The Toy Maker (Under Construction)

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His Loss

I wish I could say that I didn’t spend the next few days of my life clutching my knees to my chest in the shower and rocking back and forth but then I would be lying.

Because life had a way of knocking me to the ground and kicking me until I had no will to get back up.

And no matter how strong I was, it always hurt when I remembered that the man I loved didn’t feel the same way.

So I wandered around my apartment all day and wallowed in self-pity every night.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take the silence anymore my phone rang. I figured it was either Jade or Sarah. They hadn’t stopped calling me since I didn’t come in for work.

I never got around to answering.

Or it could have been just another telemarketer trying to pedal a week-long getaway to Jamaica, either way picking up was a hard no.

After the fifth ring, I caved and accepted the call, “Hello?”

I didn’t think I was hoping to hear from anyone in particular but when my brother’s voice came through the receiver my heart dropped.

“Hey, baby sis,” Tristan said with the usual perky tone, “What’s up?”

“Not much, just chilling at home,”

I could hear the crackling on the other end, “I thought you’d be working, Mom told me all about your mysterious new job,”

I smiled softly, “Sorry you had to live through that,”

Tristan laughed, “So are you enjoying your job as a CIA agent?”

“I’m not really doing that anymore,” I let myself trail off. My brother, as understanding as he was, didn’t need to know about my recent shortcomings but the quiver in my voice gave it away.

He was quiet for a second, no doubt listening for a sniffle or sign of trauma, “Are you okay?”

Tears welled in my eyes when he asked me the question I had been avoiding for days. “No, um, I’m not actually, but I will be,” I decided to change the subject before I could fall apart and tell him everything, “How’s Tracy?”

He seemed hesitant to move on but answered anyway, “She’s doing wonderful, you wouldn’t believe it,”

“I can’t wait to see you guys. Christmas really can’t come fast enough,” I fiddled with the tassels at the end of my blanket and remembered one of Jade’s infamous outfits.

“Who says you have to wait until Christmas?”

“I just figured that with th-”

Tristan cut me off, “You’re welcome here anytime. Besides, you can help Tracy finish the nursery.”

“Oh I see,” I laughed, “You just want free labor,”

His voice dropped to a whisper, “Four times, Tara. We’ve painted that room four times with three different shades of pink.”

“Just be glad you aren’t painting it gray,”

I heard him groan, “Yeah, you have to come help now. You owe me for listening to that lame joke.”

I sighed and looked around my apartment. I wouldn’t be able to afford it come December, “Do you really want me to?”

“Of course,” I could picture Tristan’s warm brown eyes on the other end, “Who else am I going to beat at poker?”

“We’ll see about that,”

“So you’ll come?”

I hesitated for a second, “Yeah,”

“Awesome,” He said, “When can we expect you?”

“Give me a week,” Pulling up stakes in seven days and hauling my ass to South Carolina wasn’t going to be the hard part. Saying goodbye to the city was.

After I ended the call with Tristan and ate my third bowl of Lucky Charms I formed a plan.

That night I would go out and paint the town, just me myself and I. So watched a few episodes of The Office, I slipped into a tight-fitting dress and made my way to the one place I knew I wouldn’t be judged if I busted out into tears.

The alleyway was packed with hopeful sluts and perverts but I managed to push my way to the front.

A small window in the middle of the door slid open, “Name?”

“Tara Holloway,”

“Password?”

“Please, Mistress let me come in,” I tried to push out my bottom lip like Sarah but the guy only chuckled at my attempt.

“Alright, get your ass in here,” The door opened and I scurried inside before he could change his mind. I gave the doorman a brief smile before making a beeline to the bar.

The bartender was swamped with orders coming in from every side of the room.

He finally whipped around with two empty cocktail glasses and looked at me, “Look who’s back,”

“You remember me?” It was hard not to shout over all the music and begging for mercy.

“Course,” He scooped some ice into a new glass and started working his magic, “It’s hard to forget the girl who had Jason’s fingers up her pussy in front of the whole building.” There it was, his name, the first time I heard it out loud in a week.

Maybe I was hoping I never would again, “You know him?”

“Yeah, he was a regular,” I realized that I was never the only girl he fucked at a time. The bartender noticed my silence, “I don’t know what you’re packing down there but it must be pretty damn special,”

I gave him a funny look, “What?”

“He usually just sits over there and watches the show.” He nodded to a corner in the back before sliding me a drink.

“What’s this?” I examined the creamy colored drink.

“A screaming orgasm,” He grinned before turning away to help someone else and leaving me to sip on my orgasm alone.

But that was until I heard my name being called from across the room. I turned to see a half-drunk Latina parting the crowd like the Red Sea.

I prepared myself for the beatdown of the century and chugged as much alcohol as I could before she got to me.

It wasn’t long enough.

Before I could make out one word I was tackled by Jade.

“Why don’t you answer my phone calls?” She smacked my shoulder and glared at me.

“I just needed some time,”

“Yeah,” She plopped down next to me, “It really sucks what they did to you,”

I scoffed, “Understatement of the fucking century,” I waved the bartender over for another drink.

Jade nodded and started to peel the label off her beer.

“What’s up?” Whenever Jade was quiet I knew something was going on.

“Were you and Jason,” She trailed off, “A thing?”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Amy’s been running her mouth. You know how she is,”

I stared at myself in the mirror across the bar. My eyes were dark and distant; Even I wouldn’t recognize myself.

“They’re just rumors, right? You didn’t actually sleep with him.”

I took a very large gulp of my drink before admitting it.

Jade’s eyes widened, “Oh my God, you didn’t,”

“I did,”

“Tara-”

I sighed, “Don’t worry about it, I learned my lesson,”

“Fuck that, you should be teaching the damn classes. Why didn’t you say something?”

It was my turn to be quiet. The truth was that I didn’t want to share him with anyone else, not even in stories.

“Is that why you left?” She asked when I decided I would rather not answer.

“I left because he made me,”

She shook her head, “Well if it’s any consolation, I think he left with you,”

I snapped out of my trance and stared at her, “What do you mean?”

“Nobody’s seen him since you were fired. We even had an inducting ceremony for a new Cherry and he didn’t show.”

I pretended to be disinterested so Jade would change the subject, “So what’s your plan?”

“I’m moving in with my brother for a while,” I responded.

“How long?”

I finished off my second drink, “Indefinitely,”

“You’d move to a different state just to avoid a guy you hooked up with?”

I met her curious gaze and tried to find the right words to describe what I felt like every time I thought about him.

But I didn’t need to, “It wasn’t just hooking up was it?”

I dug around in my purse and pulled out the first twenty dollar bill I felt before smacking it onto the bar, “Not for him,”

“That’s his loss,”

I gave her a soft smile and said goodbye before excusing myself. Staying there any longer would have sent me spiraling out of control.

I weaved my way through the growing crowd and trying not to get hit by the door on my way out.

The next few days consisted of calling the building office, canceling my subscriptions, and digging out the clothes I thought were lost from the back of my closet.

By the seventh day, my apartment was nothing more than a suitcase and a glittery lamp that I bought in the fifth grade.

Gray clouds hung from the sky all morning. A storm was rolling in and I was hoping I wouldn’t get caught in it. I shut the porch doors, opting not to freeze from the winter weather.

“Seventy-five and partly cloudy my ass,” I grumbled to myself. I checked my phone for a text from Tristan; He would be there any minute.

Just as when I decided that I had enough time for a little snack there was a knock on the door.

I crept over, “Who is it?” My creepy landlord kept insisting that I have a going away drink with him but I was praying that he forgot.

“Jason,” His voice made me nauseous but also filled my body with warmth; Kind of like my first sip of vodka when I was sixteen, “Please let me in.”

I stood there for a moment, my finger resting on the handle. Letting him in would be inviting him back into my life. The very one that he said so explicitly that he wanted nothing to do with.

“You should leave,”

“Not until you let me come in,”

“Then you’ll be waiting a long time,” I said hoping to hear footsteps fading in the distance.

“Tara, I-”

I cut him off before he could finish, “I don’t want to hear what you have to say anymore. Leave me the fuck alone.”

There was silence and then footsteps. My heart throbbed with the adrenaline of sending him away. Unfortunately, the rest of my body wasn’t very invested in current events.

My stomach growled at me for not eating all day. The stress and anxiousness of the move did the impossible, make me lose my appetite. Until the very worst moment.

After a few minutes, I caved and remembered I had an emergency granola bar buried in the seventh ring of hell that was my purse.

I dug around in the layer of unrecognizable powder, sticky candy, and discarded straw wrappers but before I could locate my target there was another knock at the door.

Except it wasn’t coming from the front of the apartment.

I whipped around expecting to see a tree limb or a bloodthirsty killer but instead I was met by two shimmering green eyes.

I sucked in a breath at the sight of Jason standing on my porch.

I gathered the nerve to speak, “What the hell are you doing out there?”

“I needed to talk to you,” He shouted through the glass between us. “I wanted to use the front door but you didn’t give me a choice,”

I looked past him to see if there was any rope ladder like vines for him to Romeo his way back down on, “I told you to leave and I meant it.”

“Please just lis-”

“Fuck you,” I wished I hadn’t already taken the curtains down. Just as the words left my lips the first few droplets of rain splattered onto the glass.

Jason pressed his hands against the door, “If you let me inside I swear I will explain everything,”

I scoffed and continued my search.

He stared at me as the rain started to pour over his head, “I never wanted to hurt you.”

I gave up on the granola bar and watched the rain drench his hair and clothes until he was a soggy mess. I couldn’t help but wish for some lightning.

“But you did,” I snapped

“I know and I’m sorry,”

“Being sorry isn’t good enough,”

“But I don’t know what else to do!”

Jason ran a hand through his wet hair and swallowed, “I can’t sleep or work or breath without thinking about you. I can’t stop seeing you when I walk down the street or hearing your voice in a crowd of people. You’re driving me insane and I don’t even know why. You’re sarcastic and childish and a complete pain in my ass,” He was literally a pain in my ass, “but for some reason, I can’t get you out of my head.”

“Tara,” He placed his hand on the glass and met my gaze, “I’m crazy about you.”

I shook my head and forced back the tears threatening to spill from my eyes. He finally admitted how he felt and it was too late. Too much had happened and I was tired of forgiving people who repeatedly hurt me.

“Is that why you dry humped Wendy and always ditched me for someone else?” Jason opened his mouth to answer but I cut him off before he had the chance, “There was always someone more important to you and there always will be.”

“That’s not true,”

“What about Kitty then?” Her name left a sour taste on my tongue.

“She had nothing to do with you getting fired,”

“We both know that’s not true,”

He frowned, “I swear that’s not what happened,”

My jaw tightened, “Why don’t you tell me then,”

“She didn’t want us together but it’s not because she wanted me,”

“Then what, huh? What’s the big secret?”

He stared into my eyes and took a deep breath, “She’s my sister,”

I blinked away the shock. When the truth finally settled in I faced the cold reality. It all made sense. Why she was the only one who stood up to him. How she freaked out when she saw us together. “You lied,” I whispered

“I didn’t lie,”

I could feel the rage running through my veins, “You wanted to make me jealous,”

“I-”

“Don’t,” I walked up to him and made sure he heard my next words loud and clear, “You knew how I felt the entire time and instead of telling me the truth you let me suffer. You roped me into a world that I wanted no part of and then when I begged you not to make me leave you kicked me out,” Fire practically spewed from my lungs, “That’s not what love is and I’m not forgiving you until you can get it right,”

Jason watched as my thoughts unraveled into a pile on the floor until only one was left, “Have a nice life,”

I gathered my things and walked to the door.

“Tara,” He yelled after me, “Wait!”

I rushed out the apartment and hurried down the stairs. The last thing I wanted to do was give Jason enough time to meet me in front of the building.

As soon as I stepped outside it was like someone decided to dump a bucket of freezing water on me. The wind picked up and I suddenly regretted packing all of my heavy winter clothes first.

Tristan was already waiting for me when I saw him. He waved and pulled me into a hug.

“We need to go,” I said while checking over my shoulder.

“Why?”

“I’ll explain on the way,” I gave him my purse, “I’ll put my bag in, just start the car,”

He furrowed his eyebrows but didn’t ask any more questions. I started showing my suitcase into the trunk and slammed it shut.

I hurried into the passenger seat.

Tristan inspected my red nose and puffy eyes, “Are you okay?”

I nodded, “Let’s just go,”

We pulled out onto the road and I tried to relax but I looked back just in time to see Jason run around the corner.

His pants were covered in mud and leaves but the only thing I could focus on were the two green orbs staring at me as I drove away. I shut my eyes and brushed away the water dripping down my face.

“So are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“The whole story?” I asked.

“Don’t spare the details,”

“A few months ago I was fired,” My mind raced with the images of the past few months. It stopped on the day that Mr. Farmer called me into his office, “So I went looking for a new job,”

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