She was made to believe that she had to be the perfect kind of popular to be considered beautiful. She also had a misconception of beauty and all this time I thought I was helping her, but she was helping me.
Bear, if you knew everything you’d be so disappointed in me. I was not the person that I should’ve been. I was not the person that you would have been proud of. I hit a new low Bear and you would’ve been ashamed of me. I became no better than Justin. I lost myself.
The first year after you left me was the hardest Bear. I believed what everyone had been saying. It was my fault that you were gone. I had I paid more attention, had I heard your cries, maybe things would have ended differently. I blamed myself until I was stuck in this dark place that I couldn’t get out of. I no longer knew the meaning of the word sober. Then, I did the worst thing Bear, I hurt someone. I hurt a female. With my hands.
I put my hands on her Bear and I really hurt her. I almost killed her. I broke her in the worst way possible. I became everything that made me lose you and I know you’re disappointed in me. I was always your protector and I failed. I was supposed to be your brother, and I failed. I was supposed to be this upstanding guy and still I failed.
I tried to move on and failed. I tried to be a better friend and protector. Do for her what I couldn’t for you and I failed. I fell in love with her and I couldn’t even do that right. I failed at making her feel secure. I failed at making her feel like she could come to me for anything. I failed at being a good boyfriend. I failed at being a good person. I lashed out and I made it harder for everyone.
Then I met Maria. Damn it Bear, I know if the two of you could meet you’d hit it off instantly no questions asked. Admittedly, I’d be jealous because I’d lose you both. Maria changed me. The cycle started off the same and yes with her I still failed, but with her I wanted to try harder. I wanted to fix everything. I wanted to make everything I’d broken better. I wanted her to look at me and see more than a fuck up. Being with Maria showed me what real love felt like. That shit that I had experienced before was nowhere near what I feel now.
With Maria I feel like I can talk for hours and still have a ton more to talk about. I feel like I found my other half. Like I can hold my whole heart in my arms with each hug. She’s my soulmate Bear. I can truly see myself spending the rest of my life with her. When things are at their best and even when they get to their worse, it’s her I want beside me to experience it all with.
I would give anything to have it be both of you, but I can’t. You don’t know how many times I’ve prayed and wished for someone to turn back the hands of time so that I can fix the mistakes I’ve made. So that I can be there to save you from yours.
Then I think about it and realize that I wouldn’t have Maria if that was the case. The hardest decision I could think of would be if I had to choose between the two of you. I love you, but I’m in love with her. My heart beats for her.
Still, as much as I love her and even though I feel impossibly close to her, there is still something I’m comfortable telling only you. I really hope it doesn’t make you see me any differently. I’m sorry that I haven’t visited you, but I’m sure you’ll know why by the time this letter is done.
After your death, my mom found out she was pregnant. She was so excited and hoped that it would be a little girl. She bragged about how she always wanted a little girl and although I was her handsome little man, having a little girl to bond with was important to her. I didn’t care. I was too numb on the inside to even pretend to be happy about being an older brother. I feared that if it was a girl, she’d find herself in similar situations as you. I feared that if it was a boy, he’d be the one to put girls in those situations.
My mother tried to include me in the excitement of it all. For five months she just wanted me to be a part of the experience. She just wanted to share her happiness with me in hopes of making me feel better and I lashed out at her. I yelled so many things at her that I didn’t mean. I was young and I was filled with so many emotions that I didn’t understand and I didn’t know how to deal with them; but I blamed myself and thought that I deserved to feel every ounce of it.
The next day she had a miscarriage and I hated myself more. I blamed myself. If I hadn’t lashed out at her, she would have known her child. I would have a little brother or sister. It kills me still. She was five months pregnant and even years later I have no clue what she was going to have. I was too wrapped up in my own shit to be there for the one person who had never given up on me again. I know nothing can ever replace the child she lost, but she told me a few weeks ago that she was pregnant again. I’m going to help her out this time and be the best supportive son that I can be. I’m going to try to make things better for all of us.
This is getting a little long winded, but I don’t regret writing it. You may never read it, but I know you can still hear it.
The last thing is, I no longer want to die. I don’t think I’ll ever completely heal from that night, but this is a start. I’m starting to move on and I’m learning to fix what I break.
I miss you so much Bear and there aren’t enough words in the world to truly explain how much. You are a silent star in the night sky and when you shine, I know that’s your way of letting me know your fine. I wish that I could hug you just one more time and tell you that I love you. I wish that I could protect you in the way you deserved.
I’ll be a better big brother to my own sibling than I ever was for you. I promise you that.
Goodnight Bear, I’ll never forget you or what you meant to me.
The possibility that Dave was eavesdropping on us from somewhere was one of the first things to cross my mind as we sat on my porch swing. Then I shook away. I’d grown into the terrible habit of thinking less of him since he told me he was paid seven thousand dollars to be my friend. I couldn’t do that anymore. Saying that I trusted him with my heart, but second guessing everything he says and does is too big a contradiction for me.
He was my best-friend and now he’s my boyfriend, my job from here on out was finding a way to combine the two. It all started with what I was doing right now. Besides my mother, he was the only other person I felt I had to make amends with. For the sake of both my relationship and my own sanity. However, it was easier said than done. I never realized how awkward things would be after the last time we talked.
He warned me about the monster living in the boy next door and instead of running, he looked up and we’re kissing and going out on dates. Clearly nothing has changed between us, but Phoenix was a part of the new life I’d built away. Despite how awful I’d treated him, he’d still proven to be the kinds of friend that you wanted in your life. Yet, we’d never get to that point if someone didn’t just open their mouth already.
The little demon within was stirring impatiently. She wanted to hurry up and get back to her lil monster hidden within my new boyfriend. She loved the toxicity that was us and doing this had definitely caused a bit of toxic air to surround us. Usually when I let her out things only seemed to get worse, but for now her bluntness was needed.
“Are you in love with me or something?” blurted the words from my lips as I gasped and my hands flew over my mouth. Okay, maybe little missy needed to be locked up some more. To make it worse, the words sounded like I was disgusted by the thought of it. I could feel my face schooling itself into the most uninterested look it could muster up. I knew the story. I knew that was most likely the least cause of his actions, but the demon wasn’t so sure. “I mean, why did you tell me all those things about Dave? What were you trying to accomplish?” Okay, that sounds more normal. More like me.
“Despite what you may think, I didn’t do what I did because I’m secretly in love with you. I really believed that I was doing the right thing. I wanted to protect someone in the way that I hadn’t been able to protect my sister. I’m the good guy in all of this Spice.” he sighed his face clouded with frustration. I could see he was sincere in what he was saying. He really believed his cause, but he was still biased towards Dave. Especially without the right context.
“At this point I’ve known Dave for a few years Nix, even if you had been right about him, did you really think I would see him differently? The Dave I’ve known isn’t the same one you knew. We talk and he’s never coward away from his past with me. He’s told me everything so blunt and honest it knocks me breathless. He’s aware of the monster he became and he tries to make up for it. He’s not all those rumors you overheard, even your sister knows that much.”
“I know what I heard Spice. I was there.” he spat getting defensive.
“No doubt that you believe the story you were told, but let me tell you what I saw. What I saw was a guy who had lost his other half, his soulmate in a way neither of us will ever understand. The same way that he and I will never understand your relationship with your twin. What I saw was a boy forced to be a man too soon. A boy who only had one close friend on this planet whom he could confide everything to. Who missed all the signs that the person whom he knew best needed help. He was caught up in the wrong things, but it’s high school. Who doesn’t want to be popular and known by everyone? We all get caught up in it, but it never changed how he saw her. In his eyes no one was better, but she couldn’t see it. He wasn’t obsessed with her, he was obsessed with trying to get her to see herself under the same light that he saw her. Instead he lost her because of a psychopath who wanted to kill them both. You had a boy who was scared for his life, being bullied, grieving the loss of his best, being blamed for her death, turning a blind eye to the real culprit and having his entire life change all in one night. A true monster will not cry to someone about their mistakes. They will not try to make amends. They will not try to kill themselves over the mistakes they made. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake a soul. So no Nix, there was absolutely nothing you could say that would make me see him any differently than the Dave that I know. I don’t want this to be a problem for us. I could see us being good friends-”
“Why would I want to be friends with someone like you?” he snapped, cutting me off. Something I’d said had touched a nerve and this wasn’t going nowhere near where I wanted it too. “The only reason you can’t see who he is, is because you’re just like him. Why would you see the wrong in him when you can’t even acknowledge it within yourself? All I wanted was to warn you about him, but instead you’re fucking him. My job is done. Whatever happens to you is your own fault.” he spat standing up to leave. At this point it was fuck it with the nice shit. I let the lil demon out and I didn’t care one bit if she hurt his feelings.
“Now wait a motherfucking minute your rage fueled jealous asshat. You have no fucking idea what I’ve been through.” my nostrils were flared as I glared directly at him.
“I’m sorry princess, what went wrong for ms. cheerleader? Did you break a nail right before regionals? Got a bad hairstyle and had to wear it for a day before daddy gave you money to fix it? What could have possibly gone wrong for the princess?”
“You don’t know shit about me Nix. So don’t sit there and act like you do. Now I don’t have to explain myself or my decision to your bum ass. What I chose for me is what’s best for me. Now I do agree you deserve a fucking apology, but damn I’m starting to regret it. I never should’ve played with your feelings like it. Yes, it was wrong, but it wasn’t me when I did it. I made a choice not to feel anymore. To give into the shallow darkness that haunted me and personally I feel like I had the right to do so. Want to know why I’m so forgiving of him, it’s because I know what it’s like to go through years of false rumors and be proven right and still be told it was your fault. I know what it’s like to sit there feeling dirty and ashamed for something you never did, but still getting bullied like you did. I know what it’s like to have the one person you thought you could trust be the cause of your misfortune. So yeah Phoenix you’re right. Dave and I do have a hell off a lot in common and none of it is good because of people like you believing the assholes who caused our suffering. Yes, he made a mistake. One that he will forever be beating himself over because for that one night he was no different than the asshole WHO KILLED HIS FUCKING BEST-FRIEND. There is no one beating him down more than he is already hurting himself. You don’t know him, you just know what you were told and you definitely don’t know me. If you did you’d never call me princess and you would never think my world was perfect. So yes, I apologize but it’s still fuck you.” I was breathing hard as I finished. It was almost as if I hadn’t taken a single breath while chastising him. To my amazement he smiled.
“I got my dorm assignments today. Looks like we’ll be sharing an apartment next year. I just came over to see if it was okay with you, now that I know it’s not, I think I’ll just accept it as fate.” he shrugged as my jaw dropped. It was such a fucking random thing to drop at the worse possible time. “Who knows, you may begin to show who you really are again.” he started to walk away, but he paused and faced me once more. “By the way bitch, I have a girlfriend and she’s better than you in every way. I met her during Christmas vacation when you were out probably being the slut you are. People like you don’t change. Your relationship won’t last.” he laughed.
“You better hope I don’t tell Dave what you said. He made a mistake hitting your sister, but from what I hear he always kicks your ass. Now imagine what will happen when I let him fully unleash on you. We’ll see who the real bitch is.” he growled and made a step towards me, but the sound of the back door opening stopped him. I smirked as an evil glint filled my eyes. “Get out of here you bitch, or face the consequences.” I laughed. The demon had fully taken control. She hoped Dave had heard so the monster would come out to play. Phoenix grunted but turned to walk away as I laughed. He knew better. Once he was gone, I looked up making eye contact with my boyfriend and smiled.
He may not have been the best to everyone else, but to me he was everything.
I can admit though, he was right. I never should have tried to talk to Phoenix, that boy was just too stubborn for his own good.
“Hey sexy, I’m looking for a girl who can eat her weight in all of her favorite foods and snacks, and drink so fucking much and still won’t pee for hours. I kind of want to have an at home date with her and just cuddle her all night. It’s been a trying few months. Have you seen her?” he asked with a wink as I laughed. If he had heard he was trying to maintain himself for the sake of being there for me and that only made me love him more.
“Yeah, I think I just saw her. Sounds like something she would with no doubt in my mind love. She needs a break and for her boyfriend to come give her a hugely passionate kiss. She needs that for sure.” he smiled at me before crossing the thin barrier that separated our two houses. In no time at all he was wrapping me up in his arms and lifting me off my feet. I giggled as our lips met. Fireworks exploded beneath my closed eyes and my heart skipped a beat and I completely melted in his arms. Right now was perfect and I couldn’t wait to see how much better it would get.