Chapter 43: End of Us
I yawned as I tried to focus on the fifteen page research paper I was supposed to be writing about the importance of dog upkeep for my English class and talking to Dave. It was one of the few nights where he didn’t have practice and I wasn’t going to miss the chance to talk to him. I had cleared my entire schedule not expecting the random paper to pop up out of nowhere. It was supposed to have been an easy one, but it was proving to be more difficult than necessary. There was so much I hadn’t realized could go wrong. He’d called when I’d really started to get into it, but that was hours ago and he had his own homework to do. We’d pretty been sitting here listening to each other’s frustrated grunts of annoyance and the sounds of the keys on the keyboard.
“Baby, if you’re tired go to sleep. We can try this again next time.” he whispered from the other end of the phone as his own yawn consumed him.
“No, I want to talk to you.” I whined stubbornly. “Stupid research paper.” I mumbled as he laughed.
“Here, take a break and tell me how your day has been.” he offered, making a small smile plaster itself on my face as I did exactly that. For once we were facetalking. It made it easier being away from him if I could see him every once in a way.
“Well, it started off weird. I woke up feeling sad and I kind of dragged through the morning. It wasn’t until you texted me that I realized I wasn’t sad at all, but really missing you. Being away was easier when I thought I hated you. Now I just feel like I’m going to lose you.” I admitted too tired to do anything besides tell the full truth.
“Why do you think you’re going to lose me?” he asked his full attention now on me as he abandoned his homework also.
“I really don’t know. It could just be a mind thing from some deep seated issues I haven’t worked through; but there’s this quote constantly nagging me. Whether I’m with you or not, it’s always there.”
“What’s the quote?”
“People always leave. Sometimes they come back, but most never do. Once they leave, they’re gone for good.” I could feel the tears itching the corner of my eyes begging me to let them out, but I refused.
“You left.” he whispered as I stared at him in complete shock. Was he calling me a hypocrite? “Don’t freak. Let me finish. You left and it was the one of the worst breaks my heart has ever had, but the moment you came back...the moment I saw you again. The moment I held you in my arms, touched your skin, kissed you, and made love to you. The moment I’d gotten my best-friend back, if I had to lose you all over again just to feel the amount of love and pure joy that I felt when you came back I would. Leaving isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you make the choice to come back at some point. I love you more than I ever knew was possible and I don’t believe there’s anything that can make me walk away from you and leave. I could never leave you. I could never make the choice not to have you in my life.” Now I was crying.
“Do you think I’ll leave again?” I cried a bit, scared of the answer and too afraid to look at the phone.
“Minnie, look at me.” I shook my head no. “Baby please look at me.” he begged as I sniffled and forced myself to look at the phone again. “I won’t let you leave. Not for a nonsense reason at least. I will only let you go if you ask me to. I will try my damndest to convince you otherwise, but I’ll never want to make you feel like a hostage. You don’t have to worry about me leaving, I’m all in, but if you decide that I’m not what you want, I won’t stand in the way of you finding it.”
“You are all that I want.” I sighed, failing to wipe away the tears.
Walking by my tree and seeing all the presents there hurt my feelings. I had bought so much for my friends and now my friends were no longer around. We hadn’t talked since what happened and my relationship with Dave was struggling now more than ever. I’ve only had two other moments when I felt like this about him and both those times I left. It scared me. These past few days, after all that happened, has given me time to think through a lot and I was glad for it. I had some decisions to make and the quicker I made them, the easier it would be to choose to leave or stay. Besides, after all I said to Natalie, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d told them and they all decided never to speak to me again. My fingers twirled my bracelet around my wrist, that was yet another thing I had to think about and it hurt knowing that my demon was agreeing.
For now I was just trying to distract myself until Jace got here. He was going to help me make cupcakes, or more like help frost them. I’d been up all night baking. From cookies to cakes and maybe even a pie or two. I was amazed to find how many grocery stores actually stayed open late. Just as I placed another tray into the oven there was a knock on my backdoor. I gasped seeing Dave standing there. I wasn’t ready to talk to him.
His face was just barely healed after the fight with Jace. it was crazy how I stood there witnessing it, but still felt like I wasn’t even there. It was hard to explain just how out of it I was, but it wasn’t like anyone believed me. Wiping my hand on my apron I made the decision to just talk to him now despite my internal conflict. If things were going to end, I would rather know sooner than later.
I couldn’t believe I’d let Phoenix of all people come and convince me to come over here and talk to her. I didn’t deserve to fix things with her. She deserves someone who had better self control and wouldn’t pick fights using her as an excuse because he can’t handle the truth. I’ve had time to think and I realize that it’s not fair of me to be mad at her for zoning out.
Hell, it was one of things we’ve had in common. It was a place I’d been before; I should’ve been more understanding. It was something we both knew about each other. We ran. We loved to run from the past and only reveal some of the story at a time. How could we even begin to have a meaningful relationship if we couldn’t be honest with each other? If we couldn’t trust each other with the parts we hated about our past? How could we utter those three words to each other and yet still not able to just tell each other the complete truth? Still not be able to for once be completely vulnerable with each other?
I love her, I really do, but I wouldn’t say that I was in love with her. Before all of this, there never would’ve been a doubt in my mind about it, but now I’m not so sure. She’s had breakdowns and panic attacks before where she’s pushed me away, but I still stayed by her side. I’ve chosen her over kicking ass plenty of times and now with Natalie being back Maria hasn’t even been an afterthought. Yeah I could lie to myself and pretend like I’d chosen violence for her sake, but that wasn’t the truth. I was hurt and returning to a guy that I’d thought was long gone. I was wrong and standing here now Natalie’s word made the most sense.
When it came to her, old habits were hard to break and we only made it worse for each other. We kept each other frozen in a time frame that had almost killed us. We were bad for each other and still had a long way to go before we could be better together.
“Hey,” I sighed when she finally opened the door. “I’ve missed you.” My voice was low, almost as if I was whispering. The force behind those words brought tears to my eyes. I missed her more as my best-friend than I did as my girlfriend. I missed being able to talk to her, or just count on her to distract me from my constantly racing mind. I missed our conversations over nothing and everything. I missed cooking together and simply enjoying each other’s company.
I missed everything that we were before either of us admitted to having feelings. I missed what we could’ve been had our pasts not caught up with us. I missed having the possibilities to be happier than I ever knew was possible, but it was too late. It was over. Too much had come to the light for either or to continue pretending like it didn’t bother us anymore. We couldn’t pretend like we were over it and being that open and vulnerable scared people like us. It was forcing me to remember conversations we had about leaving. I didn’t want her to go, but I wouldn’t force her to stay either. I only wanted her happy even if that meant without me.
“I missed you too Mickey.” she sighed stepping back to let me inside. My heart broke hearing her call me that. It didn’t even feel like I deserved the name.
Well I didn’t. I hadn’t been there. I had been selfish and I deserved whatever punishment was coming my way.
“I guess it’s time that we talk.” I shrugged dreading the negative outcome of this conversation. I could already tell from the look in her eyes where this was headed. “This past week or so hasn’t really been the greatest.” I said as she nodded in agreement. “Maybe we should talk about it for once.”
“If you’re here to break up with me David Micheal Amoray then do so, don’t drag it out on my account.” she snapped rolling her eyes as she brushed past me bumping me in the process.
“What the hell is the full name for Anise?! I didn’t come to argue or break up. I wanted to talk, but hell even doing that much seems to be an issue for you lately.” I snapped. “Or maybe it’s just an issue cause it’s me asking.” I accused as she scoffed.
“I don’t want to talk, I want to move on.” she spat back.
“Well I want to talk. Take your head out of your ass and realize that your life isn’t the only one who’s recently been shaking up.” I cried out trying to keep myself from getting mad or pissing her off more, but from the way she looked at me I knew I’d already done so.
“Maybe you should just go David.”
“Not until you talk to me.” I demanded. I wouldn’t give up until it was clear that she wanted me too. One of us had to stop running.
“I won’t, so you being here is pointless.”
It was taking everything I had not to break. I was so tired of crying in front him. Tired of him thinking that I was so weak. That I couldn’t even defend myself. What happened with Chase was a fluke. It was only because I’d never been given the opportunity to deal with that night and when I finally put the voice to a face, I was just glad that Jace hadn’t betrayed me like that. I never gave Chase a second thought because he was gone, and Jace never spoke of him. I assumed he knew and had done the right thing.
I felt like a failure. Like all the progress I’d been making was all a lie and I wasn’t anywhere near the person he thought I was. I didn’t want him to see this version of me. I didn’t want anyone knowing this version of me. I had no idea what to do, but I knew I couldn’t open my mouth and speak. Not to him. He needed to be able to walk away from me in ways that he hadn’t been able to with Natalie and Persephone. He deserved that much. He deserved to be looked at as the good guy who tried for once.
“Look I don’t know what you’re going and I won’t pretend like I do, but that isn’t entirely on you. I’ve been wrapped up in myself to really give you a thought. I wish it wasn’t true but it is. It would be unfair to you to make it seem otherwise. I guess you could say Jace really knocked some sense into me. We’ve become stagnant with each other. I’m too afraid to tell you how I really feel, to scared that you’ll break as if you’re fragile. You’re terrified of me and instead of making you feel safe, I make you want to run away more. I don’t want this to end. I don’t want us to end. I don’t want to lose my girlfriend or my best-friend. I overcame too much just to give up on what I really want. So no I won’t just leave. You don’t have to talk, but please just listen. That night that I asked you to be my girl was more than just that. I opened up to you. I showed you my heart. I was the most vulnerable with you than I’d ever been with anyone in my entire life. I broke away from my fear of losing you just to make you mine and then I let a version of myself ruin it. I’m not proud of who I used to be with Natalie or who I turned to after her, but the person I am with you, is far better than I’ve given him credit for. That person learned to communicate and can admit his wrong. He learned to think first and act later. He learned to calm down. He learned to grieve. He learned to cry. He learned to beg. You humbled me Maria and I know what that sounds like, but for someone like me it’s the best thing that can happen. You were the first thing that I wanted and couldn’t have no matter how hard I tried. You don’t put up with my bullshit. When I apologize to you they are deep from the heart and not just words to get what I want. You pull me close and push me away and I love it. I love our game of cat and mouse because it makes me fight for something. It makes me have to earn something for once. I’m spoiled rotten and I’m used to everything being handed to me easily, but you,” he paused to come closer to me grabbing my face between his hands. I had to admit I’d never seen him so vulnerable. So open and honest. So unafraid yet terrified of what was to come. It made my demon reach out to him and although I wanted to deny her, she was stronger in the moment. He stared at me for a moment, tears silently falling down his face before leaning in and slowly giving me a kiss. “You mean more to me than you know. I know you don’t need me and that terrifies me. You’re stronger than I could ever hope to be and I don’t want to let you go, but if you think you’d be better off without me then I’ll go. Just mean it when you tell me to leave and I will and I won’t look back. Whether you believe it or not I just want you to be happy, even if that’s not with me. I wear this chain for a reason baby. I already know I’m yours, I just find myself constantly having to prove the fact to you.” His eyes were closed as he spoke, his forehead pressed to mine. I could feel his tears still falling and the emotion surrounding him. I could feel his truth wafting around us. It compelled me to say the words I never thought I would.
“I want you...” I paused trying to build the courage to end this once and for all. His hands slid down as he wrapped me in a tight hug. He knew what was coming. He knew one way or another this was goodbye for us. For the first time since I’d brought it, I unclasped the bracelet from around my wrist and held it. I’d taken off the necklace days ago.
“Don’t say it. Please just don’t say it.” I begged finally, letting myself cry for the first time in I didn’t know how long. I didn’t care about my image anymore. I wasn’t afraid to lay it all out in front of her. I was tired of being too proud to beg for mercy, but not this time. “Please Minnie don’t say it. I can’t lose you. I can’t lose the happiness that I’ve found with you. You are my heart and I know that now. I know I have a shit way of showing it and I promise you that I will be better, but I’m standing her begging for you not to say it. Don’t just write me off, give me a chance to prove to you that I’m better than what I’ve shown. Give me a chance to prove to you that I am still that guy you met that first day I moved here.” as if on cue I could feel the dogs at my feet. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them and a part of me wanted to apologize for the neglect, but first I had to make sure their mother didn’t leave me.
“No.” I cried cutting her off. “Don’t call me that. I’m Mickey, I’ve always been Mickey. You’re Mickey. What more do you want me to say? How much proof do you need? I have taken this damn thing off since junior year. Okay yes, my initial attraction to you was stronger than I let on. I wanted you from day one. It had nothing to do with the money. It had nothing to do with the similarities to Natalie. It was all you. I lied when we first met. I had been here for at least a week before you noticed me and I saw the opportunity to impress you. I used to watch you out my window in your backyard. You seemed so carefree and you were beautiful. Every part of me wanted to come over and introduced myself, but I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I used to listen to you sing horribly at the top of your lungs through the window. I would sit there for hours just listening to you be you, and yes that includes the conversations you had with your dogs. I thought you were happy and I didn’t want to mess that up for you. The night before we first met, I overheard something I knew I wasn’t meant to hear. You were crying. You were talking to them about how you just want a friend. One friend who wouldn’t treat you like a basket case. Who wouldn’t look at you and see your past mistakes. One person who you could learn to be yourself with again and I wanted to give you that. So I pushed my own personal feelings for the stranger next door aside and I planted dog treats in the grass leading you right to me. I took the chickens way out, but there’s not a day that goes by that I regret it. Doing that brought you to me and I’ll be damn if I lose that to someone who didn’t know what he had in the first place. I’m not running anymore Minnie. So if you tell me to leave, I need you to know that I won’t ever stop fighting to get you back. Not until I have you in my arms again as mine. It’s always been you baby and it will always be you. I fell in love with you before I even knew you and some asshole from your past or an ex-best-friend from mine can change that.”
He turned to walk away and before I even knew what I was doing I’d reached out to grab his shirt. It was then that I noticed it. I stood here dressed in all gray, the gloomiest of colors, and there he stood in all black. For the first time, we weren’t dressed alike and it jarred me. He was staring at me again and it was clear he hadn’t noticed it. I placed my hand in his tempted to just give the bracelet back already, but it was harder to let go of it than I imagined.
“Things are changing Mickey.” I cried my own tears starting to slide down my cheeks.
“They don’t have to! That’s my whole point.”
“Look at us!” I whined, his face getting blurry through my tears. “I mean really look at us Dave. We’re so far off lately that for the first time in years, we aren’t dressed alike. Even when I ran away from you to college we still were in sync enough to be dressed alike. So why not now? What’s different?”
“The difference is who we are. I’m not afraid to fight anymore; and for once I don’t mean with my fist. I’m not afraid to tell you that I know you deserve so much better than me and still ask you to trust me with your heart. I’m not afraid to go through the motions with you as you try to come to terms with your own understanding. I can’t do any of that if you won’t talk to me! Baby I need you to talk to me. You have to help me understand better. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m purely selfish in begging you to stay with me. Baby you’re one of the best things to have ever happened to me and I’m not too willing to let that go without a fight. You need to work through some things? Fine let’s do it together, but don’t give up on me just yet. We’ll get back in sync. We’ll get back to us.”
“I can’t.” I cried trying to distract myself. My hands were shaking as I attempted to pick up the piping bag, but it slipped and hit the floor. “Fuck!” I yelled, slamming my hands hard on the island counter. He hadn’t noticed I’d taken the bracelet off and a part of me didn’t want him to. It felt like it was still there even though I was holding it tight in my hand.
“Minnie, talk to me.” he begged.
“I can’t!” I cried, “I physically can’t Mickey. It hurts to think about it. It breaks me to relive it. I shatter trying to speak about it. I trusted them. I trusted them. Jace, Clarissa, John and Chase. I once called them friends. I always knew who John was. I could remember him from the pictures, but it was easier to pretend. If you really look back, I tried to keep space between us. I used him to make you jealous hoping it would get me what I wanted and it did; but it also brought me back to the darkest hole I’d worked so hard to get out of. I didn’t know John remembered me. I didn’t know at the time that it was Chase he saved me from and not his brother. I feel like an idiot for ever thinking Jace would even attempt to touch me like that without my permission. Intoxicated or not, that just wasn’t him and I had enough experience to know that. I believe everything I shouldn’t have because it was easier than what I assumed was the truth. I pretended like my boyfriend and I broke up because neither one of us could handle long distance because I didn’t want to believe that he knew what happened and had chosen his best-friends word over mine. Everyday I had to hear the rumors never knowing what really happened. Never being able to honestly defend myself. I lost everyone that I thought were my friends and reality showed me that I couldn’t trust anyone. Then you came along. You came and you ruined everything I worked so hard to stay away from. You brought her back in my life. Before you she had no reason to look my way again. Not even being head cheerleader could bring my popularity status back to where it had been and she knew it. If cheerleading and all the shit that came with it didn’t look so good on college applications I would have quit that too. I don’t blame you for that though, but having her around awakened feelings in me that I’d thought I’d repressed. You were mine and I wasn’t going to let her ruin things for me again. Mickey I-.” I paused too ashamed to say the words out loud. The one thing I hadn’t been able to admit to myself, I now had no choice but to say it. My demon knew and she was pissed. She knew I was the real monster here and I didn’t deserve him.
I was holding my breath trying to figure out what she possibly have to say that I didn’t already know. How much had we actually kept from each other? How much of this was the reason we were suffering so much right now? How come we couldn’t just be honest and put it all out there once and for all?
“Just tell me already Minnie. I’m pretty sure that whatever it is, is ten times better than what I’m thinking it could be.” I tried to play it off and laugh, but even I could hear how forced it was. I knew she was about to break my heart and there was nothing that I could do about it.
“I’m so sorry.” she cried. Saying fuck it I closed the small gap between us and encased her in my arms pulling her tight to me.
“Nothing you can say will make me change my mind. I promise you that. Even if it shatters what’s left of my heart, I’ll deal with it and help you piece it back together piece by piece. Do you understand?” I asked as she nodded her head yes. We stood there like that for a moment more letting her compose herself. She could take however long she needed. The longer she waited, the longer I could call her mine. It was becoming clearer and clearer that she was going to end it. For now I just wanted to hold her. Even if she never spoke to me again after this.
“Mickey I wouldn’t say that just yet. What I did is horrible and wrong.” she cried. Part of me wanted to push her off of me and stomp away, but that was the usual pattern that I was trying to break.
“We can get through whatever together Minnie. Open communication, understanding and actual love is all we need.”
“That’s the thing Dave. While I do care for you now, I only started entertaining the idea of us being friends because I was using you to make Jace jealous. I bragged about you before I even had you. I had no intention of being your friend forreal. I only wanted Jace to be jealous and soon as he showed it and wanted me back I was never going to speak to you again.” well I was floored and hurt. I wanted to be a dick, but then I remembered how I felt when she found out about the money. That memory alone was enough to make me force myself to give her a chance to explain.
“I think I should sit.” I forced out sitting in the same chair as always, but I no longer felt welcomed here. It was awkward now as I sat here forcing myself to hold her hand despite it being balled in a fist, and I could admit most of that was because my ego had taken a hard hit. “Let me guess, he never got jealous?” I asked although I really didn’t want to know.
“That’s the thing he did and he demanded that I stop talking to you. I had grown close to you at that point though and actual feelings were starting to exist, but you’d shut me down already. Or I’d assumed you had. Then that day with Clarissa came and you asked the question I wished you hadn’t. The thought of me having feelings for you sounded so repulsive coming from your lips and I got mad. What I’m trying to say is that I really don’t know how much of what I felt was actual feelings versus how much was me trying to prove some kind of point. What I’m saying is that I don’t know if I love you or if I’m still trying to prove a point and I just need time to figure it out. I don’t want to hurt you, but I owe it to both of us to see if there’s still lingering feelings between Jace and I.”
“Why?” was all I could say. My mouth had gone dry and I felt like an idiot. She’d removed her hand from mine and unclenched her fist. I could feel it sitting in the palm of my hand and that hurt more than the words she was saying. She was no longer claiming herself as mine. What was left of my heart fell to the floor shattering into dust never to be repaired again.
“Cause Monday I kissed him and I had every intention of having sex with him. A part of me was using distractions as the excuse, but most of me just wanted to. I felt something with that kiss Mickey and I-”
I didn’t let her finish. I just got up and walked away. My anger was getting to dangerous levels and had I stayed around, I would’ve probably killed her. There was nothing left to stop me like with Persephone. To make it worse, a part of me wanted to go back and do to her worse than I’ve ever done to anyone else. To rip this chain off and throw it at her face while yelling obscenities all the while towering over her until she was cowering in the corner. I wanted her to be so terrified of me she pissed herself. I was that mad; but I wasn’t that person, that was only the anger talking.
Sitting in my car in the driveway, I put my headphones in and just tried to breathe as I just held her bracelet in my hand. A car pulled up and Jace got out. I didn’t even want to fight anymore. I just wanted it all to be over. He walked up to the porch and knocked. She took a moment before finally answering. The amount of joy that crossed her features broke me and when she hugged him I was done. She invited him in. For a second we made eye contact. I wonder if she could see my tears. If she could see how broken I felt. How done with everything I was. Then she closed the door as if she didn’t care.
That was it, I’d lost everything I cared about. Natalie was gone. Maria wasn’t mine. I had no friends and even the twins had stopped coming around. I didn’t blame them though, we’d been nothing but drama lately. All I had left was my parents and my new baby sister, but she was better off without me. They were all better off without me. She deserved to have a life that her big brother couldn’t screw up. She deserved more than me.
With a final look back at what I would be leaving behind, I let myself scream out before starting my truck and pulling off.
This was the end of all that I knew, of all that I loved. It was the end of us and it was time for good-byes.
After hanging the bracelet on the rearview mirror, I prepared to make sure this good-bye would be forever.