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15. Long Gone

The following morning I woke to familiar arms around me. I was here, with Patrick, but in my mind, I was still in bed with Hawke.

I’d dreamed that Patrick never came back. That he took the job in Colorado, without so much as a word to me. I’d tried desperately to get a hold of him with no avail, but Hawke was there for me. He held me while I fell apart. Kissed me, when I felt I couldn’t be loved. He told me it was better this way. That it was meant to be. He walked me to his room where we stayed together, side by side as he kissed my forehead, telling me he would be the one that never left. That in time I’d see that Patrick was actually the liar.

I didn’t know what it all meant, but I know how it made me feel. It felt right. It felt amazing. Now, waking up, I felt guilt and a deep rooted sadness. But was the sadness for Patrick? Or was it Hawke?

I kissed Patrick on the cheek as he let out a little sigh and smile before rolling over on his side. He was so sweet last night with everything that he did. He was really trying to make me happy, make it feel like old times. I could tell. It just made me feel the guilt all the more. I got up, slipping into my robe and made my way towards the coffee machine.

Was I hoping to see Hawke? Yeah. For some reason I was. He never came home last night, that I was aware of, and I really wanted to talk to him. Clear the air a bit so things weren’t so awkward with the three of us being back under one roof. But not only that, I wanted us to be okay again. I didn’t want any bad blood between us, and not just for the sake of him holding onto one of my biggest secrets, but because I truly missed him and our friendship.

As if my luck would have it, he wasn’t there. He wasn’t in his room either. The door to his room left cracked open. I desperately ached to get in there. I wanted to find out more about this curious creature who’d somehow come in and taken over my thoughts. He seemed to have so many untold stories that needed telling. A plethora of secrets that’d been enclosed in that heart of stone. So much so, that he’d almost forgotten what made him. I wanted to know what made him.

I stayed in the kitchen, drinking my coffee until every last drop in my favorite mug was gone. I sat in that chair, facing the door to his room, lost in my thoughts, lost in my feelings.

Patrick made his way out of the bedroom to join me at the table. His warm smile and kind eyes brought me back to reality. He really did have such a calming presence about him. One that made me feel at home, when he was here.

“Where’d Hawke go?” he asked, looking back at his door, then back to my white face.

“Uh, I have no idea,” I respond as casually as possible.

“Huh, funny. Must be at his friends or some chick’s house I guess.” he shrugs.

The thought provokes me.

“Don’t know, don’t care. Anyways, what are we going to do today? I thought maybe we could grab some lunch somewhere, maybe catch a matinee or do that new rock climbing wall at the sports center?”

We need this day together. After his work trip, we need time to be us again.

Patrick tilts his head then winces a little, looking at me sadly. “I’m sorry baby, I know I told you we’d have today to hang out, but I really need to finish up the reports from our trip.”

I look up, past him, and stare at a tiny mark on the wall that was put there when we moved the couch into the living room.

We’d had the hardest time putting our sectional sofa together. They had sent us the wrong connecting piece to hold the couches together, so when we went to sit on it the first time, the seats separated and we landed together on the floor between them. We laughed for hours, teasing each other about who’s fault it was. We laughed so hard I cried.

Patrick stopped laughing at one point and stared at me with a look of love about him while his lip curved into a loving smile. It was the kind of smile you always wish someone would gaze at you with. He looked like a man so in love, a man who felt like he was the luckiest guy on earth. He cupped my cheek and told me he loved me more than anything. We’d said it before this but it felt so monumental, as if I knew we were making a memory that I’d access often in the future. He pulled me into a kiss, then held me against him as I gazed off behind him. It was then that I saw the mark on the wall. I pointed it out with an amused face as we began laughing at our inability to move and put together furniture.

I always see it, I always told myself I’d paint over it, but yet, there it remains. A time when promises were made to build this home as our own. To really make that big step towards being those couples we always dreamed about. It sits there now, taunting me.

“I’m sorry, Nic, this is my-”

“Job.” I finish for him, still focused on that mark. “I know.”

I’m not showing emotion in my tone. I can’t anymore. I don’t want to be the person that begs someone for attention like this. It hurts my ego. It hurts my heart.

After Patrick gives me a sweet, intimate kiss, he leaves for work, and I spent the rest of the day working while anxiously waiting for Hawke’s return. A return that never came.

I’m tired of waiting for people. All I seem to do is wait. Wait for a life that was promised to me, wait for the feelings of an overwhelming love to kick in, wait for a deeply moving moment, to make me realize this is where I’m supposed to be in life, and this is what I was always meant to do. But it never seems to happen. Does it happen for anyone? Is that a dream we as adults plant in our head, or in use in fictional stories to strive for? Maybe life isn’t meant to be like a novel. Maybe getting used to the ever disappointing reality is what we’re meant to do. Live and hope for better. That’s it.

I pull into work a half hour early. I’ve straightened my hair for tonight’s shift, wanting to feel different. I applied a bit more makeup than I normally would, using some black eyeliner and eyeshadow to really bring out the tiny hint of green in my hazel eyes. I’m dressed in a black crop top paired with some black high waisted jeans that are torn in the knees. I paired the look with some black, tie up booties, giving me a bit of height. Black is my mood today, so it felt fitting.

“Damn girl, if I wasn’t a baby daddy to be, I’d be asking you out for a drink!” John calls out from behind the bar as I enter, making my skin turn a shade of red.

“Shut-up.” I laugh at him, feeling embarrassed.

He chuckles as I walk behind the bar. “What’s up though? New look?”

“Just needed something different.” I sigh, clocking into the computer.

“I feel that. Sometimes I get highlights to feel more like a badass,” he says with a straight face.

There’s no containing the laughter that burst from me. “John, oh my god. How Anna can deal with you, I have no idea.”

“She loves me. She’d put up with whatever just to keep me.” He grins proudly, tilting his chin high.

“You guys are cute.” I smile genuinely.

“And you and P? Please. Adorable!” he announces animatedly.

My smile drops a bit as I look down to the floor, thinking of the past few days in totality.

“Ooh. What’s that? What’s that face for?” he questions, sensing what I didn’t want him to sense.

I think for a moment, getting my words together. “John, how did you know that Anna was the one, as they say?

He blinks a few times, looking past me at the bottles on the shelf, thinking. “Well, since the moment I met her, I knew I couldn’t not have her in my life in order for me to be happy. Not a chance in hell I’d ever smile the way I smile when I’m with her. She allows me to be me, and loves the bad parts of me just as much as the good. You can’t ask for more from someone.”

Taking in his words, I feel so happy for him. You can see it in his eyes when he talks about her. Every lady should have someone talk about them the way John talks about his Anna.

“I have a hard time believing you have a bad side.” I lower my brows then grin questionably.

He uses his middle finger and pushes the black framed glasses up higher on his nose. “Oh, I’m all bad, Nic.”

We share a laugh at his expense. It’s beautiful, their connection, yet makes my heart ache in the same beat. Patrick won’t love the bad parts of me. The parts of me that are tainted will be our undoing.

Getting to work, I find myself feeling so much better than I did sitting and sulking at home. We’re really busy, even for a Friday night. Tips are coming in hot and unfortunately, I think it has something to do with the crop top. Either way, John and I are moving behind the bar like a well-oiled machine, serving up patrons left and right.

“Hey, can I get a whisky, neat?” A familiar voice reaches my ears.

Turning to look, I see Kid, leaning against the bar on his skinny little elbows. His eyes go wide when he recognizes me and a grin slides across his face. “It’s you! What’s up girl? I didn’t recognize you for a minute. You look hot as fuck!”

His eyes scour my body as he tilts his head from side to side, licking his lips, checking me out.

“Kid, please. Don’t.” I chuckle, feeling my face flush with embarrassment.

“Ugh, and you used my name.” He clutches his shirt over his heart.

I pour up a whisky neat for him, secretly wondering who he’s here with.

“Hawke’s over there if you’re wondering,” he mentions, eyeing me for a response.

Stomach drops five stories in a second. “Cool. I wasn’t, but have fun.”

I wiggle my eyebrows at him, pushing the drink towards him on the wooden counter. He lingers for a second watching me add it to his card to start a tab before I hand it back to him. I avoid his eyes and turn to the next customer.

A man wearing a dress shirt and tie is saddled up to the bar. He doesn’t look like he belongs here.

“What can I get you?” I ask.

“Still thinking.” He smirks at me, his eyes somewhat unreadable.

His voice is deep and sounds like there’s a slight accent on his tongue. He must not be here for business or something. He doesn’t look like the typical 9-5 Slider. For starters, he doesn’t have a long, burly beard.

I nod, moving along to Leonard and get him another refill, before coming back to “suitman”.

“Decide on anything?” I ask again.

“Yeah,” he says before leaning forward on the bar, as if to whisper his order in my ear. “I’d like twenty minutes with you in the backroom.”

He wraps his hand around my wrist tightly, his eyes narrowing in a dangerous fashion.

“Get off me!” I reply, attempting to pull my wrist away.

He grips me tightly, his lip curling, enjoying my struggle. Before I can make a scene, he pushes away from me, backing away from the bar, and forces himself through guests to make his way to the door.

Such a strange encounter. I stand there for a moment, dumb founded by what happened as I rub my wrist, looking towards the door, making sure he left. Peering by the entrance I see Hawke against the wall towards the back.

His eyes connect with mine for a moment and I feel an overwhelming tingle deep in my stomach that radiates throughout me in a matter of seconds. Like an electric heat scouring my insides.

His eyes don’t tell me much, they just stare back at me. I can’t tell what his expression is. He had a somber look about him in his eyes, but externally he’s as cool and collected as they come. He runs a hand through his hair before some girl in a short leather skirt brushes up against the front of him, pressing herself against him, blocking our gaze.

I force myself to focus on work. Restocking things that are full, drying glasses that are dry, while of course, filling drinks left and right. I didn’t want one moment of freedom to be given the chance to look for him again. But, as it appeared, I wouldn’t be given the option.

Hawke, Kid, some other guy I’ve never seen before all make their way to the bar.

“Shots!” Kid yells out as I steal a look at Hawke whose eyes are already glued to mine.

“What do you guys want?” I ask Kid directly.

Whatchu got for me tonight?” he licks his lips, looking at me flirtatiously before getting hit in the chest by Hawke. “Shit, alright, fine...we’ll have three Jamesons.”

I pour up three shots of Jameson, pushing them out towards the guys.

“Want a chaser, Kid?” I tease.

Their friend attempts to hold in his laugh. Hawke raises an entertained brow at Kid before looking back at me with those same somber eyes. We connect for a quick second before I flutter my eyelashes breaking contact. It’s too much for me, too direct. Kid’s smile drops. “I thought we were cool.”

“We are. It’s on the house.” I tell him, making him smile his big cheesy grin again.

They take their shots, and I sneak my eyes over to Hawke. One quick swallow and the alcohol is gone like it’s nothing down the roll of his throat.

I look away before he puts the shot glass back down on the bar.

“Thanks, babe. I really like this relationship. I buy, then you buy...very new age of us.”

Rolling my eyes at him, Kid and the other guy take off through the crowd but Hawke lingers for a moment. He opens his mouth as if he’s about to say something before some curvy girl with bleach blonde hair and tattoos wraps her arms around him.

Her hands are all over him as she whispers something into his ear before squeezing him somewhere below the bar. She begins pulling him away and he turns to look at me with a side grin and a shrug.

I shake my head, and move down the line to my man Leonard.

“Need anything, chief?”

He looks up from his book, then at his glass with a bit of whisky left. “Nah, this’ll do. Thanks sweetheart.”

“Whatcha reading tonight?”

“Anna Karenina, ever read it?”

Once the knife is in and twisted, pull it out and plunge it in again.

“Yep.” I answer simply.

I am Anna right now. Deceitful, lustful, filled with revenge for a life she doesn’t fit. I just hope I figure this all out before I throw myself in front of a train like her.

“It’s an interesting read, this Tolstoy guy is something’ I tell ya,” he chuckles.

This guy. I love Leonard. He’s so...not typical. It’s refreshing. What big, badass biker dude with faded tattoos and a huge scruffy beard with long hair tied back into a ponytail comes to a bar to consistently read classic novels. Leonard does.

“Let me know how it ends.” I wink, patting him on the shoulder.

Wiping down the bar I see Hawke sitting on one of the bar stools over by the darts with that same woman now between his legs. She leans into him, either kissing his neck or whispering something to him before he stands. He heads over to Kid and whispers something, grabbing what looks like the shared car keys. He proceeds to push through the doors, the woman closely following his tail as they leave together.

I shake it off, blowing out a sigh. This is Hawke. This is what he does. It’s about time I got used to it and moved on. I look back up and out to the dwindling crowd and connect eyes with Kid. He’s watching me curiously and I can only pray he didn’t see my eyes just follow Hawke out of the door.

He’s on to me. I can feel it. I flip him off as he cocks a brow pointing to himself with a cocked brow.

“If not tonight then soon!” he yells back, making me laugh.

I roll my eyes at his crude behavior. I laugh now, but I really need to focus on being more discreet around him. I have secrets now that can’t be exposed.

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